THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 4.1 - MELANTHA

“The modern consensus is that thousands of years ago, although those times are considered somewhat punishing, it is still construed as a ‘magical’, ‘mystical’, ‘exciting’ period. A grave misconception indeed, for even renowned historians cannot accurately record the brutality, the degradation and depravity within ancient civilisations.

“When they come across an archaeological site, people think that it is something which will unravel the mysteries of the past, give them a stamp on history. They proceed to carbon date everything, catalogue and slot it behind a glass compartment in a museum for all to see. Thus they glorify ancient peoples through trinkets, implements, ornaments, coins. But, it is all a lie. Or to be a little less harsh, mere fabrication.

“Even the bones of the dead do not reveal all that has passed. A blow to the head, an amputation or decapitation, some speck of a toxic substance - yes, all provide a hint of some terrible crimes. In reality, they reveal nothing.

“Heretics, despots, barbarians, are ‘known’ to the population merely through the written words ascribed by persons appointed to write their Masters’ memoirs, achievements, and deeds. But, what of those who underwent the brutality and hedonism? Who wrote their testaments of what happened? No-one! Other than the efforts of lyrical poets and creative songsmiths, the picture remains muted.

“The actual cost of atrocity is not measured by what a scroll or science can prove. The truth lies with those people who are nameless, the unimportant, the lesser beings who bore it all. Only they can provide such an assiduous account; their haunted eyes alone could reveal the horrifying reality. These poor souls became vessels for debauchery.

“And one such individual was my Melantha.”

Cain hung his head and silently, considered his words. For all the wound had been re-opened, he still battled with the awful truth. The weight of this burden was immense. By painting a haunting picture of the past, however, he hoped Becky would understand why he was so adamant in his refusal to turn her.

Becky’s hand on his forearm pulled him from his reverie. A patient plea resided in her eyes. Her empathy had the most perplexing effect on him. Threatening to make his determination waver, become frayed at the edges, he drew his gaze away and stared out of the window across the bay. There was no turning back now; furthermore, he knew she deserved to hear the reason why he would not accept her into his world of darkness.

With a deep sigh, he continued. “Cypselus was the first tyrant of Corinth and the reason I arrived in the city-state. His method of sovereignty - offended me.” Cain paused, omitting a small huff under his breath.

He looked askance at Becky before he spoke again. “I will not bore you with a lengthy history lesson, but suffice to say, the chronicles written do not paint an accurate picture of the man. As a renowned polemarch - a commander, a warlord - he had become accustomed to hero-worship from his armies. He had undoubtedly, achieved great things in the military. On the surface, he possessed the promise of a great leader, a man of foresight and strategy; an ancient prophecy come true. But, this god-complex in which he thrived developed into a cult of personality. And that was how he ruled over his people.

“Many suffered during his reign. None more so, than the young men and women he kept as bargaining chips. They, he offered to the visiting dignitaries from the colonies as a ‘perk’ for economic growth and increased trade.”

Cain stopped and inhaled a shuddering breath. Becky’s hand slid under his in a gesture of compassion and understanding. While vaguely questioning what his response should be, his fingers instinctively curled around hers. A pang of dismay flared. He could not allow this attempt at thwarting her constant pursuit of immortality to be rendered pointless. The subject caused him great pain, yes, but it was necessary to address.

He swallowed before carrying on with his tale. “Melantha was served up like a piece of meat, expected to endure every shameless carnal act they wanted of her. Beaten, flogged, raped, sodomised, she was often left prostrate on blood-drenched sheets, in agony. I’d found her whimpering one day, sluicing herself in the river. She was frightened, naturally, but I somehow managed to calm her.” He choked back a laugh. “Ironic, wouldn’t you say? Me! A vampire. A natural killer soothing a woman because I considered the men who used her were more monstrous than me.”

“They were,” Becky offered. “A million times more.”

Becky’s response flummoxed him. He had inadvertently painted himself a saint. “No! You don’t understand,” he pressed on. “I robbed her of her life, made her like me, and she suffered more, for decades!”

Slowly, Becky withdrew her hand from his. He held her stare, trying to fathom what her mind was unfolding. A strange vexation was building within him, an uncertainty, a new concern. He had wanted her to understand the life she craved was not a rational choice, but equally, he now feared she would no longer wish to be near him. It was a loss which he realised would crush him.

“Tell me, honestly,” she said, her gaze unwavering.

“What?” he asked, not sure what she wanted to be confirmed.

“Did you love her?”

He smiled, winsome. “Yes,” he replied.

Becky nodded, acknowledging it was the answer she had expected. “And did you turn her to save her from that lifestyle? Or because she asked you to?”

It was a question he had not anticipated, although once considered, he guessed he had somehow steered her to ask it. His response, however, was not forthcoming. He looked back out across the bay.

Becky rose and crossed the room to the door. She opened it. “You can leave now,” she said, calmly, quietly.

He crossed the room, fighting the need to tell her more but knowing he should now remain silent. Levelling with her, he halted. Her eyes were cast down, but her melancholy was rife. She knew the answer.

As she closed the door behind him, his heart constricted. An overwhelming urge to go back in the room and tell her what Melantha’s dying words were had him reaching for the handle. But, the sound of weeping from behind the door stopped him.

Exactly what purpose his confession had served, after all, was uncertain. He feared it had not conveyed his reason for refusing Becky what she so desperately wanted, but had perhaps, opened a rift between them.

Now he had another sorrow to bear.

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