Still I plotted to have her back

The contentment that would fill the crack

My soul released a fluttering sigh

This day fell, the darkness nigh


I took her by the hand to say

All faith forever has been led astray

I returned for you in great dismay

Come with me far away to stay


From "Face of Melinda" by Opeth

Lyrics by Mikael Akerfeldt




Chapter Twelve

Tears and New Beginnings


There are times when I wish that I had never laid my eyes on the sweet and intoxicating beauty of Charlotte Elbourne all those long months ago. Yes, I know how truly awful that sounds — and I despise myself for it — but the agony that I have experienced over the past month has been more than any creature should have to bear.

If I had ever thought that falling in love could leave me in such a wretched and pitiful state, then I would never have allowed such a thing to happen. I would have sealed myself away and starved until I became dust, rather than endure the loneliness and painful separation that eats away at my very soul. But even in the darkest nights of my despair, there is still a flicker of hope that burns, as if to push back the cold seeds of doubt and despondency that threaten to take root in my heart. The hope that Charlotte and I will soon be gone from this hateful little town and on to a new place — a place where we can love each other freely and openly — without the threat of persecution or death; and I cling to that hope like a drowning man clings to a floating log. It is my belief in that future that keeps me from giving up completely and returning to that cold lifeless world that I existed in before I met Charlotte, and found what others of my kind could only dream of.

Yet as long as some shred of hope remained — no matter how small — I would never give up; I would have Charlotte by my side as both my soul mate and my heart mate. Destiny has ordained it; and so it must be.


I have not seen Charlotte since the night that I entered her bedroom and was confronted by her brother, Alan. Although I managed to give her the letter that I had painstakingly written, I had yet to receive a response to my plan to leave the town and journey to that safe haven that has been promised us. Of course I could not receive a written reply, but I had asked Charlotte to leave me a token — a specific sign that she was willing to come away with me. It has been over a week and although I return nightly looking for her answer, there has been nothing.

Although I try not to, I have begun to find myself doubting Charlotte's love. If she loved me as much as she has said, then why has she not answered me — why have I been kept waiting? Why has she not yet given her consent to go away with me? Perhaps I had been mistaken in her affections, and that her feelings were nothing deeper than to seek me out for a short dalliance and nothing more. But no, I cannot believe that so gentle a heart as Charlottes' could be so full of guile. She willingly gave me her love — and her body; and if I were to ask it of her, I have no doubt that she would offer up her blood to me as well. If that is not love, then what is? So why do I feel this emptiness in my heart — in the place where once the warmth of her love radiated within me? I cannot allow these doubts to linger, for they only distress me more. I refuse to believe that Charlotte does not love me, but I cannot help wondering what has happened to make her leave me hanging in such a state.

Perhaps there is something preventing her from answering — mayhap her brother keeps her under lock and key so that she is unable to leave the token that I have requested; or perhaps the wretched man has spirited her away . . . if only I could see her to know the truth. Her eyes would tell me — for those deep amber pools always reflected Charlotte's emotions and inner most thoughts. I would need only to look into her eyes to know her intentions — but of course that has been impossible.

Or could it be that Charlotte's love for her family is stronger than her love for me? Perhaps that is what is preventing her from accepting my proposal. I know how devoted she is to her father; and with his failing health, she may be reluctant to leave him. I could understand that — not that I want to accept it — but I could understand it. Although I don't believe that I could continue to endure this pain and longing until her father's death; and after that, when she may be grief stricken and sad with his passing, would she then consent to leave with me? Or would I have to wait even longer for her to mourn him before she turned her heart back to me once again?

Oh, how all these questions and thoughts hurt my head! Why must everything be so difficult? Why must the two of us be made to endure such pain and hardship? How can humans write odes and songs on the beauty and wonder of love without also recognizing it's darker and more painful side? Do they believe that it does not exist — or are they just deluding themselves to make the bearing of it easier? Though I may live for ten thousand more years, I will never understand all the many facets of this troublesome and wonderful emotion called love — indeed, I don't believe that anyone ever will.


