“How?” I breathed still touching my face, experimentally pressing into the skin to feel its elasticity, lowering the mirror I caught sight of him, Iollan, and the corrosive effects of his run in with the holy water, taking in the implications I posed a different question. “Why” I asked standing up, the dime to quarter sized holes on the backs of my legs burned in protest, “Oh my g” the last word got stuck in my throat “That’s what you were doing in the mausoleum you were turning me making me into one of you.” I accused voicing the realization as it was made. I didn’t remember moving but somehow I was right in his face, fists raised and clenched when I asked again, “Why? “Why would you do this? I was at peace. After everything you put me through, everyone you took from me over the course of my life, you couldn’t leave my afterlife alone?”
“I didn’t make you.” He growled grabbing my wrists “I just fed you. You were made long before your death.”
Wrenching an arm free I slapped the good side of his face yelling “Liar.”
Recapturing my wrist more firmly he wrestled back my attempts to hit him some more while appealing to his friends. “You see what she’s like, completely intractable. This is going to be imposable.”
“Well what do you expect?” Sitka responded. “You haven’t explained ANYTHING.”
“I told you, there wasn’t time.” he countered spinning me around so that my arms were criss-crossed over my chest, his body pressed hard against my back in a reverse bear hug. I stomped hard on his foot causing him to release me but before I had time to turn around and continue my assault he was standing in front of me a murderous look on his face and an open hand raised to strike. Instead of quailing or lifting my own hands in defense I stared into his eyes daring him to do it.
At that moment Sitka stepped between us facing Iollan while wrapping a protective arm around me. “Stop it,” she ordered “This is in no way about you so stop acting like an injured child and take care of your responsibilities. Go. Feed.”
“Aawwwoooee,” Tzumar’s taunting voice came from where he leaned slantwise against the wall, he waited till Iollan glanced his way to add. “Did Momma slap your little pee pee Iollan?”
“Shut up Tzumar.” Sitka spat. Iollan ignoring him nodded at her and jumped back out the window we had come through.
“What the hell is this all about?” I demanded, pulling away from Sitka I punched straight downward onto the metal rail of the closest bed, hardly noticing the small dent I left in it.
Really Iollan should be handling your initiation,” Sitka said rather severely, “but as you two seem to have gotten off to a rockier than normal start I suppose there’s no harm in me taking over.
“I wouldn’t mind explaining all the ins and outs of her new life to Lillian, Sitka, if you’d rather not.” Tzumar offered, his implied meaning glaringly obvious
“Tzumar go make sure Lillian’s room is prepared.” Sitka told him.
“Iollan took care of that before he left this morning.” Tzumar said clearly unwilling to leave the room.
“Tzumar,” Sitka hissed between her teeth. “Go. Be somewhere else.”
Laughing once through his nose he headed toward the door walking backward , a mischievous smile lighting up his dark eyes and said “I’ll see you later sweet Lilly of the valley.” Winked and spun around just a step before hitting the swinging double doors.
Sitka made an exasperated noise in the back of her throat, rolled her eyes and snatched up the rucksack Iollan had left. “Come on.” she said, in a tone that implied we should forget about Tzumar for the moment. “Let’s get you cleaned up then we’ll talk.” She preceded me through the still swinging doors as though it was a given that I would follow and not knowing what else to do, I did.
“Where are we going?” I asked scrambling to keep up, my new body worked so much more efficiently than I was used that I plowed into Sitka on the other side of the doors.
Smiling gently she griped my upper arms, steadying us both. “There is a staff dorm in the center of the building, it’s perfect for us because it cannot be seen from the outside at all and anyone exploring on a dare or something, loses their nerve long before they get passed the outer rooms.
I thought I’d take you to the showers and then show you, your room. I know when I was new born the first thing I wanted after blood of course was to get clean.” A wistful look came over face and she seemed to be talking mostly to herself when she said “I was filthy, absolutely disgusting.” Then catching me watching her she brought herself back to the here and now with a little shake, smiled and put her hand on my arm like we were girlfriends exchanging beauty secrets. “You’re lucky you were in a mausoleum, not to mention that there are showers now. I had to refill my bathing tub three times before I got all the grave dirt out of my hair.”
