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Excerpt for Lucan, Part 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Lucan, Part II





CHRISTINE DUTS



Published by Christine Duts



Copyright 2017 Christine Duts



Discover other titles by Christine Duts



Aurelie: Survival

Aurelie: On the Road

Aurelie: Gates of immortality

lucan, part 1

beyond the mirror

A Right to Live



EDITED BY: ROWANVALE BOOKS

COVER PHOTO: ROWANVALE BOOKS

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Chapter XXXV: Compromise


We spent nearly two more decades in Antioch, and at a certain point we had to come to terms with our son’s death. When his time came, at the age of fifty-nine, we stood outside his house and waited for the inevitable. His wife had passed away a year before him, and he had not been the same without her. Althea believed that he died of a broken heart. His children – our grandson and granddaughter – sat by his side.

Marius tried to speak, but every word cost him immense effort.

“Do not speak,” his son urged him, but Marius would not listen. He insisted in getting it off his chest, and he stammered, “Y-your grandfather…”

A little taken aback, the young man who resembled him so much gazed at him in surprise, wondering why he mentioned me – the one who had never been there, the one he had believed dead.

“He… is alive.”

“He must be over eighty now. I doubt that he is alive.”

Violently, Marius shook his head.

“Not in that way.”

The young man stared at him, as if wondering in what other way one could be alive, and his twin sister gave him a puzzled look. She seemed to doubt her father’s sanity.

“He is dead, father. He died a long time ago. You said so yourself.”

Vehemently, with the remaining strength he could muster, he shook his head.

His children did not believe him, thinking that he was delirious and that he did not know what he was saying. It was better that way. It would not do them any good to meet me now. Mine was a world that had to remain separated from theirs. Marius, however, could not tell them any more. He coughed and wheezed, and at last his eyes lost their final sparkle of life and stared at them emptily. Life left him so soon that his own children did not even realise it. He was gone, and so was the tale of my existence.


My grandson did not remain in Antioch after his father’s death. He had always been an adventurer, and he never married, though I had often seen him with courtesans. He had travelled frequently, but now he was to leave Antioch for good. After arranging a grand burial for their father, my granddaughter returned to her husband, and her brother freed the slaves. He travelled west, heading towards Rome. Erastus spent the remainder of his days in Persia, where he married the Gaelic slave. He had three more children with her. His sister, Lidia, gave birth to two girls and one boy, but after that I stopped keeping track. Althea was the one who wrote everything down. I often told her that there was no use. We could never interact with them anyway, but she replied that it would be interesting to see our family tree grow over the centuries and observe where it branched to. I could not care less, but it gave her something to do. She clung to our family, because it was our only human side that she wanted to cherish.

I continued my wine business, which became very successful and provided a steady supply of gold, allowing us to live in wealth. Over the course of the centuries, I continued to invest my capital in various business ventures. In that way, I made sure that I always had enough money to pay servants, ensure the silence of carriage drivers, and provide for any expenses I needed to make.

The temple kept its farce of a cult and drew more believers for over a decade. Contrary to what Althea had said, we co-existed with Orion’s small coven, despite what had happened. We hunted in the same streets, but we avoided each other.

Orion did not seek me out for fifteen years. He knew that Athena had provoked the attack, and he did not seem to harbour any feelings of revenge for my having destroyed her. As time went by, the temple lost its followers and people abandoned the strange cults that had taken over Antioch. Fifteen years after the assault on Claudia’s home, the temple was abandoned by its members and even by its priest. Its blood drinkers – the fake “gods” – remained in their lair under the base of the giant statue, but their victims no longer walked willingly into their arms. When dust settled on the stone birds, the fountain stopped flowing, and the blood smudges dried, Orion hunted the streets at night, and it was on one of those nights that I encountered him.

I was alone. Althea and I had argued over a slave girl. I had merely praised the girl for her skill in mending broken amphorae, but when Althea saw us exchange words, her jealousy took over and she accused me blindly. She would not listen to me, and, in her anger, she killed the poor girl, who had not done anything wrong. She snapped her neck and left her body on the floor. Then she gave me a challenging look, which merged triumph with dementia, a look I would have preferred not to have seen and which was rather disconcerting. This time her jealousy had gone too far, and infuriated, I stormed out of the house, calling her names I will not repeat here. What occurred I describe in only a few words, and the reason for that is that these scenes became quite repetitive. It was the first time, though, that a girl had lost her life, and it would not be the last time. It was this obsessive jealousy which drove me away from my wife and led me to go on trips that lasted a few months and sometimes even years. As a mortal, Althea had been reasonable, and her jealousy had been something she joked about; but as an immortal it had become a source of uncontrollable rage. In all cases she had no justification, and in the one case where she had had every reason to go berserk, she had not… Ariana had been the only one for me, and despite her jealousy of the girl, Althea had never suspected anything between us. It did not make much sense to me, and every time she started to rage, I would make sure to leave the house, to avoid a fight and the unnecessary death of another girl.

I was angry and not willing to witness any more scenes of jealousy, and it was in this state that I ran into Orion. In fact, I did not run into him. He had waited for me, wanting to meet me, and when I crossed the town square, I saw him standing by the portico of a grand official building. His stare was penetrating and when I reached him, he kept those cold, stark eyes on me. No malice or vengeance came from him. He seemed pleased to see me, and when I came closer he opened his arms. We hugged like brothers.

