It took me almost a year of hiding and backtracking to make it safely to Ireland. The green jewel in the summer sea seemed remote enough to offer me a safe existence, far from the watchful gaze of Marcus and his minions. I hoped to find my beloved William there, but as the weeks turned to months, and the months to years, I despaired that such a reunion might never occur. I listened of course, for the stories of the men on distant shores fighting their great battles against the marauders from the sea, hoping to hear his name, but alas, I never did. The years became decades and the decades, a century and I lost all hope that William and I would ever meet again, for his mortal life had surely ended years ago. Though no man would ever fill my heart like William had with his kindness and giving nature, I grew lonely and did hope to find another to warm my heart if not fill it completely. It was a bizarre twist of fate that the next man to romance me into his arms shared the same name as the man who had taken me from my beloved so many long years before.
Tristan caught my eye while on a mission for the Church. He had claimed to hunt heretics and witches and was based at the monastery of Lindisfarne. I met him by chance outside the monastery walls when I attended the markets the monks held each week of summer to support their income. From my small cottage upon a hill, I could see much of what went on within the monastery walls. I had watched the monks at work for long hours each day and as I collected herbs and barks for my potions, I had heard them whistle delightful tunes. I had become something of an apothecary over the past century. Within my humble abode, stone and occasionally glass phials lined the walls containing all manner of herbs, spices, minerals and pigments. Though I lived distant from the village, people often wandered to my cottage to gain medicines for whatever plague or discomfort ailed them. I had spent most of my last lifetime studying the effects of various poisons and intoxicants on subjects - animal and human alike. I had then used my knowledge and skills to devise antidotes, or at least treatments, to many of the poisons. I sold, for a few coins a soldier’s protection kit, containing barks, herbs and charcoal that provided antidotes and relief for the common poisons used to lace the blades of weapons. The main offenders were the venoms of poisonous sea creatures, such as the pufferfish – it is very toxic with the effect of paralysing the poor soul whose skin was incised with a blade covered in the toxin, and yet they remain fully conscious and aware of their situation. The venom of the sea-snake too was a potent paralyser and becoming increasingly common as the shipping routes were extended into tropical waters. I had potions and elixirs for just about everything a person could expect to need at that time. I had even managed to make a concoction against the dreaded bubonic plague, but the mould used to make it had a limited shelf-life and an infected person had only a short time to be treated before blood-poisoning would take them to their quick and painful death. On the darker side, I also manufactured protective ointments – one in which you could poison a captor and escape their evil clutches. I sold these only to woman and it was a secret that they were even created. Only the most trusted could acquire a salve to render their raping ‘husband’ impotent, or a draught that would ensure sleep carried their aggressive master away before they had the opportunity to punish. It was in this collection that I created a red pigment so lethally toxic to vampires that I took great care not to expose my own skin to it. It contained a fatal blend of mercury-based pigments that poisoned the unwelcome visitor. I called it Blood-Rose, a name sure to entice a vampire, for there were naught amongst us who could resist the temptation of anything offering blood. I then circulated rumours of its existence and ‘magical’ properties within the community. A population grown fearful since the onslaught from the Vikings had begun and since the witch trials shredded communities across Europe and moved ever westward towards us. In all honesty, there was nothing magical about the original pigment – except that it took the immortal life of a vampire away and its reputation as something powerful was mere rumour spread to entice greedy vampires to be exposed to it. The beautiful red of its paint made it a favourite amongst the monks who decorated their books with illuminations bright and beautiful in the quiet hours of their days. I sold a great deal of this and a rich blue I extracted from ultramarine to the monks at Lindisfarne.
On occasion a vampire would knock on my door and request a tattoo with the pigment. Of course I would oblige, as far as I was concerned there were far too many vampires in the world. Not one of them survived I am happy to report. At one point a vampire woman of such regal standing visited me and procured a significant amount of the pigment along with other medicinal potions and elixirs. She was beautiful and exotic and claimed to be the wife of the new king, Arthur – a man rumoured to be fair and just. I did not usually ask what my potions and unguents were to be used for, sometimes it was better not to know, but this woman seemed to read my mind and answered me before I had voiced the question.
