DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: The Look of Things

“Sure,” was the length and breadth of her response to my text.

It didn’t leave me much to go on, which troubled me some. I scratched at my chest, my scars prickling under my shirt. It took me a while to notice that Conclave had gone suddenly quiet, as if the conference call had been dropped.

I pitched forward at my desk, realizing that I was no longer actively projecting into the room where the others had gathered. Someone had called this emergency session to talk about some slight somewhere or something. I had to admit a failing on my part as Conclave scribe that I hadn’t been paying much attention.

As I peered into the room, trying to re-establish what was happening, I saw a form move in front of the camera. A laptop was usually setup on the far side of the room where I could see everyone assembled and easily project myself without getting in anyone’s way. It tended to unnerve some of the others when my projected self interfered in their space.

The form was Valerian, clearly seated in his chair on the dais. He raised an eyebrow at me and blocked the entire room from my view as I heard the heated conversation continue in the background. But before I could grasp the thread, Valerian spoke, his voice low, just for me.

“You look a little different today, my absent-minded friend.”

“Huh?” I was scratching at my chest again. I made myself stop.

He didn’t say more, just slowly sat back out of view.

That is an insolent allegation–.”

I pushed my awareness back into the room just as Valerian, just behind my left elbow, spoke up.

“Considering that the focus of the allegation has not appeared to this conclave, perhaps it would be better to reserve these proceedings for a better time.”

Across the room from me was a very young looking Latino, wearing chinos and a white sports polo shirt with short cropped sun-streaked brown hair, more modern day soccer player than vampire. But his jaw was set with selfless resolution. And he stood alongside a very old friend to the Conclave, Imperius from the Jaguar clan. Imperius was no vampire, but had been a vampire servant from his Roman days, then traveled as a monk throughout Europe. He’d been a servant for so long and his bonded vampire had been so ancient that when his master had to be killed due to insanity, Imperius had survived on. It was a bit of a miracle that no one could still explain.

Xi, current member of Valerian’s staff although originally from Teng-Wen’s Jiang-shi horror, had stepped down from the dais, as if advancing on the Latino. His long dusty black locks were bristling, the tattoos over his naked torso rippled with magical intensity. It had been his voice that Valerian had forestalled. With his clenched fists and forward posture, he was a hair’s breadth from disobedience.

Imperius set his shrewd eyes to studying Valerian. He’d been old before Valerian had been human born. There wasn’t much that passed his notice or reasoning among vampire affairs and he had very deftly helped the South American contingent carve out equal rights among the vampire Conclave, including this particular privilege of direct access. No other horror would allow anyone but the leader to directly address Conclave. But the South Americans were different in many ways and we’d all chosen to respect that in their one small request for fear of the bloodbath that might follow denial.

“And when might young Bianchi, who’s already traveled quite far in service to the Conclave, get his satisfaction?” Imperius asked, suspicious.

Valerian stood, a signal this Conclave was at an end. “When the vampire in question can be found.”

The Latino Bianchi stepped forward, “I only wish to be heard, Lord Valerian. We in the southern provinces believe in your wisdom handling threats to all vampire society, regardless of their source.”

Xi made the slightest inhalation in temper but before breath escaped his lungs, his lips and jaw clenched shut tight and he began stepping back heavily, up the steps of the dais, behind Valerian. His eyes darted to his master but no other part of his body moved. He became a glorious statue of a warrior, frozen on the precipice of attacking. It was the first time in a long time I’d seen Valerian have to reign in one of his own at Conclave. His kindred were among the most obedient, mainly because they had been hunted the most throughout the ages and relied so heavily on him for their continued existence.

His full expression was hard for me to see from my vantage but his sharp face was dented in a pained smile.

“But of course. We shall adjourn from this larger group to talk it over.”

Valerian stepped down the dais towards the Latino vampire, his robe falling thick and dark around him. When he reached Bianchi, he put an arm around the boy, leading him away, with Imperius hesitating behind. For all his power and darkness, there was something so fatherly about that arm that it beckoned me forward.

“So, scribe, how will you record this session? I fear there was more unsaid than you could hope to surmise.”

I hadn’t realized I had pushed further into the room, some fifty feet from the laptop. Imperius looked at my projected self as if my presence were commonplace. Absent-minded indeed. Valerian was right; I wasn’t quite in control of body or spirit at the moment, both wanting to be elsewhere. But there were too many questions in the here and now that were hinted at, most of them from our appointed leader himself.

“What did the boy mean ‘regardless of the source’?” I asked, still looking after Valerian.

“Hmm, he refers to the Taint.”

I turned my head toward him. I was familiar with the blood cleansing programs. Valerian had just returned from one not long ago and had still deigned to meet with me about Sophie. I now knew he had been drinking pine needle tea as a restorative. I kept away from the cleansings as I had never had the thirst for gorging as some had, even though I understood the necessity of the process. But some programs devised more recently hadn’t always used such a direct approach.

“Yes, what of it?”

All manner of vampire concoctions had once been tried to affect a larger group of people without exposing vampires to direct blood consumption. All attempts had significant side effects moving Valerian to discontinue them and every unintentional spawn had been liberated. He’d had to argue very vigorously with Shadria and Galscythe, ministers of the programs, to revert to vampire individuals doing the direct cleansing, volunteering himself to start. They had not seen a few errant orphans as being statistically significant even after one had murdered a school bus full of children in Argentina.

Horrific as it had been, they had still thought to refine, not end the practice. Valerian wanted it eradicated immediately and every potion, powder, or bottle collected and destroyed. Their disagreement had come to combat in the Conclave chamber, Shadria calling Valerian soft in his concern for the humans and weak for his fear over a few fevered and wild offshoots. Before that day, the list of punishable offenses in vampire society included only two: Endangerment of vampire society and interference in another vampire’s horror or territory.

That day, Valerian in his swift and utter defeat of Shadria, a vampire two hundred years his senior, had added another. Children of any kind were untouchable. Of course, he explained that infanticide was a great threat to our treaties and our secrecy and therefore violated the primary law. But the ferocity with which he had physically mutilated Shadria and mentally wrecked her in unknowable ways gave rise to suspicions of his exact motives.

Imperius chewed the side of his beard, looking much the portly monk, still in his old traveling robes. “Valerian promised Jaguar clan that he would destroy every remnant of Taint from the Earth. It’s rumored a few still elude him, that his agents work even now to recover them. But Jaguar clan remembers how he fought with honor to protect all vampires from ultimate ruin and avenged the defiled children of the Argentines.”

“Yes, he’s become quite the family man.”

“Hmm, “ Imperius scoffed, slapping air where my chest would be. “You might ask Xi how he feels about his adopted father right about now.” He took his leave.

He was right of course but this interaction had revealed something a lot closer at hand. As I looked down at my chest, the V neck shirt hinted at something strange beneath, something Valerian had tried to hint at earlier. I pulled down the fabric at the neck and noticed that my projected self had an unblemished chest, even as I felt my real chest still itching. Somehow, my projected self was the old one, not the one with a few new scars that Valerian had woken from reverie in the laptop conference call.

One Response to “DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: The Look of Things”

  1. jozdavis Says:

    a little lost, but perservering!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: