the forbidden land [story part 33]
September 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
A man dies twice. When his heart stops beating and when his name is spoken for the last time.
I wondered how long it would take in Blanche’s case to forget about her, because indeed, that is true death – disappearing from the minds of everyone you’ve ever loved, forever.
We were not yet out of the cemetery itself when Regina’s focus shifted from nothing, from relaxed, to full attention towards a flight of stairs that led to the other entrance. I didn’t hear anything but by now I was pretty accustomed to the fact that no, she wasn’t predicting the future, she was just expecting – or hearing – or having better senses, and could notice something before I did, most of the time. Sure enough, a minute later, a very common man, nothing out of the ordinary, around his thirties, medium sized guy with a local sense of fashion, approached.
Small side-story here:
He could have passed as a local and I wondered if he was someone from the town. I don’t know whether he was a human or a vampire. There are a lot of persons that I never found out about if they are one or the other, and this just proves to me, and maybe to some of you, how ordinary and common they are. Even for someone who has spent quite a considerable time with them, it’s damn near impossible to tell. And if I was to take this even further, and hypothetically make someone choose from two people, one human and one vampire, I’m fairly certain he would pick the human as being the vampire. They are just really, really… inconspicuous and hard to tell.
Like I said time and time again: the only real way that you can find out if someone is a vampire or not is by wounding him. This is something THEY CANNOT CONTROL. And I cannot stress this enough. Healing themselves is NOT subject to self-control. It’s a very strong mechanism that kicks in the second one is wounded, no matter if he’s conscious or not, dead or alive. As long as rigor mortis has not yet dissipated. If you don’t know what that is, read about it – but it’s basically the stiffening of the muscles post death, which occurs about two hours after death in humans, and about 12 hours after death in vampires. It lasts for two to six days in humans, and about a week or more in vampires, depending on how old they are. The vampire continues to heal through rigor mortis, and eventually springs back to life. This is the key to their eternal life.
HOWEVER – if the wound is prevented from healing – or the damage is just too great, rigor mortis dissipates and decomposition occurs. Once decomposition sets in, that’s it. This can be done in several ways – leaving the weapon inside the vampire – like a stake, you HAVE to leave it there for the full duration, or decapitation – which basically ensures that no healing will occur whatsoever, and decomposition sets in much faster. I’m sure you can get creative here anyway.
And one last point: rigor mortis can be extended indefinitely for vampires, in sub-zero temperatures.
End of side-story.
He approached Regina, did a very subtle nod towards me and her, and then stared a bit at Regina in an inquisitive kind of way.
Regina looked at me and then back at the man, and said: “Yes.”
I figured he was asking for permission to speak – not in the literal sense, but in the sense of “Who’s this guy and can I speak freely in front of him?”
She didn’t bother introducing anyone, which normally wasn’t the case, but right there and then I knew that he was no close acquaintance of hers, and I even doubted that they knew each other prior to this.
“Message to central five minutes ago. Viktoria attacked by unknown group of humans. She requires your presence, the cvorum has been met.” – The man said.
And then proceeded to give her a piece of ordinary paper full of numbers and special characters from top to bottom. Nothing meaningful it seemed to me.
But before getting into that, I have to tell you that this was truly for the first time after years that I had the least bit of insight into their ways of communication, which will turn out to be even more and more complicated – and yet so simple – in the months to come.
I had absolutely (and still don’t) no idea how she was found anywhere, anytime whenever there was a need. Somebody just popped up and relayed a message. At least that was out of the puzzle. I knew there was a messenger. But how he got it in the first place – or how the one that sent the message even knew where to send it and where Regina was – remained a mystery for a long time.
Basically – they have a central – not a nest or anything – just one simple phone number to which someone answers no matter what, day and night, and then proceeds on sending the message through a number of channels from one point to the other, no matter if it is another person or another phone number. I soon understood that the messenger had to deliver the message as efficient as possible, as soon as possible and as personal as possible – you can see how those three contradict themselves, don’t you? I could never fully understand the whole network or its full extent, it was damn near impossible and it would had taken me a lifetime to learn. It was not a standard network, it relied heavily on word-of-mouth, it changed from area to area and there was a high degree of subjectivity involved, meaning that each messenger conveyed and kept in touch with Regina as he saw to be most fit and efficient way for the given situation and area. Intercepting a message in this network was almost impossible, because the network was deliberately made in a chaos to the untrained eye, but nonetheless, Regina’s location was always available, and I had no idea how.
I figured she was keeping a messenger nearby at all times, but I later found out that it was more a matter of a “check-in”. And that’s why establishing territorial boundaries and control was important before any kinship presence could be established. Because she always had each zone carefully established and with known people in it, it was a matter of a simple alert whenever she arrived at any – literally any – destination within the influence of the kinship. She checked in – simple as that – and someone was made available instantly to convey messages if needed – and to provide any needs. And she wasn’t the only one enjoying this apparently.
Now back to the paper she received.
She focused on it for about twenty seconds, and then for the first time seeing her in a rush and unsettled, she said:
“We need to leave. Now.”
