Lord Greywood, vampire [ep. 23 of 36]


Historical fiction novel, by Dimitris Apergis. Exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS in 36 weekly episodes, in English and Greek languages.

Synopsis: London, 1824. The boss of London's Crime Syndicate, Wilbur Barnaby, assigns two men to travel to the -revolting against the Ottomans- country of Greece and locate the renowned poet Lord Byron in order to obtain a gambling debt of his to the underworld. One of the two men is Welsh Bugs Hamhaduke, the so-called "neckwringer." The other is the enigmatic Lord Greywood. The two men will embark on an adventurous journey to the Greek city of Missolonghi via Paris. None of those involved, however, is aware of Lord Greywood's terrible secret: That he actually belongs to the Order of Strigoi Morti, the oldest and most dangerous generation of vampires.

ISBN : 978-618-00-1549-2

CONTENTS

  • PRELUDE : Guilá Naquitz (1 chapter)

  • PART ONE : London (4 chapters)

  • PART TWO : Paris (10 chapters)

  • PART THREE : Vampires (10 chapters)

  • PART FOUR : Missolonghi (10 chapters)

  • EPILOGUE : Los Angeles (1 chapter)

[ep. 23 of 36]

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PART THREE : Vampires


VIII


Was the Baroness a vampire? Hamhaduke had reasonable suspicions that, yes, she might be one. She certainly evoked that particular unsettling sensuality that characterises the ethereal presence of vampires. And what the hell could she be thinking behind that glassy and mysterious gaze? Her behaviour however - mainly the theatrical expression of supposedly deeper emotions - indicated the opposite: that she was completely human, with flesh and bones.



Vampires always exhibit flaws in the externalisation or the concealment of overpowering emotions, perhaps because they indulge in the futility of things so deeply that their codes of conduct are degraded by some higher paragon of consciousness and thus lose their substance. The Baroness did not show such signs in her conduct since her tacky unoriginal mannerisms were her forte.


Hamhaduke, however, systematically refused to ask any questions about the matter. He pretended to be naive and indifferent, leaving the Lord and the Baroness to continue this peculiar game with him on their own terms. "They're up to something, the two of them." he thought. "But if they think they are smarter than me, they will be in for a big surprise. I shall fix them properly, both of them."


As for Friedrich, there was no doubt: he was human. Perhaps Friedrich might have been completely ignorant of the existence of vampires. Hell, he might not have even heard the word vampire.


The rotunda stood on the northeast wing of the Château. It was a small circular room with a dome, built as a protrusion to the main mansion's building. It was the place where the Baroness used to spend her meditation hours or to enjoy the company of her very few guests.


The rotunda was comfortable and cosy, with a particular - almost claustrophobic - warmth, with two broad velvet sofas and two rococo armchairs accompanied by cloth stools for the resting of the feet. The walls between the long windows were lined with bookshelves and carved upholsteries made of auburn cherry wood.


Under the light of the lit sconces, the countless decorative elements had the power to dazzle the eye upon a first visit: a wooden chessboard, a wheeled metallic tobacco-case in the form of a royal coach, porcelain painted plates on stands, a Persian carpet with repeated motifs laid on the floor, statuettes of Buddha standing on low tables, carved table clocks and barometers, small round paintings with elaborate frames, hardcover literature books on shelves, two low armoires made of beech-wood, plicate dados, a sliding cupboard with crystal vials of perfume, a feather pen in a glass inkwell, scrolls of music sheets on papyrus, lattice tablecloths with thick oval fringes, tall vases stuffed with aigrettes from peacock feathers, a narrow ash-red clavichord.



Of course, the most noticeable of all elements was the massive russet cuckoo clock, which was integrated with the wall. It was made of oak, imposing and heavy, with embossed vertical lines on the facade making it look like a towering cathedral. It was unusually wide, so much so that it would make one wonder about the reasons for its excessive volume. The circular dial of the clock-hands was also large obviously to maintain some smooth symmetry with the size of the facade, as was the large pendulum oscillating with low sounds behind the glass panel. Correspondingly, large were the iron bobs in the shape of pine cone hanging behind the pendulum chains and which 'winded' the clock.


But what prompted a hellish curiosity - as far as Hamhaduke was concerned - was the large round shutter above the dial that secured the portal from which the cuckoo would drop out to announce the time. Why was the shutter that large? Was the cuckoo so oversized?


On the clock's facade, lower left, stood the rectangular window panel of a cabinet. In the cabinet, Friedrich inserted the voltaic pile by connecting it with copper electrodes. The voltaic pile would thus be charged with electricity from the clock. That is to say, the clock functioned as an electric generator in this case. And where did the clock draw electricity from?


