- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 19 - The Children of the Night
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Vincent and Lady De Marine were on the move. Marlowe had hoped they would still be in Istanbul by the time he and his compatriots disembarked in Greece. They would now need to hurry and attempt to cut them off before they moved too far inland to their mysterious destination.
Father Grigori had been studying the map with distinct interest, noting the two groups seemed to be heading towards one another. On the ship, he would go down below the deck and perform his arcane rituals, much to the annoyance of Frederick, and would return to them, a far-off look in his eyes. Marlowe, not liking his subordinates to be on their guard, had questioned father Grigori, whose response worried him.
‘The hand of fate guides them,’ said Father Grigori. ‘Some unseen force that pulls at the strings of destiny.’ Marlowe was concerned. He had lived too long, and the thought of being manipulated did not sit well with his disposition.
‘Who?’ he asked. ‘And what can we do about it?’ Father Grigori shook his head.
‘I cannot say,’ explained Father Grigori. ‘The voices will not answer me.’
‘How convenient for them,’ said Marlowe, determined. “‘Luckily that is what the good doctor here is for.’ Frederick patted a case next to him without looking up from his book.
Vincent and Corrine sat stunned at the display before them. An entire pack of wolves stood before them, unmistakably bowing towards the weakened Vincent in the morning sun. He shielded his eyes as he fell to his knees, locking eyes with the nearest wolf. It walked up to him, which caused Corrine to gasp, before walking between them, arms outstretched, to shield her friend.
The wolf jumped slightly, startled at the noise and movement, but Vincent raised his hand and placed it on hers to show that he was alright. He and Corrine locked eyes and he nodded.
‘Its okay,’ he said. ‘Let it come.’
‘Are you sure?’ Corrine asked, kneeling down beside him.
‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s just a feeling.’ He was breathing heavily, suffering under the sunlight. Corrine looked concerned, but backed away.
The wolf, seeing its path clear, walked up to Vincent and began to sniff him. Time seemed to freeze, as it circled him slowly, occasionally pausing to take another whiff of the air. When it had finished with Vincent, it walked over to Corrine.
‘Let it smell you,’ he said. ‘It’s just making sure.’
‘Sure about what?’ asked Corrine, who was starting to wonder if any part of her had been eaten by wolves before. Vincent remained silent, but she remained still and let the wolf circle her. When it was done, it walked back over to Vincent and sat before him so they could look one another in the eye. It leaned forward and licked him gently on the face, before throwing its head back and howling. The rest of the pack soon joined in, creating a harmony throughout the wilderness. For a moment, it seemed to be the only sound in existence.
‘Listen to them,’ said Vincent. ‘It’s beautiful.’ Corrine couldn’t help but agree. The wolf song stirred something in her that didn’t belong to any of her foreign parts. It touched something primal within her that felt like it belonged to her, and her alone. She wondered if Vincent always felt this way.
The wolves soon stopped and began to gather near the one that had sniffed them. They soon turned, and began to walk towards the tree line. Vincent tried to stand, but stumbled as soon as he tried to take a step. Corrine rushed forward and supported him. When he looked up at her, he seemed to be looking past her., like he could see something she couldn’t, something tied to the music of the wolves.
‘We need to follow,’ he said between breaths. ‘They’ll lead us to safety.”
‘I’ll ask again,’ said Corrine. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes,’ said Vincent. ‘I can feel it. I need your help, though. I’m too weak.’ She gave him a warm smile and put his arm round her neck.
‘You can trust me,’ she said. ‘Let’s go.’ They moved slowly through the brush, with Vincent occasionally stumbling over himself. His new trick had weakened him significantly, his body unused to the strain. Corrine began to worry he might be hungry, and might resort to the beast that had sprung out of the coffin.
Even when they slowed, a wolf would occasionally double back and watch them. As soon as they would regain their footing, it would bound off again to join the pack. They kept up that pattern for what felt like an hour, until they reached the mouth of a huge cave. Corrine looked at Vincent who nodded at her. They stepped tentatively inside the mouth of the cave, and as Corrine’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw it was filled with the pack.
Father Grigori had lied about the voices. They had spoken to him, but they were angry, and refused his request for aid. When he had asked them why, the only answer he received had been a single phrase.
‘The law was broken.’ Father Grigori was unsure of what that had meant, but it shook him to his core. When he had asked what that meant, he was met with silence. He spent the rest of the voyage in silence, contemplating what law had been broken, but nothing ever came to mind.
It made no difference in the long run. They had conquered death, and once they retrieved their specimen, nothing would matter anymore. Once they had perfected their technique, he would be an immortal, with endless time to perfect his arts. He would become the most powerful sorcerer the world had ever seen. Yet what good would that do him now?
The thought had filled Father Grigori’s mind ever since he had met Blake. A man of influence and wealth, who managed to resurrect a body in the middle of London without so much as raising a peep. He had the means and privacy to do whatever he pleased, without anyone growing suspicious. Blake was an arrogant man, but he had every right to be so.
Status was more important than the Siberian son of a farmer. He thought about all his brothers and sister ,who had died before his own birth and how they might have survived if his parents had had the resources of an elite. Then again, he might not have been born. Regardless, he now saw what influence and status were worth, and with enough of each, his seat in the world was secure.
Blake himself was proof of all this. Frederick explained how he had been more of a nuisance to their organisation than anything. A small man with big dreams. Yet he had knowledge Father Grigori could only dream to have, and he now stood with them in their endeavors. Father Grigori was impressed with the watery-eyed man, and heeded his words now.
Then there was Frederick, who sat before him in the carriage they would take to Bulgaria. A Baron who had inherited a vast amount of wealth and power simply by sharing the name of his forefathers. He used those resources and funded his research, buying buildings and materials like they were nothing to him, though he had apparently squandered it in recent years. Not many were willing to fund the experiments of what they saw as a madman, save for the likes of Marlowe.
Another interesting point to be made in regard to this new line of thinking that was plaguing Father Grigori. An elderly man with a bad cough, who was supremely secretive in almost every aspect of his life. He went out of his way to create an air of mystery that threatened to murder any who would dare to solve it. Marlowe was clearly a man of influence, yet he seemed intent on keeping as low a profile as possible.
This made itself known whenever they were required to pay for something or interact with people. Either Frederick or Father Grigori had to make the dealings, while Marlowe sat somewhere out of sight, watching them thoroughly. On the ship to Greece, he had his own private cabin, while Father Grigori and Frederick were forced to share one. It bothered the former just how much like an animal Marlowe seemed to be . Not a loud and brash one, such as Richard, who roared at his foes, paralyzing them with fear, but a quiet one. The kind that can stay perfectly still for hours on end, showing endless patience, as it waits for its prey to come to it. That kind of hunt took confidence and skill, as well as a particularly cruel mind. Far more dangerous than the hunter who left with Blake on a train.
What impressed Father Grigori the most was Marlowe’s ability to dominate the wills of others, a trait he seemed to share with the supposed vampire they were chasing. With only a look, he had seen the man subdue people and run from him. He emanated power over the mind to the point others could feel it. Father Grigori coveted this power, and vowed to master it for himself one day.
To Father Grigori, it was almost admirable. Something to aspire to. He had always been the eternal student, willing to learn. He had forgotten that when he met Blake, but after seeing what he could do, reprimanded himself. A new world was opening up to him, and it existed deep within his core.
He had joined their little society through sheer talent. A farmer who had stumbled upon the dark arts and cobbled together many of his own spells and concoctions. That was his ability, to learn and adapt the teachings of others for his own purposes. No matter how broken or fractured the teachings had become, he mastered it slowly and methodically. It soon brought him to the history of the alchemist, Nicholas Flamel, which would garner the attention of those he now saw as his compatriots.
He was the observer, and that was how he had learned his most valuable skills. These men would unknowingly help create something that was far greater than the sum of its parts. Blake’s status and wealth. Frederick’s title and knowledge. And Marlowe, with his ability to control the weaker willed and addiction to hiding in the shadows. All so fascinating to Father Grigori, so adaptable and experimental.
But those were thoughts that would take a back seat, as the carriage rode across Italy at a steady pace. They would reach a train station soon and be in Bulgaria by nightfall. It became apparent that despite what Marlowe had told Richard, he had no intention of letting one beast near the other. They would need to capture the vampire and Corrine before they made it their destination, and that meant being prepared.
Marlowe had asked for something very specific from Frederick that seemed to hold the key to capturing both, though Father Grigori was barred from nothing. It was Frederick who refused to discuss anything, so jealously guarding his inventions ever since their failure to keep Corrine within the confines of the laboratory. But he assured them all it would do the trick and be quite a spectacle when it did so. Another lesson for Father Grigori to learn, it would seem, a perfect time to exercise Marlowe’s patience.
Soon he thought. So very very soon.
The wolves all lounged about in their den, eagerly watching them as they shuffled in. Over in the corner, pups were playing absentmindedly with the tail of one of their elders, but dropped the game as soon as they saw the newcomers. They wanted to go inspect Vincent and Corrine, judging by the eagerness in which they wagged their tails, but waited for the sign from one the older wolves.
As they made their way into the cave, Vincent collapsed against a nearby wall. Corrine knelt before him and could see the weariness in his eyes. Before she could say anything, one of the wolves approached them with something in its mouth. It made its way over to Vincent, and dropped a rabbit in his lap, freshly killed with its neck broken. He looked up at Corrine.
‘Could…Could you look away, please?’ he asked. She looked at him, confused.
‘You need eat, though,’ she said. ‘What’s wrong?’ He looked down at the dead rabbit in his lap, and suddenly it hit her. Even when they were at the abbey, Vincent had done his best to hide his eating habits from her. He had told her about his needs, but it never occurred to her he was ashamed of his hunger. She felt embarrassed she had even asked and turned away, bright red.