When he let go of me, he said,, “You expected me to kill you.”

“Not so much. Althea was the one who thought so. I was not sure, though, how you would receive me if we met again.”

He smiled.

“She asked for it,” he said. He meant Athena. “She attacked your sister’s home. I would have defended it, too. I would have done the same thing.”

“She was your companion.”

“Yes,” he said dismissively. “But she was getting uncontrollable. I could hardly get through to her. To her, Claudia had to die. She said so many times. I could have prevented the attack, but then, who knows? I did not even know when it was going to happen. I knew, when you killed her…”

“You felt it?”

“Maker-fledgling bond.”

“Tell me about it.”

“It is an intense bond. At a short distance, we can call and feel each other. At a large distance, it becomes more difficult. We can then sense that the other one is in trouble, but we do not always know what it is. When you killed Athena, though, I could feel the blow in my neck. I knew exactly how you killed her.”

He described it as an ordinary event, as if it had not been his long-term companion who had been destroyed. And we talked as if we had just picked up a conversation which we had left unfinished yesterday, as if fifteen years had not passed at all. Our friendship was still there and we had forgiven each other. It was a conversation we both knew we should have had a long time ago.

“Trust me, I wept for her. She was trouble and a pain, but I loved her. And yes, I wanted to kill you, but I also knew that you had acted in defence. You had defended your sister’s life. Therefore, I left you alone and I ordered the rest of the coven to do the same. They understood. They did not protest.”

A cool breeze blew over the square, playing with a girl’s lustrous, black hair. The sight of her hair took me back to Ariana, to the visions her leaving soul had allowed me. I should have turned her… but if I had done so, Althea would have destroyed her. Damn Althea… she could be so wonderful and so cruel at the same time!

“It was too late for your sister, was it not?” Orion asked.

“Yes, it was, but we saved her son.”

“Where is he?”

“In Persia.”

He nodded.

“Far enough.”

He then took my arm and said, “Let’s walk.”

And so, we promenaded through town and talked about the last fifteen years. He told me about the temple and noticed my amused smile when he mentioned that the cult was over.

“It was all a lie, Orion. It is good it is over.”

He did not reply. We continued our walk and spent all night together. When dawn approached, I had no desire to return home, but I did not wish to go to the temple either. We could have walked on and enjoyed the day, but we were both tired; I had not rested in a long time and neither had he. So, Orion took me to an underground chamber on the outskirts of Antioch. It was hidden under an old ruin. A trap door, which was concealed under a bush, led the way into an underground world he had kept secret for decades. Not even Athena had known about this. He pulled the trap door open, and I noticed that the bush concealing it was in fact dead. It was a bunch of dry branches which had once sprouted green leaves and flowers, but that was no more. Its roots were cut off under the trap door. It was ingenious, really. No one would suspect it. This little hideout was in fact the inspiration for my underground chamber outside Paris in the eighteenth century, the one where I took the mortal Aurélie and made her a blood drinker. But I am centuries ahead of myself.

Orion led me down wooden steps. The stairway smelt moist – rain had probably seeped through some time ago and dried slowly. In time, the wood would become mouldy and he would have to replace the stairs. We arrived in a comfortable room. It was small, but sufficient for one man. There was a table covered with documents, one wooden chair next to it, a few torches placed in the wall, and an Egyptian sarcophagus. An elaborately carved mask covered its head, and I wondered where he had taken it from. It looked like an expensive sarcophagus, only fit for a king.

He lit the torches and said, “It will make the dampness go away.”

Then he opened the sarcophagus and invited me to enter. Soft blankets had been carefully arranged in the cask, and feeling tired, I stepped in. He made himself comfortable next to me and closed the lid.


After a hundred years in Antioch, Althea and I finally returned to Rome, and what a surprise awaited us! The city had changed, and not for the better. Although always beautiful, it had decayed. The Colosseum stood neglected, a giant of a blood-filled past now cursed to permanent silence. Plebeian houses had been destroyed and haphazardly rebuilt. Patrician villas were either abandoned or taken by new families. Some of the villas were falling to ruin, but the ones that were occupied had been restored to their former glory.

Our villa was still standing and had been invaded by a young family, which we quickly chased out. It was in Rome where I began to enjoy daylight more. I had been able to do so after my fifth year of immortality, but I had never been much inclined to take advantage of it. I suppose that I was a creature of habit. When Althea’s jealousy increased, however, I tended to disappear for long periods. I even found an old ruin and excavated a hole that was large enough to accommodate a comfortable room below. Essentially, I copied Orion’s underground dungeon, but I made mine more luxurious, as I spent several weeks or months there whenever Althea became unreasonable. It was a pity, really. When I married her, she had been a delightful and witty woman; immortality, though, had brought out the worst in her. It had not diminished my love; that would never change, for deep down she was still the woman I had fallen in love with. She just did not let her come out that often any more. When she did, however, we had incredible times together.

And so, in this manner, our lives went on. We spent centuries in Rome. We loved and fought; cherished and bickered; laughed and cried. She pulled me towards her and pushed me away, and in that way our long separations began. If I did not stay in my underground chamber, I usually went to England and spent some time with Morgan, who brought me peace and calm. On other occasions, I travelled east and fell into some adventures: but I will not go into details. They were certainly interesting and worthy enough for this account, but they are unrelated to any of the described events.

Sometimes Althea also left and when she did, she would make sure to keep track of our family tree by visiting the areas where far relatives dwelled – if one could still call them that. According to her, Erastus and Lilia’s descendants were still in Persia. Marius’s daughter had remained in Antioch and so had her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His son, Marcellus, had never married, but he had spread his seed all over Europe if I was to believe my wife. His offspring had begun families in countries which were by then known as Romania, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. She kept track of all of them. I thought that this was exhausting, but she enjoyed it, and whenever she produced her scrolls and went over her list, there was a joyful sparkle in her eyes which I did not see that often any more.

In the fifth century, I encountered Gael and he took me down to the Catacombs, the very same ones where I would take Aurélie many centuries later. Penelope received me warmly, and she was relieved to find me alive. She claimed that not many fledglings made it here, thinking themselves invincible and taking unnecessary risks, which inevitably led to their doom. Back then the irises of her eyes had slowly begun to merge with the whites, giving them a strange brown-grey hue. She informed me that Gael, Balthazar, and she had dwelled here for four hundred years already, and that I was never to disclose the location to anyone. She was now much more willing to answer my questions, and so I spent two days in the Catacombs of Rome, learning what I could and finally losing my loathing of her. I actually began to like and even admire her. She also learnt a great many things from me. She already knew about Orion and she was pleased that we had become allies. She had heard a great deal about him and thought that the fake cult he had set up was quite ingenious. She also learnt about Althea and the family tree she was writing down. I wisely left out Morgan, since I remembered that there was an ancient feud between both creatures.

When I returned home after that short escapade, Althea received me with a warm hug, and we went hunting together. All quarrels were forgotten.

During all those centuries Althea and I would fight and then return with loving embraces. It was the way it was. I was careful enough only to hire male help in the house, which avoided many jealous scenes and saved quite a few lives. It certainly made a difference, and we grew closer together again. Finally, after centuries of fighting, we had found a compromise and a way into each other’s arms again. It had taken us six hundred years…




Chapter XXXVI: Finding Each Other


If you allow me, I will skip some more centuries. If I were to describe every event and every adventure, I would never finish my account. Despite missing nearly a thousand years, I still have so much to tell you. I will, however, give a brief summary of what we witnessed, for there were many historical events and people that impacted the world, and some of them we met.

Althea was lucky enough to lay eyes on the legendary Jeanne d’Arc (or Joan of Arc) in France, during one of our separations. She did not actually speak to her, but she saw her as she led her army on the great siege of Orleans. Jeanne’s actions enthralled Althea; her courage was inspiring and her men would have followed her to the end of the world. She truly proved herself to the other captains who had doubted her at first for being a woman; later they were forced to admit that she rallied the men where they never could, and that she had led the French army to thunderous victory over the English. Althea wept when this brave, beautiful maiden was betrayed and burned at the stake. She wanted to rip the French king’s heart out when he did nothing to save her. It was because of Joan of Arc that he had won back the throne, yet he let her burn. Althea left France, cursing its cowardly king.

In the beginning of the fifteenth century we made the acquaintance of a member of the English Court, who then invited us there. Thus, we met King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. I will not dwell on Anne’s destiny, for we all know what happened to her. Being there, though, was quite interesting, and both Althea and I found Anne very educated, witty, and excellent company. She was quick in giving response and was not intimidated by the male members of the Court. She also seemed to be the only woman who was not afraid to speak her mind with King Henry, a feat everyone else feared to do. The time we spent with her was actually a marvellous time for her, because Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, had recently passed away, an occasion that provoked much joy for Henry and Anne. Unfortunately, Anne’s luck was not going to last. In that same year when everything looked so promising for her, she quickly came to her downfall. We had long left when the accusations against her began, but news travelled fast. Althea was sincerely affected when she heard of the execution, and she felt that the former queen had been framed. She often voiced her doubts on the grounds for the execution.

“Treason?” she spat, not believing a word of it, and when Henry married the young Jane Seymour only two weeks after Anne had been killed, she expressed the desire to return to England and drink his blood in vengeance. Henry VIII was certainly not in her good books, and as his repertoire of wives grew, she often scoffed at him whenever the topic came up.

When Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, inherited the throne after her sister, Mary – or Bloody Mary as she was called – passed away, Althea rejoiced, and again she spat at the memory of Henry VIII, who had always wanted a son to inherit the throne. Elizabeth proved to be Anne’s ultimate triumph, according to Althea.

“Elizabeth will be a great queen,” my wife confidently predicted, and as it turned out, she was right. We never met this enlightened monarch. We did, however, go to the London Globe Theatre and we watched Shakespeare’s plays, which we delighted in. Sometimes we even spotted William Shakespeare himself among the actors. He often participated in his own plays on stage. At that time, we realised what a wonderful playwright he was, but we did not know how very privileged we were to live through all this history and lay eyes on this man who toyed so marvellously with the English language. We loved how he brought out human emotions in his dramas and comedies, and those plays were really a link to our own lost humanity. Shakespeare’s art drew us back into the mortal lives we had lost, and therefore we enjoyed them more than mere mortals. We went to see Much Ado About Nothing four times; we truly enjoyed The Taming of the Shrew; we saw Othello twice; and we saw Macbeth once. We loved them all! A Midsummer Night’s Dream – how absolutely enjoyable it was! We went to see that one three times. We saw most of his plays, and we both avidly devoured his sonnets. My favourite was ‘My Mistress’ Eyes’, and Althea loved ‘Sonnet No. 18’. You could say that we were avid fans, although the word ‘fan’ did not exist in those days in that context. I am very happy and relieved that mankind has preserved Shakespeare’s works and that his plays can still be enjoyed at the theatre, and even as films. I still go to see his plays. Back then we never spoke to him, but we saw him, and that was honourable enough. No other mortal provoked such admiration in us.

There were quite a few people of importance we met or spotted from afar and we both felt privileged to have come close to them, but it was through Shakespeare’s plays that Althea and I found our way back together. She learnt to control her jealousy and even to laugh at it. So, when the marvellous era of the Renaissance took its course, Althea and I were very much united as husband and wife, and the privilege of meeting even more people of importance was still awaiting us. Everything looked splendid.




Chapter XXXVII: Tales from a Lost Brother


Italy was a great place to be during the Renaissance, but it was with reluctance that we left England and Shakespeare behind and returned to Rome. I hoped that Althea would remain sane even without his influence and that the days of her demented jealousy were truly over. We decided to make a few stops in Florence and Sienna, where we delighted in the new art. Renaissance means rebirth, and in this era artists were reviving old classical Greek and Roman styles, which to us was marvellous. We felt as if we were going back in time, back to the ancient Rome we had known as mortals, and yet, the art was different. Michelangelo and Raphael had their own personal touches and became legends in their lifetime. I will not dwell on their paintings and sculptures, for I am very well aware that not everyone is seduced by the same interests. It was an incredible time, though. Not only art was revived, but life and religion, too. Over were the days of the despondent religious belief that one had to spend one’s lifetime in misery, in order to – after death – frolic in heaven happily ever after. People reasoned that it was fine to enjoy themselves while still alive. Many no longer wanted to wait until they were dead to reap the rewards in heaven. The dreary beliefs of the Middle Ages were now replaced by secularism, and Catholicism had to content itself with other religions that had risen, such as Protestantism and Calvinism. There were many others, too numerous to list here. It was the early, hesitant beginning of religious tolerance, which – in my opinion – was a big step forward for mankind.

Rome welcomed us with open arms, and we had our villa on the Aventine Hill refurbished. It was a task that needed several workmen and it brought Althea much distraction. She enjoyed overseeing the renovations. Not that she needed to; the architect had no use for her assistance, but the good man did not protest. He seemed a bit in awe of her, due to her vampiric presence, which he could not fathom. Who would in this age of Enlightenment? It was a good era to walk among mortals, for no enlightened mind admitted our existence. We were deemed products of a dark imagination of the human mind, no more. Therefore, it was also easy to hunt and lure our victims into our arms. Until the very end they would not believe, and when the truth finally dawned on them, it was too late. The Renaissance was a welcome change for mortals, but also for us immortals. Indeed, we often sensed the presence of another blood drinker nearby. They were usually passing through, in search of a place to settle. We quickly let them know that we had laid claim to Rome, and that we would not tolerate anyone else, except for Penelope, of course, who still dwelled in Rome’s catacombs. It was she who really tolerated Althea and me, regardless of the fact that we had claimed this city more than a millennium ago. Once or twice we shared Rome with a vampire from Antioch’s lair, but they never stayed longer than a few months or years. And for old time’s sake, we accepted them. Orion never made an appearance, but we heard that he had made St. Petersburg his lair, and that he did not intend to leave soon. Apparently, he was enjoying himself immensely, and he had that wonderful Russian city all to himself.

Slavery was not over, but the Italian Renaissance cities had no use for it; every wealthy household had a live-in staff – maids and servants. Slaves were used on plantations overseas, on the exotic new continent in the West across the Atlantic Ocean that had been discovered and avidly explored and conquered. Slaves were also used in the colonies in the East, on the conquered lands and islands in the Pacific Ocean occupied mostly by the Dutch and the English East India Companies. Stories of adventure reached us, and we were tempted to travel and discover these new territories. We often discussed where we would go first and we could not always agree, but we enjoyed contemplating these trips.


It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun stood bright in the sky and ricocheted on the cobblestones, warming them in her summer rays. Its light hit the Colosseum and bathed it in an ethereal golden glow, which gave it a most pleasing appearance and for a moment hid the ugly truth of the daily sacrifice its arena had once been witness to, a long time ago… in a time when I had been mortal. Now it was not much used. It had become a ruin. The only purpose it served on occasion was to provide the stone that was stolen to build new palazzi. Despite the abomination of the former amphitheatre’s current maintenance, it remained symbolic of a once great nation, a powerful empire that was built on blood and sacrifice, an empire we had been proud of – yet, we had always known what it had taken to create.

I stood on the plaza with my hands folded behind my back, serenely looking at this remnant of my past. My father had taken me here to watch a few games, although he had abhorred them. Claudia had been here too, and Silio. Marcus had been the only one who had shown sincere enthusiasm for the blood spectacle in the circus, but Marcus had been who he was. He had been a brother who had not had ties to any of us. He had been the one who had brought doom on us all, more than a millennium ago…

Strange how old buildings could evoke so many memories. I was not always happy recalling certain events. Marcus was a brother I would have liked to forget. Claudia’s memory was beautiful, but tarnished by her violent death. My father had been a victim of his own pride. Silio had disappeared. My mother was perhaps the only one who had been allowed to live out her life and die of old age. Althea was the only one from my past who was still in my present. Althea had always been there and it was reassuring. It had been hard. Living together was difficult, and doing so for centuries was challenging and deadly. We had often been close to separating, and we had left each other numerous times, but somehow it had always been understood that we would return, and we always did. Our separations became occasional trips that helped us stay together as husband and wife: and thus, we had made it through all these hundreds of years.

The gates of the Colosseum were open and a group of chattering people walked out. A woman amongst them broke out in high-pitched false laughter. Then she turned coquettishly to the elderly man next to her and took his arm. I moved past them and entered the ruin. I walked through the tunnel that I had once traversed as a mortal and came out in the arena. The spectator seating started up on my left and right sides. I had not entered out of curiosity or to reunite with my past. The reason I had come was the immortal I had sensed a few hours earlier and whom I had tracked down here. A few people wandered around the arena, lost in conversations about past battles between gladiators.

I saw them at the end of the arena, seated in the first row. There were two of them, and I recognised them immediately. Hadea was the first one to notice me; her lips curled into a beautiful smile, and when Silio finally knew I was there, he looked up and stared at me in surprise. They rose simultaneously and leapt gracefully over the box into the arena. With quick steps, I approached them while they also hurried to meet me. We hugged each other tightly; the centuries that had been lost between us vanished in our embrace. My brother and I smiled when we let go of each other, holding each other by the shoulders, laughing merrily. Hadea kissed me on my cheek.

“Silio,” I said, “Silio, my brother, you made it. You are here, alive. Where have you been? Where in the world have you been?”

Grinning, Silio slapped me on my back and said, “Everywhere, everywhere, my dear brother, and thanking the gods every day for this beautiful gift my darling bestowed upon me. The things we have seen, the places we have been to, and the people we have met are tales worthy of several evenings.”

I sensed no sorrow or regret in him. He seemed to mean his words; he, the one who had refused immortality for the sake of his children; he, who had cringed at the slightest touch of Hadea, had now become an enthusiastic blood drinker, and grateful for the privilege of watching history over the centuries. He was now exactly like the mortal Silio I used to know: happy, carefree, and joyful company. He was nothing like the gloomy man we had come to know in the last years of his mortal life. Immortality had not brought out the worst in him. Far from that, it seemed to have enhanced his jovial manner, and I knew that this was exactly how he attracted his victims. What woman could not resist such a charming young man? His physique was as young and attractive as it had been when I had last seen him so long ago. Had more than a thousand years truly gone by? And yet, he stood here with me as if it had only been yesterday. There was so much I had to tell him, and I knew that he was dying to tell me about his adventures.

“We never expected you here,” Hadea said.

“No, we thought you were still somewhere in the East,” Silio added, and lovingly put his arm around her shoulders. They looked truly happy together, and I knew straight away that they had never had the problems that Althea and I had. Their union had been joyous and harmonious, whereas ours had been tumultuous and rocky. Fortunately, there were more pleasant moments nowadays.

“We have not been here long,” I said, “but come with me. Althea will be so pleased to see you.”

We walked home like mortals, not merely because it was folly to attract unwanted attention in the middle of the day by flying around with our huge wings spread out and causing chaos we did not want, but more because we wanted to enjoy every moment together. We promenaded through several parts of town where ruins of ancient Rome – as it was now called – still stood proudly.

“Looking at that, it makes you realise that we are also ancient,” Silio said.

“We are indeed.”

Hadea stood still from time to time, gazing into the ruins which were filled with curious visitors, remembering a life that was no more, a life that she was glad to have left behind. Then she always hurried to catch up with us.

“It is so good to see you,” I said, and slapped Silio on his back.

“It is, Lucan, it is. When we came to Rome, I was hoping to find you here, but we both thought that you had not returned yet. We had come here once before in the past but we did not find you then either. So, we figured you were either in Antioch or somewhere east.”

“We have travelled.”

“So have we. One can hardly expect us to reside in the same place when living so long.”

Unless one’s name was Penelope, no one could expect that, without a doubt.

Again, Hadea caught up with us and grabbed Silio playfully from behind. They both laughed, provoking in me a longing for something I seemed to have lost. And then my thoughts went to Ariana, and a deep regret filled my insides, regret of not having turned her… But if I had turned her, what would she have become for me? A safe haven from Althea? My mistress? Would I have left Althea for her or would I have let her go in the knowledge that she was safe – or relatively safe? These were questions I was unable to answer, and they gnarled at my insides, pestering me with the torture of the well-known ‘what if’; words one should never think, since ‘what if’ cannot change anything. ‘What if’ meant that it was too late.

Silio’s left arm was around Hadea’s shoulders and his right one was around me, and like this we walked through the sunny streets of Rome, chattering away and overjoyed to be reunited. When we arrived at our villa, Althea was resting in her coffin, so we spent the afternoon in the shade of a large willow tree in the garden, talking about what we had seen and which famous and historical people we had met.

“Louis XIII relies heavily on Richelieu. Although I found him suspicious by nature, he entrusts his kingdom to the cardinal,” Silio said when he told me about the time he had spent at the court in France. “As we all know, Richelieu is the real ruler of France. It is a pity that Louis’s father, Henry, was murdered. I thought he was far more capable.”

“What do we have here?” Althea exclaimed, pleasantly surprised, when the sound of our voices drew her out after sunset. She rushed towards us and hugged Silio and Althea. A beautiful smile graced her lovely face, and she reminded me of the girl I had met in Alexandria, the older girl who had not taken the lovesick boy seriously. Wonderful memories that were to last forever.

She now turned to me and said, “Look at you, Lucan. I have never seen you so happy.” Spontaneously, she kissed me on my lips, and I held her tight, not letting go of her too quickly. She struggled playfully, but then she gave up. We had not flirted like that in quite some time, so I was not very willing to stop it soon.

She turned to Silio and said, “And look at you, so dashing!”

He was dressed like a true Renaissance man. He wore tight black trousers and a loose white shirt with wide sleeves. His brown hair was a little over his shoulders, and I had to admit that he made a rather striking figure.

“Where have you been?” Althea then wanted to know, and Hadea said, “Everywhere, truly everywhere.”

“I bet you already told Lucan everything,” she said regretfully.

Silio laughed and said, “One day is not enough to tell you all.”

“Oh, then I am glad.”

She pried herself loose from my arms and sank down on the grass. She patted the spot next to her, inviting me to sit with her. So, we all sat down and continued catching up on all the centuries we had been apart.


Silio and Hadea had first gone to Damascus after he had just been turned. It was not very far from Antioch, and so they reached it quickly. They did not stay long, though, and soon they were on their way to what is nowadays known as Palestine, where they remained for a few months. Then, on they went to Thebes in Egypt, and after that they travelled up the Nile and settled in Alexandria for about fifty years. Next, they travelled along the northern coast of Africa and spent a century in Carthage, a city they enjoyed very much. When their stay in Carthage came to an end, they took a ship to Valentia in Spain and from there they journeyed through the Iberian Peninsula and ventured into Gaul, passing Lugdunum (Lyon) and then staying in Lutetia – which is now known as Paris – for some time. They also went to Londinium (London), but not when I was there, and – like me – they took great pleasure in that city. They decided to make it their turf for a few months, and after that they went all the way up the British peninsula until they got to Hadrian’s Wall. Their wild surroundings mesmerised them and called them, converting Silio and Hadea into a new immortal legend that haunted the fields and woods day and night. Their nomadic life finally took them to Russia and there they seemed to find what they were looking for. In a small town, which was not too far from the Caspian Sea, they bought a house. By day they led the respectable life of a married couple, and by night they hunted for blood. As to their adventures, there are too many to be told. Before returning to Rome, they had also been living in Vienna, and it was there that they spent the majority of their immortal life. From there they still travelled, but – after selling the house by the Caspian Sea – they bought a new one in Vienna.

After Columbus discovered America in 1492 – or so he thought – and this discovery led many more adventurers to the new continent, Silio and Hadea’s curiosity was also pricked; and so, in 1518, they left their lovely Viennese house and took a ship to the New World. They landed in what is now known as the Bahamas – and where Columbus had originally landed, thinking that he had found a new route to India. After a few years – in 1520 – they continued to the magic kingdom of the Aztecs, where Hernán Cortés was busy subduing them. Silio told me about the bloody battles and how other natives helped Cortés, believing that he would free them from the Aztecs’ harsh rule. Years of oppression by the Aztecs had caused much resentment among their subjects, and so Cortés had no trouble finding allies who would aid him and his 500 Spanish soldiers to conquer this fabulous civilisation. It barely took the Spanish conquistador two years… He arrived in 1519 and overthrew the Aztec Empire in 1521 when he conquered Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. Silio explained how the blood had been so tantalising, flowing from the altars when the Aztec priests cut their victims’ hearts out. Blood flowed down the steps of the pyramids and blood caked in the priests’ hair, which they never washed. Blood was on their robes, and they never bathed or washed their clothes, either. To mortals, the stench these priests carried with them was unbearable, but to Silio and Hadea it was pure temptation, and naturally most of the people they slew were priests. Next on their list were Spanish soldiers, but the native warriors were just as enticing.

“You should have been there, Lucan. To us, it was a feast of blood,” Silio said, and smacked his lips.

