Saturday, October 15, 2011


Jonathon spent the day in his 'grandmother's' refuge. She had many of them. Sometimes she simply burrowed into the soil, or curled up in long forgotten, Byzantine cryps. This day they slept in an old armory buried deep below a popular wine garden. A few archeologists knew of the site. They knew the Lady Renate too. Her  discreet whispers lead them to many coveted treasures.

So Jonathon followed her down into a long dry (and now mostly ornamental) well. There was a small, metal door at the bottom. They crawled through and came out into a hidden chamber. Most of it went back to the Crusades. Some dated to Hasmonean (Dynasty whose victories gave rise to The Hanukah Story) times. Jean-Michel knew the place. He'd sheltered there too.

The vampire matriarch flicked on a lighter. She was partial to classic Zippos. Fat, yellow, tallow candles rested on discarded brestplates and helmets. She lit a few and sat down on a pile of huge, floor cushions snatched from an Ottoman seraglio almost one hundred years before. Not that Renate was in residence back then. Another life-eater slept there. I don't know who he was. Perhaps the French Chevalier does? Then she motioned for Jonathon to join her. And he carefully arranged himself upon the fine, old silks.

Renate gestured toward their surroundings. She said - quite a place, no? They say the noble Saladin himself brought the Lady Beringeria to this very spot...... She chuckled and added - Who knows? It just may be that they cuckolded the Lion-Heart right where you are sitting now?.............You know a lot - Jonathon said.....She simply nodded and whispered - Some of it I want to forget. ...............Then she nestled into the cushions and sighed.........Jonathon examined a nearby dagger...........No one said a word. A few heartbeats later something upset a small collection of broken crockery. Jonathon froze. His fingers tightened 'round the well balanced hilt. ...........Renate exhaled - A rat. Just a rat, my boy. Where are your 'abilities'? You mean you did not smell it?............I, I was not being attentive - he said............That can be fatal - said the 'grandmother.'  How think you I've endured all these ages? ..............I was unnerved by your presence. We have not really talked much face to face like this. - he said...............So what should we speak of? answered Renate. I know. I'll tell you some secrets. Well maybe not secrets, just things unknown to you......

He laid down, turned to face her and listened. Two theives in Ali Baba's cave, protected from their enemies. How classic her features looked in the candle light. She told him of ancient rites of passage. When those just beyond the first hundred years were taken to the coast. There to encounter a great fish, at times a tiburon (shark) or perhaps a giant grouper. The life-eater novice swam out, opening a small cut just over a blood vessel, as they tred water and waited for the sea creature to attack. Then, as instructed, they curled up, allowing themselves  to be swallowed whole, forced down the esophagus and into the cloying, sticky, cold, dark, caustic gut. It was expected they'd endure a whole cycle like that, twentyfour hours. Almost all did, escaping via sublimation and swimming back to shore. Of course the fish were killed. But at least the crabs and gulls ate well. A few lost their minds in there, screaming and thrashing like weak children, forgeting their vampire powers......They weren't missed. Even vampire flesh can be disolved. And from what I hear, sometimes the bones as well......Life tries us all - she said. Jinns, the evil ones I mean, and demons and misguided mortals cringe in every shadow..........Your Sarah will be well soon. And then you plan to go home, right? Not where you were born. I mean where you live.........He whispered - Yes...............Good, good - she said...... It is meant for you to guard that domain. You have heard others say that we are not the Shepherd, but the sheepdog? Yes?...........He nodded.............Then return to your duties and guard your flock. If we all did that, the universe would be a much nicer place. Do you agree, my handsome 'grandson'?.........He just stared down at a ruby sparkling in the mellow light. But she knew that he did...........


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