As soon as she looked away, Vincent scooped up the rabbit and bit into it, draining it slowly and methodically. He didn’t want to waste a drop, despite its not having the same taste it was used to. It was duller now, less filling, but it did the job, as some mild color returned to his face. When the corpse had been drained dry, he tossed the carcass to the wolf, who had given it to him, and began to chew away at it thankfully and content.
Taking the rabbit seemed to endear them to the pack and one look from one of the elders sent the small cubs racing towards them. They nearly tackled Corrine to the ground as she laughed, dozens of tiny little tongues, teeth, and paws lightly exploring her face. It was a safe feeling, one she had not known since leaving London. Even Vincent seemed to be enjoying the display, smiling while also trying to hide his bloodstained teeth. Not that she minded, but she was determined to be more mindful of how her friend saw himself.
It was that realization that made him seem more human than anyone she had ever met, something she desperately wished to tell him, but didn’t for fear of alienating him. Not once since her resurrection had she seen herself as a monster or freak, like you’d see in a circus. She was simply different. But Vincent was a creature who had no choice but to feed on blood, and detested himself for it. Despite all he could do now with his strength and mind and mist, she was sure he would trade it all away in an instant to be his old self again, back at the asylum with Maria.
When Vincent had been sure he was clean of all the blood, Corrine made her way through the furry little followers and sat next to him. She placated them by holding out her violinist hand, and let them lick it and bite it ever so gently, having their fun. It was then she became aware of her other hand. She guarded her original hand unconsciously from the wolf pups. The one that remembered Gregory’s touch. Thinking of how Vincent saw himself had made her think of how her husband might see her now. Would he be afraid? Disgusted? As if reading her mind, Vincent spoke.
‘You have nothing to fear,’ he said. ‘He’ll love you no matter what. Even you know that deep down.’ She smiled at that.
‘Been in my mind again, have you?’ she asked. ‘That’s very rude, you know.’
‘Perish the thought,’ he said. ‘You’re just easy to read.’
‘I suppose it’s somewhat obvious,’ she replied. ‘I miss my Gregory. Even with all these pieces inside me, with their own echoes, my memories of him ring loudly enough I never forget myself.’
‘An important quality,’ said Vincent. ‘I admire it. I don’t even know what I look like anymore. I have no reflection.’ He laughed at that, and Corrine joined him. She leaned over, held his face in her hands and made him stare her in the eye.
‘Let’s see,’ she said, inspecting his face. ‘I see a handsome young man.’
‘Already lying, I see,’ he laughed, until she put a finger onto his lips.
‘Don’t interrupt me,’ she said. ‘As I was saying, I see a handsome young man who has had it rough. He had eyes that have seen more horrible things than anyone should ever see, yet they always look forward, despite his always trying to look down.’ He was in fact, trying not meet her gaze as she talked, but immediately refocused his gaze once she had drawn attention to it.
‘I see someone who hasn’t given up yet,’ she said. ‘The features of a man, not a monster, who could have given up long ago, but didn’t.’ He gave her a weak smile, unconsciously showing his fangs. ‘And no matter what you may think, that is a devilishly handsome smile.’ Even he laughed at that.
‘Devilish is definitely one way to describe it,’ he said. ‘You see all that?’
‘Not just me,’ said Corrine, letting go of Vincent. ‘Maria sees it too. So does that awful Richard, which is why he’s so threatened by you.’ Vincent looked away at the mention of Richard’s name and Corrine again felt awful.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I shouldn’t have brought that terrible person into this.’
‘No,’ said Vincent, looking back at her. ‘It’s alright. I can’t hide from him forever.’
‘Is that a bit of hope I sense in your voice?’ asked Corrine, giving him a sly smile.
‘Just a little,’ he replied. ‘You do have to see your husband again, after all.’
‘You know,’ she said. ‘You really should follow your own advice sometimes.’
‘Perish the thought,’ said Vincent, who laughed. ‘Look where it’s gotten me.’
‘Gregory, would like you,’ she said. ‘He had that same defeatist attitude.’
‘What hacked it?’ asked Vincent.
‘Why, I did,’ she said, smiling. Vincent smiled back, glad someone like her was his companion. It helped fuel his own sense of what thought was displaced hope. He leaned his head back and smiled, content, when Corrine asked him something.
‘How did you know about the wolves?’ she asked. Vincent looked at her and thought, as one of the pups rested on his legs. He scratched it behind the ear, absentmindedly, as he thought.
‘I can sort of speak to them,’ he said. ‘I have a way with animals.’
‘I can see that,’ she said, indicating the pup. ‘But they seem more autonomous than the usual rat or cat. What do they want?’
‘To teach me something’ he said. ‘Something they think I’ll need.’
‘Intriguing,’ said Corrine. ‘What would that be?’
‘No idea,’ said Vincent. ‘But we’ll find out when darkness falls tonight.’ He gave a fanged smile that sent chills down her spine. There was excitement emanating from him, and she could feel it, too. More than anything now, she wanted to see what happens when the sun set, and the children of the night made their music once more.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved