For some years hence I travelled alone, afraid to tempt fate again by trying another transformation. But my longing for a companion and my aching need for love compelled me to look for another willing candidate. Only then could I experiment further with the elixir of immortality.
The fall of the Roman Empire brought about change, at first with chaos and anarchy and then with hope, prosperity and vitalization. A more enlightened civilization grew beyond the boundaries of Rome, Greece, North Africa and Asia Minor, although later the world would sink into the Dark Ages, a time when science, physics, astronomy and the arts remained stagnant until the rebirth of order and creativity ushered in the Renaissance period.
And throughout these times I still prevailed. I headed north, to the Nordic encampments of the Vikings where I christened myself Erivan. There I found a handsome and hearty lover named Leif. Leif possessed a strong, muscular body, a swash of blonde hair and blue eyes, as clear as the North Sea along which he often sailed. Alas, my Leif lasted as long as Penelope, barely a hundred and thirty years.
And yet I continued my quest. In Britannia, I pursued life as Elsinore during the Plantagenet succession, and took as my lover a fearless, brawny and handsome knight named Sir Rolf of Black Heath. We spent many sublime years together Rolf and I—some calm and steady and others turbulent and thrilling—but Rolf, too, left me far too early. Yet heedless of my failures, I knew success would come in time.
As Eleanor, I began a new romance with Doric Mandrake, the son of a prosperous shop owner in London. Although not handsome and sturdy in the usual sense, Doric possessed a thoughtful, intelligent and creative nature that was reflected in his large brown eyes. He wrote plays and acted in them, his troupe of fellow thespians always ready to perform at a moment’s notice.
Doric counted among his associates the playwrights William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, already well-known for their stage dramas. Life with my lover and his coterie of friends and colleagues proved sublimely fun and entertaining. As time passed, Doric and I moved to Glasgow, Vienna, Dublin and Berne, eventually returning to London where we cultivated a new set of creative personae. But alas, like my other lovers, Doric left me far too early.
I then settled in Italy where I met and fell in love with the handsome and gentle Florio Garibaldi, the son of a nobleman. The Garibaldis owned a vast estate where their tenant farmers and vintners produced fine grains and wines. Upon my marriage to Florio, I became the Contessa Elena Garibaldi. We traveled in the ensuing years as those around us began to age and we did not.
Unfortunately, Florio was never a robust man and he succumbed early to a genetic disease that could not be reversed with my infusion of immortal life. We had been together for only forty years, but I felt as if we had a hundred or more years of passionate bliss together. Thankfully, Florio had been a very generous man, endowing me with land, money and jewelry, and I could go on as a rich widow, now the Contessa Solieri, the name adopted from the family accounts manager, Valente Solieri, who was also my good friend as well as my lover.
Since I had no need of the estate, I sold it to Valente for a generous sum. Then I settled in Spain where I took the personage of Dona Estella Valdez, my new companion and lover a vivacious and enigmatic woman named Genorosa Balboa, a dancer of the Seguidilla style who possessed thick raven hair and lush umber eyes that reflected her fiery nature and passion. Unfortunately, her time was cut short by a jealous former lover who stabbed her viciously. As I held the dying and bleeding Genorosa in my arms, she whispered her farewell words. “How I love you, my darling Estella. You have given me a beautiful life, beyond any other I could imagine. But now I must die. I only ask that you think of me often.” I certainly would, her memory with me always as was those of my beloved Penelope, Leif, Rolf, Doric, and Florio. And like the others, I placed her ashes in a lovely cask that went with me everywhere.
Taking again the name of Contessa Elena Solieri, I returned to England where I met Charles Lambert, the Fifth Earl of Bellmore. Charles lasted longer than any of my companions, and our relationship took a thrilling turn as we ventured to France and found ourselves in the midst of intrigue and deception in the court of Louis XVI and the start of the French Revolution.
Now I must face the fact that Charles’ time had come to an end, long before I want to release him from my all-abiding love. Yet I have to let go and move on, although I will always have Charles with me when he takes his place among my other loves in the shrine of memories.
After her visitors left, Ellen returned to the upstairs bedroom. Charles had fallen into a deep sleep in which he hadn’t awakened. Death eased some of the ravages of time along his face and body. It seemed appropriate that he remained dressed in his Georgian attire. Ellen would remember him like this, a proud and elegant man who abandoned his stately duties in order to give her abundant joy and love. She remembered the night of the autumn harvest ball at the Lambert estate. Charles had whisked her expertly around the dance floor with all eyes focused on the handsome couple.
Ah, memories. They remained her steadfast companions when her flesh and blood lovers left her. Ellen wanted to feel sorrow for her new loss, some grief, but that heady emotion refused to surface. She had accepted Charles’ passing some time ago before he even began to deteriorate.
Thoughts of Suzan Dwyer kept Ellen from falling into a wistful state as she prepared Charles’ body for cremation. As with her past lovers, she felt certain every time that her special blend of blood and elixir would work to achieve immortality, to be like her forever and ever. Charles had asked Ellen in the beginning of their relationship if there were other immortals besides her. Ellen couldn’t say. She had met only one other immortal during her many travels, situations and identities, but that relationship had ended in tragedy. Perhaps the gods only bestowed this gift on the most deserving, even though Ellen never felt very deserving of such an honor. It had been pressed upon her by an ambitious and scheming Egyptian queen. Then again had the Goddess Nor-Sekhmet chosen her out of all the others on earth for this special endowment, to truly live as an immortal as the gods themselves did? If so, then why couldn’t she utilize such a power for her own benefit? She had tried, over and over again, with only a fraction of success.
But this time it will work, she told herself, experiencing something akin to foresight and a definite prediction of success. She knew it now, felt it, smelled it, and tasted it.
Suzan Dwyer would be her final and everlasting love.