I must not fear


I woke early evening after being hunted and tormented in nightmares brought on by too little sleep and too much melatonin. How quickly I had moved from the troubles of the dreaming, sun-endowed vampire Jesper to the more sinister evils of the Carpathian cannibal Skovajsa. Something about it all just seemed so off.

How much of it could be explained by his not having known his maker, not having a mentor to work him through the process, I wasn’t sure. The very survival of a newborn usually demanded a maker, a parent to provide for and protect, especially in the cities. The era of bloodbaths and the countless missing peasants whom no one noticed was over. Even if a newly made hunted the homeless, someone would take note.

And then there was Skovajsa’s textbook story that seemed all too…textbook. But he seemed so proud of it, so caught up in it. Never mind his aggression; he’d already shown him himself perfectly capable of violence with little regard to the fact that it was uncivilized.

No maker, a back story that reeked of a Bela Lugosi film, the emotional depth of a teaspoon, and the vanity of male model…it went without saying. I was afraid to see him. Afraid for my life. I was ashamed of it. I’d lived lifetime after lifetime, becoming acquainted the my many selves, knowing that because I fell so far from perfection, so far from being able to give up that which might free me from mortal concerns that I was doomed to be reincarnated again.

But it wasn’t the life that I feared losing…it was what was left behind. The mystery of a dreaming vampire and his glowing eyes. Just the thought that my going out to meet Skovajsa tonight might mean that last night would be the last time I saw Jesper curdled the blood in my veins. I’d lived so many time that the loss of my own existence no longer phased me. But the loss of his, the sheer impossibility of ever connecting with him again the way he was right now, warm, funny, vulnerable, and so very very intriguing; it terrified me beyond all else. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought because my heart finally ached not to be parted from him, not just yet.

Maybe he felt the same, maybe he was just his positive vampire self, taking advantage of the situation to his own ends. I had never cared that my emotions be returned in kind. The fact that I had them for once…finally…after feeling so bereft of emotions for so very long. The emptiness, the void was suddenly bursting with this all-consuming fear and I was shaking in my damp sheets, clutching my arms around me.

He was everything that Skovajsa was not. I knew Skovajsa was bad news. So why would I even consider going to meet him?

There was a Carpathian long ago that I had tried to help. I had been fascinated by him, fallen in love with him, and watched him slip from my grasp as his imbalances had turned his interest in me to obsession, his love into fear, my refusal to be turned into hate, my attempts to minister to him twisted into ridicule of him, contemptible conceit. In the very end, his very love for me had been my undoing. I hadn’t seen how far he’d gone into this madness, hadn’t been aware or prepared.

My failure had cost me my life. It had been the last time I remember feeling anything more than fondness for someone, excepting, of course, my daughter.

One dark night in London in 1883, I met a vampire named Valerian, in the flat of a Mr. Roland Emmerick, during a meeting of the Ghost Club, an organization founded to investigate spiritualism and science in a quest for knowledge. While women were not allowed in the Ghost Club officially, having a strange aptitude for reading people’s past landed me an audience in the club as a medium.

Valerian, who must have been already over 400 years old by this time, was investigating this club for what threat it might have against him and his kind. I suspect he had already started a horror of his own and wanted to see about setting London up as his home. He cut quite an impressive visage; tall, dark, and handsome with angular cheeks and deep set blue eyes.

Whether he was actually attracted to me physically or rather some of my comments had piqued his interest initially, he knew well how to mete control of his abilities to charm and attract. It had caught me off-guard. What was worse was that as we began to talk, the wall between my professionalism and his, well, vampire nature, slipped seamlessly away. He led me to a quiet corner of the room to share a brandy with him. Since most of the assembled might disapprove of such a strong drink for such a gentle lady, I agreed, thinking, mostly, that it would settle my nerves.

It did. It emboldened me, matter-of-fact, into revealing what I suspected of him.

“A vampire? Surely you are letting these zealots of the supernatural influence you,” he joked, but a darkness crept over his face.

“Zealots they may be but the fact remains, you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, testing the shepherd’s flock for your own designs.” I took another sip. “It speaks of your refinement, maturity of one of your kind. The fact that you can meld so well in such animated company further demonstrates your power and capability.”

“If I were sufficiently capable, as you suggest, wouldn’t I be able to charm you into thinking me just a man having an entrancing conversation with a beautiful and yet enigmatic woman?”

“Lord Valerian, as you have already been made aware, I have supernatural tendencies of my own. Though, this brandy helps me to confess, I feel the power of your sway most strongly. I do hope you will not take advantage of a lady who only seeks to offer up her abilities for benefit of others.”

“You can rely upon me, sweet lady, to take the utmost care with your person. Although, I too must confess myself strangely held captive like no time in recent memory. If we were to pretend, for a moment, that I was this, uh, creature of which you speak, what special skills might you lay upon my person?”

Looking at him coyly, drunk off brandy, “I would help you find the balance which you seek.”

He guffawed heartily. But as I remained steadfast in my gaze, he face sobered into incredulity. “Let me make sure I understand you. You believe that I, a stranger that you have just met for all of an hour, am unbalanced?”

