Epilogue


Prague – The Next Night

Valerian awoke out of rigor dormitus, hands still frozen into claws around the bed posts. He had struggled against the dark for the first time in decades and the resulting form had left him half on and half off the bed. It took his body a whole ten minutes to completely convert back to flesh, during which he had the urge to gnaw his own hands off to get free of his granite limbs.

Which was patently ridiculous, he told himself. It would be so much easier to just tear bone and sinew, ripping his arms away from his frozen hands. He came close to screaming in rage to be freed but he forced himself to relax, realizing that having to explain why he was regenerating his hands would create doubt in Conclave that he could ill afford. On top of the fact that it was painful. And would do little to help what had already come to pass.

He closed his eyes and leaned his dark head against the post, waiting, trying not to think the worst. After becoming completely flesh and releasing his hands, he shoved the breath out of his lungs. It kept him from screaming. Instead he drew himself up to full height and drew his robe closed before shuffling towards his writing desk.

The pain all over his body was excruciating, unlike it had been in decades. He could imagine he heard the silver sizzling into his skin. He had to stop halfway to his desk at the arm chair arranged before the fireplace of his bedchamber. It took him a few moments before he realized he was panting with effort, his shoulders drawn down, his hands clenching the damask upholstery. His brow furrowed, not understanding why this night was so different than any other night.

And in the silence and darkness of his bedchamber, he began to imagine his worst fears. That he had not done enough. That Jesper had failed. That this lifetime’s Darcie was dead and it was this absence that made his penance ignite into a hundred and twenty three hot silver flames. He shook his head slowly and lowered it to the chair back. He couldn’t endure another lifetime waiting. He tried to adjust his robe but every movement seemed to chafe the pain to intolerable levels.

It was the only explanation for why his awareness had not picked up the intruder and left him so vulnerable.

“I’d expect you’d be toasting in celebration rather than striking such a mournful pose, Valerian.”

Valerian exhaled, raising his head carefully. It was his just due after certain failure that the executor of his penance would return on this night to bring it all to an end. But he would not meet his end without dignity. He stood up tall, straightened his robes with just a tightening of his lips in complaint, and turned to face his enemy just as the heavy door to his chamber was pushed shut.

“And why would you, Emmerick, after all these years not allow me a moment to mourn the loss of our most dearest and special lady? Or do you still deny how much I care for her?”

The man known as Emmerick, the feared vampire hunter, didn’t look like much to be feared in his current form. A round face etched with lines, sandy blond hair receding back from his brow, wiry to the point of skinny at an advanced age of nearing fifty, he wore desert fatigues, a weathered brown leather armor-plated vest covered with various short knives, and combat boots. He leaned against the wall, one thumb hooked in an empty slot on his bandoleer, the other hand casually leaning a sawed-off shotgun against his shoulder. But his eyes, deep-set and suspicious, were what caught Valerian’s attention. The vampire hunter’s brows rose up in surprise.

“You don’t know, do you?” Emmerick spoke, just a hint of his British accent coming through.

Valerian fought for his regal bearing and refused to be caught unawares in conversation. But he couldn’t keep his shoulders from slumping for the barest moment. The image rose suddenly in his mind, as it always did whenever he and Emmerick met. Darcie’s lifeless, headless form across his lap, her head rolling across the wooden floorboards.

He blinked away the tears, summoning the death, the preternatural state that would isolate him from all feeling. It only worked on him for moments but perhaps long enough to see him through this.

Emmerick smirked, shifting uncomfortably before pushing himself away from the wall to approach Valerian. The vampire let him amble about him, wondering whether he should suffer this indignity. But why not, he wondered. I’ve lost her, again. What else matters?

“Dear God, it’s touching really. You still love her.”

The accusation shattered the calm completely and he snarled fully fanged. “I will not be mocked by you! Nor let you mock her memory, at this dark hour.”

“Relax, Vampire Lord,” the sardonic words fell out of Emmerick’s mouth. “Your golden boy did his job. She’s still alive.”

All Valerian could manage was to blink. Emmerick stepped to one of the damask chairs in front of the fireplace and draped himself in it, leg over the arm, shotgun grazing the floor. Valerian bent his eyes to the floor, stunned. But centuries of being hunted, tortured by the hunter did battle with his deepest desire and sparked his angry mistrust.

He was on Emmerick in a breath, clawed hand wrapped around his neck, choking him in the chair.

“Do NOT mock me…with your…lies!”

Instead of the battle Valerian expected in retaliation, Emmerick held up his hands, letting the shotgun fall to the floor. It caused him to loosen his grip but not move his hand.

“She’s alive and well, mate. And rid you of one of your own wastrel spawn. Not without quite a mess to clean up.” When Valerian’s hand loosened enough, Emmerick brushed it aside.

The relief in his voice went unchecked, “She lives.”

Emmerick nodded. “She had a lot of help. A motley lot of it, in fact.” Valerian showed no sign of listening as he walked over to the facing chair and sat, hands gripping the armrests. His face, still fanged, grimaced as the hiss and smell of burning flesh accosted him.

“Still, the simple fact of it is, she has the most to thank from your lackey, your scribe.” Emmerick considered his words carefully, watching keenly as his accounting seemed to make the Vampire Lord more troubled than happy. “So I suppose in a very indirect but not so insignificant way, you saved her.”

Valerian recovered his calm. The image of Darcie’s head on the floor receded to be replaced with the oddest vision, a mimosa glass. He could almost taste the orange.

“You understand what that means?” Emmerick asked, almost accusing.

Valerian’s head remained titled to the floor as he settled ice blue eyes on his foe, “That you cannot blame me for her death again?”

Emmerick laughed, frustrated. “You’re serious.” Then he roused himself out of the chair, sweeping his leg back over the leg and leaning forward. “Your penance. It’s over.”

Valerian cocked his head to the side, fangs growing.

“God, you are daft. What, you think the talismans just started to hurt tonight for no specific reason?” Emmerick stood up, whipping one of the short knives from his vest with his right hand. Valerian stood as well, claws out ready to fight. “I’m not here to fight you, dammit! Drop the robe and see for yourself.”

Valerian took a moment, his brows drawing low over his radiant eyes. But he unfastened the robe and let it fall away. His chest and back were covered in sizzling sores, silver pieces that looked like wheels that seemed to be pushing out from under his skin, some of them had already made it to the surface and fell from him as the robe fell away.

In a moment, all the silver wheels were falling to the rug, clattering over the stone floor. Emmerick stared in awe as in just a few moments, the hundred and twenty three silver wheels that he had personally buried under Valerian’s skin as penance for the murder of his friend, one for every year he’d had to visit, had fallen away and the remaining sores smoked quietly.

Hands still outstretched, Valerian marveled at the results. The pain was gone. He felt years younger. It might take him time to regenerate but he would heal from the damage eventually. He could hardly believe that Emmerick would honor their ages old arrangement. His cynical eye challenged the vampire hunter.

“What? You think I’m going to try and kill you now after your greatest hour?” Emmerick shook his head. “Pathetic, really.” He stuffed his knife back into his vest. “Guess I won’t be needing to dig them out. Shame, really. I was kinda looking forward to that.”

Valerian dropped his arms to his side, assessing the man that he had once called friend. “I guess I have that to be thankful for that as well. Would be a pity if your knife had slipped.”

Emmerick shrugged and flipped his foot, sending the shotgun up and into his hand without having to lose eye contact with Valerian. “Yeah, pity. The life you saved today just might have been your own.”

With that, Emmerick headed to the door without once seeming to blink or take his eyes off Valerian. He listened for a moment at the door before opening it.

“Emmerick.”

His brows rose in response.

“Thank you. Thank you for watching over her.”

“It’s the least any of us can do. Not that she’s ever made it easy.”

Valerian nodded once in acknowledgement and let Emmerick, friend turned foe, who had killed more vampire kind than anything else had throughout all his lives, leave without issue. He was still reflecting on what this ending might mean to his horror, the bargain struck long ago protecting all his kind in retribution so long as he agreed to take his penance. He was still wondering if the silent war was over when a throng of his people, led by Aubry and Xi, stormed the room, looking for the intruder.

symbol_infinity-color

He knew he wouldn’t have long to wait for her after he left Valerian’s stronghold and she didn’t disappoint him. After all these years, while he’d endured various incarnations, deaths and rebirths, she had remained timeless, ethereal, beautiful …and deadly. He’d long ago lost the last of his illusions that she was anything but the most savage of their kind.

And yet, he still remembered back when he’d found her crouched behind the desk in the office, tremulous half-smile with large doe eyes. She’d been hiding from her father, wanting so much to be with him, to be part of all his business, to understand him, and yet deathly afraid of him.

She’d been vampire made young, a product of an isolated and naïve youth. An orphan, desperate for a family, a victim of a wayward kindness. Technically, it wasn’t Valerian who had made her but Valerian’s spawn, a sloppy and unkind poet who thought more in concepts than in real people. He’d chafed under Valerian’s leadership and eventually parted from the horror. His death had been a kindness to her as Valerian had sought her out, found her, rescued her from desolate abandonment, and brought her up as one of his own.

It was one of things that had stayed Emmerick’s hand back when things had gone bad; Valerian’s now predictable kindness, loyalty, and stewardship of his own. He may not have begun that way but he had gathered as many of them as he could find and brought them under his roof and his protection.

The figure, cloaked and hooded, stepped quietly along the cobblestones of the Charles Bridge. The summer sky was clear, the white electric lights along the bridge casting a bright blue hue to the roofs of the towers above. At least she’d done him the decency of not using her powers to appear out of nowhere, giving him ample time to quit his musings and adjust his thoughts.

He’d chosen the place carefully. He wanted to know where he stood now that one bitter story had folded to a peaceable end. This lifetime’s body was a head shorter than the first time they’d met, the top of her hooded head about even with his chin. Even with the cloak, she cut a diminutive figure, the oval opening of her hood showing her perfectly heart-shaped lips above a sharp chin.

Her lips partly slowly, fangs peaking out, distracting him as she spoke.

