4.3 - THE STRIX
Squinting against the October sun, he surveyed the land from where he’d emerged. An autumnal breeze rustled through the heather and grasses; forlorn whispers across the moors. A few miles further back from his den, the piling drivers reverberated through the ground as they buried metal supports on the construction site to the north-west of the town.
It was something else entirely though which had interrupted his sleep. The voice in his head had been most persistent this time. It had pulled him from a place his mind revisited regularly - the time of his original guilt and foul deed. When his eyes had sprung open, he’d sensed an ominous presence; one which had left an imprint on him many times over, but of which he had never traced the source.
He knew without question it was not God. It reeked of power, however, that much was apparent even in his brief kinesthesia.
His hair buffeted about his face as his keen eyes scanned the area once more. No-one. Nothing, other than a few free-roaming sheep who stared back with indifference. He turned his attention towards the town. For all it was a few miles away, he could easily identify the things he sought.
His body was still sated from the previous night’s feed, but he would partake of more before this day was over. His priority this time, however, was for something which he had tried desperately to resist. The sweet scent of melancholy. A tainted perfume yes, but this one carried a purity of heart too.
Unbidden thoughts of a woman, broken, crept into his mind. He had come across many in his endless lifetimes, some more bruised or dented than broken. They recovered fast. But some were so profoundly damaged the hope within flickered like a candle at the point of being snuffed out. Those had only two paths to travel - a life of servitude to their despondency or at worst, they chose to douse that flame altogether.
The one which he had latched onto now, was one worth saving from that fate. Why he wanted to intervene, he knew not. No, that was untrue. He knew alright, but he would not allow sentiment to make him err again. The choice he’d made long ago and could not forgive himself for, even now, would not be repeated. His eyes slid shut as a face materialised within his timeless memories.
Melantha! What misery he had caused her, all through a selfish craving for love.
She was beautiful, just as her name suggested - a dark flower. A servant in the court of Cypselus, Greek ruler of Kórinthos in 7th century BC, she had unexpectedly captured the vampire’s attention. Her olive skin - pure, radiant - and those dark, secretive eyes kept him enthralled.
Originally, Cain had been drawn to Kórinthos sensing the manipulative leader’s debauchery, exploitation and prejudice. While Cypselus was not the worst of tyrants which Cain would silence, he nonetheless demonstrated a demagoguery approach to his rule. His subjects were at his mercy; he had a way of stirring their emotions and creating chaos, appealing in particular to the more unscrupulous persons. And he was not the kindest to those in his service; Melantha being one of those he’d targeted. She, along with other young men and women in the court, had been brutalised, forced to fornicate with whosoever Cypselus wanted to align himself with in his greed for power.
It was the one and only time Cain slew a tyrant for something other than that which had drawn him in the first place. It had become personal. Of course, no-one knew; his method was subtle, unsuspected, given no consideration at all. Men of power did not believe such creatures as he could infiltrate their circles.
But, Melantha had known, having witnessed him drain the tyrant and his cohorts; and she’d also known his reason why. She’d told him he was like the Strix, birds of ill omen, the product of metamorphosis, that fed on human flesh and blood. And yet, in all his grotesqueness, she had grown to love him.
Although he had tried to deny feelings which should have been left behind a long time ago, there was something about this woman he could not resist. Nevertheless, a sliver of conscience still resided within him, buried deep though it was.
As they’d lain together entwined in each other’s embrace, listening to the chirruping cicadas, he’d wept his confession that he could never love her the way a man should love his woman. He’d apologised for taking her from the comforts of the Kórinthian court, which would have been safer for her with the tyrant now dead.
She’d silenced him with a kiss. “I will endure,” she had said, her voice soft like silk. “You have shown me a love I never dared believe I was worthy of and I have never known any man to honour me in the way you do.”
Cain’s eyes welled, blood tears trickling down his cheek. “Melantha, my love...”
“Hush, weep not for I am willing to go with you wherever you should wander. I am incomplete without you. Let me see the world through your eyes.”
“You know not what you ask,” he whispered against her ebony hair.
“I ask for love eternal, where tyranny and cruel intervention cannot pull us apart. Let me walk this path with you, my love. Take from me what you need and let me take my fill of you.”
Then all reason abandoned him. The regret would transcend that of his original crime.