Chapter 57 - Priest
Martha arrived with the tea, and the priest invited them to seat themselves. She served them and excused herself. He watched them stir their tea and frowned when they sipped at the hot brew which proved delicious.
“She can’t cook anything other than meat stew, but the tea is worth it,” the priest relented, and they grinned at his wry comment.
“Mother baked the most delicious pastries, and she sold them throughout our town from the butchery to the home of our master, but she couldn’t cook water without burning it. Father used to cook, and he made meat stew from the rabbits or small antelopes he caught in the forest,” Marcus reciprocated, and the priest seemed taken aback when he realized that Marcus was once human.
“I grew up in the kitchen of our landowner, and for a while when I was younger, I was chubby, curious, and quite adventurous, which meant I always broke things,” he smiled, and it changed his whole face. His eyes remained wary, but he became less tense.
“If my mother weren’t the best cook in all of our fair county, Baron Ulrich would probably have murdered me. Fortunately, he was a kindly man, and since my father died when I was a babe, he felt responsible for me. I took a while to realize he had an eye on my mother. She was as plain as I am, but she had a beautiful soul. He was a lonely man, and far too aware of his station to act on his love for her, but he treated her well until the day she died,” when he said those words they saw the grief, in his eyes.
“She barely turned thirty-four, and I remember her joking with her assistant over some small thing. She took a pan out of the fire and just keeled over. Blood trickled from her nose, and that was that. I was twelve years old, and I had no one. The baker, a bitter, jealous woman, grabbed me by my arm, looked down at me, and I would never forget her words. ‘That’s that then. She got struck down for sleeping with the master like some whore.’ I almost struck her, but it would have dishonored the memory of my mother if I did,” he hesitated with a tinge of anger in his manner that he conquered with ease.
“My mother never gave into her infatuation with the Baron. She wasn’t the type. He kept me around. When I turned sixteen, the Baron departed in his sleep at forty-four, and to this day I believe he died from a broken heart. He kept the last cookie she baked in a drawer in his desk, and he left me just enough money to see me through seminary school where he secured me a place,” his fondness of the Baron showed clearly as the man was the only father figure he ever had.
“Do you often think of your parents?” The priest asked of Marcus with a directness that forced an answer.
“Every day,” Marcus admitted.
“Did you kill them?” He asked, and Marcus frowned.
“No, the people in our village did that after they found out what I was. I returned when the turn passed because I just wanted to say goodbye, but someone saw me hunting in the forest. I visited them twice, and for that, the villagers slaughtered and burned them,” Marcus admitted. He never even told Rowan and Alena this.
“Why didn’t you kill them for what they did?” The priest asked.
“Because I knew them. They were good people that did in fear what they would not otherwise do,” Marcus admitted, and the priest frowned as he stacked his fingers under his chin, seemingly out of habit.
“You say you didn’t kill them, but you believe that you did. You realized you shouldn’t have gone back, but your humanity compelled you to do just that,” the priest summarized.
“I thought we would discuss a different monster,” Marcus tried to cut the conversation short that careened into areas where he never intended it to go.
“So you see yourself as a monster?” The priest asked, and Marcus became still as he wondered where the man was heading with this conversation.
“You didn’t kill your parents. Your neighbors acted out of instinct, only armed with the knowledge placed there by the worst of your kind. They murdered innocent friends out of fear and hatred. You could no more have stayed away from them: than you could have prevented what you became. I always wondered how much of your humanity remained inside your kind,” the priest murmured, and Marcus frowned, while the girls tried to keep their expressions neutral as their visit turned into a therapy session.
“I’m sorry. I am always first a priest, and then a man,” he apologized without really meaning his apology.
“They were right to fear. Even we fear made creatures, and the council rarely extends permission to turn a mortal. Marcus fell victim to an attack, and the turn forced upon him. If we found the one who made him, we would have killed her,” Alena explained, and the priest listened to her with real interest.
“Most turned humans rarely gain back their self-control, and some of them are too volatile, unstable or unpredictable for us to allow them to live. Those like Marcus, who survive the turn and keep their lives, develop immense self-control, but they never quite lose their humanity. Pure vampires, especially after a few generations, are unsympathetic, arrogant, callous and cruel,” Alena admitted, and he nodded as if he suspected as much.
“You two are sisters. I would say you share the same father, but not the same mother. You are pure, but she seems somehow different,” his perception seemed uncanny, Alena realized, and the others suspected much the same thing.
“Yes, my father had me with his wife Carla, but he had a relationship out of wedlock with Rowan’s mother, a human. She was born a Damphir, but she has become a vampire,” Alena allowed, carefully choosing her words.
“So day walkers are real, but she isn’t one anymore?” He asked. How had he picked up on the subjects most tender to each of their hearts? Marcus’s guilt over his family and the way they died. Arlene’s issues with her father’s infidelity and Rowan who lost her ability to walk in the sun.