It is a dark old mansion that sits by the placid surface of Lake.
It is fenced in, surrounded by a thick cover of trees and bushes...and a long driveway made up of old bricks, that lead up to a circular parking area with a large working fountain in the middle.
A dark collection of long black limos have been lined up in front of the house, shining like dark slivers of glass in the light of the full moon.
As my driver takes us onto the property, the fence is closed and locked behind us, and security teams of hunters step out of the shadows to watch over the property and provide us all with the heavy security needed for such an important meeting. Attended by such important people. It is obvious that we are some of the last to arrive.
I look over to my right to see my vampire childe, Julian, anxiously tapping his fingers against his thighs, practically bouncing around in the back seat of our limousine. I was beginning to regret bringing him along with me tonight. He is still SO young. And while I love him with every fiber of my being...he has only been a vampire for 6 short years, and he has never met another vampire Elder except for me. Much less the high governing Elders of this area and many others that he'll be seeing tonight. Their traditions are much different from the vampires of today. To the point where the oldest of us, the 'vempirae'...or even OLDER than the council itself, the 'iluminirae'...might seem like an almost entirely different species to him. It may be too soon to bring him into this part of my existence. I promised to allow him a bit more access, but I can already tell that he is too eager to contain himself. I really should have left him behind tonight.
Because if this meeting is about what I THINK it's about...there is some very dark work that we have ahead of us. Chances are, they will object to having such a newblood at our table.
"How many of them are gonna be there, Romey? Lots, I'll bet!" Julian grinned happily. His neatly cut, blond bangs dancing back and forth across his light blue optrix as he gave me a boyish smile. He was only 15 when he crossed over, and even though he remains physically unchanged, I swear, he grows more beautiful each day.
I, on the other hand, have been wandering the streets of Chicago since Al Capone was still knocking over paperboy stands for some kid's lunch money. I may have crossed over at the age of 17, myself...but I guarantee you, I am MUCH much older. I have seen this once small industrial city grow into the massive metropolis it is today. It happened so very fast back then. I've seen its skyscrapers built from the ground up. I've seen it run by blatant bullies and thugs...and I now see it run by secretive political bullies and thugs. I've seen the night skies set ablaze with the light of the great Chicago fire...and I've seen the glory of the World's Fair celebrate its revival in all its brilliance. I once passed H.H. Holmes in the street, picking up on some of his mental images as we nearly collided with one another. Seems we were both looking for a fresh victim that night. I've been a witness to soooo much, and have gathered more experiences than Julian has questions to ask about. And yet, despite the nearly impossible age gap between me and my childe...we still found and maintain a love that I am confident will stand the test of time and beyond.
Something about him...his youth, his excitement, his eagerness to explore and experience and absorb ALL that he possibly can at all times...it rejuvenated the life within me. It made me remember what it was like to see the world with fresh eyes again. And for that, I am truly grateful.
However...when dealing with the other Elders on the council tonight...that delightful energy will have to be nearly suffocated out of him and pressed to the very bottom of his stomach. And the utmost form of poise and respect must be put there to replace it on the surface. They won't tolerate his naiveté. Not even for a moment. Not tonight.
"Which one is the oldest one, Romey? Can I, like, talk to them? Omigod, I've got SO many questions!" Julian peeped.
"Romero, Julian. When you're in there, you must call me Romero. No nicknames. Understood?" I told him, and then I put my hand on top of his to keep him from patting his thighs. "And you HAVE to stop fidgeting. They take offense when you fidget. You're a VERY young vampire to them, Julian, and they're going to notice that right away. The key to being allowed to stay within the walls of the mansion during our meeting is to show great respect and self control."
"I know, I know. I am...I'm just...this is so COOL, you know???" He leaned over to hug me around the neck and I should have been trying to calm him down more, but...there was always something so soft and affectionate about his embrace. Sincerity in its purest form. I had no choice but to hold him close, and place a tender kiss on his lips. I can't believe I'm sneaking him in here as my 'assistant'. A READER at that! He has been bugging me for the last three years to let him sit in on a meeting with the rst of the circle. I finally surrendered and agreed to let him come as long as he let me train him on Vempirae etiquette and approach. And now...here he is. On tonight of all nights. Sighhhh...what have I done?
"Alright, Julian...you remember what we discussed. Right? It's EXTREMELY important that you follow what I taught you to the very letter of the law. This is serious. Elders aren't like other vampires. Especially the traditional ones from the old world. You have to follow certain 'rules of engagement' when you're in their presence. Timelessness makes them...touchy about things like that."
"Ok, no prob. I gotchya." He smiled.
"Stop smiling." I said, and he tried...but with a gentle blush, the smirk broke through his defenses regardless. And it was so contagious that I couldn't help but to smile myself for a moment. So beautiful. So VERY beautiful. There was a time, shortly after my 125th birthday that I swear I went an entire year without so much as cracking a single smile. Time wasted. I was worried that I had exhausted my sense of humor for good. But humor consists mostly with a sense of 'surprise'...and how does one surprise a century old vampire? All that time...I had convinced myself that there weren't going to be many chances left to laugh during my stay in darkness. And here Julian is again, proving me wrong. There truly are a few unexpected tricks left in this life of mine.
We giggled to ourselves for a moment as the limo drove us up to the house, and I leaned over to give him a quick kiss on the lips. "Ok...for real this time. Pay attention." I said. "When you're in there, you're supposed to be my assistant. You don't speak unless spoken to. And if you ARE spoken to, you answer in SHORT phrases, if not just 'yes' or 'no' answers. Try not to stare, and don't make any sudden or jerky movements, they don't like it." His knees were bouncing again and I pushed my hand down to stop them. "DON'T fidget, Julian...it makes you look nervous. If YOU Look nervous, that makes THEM nervous. So try to control that as best as you can, ok?"
"Ok." He said, taking a deep breath.
"Give me your optrix." I said, and he took them out of his eyes to hand them to me. Allowing his amazing vampire glow to shine through. "You have to show an Elder your true eyes at all times. Anything less is a sign of disrespect. And NEVER bare your fangs at any time! You understand? It's like...giving them a middle finger or something, you'll basically be picking a fight. You don't want that." God, I hope I had taught him enough over the last few weeks to get us through this. I was taking a HUGE chance here.
"Romey..." Julian smiled, then corrected himself, "Sighhh...Romero...it'll be FINE! I won't embarrass you, I promise."
I took his smooth pale cheeks in my hands, feeling the porcelain smooth flesh against my palms, and I gave his moist, ruby, lips a lover's kiss torelax him. And possibly relax myself in the process. "You could never embarrass me, Julian. Not ever." He grinned, but then I added, "However...if you piss one of them off, they're liable to kill us both. So...keep that in mind, will you?"
Our limo came to a stop, and our driver got out to open the door for us. "Sweet! Eek! This is it! Ok...I'm calm! I'm calm!" Julian panted.
"REMEMBER...the second we get out of this car, you don't read ANYBODY'S mind but mine! Ok? The Elders can easily detect these things. Reading an Elder's mind within the confidentiality of the Circle is considered an act of treason, so DON'T do it! If you want to communicate, mentally, back and forth with ME, that's fine. But you start poking around in someone else's head, and you'll take a shiv in the heart right there and then. I won't be able to protect you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir." He smiled.
"STOP SMILING!!!" I giggled.
The limo door opened, and our eyes connected briefly before he stepped out. I followed, and immediately he formed a mental link with me as we went to walk towards the front door. At least we could communicate without the others hearing. For a little while, anyway. I never know what they can and can't sense. We Elders are definitely known for keeping our secrets. Any violation of that means immediate execution. No discussion. I hope Julian can keep his excitement under control.
The mansion loomed over us, black as the night itself, at least a century old. But secure enough for the governing Elders to meet in secret whenever there were matters of great importance to discuss. Each Elder had their own selection of personal bodyguards and protectors that accompanied them everywhere that they went. Some were visible in the open areas, and some were hidden in the shadows. For this heightened level of security, my suspicions about tonight being extremely important were confirmed.
A few of the guards at the door bowed their heads slightly when they recognized me, and I allowed Julian to enter the mansion first, before quietly walking in behind him. We were scanned, physically, for weapons in the foyer. Then scanned, mentally, by some of the experienced readers standing in front of the door. Two men, in black suits, that skillfully ran through our 'surface' thoughts, without going any deeper. They were looking for signs of aggression, deception, fear...I was worried that Julian's wild excitement would have them stop him at the door. But I think they recognized him as a younger vampire, giving him somewhat of a handicap, and let him in anyway.
The light was so dim in the main hall that the bulbs barely served their purpose. The center of the giant mansion was spacious...to the point where you felt as though it could swallow you up and never release you again. High ceilings that disappeared into the darkness above you, and two winding staircases that snaked their way around either side of a giant hanging chandelier.
Spread out in the main hall, were the other Elders in attendance for this meeting. Vampires well over 200 years old, mostly, or nearing that age. I am the youngest member of the council at only 156 years in darkness. An achievement, sure, but until a vampire has reached their bicentennial, they can't even begin to fathom the idea of eternity. At least that's what I've constantly been told by the powers that elected me to be here. Because of my apparent youth...there are many times when they look down on my voice within the Circle. But the oldest of us, the governing mage of the Circle Nocturnus here in this sector, knows that my reasoning is sound. That my opinion has merit. It has proven to be a necessary component of their decision making process. I'm hoping that will come in handy tonight.
I looked to my right, and saw Julian fidgeting again as he saw the other Elders moving into the large room around him. Each one with their own private entourage of advisers and assassins alike. I had to silently communicate with Julian before the rapid beating of his antsy heart caused him to explode. "Julian...stillness. Remember?"
"Right...right." He said back to me, psychically. "Wow...they don't look much older than we do. Are they really THAT old?"
"Most of them remember when the United States first became a country, believe me. But, like everything else, they've updated and adapted to the current times. While keeping their cultural knowledge and individual traditions in tact. We are all reaching forward into eternity, seeking the ultimate answers, evolving through the illusion of time to find the boundary...and look beyond it."
"That is soooo wicked..." He said. "Do you really think they'll instantly know that I'm...you know...so young?" Julian asked, almost feeling a pinch of humiliation for it.
"They knew the second you walked in the door." I told him. "Your youth is evident in everything you do. An Elder knows the difference. But don't worry...to them...even I'M young."
"You still look pretty to me, OLD man!" He said, and he started to smile, but then corrected himself and held it back.
We both moved forward, and the Elders acknowledged me with a silent nod from a distance. Discussing matters of the city with one another as they allowed us to pass. Their hunter bodyguards always blatantly stared you in the eye when you passed them. Every time. Hands ready on whatever weapons they were carrying with them. Ready to cut you in two if you made any sudden movements. That's their job. Their ONLY job.
Julian was staring in amazement. I could practically feel the energetic tingles radiating from him as he trembled in the presence of the others. I had to keep talking to him. At least until he got used to the idea.
"I'm sorry." He said.
"Try to stay with me here, ok? Short, casual, glances. I'll give you a quick break down on who everyone is." I told him. "Don't worry about the hunters watching you. You won't sneak any glances past them, they'll catch you every time and stare right back at you. Every single hunter in this room is keeping an eye on everything around them at all times, watching VERY closely, and their gaze will follow you no matter where you go. It can be unsettling at first, but you'll grow accustomed to it in time."
"Ok..." He said. Even in his mental messages, his boyish whine sounded adorable. But I could already tell that the paranoia behind being stared at with such brazen intensity was beginning to make him feel awkward. It was shameless the way they burned a hole right through you with their unapologetic gaze, but it was a part of the job that I had gotten used to over the years.
To our left was a woman in a long, sleek, red dress. With long black hair hanging to the small of her back. She crossed over around the age of 40...but that was 236 years ago. "You see the woman to the left?" I secretly asked Julian, keeping him focused. "That is Mistress Simone. She traveled here from Romania just over a century ago. She's been a high ranking member of the Circle Nocturnus for nearly 75 years now." I saw Julian staring again, and had to make sure that he remembered to look away. "Now...the reason all of her bodyguards and her adviser are women is because she doesn't trust men at all. None. Rumor has it that she was very much in love with her sire once...but when she found out that he had been having a lurid love affair behind her back...she had him dismembered, put the pieces into an iron treasure chest, and let it sink to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean...where he still lies to this day. Crying out, waking up each night to drown all over again. He can't even turn himself to ash, as the depths of the ocean are too far down for daylight to reach him. Hell of a punishment."
"Indeed. Don't let the calm face and dark red lipstick fool you. She's quite rational...but she can be truly heartless when she feels the need. And she likes for it to HURT. Long lasting agony that is meant to provide the maximum amount of suffering."
Two of the other Elders were in conversation in another corner of the room. One of them, A large, broad shouldered, African man, with a bald head covered in tribal tattoos, and had a long visible scar across his throat. The other, a blind, Asian man, about 35 years old, with shoulder length black hair, and dressed in an extremely expensive suit. "Now...over here, Julian, are two very important Elders on the council. The one on the right is Vampire Elder Olujimi. He hails from Zaire, and he is our link between the human world and the vampire world. He negotiates the treaties, he maintains the balance, and it's his job to make sure that this connection between the two worlds is kept SECRET! There's a legend that the scar on his neck happened AFTER his crossover, and it never healed completely. It's been said that an assassin actually cut his head OFF...and he was somehow able to 're-attach' it in just one sleep cycle. I don't know if there is any truth to that, but I DO know that Olujimi was a warrior and a king in his homeland before he crossed over into darkness...and he's gotten more ruthless since then. So anything is possible." Julian's eyes got big, and I saw the other Elder reach into his pocket to answer his cell phone.
"Yes...so it is done? I am pleased." He said, his eyes completely white from his blindness. No pupils at all. "Payments will be transferred into your respective accounts within the hour." He hung up the phone, and returned his attention to Olujimi. "It appears that one of our little 'problems' has recently been taken care of in the IceZone sector. The target has been silenced. There will be no future pirated radio broadcasts."
Olujimi nodded. His voice a deep baritone that rattled in his chest when he spoke. "This is a good thing. I trust you are still checking for others using this same hidden frequency?"
"Indeed, we are. Soon...all vampires attempting to hide their actions from us will suffer a very serious set of consequences. This, I can guarantee."
"Who's that?" Julian asked.
"The blind Asian is Vampire Elder Masato. He's 288 years old, and he is one of the main 'problem solvers' in the Circle. If any of our ancient laws are being violated by this new and growing population of modern vampires, if any information is leaked or withheld, if there is any threat of exposure whatsoever....Masato is the one that makes the call."
"Makes the call? Meaning what?" Julian asked.
"Meaning...you get an unexpected 'visitor'..." I told him. "...Your very LAST 'visitor', to be specific. Masato is in touch with all of the hunter training sites on the continent. Assassin contracts are written, and payments are delivered. Just pray he never writes your name down. Ever. Even though Masato is blind...he can still write clearly, keep notes, and return to somehow 'read' them later. It is legend that once Masato scribes your name in his book of targets...you die within three days' time. Even without hiring an assassin."
"Whoah...is that true?"
"Who knows? When these Elders crossed over, myths and legends were seen as the gospel truth. The world was a very different place back then. But for what it's worth, that's one legend that I don't care to put to the test." I said. I then turned Julian's attention to the big, bloated, vampire stuffing his face with food by the large fireplace. "The giant PIG of a man you see by the steps is Vampire Elder Beraad. Very old. Has Viking blood in him." I saw Julian make a face as the 450 pound vampire reached into a metal bucket to grab a sloppy handful of mixed meat. It looked like some chicken, some ham, some crumbled, greasy, ground beef, and a piece of raw fish...and he shoved the whole thing in his mouth at once. Breathing heavy as chunks of half chewed slop fell out of his gaping maw, some of it smeared on his face.
"Dude...that's SO sick! Ugh!" Julian made a frown, but was quick to straighten up when he noticed Beraad's hunter detail prctically assaulting him with an overly attentive stare.
At that moment, Beraad picked up a second bucket that he kept at his side. And once he had chewed all the flavor he could out of the garbage he had pushed into his open mouth...he lifted the second bucket and spit out the disgusting 'mush' in a sickening ball of waste, so as not to swallow any of it and cause himself any pain later from digesting anything other than the blood of the innocent. He let out a rude belch before one of his advisers handed him a black silk napkin to wipe his mouth and chin.
"Beraad's job is to control the heft of our underground finances. The money made from the clubs, from the fighting arenas, the safeguard marks, the blood dealers...all have to be taxed and the money pushed back into the system. Disgusting as he may be, his numbers are never wrong. He can mathematically calculate all budgets and percentages faster than most computers. And whatever is left over, he greedily hordes for himself."
The front door opened again, and another Elder showed up with a few adviser of his own. In appearance, he was just a 12 year old boy. Small in stature with an almost feminine frame. Tiny shoulders, and a neatly cut chestnut brown mop on his head. He was dressed in a black suit with a tie, his black shoes shining, even in this dim light. He was also wearing dark sunglasses and a pair of black gloves, which he calmly removed once inside, and handed it to his right hand adviser to place gently in a briefcase.
Julian let a smile cross his lips, and I nudged him in the side. "Awww, no way! He's so cute! Is he, like..."
"An Elder? Yes. That is the Vampire Elder Piotr. And I suggest that you take the word 'cute' out of your vocabulary when talking about him. He may just be one of the most ruthless Vempirae Elders in this room." I said, and Julian watched in disbelief as the young boy found an exquisite antique chair against the wall, and politely sat down, his adult male entourage dutifully taking positions on both sides of him. Piotr was always so quiet. So delicate in his voice and his movements. But, truth be told, many have been slaughtered under his reign...and he's never lost a moment's sleep over it. "Piotr is over 350 years into his crossover. He comes from a very old criminal order in Russia, when there WAS no government and each settlement had to pretty much fend for themselves. The four men he brought with him are more than just his advisers, they are his lovers as well. They are his four husbands. And even then, he goes out to look for more. He demands older males, always. His own body never developed before he was bitten, so a fully matured body is what he is looking for. He also has a fetish for humans. But with them...once he's done with the sex, he bleeds them quick, disposes of the bodies, and goes right back to business like some kind of black widow spider." I said. "Piotr's very traditional. He maintains the laws and keeps a firm grasp in all of our activities. He uses fear to prevent anarchy, or so he says. I honestly think he enjoys watching them die. He has a zero tolerance for...well...everything. He's done things that would make Hitler blush."
"I suddenly don't want to ask anyone here any questions about anything anymore." Julian said. "They're all so...demented. Why so much violence and murder?"
"Unfortunately, there is no line drawn in the sand for many modern vampires today. How do you govern over a species that feeds off of the living on a monthly basis. Vampires that think they are 'gods'. Our decisions are difficult, but they're put into place to keep the balance and stop this whole process from suddenly spinning out of control. The worlds of daylight and darkness...if they were to suddenly collide with one another before both worlds were ready to accept the impact of it...the results would be catastrophic."
Julian quickly looked over my shoulder. "I think that 'guy' is coming over."
I turned around, and tried to hold back a growl as I saw one of my most hated members of the Circle. Standing at over six feet, his long dark hair coming down to his cheeks, evil eyes staring at me with a wicked smile as he began to approach. He was in his 30's when he crossed over, but that was a few centuries before now. "That is Vampire Navius. He controls all forms of communication with the other Elders and vampires in higher places than what exists in our private sector. He collects information from every knowledgeable source in the country. It's his job to know everything that is to be known at all times. And in case you were wondering...he's an asshole."
It was the last thing I was able to send Julian mentally before Navius greeted me with a fake smile and an invasive stare at Julian. "The great Vampire Romero. I am so very pleased to see that you have come to grace us with your presence this evening." Then he looked at Julian, and squinted his eyes slightly. "And I see that you've brought...a guest."
I was quick to tell him, "This is Julian. He's my adviser for the evening."
"An adviser for an adviser. How quaint." He said in a snotty tone. "And such a lovely adviser at that. So...young. You usually come alone, Romero. What changed your mind?"
He was already prying. Already trying to push his way in to find out what was going on. Julian was frozen, attempting to keep his eyes down. "This was an important meeting. I wanted him present."
Julian was trembling slightly, and it only made Navius smirk wickedly at him. "Why so nervous, child? You're among friends, I assure you." He said, with a reptilian tone of voice.
"I'm...ok, sir." He stuttered, about to rattle himself to pieces.
"For such an 'important meeting', Romero, I find it awkward that you would bring with you such obvious distractions. In fact, I find it insulting." He said. "The Circle Nocturnus does not have a nursery."
"Maybe what it needs is some new blood. Something refreshing, instead of conformist. Perhaps that is why the Circle is constantly making the same mistakes without learning the proper lessons presented to them." I said, challenging him, but only with a subtle change in demeanor.
"So then...you DO know what tonight's meeting is about then?" Navius grinned. "I can already see you getting fired up with the same old arguments that you have been giving us for the last three decades. But I can guarantee you...you will continue to get the same response you always have. We will not jeopardize everything we have worked so hard to maintain for the last few centuries over your optimistic vision of misplaced hope."
"The council knows true wisdom when it hears it. And they know that, eventually, this violent cycle of ours has to come to an end. We can't continue to keep wiping 'potentials' out of existence over a few rumors alone."
"Ahhh...but THIS time, Romero...it's not just rumors and hearsay." Navius said, his smirk widening before my eyes. "It's not a guess, it's not a hoax, it's not a myth. This time, I have evidence to prove its legitimacy. And your petty quarrels and debates aren't going to do you a bit of good. Not this time. All Masato needs is the proper authorization, and it is finished. This meeting is nothing more than a polite formality to keep the other members of the Circle informed. A shell game, to satisfy those in control."
"Well...we shall see, won't we?" I told him.
"Indeed, we shall." Navius sneered. And it was then that we all heard the opening of a door at the top of the winding staircase. All eyes turned upward, and a much older man, with long white hair and a white goat tee to match, stepped to the edge of the balcony. Lord Zarius, the oldest of us all, and leading member of the Circle Nocturnus. With a calm wave of his arm, he greeted us, and began his graceful decent down the stairs to begin the meeting.
Julian nearly shook himself sick at the very sight of him. He had read many scriptures, many legends, of Lord Zarius since his crossover. Text dating further back than anything he could ever imagine. He was beyond fascination as the gentlemen reached the floor of the main hall, and shook hands with the other members of the council. He was impressed beyond his ability to speak. Hold onto your grace, Julian. Don't slip.
The doors were opened to the conference room, and all of the Elders began to head towards it. I watched as Mistress Simone was allowed to enter first. Anything less was considered rude. She would not stand for it. Olujimi and Masato entered shortly after Navius, and Piotr silently walked forward...being cut off by Beraad. A known molester, Beraad never passed up an opportunity to openly drool over the attractive young lad.
"Mmmm, the passions you arouse in me, boy." Beraad lewdly sucked his middle finger into his mouth at the sight of him. "My, my, my...you look good enough to eat."
"Solu tedumeo..." Piotr sneered. Even offended, his soft, high pitched, voice hardly seemed threatening at all. The boy said nothing else, and walked into the conference room without looking in Beraad's direction again.
"What did he say?" Julian asked.
"It's an old language. VERY old. I'll teach you the basics of it one day. Hehehe, translated, it means...'You disgust me'." I said. I began to walk towards the door myself, when Lord Zarius himself came over to speak to me. Julian noticed his approach and he nearly fainted from a sudden lack of oxygen. "Lord Zarius." I bowed my head with respect, and he put a hand on my shoulder to set me at ease.
"I understand that this assembly was put together on very short notice, Romero, but it was imperative that this meeting be held tonight." He said, his voice was soothing. A bit gravely, but comforting. Like that of an old uncle or a grandfather, dispersing words of wisdom for the ages. But despite his friendly face, I could tell the deep level of concern in his tone.
"I understand. When I caught word of the announcement, I knew that I had to come." I said. "Navius says that he has actual proof this time. Is this true?"
Zarius looked me in the eye, and attempted to forge a counterfeit smile. "Romero...I understand that, as a part of the Circle, you are considered to be...a very young candidate. I realize that the other Elders often see your reasoning as irrational. Inexperienced. Unsound." Then he patted me on the shoulder again. "But as far as I am concerned, your inclusion in the Circle Nocturnus is one of the most important perspectives that we can ever hope to have. You are not bound by antiquated beliefs and age old mythologies the way so many of the others are. You've proven to be worthy of your seat on the council...and I guarantee you that you will be treated fairly tonight during these proceedings." He said. "I know that you must feel as though all of your arguments in the past years have gone unheard. But this is not the case."
"With all due respect, sir...I doubt my arguments were what the other Elders were judging me upon." I said, and Zarius took his arm from my shoulder.
"The other potentials were destroyed only after serious consideration for an alternative from the members of this council. Nothing else could be done." He said. "You couldn't have saved them, Romero. You made a valiant effort, and that is commendable. But what we are dealing with now is much too important to be taken lightly."
Zarius was a friend. A good friend. And I believed him to be a fair man of the highest caliber. But I have to admit that I was disappointed in his stance on this. "That's why I am here, sir. So that it won't be taken lightly."
He gave me a nod, and then looked over at Julian, who was staring in awe, and squirming in his own skin. "Good evening, little one." Zarius said, and I had to nudge Julian to get him to speak.
"Oof...uh...h-h-hi..." He squeaked. "...I mean, hello. I mean... greetings...Master Elder Vampire Lord Zarius, sir..."
Zarius smiled with delight. "Zarius will be fine. Too many titles attached to one name breeds arrogance." He shook Julian's hand, and the boy grasped it softly, as though it were a baby bird with a broken wing.
"I am soooo honored, right now. I've read EVERYTHING you've ever written. Every scripture. I've studied your work from front to back ever since my crossover. You've truly written some beautiful and inspiring passages." He sighed, still holding the man's hand unknowingly.
"Thank you." Zarius said, smiling. It was good to see that Julian's contagious youth isn't just wasted on me. Zarius turned back to me and said, "Charming boy."
"Yes. Julian here is my adviser for the evening. He won't be any trouble, I promise you. He simply wants to sit in on the proceedings and..."
"Oh nonsense." Zarius said. "The young one is more than welcome, provided he understands the confidentiality of the situation." He then leaned forward to whisper, "And I may be a very old vampire...but the concept of involuntary love and affection predates us all. I know an 'adviser' when I see one, Romero." He told me with a wink. "I also know the sparkle of renewed life in the eyes of one of my dearest friends when it comes to love. For what it's worth, I'm happy for you both."
I grinned a bit, and saw Julian blush deeply as a huge smile broke out on his face. "Thank you, sir."
"Come. We have urgent matters to discuss." Zarius led us both into the conference room. A large circular black marble table sat in the center of the room. With seats all around it, one for each of the members. A harsh white light cast its beam on the table itself, and the table alone. The rest of the room was always kept pitch black, with the exception of a series of dimly lit video screens on the wall. You could only see the council members...their assassins stayed hidden in the darkness surrounding them. This was the Circle Nocturnus...the governing Elders of Sector 9 in Chicago...and this is where the balance was built, and where it is kept.
Navius stared at me mischievously from across the table, and Zarius led us in a short spoken motto in verzpertillio before bringing the meeting to order. A motto that, in short, means...'to bring the morals of daylight into darkness, and serve the dire needs of our kind with no ill intent.' That said, Lord Zarius stood up from his seat, and addressed the council.
An image appeared on the video screen behind him. It was an old abandoned house, that looked as though it had been completely destroyed from the inside out. Only rubble was left behind.
"I am certain that many of you in this room, if not all of you, have been hearing the accumulated whispers of what has been happening on the streets, right here, in our very sector. An unprecedented event that, as you know...affects us all. Not just as a council...but as a species. Despite the previous ambitious hoaxes, despite the pseudo-religious dogma, despite the fanatic searches and the outright denial of most random claims...it appears that we may actually have a valid reason to be concerned this time. And from what we have gathered so far...this new arrival in our world has been exceptionally disturbing."
Masato took out his notepad, and began writing instantly. Blindly recording the conversation word for word. While Mistress Simone slowly leaned forward with interest.
Zarius looked back at the video screen for a moment. "A few days ago, I received word that Vampire Elder Tim's habitat had been completely decimated. While it is almost certain that he is still alive somewhere, he has yet to resurface." He said, now circling the table. "The reports that we have been getting in the last few weeks have been unsettling. And they are becoming more and more frequent. To the degree that I can say, without fear of sounding rash, that there is some validity in their statements."
The table got extremely quiet. Until Olujimi spoke, "We have been through this before. We have heard the scandals, we have tested the potentials, we have searched far and wide for any evidence for what was foretold to us. And there has been no sign of a true account. Not a single one."
"This time, it's different." Navius said.
"How? How is this different?"
"There have been witnesses." Navius smiled. And Zarius confirmed his findings, changing the pictures on the screen.
"That is correct. Some of our most trusted psychics have foreseen his coming. Here, in the IceZone...nearly 50 witnesses. Here...on Navy Pier...hundreds more. These vampires are not all believers. Not like we are. The very legend itself has passed itself on into obscurity. Made out to be a fairy tale from the old world. And yet...these same vampires have reported, with great piety, that they have actually SEEN him with their own eyes." Zarius gave the rest of the table a very serious look. "What we are dealing with has not been a part of our kind's existence for more than 600 years of darkness. I am informing the Circle Nocturnus that we may have an extremely sensitive issue approaching on the horizon. One that could either mean our enlightened salvation...or our total annihilation. Ladies and gentlemen of the council...it is believed that a true vampire Mimic now walks among us. Right now...at this very moment. And before this meeting is finished, we will be forced to decide whether we plan to embrace this potentially dangerous anomaly...or destroy it...once and for all."
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