Blood communion, p.1

Blood Communion, page 1

 

Blood Communion


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Blood Communion


  ALSO BY ANNE RICE

  Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

  Prince Lestat

  The Wolves of Midwinter

  The Wolf Gift

  Of Love and Evil

  Angel Time

  Called Out of Darkness

  Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

  Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

  Blood Canticle

  Blackwood Farm

  Blood and Gold

  Merrick

  Vittorio, the Vampire

  The Vampire Armand

  Pandora

  Violin

  Servant of the Bones

  Memnoch the Devil

  Taltos

  Lasher

  The Tale of the Body Thief

  The Witching Hour

  The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned

  The Queen of the Damned

  The Vampire Lestat

  Cry to Heaven

  The Feast of All Saints

  Interview with the Vampire

  WITH CHRISTOPHER RICE

  Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra

  UNDER THE NAME ANNE RAMPLING

  Belinda

  Exit to Eden

  UNDER THE NAME A. N. ROQUELAURE

  Beauty’s Kingdom

  Beauty’s Release

  Beauty’s Punishment

  The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

  THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK

  PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF

  Copyright © 2018 by Anne O’Brien Rice

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto.

  www.aaknopf.com

  Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Grateful acknowledgment is made to United Agents LLP on behalf of Caitriona Yeats for permission to reprint an excerpt of “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” by W. B. Yeats.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Rice, Anne, [date] author.

  Title: Blood communion : a tale of Prince Lestat / by Anne Rice.

  Description: First edition. | New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. | Series: Vampire chronicles

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017058218 | ISBN 9781524732646 (hardcover)| ISBN 9781524732653 (ebook)

  Subjects: LCSH: Lestat (Vampire), 1760– —Fiction. | Atlantis (Legendary place)—Fiction. | Spirit possession—Fiction. | Vampires—Fiction. | Paranormal fiction. | GSAFD: Fantasy fiction. | Horror fiction. | Occult fiction.

  Classification: LCC PS3568.I265 B64 2018 | DDC 813/.54—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/​2017058218

  Ebook ISBN 9781524732653

  Cover photograph by FlamingPumpkin / E+ / Getty Images

  Cover design by Abby Weintraub

  Illustrations by Mark Edward Geyer

  v5.3.2

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Also by Anne Rice

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Dedicated

  to

  my mother

  Katherine Allen O’Brien

  And

  to the memory of

  my friend,

  Carole Malkin.

  “I love; therefore I am.”

  Chapter 1

  I’m the vampire Lestat. I’m six feet tall, have blue-gray eyes that sometimes appear violet, and a lean athletic build. My hair is blond and thick and hangs to my shoulders, and over the years it has become lighter so that at times it seems pure white. I’ve been alive on this earth for more than two hundred fifty years and I am truly immortal, having survived any number of assaults on my person, and my own suicidal recklessness, only becoming stronger as the result.

  My face is square, my mouth full and sensual, my nose insignificant, and I am perhaps one of the most conventional looking of the Undead you’ll ever see. Almost all vampires are beautiful. They are picked for their beauty. But I have the boring appeal of a matinee idol rescued by a fierce and engaging expression, and I speak a brand of easy rapid English that’s contemporary—after two centuries of accepting English as the universal language of the Undead.

  Why am I telling you all this, you might ask—you, the members of the Blood Communion, who know me now as the Prince. Am I not the Lestat so vividly described in Louis’s florid memoir? Am I not the same Lestat who became a super rock star for a brief time in the 1980s, publicizing the secrets of our tribe in film and song?

  Yes, I am that person, most certainly, perhaps the only vampire known to just about every blood drinker on the planet by name and by sight. Yes, I made those rock videos that revealed our ancient parents, Akasha and Enkil, and how we might all perish if one or both of them were destroyed. Yes, I wrote other books after my autobiography; and yes, I am indeed the Prince now ruling from my Château in the remote mountains of France.

  But it’s been many a year since I addressed you directly, and some of you weren’t born when I penned my autobiography. Some of you weren’t Born to Darkness until very recently, and some of you might not believe in the story of the Vampire Lestat as it’s been related to you—or the history of how Lestat became the host to the Sacred Core of all the tribe, and then finally, released from that burden, survived as the ruler upon whom order and survival now depend.

  Make no mistake, the books Prince Lestat and Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis were penned by me, and all that they related has indeed happened, and those many blood drinkers described in the two books are accurately portrayed.

  But the time has come for me once again to address you intimately and to shape this narrative in my own inimitable and informal fashion as I seek to relate to you all that I think you should know.

