By Heath Harper
The years were as seconds, and despite his confusions, Laruebius found ways to be happy. But, more often than not, despite the occasional night raid, he was inexorably bored.
It had been a hundred years since he and Gareth had torched the Temple of the Flipping Coin, and Laruebius’ progress had been staggering. A refined swagger that bespoke power and menace had replaced his awkward gait. His tongue had become sharp, and the strength in his body was staggering. Laruebius knew that the number of mortals that could resist him had to be dwindling, but he had never really struggled against one worthy of a test of his prowess. For all he knew, Gareth may have been lying to him about the power within them, but Laruebius knew that it was a dangerous thing to contradict his always-volatile master. Still, questions swirled.
One evening, as Laruebius stared out of a bedroom window, high on the third floor of Garethview Manor, he felt a pull, as if a chain had wrapped itself about him and were pulling him downward.
No, he realized as his eyes widened at the gleaming lights of the city below. As evening fell upon the town, he knew that a veritable throng would take to the streets in search of nightly amusement. The city would soon be aglow, bathed in soft torch flames as the soldiers lit hundreds of street lamps. One by one, two by two, they would all come out from their hiding, dressed in their finest attire, and haunt the sidewalks, window shopping, discussing the latest fashions, eating at cafés and drinking in shadow-drenched pubs. No, he thought again, no, he was not being pulled downward to the rocks below, but outward, toward the city and out into its torch-lit embrace.
“What are you staring at, Laruebius?”
He started, shaken from his contemplation by his master’s voice.
“Nothing, Master Gareth,” he said, flopping his chin into the palm of his hand, his elbow resting on the windowsill.
Gareth got closer, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you hungry?”
Laruebius flinched. “No, Master, just curious.”
“What about?” Gareth hissed, his eyes narrowing.
The younger vampire felt an urge to cringe forward, could imagine Gareth’s face draining of patience, his breath quickening. He took a deep breath, but could think of no reason why Gareth should be so angry with him. It did not matter anyway, he thought, nothing would change for him, nothing ever could. Not when you were immortal.
Laruebius threw a hand out toward the openness beyond, to the flickering lights of the city. “Them,” he said. “I am curious about them.”
Gareth’s eyes widened now. “About the food? Why would you be curious about the food?”
Laruebius could only shrug. He knew how content his Master was in his ways, how unwilling. The young vampire felt his lip curl up in a sneer at the thought. He knew that no matter how tempting, Gareth would never go down there, never make any attempt to mingle – nor would he ever understand Laruebius’ true desire, the real reason he wanted to be in the city, amongst the “food”.
Laruebius was lonely.
Feeling his Master’s penetrating gaze, he was suddenly inspired to answer.
“I just need to be in the fresh air again, Master.”
Gareth released his grip and stalked across the floor, his boots clacking on the marble tile. “You do?” he said, the cacophonic echo in his voice (or rather, voices) rising again.
“And why is that?”
Laruebius put his back to the window and took another breath, letting his eyelids droop over his eyes.
“Does it matter?”
Gareth’s mouth widened. Laruebius opened his eyes and held his ground, but he felt a tinge of wariness in the pit of his black heart. The look on the older vampire’s face could have turned the most stalwart of priests into a quivering child.
“How dare you speak to me that way, Fledgling?” Gareth took a step. Laruebius flinched but otherwise remained unmoved. Perhaps a minute passed in deathly silence. And Gareth began to think.
How far had Laruebius come in this short time? Gareth looked him up and down. He could feel the darkness swirling about his protégé more fully that any other he had ever made, could feel the Embrace thrumming through Laruebius like a pulsating river. The young vampire had matured startlingly faster than any other Gareth had ever seen, or even heard about, which made him worry. Worse, did something remain? There were some Fledglings whose Embrace could not fully counteract their former passions. Was Laruebius still aching for the forests of his elven homelands in some subconscious way? And how far would Laruebius go to get what he wanted? While Gareth held no love for his apprentice, neither did he harbor the desire to end him….
But if it came to it…
Gareth turned abruptly and scoffed. “Go. Go down to the food and become filthy.” His voice became a single whisper again. He stomped down the steps and Laruebius sighed.
Gareth shouted from the stairwell. “If I smell them on you, I swear I’ll tear the flesh from you.”
Laruebius, suddenly alone, felt his lip curl now, and did not stop it. A growl escaped his lips in a low hum, and the cement lip of the window behind him shattered in his grasp.
“Just promise me you won’t eat it, Gareth.”
As he stood before the city walls, feeling the last whisp of wolf-form leaving his body, Laruebius smiled. The trip had been swift, like a dream, and he could feel the sensations of living beings getting closer and closer. He felt sweat beading on his forehead as he stood before the gates, his eyes stinging a bit from the bright torches which illuminated the entryway, throwing ominous shadows across his form. Laruebius could feel his mouth simply ache with anticipation, and he watched mesmerized as his fingers slowly waved and clenched and unclenched. A farmer walked by, peddling vegetables. Laruebius could smell the stink of animal all around the tired old man, could hear his heart beating. He allowed the man to bump into him, just to remind himself that he was there, that this was not some opium-induced fantasy like his Master so often offered him.
The thought of Gareth nearly spoiled the moment for him, but only for as long as it took his powerful sense of hearing to hear voices – not his own, not the terrifying sound of a hundred tortured souls that was his Master’s, but living, breathing voices, full of hope and a false sense of security.
Two men haggled over a fur coat in the merchant’s district. A couple of young lovers shared sweat and flesh in a brothel. Someone spilled a tankard of ale on the street, and an urchin wasted no time in scooping some up in a curled hand. And Laruebius could hear it all, every breath, every glorious, pathetic syllable.
The vampire stood staring at the ornate arches before him, their towering steel gates sporting fresh black paint. Just as he passed through the iron fence, he heard a child shout aloud: “olly-olly-ox-and-free” and then squeal with excitement as her game came to an end.
Laruebius felt his eyes lift and dart about, looking for the child in her revel, but he never found her.
Several times that night did he again have to remind himself that the evening was not a dream. It seemed so surreal - the smell of blood, baking bread, roasted chicken, lamp oil, and pipe smoke. He eventually worked up the courage to descend from the alley shadows, and he became a member of the throng, of the hundreds of window-shoppers and merchants. Laruebius considered it to be quite like the sensation of becoming mist, but better.
As quickly as the night had descended, it left, and Laruebius did not return home. He took refuge in a local hotel, and waited eagerly for another breath of the fresh, night city air. When finally it came, the next evening found him doing the same, walking through the city, conversing and enjoying as he eased along. Again, he did not return when morning came. For weeks the nights came the same way, and soon Laruebius found no reason to return to Gareth Manor. He only returned as a courtesy to his Master, fearing that he would command him never to return to the city, dooming him to remain in the coffin that was their home. But Laruebius found his Master constantly apathetic, and never pressed the point. He took to staying at the local inns rather than sleeping in the huge mansion, and took the occasional prostitute as a meal.
Thus it was that the young vampire found Lily.
During one of Laruebius’ late night jaunts, roaming the streets, he came upon a whore lying in the gutter, her head gashed deeply. The night was late, and Laruebius could feel the coming approach of the dawn but perhaps three hours away. Having no desire to be caught out in the lethal rays of morning, he at first decided to leave her.
Like the pull he felt before, however, something within him would not let go.
“Can you speak, girl?” he asked, shaking her roughly and opening her eyes with his long fingernails.
She groaned once and nodded. “I can hear you as well, milord, no need to shout.”
Laruebius smiled. She was very pretty. Dirty, of course, but pretty nonetheless. She had black hair and milky eyes and white skin, and Laruebius knew that his elven self would have fallen head over heels for the tainted beauty.
“Headache?” he asked.
“Hmm?” she stammered and struggled for her balance.
“A headache. You have been careless with your liquor, it seems.” With that, he brushed away a lock of her hair and exposed the wound on her forehead. It was thin, but deep, and blood was coasting down the curve of her forehead. His fangs began to ache within his mouth, but he resisted the urge to take her. It was hard for him as pretty as she was not to sink his teeth into her then, the smell of the blood caressing his nose like that. She was however, a whore, an elven whore, but a whore nonetheless. “Bad blood,” he muttered.
“What?” She asked, a silly smile on her face.
“Your name, I wondered your name.”
“Lily,” she said after a moment. “Call me Lily.”
“Is that your name?”
“No,” she said, “but you can call me that.” Her smile widened to reveal a set of pearly teeth.
And her fangs.
They were long and thin, and so straight that Laruebius could tell that she, like him, was a prodigy of a Master. Laruebius smiled. He had never met another vampire save Gareth, and was eager to know one. Especially one so pretty.
“Surprised?” she said. “I’m like you, aren’t I?” She staggered and laughed and nearly tripped over herself. “Or is it that you are like me?”
“I think both,” he said.
Laruebius eyes eyed her cautiously. A vampire in such standings (or such ‘wallowing’ or the case may have been) was a dangerous thing. He had heard of vampires whose Embrace had been so contrary to their natures that it drove them insane, and usually, ended up destitute or dead. This one certainly seemed the former, but there was something else about Lily that Laruebius could not put his finger on; she had a formality about her that he found intoxicating, strangely askew from the norm of prostitutes, but that was all he could tell of her, so dark and alluring was she.
“You have been at work this evening,” he said with a nod.
Her smile took in her ears. “Not yet. Do you have a place where we could speak a little more frankly? The street is musty, and I need to wash my hair.”
Laruebius’ instincts told him not to, told him to kill the wretch and let the shadows take her, but something that same desire called out to him, begged him to find company apart from his own and find refuge from Gareth’s awful presence. Against his better judgement, he gave in, taking her by the crook of her elbow and led her across the street.
“There,” she said, pointing a finger at a three story building further down the street. A sign swung on its hinges outside the porch.
“An inn?” he asked.
“Of course, unless you know another.”
Laruebius had heard much from Gareth on the dangers of traveling with another vampire. While he himself was familiar with the Foot and Cork Inn, he had no desire to have to explain his companion’s presence to the priests who were known to haunt the inn. They were known to lay in wait for the dregs to slump in from the streets, and enough local superstition kept the priests well armed with various means to undo the undead. But the smell of Lily’s hair made the choice for him.
The bellhop snapped to attention as the two entered the old hotel.
“The usual room?” he said with a grin.
“No, William,” Laruebius said, “something with a larger bed this time.”
William the bellhop took good care of them. The room he showed was furnished in the noble fashion, with a large tub in the washroom filled with hot water and a massive double bed with long oaken posts.
Laruebius stepped in and drew the windows shut. He ordered a sniffit and some towels from the bellhop, and then sat in a chair by the door.
“Leave them open,” she said, flopping upon the bed and burying herself within the sheets.
He smiled at her, and watched her lithe form slip into the bed.
“Comfortable?” he asked.
“Very,” she purred, and stretched her long arms to the ceiling.
With a thought, Laruebius opened the windows from across the room.
She stopped squirming in the bed and looked incredulously at him. She closed her eyes and fell within herself, and when she opened them again, her eyes were clear and her posture straightened, but she still gazed at Laruebius with wonder.
“Thank you,” he said, relieved that she had finally forced herself to heal from her drunken stupor. With vampires, it was a matter of choice whether or not to be intoxicated. “I was wondering when you would do that.”
“How did you do that?” she asked, pointing to the windows. “Are you a mage or something?”
“The curtains. You opened the curtains without touching them.”
Laruebius smiled. “I called you ‘Bad Blood’ earlier. I suppose I should have called you ‘New Blood’. How long since your change?”
Laruebius’ eyebrows rose. “Mortality,” he said, searching for the right word.
Lily frowned, her lips puckering in a sweet pout. “Months,” she said. “And the bitch didn’t even stay in the city very long to show me anything. I’ve heard the Masters are so supposed to stay. Is that true?”
“Now it is my turn to be shocked,” he said, opening the door for the bellhop and taking the wine. He tossed the towels onto the bed and poured her a glass. William left with a large tip.
“Yes, Masters are supposed to stay with their protégés.”
Lily cocked her head.
“Do you mean like…” she said, waving her hands about as if she were looking into a crystal ball.
“No,” Laruebius said with a chuckle. “The term Séance is actually a bit of a sick joke. You see, the last vampire to be an accepted member of any but our churches was a diviner for the Church of the Morning Rising.”
Laruebius took a sip and smiled wickedly. He liked this story.
“She was young and beautiful, and not without a great deal of power herself. Her Master had been quite crushed when she joined the Morning Rising, and decided to take revenge.”
“While conducting a séance for a Head Priest to contact his father, her Master appeared, and legend has it that she called down a great Yampiyais, or “vampire demon”, and attacked the church, its ministers and everyone.”
“And the vampire?”
“The Yampiyais pulled her heart out through her mouth and made her bleed to death. Supposedly, shortly after, the Yampiyais formed a Council formed for the Vampire Nation, a bunch of doddering fools if you ask me, and they made a system of law called the Séance in honor of her. More like a mockery, but you see the point.”
Lily’s eyebrows raised dubiously. “Well,” she said, sitting up and crossing her long pale legs. Laruebius stared at her thighs for a moment and cleared his throat. “The one that made me was a whore,” she said.
She pouted. “I’m not a whore. I’m a lady of the evening.”
“Oh,” he laughed. “Tell me about her.”
She thought for a moment. “No, tell me about Gareth.”
“How did you know his name?”
“Apparently, the bitch could read thoughts. She raped me and then took my blood and then I could read thoughts. Even trade, I suppose. Did Gareth force you?”
“More or less.”
She looked a bit concerned. “I’m sorry. I know how it is. Is he still with you?”
“That is good, I guess. What is your name?”
He grinned. “Can’t you read my thoughts?”
“Yes, but I want to hear you say it.”
“Lah-roo-bee-uhs….,” she said, turning it over in her mouth slowly. “And does Gareth know you are here?”
“Does he care?”
“Good. Laruebius, could I massage your back?”
He balked at the request, but not when her delicate hands found the creases in his neck.
“You are good,” he sighed, and settled in to his chair. A moment later, however, he flinched, and on impulse grabbed Lily’s wrist. His eyes began to glow, and his skin became as ice.
“What’d I do?” Lily demanded, her own strength, though very considerable, dwarfed by the older vampire’s. He held on tightly, and a long pause came between them as he calmed down. The glow in his eyes returned to their normal blue, and he sat down again, leaving her dazed on the floor.
Laruebius reached up and felt his neck. A sharp pain went through his back, and he remembered the wound.
“I am sorry,” he said with a grimace. “An old wound.”
She crossed her arms. “How old?”
“I thought we could heal fast or something,” she said, her eyebrows raised.
He shook his head. “Not when a Master wounds you. It could last for months if the one who Embraced you even scratches you. The one who made you can unmake you. Nature’s way.”
“He hurts you?” she crept behind him, and resumed running her hands across his tense neck muscles.
“Oh yes,” he said with a sneer. “Everyday.”
“I don’t know, he thinks that it reminds me of my place, I suppose. Would you massage right below the neck?”
“Hmm,” she said. “I suppose we only damn ourselves even further in hating our makers, yes?”
For a moment, Laruebius heard the voice of Brother Trumpet who had spoken those same words a hundred years ago.
“Here?” she said, breaking the trance.
“Yes. That’s better. Lily?”
“Do you hate humans?”
“No, not really. I used to be one, you know,” she said, brushing a lock from her face.
Laruebius paused. “I do.”
She did not stop rubbing the taut muscles in his neck, but Lily bit her lip, unsure. An uneasy silence fell.
“Uhm…I thought you were an elf…uhm, had been an elf.”
“No,” he said, hardly hearing her, “I do, I hate humans.”
“I don’t really know, but I hate them.”
“Do you know many?”
“I used to,” he said, drumming his fingers.
A knock came at the door. Three short knocks, one deep and singular.
Laruebius laughed and tossed his hair back, letting the unpleasant memories fade. “Are you thirsty?” he asked.
“Come in! Come in!” he bade, and with that, William led two young women into the room, barely of sixteen.
“Thank you William,” Laruebius said, standing. He flipped the boy a coin. “Same deal. Very quiet.”
“Yes sir, very quiet,” William said, leaving.
“Sit,” Laruebius commanded the girls, who obediently sat on the bed.
“Why are we here?” the blonde chirped. The other one, a brunette, slapped her friend’s leg. They were so young, he thought. And laughed.
“Don’t talk!” the brunette scolded.
Lily smiled, liking where this was going. “What is this, Laruebius?”
He shook his head. “Disrobe,” he commanded, and within a few moments, the girls were nude.
“Other ladies of the evening,” he said to Lily. “Do you know each other?”
Lily caught on. “They look familiar,” she purred, and sat on the bed.
“Why did you speak, girl?” Laruebius said with a wicked grin. She gave no reply. “Your brunette friend has been here before. Did she not tell you my rules?”
The blonde rolled her eyes and then lay flat on her back.
“Let’s just get this over with. It’s not my first night, you know. I have done this before.” She sneered defiantly at them, lifting her nose contemptuously in the air.
The air grew cold.
“Have you?” the elder vampire said slowly.
A shiver went up Lily’s spine at the sound. Looking up at Laruebius, she nearly trembled at the change in him. His eyes glowed angrily. His hands twitched slowly.
“Larue-” she began, only to be cut off by a snarl which came from his throat.
“I told you not to speak, human.,” he whispered.
With that Laruebius grabbed the girl by the waist and lifted her to her feet, putting her in line with his horrible stare. She began to scream, but within the span of a slight breath, his gaze locked the girl’s body to his will. Her neck went rigid, and her eyes clouded with submission. In that split second, she fell completely in love with Laruebius, and felt his touch as if it were that of a god. He blinked, however, and the moment was gone, her feelings for him gone. It was too much, and so she screeched. Then, he bit into her with a lightning snap of his mouth, and sapped her of blood while the girl continued to scream. It went on for several moments, and Lily soon began to squirm anxiously while watching Laruebius feast. Soon, the girl stopped screaming, and slumped in his arms, lifeless.
The brunette took her cue, and reclined her head and closed her eyes.
Laruebius smiled, still holding his gory package. Carefully, so as not to soil his clothes, he lay the blonde girl down on the floor. He looked to her friend.
“I like you very much, Karen, you know that, don’t you?” Laruebius said.
“Karen has given me much blood since I came to this city. You love me, don’t you, Karen?”
Karen smiled a bit, and nodded.
“You see, Lily, Karen is only half-human. Her ears are a bit pointed, you see?”
Lily sidled over to her and sat down by the nude girl. She lifted the girl’s hair back and touched her ears. “Very pretty,” she said.
“Karen, I love this new woman here, her name is Lily. Is that alright?”
“I want Lily to drink of you tonight.”
Karen sat close to Lily then put her arms around the vampire woman.
“Karen will let you drink of her, just not too much. Isn’t that right, Karen?”
The girl nodded.
Lily was shocked at the ease of which Laruebius commanded the girl. It was as if the waif wanted to obey him, wanted to be completely submissive to him. So different was his manner than that of the vampire that had made her. So careful and upright.
Lily gingerly opened her mouth and lay her fangs on the teen’s throat. She suckled at her slowly, drinking of the young blood. Karen’s face became white a few minutes later, and she began to whimper, and so Laruebius put his hand on Lily’s shoulder.
“That’s enough, Lily. We have all of the blood here in this dead one for the rest of the night.”
Karen stood and kissed Laruebius on the cheek as she left, closing the door behind her.
Laruebius drained his glass. He took a deep breath and stared at Lily. She looked so beautiful. Her skin like milk was simply dripping with gore.
He whispered, “Go ahead, my dear.”
Lily dove into the dead girl's wound, and drank long gulps. For an hour she swallowed the young woman’s life-force until she had her fill.
When it was done, the two vampires lay the girl in the fireplace and set her corpse ablaze.
“I hate it when they talk,” was the only eulogy Laruebius gave for the girl.
Laruebius stoked the flames into a warm glow as the whore’s body became as ash. The smell became pungent, and so Laruebius tossed a few pine chips from his vest pocket into the fire. No one would ever know that flesh burned in that hotel.
Lily went into the other room and bathed. When she emerged from the bath, her hair was brushed, her body wrapped in a fuzzy red robe, and her face white and smiling.
“Pull up a chair,” Laruebius bade her, and poured her a glass.
The two vampires sat for a while, sipping wine before the fire.
“This is good wine, Laruebius,” Lily said.
“Yes it is. Very robust.”
“I like the sound of that – robust. What does it mean?”
Laruebius looked at Lily, an anxious gleam in his eye. Never had he known, but always he had wondered what it would be to bed one of his own kind, a child of the night.
“It means full of flavor.” He took her hand and led her onto his lap. He kissed her deeply with his lips and pushed her robe onto the floor. In one fluid movement, Laruebius took her wrist and bit into it lightly. Then, he and Lily made love. Nicking at one another with their long fangs and reveling in one another’s skin, they were like roses intertwined, their thorns always piercing. They ripped one another open and howled like demon wolves into the night sky that hung about their opened window. Their unholy union raised no alarum throughout the city, though, for any and all that heard them were too terrified to speak.
When it was over, they lay in bed and spoke for hours, long into the night, and then into the next day. The evening after, they left the hotel, and Laruebius never saw the city again.
The content of Villain is the property and copyright of Heath Harper, and is not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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