Standing on the shadowed street corner in front of the Elbourne house, I steeled myself before I went in search of Charlotte's answer to my proposal. So many nights have I been disappointed and I had no hope that tonight would not be the same. Looking up at the sky, I was glad that it was cloudy and overcast — the moon hidden from view. Once the soft pearly glow of that distant orb would have soothed and comforted me, but now it only reminded me of the gulf that separated Charlotte and I — like the separation of the day and the night.

Slipping into the shadows, I slowly circled the house — my gaze lingering on the windows as I passed, looking for the sign that I hoped would be left for me. As I made my circuit, I could feel a cold depression settle into my heart; for once again it appeared that I would receive no answer to my letter. Clenching my fists in anger, I wanted nothing more than to smash them through the glass panes that separated me from my beloved as I shouted out her name. Then I would gather Charlotte up in my arms, and the two of us would disappear into the night — free from shackles of prejudice and hatred that tried to bind us.

As I passed by the small kitchen window, my eyes alighted on pale object fluttering on the sill. Quickly turning around, I rushed to the window; afraid that I had been mistaken. But when I saw the small square of white linen, held tightly under the window sash, it was all I could do not to shout aloud and dance for joy. For there was my sign from Charlotte that she was willing to come away and begin a new life at my side.

Reaching for the handkerchief, I pulled it from the sash leaving a small piece trapped underneath. Examining it more closely, I smiled as I saw the embroidered monogram and knew indeed that it was mine. I had given it to Charlotte one night as we were walking in her garden; she had contracted a small cold and although I knew she was not feeling well, she had insisted on coming out to meet me. As we walked, she had started sneezing in the cool air and I had taken the handkerchief from my coat pocket and given it to her.

Why would a vampire have need of a handkerchief you might ask? Not for the purpose for which it was intended, of course. I do not wish to offend or shock you, but I used it to wipe my mouth and hands of blood after I finished feeding. I will admit that I am somewhat vain; and am notorious for maintaining an immaculate and stylish appearance. But such is the way among almost all of my kind — we are all a little vain and like to attire ourselves to impress those that we believe to be less than ourselves — mainly humans. It was not as if I could not afford to — indeed John Elbourne's vast fortune was a pittance compared to the funds at my disposal. For other than the upkeep of my hidden residence and payments to my servants, I had nothing else to spend my money on; so I chose to spend it rather lavishly on myself. But once Charlotte and I were away together, I would make sure that she was never in want of anything — she would be attired in the finest silks and linens, her ears and neck adorned with gold and glittering jewels and her every comfort taken care of.

As I clutched the pale linen in my hand, I was almost certain that I could smell Charlotte's perfume wafting up from it. Raising the handkerchief to my nose, I closed my eyes as that soft, alluring scent reached me. In my mind's eye, I could see my love standing before me, dressed in that soft green gown she had been wearing the night that we first met; her arms outstretched, beckoning me. There was a smile on her soft, rose-tinted lips and such love in her eyes that I bit my lip in frustration as I felt my desire start to grow.

Oh, how I wanted Charlotte — how I wanted her in my arms once again as we joined ourselves together as one. It had been so long since the two of us had made love; and more than once I had awakened from my daylight slumber to find that my dreams of her had been so real and vivid that I had shamefully responded to them. Such was my state of longing that once, while feeding, I had allowed my baser physical needs to take over and so had made use of my victim's body even as I drained away her blood. I was so ashamed afterwards that I felt physically repulsed by the act and pledged that I would beg Charlotte's forgiveness for my betrayal as soon as she was again by my side.

As I clutched that small piece of cloth to my chest, my heart was flooded with such relief and hope that I almost broke down. Indeed I stood there and gripped the window frame for support as I found myself gasping for breath. How could I have ever doubted Charlotte? How could I have ever questioned her love for me? I was so overwhelmed, that for the first time since the night that I had left my humanity behind, I felt the wetness of tears on my face. Raising my fingers to my eyes, I marveled at the cold drops that glistened on my fingertips.

Tears . . . there are some tales that say that vampires cannot shed tears; and still others that say the opposite, but that the tears we cry are tears of blood. Both versions were wrong of course, as I was proving right at that moment. The tears that fell from my eyes were just as real and as clear as those shed by any human. The only difference being that while mortal tears tended to be warm to the touch, a vampire's tears were cold — like the touch of ice over a frozen pond; for like our bodies, our tears hold no warmth. But that did not mean that they were of any less consequence or that our emotions were not just as true and deep; indeed we tend to feel emotions at a much deeper level than humans and so our mental pains can be ten times worse than that of any mortal. Yet at that moment, I was so overcome with happiness that I have no doubt that any mere human heart would have long ago burst from the sheer power of it.

So there I stood, in the shadow of Charlotte's house; and wept with joy while the clouds in the sky slowly parted to let the stars shine down on my pale bent head.


Safely ensconced inside the coach, I opened my mind and let my will control the carriage horses as they lumbered through the dark night. Using every bit of power that I possessed, I guided the beasts through the heart of the town towards Charlotte's house. So great was the influence of my power that it caused frost to touch upon the air; withering plants and trees that had been, until my passing, healthy and green. The coldness that followed in my wake also caused the fountain in the town square to freeze as if it were the dead of winter instead of the beginning of summer. Beasts crouched and howled in the darkness and all throughout that sleepy little hamlet, restless and haunting dreams filled the minds of many of its slumbering populace.

Never before had I used my power to its fullest advantage, and it's effects both astonished and frightened me. I had never been one to flaunt my power and until that night, I had no idea of just how great it was. I now had no doubt that ere I ever to engage another of my kind in a battle, my opponent would find himself hard pressed to overcome me. Feeling somewhat satisfied and comforted by that thought, I smiled to myself; because I knew that once Charlotte's family discovered her gone, they would spare no man or expense to retrieve her and I would need every drop of power at my disposal to make sure that they did not succeed.

As the carriage rounded the corner to the street that led to the Elbourne house, I commanded the horses to slow to a gentle walk; for I did not want to risk drawing any unwanted attention to my presence. As the carriage stopped in front of the house, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath — steeling myself for what was to come next. Because of the circumstances of our separation, I had been unable to leave Charlotte some word as to when I would come for her, so she had no idea of when to expect me. Only a few days had passed since I had found her token of agreement; and during that time, I double-checked that everything had been arranged for our travel and that our new benefactor had been contacted to expect our arrival. My coming would be a complete surprise to Charlotte and I didn't wish to upset or frighten her with my sudden appearance.

As I stepped from the carriage, I felt a chill creep over me — from what I could not say; and I felt a bit unnerved by it. I narrowed my eyes and let them gaze around the immediate area, but I sensed nothing. But just as suddenly, for some unknown reason, I recalled part of an old saying, ". . . like someone had just stepped on my grave" and I shuddered at the thought. After one more scan of the street, I pulled my cloak around my tall frame and started towards Charlotte's house.

After finding Charlotte's answer, I had then set about locating the room that her brother had moved her to; and I was not altogether surprised to find that her new bedroom was located right next to Alan's. Taking Charlotte away from there would be risky, especially if Alan were awakened before we had a chance to escape; so we would have to be doubly careful and it would take a great amount of my power to mask our departure.

Gathering my power once more, I ascended to the window of Charlotte's bedroom. I could sense her on the other side of the glass and it was all I could do not to smash open those fragile panes and snatch her up in my embrace; but that indeed would bring not only her brother down on us, but most of town as well. So with an outwardly calm demeanor, I held my hand out before the window and focused my will on the lock. As I focused myself on the task, in my mind's eye I could see the latch within as it slowly turned. As the lock finally yielded to my will, the panes of glass parted before me and with a rush of wind, I stepped into the room.

Once again, such was the influence of my power that the flowers that adorned Charlotte's room withered in the frost-tinged air that followed in my wake and the glass of her vanity table cracked as I passed by — casting no reflection on its silvered surface. But just as I reached the side of Charlotte's bed, she suddenly sat up and I could see the fear in her wide dark eyes as she put her hand up to her mouth.

Never before had Charlotte witnessed the awe-inspiring powers at my command; and to see me thus, I could not condemn her for her fear and dismay. With a small cry in her throat, I watched her eyes fall back as she fainted. I quickly had my arms around her unconscious frame before her head once again returned to the pillow; and gathering her to me, I brushed her forehead with a gentle kiss and carried her back to the window.

The night was silent as I settled Charlotte in the seat of my coach and draped my cloak across her. Once I was sure that she was comfortable, I sent out my command to the horses to move and we were soon weaving our way through the dark and silent streets of the town — on our way to safety and freedom.


It has been but a day since Charlotte and I made our escape and just as I predicted, we were promptly pursued. Alan Elbourne himself, led a party of men after us within a few hours after the dawn of our departure. Knowing that we would more than likely be followed, I had made previous plans with my servants to deal with the rescue party and to aid in our escape. Although I did not see the entire skirmish, I was later informed that it had been brutal and that out of the fifty or so men that had pursued us, only a small handful of them had escaped death — including Alan Elbourne. I had given specific instructions that the younger Mr. Elbourne was not to be killed and although he had been injured, it was not a life-threatening wound; and so I had managed to keep my pledge for her brother's safety to Charlotte.

Yet also at the same time, I managed to exact a small amount of revenge on him for all of the hurtful things that he had said and done to Charlotte — for a great many of his friends and associates were dead; and although it was not my hand that wielded the weapons that killed them, it had been at my command. I also gleaned some small matter of satisfaction knowing that among those slain was a man by the name of Jack Turner, the man that Alan had hoped to wed his sister to. Think me a cold-hearted bastard if you must — and perhaps in some respect you may be right — but in my mind, Alan Elbourne deserved all he had gotten, and more.

Despite the defeat he had suffered and his injuries, Charlotte's brother still proved to be a bit more difficult that I had anticipated. Within hours after his return home, he had hired a group of vampire hunters — called the Markus family — to track us down. Although I was not overly familiar with this particular group of hunters, they carried a fearsome reputation and were known never to relinquish a hunt was it was started. But I was not overly concerned, for I had made arrangements, through my Barbarois servant, to see that the Markus family would be of little trouble to us as we continued our journey.

As we made our way towards the home of our soon-to-be benefactor, I told Charlotte of the beautiful place that was awaiting us at the end of our journey — the legendary City of the Night — once said to have been the home of the first vampires; a land of dark majesty where we could be free and at peace to live our lives as man and woman. I could see that Charlotte was at first a little frightened and perhaps even a bit skeptical, but I think that my enthusiasm and belief slowly started to win her over, and soon she became just as eager as I for us to reach it.

As I kissed Charlotte and held her in the circle of my arms, I began to think of what our future would be like once we reached our destination. I recalled Charlotte's questions regarding our ability to have children and found that I was not as repulsed by the idea as I had been before. I knew that Charlotte had grown up in a very loving family, so it was only natural that she would wish to have that kind of life; and why could she not? Once we arrived in the City of the Night, we would no longer be bound by the dictates of this stifling society — we would be free to live and love without fear or persecution; free to live as a family if we chose to do so. I almost smiled at the thought of Charlotte holding a babe in her lithe arms — her eyes bright and shining with happiness, her heart near to bursting with love. If that was what my beloved truly wanted, then how could I deny her? I pledged to myself that I would do everything in my power to make Charlotte's wish possible; although I knew that such births were rare. Still, the trying would be more than worth it.

I had so many plans for our new life together; and in a few short days, I would be able to make them all come to fruition.

Chapter 13
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