Chapter 1 DEATH DAY
They always had a feast this time of the year. The New Year carnival drew plenty of tourists to the area, especially those escaping the cold winters. The main attraction to the Corcovado Mountains was the Christo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer. (He always thought the Conselho was after the irony, people losing their lives at the feet of the redeemer.) Although the statue of Christ was visible from afar, they could always count on the human’s curiosity or love of art to come closer. The Conselho had built their fortress at the peak of the mountain centuries ago, the humans assumed it was part of the statue. Where they could pray and seek solace at Jesus’ feet.
During the day they feasted on the curious and religious and at night the lovers. The beaches of Rio were a romantic hot spot. They knew they would find several couples snuggling on the Copacabana beach. Unsuspecting lovers who thought life could not get much better.
They weaved through the streets chasing after their own. The Conselho authority had been challenged by a rebel society. They posed a danger to the order of power, in the governance of the immortals. He stood with his second and third in command flanking him. Leo and Rick were the only immortals he trusted. Stephan watched as his men caught their targets one by one. They had orders to immediately execute them. A sudden change of allegiance or surrender was not to be taken into account. There were no second chances.
He stood over their burning corpses, a sneer on his face. He stopped feeling when he was turned into the creature he was now. A soulless monster, there was no turning back so he embraced his new role in the world and did what was expected of him.
As they tracked some of the vampires to the far border of the Ipanema beaches he spotted a female. She did not look human, she had to be a vampire. Considering she was on their territory he assumed just as much.
No other supernatural creature was allowed to cross into their land. A war would be declared because of it. It was their way of ensuring their safety and power. Any other creature that was not their own was a threat to be eliminated at sight.
She was beautiful as the night light danced around her curves. She had her hands stretched out and was spinning around. He was taken by her and her childish like manner. She played in the water, running into the crashing waves and letting them engulf her. He abandoned his men and stepped forward to watch her, no one questioned him. No one ever dared, he was capable of merciless things, and because of that fear, and his men never questioned him. When she spotted him, she stood still and stared at him. They looked at each other for a while, and then he broke the connection and headed back to the coven. She occupied his thoughts through to the next night. His dazed stares into mid-air weren’t missed. At the council meeting, the other vampires could tell he was distracted.
Marquis was the only one to ask, she held favor with him and he with her. Even with this closeness, he couldn’t tell her about the lady of the moon. And though she tried to use other means she could never penetrate through the wall of his secret.
He went back to the beach that night hoping to see her again but she was never there. He went every night vowing to himself to take every chance he had to go there. He often delegated the command of his men to Leo. He knew he could trust him to make wise decisions. Relieved from his military duty he came up with excuses to miss the council meetings. He kept up with the disappearances night after night, avoiding Marquis suspicious glances. She did not believe the lie he fed the other elders, but there was nothing she could do about it.
Stephan walked to the ends of the Ipanema beach crossing into the Copacabana beach. He paid no attention to the humans rolling around in the sand or playing in the water. Usually, he would feed them thirsty or not. He did it because he could. Tonight torturing them did not appeal to him, he had to find the female.
It had been a few weeks he was about to give up when he saw her. She was playing with the human children in the water. This was absurd to him but it only made her all the more beautiful. She seemed to love being amongst the human children, she was happy. Her smile touched the empty cave he called his heart. Unlike all the other vampires his heartbeat in his chest. He wasn’t an ordinary vampire. He made his way to her, careful not to frighten the children who brought her joy. She was very cautious of him but she let him join her in the water. He watched her as she protectively took the children to the rest of the humans, he assumed to be their parents. When she came back he connected with her in a way he never thought possible.
That night their romance began and continued until...
“NO! NO! NO! PLEASE DON’T!” she reached her hand out to him. Her eyes were begging him to save her, this was the moment to prove his love for her.
She mouthed out the words, she couldn’t find her voice, not with all this pain running through her body.
He watched as the only woman he loved was tortured, down on his knees held by four vampires. This would be his punishment for being happy. Tears rolled down his face, he couldn’t bear the grief that exploded in his chest. He watched, through clouded eyes, the repercussions of his love for her.
She was dying because he chose to live a different life with her.
He watched as they dragged her petite body on the dirty road, the crisp salty ocean wind blew through her hair. The moon shone on them as the swirling twinkle of the stars danced on the ocean waves. This was the setting of a romance story, instead, it was the scene of her death.
Sotera had touched a part of him that he thought died years ago when he stopped living as a human and began his life as an immortal and a killer. His heartbeat only to keep the beast in him living. But the cold side of him, the vampire, the killer.
She had a gentle nature about her, deep respect for life. She never saw the differences that existed between all the creatures under the sun and the moon. Life was a life and that was what mattered to her the most. She taught him not to kill humans to satisfy his thirst and not to take away life just because he could.
He never had anyone who cared for him that much. No one had bothered about him. They only took from him never giving back. He was a pawn.
“Stephan, help me please!”
The lifeless tone in her voice told him that she was fading away. It wouldn’t be long now.
If only he did not love her.
If only he did not stop to talk to her.
If he had not drowned in her amber eyes, as she swam in the Brazilian beaches, then she would live.
Then she would have forever.
His head sagged but was immediately forced up. He had to watch. This was his punishment. His need for freedom would take away her life.
They moved her closer to him. They were eye to eye now. He leaned his head forward to touch his cheek to hers. He longed for a single feel of her. He needed her. His lips brushed against hers. She would die again. But this time she wasn’t coming back. This was the end.
“I love you, am sorry. It’s my fault. I had no right to love you. No right.” That’s all he could do now, love her to her last moment.
He hoped she could see the love in his eyes, the pain he felt.
Sotera’s eyes burned bright with love as she smiled and tried to kiss him. And in that same second, she died.
He watched in horror as they twisted her head off her body and tore her limbs apart. He couldn’t shut his eyes not because they were forced open but because they couldn’t close. He had to witness the end of something beautiful. He felt the pressure on his body release, and the vampires dropped him to the dusty gravel. Slowly, he crawled towards her, the seven different parts of her. Stephan picked up the pieces of what had once been Sotera and held them against his chest. Sobs escaped his lips. Crying was a sign of weakness that he never condoned, but now all he felt was weak. He rocked her in his arms just the way she liked it. He could see it in his mind the countless times he had done this before.
They always thought that they had forever to be in each other’s arms. As he held her close to his chest he thought about their first kiss, the first time they made love. The promises he made to her. He could smell her scent it was like a lighter to his flaming soul. She always brought out the better part of him, uncovering the gentleness he once possessed as a human.
Stephan struggled against his assailants when Sotera was snatched out of his arms and his body dragged back by his legs. They lugged him a few feet from her dismembered body. As much as he tried to claw his way back to her, he couldn’t. He was outnumbered and overpowered. He wanted to take them back, take her back into his arms. But he couldn’t. He was once considered a warrior for vampires, feared by all who knew him or heard of him. Now he was reduced to nothing. He may have well still have been human, not the greatest being ever created but a powerless human.
She was on fire. There would be no evidence of her existence. Nothing!
On his knees, he watched motionless as the flames touched every part of her body. His hands, his gentle caresses were now replaced by a ruthless blaze. He could hear their laughter from a distance. They mocked his loss. He did not move didn’t make a sound. He just sat there and watched the flames. He watched his Sotera as she turned into nothing. Her stunning body disintegrated before his eyes and there was nothing he could ever do to put her back together.
As the fire died down he knew that it was time for him to die. This was what they did. What he used to do so he knew the drill. Torture, weaken their spirit, until they wanted, begged to die. They would wait for them to beg to die than grant them their wish. Kill them as many times as it was possible. This was the Conselho’s way. He should know.
He turned around to face his executors, he would face his death. Welcome it.
But they weren’t there. They were nowhere to be seen. He didn’t understand, was this a trick, a game. Would they come back for him? Rage swelled up in him. He called out into the night.
“Where are you? Come finish me off! Where are you, cowards?” Why did they leave without killing him?
He took off his shirt and tried to gather what was left off her into it. She loved wearing his shirts. He would take her with him. Find a suitable place for her, perhaps in one of her favorite vases. But one thing was for sure, he would take her with him, everywhere he would go. She was part of him and they would be together. He was going to keep her ashes till the day he died.
As soon as he was sure he got almost all of her off the ground, he carefully folded the shirt and held it against his chest. He had to get going, he had to decide what to do now. He had nowhere to go. No one was waiting for him. The only person who cared was in his arms.
Stephan had to make up his mind on how he would react, whether or not he would live past this night. He walked into the dark, and let his feet lead him to the only place he was happy.
He stepped into her home, he could feel her, and he could see her in everything in the room. This was her place, her sanctuary, where she felt safe. That security was taken away the first time he came here, the moment he decided that this would be his home. Now it was empty without her and definitely without him.
He pictured her dancing around the room, humming and singing. She was so beautiful, so precious.
Stephan headed for the mantle. He picked up a white vase. He thought it best describes her as pure and beautiful. He still held Sotera to his chest. He slowly poured her into the slim small vase. He then took a cloth and wrapped it around the mouth of her vase. This is where she would be for eternity.
He turned to leave the apartment, all these memories tormented him. The loss he felt drowned him in pain and sorrow. He had to leave, he wouldn’t come back, but no one would come in here either. As he closed the door behind him, one of the neighbors smiled at him as he unlocked the door to his own home.
This was why his gifts were weak, why he was too weak to fight to save her, the preservation of human life. He was no match for six vampires on a steady diet of human blood. If he had been feeding as he should have they both could have survived the night. He was a warrior and with his gifts, they would have avoided the whole night altogether. Anger took over, he made up his mind. This was his life and he was going live it as he should. In that same second, he attacked the unsuspecting neighbor, sank his teeth deep into his skin and his mouth took in all that he could.