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Chapter 1.40 – Better Days

Warning: sexual assault/abuse. Also depression, murder.

Charlotte Vatore found the girl giving birth in the grounds of the house and took the baby as her own. She spared the young whore a stint in The Tower; punishment that Wilbert Wangshaft, the village leader, deemed fitting for having a child out of wedlock.

Charlotte did not act selflessly. She had always longed for a child, but Silas would not give her one. He was waiting for the right one. A boy from good human stock that he could twist into his image. He did not want the unremarkable daughter of a common prostitute.

Charlotte convinced him that fate had brought this baby to her, that she would be no trouble and he reluctantly submitted.

And so, these vampires became my parents. They named me Lilith, meaning of the night.

I led a sheltered, secretive life. Father was the only one of us permitted to leave the grounds. I read a lot. I gossiped with the village girls who had been stolen as food. I lost myself in music. I dreamed of freedom, of better days.

Father was never very keen on me. I know exactly why he kept me around. He wouldn’t bother to mesmerise me before he drank from me so, unfortunately, I remember all of his invasions.

Eventually, I learned that my fear was what really did it for the sick monster and learned to numb myself, reducing his attacks significantly.

Mother really could be quite loving in her aloof way. But she was bound to him, he owned her, body and mind. She couldn’t help me without him knowing. Couldn’t save me, or herself.

My solace was Nathaniel.

He came by, innocently, one day to sell candles and he never left. Typically, food was female; it catered better to the desires of the male-dominated vampire world. But Mother wanted to keep Nathaniel.

A most sumptuous meal, Silas. Nothing else.

You can’t keep every waif and stray who turns up at the door, Charlotte.

But what harm could a timid, teenage boy possibly cause? Especially against someone as mighty as you.

Oh, she was good. Despite his complete lack of compassion for anyone else, Father always melted like butter for her.

I know that he could see how Nathaniel and I looked at each other. The stolen glances and touches that made my heart flutter. He’d beat the poor boy, assert his dominance.

But doesn’t forbidden fruit always taste the sweetest?

I was fourteen when the whore returned, another baby in her arms. This time, Father was delighted with her offering. This baby was beautiful, the child of a handsome noble, he was informed. This was the son that he had always wanted. The one worthy of the Vatore name. The canvas for his masterpiece.

As gratitude to the whore for bringing him this sacred gift, this wonderous gift, he slayed her.

Mercy he had said.

He would raise the boy in his own dark shadow. Caleb would be tormented until he was as much of a monster as Father was.

When he wasn’t training for greatness with Father, Caleb was doted on by Nathaniel and the female food. Or Molly and Winnie, as I called them.

I always got a beating or a draining for using their real names, so I always used their real names. I figured that if Father disagreed with me, I was probably in the right. Besides, they weren’t food to me. I was still human. Often, they were all I had.

With Father’s focus now on destroying his infant son, I can’t say I was surprised when the most esteemed of guests arrived. Father called it a great honour but I called it a case of not knowing what else to do with me. I was already unusual in that I was a female who had been raised from birth by vampires. Typically, they would only raise boys and a male vampire would just steal a pretty human girl when he wished to take a bride. And, thanks to his tormenting me, I was far too cold and numb for Father to enjoy as food.

He had offered me for marriage.

To Vladislaus.

Vladislaus was as arrogant as he was ugly. Like I was cattle at a market, Vladislaus stood before me and told Father that, as interesting as I was, I was plain, that he thought he could do better. I was never very good at biting my tongue. I told the Grand Master Vampire, Vladislaus Straud, that he looked like a constipated troll and I’d rather marry a pig.

Father quickly interjected that I was exceptionally delicious and he was confident that my edges would be softened when we were bound. Vladislaus said that he quite liked the idea of crushing me until my spirit died. He would return to his mansion and prepare to accept me.

Wonderful. Now I would spend a couple of years being dined on and assaulted by a different monster. Society vampires were traditionally turned aged eighteen. This allowed them enough time as humans to pick up crucial social skills and practice restraint; both things that a vampire brain could not learn. Wildness was uncouth; it was for rogues. As I was to be a bride, my turning would take place during a glorious ceremony where guests would witness as I was fully drained and given the kiss of death. When my transformation was complete, I would have the displeasure of seeing Vladislaus naked; becoming his possession and getting to share him for eternity with his two other pitiful wives.

I was delighted by this.

Father had given me a particularly deep draining that evening, as punishment for my insubordination, and had retired to his chambers to brood.

Mother cornered me as I made my way to see Nathaniel.

She offered me her wrist. A way out.

An unbound, female vampire was almost unheard of. My fifteen year old brain buzzed with possibility: I would start my own coven, change the whole patriarchal structure! Live in harmony with humans! Change the world!

I giddily accepted her offer.

Naturally, Father knew instantly, but the damage was done. Vladislaus would not want me now. No man will.

On my sixteenth birthday, Father summoned me. I expected him to outright banish me, but instead he congratulated me. He would wish me well and allow me freedom, I just had to do one small thing first.

I had to kill Nathaniel.

If I didn’t, he would finish us both. He would rip us apart, fibre by fibre and he would make sure Mother and Caleb watched every second.

I took Nathaniel to my room. So many times had I fantasised of bringing him in here. I barely had fangs and my thirst hadn’t developed; caught in that awkward stage somewhere between vampire and human. I didn’t even know if I could drink from him, let alone drain him completely. Of course, Father knew that. It was a ruse. He could not let me simply walk free. We were both as good as dead.

I moved in towards Nathaniel, tenderly, as I had seen Mother do to him so many times before.

And he kissed me.

He held me tight against him as his mouth moved with mine. His frantic hands were in my hair, under my skirts. He pulled me onto his lap.

I had dreamed this moment. Yet, I protested.

Not now! Not like this!

Then when, Lil?

Oh my word.

I didn’t want him to ever stop. I didn’t want to think of what would happen next. Alas, even though I was apparently very plain and we couldn’t get my ridiculous dress off, he was still only a teenaged boy. It didn’t last anywhere near as long as I had hoped.

Nathaniel told me that he loved me. That he would allow me to take his life if I promised that I would preserve the lives of countless others, by whatever means necessary.

Oh, the lovely fool. I promise.

My tiny fangs broke his skin, but no blood came out. As I pulled back and tried to think what to do, I noticed flames through the glass behind him.

We looked out onto a sea of torches as villagers stormed along the pathway towards the house. Wangshaft at the helm.

Nathaniel took my hand. We ran through the house to the servant’s quarters, where Molly cut me out of my dress and blushed furiously as she found Nathaniel some clothing.

Father was a powerful vampire, but he had a huge weakness.

Winnie had found my brother, crying in Father’s chambers and under the protection of the humans, I escaped.

Winnie offered to keep Caleb as her own, raise him with his kind. I was happy to accept.

As I kissed my brother good-bye it dawned on me. The puncture wounds on his little wrist. How limp and listless he was. The tell-tale black ash around his cherub lips.

Father could not simply let me walk free.

Winnie and Molly returned to the families they were taken from. Nathaniel, Caleb and I enjoyed better days, together.

I knew one day I would lose Nathaniel, but he did not want to become a vampire. Why would he? He could see how I struggled. At first, I barely required to drink. The thirst got worse as I got older. Nathaniel would offer himself to me, but I could only take a little. He needed to be clear-headed enough to work, to keep our cover.

Caleb was growing up. From anyone looking on, his development appeared quite normal. He was fast, strong, charming and certainly not stupid. But unfortunately, emotional awareness and restraint were alien concepts to him. Unnecessary to his wild vampire brain. Unable to form bonds with anyone he hadn’t known as a human, people viewed him as disconnected and careless and avoided him.

As he became a hormone-driven teenager, he finally found a way to bond with these strange humans.

Well, half of them, at least.

They were usually very willing; taken in by his looks and what they saw as his rebellious nature, but the way he treated those girls made me feel so ashamed. Broken dolls. He would try to feel remorse when I explained how he had hurt them and he would listen to me if I managed to intervene. But left to his own devices, he would not consider the consequences. He would always lose control.

I learned how to handle the irate fathers who came looking for him. I would tend the bruises, dry the tears and soothe the broken hearts of all the girls he left behind.

His antics took up most of my time and he became my sole focus. Time was running out; he’d soon develop his thirst for blood. I tried to explain how to exercise control, how to read people, but it was a slow process and I wished I could just show him. Pick up my memories and my understandings and place them in his head. If I could reform him he would be a great advertisement for us. The humans wouldn’t have to be afraid of vampires any longer! Even the rogue ones could be made safe.

He wanted to be the poster boy of the revolution. So he tried. He really did.

When his thirst arrived, I made him stay home. Afraid that if I let him out he’d be bringing back worse than a crying girl for me to tend to. He trusted that I knew what was best for him and he didn’t argue. I would bring him a human to dine on and I would direct him safely as he drank. I set off into the night to find him dinner, but a storm meant that the streets were deserted. It took much longer than expected.

Nathaniel was far too trusting when he offered himself. He thought Caleb would only take a bit, like I used to. That their bond meant that he was safe.

Without Nathaniel, we struggled, both financially and socially. Unable to go out in the day, I was resigned to earn money, however I could, by night. I sold all our creature comforts and I stole from the humans I drank from. The villagers became suspicious of us. We’d burn ourselves in the sunlight and spend money we didn’t have to buy food we couldn’t eat, just to keep up appearances.

Caleb knew he had done wrong but he couldn’t process it. Am I a monster, Lil? He would leave for days at a time and he’d return battered and distraught. Wild. Rogue. I suspected that he was actively trying to end his existence, but I couldn’t be sure. He had stopped talking to me. Stopped trying to change. Given up.

Nothing had gone the way I had planned in my naïve youth. Teetering on the edge of losing my own mind, I had never been so afraid, so desperate, so alone.

Exactly what a certain someone was looking for. What did I have to lose?

Even the rogue ones could be made safe.

I would preserve the lives of countless others, by whatever means necessary.

I promise.

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