Then she took off again moving at a steady clip, past unused rooms like the one we’d just left down one hallway after another decorated with peeling paint, moldy corners and crumpling plaster, till we stopped outside a door with a blacked out window and no handle, sticking her index finger where the knob would go Sitka gave a small grunt and a twist and the door sprung open. The room on the other side was so contrary to what I’d seen so far I gasped taking a step back as though its luxury frightened me.
Sitka laughed softly at my reaction. “An improvement on what you were expecting I gather.” She commented moving forward, I followed nodding and dutifully taking note as she pointed out amenities. “We call this area the UN-living room,” she told me, one half of her mouth quirked up in a grin, indicating the room we had come into, good quality furniture and high end electronics decorated the space. “Over that way,” she went on, moving us forward and pointing to her right, “are the bed rooms. Around that wall is the kitchenette and down this hallway is the shower area.”
I followed her down the hall to another swinging door and into a large tiled room the middle of which was taken up by maybe a dozen cubical like partitions each with its own large, industrial no nonsense type shower head hanging from the ceiling. Sitka stopped in front of one four spots in. “We each have our own stall.” She explained “we set this one up for you a couple of days ago. The shampoo and soap, I know there not your favorites but I think you’ll find them more suited to your new senses.” Taking the proffered rucksack from her I nodded without really understanding, she nodded back smiling a little too broadly and pushed open the stall door revealing a small changing area protected from the shower by a thick plastic curtain. “Towels are hanging on the hooks,” she said pointing them out “and there are clean clothes in the sac.”
With that she turned to leave. “Wait.” I called thinking of a question. “What about these?” I asked hitching up my dress to reveal the speckled burn pattern on the back of my legs.
“The water won’t hurt them and as soon as Iollan gets back he’ll fix you right up.” She assured me giving me a tiny shove into the stall.
Feeling out voted I started to striped down turning the water on as I did. I heard Sitka’s bare feet scrape on the tile as she turned to go and suddenly couldn’t bear to be alone. “Wait.” I called again, then asked the first question that came to mind. “What did you mean earlier when you said I was one of you?”
“Exactly what I said Lillian.” Sitka’s naturally mild tone sounded a bit exaggerated as if she knew I needed her patience just now. “That Iollan, Tzumar, myself and now you are vampire.”
“How do you say his name again.” I asked
“Tzu-mar” Sitka answered “like tsar.”
“No, no not him the other one,” I corrected “the one who brought me in.”
“Yes. Say it slowly for me please.”
“Uh-lann.” She pronounced each syllable separately and distinctly for me.
“Uh-lann.” I copied
“Yes that’s it.” She said “It’s Irish it means,”
“He who worships a different God.” I said stepping into the shower.
“Yes” She said again this time with a note of surprise. She went on but yes was the last word I listened to suddenly completely overwhelmed by the feel of the warm water cascading down my skin, the sight of my own once again firm and beautiful body, even the way the slightly metallic smelling water mixed with the lightly fatty smelling soap to create a whole new aroma that meant, clean. It was captivating.
It wasn’t till I turned the water off some time latter that I noticed Sitka had gone. Not that she was hard to locate, after getting dry and dressed I padded out to the un-living room and found her bringing a couple of cups of tea over to one of the sofas. “Come, sit.” She invited, folding her legs underneath her and holding out one of the cups for me.
“So,” she began jumping right in as I took my cup and a seat. “I was thinking while you were in the shower, perhaps it is best that I give you the history of your new people instead of Iollan. A woman should hear it from another woman. But first I want to ask you a question.”
“Ok.” I said inhaling the steam rising from the cup, it was calming somehow and I wondered if this was some kind of coping method vampires used, going through the motions of something familiar and comforting from their previous lives.
“Why were you so mad at Iollan?” I looked up at Sitka through my eyelashes. “When I first told you what you are now. You attacked him.” She clarified mistaking my discomfort for confusion, or so I thought, but when I didn’t respond she answered the question herself. “It was because you were ready for death wasn’t it. You wanted to die, probably had for some time, isn’t that so?” Swallowing painfully I nodded staring into the depths of my tea. “That’s what I thought.” She said not unkindly. “Do you know how I knew that?” I shook my head still staring at my tea. “Because that’s exactly how I felt when it happened to me. Like there was absolutely no point to drawing even one more breath. I was trapped in a broken body and an ailing mind, surrounded by people I knew but couldn’t remember, the smallest noise reverberated on my ear drums, the slightest touch sent unpleasant tingles all through my body, and even my favorite foods just didn’t,”
“Taste right?” I finished looking up at her.
She nodded “That’s how we all felt; it’s how it is for all of us. It’s the transition phase between human and vampire, when one is neither and both. I’ve often wondered if caterpillars go through something similar inside their cocoons waiting to become butterflies.”
“But why us, is it something we did something we didn’t do. I still don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t I haven’t explained anything yet. But I will now.” She said taking a deep breath, then seemingly interpreted her own train of thought to say. “You can drink that you know.” Pointing at my rapidly cooling cup of tea.
“Honestly I hadn’t thought so.” I admitted taking an experimental sip; it was so good, I found myself gulping it down.
Sitka smiled her gentle smile and shook her head. “Sorry that’s my fault, I should have said. We still eat and drink to fuel our bodies though admittedly we can run on a lot less. We only need blood to fuel our supernatural abilities.” Shaking my head I gave her an openly incredulous look, she took a long pull from her own cup as if drawing strength set it down decisively turned to face me and launched into my history lesson. “Vampirism,” she began “as we understand it began somewhere between the late 6th and mid 7th centuries by what would be termed to today as a coven of devote pagan witches, though at the time they were viewed more as powerful tribal priestesses.”
I quirked an eyebrow at her, she continued as if she’d expected just such a reaction. “They were matriarchs from nine strong families who lived in the general vicinity of Kent who had formed a coven, working together for the collective wellbeing of all under their protection. They were a powerful and gifted group of woman and word soon spread in the surrounding country of the priestesses who’s connection to the goddess was so strong that their men folk were never harmed in battle, their woman never died in childbirth, sickness and vermin were virtually unknown within the circle of their influence and even in the worst of droughts they could coax enough bounty out of land and livestock to keep starvation at bay.
The priestesses were generous and never stinted to help any and all who asked, giving potions and simples charms and amulets without asking anything in return knowing as they did the value of contented neighbors. Still, however good things were for the villages that surrounded them there was no denying that things were always better in the villages where they lived. And is the nature of humans the neighbors soon became jealous. Whispers and rumors started to fly that the woman used dark arts to steal the rightful blessing of their neighbors and keep them for their own. The priestesses who had been petitioned in spring to preside over the fertility rites of field and farm were by summer called witches and cursed for using black magic and by the time the leaves had started to turn it was clear to all that the Kings new church of the Christ had become involved and would soon be moving against them.
They knew their families would fight to defend them, but they also knew that, that would only cause unnecessary slaughter on both sides. They voted unanimously against fighting. They then discussed simply turning themselves in knowing it would mean months of torture before eventual public execution, but it would also leave their families completely unprotected and at the mercy of there enemies. So once again they voted unanimously against it.
Then the high priestess came up with a plan, it was something that had never been done before and she wasn’t’ sure it would work but at worst they would be dead and their families would be no worse off than if they had chosen either of the other two options.
That Samhain, when the walls between the worlds are at their thinnest, the priestesses of Kent gathered on their sacred hill, mixed their blood with the earth they stood on and offered up their souls in exchange for the power to protect all who sprang from their blood till such time as the earth herself should fade away.
It was a simple and quiet ritual, nobody even noticed anything strange until the next morning, all souls day, when the Holy Father backed up by two dozen christen solders showed up to arrest the priestesses.
Their bodies were found on the hill, drained of blood and it was declared that they had killed themselves rather than face the churches wrath. The bodies were put in wagons to be brought back to the church elders as evidence that the witches of Kent had been dealt with, but they never arrived, neither solders, nor priest, nor bodies. Over the course of the next few months the solders and priest bodies were discovered in various places along the route they were to take but the priestesses never were and by the time a contingent could be sent to their families they had, to a man all moved away.
And so that is how Vampires came to be, we are the descendants of those original priestesses who gave up their souls to protect their families.”
I stared at her dumfounded, the mug containing the cold dregs of my tea feeling like a lead weight in my hand. “Sitka, why did you feel it would be better for you to tell me this than Iollan?”
“Because,” She said, “just between us, woman to woman, tell me wouldn’t you have done the same thing?”