Firstly, the clock was attached to the lightning rod that stood on top of the Château, just above the rotunda. As a result, it received the electrical charge from the lightnings of the thunderstorms and stored it in the glass Leyden jars lined up inside. Secondly, the movement of the pendulum caused a triboelectric effect (through the friction of amber with sheep's wool inside the clock) and thus produced static electricity which the clock also stored in the Leyden jars inside it.



The Leyden jars were early forms of capacitors. A Leyden jar stored a high voltage electrical charge (from an external source) between the electrical conductors inside the glass jar. The Leyden jar was the first means of accumulating and maintaining electricity in large quantities that could be discharged at will. The invention of the jar was a accomplishment realised independently by the German clergyman Ewald Georg von Kleist and the Dutch scientist Pieter van Musschenbroek of Leyden in 1745.



The baroness played music on the harpsichord singing the aria Bist du bei mir from the opera " Diomedes " by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. Lord Greywood seemed enchanted by the clear voice that the baroness had employed in the performance of the aria. The same couldn't be said about Hamhaduke. In fact, he seemed worn out by blatant boredom. This was, anyway, testified by his reactions: he had a papyrus leaf resting on his thick hands, and he was nervously tearing it into long strips, while also shooing away the butterflies that surrounded him.


When the baroness finished the aria, the Lord began to clap excitedly, screaming "Bravo!" Hamhaduke strenuously lifted his hands as if they were unbearable in weight and slammed his palms slowly and lazily. The Lord was passionately demanding another aria from the Baroness. "Oh, no more," thought Hamhaduke ready to fall asleep.


It was right then when the incident that interrupted Hamhaduke's intolerable boredom occurred. The big clock struck midnight with hollow bass chimes and the cuckoo popped out of the circular hole. The cuckoo was made of light tin alloy instead of wood. He was quite large in size - larger than a medium-sized cuckoo - and, under the cuckoo-cuckoo sounds of the clock's air ducts, it moved its head flimsily up and down. Hamhaduke approached it to have a better look at it and a wide smile formed between his thick cheeks. The cuckoo, however, had in store an unexpected surprise for him.


When the cuckoo-cuckoo was over, the cuckoo was pulled a few inches into the portal while sounding the metal shrinking of a spring. And when this happened, the cuckoo was launched like a rocket from the portal toward the open window that stood directly opposite the clock. During the launch, a few tiny flaming gun powder granules flashed momentarily before they diminish and fall on the floor. Hamhaduke's eyes goggled with disbelief. He ran straight to the window and looked at the cuckoo that had now opened its wings and flew like a glider over the Auvers-sur-Oise woodlands, glistening its silver flashes in the thick darkness of the night.


"Bloody hell...!" said Hamhaduke with his mouth wide open.


"Is there anything the matter, Herr Hamhaduke?" asked the baroness.


"If I hadn't gulped three bottles of Chateau Georges tonight, I 'd swear that the clock's cuckoo flew out of the window," said Hamhaduke.


The Baroness and the Lord looked at each other. They shared a faint smile.


"The Chateau Georges didn't cause you any hallucinations, Herr Hamhaduke." replied the Baroness. "The clock's cuckoo actually flew out the window, as it does every midnight. It's programmed to do so by Friedrich."


"So, is the cuckoo a mechanism like the rest of Friedrich's toys?" asked Hamhaduke.


"Precisely." said the Baroness.


"And where does the cuckoo go?" asked Hamhaduke again.


"I am very much afraid that for now this is classified, Herr Hamhaduke. We shall need to get to know each other better and to form a friendlier relationship between us in order to reveal the secret of the cuckoo," said the Baroness.


"Hmph!" mumbled Hamhaduke and lied sulky on the velvet sofa.


The Baroness turned to the harpsichord again and started playing music. This time, she chose Dieterich Buxtehude 's mournful piece " Mit Fried und Freud " and the lyrics of the Klag - Lied aria came melodic out of her lips. The Lord leaned his head on the embroidered cushion of the couch and surrendered to the aria's hypnotic spell. Hamhaduke, on the other hand, was unable to tolerate any more arias. The buoyancy of his patience had run out. He got up from the couch and went quietly out of the rotunda, in the long corridor of the Château.


He walked a few steps over the burgundy prolate carpet, passing by the large billiard hall. Until his eye caught on his right side a closed double door and a key in its lock. He passed by it indifferently at first, but immediately he stopped and looked at it again. What caught his attention in this regard was the chilly blue light slipping through the slots of the keyhole.


Approaching it, his nostrils were struck by the intense stench of stuffiness, as if the room behind that door had never been tidied. If that was the case indeed, then this double-door room was a glaring exception to the Château's overly kempt interior. These suspicions were enough to prompt Hamhaduke to unlock the door and see for himself what was in the room.



