The End of it All by Richard Ankers
TODAY’S BREW: A lot.
I was so excited when Richard Ankers told me he was working on a vampire novel, I screamed at him through the Twitterverse to send me what he had written. See, this guy wrote this book called The Snow Lily, an amazing piece of literature that astounds me is unpublished. You can find out more about it here. http://t.co/Fp7MLhTUBz and follow Richard @Richard_Ankers.
A wonderful man and a wonderful writer, he sent me this, the first chapter of his latest work, and I fell in love. IN LOVE. This is classical vampire writing done well. This is absolutely stunning. Enjoy.
I took her cold, dead hand in mine and led her out onto the balcony. A slight breeze stirred the silks of her gowns and tousled her flowing, raven locks. Geranium bushes emitted the faintest of pomades into the night circulating in the air currents and mixing exquisitely with Chantelle’s own luxurious scents. She was everything a man could desire, perfection personified. I pulled her to me and felt her hidden curves press against my flesh. If I could have remembered what it felt like to be happy, I imagined this would be it.
I gazed at the blood that flowed where once turbulent waters rushed, as it made serene passage down the Danube. The river looped around the end of the grounds and formed a natural barrier to uninvited guests. This was exactly the job it had been designed to do. I watched its unctuous form as it trundled past.
My mind was pulled away from the river by the reinvigorated orchestra who started to play anew. There was only one kind of music for such an occasion: Strauss. We waltzed in circles to the ironic notes of the blue Danube. I didn’t think the composer would have been able to generate the same response to his creation if the title had been changed to red. The moonlight shone down upon us like a searchlight as we twirled across the polished, ebony floor. Could there have been anything better? I very much doubted it! Just because you were dead did not mean you couldn’t appreciate the finer things in life.
I had been experiencing the best of life for the last five-hundred or so years and unlike some, I’d enjoyed every second of it. What was there not to have liked? To have wined and dined with those of undeniably good breeding, shared tailors with kings and queens, walked along gothic promenades without fear, this was the life, or death, I had dreamed of. I had never missed the sunlight it was terribly overrated. The sun gave such a false sense of wellbeing to the living. Only in the crystal clarity of the sparkling moon did the reality of an object truly show. The snake was not a slithering, ugly beast, but a sensual, seductive, coil of a creature. The bat far outshone the bird for it required none of the adulation that the avians so craved. And the wolf, ah, the wolf, what was there to say? To see one of the ancient grey wolves of old, backlit by a hunter’s moon, was a thing of surreal majesty. I envied them their freedom the one thing I did not possess.
“Shall we remain out here under the stars, Monsieur?” The beautiful french accent of my partner snapped me out of my musings and I smiled down at her from my greater height.
“What is your wish?”
“To be with you.”
“You can be with me anytime, but only in this moment once.” She tilted her head to one side as if it helped her think. When in truth, all it did was reveal her elegant porcelain neck. It was a momentary thing, quite beyond my control, as I plunged long fangs into her neck and sucked; and savoured; and drank. I did not know how long of her I sated, but it was too long. By the time I had finished, the metallic tang of her blood saturated my tongue, and she was gone. I had taken her past the point of no return where vampire lust and immortality merged.
I had killed Princess Chantelle of the New European Alliance and for the first time in an age, panicked!
I was usually quite unflappable. After all, what was there to get in a flap about when you were already dead? But this certainly qualified. I kept on dancing, holding my partner to me, and edged my way past the double doors we had exited from and to the edge of the balcony. Twisting our conjoined forms around, I surveyed the merriment within the ballroom and once sure of my being not watched leapt over the rails with my burden. It was a drop of about thirty feet, nothing to such as I, and I quickly made my way into the trees that lined the riverbank. Holding Chantelle close to me, as a lover might, I again made very sure of my solitude. We were quite alone. Where my vampire eyes could not see my senses, scent, and hearing, took charge. They all confirmed there was nobody around but me and my corpse. Accordingly, I flung her departed form far into the black liquid and watched her sink slowly below the surface. I would like to say I was sorry to see her go, but to be quite honest I was at best indifferent.
Retracing my steps to below the balcony, I had a sudden epiphany. I could not go back the way I had left for people were bound to have seen me step onto the balcony with the princess. No, I had to think of something else! Not wishing to be found outside I found some sturdy looking climbing ivy and in a reversal of parasitic behaviour, hastily scaled it all the way up the side of the palace. I felt no lack of energy as I hauled myself up and over a particularly hideous gargoyle and onto the palace roof, the princess’ blood had reinvigorated me, if nothing else. Always being one for a spectacular view I took a moment to savour my surroundings. It really was incredible! Class told, and that most opulent of pleasure domes dripped in it. Positioned with a full view of both mountains and river, the Comte de Burgundy, a clever play on colour as he was certainly of no royal heritage, could keep his vampiric eye on all and sundry. I envied him this place. If he had had it built for him, I could neither remember nor recall witnessing, but it certainly showed him in a finer light than he deserved. I could not stand the little runt, otherwise.
