By Heath Harper
With hatred stretched across his face like a second skin, Gareth touched his finger to the oil-soaked ground, which suddenly ignited. He stood there as if in stone, watching the monastery leap up suddenly ablaze, watching the flames lick the sunless evening sky.
Laruebius felt little remorse for the place as he and his new master turned and walked away from the flaming monastery. He knew that he should have felt a twinge of longing, but could not remember why. Like his humanity, Laruebius turned his back upon it, and followed Gareth into the woods.
In later years, a group of wandering rangers would stumble upon the charred ruins that the two vampires had left behind. There, within the rubble and ash, they would find the remains of Brother Brevin – a single hand tightly clutching a bound volume of his journals. There, the rangers would learn of the Lady of Luck, and become clerics and spread the word of her blessings. Thus, the legacy of the Flipping Coin would begin anew, and Tymora’s faith would live on through the centuries. But, in those moments as the high wood walls crumbled and were consumed by flame in that dark, lightless afternoon, Laruebius and Gareth could not care less.
“Why did you chose me, Father Gareth?” Laruebius asked as they began the way north.
“Because you sang out to me, Laruebius. It was you who found me, not the other way ‘round,” the master vampire sighed.
“How many others like me have you made?”
“Not many. Perhaps twenty.”
“There are that many?”
“More. For I, a Master Vampire, capable of spawning many, am one of a thousand. But, there will be no more than that. Always exactly one thousand Masters. You see, all vampires can make children, but only I, a true Master, can make other, true beings of the night. Like you. The children that Spawn make don’t last very long…they usually lose themselves in it, and then kill themselves or wander into a church, begging for redemption. But that is the way.”
“It is nature’s way, child. So that our power does not outgrow and thus, destroy us.”
It was quite a bit to take in, having only been made inhuman for a few hours, but somehow, it all made sense. For Laruebius had been a cleric before a vampire, and he had known the way of things.
“Will I ever be in touch with Tymora again, master?” Laruebius said, trying in vain to hold back a tinge of remorse in his voice.
Gareth stopped and eyed Laruebius. “Why would you want to be?”
Laruebius thought fast, and could see the volatility of his master grow. “The spells, Lord. Will they ever come to me again?”
Gareth seemed to calm. “Yes. But they will be different, child. You will have at your disposal some of the powers you held as a cleric, but that power has turned now, and you will find that the darkness within you is reflected in your chanting. Try it.”
Laruebius closed his eyes and sought within himself the light he had called upon so many times to call out to his Goddess for might and strength. It came, but rather than as a white ray of light piercing from the Heavens, Laruebius conjured a dark cloud of mist that rose from the ground and enveloped him, latching onto his face and running fresh blood into his eyes.
“Amazing,” he stammered. Soon the spell wore off, and they began to walk again.
As they strode along, Laruebius remained curious.
“Why did you not take Brother Brevin? He is stronger than I.”
“I told you, you sang and I thought it beautiful. That is all.”
“But I always thought that you only made others to propagate your kind. Brevin would have-”
Gareth stopped and spun on his protégé with an evil hiss. His hand shot forth and struck Laruebius on each cheek. The sound was hollow and loud, and the crack! resounded in Laruebius’ ears as he hit the ground. He found himself momentarily deaf and in great pain. When the horrid ringing stopped, Gareth lifted him from the ground with one arm and held him high above his head.
“We!” he shouted, his foul breath fuming in Laruebius’ face. “We only make others to propagate! You are what you are! Forget your life before, for it is as dead as a thousand Brother Brevins and a million of your false goddesses!”
Laruebius tried to groan a word of confusion, but could not clear his head enough to do so.
“You must learn of how wonderful the gift that I have given you is, young Laruebius,” Gareth sighed, shaking his head. “To be proud of what you are is to live, to deny it is to die. Never forget that. But perhaps that is my fault.” He released the young vampire. “I will show you what you are, Laruebius. I will make you proud of your Embrace.”
“Embrace?” Laruebius said, obediently falling into step behind his master. “What is my Embrace, Father?”
“It is the cloud of velvet darkness that we send into the bloodstream to create others. It is the crux of our people, my son. It is what makes you you.”