It was a spacious hall. The moonlight was piercing through a shut window whose curtain was - accidentally perhaps - pulled, and its silver coating was spread upon the neglected furniture of the hall. The spider webs disturbed - sweetly but also creepily - the symmetrical arrangement of the furniture. The smell of stuffiness was dense, grafted by the mould of rotten apples in the fruit bowl on the laid rectangular table.


It was a wedding table. This was evidenced by the dark blue groom's suit and the white veil bridal gown that were placed on the tall backs of the chairs at the table's heads.


The spiders began to emerge slowly through their huge woven webs. They had clearly perceived the presence of Hamhaduke, and very soon they formed their herd before his eyes, ready to make their acquaintance with the unexpected visitor, fearless and decisive in the lively crawling of their jointed feet.


Hamhaduke watched them in amazement as they received the command from the plump black widow in the centre of the herd to approach him. And it was then when Friedrich's hand gently passed in front of him and closed the door turning its key.


"No, no, Herr Hamhaduke." said Friedrich, stuffing the key in his pocket. "No one is allowed to enter this room. It is strictly forbidden by the Baroness herself."


"Did any wedding party take place there? The reason I'm asking is because I'm sure I saw a groom's suit and a bridal gown hanging on the chairs," said Hamhaduke.


"Yes ... The Baroness was engaged to a gentleman, some time ago. The wedding party was scheduled to take place in this hall. Unfortunately, the marriage was cancelled. But I beg you, do not ask of me to say any more about it. I'm not permitted to talk about the issue." stalled Friedrich.


"Hmm ... I understand ... I see that you like to behave like a protector to the Baroness, Friedrich. You treat her like a guardian. Like a guardian-angel, dare I say. So, do you feel like you have to protect her?” said Hamhaduke.


"My dear Herr Hamhaduke, my entire life is adhered to one doctrine only: the Baroness always comes first and foremost. Nothing else matters.” replied Friedrich.


"Hmm, are you slightly soft on with her? You probably are a little bit, aren't you? My poor Friedrich ...” smiled Hamhaduke sardonically.


"Oh ... Herr Hamhaduke ..." said Friedrich, lowering his eyes in shame.


"I understand, I understand ..." said Hamhaduke and gave two tender slaps on Friedrich's cheek.


Hamhaduke returned to the rotunda. The Baroness had quit playing the harpsichord and was now singing the aria with her voice unaccompanied. The colourful butterflies fluttered around her and rested on the tips of her raised hand. She, upon gazing at the silver-blue shades of their wings, was more drawn to the aria's passionate rendition and adjusted her voice accordingly to achieve the required high fermatas.


Hamhaduke sat himself heavily on the couch. Once the aria was over, the Lord applauded with exaggerated praise. Hamhaduke next to him once again slapped his hands bored.


"Humans-animals!" yelled the Lord. Hamhaduke gave him a puzzled look.


"Oh, no, Jules. Not again humans-animals. It's silly." said the Baroness. Hamhaduke looked quizzical at both of them. What was humans-animals? Another aria perhaps?


“Humans-animals. I insist. Let's start with Friedrich. Friedrich is a weasel." said the Lord.


"Hahahaha. No. I refuse to accept Friedrich as a weasel. I am very much afraid that you're being unfair to him." laughed the Baroness.


"I am not being unfair to him at all. He's a sweet and cute weasel. He has these little eyes that shine like fireflies. And his mouth is slightly protruding from the shape of his face. And his ears are unusually round and slightly flattened on the back, just like the weasel's. I say, weasel." said the Lord.


"The weasel has moustaches. Friedrich is completely hairless." countered the Baroness.


"Hmm, I can't beat this argument. Maybe I should think of animals with no hair at all." said the Lord.


"Well. could you tell me too what the hell you're talking about?" said Hamhaduke.


"Oh, nothing really worthy of talking about, Herr Hamhaduke." replied the Baroness. “Humans-Animals is a favourite game of Jules when he has nothing else to do. It's a silly game, a stupid game. Jules likes to fall into those idle meditations that people are used to when - wanting to raise their imagination but also sharpening their empirical understanding in regards to the genic classification of species - they match other people with particular animals detecting their associative relevancy based on their external appearance. Just now, Jules associated Friedrich with a weasel."


"Hmph, it is a silly game indeed" muttered Hamhaduke.


"Do you have any opinion on Herr Hamhaduke?" the Lord asked the Baroness.


The Lord and the Baroness glared silently at each other until a faint smile formed on the lips of both. One was the animal they both thought in regards to Hamhaduke.


"Hippopotamus!" they both screamed simultaneously and then broke into loud chuckles.


"Hey! What the hell are you two jabbering about? Did you liken me to a hippopotamus just now?” said Hamhaduke furious.



"Well, the truth is that, yes, we associated you with a hippopotamus, Bugs," said Lord Greywood. "Don't take it to heart however. The hippopotamus is a magnificent animal, and various cultures regard him as the real king of animals, such as the Izo tribe in the Niger Delta who worship him as a god or the Zulu warlords who judge him superior to the lion. I've been close to hippopotamuses in the past. Too close, I'd say. Dangerously close. Many times, when transformed into an amphibian reptile I was forced to live in swamps inhabited by these large animals, I was overwhelmed by their hypnotic appearance. The eyes, ears, and nostrils - all located on the roof of their heads - pop out of the water's surface causing a chill as they turn towards a potential competitor. Their barrel-shaped obese bodies float in the water with remarkable dexterity and with the same dexterity they dive in the deep for long periods of time. Their skin, hairless and glossy. And as they open their mouths showing off the sharp tusks ... oh yes .... oh, this is real horror, my dears."


"That sounds very interesting, Jules. Tell us about their behaviour. What kind of information did you obtain about the behaviour of the hippopotamus?" asked the Baroness.


"Hey! Why don't you both shut the hell up? I have no desire to hear anything else about hippopotamuses. Especially when I'm likened to them." said Hamhaduke.


"Oh, the hippopotamuses are unpredictable and irritable animals, Hilde. And fearless in their outbursts of rage." continued the Lord.


"I've always wanted a hippo as a pet," said the baroness. “It sounds crazy but it's the truth. They have a special beauty, only perceived by the few and the recherche. I would like to watch a hippopotamus spend his time in the artificial pools of the mansion's gardens. I'd be glad to see him bathing carefree all day. I'm also sure he would cohabitate just fine with the swans. However, I do not know how he could fit the climate of France. I would have regrets if I took a hippo and then die on me because of the climatic conditions."


"Yes, it doesn't sound like a good idea, Hilde. Are you acquainted with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and his book on the evolution of species, the Philosophie Zoologique?" the Lord asked the Baroness in reference to the scientific handbook of 1809, one of the most representative samples of evolutionary thought and herald of Darwinism.


"I have it in my library but haven't studied it. I generally avoid the epistemologies on evolution, they make me melancholy. I prefer the romantic myths like Adam and Eve, etc. But, please, do go on." replied the Baroness.



"According to Lamarck's theory, the entities have an intrinsic life-giving force - the nervous fluid as he calls it - which drives species to become more versatile over time and to thus ascend a linear scale of complexity associated with the grand chain of being." said the Lord.


"Hmm, I see. And where exactly do you wish to arrive at with this thought?” said the Baroness.


"Oh, I don't want to arrive at anywhere specific. I was simply thinking that, according to Lamarck's theory, Herr Hamhaduke could be described as the last evolutionary link in the Hippopotamus family and that his nature is defined by the nervous fluid of his species. In that sense - and since the hippopotamuses are awesome creatures - perhaps Herr Hamhaduke ultimately constitutes to an evolutionary achievement of nature" said the Lord.


"Hey!" shouted Hamhaduke angrily.


"To ascertain this in practice, Jules, we should have to compare the virtues of Herr Hamhaduke with those of a hippo. And I don't see what else we could do primarily other than watch Herr Hamhaduke swim in a lake" said the Baroness.


Once again, the Lord and the Baroness broke into loud chuckles. Hamhaduke jumped up, boiling with anger.


"Can you do me a favour and shut your mouths, both of you? I don't want to hear one word about hippopotamuses from your filthy holes. Needless to say I already find your companionship intolerably boring. Deadly boring, I'd dare say. So the best thing to do is to shut the fuck up!" he said.


The Lord gave a quick look at the Baroness and then turned to Hamhaduke again. A painful sigh slipped through his throat.


"Hilde, I think it's time to reveal to Herr Hamhaduke the reason we brought him here. I think it's fair now. It makes no sense to keep secrets between us anymore. He should learn of our motives. What do you say?" he said to the baroness.


"Of course, Jules. I've no problem. Act as you wish." replied the Baroness.


"I'm all ears," smiled Hamhaduke broadly. He was eager to find out what the two tricksters had in mind. Whatever they were up to, it was going to fail miserably. That's what he was thinking.


"Bugs" the Lord spoke in a deep voice. "The baroness has long expressed to me her desire to become a vampire."


"So far so good" thought Hamhaduke.


"I have explained to her many times that the emotional burden a vampire shoulders is too unbearable" the Lord continued. "So I made it clear to her that this might be an option which she might regret bitterly in the future. I explained to her that there is no turning back hereto. That if she becomes a vampire, she will never be able to undo her mistake."


"At any moment now, comes the trap. Go on then. Express yourself, you rotten louse." thought Hamhaduke.


"She insists passionately however that a mortal life is no longer satisfying her," the Lord continued. "She constantly proclaims her desire to walk that dreadful threshold between life and death, that is, the gloomy path of the vampires. Otherwise, as she says, she has no choice but to commit suicide."


'Hide-and-seek then? You want to play hide and seek? Let's play hide and seek then. I'll find you and I'll catch you, you filthy cretin. You can't hide from me.” thought Hamhaduke.


"The Baroness is my friend, Bugs," the Lord continued. “An old friend of mine, a good friend. I have to protect her from the tragic mistake she wants to make to herself. I could never anoint her a vampire myself. This is a curse that I could never unleash upon her. But I would never withstand a potential suicide of hers. I would feel regrets if I learned that she became a suicide because I was refusing to help her. But I would have had the same regrets if I let her shoulder the heavy burden of the vampire while knowing that she could not bear it. I'm in a dilemma, Bugs. A terrible dilemma. And in this dilemma I stand helpless to make a fair decision. So I was wondering if you would have the good intention to help me with this torture. For the truth of the matter, only you can help me."


Hamhaduke looked slyly at the Lord, eyes slit so that they'd hide his thoughts. He then turned to the baroness, confirming that burning desire on her face.


"Is he telling the truth, Baroness?" he asked.


"Yes, Herr Hamhaduke. He is telling the truth. I've made my decision. I want to be a vampire. There is nothing more that will keep me in this life of mine. I am hurt and tormented. My hours in this world are spent in endless grief. I want to get away from all this futility." replied the Baroness.


"And you're asking the Lord to anoint you a vampire and he's denying you that favour?" asked Hamhaduke.


"Precisely, Herr Hamhaduke. This is an act that goes against his conscience. I do understand it but I am mature enough to support my decisions, no matter how risky they may be.” said the Baroness.


"And I suppose that since he's denying you that favour, you want me to do this service for you," said Hamhaduke.


"Yes, Herr Hamhaduke. This is the truth. You're a vampire, aren't you? Only you can give me the saving baptism. So I beg you, do make me a vampire. And I shall serve you forever in the future. I shall greatly reward your kindness, believe me." said the Baroness.


"This is the trap. But I can't tell what kind of a trap it is. What the hell have are they conniving those two? What the hell would happen if I bite her neck and drink her blood? How exactly do they think they're going to hurt me? No, you will not fool me, you filthy scums. I'm smarter than you.” thought Hamhaduke as he studied the expressions of the two. One was the response that came to his mind.


"No." he said sharply.


"No, what?" asked the baroness.


"No, I can't help you, madam. I am very much afraid that you will need to persuade your beloved friend, the Lord, to do you this favour. Otherwise, I wish you good luck if you ever intend to depart from this world." said Hamhaduke.


"Are you sure, Bugs?" asked the Lord surprised. "I must confess that I did not expect this refusal coming from your lips. I was certain that you would jump straight towards her and I would struggle to release her from your fangs."


"You were wrong in your estimate, Lord. I happen to agree with you in regards to the heavy burden of a vampire. You are absolutely right. The Baroness will not be able to bear it. The vampire's anointment requires people with guts and life experiences, and the baroness is much too royal and pampered for this business. It doesn't suit her at all. Besides, even if I did want to be of service to her, I couldn't due to my fullness. You see, I've drunk too much human blood tonight. I've had more than enough of it" said Hamhaduke.


The Lord and the Baroness looked at each other. The baroness slightly raised her eyebrows in despair. Hamhaduke sounded truly adamant in his opinion.


"And you're not moved at all by the fact that the Baroness will end her life if this favour is not done to her? Don't you feel anything about it? Don't you have something to say about it?” the Lord asked Hamhaduke.


"Bon voyage!" said Hamhaduke sarcastically.


The Lord looked at the baroness with bitterness. Compassion began to overwhelm him as he witnessed in her eyes the frigidity of any zeal for life. Those were eyes that betrayed tiredness and despair. But they were also determined eyes. Determined for death, one way or another.


"There's nothing I can do to change your mind?" he asked her.


"No, Jules. I've made my decision. And it's irrevocable.” replied the Baroness.


"So you'll end your life if I don't give you the coveted anointing?" the Lord asked again.


"I'll tear my veins with that blade that stands over there, on the low table. I'll do it right away as soon as you set foot outside this house. I swear I'll do it, Jules. God be my witness." said the Baroness.