“You left in quite the hurry.” Her French accent was still intact.

He dreaded this. Had been dreading it for at least the last two years, when her true feelings had become increasingly clear. It was about the same time as he realized she’d been using him, that she thought of him only as a tool for exacting her own revenge. He didn’t like to disappoint her. Things had just worked out that way.

“It’s over. He paid his debt. He saved her.” He shrugged. There really wasn’t anything else to say. He didn’t even feel a shred of anger anymore. He hadn’t for a long time. And he hadn’t felt anything since he realized what he meant to her. He’d have to find another salve for the emptiness of his own immortality.

Her head lifted enough so that the evening light grazed the bottom of her eyes, making the green of her eyes unnaturally bright in comparison. “But he has to be punished.”

He turned to her, struggling not to reach out, instead stuffing his hands in his pockets. “But he has, Croix. You didn’t see him tonight. I think he actually is jealous of his boy, the one that saved her. He can never go back and change the past. He knows that. But he regrets it.”

She snarled, turning her head away. “They should be made to suffer for what they did.”

“Croix, luv, you told me yourself, she didn’t want it and he overreacted. He was her guinea pig what with all those tonics; it’s perfectly reasonable to think that played into it. But whatever. He’s endured hundreds of years of torture by my own hands and borne it without a word, without a whimper.”

Her head slowly swung back. He had a sense she wasn’t listening.

“He did it for you.”

She snorted, sarcastically. “He’s never done anything but for himself.”

“No, he struck our deal so that I wouldn’t kill him and all the rest of his horror.” He stared down at her, watching, waiting for a sign that she understood. “That includes you.”

She tilted her head up to look at him. Her green eyes caught him off-guard, soft, glistening. “Even me? You wouldn’t hurt me, Baka.” She gripped his arm, beseeching. “I know you would never hurt me. You are good and true. You’ve always done right by me.”

The man he had been, the one who had trusted those green eyes before, would’ve done…had done everything he could for her. But none of it had satisfied her. And now he wondered, with Valerian’s reaction clear in his mind, if he hadn’t indeed let her lead him in the wrong.

“Baka. Listen to me. He is a monster. He will continue to commit crimes. You cannot let that pass. You must do something!”

He shook his head. When he said nothing, she dropped her head and he could almost hear the tears falling. Soft tears trailing down ivory cheeks. He took in a quick breath, resisting her influence, and turned his head up to the statue above him. She could be subtle but he still didn’t want to think she’d been twisting him on purpose. Not when she was so obviously upset.

“Do you know this effigy?” he asked her.

She raised her head, looking straight into his face. She was disappointed and it turned her heart-shaped mouth into a fierce line. He was completely immune now to her gaze, mostly immune to her voice. She thought that was all there had ever been between them, her vampiric powers as influence. As he waited patiently, he wondered how he in his male weakness had feed the creature she had become.

Her eyes narrowed. “Should I be?”

“St. Adalbart. You want to know what makes him so significant?”

Her hand slide away and she stepped back from him. “No, but I’m sure you are about to enlighten me.”

“He was the Bishop of Prague before circumstances forced him to flee. He then went on to become a missionary in Prussia where, as the story goes, he ran afoul of the pagan locals and was executed. He was canonized several years later.” She shrugged, uninterested, so he continued. “Adalbart had reportedly offended the Prussians because it was tradition for missionaries to cut down trees, the very trees that the people held sacred. Oak trees.”

“So?” her delicate shoulders shrugged but the tension there did not relent.

“He was participating in Iconoclasm. Like the Muslims scratching the eyes out of drawings in the rock churches of Gorem or the Reformation riots in the Seventeen Provinces burning other effigies in 1566. Ideological destruction of faith. But here’s the really interesting part of the story, the part not revealed in dogma. Those forests were sacred, alright. For werewolves.”

He stepped to her. “So you see, the Prussians were doing Adalbart a favor after they discovered that in his iconoclastic furor, he’d wound up being bitten by beasts he sought to deny and threatened to be turned into one himself, one so wholly contrary to everything he had been or done in his life.”

She pursed her lips. “You’re not going to kill him, are you?”

Emmerick sighed. “No.” And he began to walk away. But as an afterthought, he threw her one more thought. “Better the Devil you know.”

She cursed him under her breath. When she’d finally made up her mind to kill him, he’d vanished from all her senses. It was uncanny how he as a man, merely a human man, could do that. But it didn’t matter. Things had already been set into motion. It really would’ve been better if Emmerick would’ve deigned to be the instrument of Valerian’s death.

But she already had a workable back-up plan. She stared up at St. Adalbart. She had no idea if the story Emmerick had told her was true. Or even if it meant that he had finally deduced what had happened underneath the warehouse all those one hundred and twenty four years ago.

Darcie had left and Valerian had gone dead inside without her. And now they must both pay for the love that they both had let die. And for the daughter they had both denied.

“I will punish you, Sophie Quinn. And no South American vamp boy toy will save you this time.”

Advertisements

One Response to “Epilogue”

  1. […] Vampirony A fictional account of the vampire psychologist « Epilogue […]

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: