April 5, 1444, 7:26pm
An Underground Chamber
The Făgăraş Mountains
Deep beneath the dilapidated Castle Poenari was a vault. This vault had a great metal door that was latched so as to keep something in. Beyond that door was a large, low ceilinged room with a number of cots. The only light within was a single candle at the far end that had been lit by a servant mere moments before the sun touched the horizon.
When the sun finally began to fall beneath the earth and darkness began to overtake the sky they awoke, free for the first time since they’d been killed.
When the door did open they found Roderigo waiting for them on the other side. With only a nod and a smile he bade them follow and escorted them out of the dungeon’s depths and into the castle proper.
A cool breeze from a rather large hole in the castle’s wall wafted over them and Domnall realized to his horror that he hadn’t taken a breath since before the door had been opened.
The motherly monster, Camilla, chortled softly and the giant couldn’t help but think that she had known what he was thinking.
Horror followed as he realized that she could.
Something stirred inside the giant and a small whine came from the depths of his throat.
They were in a common room, with a great oaken table set in its center.
Upon the table was a large map of Transylvania, the kind of map one would imagine would be useful to generals and kings, but the boundaries didn’t belong to any fiefs or kingdoms that the giant recognized.
Hardestadt looked over the map, studying it while tapping his closed fist upon the table rhythmically as if to some beat that only he could hear.
“Your fool childe lost that battle for you a long time ago, Hardestadt.”
The voice was a guttural rasp that came from a hole in the wall above them. Domnall looked up to see a small creature covered in coarse dark gray fur. The thing was the size of a largish dog and had blazing red eyes. It possessed the ears and nose of a bat and a mouth full of needle-like barbs.
It fell to the ground, landing on its forelimbs as a wolf might, before standing and flexing its clawed fingers.
Instead of fear, Hardestadt glared furiously at the strutting imp.
“Hold your tongue, Milov, our guests have finally joined us.” – Hardestadt, angrily.
The creature turned toward the assembled fledglings even as he grew into the shape of the pale boy with red lips and innocent eyes.
He smiled sheepishly but his long teeth reminded Domnall of a wolf.
“They must be the domains of the damned.” – Ana whispered to him.
He grunted a thanks as Hardestadt turned to regard them disappointedly.
“You are puny, immature and naïve.” – Hardestadt
“But there’s little we can do about those most unattractive qualities.” – The monstrous Joseph interrupted.
The Lord shot the old man a look. It seemed that they were not getting along tonight.
“We shall aid you immensely in the hunt for your treacherous progenitors.” – Hardestadt continued.
“Listen up, little ones, he becomes positively choleric when forced to repeat himself.” – Adana, joining the conversation.
The smile on her face revealed how much she was enjoying setting Hardestadt on edge.
The Lord was clenching his long, sharp looking teeth and drank something thick and red from a stone goblet before speaking again.
Domnall couldn’t take his eyes off of the cup.
“Claudius and the rest of his so-called conspiracy scurry about. They meet in any number of hidey-holes and nests, huddling together and fleeing like vermin to plot against their betters only to scamper off when we approach.” – Hardestadt.
The Lord stopped to drink deeply from his goblet.
“Rats, however, rarely fear or question their own.” – Joseph muttered even as he stroked such a creature that seemed to have perched upon the back of his hand.
“You shall present yourselves to the Anathema at the Lion’s Inn, a small Inn on the edge of Sebeș. Our sources tell us that the poor dears have taken to cowering there to lick their wounds.” – Camilla, running her fingers through the boy-monster’s hair as she spoke.
Milov pushed her away, glaring daggers as he did.
“Do not attempt to assault them, my hearties, for you have no hope of destroying them. Instead you should sue for peace. Tell them that you escaped our clutches and beg them to take you back. You can tell them that you overpowered Roderigo after he took a liking to you.” – Adana
“Yes, you may take my footman with you as proof but he must not come to harm. Tell them that he led you to them after you bound him to yourselves and bade him tell you all the places that you have seen him.” – It was Rafael who said this, joining the conversation at last.
“You must learn all you can from them once you’ve regained their trust and then return to us that we might rout them, though if you must find yourselves alone with any one of them, bring them low.” – Hardestadt.
“It’s true.” – The nun, quietly.
“Do not, under any circumstance, attempt to challenge them openly! We cannot stress it enough. These traitors are all extraordinarily powerful, as they are truly close to the source of our power and each has walked the Long Night for centuries. Any two of them will be able to destroy all of you with little exertion, no matter how powerful you seem.” – Mistress Fanchon’s warning seemed to lack any amount of concern.
“And if you destroy your sires you’ll no longer be held culpable for the crime of your creation.” – Milov smirked.
“So you wish for us to go to our makers and, under false pretenses, secure knowledge of their future crime for you and, should the opportunity arise, destroy them for you.” – The Nun.
“I have hunted werewolves and something tells me that these things lack the same banes as the skin walkers. I know firsthand how hard it is to kill us, so what chance do we have against something immortal.” – Ignatius, worried.
“We put a stake through their heart, we cut off their heads and we set the remains ablaze.” – Sister Guadalupe said matter-of-factly.
The assembled vampires looked on the once-plain nun with a look not unlike horror.
“Barbaric!” – Camilla hissed.
“I can’t imagine anything would survive that, no.” – Milov, his innocent eyes gleaming.
“How do we know which ones made us?” – Qamar, nervously.
“I don’t know that that matters, Qamar, I think the point is that if we kill them we’ll prove that we’re not in league with them.” – Guadalupe.
““Why can’t we just burn the inn down with all of them inside? Why must we keep up this charade?” – Alexander, ponderously.
“I like him.” – Adana
Milov and Joseph both laughed, Camilla seemed honestly shocked by the audacity and brutality of the proposal.
Mistress Fanchon seemed to be paying full attention for the first time since they were brought into the room, setting down the tome she’d been reading.
“Because, should you burn the building down around them they will not tell you their plans!” – Hardestadt, furiously.
“Besides, we could not be sure that it would destroy them. While it’s true that fire is a bane of our existence, it affects each of us differently. Claudius and Jadviga belong to lines who are notoriously hard to destroy, I have heard tales of members of the Cappadocian Clan who have braved the light of the sun with no ill effect whilst it is said that those vampires who follow Set can be annihilated by a single ray of sunlight.” – Fanchon, standing up from her sofa.
“But if the fire didn’t kill them couldn’t we just destroy them once the fire died down?” – Alexander.
“Believe me, boy, if they survived the fire, they would have no fear of a pretty bit of metal.” – Milov barked through his laughter.
“Then it is a suicide mission.” – Alexander sighed.
“Not if you do as you’re told!” – Hardestadt roared as he crushed his goblet, splashing blood across the map.
Domnall, staring at the blood, noticed it wash over Alba Iulia and the curious words: Black Queen.
Rafael was suddenly at the Lord’s side, crossing the distance from his perch at the door to the table so deftly that he seemed to glide.