I meandered across the inclining roof looking for somewhere to gain access to the main halls when I realised I had been revealed.
“Good evening, Jean” came the whining voice of Sir Walter Merryweather.
“Good evening,” I responded, as casually as possible.
“Taking a stroll?”
“No, I am in fact lost. I was looking for the latrine and somehow found myself in front of the wrong kind of pot.”
“Tee-hee, yes quite.”
“Boredom, as always.”
“You could get into quite a lot of trouble for saying something like that.”
“I could! But I won’t.” He gave me a wink and touched the side of his nose with a velvet gloved finger.
“Incredible view, isn’t it?”
“Always. The Danube is a most impressive little stream. I never tire of watching it pulse across the land like some bulging virgin’s jugular vein. Ah, those were the days,” he added, with a stifled yawn. “Ditched Charlotte, have you?”
“Chantelle,” I corrected. “And I would rather say I have eluded her cloying over eagerness, for at least a short while, anyway.” I watched Walter closely, but he did not react and I suspected my secret to be still my own. “Do you wish to return to the ball?” I asked.
“Not really. I deplore all that showy bravado. My fangs are bigger than your fangs, etcetera, etcetera. Have we really become so melodramatic?”
“Well, this is the end of the world, or so they say. May as well go out with a flourish.”
“May as well,” he agreed. “I’d still prefer to be ripping out some human throat and sucking out their soul though.”
“Wouldn’t we all?” I concurred, as he stood brushing the moss from his green velvet outfit.
“Right then, lets be off, rejoin the tedium and all that.”
“After you,” I said, gesturing with my hand. Always smooth under pressure. I smiled to myself and followed him off the roof through a door I hadn’t noticed back to the strains of more Strauss. I didn’t think I’d feel the same way about him again. I’d sooner have Wagner any day of the week.
Merryweather led me through a labyrinthine set of passages, the purpose of which quite eluded me, before we eventually reappeared in one of the royal boxes that looked down upon the twirling throng.
“Makes you sick doesn’t it Jean?”
“All of this.” He spread his arms out wide, encompassing all of the massive hall, without any apparent care for who might see him.
“It provides some entertainment,” I said, whilst wiping a long dark lock from my eyes.
“Bah! Entertainment indeed. We have machines that can move mountains, the ability to create near endless resources, yet this is the sum of our achievements, to frolic.” Merryweather slammed one velvet gloved hand down upon the balustrade. I was sure for effect rather than real anger.
Already bored of the fop despite his sudden leanings to rebellion, I decided to make my leave. “I really should be finding the princess before some other dashing vampire sweeps her away before dawn.”
Merryweather regarded me with something akin to suspicion before doffing an imaginary hat to me. I was dismissed. I didn’t need telling twice either. After a quick check below I jumped over the parapet and dropped the rather long distance to the floor, landing conveniently at the feet of the Marquise de Rhineland. It was a pompous title for a pompous woman, but she did have quite exquisite legs.
“Ooh, Jean, you’re looking particularly delicious tonight.” Her ice-blue eyes shimmered in the light of a dozen chandeliers.
“As do you, Marquise.”
“Oh, Jean, you know to call me Portia.”
“Sorry, Portia, I forget myself at times.”
“Are you not with the princess?”
“I was, but I think I may have upset her and she is punishing me by her absence.”
“Is it really such a punishment?”
I leaned in closer, or as close as I could to someone dressed as a trifle and whispered, “Not really.”
“Ooh, Jean, you are a very naughty vampire lord.”
“I could be!”The glint in her eyes matched the licking of her lips: wanton.
“Would you like to leave this most boring of balls?”
The marquise looked about, as though searching for somebody, before grabbing my hand in her gloved own and languidly leading me from the ballroom. Nobody spared us a second glance, all far to advanced in their merrymaking. Out through the gold laden double doors, and into a corridor of polished ivory we strolled. It gave me chance to pretend to admire some of the more dramatic murals that covered every spare inch of the place: a sure sign of overkill and bad taste. Then, out through the crystal front doors of the palace and onto the grand staircase. Taking a dramatic stance, the Marquise beckoned a footman who had her carriage brought forth post-haste. What drew the carriage, I had no idea, unless it was of horses who’s colouring perfectly matched that of the night? With no acknowledgement to any of the scurrying servants she climbed the inlaid tortoiseshell steps into her mobile boudoir and sat with her back to the coachman. I followed her in, doing my best to avoid standing on her gowns and took a white leathered seat opposite.
“It seems a very long time since I last had you alone like this,” she purred.
“It must be the better part of a century, I should imagine,” I replied, combing back my hair from my face.
“I see you refuse to submit to the whims of others, ever the rebel.” The Marquise lifted her chin to my jet black attire.
“You know me. Old habits die hard.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” If the Marquise was about to further enlighten me of her thoughts the juddering start to our drive prevented her from doing it. She never did not like to be anything other than in full control of a situation. In a moment of fang baring, the Marquise bashed twice upon the frame of the carriage and shouted to the coachmen to not jolt her again. The crack in the side panel where fist met wood made me realise just what a facade of decorum she was perpetrating. As always, I found it disgusting.
Turning back to me with the face an angel would die for, again in control of herself, she continued. “Have you missed me, Jean.”
“I’ve seen you on many occasions. This formulated world is too small to miss someone for too long.”
“You know what I mean,” she giggled.
“Not really,” I answered honestly.
“Hm, playing tough won’t work with me. I see through your veneer of disdain.” The moonlight shone through the carriage window and gave a strange look of madness to her eyes, as she lent closer to me.
“There is no veneer with me. My feelings to this life have not changed for centuries.”
Sitting back in her seat again, I can see the Marquise pondering my words with the look of a child completely unable to comprehend a question. “Do you really hate it so?” She eventually asked.
“But, why? We have everything our hearts desire and even when we don’t we simply create it.”
“That is exactly why.” I gaze out of the window and watch the dramatic scenery sweep past.
“You are a most mysterious man,” she chuckled as she eased her way into the seat beside me. “Beautiful, isn’t it,” she purred into my ear.
“Perhaps, if you like amalgamations of your Alps and Himalayas. It just so happens I prefer the originals.” If the Marquise heard me I do not know, as her mouth closed about my neck. I squirmed a little in my seat at the twin pressure she applied but not enough to break the skin.
“Now, tell me that you still haven’t missed me,” words of honeyed silk poured from her mouth.
“I still haven’t missed you,” I breezed, as our mouths met and, for a time at least, I submitted to her as the toy I once was.
Time and motion blurred together and I suspected the Marquise of having manipulated at least one or the other to her benefit. I wasn’t complaining. Her attentions were a surprising relief from what had occurred at the palace. I was of course used to women throwing themselves at me for one reason or another. However having two quite so powerful ones do so in the same night was a new experience for me. The first new experience in longer than I cared to remember.
I had barely buttoned my trousers back up when the carriage came to a shuddering stop. I was flung head first into the Marquise corsets, for a second time, and was most disgruntled to be found in such a position by the coachman who efficiently opened the carriage door in double quick time. If he thought it odd he didn’t show it, as the Marquise let out a most undignified growl from the back of her throat.
I uncoupled myself and languidly strolled from the carriage offering my hand to the Marquise before viewing where we were. “Very impressive, Marquise,” I said, looking the fairytale castle up and down. “White marble?”
“If you call me Marquise once more, Jean, I shall rip out your tongue,” she hissed. “And no, it is actually polished ivory.”
“That’s an awful lot of elephants that have perished for your pleasure.”
“Always the joker! Anyway, I’m a little sick of the site of it, in truth. I may have it remade on jade. I think that should look sufficiently different to the norm.”
“Is there such a thing these days?” I replied.
She just smiled and led me onto a moving stairs, rather like an elevator, that somewhat distracted from the overall effect of the place. Hidden servants appeared as if from nowhere and removed the Marquise of her excess outerwear then bade a hasty retreat.
“I see you still rule your home with an iron fist, Mar…Portia.”
“There is no other way, Jean. I work on the principle that if I treat everybody with the same lack of respect those that deserve it will get the message whilst those that don’t will at best complain.” The accompanying fanged smile did nothing to encourage my acknowledgement of her methods. Not that it was asked for.
“May I ask where we are headed at this time of oncoming daylight?” I enquired, with as much disinterest as I could muster.
“Why, the view of course. You didn’t think I had this castle built especially for the sentimental value.”
“I was under the impression your husband was the one who’d had it built.”
“He thinks so! But we all know men have no real ideas of their own, don’t we?”
I had a sudden desire to strike her head from her arrogant, elegant shoulders. I even think the Marquise shuddered a little as the thought showed fractionally in the flash of my eyes. As her birthright decreed, she soon recovered, and continued her gliding passage through the brilliant white halls of her home. I walked slightly behind and to the right of her. This was mostly so that I didn’t have to look at her face, I was already quite bored of her, and secondly so that she was dawn side of me. I much preferred the Marquise to experience the sun on her face before I if it did indeed appear during the course of her showing off.
After a seemingly endless walk of which I even started to whistle to communicate my boredom, the Marquise stood before a pair of the longest, red velvet curtains I’d ever seen which she threw aside with a flourish. The reflex to pull back from what I thought would be my doom was hard to resist but I thought even as big an imbecile as the Marquise would neglect to kill herself off so readily and stood my ground. I think she was quite impressed to turn and see me there when others would, and probably had, previously fled.
“So what?” I replied, not wishing to add to her grandeur.
“Is it not the most beautiful of sights,” she pointed across a valley of staggering depth to something in the distance.
I stepped closer, trying desperately to remain nonchalant, but couldn’t help not let my inquisitive side marvel at what she pointed to. It was a palace of some sorts, difficult to be completely certain of, but something ancient and rather spectacular. Of that fact I was quite sure.
“It is Shangri-La, Jean. I have had it moved here. I knew you’d appreciate the grandeur of it.”
I shook my head in disgust, turned my back to the pompous fool, and made my way up to the bed chambers. It would be a long day before I could be rid of the woman.