“What exactly am I?”
This time Gareth withheld the urge to strike at Laruebius. Rather, he smiled and nodded.
“You, my young one, are darkness incarnate. You are a child of the night now, more attuned to nature than any creature of the wood could hope to be, and more powerful. You will know the way of the world more keenly than the elf, for you will outlive even him, and his grandchildren, and theirs, and so on. For you will not die.”
“I won’t?” Laruebius said, his eyes wide with wonder.
“Not by the means of time, anyway. You can be killed, child, and there will be many who will try. The outside world will never understand you.”
“It doesn’t matter why not. The fact is, they matter to you only as toys to a child. They matter as the fatted cow that sleeps in the pasture matters. Only now, your pasture is considerably wider.”
“Hmm,” Laruebius said, smiling.
“You like that, don’t you?”
“And you are thirsty, now, aren’t you?”
* * * * *
When night had finally fully fallen, the two vampires were indeed quite famished. The woods were long and wide, and it would be yet another hour until they reached the city – where, Gareth had assured, they would feast. Laruebius believed him, for what choice did he have?
Gareth knew that Laruebius had to trust him, had to believe that he was completely safe with him, for if the younger vampire were to panic so early on in the waking moments of his vampirism, it might overtake him completely. Vampires whose wills were not strong enough to resist the Embrace found it creeping into their brains and souls entirely, stealing more than just their appearance and their personalities, but their sanity as well. And then Laruebius would be a lost waif, mindless and starving in the forests. Thus, Gareth spoke soothingly to him, filled his mind with dreams of the elven princesses who would bend to his will and with thoughts of the behemoth giants who would fall to their knees at his feet in fear.
Laruebius kept licking his lips and darting his eyes back and forth in light of the suggestions, a good sign. Gareth smiled.
The woods seemed even more shadowy than usual to Laruebius. He had never remembered them being so dark and foreboding, never saw tree branches as the menacing claws they had become. It frightened him a little, but whenever Gareth noticed it, Laruebius brought himself up in defiance of his fears and pressed on.
“What are you afraid of, my child?”
Gareth slowed. “Don’t lie to me, Laruebius.”
“Yes, Father. Sorry Father.”
Laruebius cleared his throat. “The woods, Father Gareth, they seem foreign to me. It is as if…”
“As if they are after you? Attacking you?”
“In a manner of speaking they are. You see, Nature is all that we see around us, and our perceptions of it change as we ourselves change. As an elf, when staring into the woods you saw life and light. Had you been born a dwarf, the forests may have intimidated you or simply been no more than a nuisance to you as a human. Now, there is something new within you, and your perception has changed. You see the woods for what they are, now…”
Gareth spread his arms wide and twirled in a circle. “They are a reflection of us, child. The most powerful creatures in this world. The most beautiful, powerful creatures in this world.”
“What of dragons?”
“A myth,” he lied.
“We, Laruebius, are the real might in this world, we are the truth. We are balance, reveling in darkness. All things are born in the darkness of the womb, and all things die in the darkness of death. If the forest is life, then so are we.”
Gareth stopped and went to one knee. The woods opened, and there in the mists stood a lone city, brimming with torchlight. Laruebius felt a strange sensation then, as if he were looking at life as an outsider, as a bird must feel, soaring through the Heavens and staring down into the world of humans. His master cleared some brush with his hand, and then lifted a huge grate from the ground, revealing a shadowy abyss beneath their feet.
“The sewers?” Laruebius asked, dubious.
Gareth nodded. “Traveling by yourself is one thing, for it is easier to remain undetected.” Gareth floated through the hole and waved Laruebius to follow.
The younger vampire’s nose curled at the foul stench wafting up through the manhole. “Father?” he said, pleading.
“Down,” Gareth commanded, becoming impatient. Laruebius sucked in a breath and floated down as his Master had, coming to a not-so flattering thud beside him.
Gareth smiled as he helped him to his feet. “Your balance will come again.”
They walked then, down the muddy and foul passageways of the sewers.
“Why is it better to travel this way, Father?” Laruebius asked, nudging a large rat from his path.
“As a priest you were familiar with the term ‘aurorus’, yes?”
Laruebius nodded. “Oldspeak for ‘aura’, meaning visual manifestation of the s-”
Just as the words left his mouth, Laruebius saw a dark purplish cloud ignite above his master head, swirling like a viper all about him. Then, nearly as quickly, Laruebius saw his own aura, swishing about his body. His was a deep red.
“Soul,” he finished.
Gareth nodded. “Can you see yours?”
“Good,” he said, taking several strides ahead. “quickly for one so newly made. All you must do to visualize your aura is to think of it, perhaps but say it aloud, and your eyes will see. Understand? Now, inevitably, priests will haunt the city we are nearing, skulking like cockroaches, the way they do. Their powers are similar regarding the aura. They, however, can see the auras of others as well as their own. How long had you been a priest?”
Laruebius shrugged. “Perhaps twenty years.”
“Hmm, I see. So you never reached that strength?”
“At a point in the training of many surface priests, they study the concept of aurorus in various tomes and discover the secret of visualizing their own, and others, and some of them are even close to breaking the color code. They keep it like a secret, the fools, locked up even amongst their own until they were ready. Apparently, you never had such a lesson.”
To this, Laruebius said nothing, but slumped against the wall.
“All auras have colors, my Child,” Gareth continued, beckoning him to get up and follow. “And each is distinctive to the owner’s soul. Should any of them break the code and learn what each distinctive aura means to each creature, the Vampire Nation will find traveling above ground difficult.”
“There are some sects for whom the murder of a vampire is the greatest achievement.” Gareth poked a finger into his protégé’s chest. “They would not hesitate to run a stake through you. So, you see, two vampires who travel together will give off a distinctively dark aura, one that only the least of the priesthood will miss. Thus, we shall travel this way…whenever we travel together.”
For some reason, Laruebius did not confess to Gareth that he could see his Master’s aura as well as his own, floating there in the darkness like so much revealing, purple fog.
Laruebius awoke soon after that moment, with no memory of what had happened afterward. He was in a shelter, abandoned and crumbling. Gareth had laid breakfast, two young male humans at his feet.
He ate, and did not ask questions.
In those days, he was young and impetuous, and Laruebius never questioned the strange things his Master bade him to do. As the years went by, however, the young vampire found a new urge growing within his quickly blackening soul. He had grown weary of the tedium his life had become. No longer was he content to skulk in the darkness of the trees only to come out at night and await Gareth to return with dinner.
“Teach me,” he would beg his master, “to be like you.”
The words surprised the old vampire, and he did not respond to them with anything more than a grunt or pair of pursed lips.
“Do you know what tonight is?” he asked his apprentice one evening as he slept in the boughs of a tree.
“No Father,” Laruebius said, yawning.
“The Twentynight. You have been Embraced for twenty years since Good Morning. Do you remember that day?”
“Yes, Master. I never forgot.”
Gareth grinned and bade Laruebius follow him into the woods.
“I have a gift to give you, my Child.”
And what a gift it was. After what seemed like hours of travel, Gareth finally parted the boughs of a pine tree high in the night sky, and revealed to Laruebius a foreboding house atop a large hill in the distance.
It had a first and second floor made of what appeared to be solid marble. There was no gate to speak of, but Laruebius could see a throng of humans scuttling about in the distance, in a great hurry.
When finally they approached the place, Laruebius could see the aftermath of a great battle, as if an army had fallen here. One had, he could tell, for perhaps a half hundred bodies lay strewn about the lawn, blood soaking the green grass red. He noted his master’s handiwork with a thin smile.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“Our new home,” Gareth said, pulling open two great double doors, revealing a large living room, fully furnished with lavish couches and chairs. A fireplace stood off to one side, and several huge tapestries and paintings adorned the walls. Statues of saints and devils and suits of armor stood guard while the young vampire examined the room, flopping into chairs.
“Do you like your new home, Child?”
“Yes, Master, what of these?” he said, fingering a fine set of evening clothes which had been draped across a loveseat. There was a long black tailcoat, a forest green vest and broach, a billowy white poet’s shirt, silk breeches and fine leather shoes.
“Those are yours as well. You have a new wardrobe awaiting you, Child. And new lessons.” Laruebius was already examining the new clothes in a large side mirror.
“Excellent,” he said, smoothing his hair. “Where did you get all of this?”
“This,” Gareth said, easing into a rocking chair, “used to belong to a group of merchants whom I had discovered had been embezzling monies from various charities across the Realms. It didn’t take much persuasion to get the to give it all up. They even agreed to give us seventy percent on agreement that we do not hurt them or their little operation.”
Gareth picked a bit of remaining flesh, torn from the gullet of the merchants’ leader, from under a fingernail and sucked at it. “We are rich, my Child. The crews will be here tomorrow to add the extensions onto the house.”
* * * * *
The next few decades, Gareth decided, were to be ones of great education for Laruebius. Not content to have simply created a slave or just another wandering mindless vampire, Gareth taught his Fledgling etiquette, to dance, to speak several different languages. Laruebius was encouraged to go into the woods and pick off hunters as he wished, learning all of the different techniques of the hunting vampire.
Chief among these exploits, however, was Laruebius’ instruction on history. Gareth spent hours upon hours lecturing the young vampire on the ways of the Vampire Nation, taking care to emphasize the constant pride and undying vigilance of their people.
Laruebius learned all that he could in those days, eagerly devouring his master’s lessons. He read greedily and constantly, absorbing volumes at a time. He came to know Gareth and his ways, of their people, of their tendencies as well as he knew his own. He learned with great satisfaction the dark history of his people, how the first vampires were created.
Laruebius particularly enjoyed that story. So much in fact that he committed it to memory, and took to reciting it whenever beckoned by his master.
So it was that in the Days of the Beginning that Ao created the Realms in a fell swoop of vengeful Creation, and so rose the Heavens and Toril and the Orbs of White and Dark and the great Sun and Moon. There in the mists of those moments he begot the other Gods, and their own Realms spread before them like the seas, mere parts of the Whole. There they stood and propagated, and the Elves came and inhabited the land like grains of sand.
It was then that so was begotten the god Teserus, Lord of the Line and Father of Lust, borne from the Lips of Sharress, the Goddess of Lust, his mother, sister and wife. Upon their ascension, the two Gods quarreled over who would reign supreme in the Realm of Lust, and as they stepped forward to be crowned by Ao, both Teserus and Sharress were rejected and thrown far across the Realms, scarred forever with shame. Thus began the War of the Thousand Sins, and Teserus and Sharress fought for control over the Realm of Lust.
After a thousand thousand years, Teserus came to Ao and demanded that he end the conflict and strike down Sharress and bring him into his own. Ao refused, and saw in Teserus a great power, the beginnings of the Embrace, too great for so minor a god. Ao then cast a bolt of thunder and lightning at Teserus, but Teserus caught it, hurled it into Sharress’ realm, trapping her there for a century, and thus, relinquished his claim on her kingdom. Teserus left the Castle of the Gods, swearing vengeance.
It was then that other races became, and dwarves and goblins began to be. Thus, to smite and defame Sharress, Teserus lured her minions to his capture, and Embraced them. Teserus then bound their twisted souls together, and made the First of the Line, a powerful shadow being who wreaked havoc on the Realms. So great was his might that the great elven hero Merriam fell to First with a whimper that was captured in the Vales of Sadness, a testament to the First and his glory for Teserus.
It was not until Teserus himself released the First from Toril that the War of the Thousand Sins ended. And in the wake remained the Seconds, progeny spawn of the First, and thus began the seeds of the Vampire Nation called the Séance.
Laruebius could not decide whether or not he believed the story, but it mattered little.
In between his poring over history, the young vampire proved to be quite enterprising in those years, investing the stolen jewels from his wealthy victims in newer sections of their home, turning it into a full fledged mansion in a matter of a scant thirty years. After all was said and done, Garethview had ten stories to it, and became more of a castle than anything else, with spiraling towers of marble and a huge iron gate hugging it like a lover.
Laruebius was content for the moment. Laruebius had a home.
The content of Villain is the property and copyright of Heath Harper, and is not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to the 'Villain' main page
Return to Campaign Logs