"You don't know how lamentable this path will be for you to walk, my dear Hilde. You have no idea. Your mind shall stand incapable to conceive it.' said the Lord.


"If I'm going to exchange mourning with mourning, I won't feel that big a difference, Jules. Mourning surrounds me in life, let it follow me in death. The damage is small." shrugged the baroness.


"Very well, Hilde." hardened the Lord's voice. "Let it be your way then. I'll give you what you seek. But put it well deep inside your mind and never forget it: I warned you of this devastation. And I did so because I love you as a human being."


"Don't worry yourself, Jules. I will remember it forever, no matter what. You have always been my friend. I will never forget that.” the Baroness half-closed her eyes as she looked forward to receiving the anointment.


The Lord approached her and then she slanted her head towards the other side offering him her bare neck. And then he leaned over her with his mouth wide open. His fangs were getting longer and longer until their shiny peaks were ready to sink in the carotid.


"Stop!" barked Hamhaduke.


The Lord turned and looked at him. Hamhaduke approached them, and using his obese body forced them to move away from each other.


"Step aside, Lord," he said grabbing the baroness from the elbow. "These are no jobs for your sort. These jobs require capable vampires. Vampires like me. You make do with some rat for tonight. I'm sure you'll find plenty of rats in here. Rats sneak even into Châteaus. They do not make class discriminations."


Hamhaduke pushed the Lord gently aside with his hand. The Lord roared from the excitement of the Strigoi Morti and his fangs began to shrink to their normal size. Hamhaduke turned to the baroness who was awaiting patiently for that throat bite."My dear bar ..." he said before being interrupted by the clock's dull chime.


All three of them looked simultaneously at the clock. The time was twelve and a half. The clock signalled only one chime at the passing of thirty minutes of each hour. This chime however also had a peculiarity in its sound. And this was because it was followed by a buzz which then simply decreased in volume but continued to sound causing small vibrations on the clock face. Hamhaduke shrugged his shoulders indifferently and turned to the baroness again.


"My dear Baroness," he said. "I owe to tell you in this regard that your decision to end your life for the sake of a moron who gave you up for another woman is plain nonsense. Yes, I know about your cancelled marriage. I saw the hall, the wedding table. A cancelled marriage or a broken heart hardly constitute reasons for suicide. What you intended to do to yourself was utterly stupid and absurd. But all these now belong to the past. And this is because the gift I am about to give you only as a godsent blessing can be counted. Exactly, Baroness. The supernatural power of the vampire is a divine gift and is enjoyed only by those whose destiny is to rule the world. I'll show you how you can use this power, Baroness. And then you yourself will realise how frivolous and childish your erotic frustration was for that cretin that abandoned you."


The Baroness looked at Hamhaduke with a blank gaze, a gaze that was refusing to confess the thoughts of the moment. But that didn't matter much now. Hamhaduke's eyes were now shining with the colour of platinum. They were eyes of a beast, haunted by murderous instinct.


"Herr Hamhaduke, having in mind your coarse ways, I would very kindly ask you to treat me with tenderness and kindness." stammered the baroness surrendering to the magic spell of the almighty vampire who'd now embraced her for good with his strong hands.


"I will comply with your wish, madam." said Hamhaduke and raised his face high, opening his mouth wide. His fangs became long and sharp, ready to devour. And then he leaned over the baroness' neck, and the fangs were forcibly thrust into her precious carotid.


The baroness moaned loudly from the pain. But she soon abolished any reaction from her body in order to allow her blood to flow unhindered into the vampire's larynx. The senses were increasingly deserting her body. But before the baroness completely succumbed to the fainting, Hamhaduke abruptly pulled himself away from her throat as if he was stung by a wasp. The poisonous effect of her blood was immediate.


"Hell!" he screamed in horror and his eyelids fluttered in confusion and his mass collapsed on the floor with a thud.


The baroness rested on the floor grabbing her neck, palpating the point of the two holes. Until the two holes disappeared and her skin was again smooth and shiny as before. But the pain from Hamhaduke's bite was stabbing and wasn't leaving her yet. And that is why the Baroness attempted to massage the spot with her hand to soften the pain. The Lord stood above the growling Hamhaduke.


"What have you done to me? What is happening to me? What have you schemed, you cretins?” said Hamhaduke, and his wide-open eyes twisted constantly around from the nightmarish vertigo. Such was his daze that the words came out of his mouth breathier than Theobald's.


