Aleron: Book One of Strigoi Series (Stringoi Series) (8 page)

Though she posed the admonishment as a question, I dared not answer. I just stared at her. I had no answer. I had heard her clearly warn me, yet I continued in a fiendish rage.

“Knowing what you are is just as important as knowing how to live as you are, Aleron!” Her voice, while remaining stern, had love and forgiveness in it, perhaps even pity.

“Those men could have killed you! You could have drowned in the black water. Had I truly left your side, you would have perished. And even more devastating, they could have caught you! Catching you would spell doom for the rest of us. You can’t allow your petty pride and vanity to endanger your life, let alone all of our lives. You must understand your limitations and your weaknesses if you’re to know who you truly are and realize your true potential.”

I remembered that look. I first received it from my mortal mother, Camilia, when she was lecturing my sister and me about God’s word and how we were charged with spreading His word. We were to devote our entire lives to this notion. “Everything else pales in comparison to the glory God would bestow upon thee,” she would say. Though my sister listened attentively to every syllable, I was more interested in what all teenage males were interested in—teenage females. My mother knew me all too well. Nevertheless, she tried desperately to get through to her son. After several failed attempts at gaining my attention and acknowledgment of our duty, she gave me a look similar to the one now delivered from my immortal mother, one of disappointment. Mynea’s silent expression unearthed memories from when I was a defiant child. I thought of my mortal family. Until that moment, they had been lost to me.

The look of disappointment in her eyes faded. “Aleron, be mindful not to interfere with the lives of those who knew you as a mere mortal. It’s forbidden to return to loved ones and acquaintances after transformation. We’re taught this for good reason. The road to rekindling past relationships with our mortal families and friends leads to intense pain and suffering—the likes of which I desire you never to experience.”

I wanted to ask why, but before I could, she answered, “Your mortal feelings will return and linger about for an eternity. You will live forever, and your mortals will certainly die. Loneliness, then sorrow would follow. And loneliness, my prince, is the very reason some of our kind go mad. It’s an incredible blessing to live for an eternity; however, it’s a curse if misunderstood.”

She stopped as if interrupted or just alerted to some interloper, “Aleron, come with me. Dawn is near, and we need to get back to the castle.”

I stood and took her hand. As we began our journey back to the
castle, I realized we weren’t far from where I had slipped into the water. We took to the treetops, enabling me to see the ground below, where limbs and body parts were scattered about. I counted eleven heads, including the crushed skull hanging from a detached spine near the base of the oak. Four were dispatched by my hand. Mynea must have slaughtered the rest before she pulled me from the water. This would explain the many incoherent thoughts and visions filling my head while she fed me.

We returned to the castle and again to her bedchamber. “Your body will feel numb soon and you’ll be unable to move. The scars that tell the story of your encounter will be but a memory when you awake. You’ll be as beautiful and radiant as you were at the start of this night. Rest now, my child. Embrace your slumber with open arms.”

I still couldn’t speak. I simply did exactly what she told me. I lay on an animal fur next to a roaring fire, welcoming the warmth. I tried to keep my eyes on her as she disrobed, but my sight became blurry. I felt like a paralytic. Alas, I could only bear witness to the flickering light of the flame growing dimmer and dimmer, until it was no more. I heard nothing. I felt nothing. I wasn’t drowning this time, simply resting.

As always, when I awoke, Mynea was already awake. She was again standing at the same great window intently studying the night’s full moon. Her thoughts, I imagined, were of a distant place, one unfamiliar to me. Suddenly she turned around as I stood. “Come to me, Aleron.”

She didn’t need to ask. I walked toward her, desiring a much-needed embrace, to feel her immense power. She loved me. I knew that once I touched her, she would never let any harm befall me. And I, her. The thought of any harm to my queen would drive me to madness. If love is, then blood is.

Mynea and I carried on in this fashion until a routine developed. The nights became weeks, and weeks became years. We dutifully left the castle in search of victims. My bloodlust began to match hers. My strength even began to rival hers. I knew this to be true because, though Mynea loved to be held, it aroused her more to exert her will on me, to show me what true power she beheld. This was proving to be more and more difficult as the years progressed. As my vampire abilities began to
manifest themselves under her constant tutelage, I became faster than my mother. I could leap higher and farther.

In my eagerness to please her, I drove myself hard to learn the lessons she gave. The results exceeded both our expectations. Though gravity still held a firm grip on my mother, it started to lose its grip on me. More and more often I led our airborne travels, holding Mynea in my arms. She would look upon me as though she were a proud mother observing an obedient son. Hunting became second only to breathing. I had a true vampire’s lust for it. The choice. The lure. The capture. The dance. And, of course, the blood. It was all so enchanting.

Upon our return, we alighted as one, and always directly to the bedchamber we would go. Expressions of our love would completely eclipse the amour shared by Romeo and Juliet. We followed blissful lovemaking with hours of conversation, Mynea answering as many questions as I could ask. I madly wanted to know about the ancient abyssal eyes I experienced through her thoughts, but I restrained myself from asking, though not knowing filled me with discontent. Nevertheless, intercourse with her would always comfort me.

Our lovemaking often began with Mynea pressing my head to her neck and allowing me to drink. While I drank, she would explore my body and further stimulate my desires until I reached complete and total rapture. Finally, we would drift into the type of sleep that only a vampire could ever know—slumber that numbed and nourished our entire bodies while drawing together vivid pictures and encounters that linked all of our kind. Dreams more akin to latent memories, never to be forgotten once transmitted during our sleep. We would awake strong and fully refreshed.

The rules that governed the life of a vampire were taught to me. Mynea would speak of them mostly while we were hunting. Many, I admit, were self-explanatory and simple, but there were some that baffled me.

“Aleron, I know you’ll eventually long for your mortal family.” She was right. I couldn’t deny that I periodically thought of my mother and sister. Many a time I would see acquaintances while hunting near Alexandria; however, I would purposely avoid places my mother and sister frequented.

“You once had a life as a mortal. You must forget that life and never attempt to return to it. It’s gone, forever. You’ll simply become a loving memory to your mortal family and all others who knew you. You must never try to see them or let them discover you as you are now.”

I understood this from the previous lectures, but the understanding didn’t eliminate the desire to see them again. However, I was still determined to obey her commands.

Life at that time was complete bliss, except when Mynea withdrew and became distant. When this happened, I would sometimes ask her to tell me what was bothering her, for it was still virtually impossible to penetrate her thoughts, and she would simply reply, “Nothing of your concern, my love.” Hearing the words “my love” escape her lips was often all it took for my unease to subside.

 

The second defining event following my transformation into a vampire happened one night when Mynea and I were preparing for a hunt. I had noticed earlier in the evening that there was something different about Mynea. Then my suspicion was confirmed when I saw it in her eyes as she touched my face.

“My dear, Aleron. My love. My prince. My king. My lord. I won’t join you this night. I must tend to other affairs. You shall hunt without me.” If it weren’t for my keen senses, I wouldn’t have noticed the slight quiver in her voice as she spoke. Mynea’s expressions to many were undetectable, but not to me.

Before I could ask to accompany her, she slowly and subtly shook her head, solemnly signifying the request would be denied. I remained silent as I kissed her lips, then I took to the night sky.

I couldn’t understand why she chose not to hunt with me, nor what affairs she spoke of. However, I wasn’t terribly concerned, either. I wanted to hunt alone, for I knew wherever I went, she would surely be close. She would no longer be there for protection, only for companionship. She was my bride. Everything was for her. I would often sneak out
and bring her flowers, which she would discover upon opening her eyes. I learned how to mask my feelings around her so she wouldn’t suspect what I was doing. I began to fall asleep after she would, always in my arms. I would pass my hands softly and attentively through her hair, then I would kiss her lips, her cheeks, her nose, and her forehead as she slept. This would be my ritual until I, too, fell asleep.

Mynea meant everything to me, and as I reached southern Cairo, I couldn’t stop thinking of her. Now there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that nearly equaled that of the anticipated blood meal. I was longing for her. That longing did not go away as the evening progressed.

The night was wet with a steady rain, perfect ambiance for enjoying the victim I’d been tracking for several weeks now. Eli was wanted for every crime one could think of: theft, kidnapping, rape, even murder. He began his evil deeds in Sharkia, in Lower Egypt. Understand that Lower Egypt was north of Upper Egypt. The name came from the upstream flow of the Nile River, which separated the two regions.

Eli was a middle-aged man who had a commanding stature. His size demanded respect from others. His voice was deep and raspy. He had a habit of chewing on twigs or the shriveled butts of used cigars. He was in the habit of spitting awful-looking globs out of the side of his mouth. One may wonder what attracted me to this vile specimen. It wasn’t his disgusting disposition, nor his habit of wearing the clothing of his victims. Eli personified what my kind truly represented. He took whatever he wanted without regard to law or the well-being of his fellow man. He stole possessions of the lowly as well as the aristocrat. Watching him do his deeds provided entertainment for me on countless nights. I would often feed in places where I knew he would be, just to observe his wretched ways. It was a true delight.

The townspeople thought he was responsible for the many disappearances, and they feared him. I continued hunting in his territory, and as a result, he was blamed for things he didn’t do, things he couldn’t do, such as murders in the dozens.

During this time I often wondered how long Mynea had watched me. I wanted to know why she chose to give birth to me instead of feeding upon me. Why did she choose to love me and not to bury me or leave
my carcass to the rodents? I guess I was more than Eli, much more than he would ever be.

I guess one could say that I was responsible for all of his murders the day I decided to kill him and didn’t. Sure, I could have dispatched him whenever I wanted and perhaps prevented bloodshed by his hand; but who was I to prevent bloodshed? Eli represented much more than an interesting meal. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to study him. I wanted to know him.

I admired his cunningness and uncompromising skill at disposing of his victims. I was amused by his arrogance. I witnessed many of his chilling encounters with those unfortunate enough to cross his path. The theft of an old lady’s possessions after he knocked her unconscious with a swift punch of his hairy fist. The rape and sodomizing of a young man and his wife, the death of the woman, and the man left to be tormented by his memories for the rest of his life. Of course, I couldn’t let him go on living under such anguish. I, after Eli vanished, took whatever life he had left. I considered it a mercy killing.

I witnessed dear Eli slitting the throat of a local merchant for his money. He later went to the man’s home, having acquired his keys and address from his belongings, and visited with his family. He forced the man’s wife to cook for him, pleasure him as if he were the patron of the house, and then killed her and their daughter. He overlooked a young boy who was hiding, so I took it upon myself to relieve the child of the miserable life he would endure as an orphan. Of course, I don’t kill children, for children are inherently innocent, and this case was no exception. I simply peeked into the child’s mind and took him to a relative’s home, where I left him with enough gold to be cared for until adulthood.

Eli was neither neat nor discrete in disposing of his victims’ corpses. Though he knew he was wanted, he still did not clean up his messes. Perhaps he knew one day he would be caught. This notion was correct. He just didn’t know he was going to be caught by me, the slayer of men. Eli didn’t know that darkness had chosen him that day in late September.

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