After Cortés brought down the Aztec Empire and this great land was called New Spain, the conquistador was given an encomienda where he retired. Silio and Hadea also acquired a property, but not in the traditional way. The properties, or encomiendas, were given as rewards for services to Spain, and many conquistadores and soldiers who had survived the conquest were rewarded that way. Silio and Hadea’s eyes fell on some beautiful land that belonged to a soldier who had apparently done heroic deeds for the Spanish crown – or so one could claim – for his property was enormous. Without much deliberation, they killed the young man and his wife, and took possession of the estate, which was in the vicinity of Veracruz. It was so isolated that visitors hardly ever came, and the only ones who knew about the new owners were the indigenous slaves they had taken over from the soldier and who never left the property. They, however, noticed more than that, and soon realised that their new masters were not human. Silio and Hadea never fed on them, and kept them safe from Spain’s harsh treatment of the natives and its infamous Inquisition, which was always quick to catch a newly Christianised native in some activity deemed heretic, and punish him accordingly. Many were burned at the stake. Native women were raped on a regular basis and the indios – as they were called – were at the bottom of the social ladder and treated like dirt. The slaves on Silio and Hadea’s property were safe from all that. Hadea, having been a slave in her mortal life, wished to free them, but she was aware that she could not. They could not risk them spreading the word about their identity. So, the natives stayed, but Hadea made sure that they were treated humanely and enjoyed relative freedom. The whips were burned. She gave them unlimited access to the grains in the storage rooms, allowed them to keep all the crops from the fields, and gifted them the Spanish soldier’s cattle. The slaves were suspicious of her goodness to them, but grateful for the granted freedoms. Most natives sustained themselves on corn tortillas and beans, but the slaves on Hadea and Silio’s property were allowed meat and vegetables (tomatoes and peppers) that grew on the land, besides their traditional beans and tortillas. Naturally, they in turn also looked after their protectors, never commenting on their masters’ lack of appetite for meat and legumes.




Chapter XXXVIII: The Last Fight


Silio and Hadea came to Rome in the summer of 1632 and they stayed with us until November 1634. Then they returned to their property in Mexico, which – as you may have guessed – was the exact same hacienda I stayed at with Aurélie, Markus, some of his werewolves, and Kokayi after we had defeated Giada. But we are not there yet. We were still in the 17th century, and even Markus did not exist yet, at least not in his immortal form.

When they left, Althea went with them. She wanted to see this new world; she wanted to meet these Aztecs that they had told her so much about; she wanted to lay eyes on the ruins of their once great civilisation; and she wanted to explore this wonderful new continent. I was supposed to go with her, but we quarrelled. It was our first time in about two hundred years, and I had been overjoyed at her decreasing jealousy, but this time our argument was not about a woman, at least not at first. It was about something silly, something so ridiculous that I do not even remember it. If I recall correctly, it was related to some household item, but I could not be sure. Anyway, it provoked an irate reaction in my wife, and to my discredit, I must say that I answered her rather irritatedly as well. So, this senseless disagreement that I do not even remember turned into a huge argument, and suddenly she began dragging up things from the past. Unexpectedly she reminded me of the first slave girl she had killed, “knowing full well how I had looked at her”! I laughed at her and walked out of the room, but she followed me, hurling one insult after the other at me and accusing me of discrepancies I was not even aware of having committed.

As I have often said, Althea was a delightful and educated woman, but in her rage, she forgot about all reason. I told her to leave me alone, but she would not. And then she started talking about Ariana. She did not know her name, but she said, “That bald girl at the temple, the one you were devouring with your eyes!” That was one accusation I could not deny, and so I did not say anything at first, but when she continued, I asked her angrily what this had to do with our discussion. But she had caught on. For the first time, I had been careless with my thoughts. I had closed my mind too late, and the memory of Ariana’s name reached Althea’s. Her eyes opened wide in understanding.

“You know her name? You know her name?” she yelled, incensed. “How do you know her name? When did you talk to her? Did you…? Did you…?”

I was so fed up with her ranting that I lost my temper, and I yelled back, “Yes, I did! I did, you jealous witch! And I tell you something else. It was you who drove me to her, you and your sick, jealous ravings!”

In shock, she stared at me. I had never called her names before. In all the fights I had never stumbled that low, but now I had. I had called her a witch, and she seemed more taken aback by that than by my confession. Then she composed herself and she slapped me. Her hand hit me hard on my cheek, and I stood there and took it. For a moment, we stared at each other in fury.

“You…?” she started, but did not ask any more. “Let me see your mind,” she demanded.

“No.”

“I insist!”

“Why do you want to see something that will only cause you anger?” I was going to say ‘pain’, but that would have only increased her ire, and so I replaced the word with ‘anger’.

“So, you betrayed me! You really did! In all these years, centuries, you lived with me and this lie! Who else? Tell me, how many more?” Her voice had risen to a deafening roar, and I heard Silio and Hadea leave the house in a hurry, not wishing to witness our quarrel.

“There was no one else. She was the only one.”

“She was the only one because I killed the other ones!”

“No, that was your sick jealousy. There were never any others.”

Her eyes fumed and she seemed to be lost for words. Then she threw herself at me and lunged for my throat. Her fangs sank into my skin, and it was with great difficulty that I managed to fight her off. She had amazing strength, and when I finally got her off me, she tore at my throat and ripped off some flesh. It did not matter, it would re-grow immediately: but the fact that she had wanted to inflict physical pain on me was a first, and it shocked me.

“You think I am a fool, don’t you? You lied to me for more than a millennium,” she said, her eyes still blazing.

“I did not lie to you. It is in the past where it should be. And seeing how you react when I even say a friendly good morning to a girl, I thought it better not to say anything.”

“Do not exaggerate!”

“I am not exaggerating. You are, and you know it. You have every right to be mad at me for Ariana, but it was over a thousand years ago, and it was your jealousy that drove me away from you. Immortality does not suit you, Althea. It has turned you into a monster, and your jealousy has become uncontrollable. You have driven me away many times. In the last two hundred years everything finally seemed to go well, but you have not changed, have you? You are still the same insane, jealous monster.”

“Do not blame this on me!” she spat, my blood dripping from her fangs.

“I am blaming you as much as I blame myself.”

“No, do not start this rhetoric. Now is not the moment. You lied to me, Lucan!”

This was not the woman I had known when I married her…

“What happened to you?” I asked, sorrowful.

She shook her head and again she flung herself at me. This time I anticipated her attack, and I managed to throw her off. She landed hard on the floor and immediately she got up and flew at me again. I grabbed her by her throat and lifted her in the air. She kicked and struggled, but I held her firmly.

“Now, you listen to me, and listen well, because I will not say this again. I lied to you about Ariana, but I did so over a thousand years ago. And let me tell you something else: I do not regret it. The only thing I regret is not having turned her.” Her eyes opened wide in shock at that admission. “You are the worst immortal one can think of, and you and your jealous antics drove me to Ariana.”

“You…”

She began to interrupt, but I squeezed her throat and said, “Shut up! I told you to listen, because I am not going to listen any more to your crazy accusations. I do not know what’s happened to you, but when I married you, you were a wonderful woman. You were delightful. You were exquisite. I could not get enough of you, and even in your early immortal years you were your genuine self, and I was proud to have you as my wife. But then your monstrosity got the better of you. That is the only way I can explain it. And your jealousy became uncontrollable. You saw competition where there was none and you drove me mad with grief. You drove me away from you. And I left several times, but I always returned, because I knew that somewhere deep down in that monstrosity was my wife, the woman I married, and I want her back!”

For a moment, she hung suspended in the air, staring at me, not having expected those words, but then she said calmly, “I am a blood drinker, and so are you. Believe me that you are not like you used to be.”

I put her down and said, “Of course I am not like the mortal Lucan, but I am not out of control like you are.”

She felt her throat and said, “You lied to me and I do not want to see you right now. I am going to New Spain with Silio and Hadea and I am going without you.”

She stormed out of the room and out of my life for more than fifty years.




Chapter XXXIX: Giada


My first months without Althea were peaceful. We had had separations before, but never had we parted in such anger, and I felt bad about that. I did, however, appreciate the lack of conflict in the house. I was torn between regret and relief; regret at having been so cruel, and relief for having told her the truth. My thoughts strayed from her to Ariana, and from Silio and Hadea’s relationship to Althea’s and mine. I walked around Rome day and night, drank blood here and there, and had some time to find myself again, which in fact I did not quite succeed at. Finding oneself was not that easy. Despite the peace and quiet at home, I missed Althea and I wished we had at least said goodbye.

The months became years, then turned into decades, and before I knew it fifty-seven years had gone by. It was late spring in 1691 when I finally sensed another immortal in Rome, but it was not Althea, Silio, or Hadea. Orion had not come, either. It was a new one, a female that had recently been made, perhaps a few years back. I sensed the strength in this one, and when I saw her at a wedding celebration I casually passed by, she took my breath away. Her long, lustrous black hair reminded me of Ariana when I had seen her with long hair in her mind. It shone in the sun, and when she turned, I was taken aback by the diamond sparkle in her black eyes and the sensual lips hiding her fangs, while she mingled with the wedding guests and checked out the invitees to see which one she would pick to feed on.

I could see that she was devious from the moment I set my eyes on her. Mesmerised, I gazed at her. She knew I was watching her and she playfully flirted with the male guests, laughing gaily and throwing her hair back seductively. She was a beautiful one, and her whole being emitted carnal pleasure. She did not approach me then, but she glanced at me from time to time, smiling mischievously, as if I were in on a big secret of hers. She certainly had much fun at this wedding, and the guests loved her presence. After nearly forty minutes, she disappeared through an open door, pulling an excited young man with her. He was giddy with wine and anticipating a great roll in the hay, but he had no idea that he would not be getting up from the hay. She closed the door behind them. Through the music I could hear them, and I could hear how she whispered in his ear, promising him all kinds of things she was never going to do. He tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away and ripped his shirt open. He laughed at her impulsiveness, expecting the time of his life, and when she kissed him on his throat, he gasped. She did not wait long. She must have been starving, for her fangs ripped through his skin and her mouth sucked his blood hungrily. Again he gasped, but this time in horror. There was a struggle, but she easily subdued him, and soon he lay limp in her arms. I did not see all that, but I could ‘see’ it with my ears. I heard the movements, so it was easy to put two and two together. Suddenly, though, I heard a noise I had not expected. The man was half-drained but still conscious when her nails ripped through flesh and I heard her hand move through his innards. He tried to scream, but she silenced him with a kiss and her fangs sinking into his lips.


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