"Oh nothing, Bugs. We just forgot to mention a small detail to you: the Baroness is already a vampire. But she's not a Strigoi Morti like us two. The Baroness belongs to the Order of the Moroi. She's a moroaica, a proud moroaica. The blood of the Moroi is a venom for the Strigoi Morti. Don't worry though. This won't be the end of you. Her blood will just sink you into a paranoid vertigo for a few hours. It won't kill you. I have other plans for your death. Ingenious plans. Trust me." said the Lord.



The Baroness belonged to the Order of the Moroi Morti. The Moroi were also vampires, however they were distinguished by a significant difference from the Strigoi Morti: the Moroi were mortals. This difference created ideological contrariety between the two Orders, the main of which being the doctrine on behalf of the Moroi that mortality is a "necessary evil" in understanding the deeper meanings of the world, a doctrine that was certainly not shared by the Strigoi since they were eternal. As a result, the two Orders believed in the superiority of their species over the other and - in essence - were in opposition with each other. Hence the friendship that had developed between the Lord and the Baroness was paradoxical as the Strigoi 's association with the Moroi was a rare (if not unheard of) phenomenon.


The Moroi were usually endowed with qualities that had to do with the ability to manipulate one of the four elements of nature: air, fire, water and earth. The Baroness, however, received the charisma of the metaphysical connection to the genus of butterflies. So the butterflies were clinging to her presence, crowding her mansion which eventually acquired the name Château des Papillons.


Needless to say, of course, at this point that there was absolutely no sense for a Strigoi to bloodsuck a Moroi. Moroi 's blood had unfavourable properties for a Strigoi - as well as the opposite - and its effect on the body was catalytic. And this was certainly proven in the most overt manner in Hamhaduke's case.


"Bastards ...! I'll punish you for that ...! I swear ...!" mumbled Hamhaduke in his vertigo.


"Fall asleep, Bugs. You have no choice but to sleep now. You can't avoid this vertigo awake. Go to sleep.” said the Lord.


Friedrich rushed into the rotunda alarmed by the painful groans of the Baroness. His eyes quickly scrutinised the three attendant vampires, with his attention focused more on Hamhaduke for whom - let it be confessed - he had already begun to foster a dislike. Upon discovering that the baroness was no longer in danger, he laid on the floor Theobald whom he was holding under his armpit and pressed the switch on his back. Theobald was put into operation because Friedrich had installed a spare Voltaic column in his mechanism. Buzzing, long hiss, silence, gnawings of cogwheels. Theobald turned his face to the baroness who was seated on the Persian carpet.


"Theo, come near me." said the baroness in weeps.


Theobald looked at the baroness, and the silver chloride plate in his head got a good idea of ​​the brightness of her face. The zinc cone at the point of his heart had detected the aching tone in her voice. He moved towards the baroness under the clangs of his metal joints. As he got close enough, form his innards sounded the movements of the cursors on thin rails and the sparks of the electric charge filling the control console.


"Is- the-re a-ny-thing the mat-ter, Frau-lein?" asked Theobald with the characteristic withered voice of the bellows.


"I'm in pain, Theo ... Pain ..." replied the baroness.


Theobald did some jerky movements of the head. Thuds of bobbins, rattles of jointed straps, shrieks of cranks. His gaze caught the collapsed Hamhaduke. The control console commanded the instinctive reaction: a kick to the person in front of him. A kick in Hamhaduke's face. And so he did. The kick hit Hamhaduke on the nose. Swollen nose, bloodied nostrils. Hamhaduke growled from pain.



Friedrich bloated like an overstuffed turkey with pride and his wide smile formed on his hairless face, ear to ear. Poor Hamhaduke had erred in his judgement on Friedrich: Friedrich was also a vampire but belonged to a peculiar order of vampires, the Order of Dhampir. The Dhampir derived from the union of a vampire and a human. They were vampire-human hybrids, in contrast to the Moroi and the Strigoi who were genuine vampires. The Dhampir were mortals and were not defined by the metaphysical properties of the vampires, yet they possessed extraordinary physical strength and were mostly born with a natural talent in some craft: Friedrich in this case was endowed with an innate aptitude for science. The Order of Dhampir had as an ultimate purpose of their existence to protect the Moroi, and for this reason they adhered to their one and only doctrine: The Moroi always come first and foremost. Nothing else matters.


The clock sounded grunts from its inside. Everyone's heads turned towards it. The baroness got up from the Persian carpet. She ordered Friedrich to extinguish some of the lit candles. Friedrich obeyed. As the illumination of the rotunda was confined to the dim flame of a single candle, the baroness pulled the latch that stood on the left side of the clock's face. And after doing so, she opened the walnut facade revealing the inside of the clock.


The cuckoo was in its place (where did it come from?), but it was not still. The clockwork mechanism inside it had set it to shove its beak into a vertical glass tube. From the cuckoo's beak began to roll a red substance that was of course nothing but blood. The blood flowed through the tube - between the cogs and the lamellas and the cranks of the clock - and ended up in a large, thick-crystal vessel.



