Chapter 1Mature

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             There was enough light. But it didn’t come from the sun. The artificial light gave the face of the elder a yellowish glow. His sight was curved with numerous wrinkles. The walking cane in his right hand was more for the appearance than for the fact he needed it. His slow paces led him to a big seat that looked more like a throne for a king.

            Nobody would take place in this seat. After all it ‘was’ a throne. Though many felt compelled to take place on it after his final decomposition, they kept nervously this meaning for themselves. The old man had not only deserved their respect, but also the fear they felt for him. Once he was the strongest and best-known vampire of the northern hemisphere. His deeds had preceded him and through the years they had gained in force.

            With a sigh, he fell down in his seat. His big hands with long fingers touched the arm supports. Upon the surface of the skin of his hands, which were full of liver spots, laid as a map of the world thick blue arteries. The longing to oblivion was so very strong. During all the centuries he had lived, he had experienced everything, seen everything. All the goals he has reached for were accomplished. His life ran on his last feet, his task was fulfilled, the fire disappeared out of his eyes and his heart.

            How would it go when he wasn’t around anymore? His thoughts went to all those years he had ruled his empire with a strong hand. Until today, he was in this ruling seat. The community of the Western vampire society had held on to power and had grown in importance during his reign. Nobody could say Dragosj had been a bad ruler. Nobody could state that he hadn’t done what was good for his people.

            His obligatory rest period during the daylight had antagonized him lately with horrible nightmares. He dreamt of the blood! This wouldn’t be abnormal with a vampire if it wasn’t the shedding of his own blood in these dreams. Disturbing visions that tormented him during his daily period of recess. Luckily he had the night where he could think of other matters. Nowadays he didn’t want to hunt anymore, didn’t feel the urge anymore. His people provided him with enough prey so that he could satisfy his thirst, after all he had still a few things to do before he died. He didn’t need so much of it now, just a bit to survive. It wouldn’t take long now before all this ended. At that moment, he would be very happy to go and meet the sun.

            Dragosj had seen so much and lived so many years. He counted almost twelve hundred years. He had seen Kings coming and go, even fought some battles where he had made the difference between defeat and victory. Dragosj knew the end of an era had come. Before all this would be so, he had to choose a successor. There were a lot of candidates, but the best of them was the problem with which he struggled during the last weeks.

            Julius was his own blood and he possesses all the qualities to become a good leader. Dragosj was his maker and had also provided his education. The problem was that Julius wanted nothing to do with his maker. He led a libertine life amongst his prey and if he admitted to his thirst, Dragosj had, on many occasions, taken measures to set a false trail so humans wouldn’t find traces to his community. Julius was sloppy and unrestrained, only because he liked to provoke his maker. However, there had been other times where Julius had looked up to Dragosj with admiration. What had he done wrong? Who wouldn’t wish the best for their children? He offered him his reign on a golden platter and Julius turned his back to him.

            Lucky for him, there were still two other good candidates. Milosj, a bit older than Julius, could support on his comprehensive experience. He would be a fine leader, but Dragosj thought he was too broad-minded. As an example to your people, you have to be hard, you must put aside your feelings and hit before your adversary could prepare himself. Milosj talked too much. Liked to solve problems with words. But if it had to be, he would pass the torch to him.

            At last, but certainly not the least, there was Diana. A fabulous beauty with long black hair and similar eyes, as dark as the night. She was a real warrior and would fight if necessary till her last breath for the welfare of her brothers and sisters. She wouldn’t give up easily and many of her manly opposites had already learned this the hard way. But… she was so impulsive as a result of which she sometimes made mistakes. Another problem was that she unofficially was the loved one of Julius. Why young people made everything so difficult?

            His attention was drawn to a sound behind one of the closed doors of the room where he was sitting. He had asked not to be disturbed. Who dared thwart his orders?

            The particular door was thrown open and with a staggering speed a black clothed man kneeled before Dragosj. The older vampire had already heard from the sounds and the pace of this man, that it was Markus, his servant. He was the oldest and most loyal helper he had ever had. He also was the only one who could drop by in this manner.

            ‘Forgive me, Lord, to intrude, but I have very bad news!’ He didn’t look up, waiting for approval from his master.

            ‘Get up, Markus. Just tell me what has happened.’ Dragosj didn’t like pageantry, however, he appreciated the showed respect for his position. The time people knelt before kings and princes have been since long passed. One lived in the 21st century. Even vampires had to move with the times. He knew however that Markus was old-style and that he never would venture to be disrespectful, a virtue that he appreciated in his servant.

            ‘Lord, it is Milosj.’ Obviously the man had to be encouraged to speak further, as he feared his master wouldn’t like the news.

            ‘If you finally would tell me the reason why you stormed into this room, I could at least make up my mind if all this noise was necessary.’

            The messenger had a quick glance in the eyes of Dragosj but turned as fast his looks to the ground. ‘Milosj… is dead, Sir. He and two of his men are torn apart by… actually we don’t know by what or who. We have found the body parts and their blood in Milosj’s his house on The Quay. It seems that they couldn’t put up any resistance to their attacker.

            Dragosj didn’t move an inch. He tried to restrain his feelings of sorrow, anger and incomprehension. Julius dead, how was this possible? One of the strongest vampires he’d ever known. He had recruited him out of the gang that ruled the underworld of Paris. His adversary had to be someone special, must have been very strong, considering the fact he had two men with him, his usual bodyguards who were trained men. No, this asked directly for a gathering.

            ‘Markus, call the Elder Council together. I want them to be here sitting at the meeting table in three hours. No excuses, who can’t or will not come, will personally have to answer to me. It’s not because I walk with a cane, that I can’t send him to meet the sun.’

            The servant nodded and hurried outside to execute the order of his master. He knew some would start to mutter because they didn’t were chosen for the succession. But he would pass the threat word-for-word. He also knew that everybody would understand and be present.

  

……….

  

           ‘Diana, sweet, let them not bait you. The man just saw a beautiful woman and he had let you know this. Was it really necessary to cut his lifeline… and his head too?’ Julius was talking in a teasing manner. He couldn’t care less about a human life. They were spineless chaps who didn’t even like blood. They lived less long than a century and they were inferior in everything to vampires. Slow of moving and feeble of health they were on a much lower rung of the ladder of evolution than Julius and his kind. He despised them completely.

            ‘I don’t take it when people treat me like some kind of cheap tat. By the way, this freshman was barely twenty-five. What was he thinking to call me honey? I’m nobody’s honey… You mustn’t laugh, Julius, I’m neither your sweet too. If you are nice to me, you may call me Lady Diana. We weren’t promised to each other… yet.’

            Julius knew when he had to restrain himself. Diana got queer once in a while and you couldn’t do anything about it. You had to let her spend her fury. After that, everything was as before. ‘Okay, Lady Diana, I’ve heard Dragosj will propose one of us to succeed him. What’s your reaction to this rumor?’

            She turned around to him. He had to admit she was very pretty when she was angry. Her long curly black hair swayed from left to right when she was pacing up and down the room. She had the figure of a mannequin, but her muscles were harder and stronger than much of her manly kindred. Her skin was milky white and her lips painted with red lip gloss drew a blood-red stripe through her pale face.

            Diana was still sulking, but she knew when to think and when she had to talk. ‘It’s not my role to comment on the choice of Lord Dragosj. If he chooses one of us, we have to be… honored.’ She looked into his brown gazelle eyes which didn’t show he was a real predator. His wavy brown hair gave him something feminine, but even his best friends wouldn’t say it to his face if they wanted to live another day.

            ‘Well… Lady Diana, if he chooses me, I will kindly refuse.’

            Diana looked surprised at him. She knew things didn’t go like they were supposed to go in the relation between her friend Julius and his maker, but to refuse the greatest honor amongst the vampire people, even for her this was a bridge too far. ‘Why should you be so… bloody stupid, Julius? Do you realize what you’re saying?’

            ‘I certainly know very well what I’m saying and it probably won’t be a surprise to him. I have my reasons. It’s not that I… am not capable or that I fear to disappoint in such a responsible position. I just don’t grant him this success. Period!’

            ‘Why I you so impossible when it goes about Dragosj? Can you tell me why or are you going to behave silly and say I wouldn’t understand? I can tell you beforehand that I disapprove greatly this attitude against women.’

            Julius laughed. ‘You’re special, Diana. I’ve said nothing to offend you and you blame me for things I didn’t even say. Really, it’s not that you wouldn’t understand, the fact is that I wouldn’t like to hurt your trust in Dragosj. I know you worship him and personally I can’t support that feeling anymore.’

            Diana frowned. ‘Every time we arrive at this point, you shut up. I wonder what Dragosj has done to you, that you bear such a grudge against him. Julius, it would feel good if you give vent to these feelings and maybe try to see the things in perspective. Maybe Dragosj isn’t the man you think he is.’

            At that moment, someone was knocking hard on the door.

            ‘Come in,’ Julius shouted.

            Markus entered hesitatingly. He probably had heard the quarrel between Diana and Julius and he wouldn’t like to be caught between the hammer and the anvil. He knew Diana could be aggressive and had heard about her latest victim in the bar she and Julius frequently visited.

            ‘You look paler than you used to, Markus,’ he welcomed him. ‘You have to feed yourself better. It will be good for your complexion. What’s happening that you have to disturb us like this?

            ‘Milosj and his bodyguards are murdered and Lord Dragosj calls the Elder Council together. Since you two are also members of this Council, I have to officially invite you to be in about…,’ he looked at his watch, ‘one and a half hour at the meeting table.’

            Both Diana and Julius looked startled. Milosj wasn’t a little fish and neither were his bodyguards. This was a full crisis. ‘Right, we’ll be there, Markus,’ Julius answered reluctantly. He knew now that he had still to appear before Dragosj. However, the death of one of their own meant that a2.ll conflicts had to be set on hold.

            Diana and Julius didn’t lose precious time and both of them took their black leather vest and departed for the meeting Dragosj had called together.

 

© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere 21/12/2014

 

 

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