As I held his gaze with my own, I watched it sneak under his armor and behind those dark blue eyes, there was a tremor. First, it was a flash of anger and he seemed about to bolt. The room was heading with incense and some other odor. Pipe smoke filling the room and the brandy like liquid courage in my veins, I moved to ease his mind, putting my gloved hand out.

I misjudged my mark, my hand landing not on his arm as intended. Instead, it fell upon his upper thigh.

His eyes flashed and his mouth dropped open just enough that I clearly saw his fangs snap out. It would’ve been quite acceptable, maybe even expected of him, a gentleman, to recognize a lady out of her depth, too much in the drink, and in danger of, perhaps already sullying her reputation.

He was old enough, mature enough, powerful enough that my small slip of propriety should have been nothing to him. Even as Vampire, such a touch, such a conversation, should have done little to move him from his plan. But I got to him that evening, just as he had got to me and we were staring at each other, as if suddenly both naked.

He wasn’t without any subtleties. He leaned forward, letting the fabric of his jacket drape over my arm so that no casual observer might notice where my hand lay. The room was stifling, my head began to swim, and I surmise now that it was in no small measure because he lost control of his abilities. I dropped my brandy glass and put my other hand to my head before fainting away.

The rest I know from Emmerick who told me later how Valerian gathered me up in his arms, declared that I had just had a powerful psychic fit in reading his future and that he would return me home posthaste in his carriage.

When I came to later, my head was resting against his shoulder in the carriage. But contrary to what could have been, he had taken no other liberties, both of his hands rested on his walking stick. As I stirred, opening my eyes, he spoke.

“I must apologize. There must be some truth in your words for only if I were not quite right would I take such a risk and spirit you away from that assembly.” He took a long, slow breath. “But I find I cannot be parted from you just yet.”

I lifted my head, felt his being all throughout me. I put a weak hand to my throat.

He noticed the movement. “No, I have not bitten you…yet.”

“You’ve done far worse.” I spoke softly. Without a bite, it could only mean that his sheer power alone had been brought to hear. He’d charmed me, nay, perhaps even worse than that, he’d entranced me. The pull felt so strong, I had to clench my hands to keep them from him.

He turned to look at me. Instead of a jaunty smile, there was regret and a sheepish look. His fangs peeked from under tightly drawn lips. “I did not intend it.”

I should’ve been fighting with all my remaining strength against him, to get out of his carriage, but I believed him. I read in his eyes the truth of the situation, that it was almost a reflex; he was Vampire and he must keep what was his. And somehow in that drawing room, I had intrigued him enough, shocked him enough, that it had forged some bond.

“Perhaps, my lord, if your mind was put at some ease, you might be able to relinquish your hold.” It was like gasping in air to make any sense, no matter how he was to be believed. I tried not to fight it, that could only led to wrecking of my mind especially if, he had no control over this binding that had happened.

He smiled without mirth, moving a hand to take my chin gently in his grasp. “And what possible ease could I find in your presence, when you look right through all four hundred thirty three of my years and make me feel like a schoolboy scraping my knees at the altar of a divine?”

I couldn’t think past the current moment. The only thoughts that seemed to make any sense were to give in enough that we both might have some ease. With shaky fingers, I undid the top buttons of my collar. His fangs grew involuntarily at revealing my neck to him. I blinked my eyes shut, wanting to dive headlong through this moment so I might find a way back out the other side.

He moved to wrap his arm around me, tilting my chin with his hand. Besides the bumpy nature of the carriage, once I was completely in his hold, I was no longer jostled, his strength so complete that I felt like I was floating.

His thumb moved over my cheek causing me to open my eyes to him again. There was a question in his gaze. “You think this will break my regard for you?”

“Yes,” I breathed. Arrgh, I just wanted him to hurry!

I could feel my veins throbbing in my whole body, heart thumping just for him. If this didn’t work, I’d be lost.

“My lady,” he whispered, eyes still searching mine. “What is your name?”

“Darcie Sherbourne,” I replied simply.

“Darcie Sherbourne,” he tried the name on his tongue, head leaning over me. Then Lord Valerian, loyal lieutenant to Stephen the Great, Prince of Moldavia, who fought to repel the Ottomans during the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, ancient vampire, gentleman and scholar, professed his own prescience.

“You will be the death of me.”

Then he bit me.

“““““““““““““““““

I was in no way ready to meet Skovajsa. I was too vulnerable. I realized I was still willing to give Skovajsa a chance because of my past with Valerian. But Valerian had killed me. Our bond had been broken in one way in that carriage and forged in another. And it been the undoing of us both.

The twins might be my biggest regret but Valerian had been my ultimate failure.

And here I was, afraid of losing this life more than any other I could recall, stepping into a cab at half past 10PM to meet the vampire fraud in the heart of downtown. As I settled into the seat, my phone buzzed in my pocket.

A text. From Jesper.

Got yur message. See u later?

Nothing in this life was ours to keep. Everything we acquired, every happiness we managed, only moments on loan to us. The trick was to accept those moments as gifts and linger over them only for a moment, not to clasp them tightly until they turned to dust.

Sure, I texted back. I leaned my head back in the cab, watching the water of another lake fill my view. This moment, right now, with my heart beating warmly in my chest with relief, this moment I would savor.

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