@copyright Jean G. Hontz 2005
Whoever had slain Darius was long gone when I began hunting him the next night. Believe me I wanted to tear him to pieces. The closest I came to getting my hands on him was at an inn on the post road. But he slipped away before I could even catch a glimpse of him. All I knew was that his name was Corbeau, whispered to me by a dying vampire I had caught up with.
With Darius dead there was nothing to hold me in Switzerland. My friends there begged me to stay, at least long enough to mourn, but I could hardly stand the sight of the place. Every shadow reminded me of Darius, his scent pervaded the place, every corner I rounded seemed to mock me when he was not standing beyond it. All I wanted – no, that is definitely not correct – all I could think of, was to find his murderer and take his head and then to be alone: to mourn, to heal and then to.. what? I had no idea.
I packed my few belongings and left, without a word to anyone, even to Anton who tried to stop me. I did not kill him, although I came very close to it. I was, obviously, not thinking rationally. I was not really thinking at all. It was all reaction, all fury, all hurt.
I spent long and harrowing months trying to find Corbeau’s elusive trail. But he’d been a vampire long enough to pick up more tricks than I’d yet learnt. He always managed to elude me. Finally, weary and drained and heartsick, I gave it up. I had to rest. I was a wraith at this point, not a vampire. And, where could I go but back home. To Firenze. Where it had all begun.
Of course I could not contact my old acquaintances in Firenze. I was vampire now. I had a different set of needs, of fears, of wants; a different lifetime. Oh, I still wanted to murder every Medici alive, but that wish was now a lesser one.
And so, alone and coldly unemotional, I found myself back in my own city. I found a safe place to remain away from the sun, and there I rested and plotted.
First I had to find a way to live. I found it.
I preyed on the scum of Firenze. If you dealt in misery, you were dead. I took not just blood but treasure. I even took out a few of the wealthier men who were the worst of that lot.
I knew who would purchase my ill-gotten gains with no questions. I knew who to contact to sell myself as an assassin. I did well enough.
I understood then why vampires haunt graveyards. It has nothing whatever to do with our supposed love of the dead, or our need for dirt to lie in. Rather we could be relatively safe there. A mausoleum generally had a crook or cranny or a stone sarcophagus. Sewers were handy for many things but I personally preferred a nice dry sarcophagus to over-day in when I had the option.
But I, like most beings, wanted my own place; a place to call home.
It took me a few years but I found it. The place had been abandoned as cursed. Just my style. It was an old (even by Florentine standards) villa not far from the Arno. It wasn’t much but it was mine.
You’re probably wondering if I looked up Isabella. I’d tried. Oh, I was not planning to be so silly as to approach her, but I wanted to see her. If for no other reason than to assure myself she was well and happy. She wasn’t. She was dead. She’d died the same night I had. But she had not risen again.
I settled in for the long haul. I had Medici to kill, so that plotting kept me entertained, although I confess offing them had lost its appeal. All too easy when you are a vampire to plan an assassination of a mere human, especially one who did not acknowledge the unnatural. Still, I had a blood duty of revenge.
I confess I’ve never understood the vampires who get a thrill out of a kill. Perhaps in the heat of battle, but just to murder people who have no prayer to stand against us? Boring. I did kill, as I’ve said above. But it was for pay or for necessities, it was not for enjoyment. Not even dead Medicis gave me that.
The years passed and I was…emotionless and alone.
There were other vampires in my city. I made sure they either followed my directives or left. Feet or head first, no never mind to me. I had gotten thick-skinned and ruthless. I kept the worst of the criminal element constrained. Kill a child, rape a woman and I’d have you for a midnight snack. I claim no humanitarian reasoning.
After awhile, as my reputation grew, I began to get kick-backs for this kind duty from some of the strangest people. Very proper people. I was discreet, after all.
And although I was happiest when left alone, I gradually, mostly against my will, found myself with a whole host of vampires who depended on me, looked up to me, admired me. Ai…. And so I became judge and jury. Me. Irony.
By the middle of the 14th century, I’d offed a bunch of Medici (never all of them though; I wanted them around for a number of reasons), and pretty much had Florence under control. I began to branch out. I sent off a few vampires I trusted to Rome and Venice to see what was up there. They reported back that we could probably organize there too. So I left a surrogate in charge of Florence and set off for Venice.
I didn’t bother to look up old haunts. The Doge I knew was ashes and gone almost 50 years ago. I just organized.
The same with Rome.
The middle of the 14th century brought the Black Death. Perhaps a third of the population of Europe died in the years 1348-1349 alone. Farmland went into disuse, livestock died and hunger set in to make misery even worse. People were panicking and there were riots, labor shortages. Slavery made a comeback, as hungry parents sold their children, preferring their children becoming slaves to watching them starve. Religious fervor made a comeback too.
Violent revolution was attempted in many countries but generally speaking failed.
Against that backdrop add the Hundred Years’ War. As if there wasn’t enough misery already, the English and the French were at each others throats and not much caring who got trampled under their horses’ hooves.
It was about this time that I was sent an emissary.
As I’ve said many times already, most vampires are solitary. But we did sometimes band together for security reasons or because we get lonely.
I had a nicer villa by now, and was comfortably off. I needed a few retainers, if only to pick up monies owed and to help me gather intelligence of what was happing in my city - no my cities. I owned Florence, Torin, Milan, Rome and Venice, even if the human governments didn’t realize it. I’d also let it be known I did not allow strange vampires to enter my cities without my permission. If they wished to spend time in Italy, they would give me their parole that they would follow my instructions. If they hunted those I wanted left alone, their heads were forfeit.
But back to that emissary. I confess I was astonished at this. It seemed so…bizarre.
The emissary was a well educated vampire, who carried introductory letters from a vampire in France, another in Austria and another in Switzerland.
They were desirous of setting up some sort of vampire organization that would reach throughout Europe and work together to control the rogues amongst us.
I confess I laughed at the idea (in the emissary’s face). I needed no one outside of Italy to ‘help’ me and I surely didn’t want someone trying to tell me what to do.
What caught my eye, however, was the mention of rogue vampires, and one was named: Corbeau.
I had never truly given up my search for Corbeau. One of the things I asked vampires who were new to Italy was if they had heard of him. I still wanted to kill him slowly for killing Darius. So I listened to this emissary, rather than just tossing him out the door.
I wondered, but did not ask directly, how these other vampires had heard of me. Spies, no doubt. I’d never bothered watching vampires in other parts of Europe, nor spying on them - at least not unless they were in Italy.
I should mention, I suppose, that I’d made a few fledgings of my own by this time. Generally speaking I did not make many vampires, and I killed vampires who ran around turning everyone they disliked, or liked. Too many vampires in a town creates nothing but trouble. Population control are us.
My fledgings were loyal to me. I seemed to have that effect on them. Perhaps because I had turned them to save them from plague or war or other forms of misery. These were the vampires I’d sent off to Venice and Rome. And now I considered if I might wish to send one off to learn about this whole Council thing. I was not going to go myself. But I wanted more information - about Corbeau if for no other reason.
Yet I was a secretive type even then. I did not wish anyone to know about my desire to kill Corbeau who didn’t already. Although the mention of him in that letter looked as if someone understood that connection. More than likely the vampire from Switzerland had checked my creds and learned the details of my stay in Switzerland.
I was prepared to send a surrogate at least. But then I received a visit from an old friend, and met a new love. Those two things made me change my mind and reassess my options.
The old friend was the ancient alchemist from Basel. He was unnaturally long-lived. He’d left Basel in search of me, mainly in regard to the Council. And he had information for me with regard to Corbeau.
I obviously knew there were magical beings around. I’d even run into a werewolf once. I distrusted much at this point in my life. But I did trust old Anton. So I welcomed him to Florence.
The compound in Basel was well, he told me. But boring. I did not remember it so, but then I was a vampire and had had others of my kind there. Especially Darius, whom I still missed dreadfully.
Anton brought with him a vampire who was Italian. She wished to return to her homeland and since he was coming to see me, he’d brought her. Her name was Ruffina.
She was a vision. She walked like a queen. Her hair was a cloud of auburn tresses. Her eyes the colour I remembered for a clear blue Tuscan sky early in the morning.
I’d had no lover since Darius died. I’d felt no urgings for one - until now. I was ripe for her.
I have no idea, really, why she was able to gain the foothold in my heart she did. Yes, I do. Her powers as a vampire were not based on gaining power through drinking the blood of living creatures. She drew power from sex and the psychic life energy of beings. I’d never met a vampire like her before. When she turned on the full force of her vampiric whammy, oh my.