Return to Rouen
Thus his first destination for his quest was Rouen, his birthplace. Raphael arrived in the region as the sun was setting down.
Before he arrived in Rouen, Raphael traversed the small impoverished town where Amy once lived. He rode his horse in the town and not surprisingly, nobody recognized him. People were more preoccupied with closing their stores and going home than to look at newcomers.
-It has been such a long time…
He passed in front of the alley where he met Amy seven years ago. He came to a halt with his horse. Amy's 'house' was not there anymore. The alley seemed as dirty as it was then, though.
He closed his eyes and thought about their encounter. When they were still human. When they were free. As he remembered their escapade, he realized that it may have been the best time of his life. Yes, he was wanted by the authorities and fleeing them but the trip from here to Toulouse seemed now only full of amusements. Sleeping under the stars, telling bedtime stories to Amy, teaching her things that were so new to her and seeing her marvelled gaze… watching her hop around happily in the field as he was relaxing in the grass, enjoying the sweet caress of the sun on his skin… Something he will never be able to do again. He sighed and lowered his head.
But he had no time for this kind of melancholy; he whipped his horse and went on the road leading to his family mansion. He stopped his horse near the Sorel domain and tied it to a tree out of the property then swiftly escaladed the stone wall. From the outside, nothing had changed. The flower garden, the light garden kiosk in the middle of it, the Greek mythology-inspired sculpted fountain and the alley of oaks… they were like Raphael remembered them.
Since he was in a melancholic mood, Raphael suddenly had memories of his life there and it wasn't always bad. He had some fun dancing flamenco with his mother's servants until late in the night or practicing his fencing skills with his weapon trainer, besting his little brother or some acquaintances at duels. The horse rides around the family domain were also pretty good memories… Raphael smiled. However the best times here where still those he spent reading his books in the solitude of his library.
But as he slowly approached the mansion in the dark, the bad memories also came back and he remembered the many unending evenings he had to organise to get new allies or strengthen the ties with the allies they already had. The lies he had to tell, the flatteries he had to say, the fake smiles and the time he had to lose socializing when all he wanted was to be left alone with his books. Blackmailing and manipulation were also very essential in this kind of life. Sometimes he couldn't tolerate this existence anymore and his cold and distant nature revealed itself, but he was always able to win back the people who felt rejected by his sudden coldness. He had too. He had no choice. It was all for the family's prestige. The only time he liked socializing was while dancing with the ladies or playing the very popular Jeu de paume, at least the game was fun. He missed those activities… Maybe he should buy rackets and play with Amy…
Other painful memories came back as well when he passed beside the fountain, as he remembered his sister Henriette crying near it as she was being dragged to the coach that would lead her to her future husband, a man she despised, an arranged marriage for the honour of the family. Since it was the best alliance they could make, he had stood there doing nothing to help her as it was her duty to sacrifice herself for the family. He even coldly pushed her back as she threw herself at him, begging him to save her from this miserable fate. He only saw her once after that. She died two year after at only twenty-one years old. He deeply regretted his lack of heart this day.
When he adopted Amy, he swore he would never force her to get married to someone she didn't like. In fact, he mostly wondered if he would accept the man Amy would choose one day, the man who would take his beloved little daughter away from him.
Now that he was just feet away from the mansion's walls, he also remembered that fateful evening where he came back from Monsieur de Savoie's mansion, slightly wounded from his fight with the demented man, but more destabilized and worried with what had happened. While his entire family was in his father's private study, he tried to explain to his father the details of this barbarous attack. He remembered the expression on his father's face, cold, hard, livid. He remembered his father getting his pistol out of his drawer and pointing it at him, more fearful of losing his position than his own son. As Raphael turned to implore his mother, he remembered her impassive stare while his father was ready to shoot him. His brother and sisters were all facing him with accusing glares. Then his father, still pointing his gun at him, ordered the women to leave the room and Raphael really knew this didn't look good. While his mother and sisters were leaving, his brother threw some insults at him that Raphael didn't really remember now; at the time, he had more important things to deal with than those petty insults. He remembered how he felt so alone, abandoned and betrayed by his family. Then the front door opened and Raphael heard the guards coming in to arrest him. As the guards entered the room, he remembered his father ordering them to take him out of his sight with rage and contempt in his tone. Then he didn't really remember everything: it all went so fast, but the next thing he knew, he had taken out his Flambert and was slashing and thrusting at the guards to defend himself. Then this projectile hit him on the left shoulder. Raphael turned and saw his father's furious stare as he was holding his still fuming pistol toward his son. Realizing with dismay his father really tried to kill him; Raphael ran outside the room and sliced among the reinforcing guards until he had to jump down the stair guardrail into the grand hallway and run outside where he sprinted for the forest nearby. He heard another gunshot and without even looking, he was certain that it was his father shooting at him again.
The music coming from inside the mansion took Raphael away from his memories. There was a celebration in the ballroom. People were talking and dancing.
-Good! The fools will be too busy to realise someone intrudes the mansion.
He entered by a window in a room he knew was not often visited, where his family stored their old furniture and curtains. In fact, it was a storage room.
Before he could get out of this room and go to his library, he suddenly heard some familiar voices in the corridor.
-Claude! Please behave yourself! Said a lady in her fifties who spoke with a Spanish accent.
Raphael recognized his mother. She was talking to his brother. She continued to speak.
-You already drank too much!
-Aww…Mother, please let me entertain myself! Don't you think I will have sufficient trouble soon enough?
-It is time you get married, Claude, answered his mother coldly. Stop complaining about it. You have waited long enough. You are twenty-seven years old. When I was your age, I already had four children of my own. Your sisters are all married and now it is your turn! You must get married and carry on the Sorel lineage. With your father's death you are now the true master of the family and you must take your responsibilities!
Father is dead? Raphael was surprised. Good riddance…
-You never bothered Raphael with that! He turned down countless marriage proposals and you let him free while you get me hooked with the first ugly hag you find!
Raphael was smiling at his brother's declaration. He putted his hand on his mouth to not let go a small giggle. This seemed a rather amusing situation…
- Be polite toward your future wife! She is from a very noble family! And Raphael knew which alliance would benefit the family; he was acting responsibly, not like you!
Raphael was pleased at his mother's statement. It was flattering…
-Yeah! Responsibly! He killed Monsieur de Savoir for nothing! Oh! That's responsible! He got us all into trouble with the Savoie family! Even with the king! I am so ashamed to have him as a brother! He dishonoured the family! But you still love him; you constantly compare me to him! He was always your favourite!
Raphael opened his eye wide in bewilderment. I was her favourite? She never showed me that… And if so, why did she let me down? Non, Claude must say that without thinking… He is so hasty and thoughtless… Just jealous and always complaining…
The lady seemed annoyed by her son's behaviour and sighed.
-Raphael was not my favourite.
What did I say? Silently replied Raphael with a knowing expression.
-He was wiser and calmer than you, though.
-You think it was wise to kill Monsieur de Savoie?
It's been seven years! Get over it! Raphael was exasperated and on the other side of the door, his mother seemed exasperated as well at Claude's remarks.
-He was wise until he… became mad. I don't now what took him to do such a crazy act.
Now Raphael was really upset. Mad. I became mad… You're revolting! Go away! You're starting to annoy me!
All Raphael wanted now was for them to leave so he could search for his books and go. To be branded as mad was too much of an insult.
The mother continued: But with your behaviour, you are not my favourite either! Now Claude, stop drinking and act like a gentleman should!
-Like Raphael? Scorning everybody and thinking of myself above everyone?
Would you want to know how Raphael would act right now? Thought Raphael as he was irately stroking the hilt of his rapier, really infuriated by his brother's insulting remarks and tired to be losing his time hidden behind this door.
-Nobody loved Raphael, except you, mother! And I have enough to talk about him! Why did you bring this subject again on the conversation?
-I would like to point to you that it was you who began to speak about him…
-Well, curse him! Curse my brother and may he rot in Hell forever!
Claude began to walk away.
The mother was offended at the remark and followed him, lecturing him on his behaviour.
Meanwhile Raphael was trying to calm down. He only wanted to trust his rapier into his brother right now and yell at his mother for calling him mad.
How dare they? I hate them!
After some time, he carefully opened the door and proceeded to go on his search for his treasured books. He entered the place where his library once stood. He was dismayed at the sight of it and somehow surprised even if he suspected it would have happened. Of his dearly and plentiful loved books, only a few of them remained on the shelves.
-I should have come sooner…
He was extremely disappointed and stood there despondent for about a full minute. He then pulled himself together and began to take the books that where left and put them in the bag he brought with him. He didn't hear someone coming toward the door as he was too busy with his books.
Claude suddenly entered and before he looked in front of him, he closed the door abruptly. He seemed really irritated. He then turned and came face-to-face with Raphael holding a bag and a book, looking at him with a surprised expression. His brother hasty entrance had startled him. Claude gasped and dropped his wine glass that shattered on the floor.
-Raphael! Are… Are you a ghost?
He was afraid of his brother seeing as Raphael's appearance had changed greatly since his transformation into a vampire. Raphael was taken aback at the question and completely lost his aggressiveness toward his brother.
Claude looked at him fearfully.
-…What are you doing here?...
-I… hum… am taking my books back. Where are the others? asked Raphael while taking back his proud attitude.
-Your other books? …They are gone. Father sold them.
-Damn! Raphael was too angry to hide it. He clutched his fists and stamped his foot brutally on the floor. His brother replied pitifully.
Raphael was really annoyed and for a moment he only cursed incomprehensively to himself.
-I'm in a very foul mood… Why did you sell my books? They were mine and mine alone!
-It was father who did it! And we never thought you would come back… We thought you were… dead. You're not? Claude asked him as if he weren't certain.
-Non. answered Raphael in an annoyed tone.
-Are you sick? Because you look kind of sick…
-Yes. I am. Sick of all who annoy me.
-I meant physically sick…
-Is it contagious? nervously asked Claude.
-If I wish it to be, enigmatically answered Raphael.
Claude didn't understand and said nothing. Just a brief 'Ah'.
Raphael then looked him in the eyes and told him, smiling cruelly.
-I heard what you and mother said shortly. You curse me and want me to rot in Hell?
-Euh… I… you know I said things I didn't really mean…
-You are such a coward, Claude. Since you are now the head of the family, you should have more honour and stand up for your actions. You said it, you meant it. Oh! I forgot, you have to be hypocrite now. So I suppose then you are on the right path… But mother is right, stop drinking…
Raphael suddenly remembered he hasn't drunk blood in a while. The thought abruptly obsessed him. Why did it seize him at any unpredictable moment?
-You have a lot of blue wine downstairs, don't you?
-Blue wine? Non, I have red, white and yellow. I never saw blue wine.
Raphael seemed to be absorbed in his thoughts so Claude wondered if he should go out of the room. He didn't like the strange expression of his brother. His mother was surely right when she said he was mad. He discreetly touched the doorknob and began to turn it.
-Non! Don't open it! Ordered his older brother. Claude froze.
Raphael smiled and asked Claude:
-So, you will marry an ugly hag?
Claude couldn't follow the trail of thought of his older brother and made a small nod of the head. He took this opening as an opportunity to leave.
-I have to go see her now if you'll excuse me…
-You are that eager to see her? She must not be that ugly then.
-Well, she is, but my duty, you know…
-Since when you preoccupies yourself with your duty? Won't you present her to me?
-Well… you are not supposed to be here… you are a wanted criminal, remember?...
Unable to stand his brother's creepy presence no more, Claude suddenly ran outside and shouted: I have to go now! Farewell brother!
Raphael went after him. He gripped his brother's wrist firmly.
-Non! Stay here! Present me your future wife and I can prevent your marriage!
-How? Oww… You're hurting me…
Raphael let go of his brother.
-You know how I always arranged things for our family? I can arrange it now for you…
-Are you trying to steal my future wife? Asked Claude distrustfully, rubbing his painful wrist. Even if he didn't want to marry, he always was jealous of his brother's charm and always felt uglier. The ladies always looked at Raphael, never at him.
-Non… I… I like blue wine… Pardon me… I…
Raphael seemed confused and ashamed.
Claude wondered why his brother was still speaking about this blue wine that doesn't even exist. He was definitely mad.
-I… don't understand you, Raphael…
Raphael himself didn't understand his shifting vampire nature. He hated when he was acting like that. He looked at his brother with a weary expression and said:
-I think I better leave with my books. Adieu.
He gracefully saluted his younger brother, turned his back at him and took the stairs, going out by the main entrance since no one was there. Claude let him go without a word. He was a little disturbed by his brother's strange and sinister visit, but he told no one about it.
The next day, Claude and his mother were eating their breakfast. A servant came to Claude and bowed to him.
-Monsieur, there has been a terrible incident happening this night. A peasant made the discovery this morning and told us. We sent someone to fetch the guards… Some of your guests have been attacked and …killed on the road as they left the party.
-Monsieur le comte de Verneuil, his wife, their daughter and her husband. They were found near the domain. Their coach had crashed into a tree. It seemed it was a planned attack and there were traces of a fight. The men have received many rapier wounds… But…
The servant seemed troubled by what he was about to say.
-… What was strange is that they all had… bite marks on their neck and were completely drained of their blood… Except the driver who was only killed in the fight. We found a book near the crime scene in a small ditch. A book about mysteries and alchemy.
Claude finally understood.
-Blue wine… Oh, mon Dieu!
Horrified, he dropped his glass of wine again.