DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: It’s in the way you use it

It had a been a few days after Morena’s phone call, after I knew that another vampire had attacked her and Sophie, that I called a special meeting of Conclave. It was the first time I had done such a thing, taken such an active role in anything to do with Conclave besides seeking members out to clarify comments or opinions voiced.

I explained recent events, showing them the police interest in recent disappearances of a corpse from the morgue and a businessman. I even used Sophie…I mean, the Vampire Psychologist’s UVA scale to impress upon Conclave how serious things were getting.

While the other vampire elders seemed agitated by events, wondering how things had so quickly changed, Valerian was strangely silent during their escalating debate. Should they send in the sanitation team? Or simply a spider team to collect information? Teng-Wen voiced the opinion that the region, which had always been under populated with our kind, was due a surge and a curate should be assigned immediately.

The dark, round room fell into quiet at the suggestion. Valerian, dressed in velvet black ceremonial robes, took a long, measured sip of his tea before setting the cup and saucer aside. He waved his servant Aubry forward, whispered a few words, and Aubry went to fetch more tea. He then cleared his throat for effect before speaking.

“Whenever, wherever she goes, vampires seem to congregate. It is nothing to be alarmed about.”

Teng-Wen, our only Jiang-Shi in Conclave, a calculating and dangerous member, pursed his lips to contain a retort. Aubry returned with more tea and while Valerian busied himself with the newly refreshed cup, Teng-Wen spoke a careful crafted reply: “If this is so, perhaps it is time again to rid us of her unnatural influence. Only this time, we should seek ways to make it permanent.”

Valerian shot a dark and glittery gaze at the other elder. “You presume to know of such a way? You have passed through death and know its secrets?”

Teng-Wen fell silent, knowing he had been outmaneuvered. But Valerian was not done with him.

“You do not know the deaths she has endured and yet, she rises again, like the Phoenix, the same and yet different, her memories somehow intact.” He let out a single meek laugh. “More a cockroach, an irritant. Forgive me for overstating her importance. We have not seen her threat, even lifetime after lifetime. She is merely to be observed and who better than Jesper to do so.”

Galscythe, one of the oldest, her age reaching almost into ancient, stepped forward. She seldom spoke, some thought because her mind was becoming to frail but no one would dare, in her presence, allow that thought breath. “It would be prudent to be sure this time. We’ve seen how a lone orphan can create a tide of blood.”

Valerian sighed deeply. He didn’t like to disagree with the others, didn’t like agitation among the ranks. But he hadn’t garnered as much respect within Conclave without a clear series of successes in navigating our kind through the modern age.

“I will not send any more of our kind into a were stronghold without knowing our proper action.” He then raised his eyes to me. “I trust with guidance, Jesper can identify the problem and we can then discuss what proper action is required.”

Galscythe stepped back lightly. Teng-Wen bowed in humbling agreement. The debate was over.

But there was no specific guidance I received from Valerian. When Conclave ended, he remained until the others left and then he too departed, with no further word to me on what he expected me to do.

So I put a call into Aubry, his servant. There was a question I needed answering before I proceeded. Generally, it is considered a break of manners to use one’s vampire abilities against other Conclave vampires except in sanctioned combat. And by extension, servants and companions were due the same courtesy.

“Hello?”

When Aubry answered the phone, I appeared standing there in the room just behind him. He heard me like a whisper in his mind, just below the creaks and moans of this ancient house on Na Příkopě. “Hello, Aubry. What is the tea that your master takes?”

Dazed, he let his arm drop the phone from his ear.  He pirouetted towards my presence. “Pine needle tea.”

“Curious. Why does he take it?”

“It’s a curative. To keep the balance.”

As quickly as I had affected him, I released him, retracting my presence back through the phone line and spoke simply. “Valerian had no particular orders for me, eh, Aubry?”

“Oh, Mr. Jesper. No, he left no instructions for you except to say he appreciates the call, you are to report once you’ve made proper contact.” He paused, as if trying to remember his instructions. My doing. He was still shaking off the cobwebs of my affecting him. “You haven’t contacted her yet, have you?”

I thought of every manner of response, remembering his master’s words at Conclave. And then I lied. “No, Aubry. Not yet.”

“Well, then. I will tell my master so. Do you have any other message?”

“Thank you, Aubry, no. That’s all.”

I hung up. Pine needle tea contained high concentrations of Vitamin C. More than six regular lemons. Something told me there was again much more to my Vampire Psychologist than previously thought. I did not know the natural of her acquaintance with Valerian, the most powerful and influential member of our government, but she had made an impact. One worth risking the penalties of bad manners to uncover.

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Published in: on January 9, 2010 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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DJB: Memoirs Volume 3: After Conclave

After a rather mundane meeting of the Conclave in which we reviewed current known population counts and several requests for migrations, I asked for a few moments with Valerian.  I didn’t expect to get them knowing he’d just recently returned from a cleansing in the Congo and had historically sought isolation after such travels.  But instead, my web call was answered and I saw Valerian wrapped up in his darkest, thickest cloak resting on his chaise.

“Good even-tide,” he spoke softly, deliberately.  A servant came into view, refilling his cup with a steaming, nearly clear liquid out of a tea kettle.  I thought I spied pine needles.

“Evening, Valerian.  How do you fair after your long journey?”

He gave me a look that reminded me who he was.  “I fair well enough.  The journey was elementary.  I’ll say this for the mutts, they have advanced the comfort of our traveling arrangements immeasurably.”  He paused for a drink, which made him vibrate slightly, before he continued.  “Seems negotiations were well-spent after all.”

“I’ll take the compliment anyway I can get it.”

He sighed, leaning back, his face somewhat flushed, fevered.  “Your contributions to the Conclave sometimes go unnoticed.  Where would we be without the secret language you helped develop which protects our communications and our council from prying, juvenile eyes?”

“It’s nice to be remembered for one’s work.”

“Consider this your favor, I don’t like showing myself at times like these.  But I trust you.  As much as I know that emotion.”  He was right, he did look ill indeed.  As soon as he finished what I now suspected was Pine Needle tea, his glass seemed magically refilled by an unseen servant.

“I’ll come to the point then.  My companion has made contact with the Vampire Psychologist as we had spoken before.”pineneedletea

He sipped.  “Indeed?  And your research?”

“She calls herself Sophie Quinn.  From what I can find, she lived in a small community in Ohio all her life until a few years ago when she left and started ministering to vampires.”  He said nothing, just sipped.  So I continued, “She claims to have done this for lifetimes.  That it’s her calling to seek balance within the vampire being.”

He stopped sipping.  He lowered his cup slowly.  Then, his fangs descended and he laughed heartily.  “Does she really say that still?”

“Still?”  I was confused.

In less than a blink, the laugh was gone, he had retracted his fangs.  He took a long sip as I could see his mind calculating.  “Make contact as we discussed.  Learn what you can.  Report back to the Conclave at next tide.”

“That’s it?”

He looked up at me.  “You were expecting something more drastic, I gather.  I’m learning the art of negotiations, my old friend.  And at my age, I’m learning what is important and what is…noise.”

“I understand.”  I didn’t.  Not really.  Valerian and I were about the same age of ancient lines that may have one time been united.  But our polarities, our mentalities, our very natures couldn’t have been more different.  Valerian volunteered for blood cleansings not out of some greater good for the human race, protecting them from the very plagues that had once ravaged through past populations.  The effect on a healthy vampire of consuming that much tainted blood was to weaken them, force them into seclusion while their bodies metabolised the viruses or toxins and made them inert.  Shadria, who ran that particular program within the Conclave, picked only the strongest and most capable vampires to do the work.  It was messy and required restraint.

No, Valerian volunteered because he was a killer.  He enjoyed it.  He missed the eras when he could go on sprees and gorge himself on so much blood his eyes would turn red from it.   But that Valerian seemed a much different one than the one across the webcam from me, drinking his tea.

He shuddered and sighed.  “No, you don’t.  You don’t understand.  Not yet anyways.”

I smiled as response.  I was about to say my farewells when he abruptly ended the call.  After every interaction with Valerian, I felt guilty for thinking the worst of him and then gullible for forgetting what he was capable of.  And ultimately, confused as to why he considered me worthy of continuing in the Conclave representation at all.  I had no horror.  I had no idea of my maker or his strain.  And therefore, no designs on bearing kindred for fear of what problems might arise.

And maybe that was where my answer lay.  Valerian had a sizable horror, somewhere on the order of 50 now accounted for.  And all of them were welcome in his circle, his seat.  Maybe what I didn’t want to admit was that Valerian was capable of change to protect his own.  Somehow, the thought chilled me more than anything else.

I finished scripting the protocols from the Conclave and went back to the fbook site of this Vampire Psychologist.  The meeting was set for tomorrow night.  If it weren’t for the preternatural state of comatose that vampires fall into during the day, there would be no way I could sleep.  No way at all.