The Eternal Vampire

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The Germani

Isolde was home at last; laughing, scolding us, running around the house cleaning or cooking—that’s what we missed. There were maybe a few new lines around her eyes caused by worry, but our family was complete, but not unchanged.

Now one of us was with her at all times. We kept a loving eye on her for there was Mark King to deal with. Although we had not heard from him Tristan was sure we would and there were the vampires of Pioneer Square to consider and Rainer.

But the time away has done Isolde good. I don’t know how much Tristan has told her, or if he’s hypnotized her and erased the memory but she doesn’t seem to worry about Rainer. And of course, she knows nothing about King Mark, as I call him.

They have been home a week and we have all resumed our normal routines when Tristan calls me into his office for a private chat. I have never been here and I am surprised at what I see. The walls are paneled walnut, which does not go with the rest of the house, along with the black leather sofa—the only thing in character is an old-fashioned walnut desk, elaborately carved and kept polished to a shine. There is a distinctly masculine touch here and lacks Isolde’s sense of style.

There’s a Picasso on the wall that looks like Guernica but on closer inspection, I can see that it isn’t. I suspect this is one bought directly from the artist, maybe even commissioned for Tristan by the artist himself. The colors are dark, not what I expect from a Picasso, but it seems to fit the room.

Tristan leans back in his chair and looks at me. “Fabi told me what happened,” he says, “Steven, I am sorry that I was not here. Did these vampires threaten you?”

“No,” I reply, “That didn’t seem to be what they wanted, they were more interested in why you created me. I think they are curious about you, too, maybe even to the point where they’d like to meet you.”

“No, that is not likely to happen,” he shook his curly blond head, ” make it a point to stay away from these covens, from other vampires for that matter. It’s better to stay on your own, or perhaps with a partner or two.”

“Rainer tried to join them, but they turned him away. They told me that he’s a rogue, that he kills other vampires. Is that true? Did you know this?”

“I had hoped to spare you this. Yes, I knew about Rainer, but I’m more powerful than him and thought that would keep all of you safe. I knew that he would be angry if I brought another vampire into our house, but that did not matter to me. He does not tell me what to do, especially in my own house. I seemed to be able to keep him under control, even when he threatened Isolde, but you were the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“How long have you known him?” I asked, “When did you meet him? Why is he with you?”

Tristan sighed, “You ask so many questions, Steven, but Rainer’s story is complicated. I will try to find a way to simplify it.”

He motioned for me to sit down. “Do you know who Arminius is?”

“Yes,” I replied, “He was the son of a German king who grew up as a hostage in Rome. He fought in the Roman army and distinguished himself, but he hated and resented the Romans. He began to plot with some of the tribes to try to drive Rome out of Germany. He was instrumental in helping plan the massacre in Teutoburg Forest where three legions, almost 20,000 men altogether, were wiped out.

“Yes, that is mostly correct. The legions were led by Publius Varus who had defeated Spartacus and put down the slave uprising. I was on his staff though I did not care for the man. Arminius tricked him into thinking he would escort the troops through the forest, but an ambush had been prepared. The legions did not stand a chance.

“I suspected treachery and tried to convince General Varus that Arminius could not be trusted, though he had a brother who was loyal to Rome until the day he died. Varus did not pay attention to his comings and goings, but I did. I suspected that he was plotting against us but no one believed me, except for a handful of soldiers that felt the way I did.”

“Two of those were vampires like myself. I was surprised to find out I was not alone, but it was in the early days of my transformation and I found their presence a comfort. We met secretly and decided that the route through the forest was too narrow and dangerous. We decided to form a group of about 20 men that would hang back as the column marched through the forest. It was a strategic move, designed to spare our lives, for we could accomplish nothing more.”

“That morning we found a German vampire and tortured him until he revealed Arminius’s plans. It was too late to save the legions; we did not ride in the front of the column as we should have, but at the back. We killed the vampire and threw his body into the woods.”

“The treachery of Arminius became plain when the attack started. Varus committed suicide in the middle of the battle, the only way he could save face. He probably feared what would happen to him if the Germans decided to take him prisoner.

We vampires could hear the screams of the men as they were killed, though the mortals could not. We tried to save as many as we could, keeping them out of the forest so the Germans could not reach them, but most of the column was doomed.”

“Towards the end, a group of vampires emerged from the woods to feed on the blood of the dying men. We got off our horses and pursued them on foot, managing to kill most of them. One, however, seemed to escape our swords. He was smaller, weaker, and had gone a long time without feeding. His skin was so pale it was almost grey and his eyes were surrounded by dark circles.”

“I should have killed him, he certainly would have killed me had he been able. I put a rope around his neck and allowed him to feed on a soldier who was dying then jerked him away. There was no gratitude in his eyes, only hatred, but I understood that hate. The Romans had overrun my home country of Gaul, it had been survival that motivated me to swallow my hatred and enlist in the Roman army. I was intelligent and clever and used my wits to work my way up to a position of command.”

“But what happened to Rainer?” I asked.

“I should have killed him, but I let him go with a warning, that if he came anywhere near a Roman encampment, I would kill him. I know now just how big of a mistake that was but I felt sorry for him. I had seen so much death and bloodshed on a large scale that day that I did not have the stomach for any more killing. I had lost friends in the massacre, some good friends, and I lacked the will for any more killing, vampire that I am.”

I quickly calculated the number of years and realized that Augustus had been emperor when this happened and Hadrian had not been born. This would have taken place before Tristan met Fabi.

“What did you do after that?” I was curious, there was a large gap of time, “I mean, Hadrian ruled Rome almost...”

“Yes, this was before I met Fabi. The Roman army retaliated against the Germans, Arminius in particular, and those of us who survived participated.” He shook his head, “Such a waste of life. Germania was never subdued and eventually, we pulled out. Even dead, Augustus never forgave Varus for such a defeat.

“What about Rainer?” I wanted to know about him.

“I did not see him again for over a thousand years. Fabi and I traveled together and fought with the British during World War II. We finally were able to enter Berlin after the Russians liberated it and found Rainer in an alley feeding on rats because he did not dare to come close to any of the soldiers. I recognized him, he was in a state of emaciation as he had been when I first set eyes on him. I thought it would be safe to take him with us, and I must admit I felt pity for him. Had I known then what I know now I would have killed him on the spot.”

“He has lived with us on and off, playing on my sympathies when he lacked another place to stay. He’s clever and for hundreds of years, he managed to disguise what he was. He knows better than to attack one of us but he became emboldened when I brought Isolde into the family. He made it no secret that he would kill her if he got the chance, but he has a healthy fear of me—most of the time—so he left her alone. Until recently, that is.”

“Now I realize that I must kill him, he is too dangerous to be allowed to live any longer. I don’t know why he hates his own kind, I think he was like that when I found him. Or maybe it was being caught by other vampires after the battle that sparked this. But he is a threat now, both to humans and vampires, and can’t be allowed to live.”

I had heard enough and took my leave. I could think of only one thing and that was going to the “U” District and trying to find Lenore. What did she know about Rainer that she hadn’t shared with me? Did the Pioneer Square vampires know something that Tristan hadn’t told me?

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