by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Outside the manor the moon shone bright. It was full and lit the way towards the woods quite well. With my new eyes I wouldn’t have needed the light, but somehow it made me feel better seeing it. It made Veronica nervous. She didn’t say anything, but I saw her look at the moon and felt a strange shift in her mood. She was still friendly enough towards me. We hadn’t been friends in my previous life, but we were acquaintances. Veronica was considered somewhat odd by the women in town, odd being the kinder word. While most women her age were looking to marry and start a family, she was working as an assistant to the mayor. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you but keep in mind, this was the early 1800’s. Women’s lib was nonexistent. The fact that Mayor Greenburg had hired a woman and a young woman at that surprised everyone, including his wife. But he had held fast to her being the best qualified, which did appear to be the case. Besides, her grandmother was an old family friend and used to babysit the mayor as a child. He loved telling that story every time someone raised their eyebrows at a woman being employed in the town hall.
As we approached the woods I watched her from behind, admiring the curves and wondering how long she had been a vampire. To my embarrassment she answered my unspoken question.
“What,” I asked.
“I have been a vampire for 217 years. That is what you were wondering.”
“But how can that be,” I asked. “The mayor knew your grandmother!”
“The mayor knew me.” Veronica said. “And by the way, all those stories he told about my ‘grandmother’, not true. He has a way of embellishing things. Although I did babysit for him. He was the wildest child.”
It made sense to me. She had moved back to Fairview a few years ago, coming to claim the family home that had been left to her by her grandmother. Veronica claimed that she had been living abroad with her grandmother, her own parents having been killed in an unfortunate accident.
“Why did you come back here,” I asked, “Weren’t you afraid he would recognize you?”
“Family resemblance,” Veronica said. “As for why, that is my business, not yours.”
With that the conversation ended and she stopped to sniff the air. “Smell that,” she asked.
I sniffed the air in like manner and caught the scent of something sweet and tantalizing…and something else that didn’t smell quite so wonderful. I nodded my head, confused. “Two scents,” I said. “One really wonderful smell that is about to drive me crazy and another that isn’t so good.”
She laughed lightly. “The first is our prey, a deer down in that hollow. His family is there too. They will make a nice feast for us, though I will tell you it will not be as fulfilling as a human. Are you sure you don’t want to dine at the manor?”
“I will not murder.” I said it firmly, letting her know I would not be swayed. She scrutinized me a moment and then said, “Very well. The other sent is down wind a ways. We don’t need to worry about it yet, but it is heading this way and should he catch our scent we will need to leave quickly.”
“A lycan,” she said. “There aren’t many in Fairview but there are a few and most will not hesitate to kill us.”
“A LYCAN!” I was clearly shocked. “You mean a werewolf?” My mind immediately went to the stories I had heard as a child about men that would turn into wild beasts beneath the full moon. Glancing towards the sky I wondered if that was why I had felt the change in her mood.
“It is only part of the reason,” Veronica said, startling me with her uncanny perception. Of course as I became older and stronger I found that it was altogether easy to read another mind and mine which I was carelessly leaving unguarded was screaming loudly at her. “Werewolves are out most nights, but they are strongest with the full moon. I had caught his scent when we left and knew he was heading this way. Probably a member of Cullen’s Pack looking to earn himself some bragging rights.
“Cullen’s pack? You don’t mean old man Cullen?” This night was getting stranger by the minute.
“Of course,” Veronica said.
“And his pack would be his grandkids?” He had a slew of them, along with a couple of sons and a daughter who always had a look of fear in her eyes. I had a feeling they beat her, but couldn’t prove it.
“They beat her and more,” Veronica said. “Only the males in the family are werewolves. They use her for breeding.”
“I’ve never seen her pregnant!” Was I completely blind to the goings on right under my town?
“Of course you’ve never seen her pregnant,” Veronica scoffed. “You’ve hardly ever seen her in town. Sometimes she would go months without stepping foot outside the family home. But don’t blame yourself for your laps in observation. No one in Fairview has ever noticed they have a den of werewolves in their midst, just as they have never noticed a coven of vampires; a combination of the human inability to perceive anything they cannot comprehend and Protectors.”
“Protectors,” I asked, trying to understand.
“Creatures that work to keep our two worlds’ from colliding; you will hopefully never see them. They aren’t pleasant creatures.”
“Okay,” I said, “I can see that maybe I wouldn’t have noticed that the Cullen’s boys were raping their sister…”
“Not just them, but her father too.”
“Okay…and her father, but they have wives as well. I was at Cole Cullen’s wedding to Mary Anderson. That woman would not put up with any abuse.”
“Have you seen Mary lately?” Silently I shook my head no and Veronica continued, “Her mind snapped some time ago. Little wonder since increased heart rate can trigger a transformation. Cole became a werewolf on their honeymoon. She hasn’t been right since.”
“Good God,” I said, imagining what a nightmare that must have been. If only I had known maybe I could have done something.
“Don’t second guess yourself,” Veronica said, turning towards me. “There is nothing you could have done. Fairview and the surrounding towns have been a haven for all kinds of night creatures for hundreds of years. Tiberius Crane, the founder of Fairview was a vampire himself. You knew him as Roman Blackstone, Lucas’s father.”
“Then his mother wasn’t insane.”
Veronica laughed, putting a finger to my lips. “Even now, after having seen what Lucas really is, after yourself waking to find you have become a vampire, you still hang onto your old myths. Enough questions, it is time to eat.” Then she was off, taking down the huge buck we had been shadowing. Pressing her thoughts into my mind, she instructed me to take the doe.
I had been hunting before, who hadn’t, but never without a gun. When Veronica had taken the buck down, the doe and her fawns took off, fleeing as fast as they could across the clearing. I took her down before she’d made it more than a few feet. I hadn’t even thought, just acted, instinct taking over. I ripped the doe’s head off with my teeth and guzzled her blood, feeling it wash down my throat, easing the burning that had been building since the night before. When I was finished I saw that Veronica had finished off the buck and was now dragging two of the fawns back. She sat and watched as I drained them both. When I was finished I looked at her, feeling ashamed.
“There is no need to feel shame,” Veronica said. “This is what you are now. You have to have blood to survive. No, that’s not quite true, because even going without blood will not kill you. But you will become weak, the others will turn against you and I can tell you, Lucas doesn’t rule the coven kindly. He will lock you up if he thinks you will be a danger to his way of life and a weak vampire is a danger.”
I thought about what she had said. I looked at the buck she had fed from. His wound was small. She didn’t have a spot on her, yet I was drenched in gore, the head ripped off of the creatures I had nourished myself with.
“How do you maintain such control,” I asked. I was worried that this hunger would consume me and I would find my way to the town and kill someone I once considered a friend.
“You won’t,” she answered my silent thought. “You have a strong will, you will avoid murder. But you still must drink, so this is the solution.
“You don’t feed from humans,” I said. I knew this to be true, even though she had never said so.
“No, I don’t,” Veronica answered,”but not for the same reasons you won’t. We don’t have a soul. That was lost when we didn’t die.”
“Then why don’t you?” I was extremely curious.
She thought about it and then answered, “I like people, and everything there is about them. It’s as simple as that. It drives Lucas crazy, but I do. I like humans and I can’t kill them. That’s why I left Fairview in the first place. There was so much bloodshed. No, not in the town itself,” she said, answering my thoughts again, “but at Crane Manor, that’s what it was called back then, before Tiberius remade himself and became Roman Blackstone. Vampires, werewolves…we don’t hunt where we make our bed, at least not openly. Tiberius would kidnap wayward travelers, homeless that no one would miss and even send other vampires and human consorts out to kidnap people from other towns and villages. This was long before Newburg was built at the foot of our little borough. I couldn’t handle it, so I left. A lot of others left the coven at that time to, so my absence wasn’t really noted. The coven had been steadily growing, becoming overpopulated. Many set out to start their own. All the surrounding towns are a result of that mass exodus.”
Veronica sighed, a smile on her face, her teeth shining, fangs gleaming in the moonlight. “And the people I met, artists, writers, actors. I’ve been to France, London, Rome, even met the Pope. Briefly thought about taking a bit of blood from him, just to see if anything would happen, but I didn’t. I wasn’t prepared to find out if his blood would set me on fire.”
Even I laughed at that. “Why did you come back?”
She frowned. “I ran into someone who recognized me, or thought they did. I explained that I was Minerva’s granddaughter. They were very chatty, wanting me to relay new of Fairhaven to her. When they told me of how Roman had been murdered by his wife, along with everyone but Lucas I had to come back. I had to keep an eye on things and make sure they didn’t get out of control. This is after all, still my home.
Continued with A Family History
Continued with A Family History
copyright © 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar