Blood canticle, p.15

Blood Canticle, page 15

 part  #10 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blood Canticle

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Chapter 15



  LOVE. Who knows about another's love? The more you love, the more you know the burnt out loss of love, the more you heed the silence of unknowing in the face of another's spiritual bondage.

  Behold the house, which Quinn described in years-ago summer days when he went to call on beloved Mona, the house with crape myrtles pressed against its black fence, and the two famous sentinel oaks with their erupting roots beneath the broken flagstones.

  White columns upstairs and down, side hall door, long windows, rocking chairs on the porch, cast-iron railings beneath their spilling festoons of flowering vines. And the great secretive side yard stretching back into a private and concealed darkness. It was into that sunny gulf that Oncle Julien had lured the young Quinn and told him of his Mayfair blood and that he must never marry Mona. Some ghosts just never give up! I spied the sparkle of the waters of the swimming pool far back there, and who knows what beyond, the graveyard of the mysterious Taltos ?

  Led into the double parlor by a trusting Michael with a relieved smile, I sensed at once a telltale fragrance. Alien species. Faint but true. Mona caught it, nose uplifted in that quick, slight vampiric gesture.

  Quite a room.

  Soaring mirrors over twin fireplaces of white marble. Mirrors at each end multiplying the long shadowy chamber and its chandeliers into infinity. Aubusson carpets, are they not, and the scattered furniture both common and fine violating the built-in division of the rooms with a great gathering area of couch and chairs beneath the central arch, and beyond, the long black B?sendorfer piano beneath a genteel veil of dust. Paintings of ancestors on the wall, for who else could they be, a stalwart woman with black hair in handsome riding attire, and on this other side, guess who, with his gleaming eyes and a smile I'd never see, Monsieur Julien Mayfair, of course, and the great German tall-case clock ticking and swinging faithfully.

  Rustlings, as if the house was full of ghosts. Glance of the real true hateful Julien out of the corner of my eye. It was Michael who turned. Then Julien on the other side, and the sound of taffeta as though from an old-fashioned floor-length dress. Michael turned again. Murmur: "Where are they?"

  "They don't like us," I said.

  "They don't make decisions for us!" Michael said angrily.

  First time I'd seen that emotion in him. It came and went swiftly. There's a big word for that: "evanescent. "

  "Who?" said Mona. "What do you mean?" She shook off her private spell. Glaze of emotion in her eyes. Lived here, loved it, ripped out of it, lost, breath of death on her neck, gone, home, touch.

  Do I have to read her mind to know that? I do not. I read it in Quinn's eyes, and he, child of a great house, feels a wondrous comfort here, frightened as he is of the loss of love of the whole Mayfair clan, as if they had come at us, winding up the mountain road with B movie torches in hand.

  Michael's blue eyes fastened on me. He was worn down yet immeasurably strong, proud of the house and mildly happy with the way I looked at it.

  "I've plastered it, painted it, run its new wires, sanded its floors, and laid the gloss. " Rolling murmur. "I learned those skills out west, and all that time I lived out there I never forgot this house, used to pass it as a little boy, never forgot it, and never dreamed of course that one day I'd be the master of it (chuckle), that is, if any man can be the master of this house, what this house has is a mistress, or even two, and for a time, for a long time. . . . " He lost the thread. "Come, let me show you the library. "

  Only slowly I followed him.

  The night outside beat hard on the windows, the song of the winged things, throb of the frogs, with the

  full authority of the big garden.

  Narrow hallway, soaring walls. Evil stairs. Too straight, too long. The alien fragrance again. But more than that the smell of mortal death. How did I come by this? Hand touching the newel post, sparked off it. Mortal tumbling down and down. Stairs made for the word "headlong. " These doors like temple doors rise up in protest to this domestic constriction.

  ". . . added in 1868," said Michael, "everything just a little smaller in this room, but the best plasterwork in all the house. " A wall of books, old leather.

  "Oh, yes," I said, "a magnificent ceiling. Tiny faces up there in the plaster medallion. "

  Mona made a circuit of the room, heels silenced by the red carpet, went to the long window that opened on the small side porch and peered out as though measuring the world specifically by these particular lace curtains. Peacocks in the lace curtains. Then she pivoted and stared at Michael.

  He nodded. Flash of menace to her in his remembrance. Something dreadful, something deadly come to the window. Hymns of death and dying. The family ghost made flesh and blood. Denial. Hurry. Rowan waits. Rowan scared. Rowan very near.

  "Come on, sweetheart," he said to Mona.

  Did I sound so intimate when I called her that?

  For one moment I wanted to put my arm around her just to stake my claim. My fledgling now, my baby. Shameful.

  Dining room a perfect square with a perfectly round table. Chippendale chairs. Surrounded by murals of the heyday of a plantation. A different sort of chandelier. But I don't know the name for it. It was set low, like so many candles.

  Rowan sat alone at the table, perfectly reflected in the gloss.

  She wore a dark purple robe, sashed, with satin lapels, mannish, except that with her piquant naked face and tiny shoulders she was so perfectly a female creature. Bit of white nightgown revealed. Indifferent hair second fiddle to her large gray eyes and virginal mouth. She stared at me as if she didn't know me. The pressure of knowledge behind her eyes was so immense, she might have been blind.

  Then she looked at Mona. She rose out of her chair, right arm flung out, finger stabbing:

  "Get her!" she whispered as though her throat were closing up. She ran round the table. "We'll bury her under the tree! Do you hear me, Michael!" She gasped for breath. "Get her, she's dead, can't you see it,

  get her!" She ran towards Mona, and Michael, brokenhearted, caught her in his arms. "I'll bury her myself," she said. "Get the shovel, Michael. " A hoarse hysterical yet muted screaming.

  Mona bit deep into her lip and cringed in the corner, eyes ablaze, Quinn struggling to hold her.

  "We'll dig deep, deep," Rowan said, soft eyebrows knotted. "We'll bury her so she never comes back! Can't you see that she's dead! Don't listen to her! She's dead. She knows she's dead. "

  "You wish I were dead!" Mona sobbed. "You hateful, hateful thing!" The anger arched out of her like a great fiery tongue. "You hateful lying thing. You know the man who took my daughter! You always knew. You let it happen. You hated me because of Michael. You hated me that it was Michael's child! You let that man take her. "

  "Mona, stop," I said.

  "Honey, please, my darling, please," Michael pleaded with Rowan for everyone and for his exhausted, bewildered self, holding Rowan effortlessly as she scratched at his arms.

  I went to her, disentangled her from her lawfully wedded husband, and caught her up and peered into her intense manic eyes. I said:

  "I did it because she was dying. Lay the sin on me. "

  She saw me. Truly saw me. Her body rigid as driftwood. Michael, behind her, stared. "Both of you attend," I said. "I speak now without sound. "

  Stuff of legend, vulgar names, hunters of the night, locked out of the day forever, live off human blood, hunt the evil ones only, feed on the trash lives if there are such things, always thriving among humankind, from the dawn of time, pass for human, body transformed by the Blood, perfected within its potential by the Blood, Quinn, Mona, me. You are right, you see, she is dead, but only dead to human life. I worked the magic. Filled her with the enlivening Blood. Accept. It's done. It's irreversible. I did it. A dying girl defined by pain and fear could not consent. Two centuries ago, I didn't consent. A year ago, Quinn didn't say yes to it. Maybe no one really consents. It was my conviction a
nd my power. Lay the sin on me. And so she thrives. And so she hunts the filthy blood. But she is Mona again. The night belongs to her, and by day the sun can't find her. I am guilty. Lay all blame on me.

  I went silent.

  She closed her eyes. She gasped as though exorcising a deep invisible clotted horror from her lungs. "Blood Child," she whispered. She lay against me. Her left hand went up to clasp my shoulder. I held her close, my fingers reaching into her hair.

  Michael looked down as though, the window having closed, he wanted to think in solitude. Leaving her to me, he seemed adrift in the room. But he had caught all of my revelation and it had sunk deep into him and he was wearied, and sad.

  Mona went to him and opened up his arms, and he received her with the utmost tenderness. He kissed her cheeks as though the truth had broken open in him a powerful chaste communion. He kissed her on the mouth, the hair.

  "My baby darling," he said, "my pretty girl, my baby genius. " It was almost like the embrace he had given her only a half hour before, only this time I really understood it. And the knowledge of her nature worked on him, slowly transforming the way in which he touched her.

  There was lust in him, yes, bred into him, and fed over many years, a practical, vital lust, and it was part of his constitution, his vision, but for her he didn't feel it. Six years of caring for her had punished it enough, and now this aberrant truth made it so he could caress her once again and kiss her freely, and croon to her, and smooth her hair with his hands, yes, and she was with him again, father of her child, father of her death.

  "Like the Taltos," she murmured. She flashed her wholesome, sweet smile. Intrepid youth. And surely he saw in the dusky room her gleaming skin more truly now, and the unnatural glisten of her eyes, and the volume of her red hair as it surrounded her beaming face.

  She didn't catch the drifting sadness in him, the enormous ache. He let her go with such tact, and took one of the chairs and sat at the table. He bent over and ran his hands through his hair.

  Quinn took the chair opposite him. He looked at Michael. And then Mona went quietly to Quinn's side. And so they were settled.

  I stood holding Rowan. Where was my lust? The blood tempest that sweeps into its vortex all desire to know, to absorb, to abide, to possess, to kill, to love? It was a drenching storm inside of me. But I am so very strong. That is a given, is it not? And when you love another as I loved Rowan, you don't strive to hurt. Never. The trivial operations of the heart are burnt away in quietude. Burnt away in humility that I could feel this, know this, and contain it within my prudent soul.

  I lifted her face, my thumb pressed into her cheek, a gesture which if done to me I couldn't have borne, but I was tentative and ready to draw away had she showed the slightest unwillingness. She only looked at me with muted understanding. And all her flesh yielded to me, and the hand that held my shoulder closed warmly over my neck.

  "And so," she said with that remarkable rich voice, that deep lustrous voice, "we Mayfairs of the inner circle, we have another sacrosanct secret, yet another breed of immortal come to us. "

  Slight and tenuous, she slipped from my embrace, and secretly kissing my hand, she went to Michael and laid her hands on his shoulders and looked across the table at Mona.

  "And I will somehow wake from this gnosis," she went on, "and in the course of things, yes . . . the vital course of things, protect it utterly, this truth, and return to penetrate the world I've made to need me so much. "

  "Baby, you've come back," Michael whispered.

  This was the creature I adored.

  And when our eyes met I saw her full recognition, and a respect and comprehension of my devotion so profound that I could find no words in the swimming silence.

  So poetry rises, surpassing the literal, You are beautiful, my love, terrible as an army with banners, turn away your eyes for they have overcome me, a garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse: a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
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