Authors: Brian Lumley
Tags: #Horror, #Fiction, #Vampires
Now, it might also cross your mind to wonder how she, a gorgeous young girl, round and firm as an apple, fresh-minded and—bodied, could find any sort of
satisfaction in a scarred and ancient undead thing like me, savage and cruel and filled with horror? I would be surprised if it did not! But then you would doubtless recollect what you know of a vampire’s powers of hypnotism, and perhaps believe that you had fathomed the mystery. You would say: “She was his plaything, not of her own free will.” Well, I’ll make no bones of it, before Marilena this had always been the way of it. But it was not the way of it with her.
To begin with, I was not so grotesque as you might imagine. Wamphyri, my many hundreds of years didn’t show, except perhaps occasionally in my eyes, or when I wanted it to show. Indeed with a small effort I could appear as old or as young as it pleased me to appear, which in Marilena’s case was always young, no more than forty. Even without my vampire I would be tall and strong, and I had all those centuries of charm, wit and wisdom—and folly—in me, to draw on at will. Scarred? Oh, I was, and badly! But I had retained these gouges out of vanity (it pleased me to wear the dents of old battles) and to remind me of the one who had put most of them there. I could have let the vampire in me repair such disfigurements entirely, but so long as Thibor lived I would not do so. No, I wore those scars like spurs against my own flanks, to goad me if ever I should find my hatred flagging.
But if you doubt that I was so handsome, only think on how Ladislau Giresci described me the night he took my head. Ah, and you see? Ancient as I was, still I was quite the man, eh? There, you must excuse me; it is my vanity; the Wamphyri were ever vain.
Also, I beg your indulgence that I have dwelled so long upon Marilena but … it pleased me so to do. For who else is there with whom I might share such memories? None but a Necroscope can ever know them …”
You know, of course, that I am Janos’s father; by now you have probably guessed it, too, that Marilena was his mother. He was my bloodson, born of the love and the lust between a man and a woman, of blood in its fiery fusion, and in the passing of a single germ of life from the one to the other, to pierce her egg and bring life to the chick within. My bloodson, aye, my “natural” son, with nothing of the vampire in him. That was the way it was to have been. I did not know if it could be done but would try it anyway: to bring life into the world independent of Wamphyri influence. I would do it for Marilena, so that she could be a natural mother.
And if I should fail and the child grow to be a vampire?
Well, anyway, he would still be my son. And I would teach him the ways of the Wamphyri, so that when I went out into the world he would stay behind and keep my castle and my mountains safe from all enemies.
Oh? … Oh? …
You will remember that in an earlier time I held just such high expectations of that ingrate Wallach Thibor! Ah well; it is the nature of all great men, I suppose, to try and try again, and never count the cost in their striving for perfection. Except, and as I have stated, I was never the one to suffer failure lightly.
Janos, when he was born, seemed natural. He was born out of wedlock, which dismayed Grigor his grandfather somewhat but meant nothing at all to me. His hands were three-fingered, as were Grigor’s and Marilena’s before him; but this was a mere freakishness, a trait passed down to him, with nothing sinister in it.
As he grew, however, it became clear that I had failed. My sperm, which I had tried by force of will to keep free of crimson influences, had been tainted, however lightly. It had been a foolish experiment at best: can an eagle beget a sparrow, or the grey wolf a squealing pink piglet? How much harder then for a vampire, whose very touch is a taint, to beget an innocent child? No, Janos was not a true vampire, but he had the bad blood of a vampire. Aye, and all my vices twofold; but with little of my flexibility and nothing of my caution. Still, I’d been headstrong myself when I was young; I was his father and it fell to me to show him the way of things. I
show him, and if and when a heavy hand was required to stop him dead in his tracks or simply steer him aright, I was not slow to apply that, too.
But… still he grew up wrong-headed, prideful, obstinate, and cruel beyond his needs. His one good point, in which he kept faithfully to my teachings, was the way he held sway over the Gypsies. Not only the Szgany Zirra, his mother’s people, who were on the increase again, but also my own Szgany Ferengi. I thought that they loved him even better than they loved me, all of them! And perhaps it soured me and I was a little jealous of him because of it. And it could be that I was harder on him, too, for the same reason.
Anyway, I will say one more thing in his favour and then no more: he loved his mother. A point to stand any child in good stead
while he is still a child,
aye … but not necessarily when he becomes a man. For there’s love and there’s love. You will understand my meaning …
Meanwhile, other troubles had brewed up, boiled over and were still scalding in the world. All of ten years ago, Saladin had crushed the Prankish Crusader kingdoms; the sinister mercenary Thibor was now fighting on the far borders of Wallachia, a Voevod for the gold of puppet princelings; in Turkeyland beyond the Greek Sea, the Mongols were rising up like a forest fire with the wind at its back; wars raged close to the Hungarian borders; and another “Innocent”, the third, had recently been elected Pope.
The storm lightnings flashed red from the many clouds boiling up over all the world’s horizons!
… And where, pray, was Faethor Ferenczy in the great scheme of things? In his dotage, some must have thought, tending his castle in the mountains. Teaching manners to his bastard son, while his once-true Szgany guards drank too much and slept late abed, and chuckled behind his back.
More time passed, unremarkably enough for me. But then one morning I woke up, shook my head and looked all about. I felt dazed, mazed, astonished! Twenty years in all gone by, almost in a flash, without my noticing. But now I realized it well enough. It had been a sort of lethargy, a malaise, some weird spell I’d been under: a thing which commoner men call “love”. Aye, and it had reduced me accordingly. For where was my mystery now? What? I was no more than a miserable Boyar: obscure baron over a wasteland no one else wanted, master of a piddling stone house in the crags!
I went to Marilena and she read my future for me. I was to embark upon a great and bloody crusade, she said, and she would not stand in my way. I could make neither head nor tail of it. Not stand in my way? Why, she couldn’t bear to be apart from me! What crusade was she speaking of? But she only shook her head. She’d seen no more but that I would fight in some terrible holy war; and after that … all her augury, palmistry and astrology had seemingly forsaken her. Ah! How could I know that she’d read her own future, too—only to discover she did not have one?!
But … a great and bloody crusade, she’d said. I thought about it and decided she could well be right. News travelled slowly in those days, and sometimes reached me not at all. I began to feel penned in, with all my old frustrations returning upon me with a vengeance.
It was time I was up and about!
Well, Janos was almost twenty; he was a man now; I charged him with the keeping of my house and went down incognito into Szeged to see what I would see and make whichever plans were appropriate. It was a timely move.
The city was abustle with news: Zara, so recently taken by Hungary, would soon be under siege from Prankish Crusaders! A great fleet of Franks and Venetians was under sail even now, and riders had been sent out at the king’s command to all the Boyars around (myself included, I supposed) with orders that they gather their men to them and take up arms. Marilena had read my future aright.
There were men of mine in the countryside around. Szgany, I found them easily enough during my return to the mountainous borders. “Meet me,” I told them, “when I come down again from my castle. I gather a small army of the very best. We go to Zara, aye, and far beyond Zara! You who have been poor shall be rich. Fight under my banner and I’ll make all of you Boyars to a man! Or fail me and I’m done with you, and in one hundred years I shall still be here and mighty, and you shall be dust and your names forgotten.”
And so I returned home. But travelling in the manner of the Wamphyri—at least by night—I had made good time, and I had lingered not at all in Szeged. Being apart these few days from Marilena, all of my instincts had sharpened, and my wits were made keen in anticipation of the “holy” blood-feast which was my future. In the mountains my Szgany retainers had grown fat and lazy, but I knew ways to wake them up again. They would not be expecting me back so soon, but they would know when they saw me that I was the Ferenczy as of old.
In that last night, soaring home on wings of thick membrane, I reached out in the dark with my vampire’s mind and called to all the young bloods of the Szgany Ferengi wherever they were scattered, and told them to meet me in the approaches to Zara. And I knew that they heard me in their dreams, and that they would be there.
And having shaken off twenty years of sloth, so I floated on an updraught between the moon and the mountains, setting all the wolves to howling in the silvered peaks, before finally gentling to the battlements of my house where I shrank back into a man. Then … I sought out my woman and my son. Aye, and I found them—together!
But there, I have gone too fast; let me pause and retrace my steps a while.
I have said that nothing of the Wamphyri was in Janos. Well, so I thought. But oh, how I was wrong. It was in him. Not in his body but in his mind! He had the
of a true vampire, inherited from me. And he had inherited something of his parents” powers, too. Something of them? He
Telepathy? How often through the years had I tried to read his mind, and failed? Still, nothing very remarkable in that: there are men, a handful, who are naturally resistant. Their minds are closed, guarded from talents such as mine. And fascination, or hypnotism? On occasion, when he was obstinate, I had tried to hypnotize him to my will. Wasted efforts all, for my eyes could not see into his, couldn’t penetrate behind them. So that in the end I no longer tried.
But in fact the reason for my failure in these endeavours was not that Janos was unresponsive, but that his strength was such as to defy all such would-be intrusions and close him off from me. I had likened it to a tug-o”-war, where my opponent’s rope was wedged in a tree root, immovable. But no, it was not so complicated as that; he was simply stronger. What’s more, he had also inherited his mother’s skill at foretokening. He could see the future, or something of it, anyway. Except that in this last our talents were more evenly balanced, else I should never have caught him. For the futures he saw were faint and far-distant, like the memories of some history which time has made obscure.
But now let me return to that night.
I have said my instincts were sharper than at any time in the previous twenty years. They were, and as I passed through the castle so I sensed that things were not as they should be. I formed a bat’s convoluted snout to sniff the air of the place; no enemy was here and there seemed nothing of physical danger to me, but something was strange. I went with more caution, moved silent as a shadow, and willed it that I should be unseen, unheard. But no need for that; Janos was too …
the dog!—and his mother too mazed to even know what he was about, except when he made some command of her.
Again I go ahead of myself.
I did not know that it was him, not at first. Indeed I thought the man must be Szgany, and was astonished! What, a Gypsy? One of my own, and in my woman’s bedroom at dead of night? A fearless man indeed; I must make known to him how much I admired his bravery, while choking him with his own entrails!
These were my thoughts when, as I came to Marilena’s rooms, my Wamphyri senses told me that she was not alone. Following which it took my every effort to stop the teeth in my jaws from forming scythes and shearing my gums to pulp. Indeed I felt the nails of my fingers involuntarily elongating into chitin knives, and this too was a reaction I could scarce control.
The room had an exterior door, a small antechamber and a second door to the bedroom proper. Gently, soundlessly, I tried the outer door and found it barred. Never since she came to me had this door been barred. My worst suspicions were now fully aroused, also my hot blood. Oh, I could break the door down, certainly, except … to come upon them that way would be to alert them too soon. And I wanted to see with my own eyes. No amount of screeched or gasped or blood-tinged, frothed denial may eradicate a scene seared upon the very skin of one’s eyeballs.
I went out onto a balcony, formed my hands and forearms into webbed discs like the suckers of some grotesque octopus, and made my way to Marilena’s window. The window was large, arched, and cut through a wall six feet thick. Inside, across the opening in the inner wall, curtains had been drawn. I climbed in and inched to the curtains, which I drew fractionally apart to form a crack. Inside the room, a floating wick in a bowl of oil gave light enough to see. Not that I had need of it, for I saw in the dark as surely as other men see in full daylight, and even better.
And what I saw was this:
Marilena, naked as a whore, flat on her back across a wooden table; her legs were wrapped around a man who stood upright, straining between her thighs until his buttocks were clenched like fists, driving into her as if he were hammering home a wedge. And indeed he was, a fat wedge of flesh, and in a moment more I would drive that same wedge down his throat!
But then, through the pounding of my blood and the mad thundering of my brain, and through all the roaring of my outraged emotions, I heard her voice gasping: “Ah, Faethor—more, more! Fill me, my vampire love, as only you can!”