The standard, I do not own Angelus, Darla, Drucilla, William, or for that matter any historical figures. The vampires belong to ME. The historical figures belong to posterity and stuff. Any mistakes are my own, except, I'd like to pretend that I intended them.
With apologies to those who know just how far Darla is walking here. And walking, and walking and walking.
Chapter 1 | Index | Chapter 3
Darla stood in front of a wall of hazy mirrors and looked at her un-reflection.
Another room reflected back with a red watered silk divan, lacquered cherry wood writing desk, and a shuttered window. A young courtier stood by the desk, smirking at his own reflection. But in the other room, in the reflected room of the wall, there was no Darla.
Darla stood looking into that other room in the mirrors. Darla’s eyes looked into the reflection of her secretary’s eyes as he preened. He could not see her soulless gaze. The windows to his soul were thrown open. Hers had frozen long ago.
She leaned forward and breathed on the fine Venetian glass coating the mirror. Her breath made no mark. It had been hours since her last meal and all her stolen warmth had leaked away.
She stared at her secretary, measuring. He was intent upon straightening buckles. Smoothing his dusting of beard. Buffing the shine on his dagger’s hilt.
Darla turned to face him and bowed slightly at the waist, “So, Gui, what do you think?”
He glanced away from his own reflection, “Your clothing breaks three sumptuary laws and at least one ecclesiastical law.” He walked towards her. “Your hose are very tight. Your boots are very tall. Your doublet is boiled stiff and your codpiece is obscene.” He glanced back at his own reflection and plucked at his hose, “I wish I were so well dressed.”
“Hmm...” said Darla. Her boots tapped on the floor as she paced. She tossed a small pouch from hand to hand. It jingled as she caught it. In the mirror, it appeared and disappeared as it went from hand to hand. Gui’s eyes followed the flickering pouch in the mirror. Darla said, “It’s a wonderful world that has such boots in it.” Her boots tapped and the pouch jingled. “They make me feel like dominating small city states.”
“You always feel like dominating small city states,” he said, staring at the red wool as it flashed in and out of existence in the mirror.
“True,” Darla smiled, “but when I feel that way, I tell myself not to settle for anything less than the desolation of empires.” Darla tossed Gui the pouch. “The younger Carafa nephew could use a drinking companion.” The Gui in the mirror caught the pouch and held it tight. Darla said, “Isn’t it a shame what the Hapsburgs have done to fair Napoli? You should give young Carafa France’s sympathies.” Darla put on a velvet cap and walked to the door. “See that our sympathy flows like cheap wine. I’m going for a stroll.” Darla left the room of un-reflection and both Gui’s with their little bags of gold.
Darla ran down the wide marble staircase; her boots rap tap-tapped on the cold stone floor.
She opened a heavy oak door and slipped down into the wine cellar, into dust and rich moldering waiting air. Strode past bottles and racks and casks and up to the Iron Gate.
Darla rattled her chatelaine’s ring and picked through her keys. This little key was for display, this little key was for what’s dark, this little key hid secrets, this little key hid none, and this little key went click, click all the way down. Down the spiral staircase. Down tight twisty steps. Down into the under belly. Into the city’s cloacae.
It was pitch black and things slithered at the edges. She stepped over some dead rotting thing floating in the stream. “You know,” said Darla, “you really have to appreciate the ancient Romans. A thousand years and they’re still taking out the garbage.”
Something shifted in the dark. Darla continued walking. She turned up an inclining passage and through a door. Away from the damp sewer. Into dry and dust and long dead bodies. She said, “I’m not sure if you could have picked a more clichéd spot.” Sparks scattered as flint struck steel. A little gray demon with combed over hair looked up at her. “Well?” she said.
He bobbed his head. “I was to travel to meet with you post hastily.” A rat swarmed from one crypt ledge to another and he jumped. Held the light higher.
“Relax. There’s no one here but us dead people,” said Darla. She took the lamp from him and set it on a ledge.
“Yes, hastily. To see you. Yes.” The little demon shifted from one foot to the other. “I am to tell you that the young king is dead. Yes, yes.” His eyes shifted constantly. “The Guise family are suppressing the news, but her Majesty is too clever for them, yes.” He smoothed his hair. “Clever. Yes. Clever is good. It’ll help when what’s coming comes. Clever. Very clever. You know that the darkness is coming right?”
