The Inkling

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chapter Twelve

Feeling overwhelmed, I climbed as high as I could manage into a tree, in the woods behind my house, and just sat there, staring at what stars I could see through the glowing haze of the city lights. Jack followed me, silently, though I didn’t particularly desire his company.

I was conflicted by what had happened. It was clear that Jack was a wild creature, accustomed to relying on instinct. Trying to keep him subdued would be difficult, if not cruel.

Yet he was here on his own accord. He was here, because he wanted to be, because he wanted to learn from us. He couldn’t survive off of hunting deer and vermin, but I just couldn’t bring myself to allow him to kill humans. Animals are accustomed to facing prey every day, but how could I allow him to rob a family of their father or mother, lover or child.

We sat in that tree for more than two hours in silence. I blocked my thoughts from Jack, too worried that he would feel guilty for what he was, though I had the impression that he felt that way anyhow. I imagine he spent that time wondering what I was thinking, and a few times I could feel his curiosity peering into my mind, trying to find an unguarded window, but I only, gently, pushed him away.

I suppose I should have been surprised when Ross suddenly spoke to me from below the tree, having not even noticed his entering the woods, but stealth is our nature.

“Elanor. Come down.” He called tenderly, like a father come to coax his upset child from their favorite hiding spot.

I looked down, but couldn’t bring myself to move. I was too frustrated to talk to him yet.

He didn’t wait for me, he leapt into the tree with a single bound but rather than land near me, he leapt into me, knocking me off my seat. We landed relatively soundlessly onto the ground below, almost simultaneously with Jack, who had left the tree as soon as I did.

I stood straight before him, clenching my teeth and looking at nothing in particular to to my left.

“Art thee going to be so obstinate all night?” Ross asked.

I looked him in the eyes, and continued in our own tongue, “I do not wish to hear a lecture on the folly of my sentiments towards the dark children.”

Ross smiled and squeezed my arm. “Do not be so quick to condemnation, for I have no intention to do so. I have a proposition for the dark child, and a hopeful solution for the situation as well.” He wrapped his arm around my waist and continued to speak in English for Jack’s benefit. “Come, let us find a more homely atmosphere.”

Ross lead us to my house, pulled out a chair from my table for myself, and gestured for Jack to find his own seat, then proceeded to make two cups of tea.

“Jack, we have discussed your situation. We believe we can come to an arrangement of mutual contentment. But first, you must know more about the enemy.”

Jack had already been rather attentive, but at this, his eyes widened some, and he became noticeably more alert.

Ross placed the cup of tea in front of me, the process of boiling water expedited by an electric kettle, then sat to my left at the round table.

“Would you like to tell the story?” Ross more suggested, then requested.

I had more or less been avoiding this, as the stories are not only distressingly intimate, but rather tragic to me. Bringing them up is not something I do lightly.

When I looked up at Jack, there was an odd look of pain and concern in his eyes. It took me a moment to understand that it was the pain in my eyes he was reacting to. I might have been confused or curious as to his reaction, but I quickly adjusted myself and became more stoic.

“Romulus is as old as I am. Slightly younger, but insignificantly so. He was made vampire in the year 717 BC, by his own choosing, as he was fearful of death, and so filled with lust for power, that he was not willing to give it up for anything. For more than two millennium, he has used his powers, his intellect, and his experience to play the human’s puppet master, contributing to the rise and fall of empire after empire. All in an attempt to quench his insatiable thirst for power.
Thwarting him is an ever-constant struggle, and with his presence now, here in Chicago, the duty falls on us to keep him in check.”

Jack thought for a moment, then asked. “When you say ‘Romulus’, you mean he’s Roman, right? Like the myth of ‘Romulus and Remus’?”

I exchanged a glance with Ross. “The same, actually. Romulus killed his own twin brother in order to establish Rome. That was how he started his ambitious career. When Romulus founded Rome, he set up a council for himself, of the wealthiest and most prominent patriarchs, in an effort to gain loyalty. But as he became more powerful, the senate felt he was a threat to their own position and interests, and talks of assassination grew. Only two souls know how Romulus gained immortality, but after he did, he was deified, being then called Quirinus, and seldom seen again by mortals.

“It is assumed that he played his role divine intervener well. He remained hidden to all but the most powerful, came only with the cloak of night. His appearance and powers would have helped him convince those he came to of his divinity.
“Rome flourished, then fell. Other empires flourished and fell. Most of the time, he was behind it.”

“But...” Jack interrupted. “weren’t you able to stop it?”

I paused, and Ross answered instead. “We are not here to interfere. Humans are free to make their own choices, and their own mistakes. We are here to protect the humans from themselves, as well as the vampires, but at the beginning, we had no place stopping the natural growth of a nation. It was only after a millennium that we realized the full threat of Romulus’ power and influence.”

“We...” I added. “pick up the pieces.”

I had hoped that was the end of my contribution. I wished not to dwell on my sordid past with Romulus any longer.

“We need to put the pressure on him, and make him known that we’re serious, but without revealing too much. Romulus is using the local gangs to cover his actions. He’s trying to create just enough chaos to threaten the status quo, but I’d be willing to bet that he intends to use it to grow his numbers, either by absorbing them or by using them to turn more.”

“Like with Anthony?” Jack was attempting to catch up to speed.

Ross answered him. “His actions with Anthony are an indicator to what he plans to do, but there is something unusual with that situation. Romulus is obsessing over Anthony, somewhat abnormally. We intend to see how it plays out.”

I looked at Ross shocked. “You mean to sacrifice Anthony?”

Ross sighed, and put his hand on mine, giving me a look that said we would discuss that later. He turned back to Jack. “Our communication has been almost cut off completely. We cannot attempt any form of outside communication during the night. During the day, we can only attempt physical communication, and possibly untraceable phone lines. Romulus has had a long time to get his forces in place, all the phone lines will be tapped, and he’ll have spies keeping eyes on us, human and vampire. Vampires can match us physically, but we can feel their presence. Humans are tricker, because while we cannot tell their presence from any other, we have the advantage of supernatural abilities which means we must always be guarded.

“Jack, your assistance would prove a great advantage. Romulus knows that we have vampires on our side, but he doesn’t know how many. We can play this up by making it appear that we have ore numbers. At eh same time, we will work on bringing more allies in. For our own security, we must keep you in the dark as to our exact plans as well. But we would also like to make use of your clairvoyance. Spying on Romulus is foolish, he has too much experience to be played and we wouldn’t get much out of him anyhow. But keeping an eye on him will be easier with your help.”

Jack gave Ross an incredulous look. “Why should I put myself at risk? I don’t mean to sound selfish, I need to...”

“No, no...” Ross interjected, “You have a right to know. Romulus is looking to build himself an empire. The repercussions of a vampire run empire are dire in and of themselves, but it can be guaranteed that Romulus will not keep his ambitions modest. If his dominion grows too large, too fast, as all empires do, it will crumble under it’s own weight, not only risking a new Dark Age of Man, but it will inevitably unleash upon the entire Earth, a vampiric holocaust, where vampires once made, kept, and checked by institution, will be left without any supervision or restraint.

“Now I know that you are still humane enough to want peace in this world.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed in what would have been a smirk if his mouth had followed suit.

“What do I need to do?”