  And the first thing which I must tell you is that I write now for you—for my fellow blood drinkers, the members of the Blood Communion—and no one else.

  Of course this book will fall into mortal hands. But it will be perceived as fiction, no matter how obvious it may be that it is not. All the books of the Vampire Chronicles have been received as fiction the world over, and always have been. The few mortals who interact with me in the vicinity of my ancestral home believe me to be an eccentric human who enjoys impersonating a vampire, the leader of a strange cult of like-minded vampire impersonators who gather under my roof to engage in romantic retreats from the busy modern world. This remains our greatest protection, this cynical dismissal of us as real, true monsters, in an era that just
might be more dangerous to us than any other through which we’ve lived.

  But I will not dwell on the matter in this narrative. The story I’m going to tell has little or nothing to do with the modern world. It’s a tale as old as tale telling itself, about the struggle of individuals to find and defend their place in a timeless universe, alongside all the other children of the earth and the sun and the moon and the stars.

  But it is important for me to say—as this story begins—that I was as resentful and confused by my human nature as I’d ever been.

  If you do go back to my autobiography, you’ll likely see how much I wanted humans to believe in us, how boldly I shaped my narrative as a challenge: Come, fight us, wipe us out! There ran in my Frenchman’s blood only one acceptable version of glory: making history among mortal women and men. And as I prepared for my one and only rock concert in San Francisco in the year 1984, I did dream of an immense battle, an apocalyptic confrontation to which elder blood drinkers would be awakened and drawn irresistibly, and young ones incited with fury, and the mortal world committed to stamping out our evil once and for all.

  Well, nothing came of that ambition. Nothing at all. The few brave scientists who insisted they had seen living proof of our existence met with personal ruin, with only a precious few being invited to join our ranks, at which point they passed into the same invisibility which protects us all.

  Over the years, being the rebel and the brat that I am, I created another great sensation, described in my memoir, Memnoch the Devil, and that too did invite mortal scrutiny, a scrutiny which might have seduced yet more hapless individuals to destroy their lives arguing that we were real. But that brief damage to the fabric of the reasonable world was corrected immediately by clever blood drinkers who removed all forensic evidence of us from laboratories in New York City, and within a month all the excitement stirred up by me and my Blessed Veil of Saint Veronica was over, with the relic itself gone to the crypts of the Vatican in Rome. The Talamasca, an ancient Order of Scholars, managed to obtain it after that, and subsequent to their acquiring it, the veil was destroyed. There’s a story to all that, a small one anyway, but you won’t find it here.

  The point is—for all the fuss and bother—we remained as safe in the shadows as we’d ever been.

  This story—to be precise—is about how we vampires of the world came together to form what I now call the Blood Communion, and how I came not only to be Prince, but to be the true ruler of the tribe.

  One can assume a title without really accepting it. One can be anointed a prince without reaching for the scepter. One can agree to lead without really believing in the power of oneself to do it. We all know these things to be true.

  And so it was with me. I became Prince because the elders of our tribe wanted me to do it. I possessed something of a charismatic ease with the idea, which others did not share. But I did not really examine what I was doing when I accepted the title, or commit to it. Instead, I clung to a selfish passivity in the matter, assuming that at any moment I might tire of the entire enterprise and walk away. After all, I was still invisible and insignificant, an outcast, a monster, a predatory demon, Cain the slayer of his brothers and sisters, a phantom pilgrim on a spiritual journey so narrowly defined by my vampire existence that whatever I discovered would never be of relevance to anybody, except as poetry, as metaphor, as fiction, and I should take comfort in that fact.

  Oh, I enjoy being the Prince, don’t get me wrong. I loved the rapid and totally egregious restoration of my ancestral Château and the little village which lay below it on the narrow mountain road that led to nowhere—and it was an undoubted pleasure to see the great hall filled each evening with preternatural musicians and dancers, flashing exquisite white skin, shimmering hair, costumes of extraordinary richness, and countless jewels. One and all of the Undead were and are now most welcome under my roof. The house has innumerable salons through which you can wander, rooms in which you might settle to watch films on giant flat screens, and libraries in which you might meditate in silence or read. Beneath it are crypts that have been expanded to hold perhaps the entire tribe in darkness and safety, even were the Château itself attacked in the daylight hours and burnt over our heads.

  I like all this. I like welcoming everyone. I like taking the young fledglings in hand and welcoming them to our closets from which they can take any clothing they need or desire. I like watching them shed their rags and burn them in one of the many fireplaces. I like hearing everywhere around me the soft uneven rumble of preternatural voices in conversation, even argument, and also the low, vibrant rhythm of preternatural thoughts.

  But who am I to rule others? I was anointed the Brat Prince by Marius before I ever set foot on that rock music stage decades ago, and a brat I most surely was. Marius had come up with that little label for me when he realized I was revealing to the Vampire World all the secrets he’d bound me under penalty of destruction to keep. And a legion of others have picked up the title, and they use it as easily now as the simple appellation Prince.

  It’s no secret to the elders far and wide that I’ve never bent the knee to any authority ever, that I smashed up the coven of the Children of Satan when I was taken prisoner by it in the 1700s, and that I broke even the most informal rules with my rock music adventure, and deserved a good deal of the condemnation for recklessness that I received.

  I didn’t bow to Memnoch either.

  And I didn’t bow to God Incarnate, who appeared to me in the airy spiritual realm into which Memnoch dragged me, all the way back to the narrow dusty road to Calvary in the city of ancient Jerusalem. And having given short shrift to every being who had ever tried to control me, I seemed a most unlikely person to undertake the monarchy of the Undead.

  But as this story begins, I had accepted it. I had accepted it truly and completely and for one simple reason. I wanted us—we, the vampires of this world—to survive. And I didn’t want us clinging to the margins of life, a miserable remnant of bloodsucking vagabonds, battling each other in the wee hours of the night for crowded urban territories, burning out the shelters and refuges of this or that enemy, seeking to destroy one another for the most petty of human or vampiric concerns.

  And that is what we had become before I accepted the throne. That is exactly what we were—a parentless tribe, as Benji Mahmoud put it, the little vampire genius who called to the elders of all ages to come forth and take care of their descendants, to bring to us order, and law, and principles for the good of all.

  The good of all.

  It is extremely difficult to do what is good for all when you believe that “all” are evil, loathsome by their very nature, with no right to breathe the same air as human beings. It is almost impossible to conceive of the welfare of “all” if one is so consumed with guilt and confusion that life seems little more than an agony except for those overwhelmingly ecstatic moments when one is drinking blood. And that is what most vampires believe.

  Of course I’d never bought into the idea that we were evil or loathsome. I’d never accepted that we were bad. Yes, I drank blood and I took life, and I caused suffering. But I wrestled continuously with the obvious conditions of my existence, and the bloodlust of my nature, and my great will to survive. I knew full well the evil inherent in humans and I had a simple explanation for it. Evil comes quite simply from what we must do to survive. The entire history of evil in this world is related to what human beings do to one another in order to survive.

  But believing that doesn’t mean living it every minute. Conscience is an unreliable entity, at times a stranger to us, then ruling the present moment in torment and pain.

  And wrestling with uneasy conscience, I wrestled as well with my passion for life, my lust for pleasure, for music, and beauty, and comfort and sensuality, and the inexplicable joys of art—and the baffling majesty of loving another so much that all the world, it seemed, depended on that
love.

  No, I didn’t believe we were evil.

  But I’d taken on the argot of self-loathing. I’d joked about traveling the Devil’s Road, and striking like the hand of God. I’d used our contempt for ourselves to ease my conscience when I destroyed other blood drinkers; I’d used it when I chose cruelty for convenience when other paths had been open to me. I’d demeaned and insulted those who didn’t know how to be happy. Yes, I was determined to be happy. And I fought furiously for ways to be happy.

  And I had settled—without admitting it—for the old sacrosanct idea that we were inherently evil and had no place in the world, no right to exist.

  After all, it was Marius himself, the ancient Roman, who had told me we were evil, and that the rational world had no place for evil, that evil could never be effectively integrated into a world which had come to believe in the true value of being good. And who was I to question the great Marius, or realize how lonely his existence was, and how dependent he was on keeping charge of the Core of vampiric life for those whom he so easily branded as evil?

  Whatever my confusion on it, I played no role in a social revolution for blood drinkers. No. It was someone else who questioned the old assumptions about us with a childlike simplicity that changed our world.

  Benji Mahmoud, Born to Darkness at the age of twelve, a Bedouin by birth, was the blood drinker who transformed us all.

  Made by the powerful two-thousand-year-old Marius, Benji had no use for ideas of inherent guilt, mandatory self-hatred, and inevitable mental torment. Philosophy meant nothing to him. Survival was all. And he had another vision—that the blood drinkers of the world could be a strong and enduring tribe of immortals, hunters of the night who respected one another and demanded respect in return. And from that simple conviction in Benji’s audacious appeal, my monarchy was eventually born.

 
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