“I’m a vampire. Connected. Evil. Etcetera. Etcetera.” Darla’s face rippled into her hidden demon’s face. “Yes, I know. And quite frankly, I don’t care.” Her face smoothed back into her human’s face. “You might as well say that ice is cold or that the sun sets.” She swirled a finger in a skull’s empty eye socket. “Was there anything else? This place is appallingly dull.”
The demon handed her a waxed paper tube. “From her majesty. You are to get Prince Henri where he can do her the most good. Yes.”
Darla opened the tube and removed a paper. She laughed, “How surprising. A message in code.” She looked down at the demon, “You can go now.”
He looked around nervously, skittered into a doorway and was gone.
Darla shook her head and walked out the other side of the room. She climbed up a short flight of stairs and past a buried temple. She traced the sign of a fish with one gloved hand and ducked through a door and up into the Church of St. Stephen. She walked past three slivers of the true cross, a “genuine” sacred footprint preserved in mud, and some moldering arrows from when Stephen was used as a pin cushion.
Darla slipped into an old worn confession booth.
“Bless me father for I have sinned.” Darla pulled a copy of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria from beneath her seat. “It’s been three weeks since my last confession and I’m filled with sin.” She flipped through the pages.
“My lady, how may I be of service,” a soft voice said from behind the screen, his face obscured by a fine grill.
“You can wait until I’ve finished.” Darla flipped to end of the book and began to decode her message using the removal of makeup as a key. “It’s going to be a long day.”
A dark German wood
“Oh, just toddle off to the nearest Kobold cave he said.” William walked down the dusty road. Somewhere over the trees and clouds and sky, there was a sun. But here below the trees and clouds and sky, it was dark and gray and William cast no shadow in the even dim light. “I’m sure there’s one just round the bend.” William kicked a rock into the undergrowth.
The wind whispered in the ferns. Bluebells danced coyly. New leaves spiraled off branches and into the underbrush. A crow flew over head, a dark shape against dark trees.
His armor was heavy and awkward. He shifted the burden from one shoulder to the other.
“Oh, no, can’t bloody well offer the vampire a bleeding horse. No, he’s got to walk from one end of Godforsaken dark dank nothing to the other end of dark dank stupid…”
William kicked another rock.
“God’s bollocks. Getting from here to there is bloody boring.” William bent down and picked up a rock. He threw it at a moss covered grandfather tree. The tree did not notice. “Ready for the adventure to start already.”
William ignored a rock, stepped over a rut in the road, tripped on a tree root and kicked another rock.
In the distance, there was a hard high pounding on the hard high road.
William tilted his head. William licked his lips. William put on his demon’s face and eyes. He smiled. A horse and rider came round the bend.
William picked up a rock and struck the rider as he frothed his horse down the hard dirt road. The rider crumpled forward and fell. The black horse rolled its eyes and reared. Its mouth was wet with white and foam and blood. Its sides were lathered with sweat.
“Shhh…shhhh, hey there pretty,” said William, “Now you’re a pretty bit of feet, yeah, the wicked man is dead and the wickeder man’s come to ride you. Shhhh...” The horse shifted and pranced and came to a halt. William rubbed its face, “…shhh.”
The horse snorted, blowing hot air in William’s face. He snorted back. It ducked its head and William took its bridle.
There were two saddle bags full of papers on the horse’s back. William flipped through them one by one. “Blah, blah, Russ. Blah, blah Turks. Blah, blah Gog. Blah, blah Magog.” The papers fell to the ground and scattered over the dead man. William patted the horse’s head, secured his armor to the empty saddle bags and swung onto the horse’s back. It stepped this way and that and then whickered.
“Now this is more like it,” said William as he set off at a trot down the dark dusty road.
A crow landed on the dead man and tilted its head. It fluffed its feathers and called to its friends as it looked at the papers covering the man’s face with black bird’s eyes. The dead man did not care about the Gog Magog and neither did the bird.
The sun was bright in the sky and the water shimmered in the morning sun. Absorbed the blue of the sky and sparkled gold coins on wave tips.
Paulo shaded his eyes. The Turkish ships were sitting just off the coast. He wished that something would happen already. Perhaps one of the ships bottled in the harbor would slip free to carry warnings. Perhaps the fleet would return from maneuvers against the Godless. Perhaps the Turks would attack and Paulo would fight them off and the Head of the Order would knight Paulo himself. Perhaps.
Paulo was sixteen, the youngest of five brothers. His mother had just sent him a fresh loaf of bread. It was still soft.
The water was blue and green and it sparkled like Francesca Voulgareo’s eyes. Not that he noticed Francesca’s eyes. Although, she did smile at Paulo when he walked past her father’s shop.
Paulo walked the sea wall. The Turkish ships glowered black and grim on the horizon, just out of range of the fort’s catapults and cannon.
The Turks had been lobbing little empty boats towards shore all day and all night. The harbor bobbed with little black skiffs, currents of tar and oil spreading out in rings from each tiny boat. Hardly large enough to hold a single man. Certainly with no place to hide.
The Turkish ships rolled on the waves and glittered as the heretic bastards played with mirrors.
Paulo was sixteen years old. He had never been off of Malta. Had never sailed the sea with the Knights of the Order as their ships harried the infidel. Paulo had a loaf of bread waiting for him. Paulo had never heard of Geometry or Archimedes.
The Turks turned their mirrors on the little boats and the water and the harbor. The stones in the harbor began to steam in the blustery cold morning.
The boats coated with tar burst into flame.
The water began to burn.
Fire water reflected the burning sun under a clear blue sky.
Angelus sat with his feet propped up on the table of the Exchequer. The mud and water dripped from his shoes, left a gray pattern on the checkered cloth, and pooled around the metal counters scattered in mysterious piles.
Master Redmund flinched at each drip. He dabbed his flushed plump face with a rough spun handkerchief.
Angelus was idly flipping through sheets of vellum. He twirled tally sticks in his fingers. Dripped street jetsum onto the white and black cloth.
Master Redmund stood and waited. A candlemark slid wax and time down a yellow tallow candle.
Finally, Master Redmund said, “Do you have any questions? Is there anything out of order, sir?”
Angelus idly held a sheet up to the light. “Probably your liver. You might want to stick to beer. Then again, it’s not like a little hard drinking’s going to kill you.”
Master Redmund forced a soft laugh, “Yes, well, um, would you like to see any of the other rooms? The Guard room? The Treasury? It’s very secure.”
“Oh, I’m sure it is.” Angelus ran his thumb across a page. Ink smeared across the pale cream paper. “Did you know that my father was a merchant?”
“Umm…your father, sir?” said Master Redmund.
“Yes, my father, before I killed him.” Angelus tossed a tally stick to the floor.
Master Redmund flinched. “Um, no, sir?”
Angelus smiled, “Oh, Master Red-mund, you must call me Liam. We’re all friends here.” Angelus tossed the rest of the papers to the muddy table and examined the ink smear on his thumb. “Yes, my father. He was a merchant and like most merchants, he didn’t like to pay his taxes.” Angelus stood up and walked around the table. “I tried to resist his wicked ways, but he would keep filling my innocent ears and eyes with all the ways to cheat on tally and paper.” Master Redmund’s head shrank back into the rolls of fat on his neck. Angelus picked up a tally stick. “I was expecting a heist, but the money’s already gone, isn’t it.” Angelus tossed the stick to Master Redmund, who fumbled and the stick fell to the floor.
Master Redmund began to sputter, “Sir, I…I…I don’t know what you’re um, uh, talking about.”
“Redmund, don’t hurt my feelings, call me Liam.”
“Um…I don’t know what your talking about…um,” Redmund paused and Angelus waited, “…Liam.”
“That’s better. As your friend, I should tell that when you lie your eyes dart off to your left. Well, that and the stink of fear and demon alcohol.” Angelus poked Redmund in his soft belly, “Don’t lie to a liar.”
“Yes, sir…Liam.” Master Redmund waited a moment and then said in a small voice, “Are…are you going to kill me?”
“Now what kind of question is that?” Angelus patted Redmund’s shoulder. “What we’re going to do is you are going to introduce your friend Liam to your other friends and then we’re going to…”
The room began to shake. The floor rippled and rolled beneath their feet like a wave and the two men stumbled like farmers trying to keep their footing at sea. Then in a moment, the earth was still again.
Master Redmund fell to his knees and began to cry fat tears down rolls of flesh, “The world’s ending and I’m going to hell.”
Angelus shrugged, “Relax, it was just an earthquake. The world’s not ending. They have them all the time in the near east.”
Master Redmund’s eyes rolled whitely and he shivered as he got to his feet, “A what?”
Angelus sighed, “Redmund, you really should focus. You have much more important things to worry about.” Angelus gestured to the chair. “Have a seat. I have so much to tell you about your friend Liam.”
Drucilla was awake.
Drucilla was dreaming.
Druicilla was a lake, dark and deep.
Drucilla was a river, deep and wide. Her deltas were the ocean and the ocean was vast. Flow on. Flow on. Down. And the moon sails high and over and slips into the sky stream of stars and on and Drucilla spins.
The stars have all the same name and there is such confusion. Drucilla is confusion. Confused and clear as the open sky.
Drucilla is the sky and empty as a drop of dew dripping from a vine and drip, drip, drip.
Melt into a dew. Into a nutshell. Into a vast empty alas. Drucilla was and is and are and will be and she dreams awake.
She is the demon that coils beneath the water and longs to crack the fragile earth with its tail. She is the world serpent and the whale roads are her fragmented making.
She is the hunter in the night and death is her art. She makes love to it with her five fingered hands.
They roll in the water. The her that is the serpent demon and the her that is the hunter. The water boils with her thrashes and blows. The scythe of the hunter’s sisters flashes in the moonlight. She is the moonlight reflecting on the blade. Refracting on the water. She is the spreading blood and the last gasping breath. She is the cold water that they sink through. Dark sparkling waves beneath the stars.
Drucilla is awake.
Drucilla was dreaming.
Drucilla will be looking down at the sleeping doctor in his room. They’ve come many miles to reach this little village. This little inn at the edge of the world.
Miles to go before they wake.
Drucilla looked out at the moonlit ice and snow and smiles, smiled, smiling. Miles to go before the sun sets and the things behind the stars come out to play.
Elizabeth rolled the white queen over her knuckles. It flipped end over end.
Her eyes were heavy. She avoided sleep. She was having such busy dreams.
Elizabeth yawned. Closed her dark eyes, cracked her jaw, sucked in air and yawned.
“Your Majesty, did you hear what I said?” said Sir Cecil.
“That we knew nothing, know nothing and look in the future to know more of the same.” Elizabeth danced the carved ivory queen over her fingers. “Such fascinating tales keep me fair captivated.”
“Sa, sa,” murmured the little man behind the easel. “Just a moment more of your precious time your Majesty.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and struck her pose. Her white velvet skirts spread over the floor. In the painting, she stood over an open grave. In the painting, light rimmed clouds scudded across a moon lit sky. On the painted horizon, a new day waited, frozen, always the same. In the hall, racks of candles illuminated the room and the horizon was far away. In the painting, Elizabeth held the chess piece in one hand and her rapier in the other. In the hall, the rapier was propped across the arms of Elizabeth’s throne.
Elizabeth continued to fidget with her ivory queen.
Elizabeth in the painting was silent.
Elizabeth in the hall was less so.
“Fah, I’ve stood here long enough.” Elizabeth walked around the easel. “Looks like you have the jist of me, but I should be paler. As if the moon shone out my rump.” She turned to Cecil. “Spirit, I don’t care if you want to review more books, I must start my progress.”
“But your Majesty, we still do not know what the disappearance of Ursa Major portends.”
“At this rate my court will eat me out of house and pocket. It is time to start my summer’s progress. Bankrupt the unruly. Slay some undead. We do not want the Scots to forget my Slayer’s face.”
“But your majesty, all the prophecies point to a rising darkness that will swallow the earth.”
Elizabeth tossed Cecil the white queen. “And we will deal with it. On the road.” Elizabeth turned back to the painter. “Oh, and put a bit more in the chest.”
Chapter 1 | Index | Chapter 3