He whispered into the Lord’s ear and Domnall saw his expression change, darkening, even as he calmed down.
Adana was snickering.
“Get on with it.” – Hardestadt
Joseph and Milos joined the girl in their merrymaking.
“Though, my ally, Lord Hardestadt, has a mind similar to your own in how to deal with these… Anarchs… Lord Alexander, but we have come to believe that such overt acts will only do us more harm than good.” – Rafael, ignoring the German vampire’s obvious anger.
Domnall realized suddenly that for all the general’s bluster, and the fact that the others seemed to defer to him, these two were on equal ground.
“As our dear Guadalupe can attest, humanity has become aware of us, and more importantly, they’ve become aggressive to our existence. They fear what they don’t understand and now they fear us. Priests… priests, who are supposed to be the embodiment of Christian love and charity, spit upon us. They consign us to hell simply for existing. Even those of us who are as noble as any saint who has lived since the death of our Savior, would be consigned by the living to destruction, just as the Romans destroyed Christ. So take care, my pigeon, Hardestadt wouldn’t care about you flaunting your natures if it were only your existences that were on the line.” – Rafael
Hardestadt gave a disgruntled sigh in agreement.
“Rafael’s right, my sweets, it is the survival of all Kindred that depends on you. We all must uphold this Masquerade, lest we fall to the flames of the Inquisition. No kindred, not even the Anathema, will applaud the inquisition’s arrival.” – Camilla, soothingly.
The room grew quiet then, the silence broken only by the sound of footsteps at the door.
Roderigo limped into the room, his face was a great, livid bruise, one of his eyes was full of blood and his arm was held in a sling.
“Deliver these children to their pernicious sires.” – Rafael to the ghoul.
Roderigo nodded and gestured for them to follow.
And without a word, they did so.
Domnall was surer than ever that his death had only been forestalled.
“Lord Alexander, wait! I would like a word with you.” – Hardestadt demanded before the door closed.
Domnall was sure that he’d never be seen again.
April 7, 1444, 1:09am
The Forest Road
Not far from Sebeș
Alexander had been sure that he was dead when the German held him back as the others followed the hobbled… ghoul?… out of the chamber.
The general seemed to tower over Alexander as he approached them.
“The one who made you, the Lady Jadviga, is a very dangerous Kindred. I have known her for many generations and there was a time when we I could call her an ally, this makes her a greater threat than her compatriots. Of all the conspirators, it is vital that she be destroyed.” – Hardestadt, privately.
“With all due respect, Lord Hardestadt, but is she a threat to everyone or to you specifically?” – Alexander wondered aloud.
“She’s a threat to the masquerade and to everything else that we’ve been working for. Young knight, can I depend upon you?” – Hardestadt.
“Of course, Lord Hardestadt.” – Alexander.
Even now he wasn’t entirely sure why he’d agreed but he wouldn’t break his word.
Now though they’d been travelling for some time and seemed to have changed teams at some point during their day-sleep. Alexander only recognized Roderigo, who seemed to not be lacking for sleep.
“We’ve all but arrived, Lord Alexander.” – Roderigo, his voice surprisingly cool.
The walls of Sebeș were visible in the distance.
Before Alexander could respond though, Roderigo pulled hard upon the reigns, forcing the horses to come to an abrupt halt.
Ahead of them the road had been severed by a fallen tree.
“Son of a Venetian whore!” – Roderigo swore as he slowly lowered himself to the ground. Despite the fact that the wounds had turned out to be mostly superficial he was still moving at half pace.
“What’s going on?” – came a voice from within the coach.
“A tree’s been felled and is blocking the path.” – Alexander called back.
Ignatius and Domnall joined the coachmen in assessing the situation.
“We might as well just get to it.” – Ignatius, ornery from being cooped up.
“May I be of assistance.” – Guadalupe asked quietly.
“Away with you sister, I’ll not have you dirty your hands when we can do this ourselves.” – Alexander scoffed.
The five men fought with the massive log, the three young vampires strained themselves just as hard as the men and soon found their skin speckled with bloody sweat.
After a few moments of watching the nun grew anxious, she knew that her body had grown more powerful since her death.
“For the love of all that his holy!” – the woman cursed before joining them.
To Alexander’s shame the nun proved to be stronger than he. She took a spot near the top of the tree and after a moment of exertion let loose an unearthly growl.
Alexander felt the tree lighten in his grip and finally it seemed to lift as if completely free from the earth’s pull, turning end over end and landing with an ear shattering crash beyond the tree line.
They all turned toward the Spanish woman who seemed flushed and exhilarated, her face a mask of vampiric monstrosity.
“How did you do that?” – Ignatius asked as his wits returned to him.
She gave him a quizzical look and then realized what she had done.
“I have no idea.” – Guadalupe, honestly.
“Maybe you’re beginning to see that there are advantages to this state, sister.” – Ignatius
Domnall and the other men laughed, Alexander watched her quietly.
The sound of clapping interrupted their small triumph.
April 7, 1444, 1:27am
The Forest Road
Not far from Sebeș
Iancu wasn’t sure how they’d managed to move the tree with just five men and a woman, indeed when it came crashing back into the forest it had startled the bandit half to death.
Costin, the nominal leader of their little band, seemed to take it in stride as he stood across the road, applauding their effort.
“That was mighty impressive!” – Costin called out to the people in the road.
Two of them were obviously coachmen, the other three men were… not. The first thing that Iancu had noticed was the giant, grizzled looking man wearing ill-fitting leather armor.
The next was the beautiful woman with clenched fists. If Iancu didn’t know any better he’d have said that she’d been the one to pivot the trunk. There was also a wiry, dangerous looking fellow with three scars running across his face. He seemed to be joking with the woman about something.
The apparent leader of the group was a large, pale man. Though he was nowhere near as large as the giant he seem to exude a presence.
His hair was cut in a short, militaristic fashion and he wore his armor and sword like someone who had done so in battle.
“Are you the one responsible for this?” – the powerful one demanded as he approached Costin
“We are!” – Costin laughed, gesturing for them to look around them.
Costin wasn’t a big man, not like his quarry, but he was dangerous. Iancu and his brother Dragos often shared stories with the others about Costin the Killer, the man who once slew three men with his bare hands.
This soldier had little chance against him.
“This’ll be good.” – Dragos laughed from over Iancu’s shoulder.
The Soldier turned to look toward them from across the road and Dragos waved.
“We’ll eat well tonight, brother.” – He laughed as they drew their swords.
From across the road he could see that Emilian and Marin had taken position near the hind carriage which meant that Zavid and Bogdan were in position near the front.
The Giant made him nervous but this would go smoother when the Soldier, the fool who hadn’t even made for his sword, was dead.
Iancu didn’t hear what the two men said to each other as the soldier approached but it didn’t necessarily matter because quite suddenly the soldier was rushing Costin the Killer. He slammed his fist into the highwayman’s chest with enough force that the brothers heard it from across the road.
Costin collapsed to the ground and didn’t move.
“No way.” – Dragos exclaimed.
Zavid was the first to break ranks, charging the soldier, his sword held high.
The scarred, dangerous looking one leapt toward him, knocking the sword away as he landed on him, driving him to the ground.
Marin tried to charge the Soldier too but was intercepted by the giant who growled.
The giant leapt like a wolf at the highwayman, tearing into the man’s throat with his teeth.
Blood sprayed as the massive creature worried at his flesh.
More horrifying though, was when the thing stood up, still holding Marin in his teeth and drew the crossbow from his back.
Iancu stepped back into the trees hoping to go unnoticed, the courage leaving him.
He saw Emilian sneak up on the brute ready to skewer it and free his flailing friend but any hope of that was dashed as the soldier came out of nowhere and, leaping, fell to the ground with the bandit’s hair clenched in his fist, driving his face into the ground with the force of his own falling weight.
The giant, for his part, aimed and fired over the soldier as he fell, striking Bogdan in the chest where he stood perched.
The giant loped toward the fallen bandit, standing over his dying body.
“This cannot be happening.” – Iancu, gagging back a sob.
“Bogdan didn’t even attack, he was just standing there.” – Dragos, his voice showing the first sign of panic.
“We should go, before they remember that we’re here.”
But it was too late, the woman had spotted them and was moving through the brush at a surprising pace.
“How is she doing that?” – Iancu
“I don’t know, just run!” – Dragos, tearing out into the forest.
Iancu did as he was told.
Ana stepped out of the carriage, keeping little Qamar safely behind her as she surveyed the carnage that had been wrought, to make sure that everyone had survived the altercation intact.
She didn’t expect to see Domnall standing, bent in half at the waste, over a dead man, holding the corpse by the neck with his teeth and making a horrible sucking sound that she, to her eternal horror, found so very tempting, so seductive.
Alexander was kneeling over another body, a man with a bloody face that was beautiful in its gruesomeness. She could feel her teeth elongating as she looked at him.
Alexander lifted him up to cradle his head. The gesture was almost endearing, or it would have been if his next act wasn’t to lick the man’s face clean.
Ana’s breath hitched as his tongue lapped at the man’s bloody face. He looked up at her and his eyes seemed to gleam in the low light of the full moon and the little bit of torchlight.
The Knight smiled cruelly, showing her his long, hard fangs as he reached up and took ahold of the man’s ear.
With a single deft motion he tore the ear from its moorings, a great spout of blood erupted from the man’s head as he lay screaming and thrashing even in his unconscious state.
The knight clamped his hands tight to the bandit’s head and began to suck from the wound, draining him even as the man’s thrashing weakened into strange fitfulness as though he were enjoying a particularly intense dream. Eventually the fitful motions grew smaller and weaker until he stopped moving entirely.
Alexander rolled him aside like a child done playing with a toy and set his eyes on the other man, the one who could only lie there moaning and holding his chest with one hand as he tried to crawl away.
Alexander scrabbled toward him on all fours before knocking him over and sitting on his chest.
The man screamed loudly as the Knight took his hand and grabbed hold of his index finger.
“Wait” – Qamar.
“Why should I?” – he sounded like a child being told that he could not eat a bit of pastry.
“I want to ask him a question.” – Qamar.
Something about the way she said it gave Alexander pause and, finally, he relented.
Iancu ran for as long as he could, taking a confusing, unmarked trail to try to stymie her pursuit.
He was having a hard time breathing and he was pretty sure he was lost when he leaned up against a tree to catch his breath.
The woman stared at him from some distance away. Some small part of his mind that was still rational noted that she’d taken a different path than he did and wondered how it was that she was able to track him.
That tiny voice was drowned out by the intense fear that overwhelmed the rest of it.
She approached him slowly, her hands palms up to show him that she was unarmed… the others were unarmed too… her face was beatific, peaceful, beautiful.
She wasn’t out of breath, she wasn’t sweating. She was pristine as she walked toward him.
Iancu opened his mouth to scream and suddenly the woman was right in front of him, her icy finger touching her lips.
“Shh. I am not going to hurt you. I am trying to help you. You will be quiet?” – the woman said, her words were almost impossible to understand through her thick Spanish accent.
“Listen to me, the men who are with me, they are monsters and they will keep on killing. I need you to find a man, his name is Brother Clement, he is a monk, he will be able to get in touch with the Inquisition. Tell him that Sister Guadalupe sent you. He’ll hear you out. Do you understand?” – Sister Guadalupe, her voice rushed.
“Yes.” – Iancu, nodding emphatically.
Before she could say another word a sword burst from her chest. It was Dragos, he’d gotten behind her without her noticing and run her though. The woman’s head slumped, her shoulders went slack and then she crumpled to the ground.
“Oh, thank God!” – Iancu cried, hugging his brother close.
Dragos laughed at his brother’s tears, but the laugh was shaky, he’d been frightened too.
“We should get out of here.” – Dragos said as he sheathed his bloody sword.
He turned to leave and then caught his breath.
Iancu looked up from rubbing the tears from his eyes to see his brother standing very still, and very stiff. Iancu began to laugh at the sight when he something made him look over his shoulder.
“No, no, no, no…” – Iancu, his voice a sobbing whisper.
There stood the woman, her dark clothes black with blood in the moonlight.
Her beatific expression was gone, replaced by the curled lips and fangs of a beast. Her hands were held with her palms up and her fingers curled in like claws. Her eyes were dark, their pupils wide black disks, like a dog looking at a threat.
The woman took a step forward and gave a deep bestial growl.
Once again Iancu turned to run, but this time the woman was there waiting for him.
She opened her mouth to roar and the Bandit felt something cold in the pit of his stomach.
He looked down and saw that it was her arm, buried past the wrist.
And with that, Iancu and his brother began to scream.
April 7, 1444, 2:19am
The Lion’s Inn
Just inside the City Gates, Sebeș
When Guadalupe finally made it back to the wagons she was flushed, her skin bright and vibrant. Her clothes, however, were covered in blood, as was her face. Her leather armor had a large hole through the center of it, as if she’d been run through, but there was no wound.
While they traveled the short distance to the castle Qamar and Ana helped the nun, who had not spoken again since returning, change her clothes, though they ended up fitting her with a simple long shirt and tights and belt.
It would do for now.
Qamar had turned out to be a surprisingly proficient interrogator. Straddling the bandit’s knee, she’d spoken to him in a sing-song voice and learned that he and his band of miscreants had been paid to waylay the caravan and burn the carriages to the ground with its occupants still inside.
Luckily for the freshly dead, they’d decided to simply murder them instead.
Though the man, who was called Costan, didn’t know his employer’s name he was able to describe him and they immediately recognized him as Lothario.
Alexander, upon hearing this, drove a sword through the man’s skull.
Only Ignatius’s quarry, the Bandit Zavid, survived to travel with them, though he had to be bound and gagged to keep him from shrieking or escaping.
That had been then.
Now they stood before the surprisingly large structure that was the Lion’s Inn. It’s sign announced that it’d been established in 1378 and from the looks of it the building had once been someone’s home.
Between the Inn and the city wall leaned an old barn where hands were ready to take the horses in and feed them.
The common room was a large hall, its walls adorned in animal skins. There stood a few long tables, large enough to seat as many as twelve people apiece. It was dimly lit by two large dueling fireplaces, neither of which had enough kindling to burn at more than a low ebb, as well as small candles at either end of each table, though many of those had been put out throughout the night.
The proprietor was a smallish bald man with a great mustache that Qamar couldn’t help but be entranced by. She waved sheepishly each time the old man caught her staring.
A youngish girl, no doubt the innkeeper’s daughter, seemed to throw straw about the stone floor, it was clear that she was glad that the night was nearing its end.
Alexander and Ignatius approached the old man.
To everyone’s surprise it was Ignatius who started speaking.
“We’ve come in search of a man, good sir, he calls himself Lothario and is a singularly hard man to forget.” – Ignatius.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I know who you mean.” – the old man, turning an eye to look at the young man.
Ignatius couldn’t help but notice the man’s eyes glance a bit too long at his scars.
“Perhaps, you know the Lady Jadviga. She is far more difficult to forget.” – Alexander, gesturing crudely to describe her as he spoke.
The man laughed at the Lord’s pantomime.
“I wish I did know who you mean, sir, but I don’t.” – the innkeeper, chuckling.
Ignatius’s arms flashed out and grabbed the old man’s coat and then pulled him over the counter upon which he’d been leaning. He slammed the old man to the floor with much force before bending down so that their noses touched.
“Where are they?!” – The hunter demanded, furiously.
The girl screamed in fright and her cry seemed to snap Ignatius from his fury. He stood abruptly and straitened his clothes before turning his back to the room.
Alexander took over, speaking as the man got to his feet.
“As I told you, there is no one here by that name.” – The old man coughed as he got to his feet.
“If he is not staying here, perhaps you would recognize him anyway, he is tall and a bit stooped with curly black hair and an odd smell about him. He speaks with a light Italian accent and has a scar that runs down his right cheek.” – Alexander, diplomatically, as he sat a few silver coins upon the counter.
The man, again, shook his head.
“Then perhaps you’d know our friends. We are looking for a small group of indiviuals, they may have come here a few nights ago, they dressed in dark traveling clothes and paid well for their rooms.” – Alexander, placing more coin upon the counter.
“Sir, please, I am sorry that I do not know these people, I wish I did, as your coin would be much appreciated, but no one fitting that expression has come through those doors in the last fortnight, maybe even longer.”
Alexander nodded disappointedly and walked away, pulling Ignatius with him.
He left the silver.
When he took stock of the room Ignatius noticed that Domnall was nowhere to be found, though how a man so big could just vanish was beyond him.
The answer came when the brute trudged his way down the too-steep steps.
“The entire top floor is empty and I don’t think they’d take their rest there anyway.” – Domnall
The Lady Ana watched the youngest of their number speak to the serving girl with quiet worry. She feared what would happen should the child lose control, she’d chosen a dark empty table near the middle of the room to make her perch, sitting in the middle of the table to keep some distance from the fireplaces and to ensure that no one entered the Inn without her seeing.
As she watched the Knight trying to calm the hunter she heard the deep chortle of a man.
She turned to find that she wasn’t alone at the table. Sitting at its opposite end was the man that had damned her with his invitation.
“Lord Claudius.” – Ana, weakly.
“Please, have your compatriots take a seat. Let us discuss this business you have with the Conspiracy of Isaac. One never knows, we may even allow some of you to live once you’ve said your piece.” – Claudius chuckled.
Ana swallowed hard, she knew she’d been alone at the table when she’d taken her seat.
“Lord Claudius, we’ve been looking for you for some time now.” – Ana, hiding her surprise.
Alexander and Ignatius had already spotted the Italian and were fast approaching, gathering the others as they did so. Soon all of them were there by Ana’s side.
Qamar sat down in a huff, it seemed that the girl had ignored her attempts to speak with her.
The Innkeeper gathered up the girl and soon vanished up the stairs.
By the time each of them finally took a seat at the table it was clear that Ignatius and Guadalupe were only barely keeping themselves in check.
The Venetian radiated an almost palpable aura of death as he sat at the head of the little table and it was strange to Ana that she hadn’t noticed it before.
More importantly, the Lady Amelia de Croy, the monster who had done this to her, was sitting next to her, watching her, and she hadn’t even noticed.
The other Conspirators too were sitting around them, the Lady Jadviga was seated gracefully at the table next to theirs, the girl, Theophana was sitting upon another table, Danika Ruthven stood upon the second floor looking down from the small balcony, while the Lady Dimitra was perched upon the railing.
Fernando Marchetti seemed to walk out of nothing, simply appearing halfway down the staircase.
“I’m sorry; Lord Claudius, but we have failed you. We were unable to die for you but we were able to escape them.” – Alexander, humbly
“How did you escape them?” – Amelia, incredulously.
“We were able to press Roderigo into our services after out torture. The fool showed us sympathy and helped us to feed, he even explained to us our condition as we put ourselves back together.” – Alexander laughed.
“And what happened to the treacherous ghoul?” – Fernando demanded as he came to stand close to his child.
“He’s with the horses, currently. I have claimed him as my own and have done a great deal to ensure that he will be loyal, even beyond the Blood Oath he’s taken with Hardestadt.” – Alexander.
Fernando scoffed but it was clear that he’d respect the childe’s wishes.
“When I say that we were tortured, Lord Claudius, please understand that I mean that had we still been alive we’d have been dead many times over. All I want to know is when you will allow us to return and exact our revenge upon the so-called Founders.” – Alexander.
His aura of command was surprisingly intense in the face of so many monsters.
Ana had to admit she was impressed.
“The founders claim that you wish to do away with Japheth to take his place in your…Clan’s… hierarchy, is this true? Is all of this a simple play for power?” – Ana asked.
The Conspirators laughed.
“Of course it’s true, my dear, at least to a point. We do want to destroy Japheth, the Methuselah is an evil from before the rise of man and the sway he holds over his sire will surely lead all of us, living and dead, to ruin. But if it were as simple as politics, do you really believe that I would have been able to bring together so many disparate creatures for this goal?” – Claudius.
“What did he do?” – Guadalupe, speaking for the first time since returning from the woods.
“Sadly, Japheth Cappadocius is lost to a terrible madness and it falls to me to destroy him before that madness spreads and corrupts the rest of the Cappadocian Clan. That is why I agreed to join Jadviga in founding this unholy cabal, why I plot against my own kin. We understand that we risk becoming Anathema to many of those who walk the Long Night, but the first son of the Cappadocian must be stopped. He truly believes that he can become a God on earth, that he can supersede our Lord on the fleshy plane. Such blasphemy must be put to rest before it can spread and do even more harm.” – Claudius explained.
“But surely he’s mad, such a thing cannot be possible, even for creatures such as us.” – Ignatius.
“That was my belief also, but Japheth is an old monster and he constantly grasps at things far beyond our kenning. He believes that he can raise the Childer of the First Cappadocian over our Lord and take his place in the heavens, thereby reigning over the living and the dead. It is a tantalizing thought, especially for a sect so devout and debased as the Clan of Death. God has cursed his hubris, but I fear it is not enough.” – Jadviga, rising as she joined the conversation.
“If you are among us who understand these implications than you understand that there are times when one must stand against the tide and do what is best for all, even if it damns you in the process. Our eyes are open, but we believe that God is on our side and we shall not fail!” – Fernando, vehemently, from his place behind Guadalupe.
“Why should we believe you? Just three nights ago you were celebrating your great victory by killing us slowly. How do we not know that the Founders are right, that you’re nothing but wanton monsters scrambling for power?” – Guadalupe to the Italian general.
“Look at the facts, dear childe, what have we told you? We have come together to destroy one of our own. We are not denying that, indeed as you so succinctly pointed out, we celebrate it! But we are attempting to destroy but one whilst these so called Bearers of Tradition would destroy all of us because we break the laws of a handful of our contemporaries who have decided to set forth laws over all of the Damned, think on that and then tell me who is more treacherous!” – Fernando fumed.
“We do not claim to be anything but evil, childe, but our evil is a mote in the vastness of one who has murdered and plotted against god since the time of the great deluge itself.” – Claudius
“You don’t mean to tell me that he is the same Japheth as the son of Noah.” – Guadalupe, it was her turn to be incredulous.
“I cannot say that for certain, no, but the fact is that I have found his name in records that date back to before the rise of the Pharaohs, and his own works speaking of the receding of waters. If he is not the son of Noah, it does little to discount his age.” – Claudius.
“You killed us, damned us and then left us to die in your stead and now you want our sympathy? Or are you going to end us yourself?” – Alexander, amicably.
“Even the Founders agree that the bond of Sire and Childe is sacrosanct, these “Law Bringers” who sent you to kill us are guilty of the crime they wish to punish us for six times over. Do you not see their hypocrisy? Do you not see the folly? We are not going to destroy you, our childer, Alexander, your creation was no easy thing and we are all grateful to see your continued existence, just as we all mourn to loss of young Karlo, for whom Leopold grieves. And let the cowards be thrice damned for sending our childer to do the deed for them.” – Jadviga
“Tradition means nothing when one’s true master is power!” – Fernando, bitterly.
“I will help you in this task, Lord Claudius, if what you say is true than Japheth must be stopped.” – Guadalupe.
Fernando clasped her shoulders happily.
Jadviga pressed herself against Alexander’s back, bending low to whisper into his ear even as she ran her fingers through his black hair.
“Once we have expunged the disease that is Japheth, our friend will wield great power amongst the Kindred and kine alike, Alexander. His family contains powerful vampires, skilled necromancers and the shrewdest merchants in Venice. Whoever allies with him shall reap great reward, and no one, least of all the founders, will have any power over any of us.” – Jadviga, sensing that Alexander still did not trust them.
Alexander stood suddenly and seemed to be on the verge of walking away. Instead he walked around her slowly, as if taking stock of her.
“How could I say no to you, milady.” – Alexander.
Ignatius stood abruptly and turned to leave.
“Where are you going, my childe?” – Danika, curiously
“This is all too much, I must have time to think.” – Ignatius respectfully.
“Do not take long, time is of the greatest importance if our plans are to succeed, young Basarab.” – Claudius called after him.
“Well, if everyone else is in agreement, let us toast to our future success.” – Claudius.
As if on cue the door opened and a young man that looked enough like the innkeeper and his daughter to be family entered holding a silver tray filled with cups of rich red liquid.
The smell of blood almost overwhelmed little Qamar as it was sat down in front of them all.
“A toast, to the Conspiracy of Isaac and the destruction of Japheth Cappadocius!” – Dimitra, speaking for the first time.
“A toast!” – Theophana agreed.
Others too joined in.
While the others drank their toast Ignatius stepped out into the chilled morning air to think.
“What troubles you, dear boy?” – it was Danika, though how she was able to follow him without his knowing startled him.
“Your compatriots speak of the sanctity of our blood and the necessity of your actions but those very actions put a lie to your claims!” – Ignatius, shouting at the noblewoman standing before him.
“What do you mean?” – Danika, her voice low.
“I speak of the bandits! Of you sending Lothario out to destroy us all!” – Ignatius.
The old woman’s dark eyes went wide.
“He did what?” – The old woman hissed.
Ignatius told her the whole of the story, of how they were accosted and how everyone of the bandits was now dead, save the man that Ignatius had kept.
“His name is Zavid; he claims to have been hired by a man fitting the description of Lothario Sforza.” – Ignatius.
“Bring the bandit!” – Danika growled before she turned and stormed back into the Inn. Ignatius couldn’t help but follow.
Though he’d been right behind her it seemed that Lord Claudius was somehow already aware of the situation when they returned, as he was on his feet with his eyes locked on the three of them.
Only a moment later Lothario appeared from the same door as the boy had. Ignatius couldn’t help but notice that he smelled of sex and the girl’s blood.
“Milord?” – Lothario, breathily.
“Lothario, it has come to our attention that these Cainites were accosted on the road here, and that those same bandits claim to have been hired by a man matching your description. Surely you have some explanation.” – Claudius, as though speaking to a child.
“I don’t know what they could be talking about, milord, it must be some mistake.” – Lothario
Ignatius pulled the bound bandit into view and released his gag.
“That’s the man who hired me and my friends, he offered us silver for it!” – the bandit, his voice filled with panic.
Lothario’s face contorted into a mask of rage.
“You impudent cur!” – Lothario as he charged the young man, his hand raised to slap the man across the face.
“You don’t touch him!” – Ignatius roared as he grabbed the ghoul’s arm and twisted.
Lothario began to shriek as somehow the man’s arm had become bent to nearly a ninety degree angle, and then twisted again. There was no sign of torn flesh or broken bones, though a livid bruise was forming.
Ignatius looked down at his own hand in equal parts horror and fascination before looking to his sire.
“What did I do?” – He demanded frantically.
“Only what you had to do to protect your property, youngling.” – Danika, pride showing on her face.
April 7, 1444, 10:46pm
A Forest Road
Not Far From Avrig
In the end they were convinced to do their sires’ bidding, something that the Elders were all too willing to believe was an earnest commitment to their cause.
Guadalupe had to admit that it was strange how such unscrupulous monsters could be so trusting, even of those whom they’d done harm.
Was the call of blood truly so important to the damned?
It didn’t matter, she supposed. They had their orders and were already on their way to fulfill them.
Their orders were simple really, they were to act as emissaries to Japheth, to deliver a message for Claudius.
He wanted them to explain, for him, that the heart-sore and contrite Claudius needed the ancient’s council as he was in the throes of a crisis of conscience. Conducting his family’s business dealings no longer excited him; color and meaning had left his life and he believed that Japheth’s wisdom could see him through this conversion, to leave behind the ways of his father and join with his Brother in Blood in their father’s house.
The ruse was as plain as it was disgusting. But perhaps the creature was as myopic as it was old. The possibility had struck the nun as all too likely.
Because the night was drawing to a close they had been given a place to stay, but were set to leave the moment the sun had set once more and now found themselves on a forest road with the mountains themselves in view.
They shared a carriage for this jaunt; with Alexander riding with the driver and Domnall and Ignatius riding above with Zavid, the three ladies had more than enough room to ride comfortably.
To add to the absurdity of it all the nun was currently wearing the clothes of one of Jadviga’s ladies in waiting, clothes that were finer than any she’d worn in her life.
She chastised herself for enjoying it.
So busy was Guadalupe chastising herself that when the carriage suddenly lurched forward she was thrown, along with the other ladies, against the front of the coach, Little Qamar landed hard, knocking the air from her lungs.
“What happened?” – Qamar cried out.
A fiery arrow imbedded itself into the coach’s wall. The nun steeled herself against the Beast’s terror before seeing Domnall’s giant hand tear the arrow from the wood and send it flying out into the forest.
“We’re being attacked.” – Guadalupe.
“Again?” – Ana, exasperation and fear tainting her voice.
“Are these more of your men?” – Ignatius, eyeing Zavid.
“No, sir, I’ve no idea what’s happening!” – The bandit.
Ignatius tossed him a blade.
“Prepare to defend yourself!”
When the bodies of the band of highwaymen had been discovered the people of Sebeș had been in a panic. They may have been killers and thieves, but whatever had killed them had done so with a ferocity that wasn’t human.
Clement had inspected the bodies, and indeed there were signs of the attack having been the work of the damned. Throats torn out by all too human teeth, a man’s gut’s pulled from his body through a horrid tear, bodies bitten, chewed and torn asunder.
The bodies were burned, of course, after being beheaded. Clement’s fellow inquisitors were convinced that the monster must have been a local fiend, but Clement was convinced that he knew better.
He believed that the massacre had been the work of a sabbat of vampires that had gone nearly feral.
His suspicions were confirmed in the worst way possible.
Upon the shirt of poor soul that had been torn limb from limb he found a note, addressed to him, written in blood.
It claimed to have been written by Sister Guadalupe, a sister inquisitor he’d met some nights ago in Sighisoara. She claimed to have been cursed with undeath and wished for release. She’d claimed to be heading into the city of Sebeș to contact the monsters that had damned her eternal soul and would send him further information as to their location as soon as she could.
The next morning he found another missive from the monster, this time written with ink and quill and left at the door of one of the city’s smaller churches.
She told him that they would be traveling on the road to the Monastery of St. Timothy and moreover it begged that he end the suffering of her soul.
Something told the priest that he could trust this monster, that perhaps the divinity of the girl was overwhelming the monster that had stolen her dead flesh.
Brother Clement’s instincts had been correct.
The Coach made good time as it drove through the forest toward Avrig. Upon it sat three figures, the most notable was the giant but he recognized the smallest of the three as being the man who’d offered him his services alongside the Spanish nun not a week before.
To Clement’s horror, the boy had become noticeably paler and his posture spoke of something not quite human.
It seemed that something dreadful had indeed befallen those he had once hoped to count as allies.
The brother swore on that moment that he would free them from this cursed existence, that he would set their souls free.
The knights who came with him, members of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Passion of the Cross of Acre, were well trained in the ways of hunting and destroying the damned.
When the carriage’s front axle fell into the rut in the road Brother Kristof began the attack.
The knights brought with them special weapons, among them flaming arrows and what they called “Goliath Slayers”, stones wrapped in linen and soaked in holy water.
The knights let loose their burning arrows.
The first hit the coach wall but the giant reached down and tore it free, tossing it to the ground.
The monsters’ thralls, men who willingly turned their backs on God’s grace to serve their undead masters, went to work cutting away any and all of the burning arrows that caught the carriage.
“I warned thee, I told thee to shun the halls of the damned! You did not heed my warning and now you are damned yourself!”
The knight glared cruelly at Clement, and the monk couldn’t help but think happily on the idea that he would see the bastard die and sent to hell.
“Clement! I thought we were friends!” – the scarred boy called from the top of the coach.
“My friend died! You’re just the thing that killed him!” – Clement bellowed.
One of the knights let loose their Goliath Slayer and struck the giant full on in the face. The beast’s hands rose to block their view but the sight of black smoke erupting from his cheek told the monk that the strange weapon was effective.
When the giant lowered his hands the left side of his face was nothing but a great black hole, the flesh having erupted, exploding off of now blackened bone. Only his dark eye remained relatively unscathed.
Unfortunately, with the exception of infuriating the giant further, the attack seemed to have no effect. Before Clement could even realize that the thing had raised some sort of weapon he felt something heavy upon his chest.
Clement looked down to see what looked like a hole in his chest, his life’s blood pouring out of him in great gouts.
By the time he fell to his knees, the monk was already dead.
Kristof was aware of the death of the monk, and he made a note to mourn him when he had a chance, but this was not that time.
Even as the monk fell the Coach doors flew open and a dark haired woman stepped out, her eyes bright. She looked him right in the eye and smiled, and it dawned on the knight that this was the woman who had warned Brother Clement of their destination.
In the moment that Kristof took to think on that the woman vanished, flickering from view with a speed that he could not fathom and leaving him looking for another target.
In this case it was the knight that the monk had pointed out to him. The man moved like a seasoned warrior as he charged into battle toward one of the other knights.
The knight thrust his sword into his fellow’s stomach, and though Kristof was sure that the blade was at least turned aside by the knight’s armor it was still enough to put him down.
Kristof turned again, taking in the battlefield, watching the other knights draw their swords or ready their Goliath Slayers, just as he was.
He was not expecting the Lady to step out of the carriage. She was beautiful, just as the dark haired woman was, but snow white in her paleness. Her hair looked like spun gold and her eyes seemed to flash amber in the light of the moon.
She looked at him with those beautiful eyes and he couldn’t help but notice how bright they were, how the black pupils seemed like great pools in which he could find himself falling into…
Guadalupe watched as the battle played out around her from beneath the carriage. She’d thought that the captain had seen her when she stepped from the coach but found that she moved with such speed that the fear had proved unfounded.
She had thought that when the knights attacked that she would be relieved that her nightmarish existence would finally be over, but now, as she watched her friend, Brother Clement, lay dead upon the hillside and Alexander bury his sword in the stomach of one of the Brother-knights, she couldn’t help but wonder if she had made a mistake.
The Captain pulled another cloth wrapped stone from his satchel and prepared to throw it as Ignatius leapt into the fray. Lady Ana stepped from the Coach and for a moment Guadalupe once again felt a glimmer of hope but then, as the Lady approached the Captain, she saw his arm go slack and the stone fall to the ground. Having somehow enchanted the holy knight, Ana took his hand in hers and buried her long curved teeth into the captain’s arm, drinking deeply from him.
Another knight attacked Alexander as he stood over his victim but the knight had somehow seen him coming and side stepped him. Guadalupe caught a glimpse of his face and saw that it was twisted into a mask of devilish glee, his eyes bright and his smiling mouth full of long pointed teeth. Alexander threw his sword after him, somehow impossibly burying it in the poor man’s back.
Her attention was pulled from the most monstrous ally’s assault by the sound of a little girl’s screams as Qamar tumbled out of the cart, her jaw smoking and sizzling from where one of those stones had hit her at the side of her neck and face.
It had only been a glancing blow and Guadalupe found herself both regretting that it had not been a clearer shot and grateful that her young friend had survived.
Qamar began to stand, her eyes wild as she glared blindly at the nun. In an instant the girl was on her feet and charging one of the knights, leaping upon his back and screaming a hell born monstrosity and burying her teeth into his neck.
Another knight had engaged Ignatius, slashing at the young man’s chest and burying his sword in his side before unsheathing it from his body. Guadalupe wasn’t surprised to see that the Romanian was still standing as the knight began to swing again. Ignatius swung, closefisted, at the surprised knight. The man’s head rolled back and to the left. The nun saw that the Romanian had somehow dented the man’s helmet with his blow.
The knight stood for another moment, his head spinning, before collapsing to his knees and finally to the ground, unconscious. Guadalupe breathed a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that her friend would not kill the knight.
The giant leapt from the carriage top and landed upon another of the knights, crushing him under his massive weight before falling upon him and tearing out his throat.
Alexander finished licking the blood from his sword and turned his eyes toward the monk. He approached the corpse and scraped the heel of his boot across the corpse’s face.
He bent down and looked into its glassy eyes and chuckled.
“I don’t know how you found us, priest, but I wanted you to regret it.” – Alexander whispered.
He looked back at the coach where Ignatius and the Nun were at work pulling the coach from the rut that it had fallen into. It was a miracle of sorts that the horses survived this pathetic little altercation.
It was amazing how hard they were to kill now.
It was amazing how freeing it was for the mortal coil to be lifted.
He looked down at the body again and laughed whole heartedly.
“Oh, father, I think I will make you regret it. Forever!” – Alexander, running the palm of his hand across his blade.
April 7, 1444, 11:37pm
The Shadow of the Făgăraş Mountains
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
Guadalupe fumed as she watched Qamar play with her ‘new toy’. The Brother Knight, a man called Alin that she referred to exclusively as her “Pet”.
Guadalupe had attempted to kill the man when she’d fed him her blood but it had only resulted in his further damnation. When he arose Guadalupe had wept and had continued to weep for the rest of the trip.
Ignatius had also bound one of them, though he assured her that he had only fed him some blood and had not imparted even a modicum of his curse.
He would release him when they reached the Monastery.
She had her doubts.
Both the knight and Qamar’s Pet had been bound tightly before they began to leave and they were now under Zavid’s care.
Now they were approaching the boundary of the Monastery, a short wall of black stone delineated the grounds from the surrounding lands. In the middle distance stood the monastery itself, a small, squat building that was shockingly new, upon a hill. A lush, manicured garden surrounds it on all sides, small headstones jutting from flowerbeds and beneath large, majestic trees engendered a sense of serenity within the nun that she had not felt since rising from the dead.
Like many Romanian monasteries, the building itself was brightly painted with the faces of saints. Standing before the Făgăraş Mountains, looking all the smaller and more beautiful for it, Guadalupe found that she was incapable of imagining that this place could be home to so ancient an evil.
The air was filled with only the sounds of the monks singing unto the lord whilst kneeling in a circle within the garden in front of the monastery.
Alexander cleared his throat as an elderly monk passed but seemed to go unnoticed.
“We’re here to see Japheth” – Domnall, loudly
The old man continued on his way but another, very young monk rose and without a word beckoned for them to follow him.
They passed through the knave and into the monastery proper where they were guided down a small stone stairway into the catacombs below.
The earthen halls were lit sparingly by small waxy candles and they walked for some time through coffin lined walls until they reached another chamber that was very similar to the monastery above but seemed, somehow, much older. The room was filled with a cold light that did not seem to come from anywhere in particular and was empty save for a raised altar and dais. Beyond that stood three ancient looking wooden chairs; the central chair along with that to its left were empty save the strange rune carved into the center one.
The rune itself reminded Guadalupe of a chalice or a bull’s head. A half circle attached to a long stem, to the left and right of the stem were two smaller stalks that stood unattached to the greater shape.
Though she did not know what that symbol might mean its appearance alone filled her with dread.
To the right of whomever that seat was meant for sat a young man in monk’s robe and tonsure. He was handsome, or had been once. But now his clean face was pale and vaguely blue, especially around his lips, nose and deep-set eyes. Great dark veins stood out in relief to the smoothness of his skin, putting to mind the appearance of veined marble.
He rose gracefully, as one would imagine a stone statue might if it were to suddenly come to life.
“Are you Japheth?” – Qamar, sweetly.
“Yes, I am Japheth, my child. I am the first and foremost scion of the Cappadocian and the clan that bears his name and Abbot of the Monastery of the Martyred St. Timothy.” – Japheth touching the girl’s blackened wound.
Qamar flinched painfully and the Methuselah turned to the silent monk.
“See to her wounds.” – Japheth, his voice soft.
The monk obeyed, escorting the girl away from the others to clean the wound with some water.
“Abbot Japheth, we have come to give you a message but first we must tell you that what we are to tell you is a trick, the monster who sent us, Lord Claudius, plans to murder you.” – Guadalupe, unable to lie to the beatific creature standing before her.
Ignatius glared at the nun for a moment before relaying the message, hanging the ancient a written letter as he did so.
The only reaction they could perceive from Japheth was a slight twitch in the corner of his mouth as he refolded the letter.
“Please, I must confer with my Sire.” – Japheth, his voice strained.
They’d expected to be excused or for the vampire to excuse himself but instead he simply took his seat once more and with a slight shudder his body went rigid.
Japheth’s eyes seemed to lose their warmth and animation, taking on the appearance of glass beads. After a moment the room dimmed and they watched in horror as the ancient’s body withered, the placid faced boy shriveling into little more than a dried out and blackened corpse.
Moments passed and Guadalupe began to fear the worst: that somehow the ancient had simply ceased to be.
Ana even approached it, nudging its shoulder experimentally, but nothing happened.
Then the room began to brighten again and the Lady jumped back. This time though the light source seemed to be the strange sigil upon the central chair. What few shadows existed in the room seemed to be attempting to flee.
The husk flickered and began to fill out before the vampire rose again.
“My father wishes to speak with you.” – Japheth rasped.
The glow from the sigil intensified, taking on the shape of a man. His skin horribly white, his long hair and beard were as black as coal. He too wore robes, but these were the robes of a shepherd. The thing’s sunken eyes seemed to see them all and none of them at the same time.
Guadalupe noted that the figure, though ‘sitting’ didn’t seem to actually be touching the chair itself.
“Welcome, children, I am He that was once called the Cappadocian, I am the Son of All of the Kindred of Caine, unburden your hearts unto me.” – The Luminous being intoned, his voice gentle but possessed of an unbearable strength.
And they did.
April 8, 1444, 1:18am
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
The Cappadocian, upon hearing their confession, bade them return to the place of their murder and to pray for their victims’ forgiveness.
Not all of them had chosen to return, Alexander had stayed behind, unwilling to face the Priest that he had damned.
Ana was sure that Guadalupe would never forgive the Lord and she couldn’t blame her.
When each of them, save Domnall, had unburdened themselves, explaining not only the crimes they had committed earlier in the night, but also everything that had occurred since arriving in Sighisoara he had responded as if he’d known it all already.
“To understand that which has come before requires a wisdom that you do not yet possess; the teachings of the Book of Nod tell us that to have Wisdom is to possess Life beyond Death and that those who lack wisdom perish even while still living. Do any of you wish to possess this wisdom?” – Cappadocius cryptically.
“To learn at the feet of one such as you would be a great honor.” – Ana, truthfully.
The others, save Alexander, agreed.
The Antediluvian appeared before the Lord.
“To turn away from this world is an arduous path and it is not for everyone. Leave this place and return to the world above. Go with the knowledge that you know yourself too well.” – Cappadocius, placing his hand upon Alexander’s shoulder.
The Lord nodded and left, striding from the room with his head held high.
When he was gone the Antediluvian turned to the others.
“For those of you who care to grow wise, do this: Return to those Templars that attacked you, forgive them with all your heart and bless them in the name of our Lord. When you have done so return to me and you shall become wise.” – Cappadocius.
They did as they were told, returning to the sight of their massacre they asked forgiveness of each of those knights who had been killed. Guadalupe had wept bloody tears at the revelation that the monk, Brother Clement, was nowhere to be found.
As they gave the last of their blessings the four dead men sat up suddenly, their wounds closing, their color returned to them.
The vampires had returned to the monastery, their heads held high, their crimes absolved.
They found Cappadocius awaiting their return at the dais.
“Because you have harkened, you shall hear.” – Cappadocian, motioning for them to sit before him.
“There is an old fable told by the Clan of the Moon: ‘When I made a sacrifice of plants and fed upon them I rose above them to become lord over plants and like unto a god. When I made a sacrifice of animals and fed upon them I rose above them and became lord over animals and like unto a god and when I made a sacrifice of Men I rose above them and became lord over Men and became unto a god!’”.
The Ancient stepped down from the altar and placed his ephemeral hand upon Qamar’s shoulder.
“The Malkavians know more about these matters than do any of the other Clans. They understood that the Spirit has risen from plants to animals to man and to the Children of Caine. We are not cursed by God but are blessed with life everlasting. Our savior did say “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him, and whosoever eatheth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life and I will raise him up to the last day.” Did he not?”
The assembled kindred nodded reverently.
“But did you also know what St. Luke says of our Savior? “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was as great drops of blood that fell upon the ground.” Blood for sweat, as ye have blood for sweat, what do ye make of these portents?” – The Antediluvian asked.
They sat there quietly, unable to respond as he looked from face to face hopefully.
“Our savior was more blessed than man or kindred, but we kindred are a step on the path. We are a step closer to God through Caine. God’s redemption is for creatures such as us! We must have our own sacrificial Lamb before God.”
“You wish to Martyr yourself, to become closer to God?” – Ana.
“Our savior said “I am the bread of Life yet he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” Well, I shall believe in him! I shall come unto him! I shall consume him! Just as kindred feed upon man I shall feed upon God and rise above him. I shall become Lord over all! But, just as I had to die to rise above death so must I die to rise above the mark of God. I must die to my current state just as I once died to my humanity. My death shall be a crucifixion, my consumption of God will be my sacrament and it must be a perfect act, a pure act of sacrifice for the good of all, including my enemy.” – Cappadocius, reverently. Madly.
Ana could hear the sound of bones popping and turned to see Guadalupe gritting her teeth and making fists trying desperately to keep her composure.
“Who would make an enemy of one such as you, Lord Cappadocius?” – Ignatius, his disgust in the subject seemed to be lost on the death god before them.
Ana looked over at the Abbot to see that he was as pained by this blasphemous sermon as they were disgusted by it.
“Mine is the Clan of Life after Death. Life beyond Death. Death, not as an end but as a beginning and I am to become the ferrymen of Souls! Let all who have eyes see and all that have ears hear, let them that have minds understand, and those that have souls know! Amen.” – Cappadocius, intoned in a mockery of prayer.
And then, just like that he was gone.
“Are you going to stop this madness?” – Guadalupe demanded of the ancient vampire.
“I did not know. He has never confided so much of his plan to me as he has just now. You should be exceedingly glad. My father rarely appears before us and almost never to those of another’s blood and has never revealed himself to ones so young as yourself, let alone so far from the source of our Curse.” – Japheth’s voice was hollow, even broken.
Guadalupe approached, placing her hand on his own.
“You must understand that the Conspiracy of Isaac plans to kill you. They believe that it is you who are behind this deicidal plot. They must be warned.” – Guadalupe
The ancient laughed.
“If what you say is true than something must be done, but remember, sister, our Lord’s view of false witnesses. Though I would not be surprised that a scion of that woe begotten family would attempt to… It seems that the money lenders have once again invaded the temple and we have taken tax collectors to our bosom. I am sure of my father wis– ” – Japheth grew quiet and contemplative again, unwilling or unable to finish the thought.
“Didn’t our lord also accept tax collectors amongst his disciples?” – Ana, meekly.
Japheth glared at her and she instinctively took a step back.
“Either way, I shall do as my sire bids.” – Japheth, his voice still distant.
With that he sent them back out into the world.
April 8, 1444, 1:58am
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
Guadalupe had chosen to stay behind, having gained permission from the Abbot to make her haven in the catacombs beneath the monastery as long as she promised to refrain from feeding upon any of the monks who made it their home.
Domnall, unable to see what good such an action would be, was able to send a missive to Hardestadt by way of a crow that they came upon in the road warning the Lord of this newest, most terrible development.
And with that the coterie, less one, returned to their sires.