“In the service of the Light,” she had answered.
“Against the Darkness?” I had continued the conversation out loud.
“Against those who are evil and dark of heart and soul.”
I nodded and thought that there was no better way to employ my services than in aiding this woman fight the darkness that surrounded and attempted to overwhelm us in these mediaeval times.
“I welcome your support, Isölde.” She spoke my true name, though I had not used it in such a long time.
I had spread the rumour that Isölde had died many years past and even created a head stone for her fictitious grave. I claimed that I was her very distant relative: Jordan. This woman knew me for who I was despite my charade and this was cause to eye her suspiciously.
“Your secret is safe with me, Isölde. I guard many secrets.”
I nodded and wrapped her purchases in a piece of handmade paper procured from the monks.
“May I ask your name great guardian?” I asked her.
“My name is Guinevere, and I take you, Isölde, into my confidence for the information we have just shared. There will be much darkness in both of our futures – but eventually the light will come – hold on to that belief, for it is as true as I stand before you – whatever darkness you face, believe the Light will come for you. It will not be soon; there is much hardship yet to come, but give us service and we will bring you to the Light.”
I nodded, shook her hand when she reached for mine and watched her depart, my hand now filled with a generous purse full of gold coins. It was an odd message Guinevere had given me, but one she had professed with such intensity that I believed her. There was something different and strong about her. I believed she was a Guardian in the sacred sense of the word. It is that belief that got me through the great period of darkness that would consume most of the next millennium of my immortal life. If that woman had not made that statement at that time – then I am sure I would have succumbed to the ease and temptations of the darkness so soon after having been exposed again.
It was here in Ireland that the second Tristan stole my heart. He had come as a witch hunter and my apothecary obviously was the target of his raid, but from the moment his eyes caught mine I was enamoured of this man. He reminded me naught of the other Tristan who had taken and turned me. This Tristan appeared kind and caring. He gave me flowers and fruit and courted me so sweetly I was certain he would fail in his duty to eliminate the ‘witch’ and her apothecary. It was a long time after Guinevere’s visit that he came, but I remember it as though the two events were quite close together – and when compared to the span of my life – they were close.
Tristan invited himself into my life, and it was an invitation I felt no need to turn away. He romanced me with sweet sonnets and delicate verse. He loved me with a passion I had not felt since the days of William. I feared and questioned him naught until on one of his visits I noticed the red stork on his back. I had seen the stork before, on flags in a tent. The tent where I had first seen my captor wrapped tenderly in the arms of his lover. I recall that a sudden flush of adrenalin had heated my soul. My Tristan could not be the Tristan of before – I had killed him, decapitated him with the blade. It wasn’t possible that this man who made love to me now, was the same man who had taken me and bent my will to his own selfish desires. I dared not ask him in the beginning. I did wonder what pigment had made that tattoo though – it was bright red like my Blood-Rose concoction, but had it been that he would have become sickly and died – no vampire or human could survive the accumulation of mercury in their blood stream. Stupid men used quicksilver as an elixir for stomach ills, but it did not cure such ills – unless you count death as a cure. Mercury poisoning made a human cry out like a cat; they would lose muscular control and become a virtual vegetable – helpless but for the aide of others, in a vampire it was quick and lethal, but not it appeared in Tristan. I had to ask, there was no way to find out otherwise.
“Tristan, is your tattoo of Blood-Rose?” I asked hesitantly, running my fingers over the thin-legged bird.
“Aye…it is…what of it?”
“Where did you get it?”
“My mother made it – each of her children is tattooed as such,” he replied.
My mind started reeling – that wasn’t possible. If they were human they should be deathly ill, if vampire dead…why did it not work on him? I was glad at that point in time that he was not dead, for he loved me so perfectly, but there was no logic in his existence…unless…could there be a resistance? Was it possible that some were actually resistant to the effects of mercury?
“Is it magic?” I asked hesitantly, for that was the original rumour that had allowed me to lure unsuspecting greedy vampires to their quick silver deaths.
“Aye it is!”
How was that possible? It made no sense what so ever. It was just pigments and blood, ground together – there was little in it to be magical – what had I created? Was it even possible? Did magic truly exist? The curse of my ring had told me it did, but I preferred not to believe that it was so easy to access. I used only the natural chemicals in plants and minerals to treat natural ills, but this was not that kind of elixir!
“You are a vampire – are you not?” I asked, knowing full well that he was, but had never told me.
“Aye – as are you.”
It made absolutely no sense, unless he was connected to someone who really did dabble in magic.
“May I ask of your parents, My Love?”
“You may…my mother is Morgan Le Fay and my father is Marcus Medici.”
I know I must have grown pale with his admission. This Tristan was the son of Marcus, whose lover I had killed centuries ago…and Morgan Le Fay – well her name said it all really – Morgan the Faery! I was in way over my head and I knew it instantly. The next time Tristan left on business, I had to escape. I had to leave and go into hiding. That darkness that the maiden Guinevere had spoken of was about to tap me on the shoulder!
Was I doomed to be a hopeless romantic? A girl whose relationships with men were too complicated to allow the true love she hoped to find. My experiences so far had been tormented to say the least and torturous at most. I was torn between the deep affection I honestly felt for this Tristan and the utter fear I felt knowing who his namesake had been. Had this all been a ploy of Marcus to redeem a punishment upon me for slaying his lover? Was I once again a puppet manipulated by the strings of a man who wielded dark magic against me? How could that be? How could I have fallen for a man who was so inappropriate?
Tristan’s hand slid up my naked hip.
“What tortures your mind so?” he asked.
“Do you love me?” I asked swallowing hard with the question.
“Indeed I do,” he answered and claimed my mouth with his.
As I returned his kiss, I wondered just how much he loved me. Would he plead my case with his father, should he ever find out my true identity? Did I have a hope to survive this affair?
“Jordan, you seem distracted, what troubles you so?”
I looked into his worried eyes and knew that I could never tell him. I smiled.
“…that you tease me so and have not yet given me the sweet release of climax,” I winked.
“Well now, that I can accommodate,” he said and rolled me beneath him as he spread my legs with his knees. He plunged deep within in me and although I knew that this was my Tristan, not the one from a life so long ago that it barely mattered, my thoughts kept returning to that other Tristan and the way he manipulated and ensnared me. I felt my Tristan moving inside me, rubbing his hardened shaft against the soft tissue of my sex, but it was not enough – my mind was not on the task at hand and try as he might, with this method he would not make me orgasm.
His frustration grew as I moved no nearer to climax. He withdrew from me and moved his whole body down the bed. This time he stimulated my sex with his tongue. He licked long lavish strokes upon the folds of my swollen flesh and consumed the nub at the apex. His fingertips were delicate but probing and his determination pushed through the barriers my mind had created by my distracted thoughts. By body began to betray my mind as I moaned against his movements and pushed the mound of my eager flesh against his feverish tongue. Harder, faster and with greater friction he licked at my writhing sex until as I ran my fingers through his blonde hair I cried out beneath his touch and reached for handfuls of bedding, my hips lifting from the bed as I came hard against his mouth.
He lifted his mouth and smiled at me and the moved up my body plunging his erection deep between my legs and impaling me on his shaft. He pumped within me hard and fast seeking his own sensory salvation. As he thrust I sank my fangs into his shoulder and the hot stream of his seed exploded within me, he shook above me and then sank his own fangs into my neck. I felt a moment of utter joy and then a terrible fear as my heart beat changed and started to beat in time with his. Something had just happened. Something deep and mysterious and I knew instinctively that I was in a whole host of trouble now.