She gave the paper back to the messenger which made his way back to where he came from, and we started going towards my house in a hurry.
“What happened?” I asked.
“That message was from Viktoria herself and she’s got herself in a bit of a mess. We really need to go as soon as possible.”
A code that only the two of them knew – ever. An artificial language developed by the two of them over centuries. And I’m not even joking. It was not just a code, but was a language in itself – I don’t really know if someone could ever decipher that, because it literally had no spaces, no word formations, no nothing. It was just random numbers and special characters, one after another, spanning over an entire page. I never tried understanding it, because it’s of no use – You could never decipher a language based on nothing, and even if taught, I could never learn it properly. I need to tell you: This wasn’t by any means common, or used by anyone else. It was just the two of them that understood it – they created it – together, and never taught it to anyone else. It was their little way of making sure they are truly communicating with one another, and nobody changed, intercepted or interfered with the message.
“Where are we going?” – I was by now almost running down the steps behind her.
“I don’t know. We just need to leave right away to get there.” – That was confusing enough. Regina always knew where she was going.
As soon as we got home I threw in a small bag a couple of clothes for any occasion really, and just shouted away “I’m leaving” to my folks. This time they weren’t so understanding. With Blanche’s funeral and all – although they knew everything about it – it wasn’t so easy for them to leave me just vanish away, again, without knowing where I was going or for how long. I was growing up – but not as fast as I would have liked.
I basically gave them no choice but to accept. I didn’t have the time nor the will to explain everything. I feel sorry now for how I made them feel, but there’s no room for regret now.
As we were rushing out the door, I asked Regina again about what happened, and only when we got in a car she relaxed a bit and told me what happened.
“Viktoria was attacked by a group of humans, she’s hurt apparently but safe for now. I need to deal with this urgently, because as you already know, there’s rarely one human than knows about me or her, not mentioning a group of them.”
“But Regina, if Viktoria was attacked not even two days after Blanche, doesn’t that ring a bell?”
“What?” – She replied.
“They are both… yours.”
“I would bet that this is a new trend, and we need to find all of those that you turned.”
She had an epiphany right there and then, and pushed the car even harder.
“Change of plans.”
We were in the airport in under 40 minutes and in a plane in under two hours. Although it took over eight hours in total to get there, we finally did.
We were in the plane.
“How many descendants do you have anyway?” – I wasn’t expecting an answer to this really, I felt it was way to personal, even for me, to ask her.
“Just three, out of which just Viktoria was planned if you must know.”
The three were of course Viktoria, Blanche and… Gunnar.
We were heading for Gunnar, and as soon as we landed in Gotheborg, Regina checked in with Lars, the elder of Scandinavia, and told him everything that has transpired, and more. It seemed to me, that from all her acquaintances and elders, Lars was the one she not on liked, but trusted, most. Except Viktoria. Maybe.
Lars was already aware of pretty much everything and was also prepared to leave. Later about that.
As we left his place, Regina ended the very short conversation with:
“…and whatever you do, don’t step over the border.”
And with that we were on our way straight for Gunnar. If you don’t remember who Gunnar is, read the post “vampires don’t dig for the past“, last part, after the last photo.
From Gotheborg we took a flight to Trondheim, Norway – the last bastion of Regina’s influence. Everything north of Trondheim, is a no-man’s land. I’m not saying there aren’t any of them, I’m just saying there’s no elder covering that area, be it Sweden or Norway. Scandinavia, north of Trondheim, is without influence. Nobody applies any rule there, and because of that, too few of them go and settle there permanently. The most gruesome stories I’ve heard between them took place there, in the middle of nowhere, with nobody hearing or ever knowing anything. Regina herself didn’t condemn anything as we talked on our way there. It was truly a ‘everything goes’ zone, but it’s rather safe for humans, because like I said – there are very few of them in such a large area, and none of them really stay there permanently. If you have something to do there, good, if you don’t, you’re most likely not going to be there anyway.
The flight to Trondheim was horrible enough, in the middle of the winter, but the drive there was even less pleasant. I honestly expected us to remain permanently trapped in the snow, and with nobody in sight and a hungry Regina next to me, my chances weren’t really good. I mean one can eat snow for only so long.
And while we were at it, we also talked about what she said to Lars.
You see, Viktoria was in triple-trouble.
First, a group of humans knew who she was and what she was, and wasn’t exactly clear if she was to be held accountable for this.
Second, she was in one of the very few areas in which Regina strictly told everyone not to go – for no apparent reason I thought – until then. There aren’t many places where a vampire can’t go, but one of those places is a considerable area of modern-day Turkey.
And third, she was very badly hurt.
Regina sent Lars to pick-her up and transport her to safety, guard her until the cvorum met. He was supposed to do this without stepping over the border, which is not a human border, but the territorial border of the kinship’s domain in Europe. It is basically the strait that divides Europe from the Middle East, it divides Istanbul in two, it is the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
Viktoria was on the wrong side of the border, and Lars needed to pick her up with the help of – you guessed it – humans. Even in a situation like this, Regina obeyed, or feared, going over that imaginary line.
We finally got to Gunnar. The plan was…