Apres la pluie, le beau temps.
After rain comes sunshine.
After leaving Elizabeth barely alive, I decided it was time to say goodbye to my beloved France.
I booked a one way ticket across the Atlantic to America. Even after stepping foot on Ellis Island, I still felt that I wasn’t far enough from the chaos in the old world.
I traveled further west. I stopped in Chicago for a week and then continued on before I ended up in Seattle a year later. Apparently fire tore through the city a few years before my arrival, destroying most of its wooden structures so its citizens decided to rebuild using large grey colored stone blocks. The business district made up most of the downtown area and the moment I stepped foot off the train, I recognized the architecture almost immediately. The Richardsonian Romanesque had their fair share of heavy arches and massive towers. It made the buildings stick out like a sore thumb.
The only thing I found promising about this unexplored area was the vast amount of humans from all nationalities and backgrounds. Seattle was a common stop for stampeders on their way to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. This made feeding on the unexpected easy, especially the wealthy.
The city had its occasional problems with gambling and drinking and the mayor didn’t take too kindly to the countless saloons and their rowdy customers. I spent most of my nights drinking among humans and scouring the environment. I met a young woman, Pearl, who had recently taken ill. She took a liking to me and after a few weeks I found myself living under the same roof as her.
While it was extremely different and awkward at first, I forced myself to accept my new life and this new world. I had to if I wanted to survive and thrive in it. Pearl wasn’t the ordinary type of woman I was used to being around. Independent and smart, she ran several businesses including a bordello in Ballard, just one of the few small towns that bordered Seattle, until she became bedridden. After several visits from the local doctor, he determined that contamination of the groundwater supply was the likely the cause of her sickness. Medication didn’t help nor did fresh air. I knew of one simple and easy fix for her dreadful state yet I had never attempted it before.
If I wanted to save her, I had to sire her. I had to make her into what I was.
But could I do it? Could I subject her to this type of life? However, siring her was also a risk and many didn’t survive the transformation. It’d been a long time since the weaknesses of humans crossed my mind.
She died in her sleep on New Year’s Eve of 1905. As the citizens celebrated on the streets of Ballard, I held her in my arms as she took her final breath. I had the local caretaker bury her the following day and having my full of the town and the city, I moved on. I traveled south and ended up in San Francisco. I kept to myself and avoided any place where Deamhan gravitated to. I moved around so much that I lost track of time and I forgot exactly what and who I ran from. Remembering France turned into a chore and a headache.
I heard very little about what was happening in my home country and I liked it that way. Days turned into years and years turned into decades. Without knowing Elizabeth would catch up with me, I spent my time enjoying the vast array of humans at my disposal and their lifestyle. I fell for many women; some I ate and others I led around like lost little puppies. I never spent longer than a year in any city: Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, Tampa. When I ran out of cities to go I jumped from city to city in the Midwest. However, I never went any farther north than Chicago nor did I go south into Mexico. And not once did I accidently stumble upon Deamhan, Dorvo vampires, or any supernatural creature.
However, one night while I danced to the annoying deep base thumping on a dancefloor in some ratted bar just outside of Chicago I overheard a fantastic story involving a familiar name.
The Ancient Deamhan himself was in Minneapolis with his annoying little offspring, Malachy, who everyone now called ‘Kei.’ Apparently there was a huge population of Deamhan in Minneapolis that I wasn’t aware of. How could I know? Regardless my curiosity peaked and at the same time my intuition told me to run the opposite way. I didn’t want to go toe to toe with those intimidating and commanding triplets again.
But what harm would come if I just slipped in quietly and slipped right out of the city? Decades of constantly being on the move made me more cautious and I watched everything and everyone from a distance. Plus enough time had passed between the incident where my mind was invaded until that moment. I felt somewhat ready to claim some of those memories back.
I arrived in Minneapolis on a Saturday night, sometime in late November. It wasn’t my kind of town, so to speak. A foot of snow covered the ground. I slipped on a few patches of ice while I walked down the downtown streets and almost got hit by a car that slid on black ice and almost through an intersection.
It felt like millions of degrees below zero and the air chilled my already cold skin. I made a quick stop by an army surplus store ran by a sweet Jewish couple and bought a used black jacket and army steel toed boots. We chatted for a short time and they advised me to check out the Sculpture Garden and the Mill City Museum. I thanked them for the hospitality but I wasn’t there to check out the sites. I left and it wasn’t long before I regretted my ‘slip in and slip right out’ decision.
I continued walking down the street with no destination in mind. I fed on a few unsuspecting individuals here and there and just before I contemplated taking the old couple’s advice I heard music coming from down the street. A group of drunken men stumbled out of a venue with the blinking lights which read ‘Dark Sepulcher.’ I stood on the corner, taking in the scents filtering from the venue’s open doors. Vampires, Deamhan, human… My nose hadn’t taken in that many commingled smells in a very, very long time.
I crept back into the darkness and waited for the drunken men to appear out of range before I cautiously approached this building with painted black walls. The closer I was, the stronger the scents tickled my nose. The bouncer, a human male, stood guard with his arms folded.
Just then another person with short brown hair and wearing a long black shirt and blue jeans exited the club. We locked eyes and only when his turned black did I truly know that I had met my first Deamhan in Minneapolis.
He said nothing at first. He leaned against the wall, pulled out an unopened pack of cigarettes, and slapped it against the palm of his hand. Only when the bouncer walked back into the club did he speak.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“Is that a problem?”
He opened his pack and pulled out a cigarette. “Nah, no problem,” he put it to his mouth and lit it, “unless you make it one.” Instead of attacking or showing any signs of aggression, he held out his hand. “Tank.”
I didn’t shake his hand. Who would shake the hand of a random idiot with an undesirable name like ‘Tank?’
“You shouldn’t do that in the open.” He pointed to my eyes.
“Precaution. Can’t be too careful.” My eyes returned to their normal color. “What is this place?”
“Unfortunately it’s the only place for our kind,” he replied.
“Do humans know?”
He shrugged. “Not my problem. I just come here for the free food.” He lowered his voice. “You know how we Metusba Deamhan do it.”
“So you just go in there and feed indiscriminately?” This entire concept boggled my mind. I had been to plenty of clubs in various cities but I had never come across something as blatant and out in the open as this.
“Yeah. A vampire runs the place so I don’t care if I get caught or not.”
“A Dorvo vampire?”
“Hell no. Just a vampire,” he replied. “Do Dorvo vampires even still exist?”
I shrugged. I hope not.
He exhaled. “You want one?” He pointed to his cigarette. “They help with cravings.” He peered through the front door windows. “Where are you from?”
“Everywhere,” I answered quickly.
He turned back to me. “You are new here.”
“Just passing through.”
“Yeah, well Deamhan passing through don’t leave this city alive,” he replied. “Just remember that. You step on the wrong person’s toes and you’re as good as dead around here.”
“Whatever you say, Tank.” I watched him puff away.
“We could probably use Deamhan like you.” He dangled his cigarette between his middle and index finger. “You’re about a few years over a hundred?”
“We?” I chortled.
“Yeah, the leader is looking for some muscle ever since that Ramanga threatened to kill him.”
“Yeah, she lives at a sanctuary with a human just north of here, off Hwy 287. Blind Bluff Manor or something like that. It’s about thirty minutes north of here,” he explained. “Can you believe that crap? A Deamhan living with a human? She’s a bigger threat than the vampires here and they outnumber us two to one.”
“No.” I thought back to Pearl and the other women I ran across since I arrived in America.
“Kei said she’s super old and bat shit crazy. She came here for Lucius.”
His posture changed. “You know him?”
“Yeah, I know him.”
He flicked his cigarette. “Ever since he took over, things have been a little rocky here.”
“Kei took over?” Confused, I titled my head slightly.
“You not one of those Ancient Deamhan, are you?”
“I’m not old enough to be an Ancient Deamhan.”
“Neither is Kei but he claims to be one.”
“Now that is too funny. Kei? An Ancient Deamhan? Did you get him confused with his sire, Lucius? I heard he’s here.”
Tank laughed. “He was until Kei got rid of him.”
While I wasn’t exactly interested in this Deamhan, I wanted to know more about what happened to Lucius. Don’t do it Remy! The voice in my mind screamed at me. Don’t do it.
“Where is he?”
“You don’t meet him.” He flicked his cigarette at my feet. “He meets you.”
“Where is he?” I moved in close to Tank and towered over him.
“I don’t think you heard me. He finds you whatever your name is.”
“My name is Remy Durand.” I grabbed him by the throat. “And he’ll want to meet me. We go way back.”
I followed Tank to an area just northwest of the downtown known as the Warehouse District. Tall and large warehouses, some empty, lined both sides of the streets. It was extremely quiet and eerily peaceful at the same time. This was the perfect type of environment for any Deamhan to thrive in.
We walked through an alley toward the back of a brown brick building with large stained windows and approached a thick steel door. He knocked only once and waited until we heard the sound of a lock unlatching.
An Asian male stood in the doorway, shirtless, with white underwear. “Tank?” A cigarette dangled from the right corner of his mouth and I saw a bloody handprint on his right breast.
Tank motioned for me to follow and I did. The Asian boy watched me closely and after closing the door, the interior was engulfed in darkness.
“He knows Kei,” Tank replied as we moved forward.
“Everyone says they know Kei.”
“Well I’m not everyone,” I said to him.
We walked down a narrow hall. I wasn’t that fond of sanctuaries, especially Deamhan ones. I barely liked staying under the same roof as Dorvo vampires but Elizabeth made it worthwhile.
But this was Kei. I didn’t like him from the beginning and I was certain I wouldn’t like him now. Not to mention he carried himself around like an Ancient, according to what I learned from Tank. What a conceded little prick.
We entered a large and opened area. Dark curtains covered the windows and a long, red carpet ran toward a large stage. On that stage was a behemoth looking throne, complete with two silver shaped skulls on the end of the armrests. I interrupted some kind of celebration because Ramanga, Metusba, Lamia, and Lugat Deamhan were scattered about; some feeding on humans, others sleeping on the floor, and some resting in chairs. One interesting couple had their arms all over one another while the body of a dead human rested at their feet.
I stopped midway in. “Deamhan sanctuaries do tend to attract the filthy sort.” I couldn’t help myself nor could I stop my lips from moving. “This is pathetic; really. What kind of Ancient would allow this? Oh, that’s right! You follow a false Ancient.”
Now that I had their attention, I continued toward the stage. “Malachy,” I called out. “Where are you hiding?”
“His name is Kei,” a Deamhan to the left spoke out.
“I know him as Malachy,” I replied.
Tank added. “He doesn’t go by that anymore. I already told you.”
I sensed their need to protect this newfound leader of theirs but I paid it no mind.
Soon the man of the hour appeared from a room behind the stage. At first, I didn’t recognize him. He looked vastly different than the Lugat who kidnapped me from Paris so long ago. He wore a short leather jacket with red matching buckles that clinked as he walked and tight fitting black jeans to match. His hair was cut short; spiked.
“Well, lookie here,” he said to me. “I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
“The feeling’s mutual Malachy.”
“Kei.” He corrected.
“I guess you felt the need to reinvent your image since you declared yourself an Ancient.” I smiled and looked around the area.
He climbed the stairs to the stage. “I lead like no other.” He plopped down in his ridiculous throne. “They did a number on you, didn’t they? I heard they wiped your mind and everything. You weren’t suckin’ on Elizabeth’s teat anymore.”
“She was dead,” I replied. “Or so I thought.” I pulled out a chair and sat directly across from him. “You and your sibling were supposed to kill her.”
“Selene and I burned Maison des Bénédictions to the ground with her in it,” he smirked. He explained his deed in explicit detail, down to how some of the bodies remained behind; burned and charred. “Not our fault that she escaped.”
“You should’ve checked.”
“I didn’t want to stick around to find out.”
“I saw her in Paris.”
Interested, he leaned forward. “Did you killed her?”
“No. I ate her and left her there.” I wondered if that was the truth. Did she meet her end that fateful night? My little jewel was strong enough to survive the impossible! But that was the past. Now was now and I had to focus on my own fate in this foreign city.
He leaned back in his throne. “Why are you here Remy?”
The balls on this guy. “Where’s Lucius?”
“Why do you want him?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Eh. Everything a Deamhan does in my city is my business.”
“Your city?” My left eye brow raised in suspicion. “That’s debatable.”
“I told you back then that I had plans.” He held his arms out to the side. “I told you I was going to make something of myself, even if I had to walk over my sire to do so.”
“Is he dead? If so, that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
“He isn’t dead but I did get rid of him.”
“You,” I pointed at him, “got rid of Lucius? Nope. I don’t believe it. You’re not even half his age.”
“Dark magic,” he said. “You know what I’m talking about.”
His response brought me back to that cave over a hundred years ago. I knew exactly what he was talking about. “So you had a little help, huh? What did they get in return?”
“Now that’s my business.” He drummed his fingers on his leg. “But since you’re here…I’m looking for some muscle.”
“Not interested,” I quickly replied.
“You will be once you know what’s out there.”
“I’ve heard. A few haven’t taken kindly to your little takeover. Apparently not all Deamhan think you deserve to sit in that seat. How many enemies do you have now, including the Ancient Ramanga?”
“Ancient?” he laughed. “Anastasia isn’t Ancient.”
My ears perked. “Anastasia?” I laughed. “Anastasia!” I cackled louder. “Oh this is just too good.”
He didn’t like my disrespectful laughter. His lips scrunched and he gave me a nasty look. “You won’t be laughing when she rips out your throat.”
“Yeah!” Tank entered our two way conversation. “There are plenty of enemies in this city, including her, and they all hate us.”
“More of a reason to not join you, your highness,” I derided Kei. “And your group of cretins.”
He jumped up from his seat. “Don’t mock me,” he said in a low growl. “This is my city. I’m in charge here so watch what you say to me.”
“I’ll mock you whenever I please,” I said. “I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you and now that I know there are people out there who hate you just as much as I do, I think I’ll stick around and see what unlovely things you’ve done to this city.”
“You should join us,” Tank said. “Kei knows what he’s talking about.”
“I said no.” I tapped my chin. “But maybe I’ll swing by that sanctuary and talk to her. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
“You don’t know her like I do.”
“No, I don’t, but I know I have more in common with her, at this moment, than I do with you.” Disgusted by his presence, I ended the conversation by standing up from my chair.
Tank took offense, as if he planned to attack, but Kei calmed him down.
“Don’t waste your energy. Anastasia will kill him anyway.”
“Or maybe she’ll welcome me with open arms.” I turned and headed back toward the exit. “Who knows?! We Deamhan can be so unpredictable.” I waved nonchalantly over my shoulder. “See you around.”