Hamhaduke's eyes were half open and, in their daze, examined the inside of the clock from the top where the cuckoo stood, and then down until they reached the thick-crystal vessel. His vertigo stood unable to intercept his terror as he saw the content of the vessel and from his pharynx escaped an agitated vowel of disgust.


In the thick-crystal vessel lay a human baby fetus, about thirty inches in height, ugly and obnoxious in appearance, with horrible bumps on the head and body. The fetus was floating in a reddish conservation liquid - a mixture of terevinthine, camphor, lavender oil, cinnamon powder, wine, rosin, sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate - and the nostrils and mouth were connected with transparent tubes through which it was breathing and feeding. As the blood that cuckoo poured from its beak reached the embryo's mouth, it began to suck with bulimia.


"You might have seen the wedding table of the hall, Herr Hamhaduke" said the baroness. “But you rushed to draw your conclusions. My marriage was not aborted due to some illegitimate affair of my fiance. The reason why Françoise left me forever was because he discovered my terrible secret: that I was a Moroi. I was pregnant with his child. He was blissful that he'd have a successor. I gave a premature birth. The result was my little Jacob you see here before you. But I kept him a secret from Francois. I told him I suffered a miscarriage. Francois once suspected the truth. He asked to see Jacob, and I obeyed his wish. Upon seeing Jacob, François was shocked from repulsion. He told me that this creature is nothing more than an abortion and that it is not human. He asked me to let him die but I refused. To me, Jacob is a little child like all other children. I was his mother, how could I ever let him die? So I was forced to confess to Françoise the truth. I revealed to him that I am a moroaica, a proud moroaica. Francois was unable to accept me. He deserted me on our wedding day. The marriage was cancelled. I left the wedding party hall untouched. It's just a room like all other rooms in the Château. Since then I am being consoled by the Château's butterflies and Friedrich's toys. I have reconciled with my sad past now. Jacob continues to exist thanks to my will and Friedrich's genius. The Château des Papillons is my home. Every room in the Château has a little bit of my love. Even that damn wedding party hall. My wedding dress is made of expensive satin. The spiders seem to respect it ..."


Jacob was constantly sucking the blood that came to his lips. In the thick-crystal vessel of reddish liquid, he opened his eyelids. His gaze met with the gaze of the dizzied Hamhaduke. Those brooding eyes that lay beneath the protuberant forehead were the last thing Hamhaduke took with him as his rationales plunged into darkness.



A few words about the cuckoo: The purpose of the cuckoo was to collect blood from the herds of animals that grazed in the meadows of Auvers-sur-Oise. It was scheduled to do this at twelve o'clock of the daily timescale, that is, twice a day, 12 noon and 12 midnight. The cuckoo was made of light pewter and for its flight followed the principles of the glider, meaning that it was flying supported by the counteraction of the wind upon its lifting surfaces. Inside the cuckoo there was a clockwork mechanism equipped with a timer, an internal launcher, and an early form of gyroscope.


At twelve o'clock, the clock fired the cuckoo like a rocket out of the rotunda's window through the ignition of compressed gunpowder. In flight, the cuckoo was set by its mechanism to open its folded wings and fly like a glider over the woodlands.


As the cuckoo reached the pastures, the animals' bleats and moos gave the analogous impetus to the hypersensitive sound sensor of its mechanism. The sensor then adjusted the tilt of the cuckoo's wings, directing its flight towards the herds. The cuckoo then approached the herds and landed on the spot, and more specifically on an animal. During the landing, the cuckoo was programmed to bring forth its hook-nailed feet so that it could cling to the fleece of the selected animal.


When the cuckoo clung to an animal, it pulled a pointy piston out of its beak and pierced the animal's body. After doing so, it pumped a quantity of two hundred millilitres of blood from the animal through the piston and stored it in a vial within it.


After completing the blood extraction process, the cuckoo was detached from the animal's body and fell on the grass. No matter which way the cuckoo was falling on the grass, it was able to always stand upright with the help of the gyroscope of its mechanism.



The gyroscope embedded in the cuckoo's mechanism was in its early form, an alternative version to the "Engine" introduced by the German astronomer Johann Bohnenberger in 1817, with the exception that the cuckoo's gyroscope was based on rotating discs as opposed to the rotating sphere of Bohnenberger's machine. In this sense, Friedrich's gyroscope foreshadowed for about a decade the rotating disc device introduced by American Walter Johnson in 1832 and which was named as "gyroscope" by Jean-Bernard Leon Foucault in 1852 whilst conducting his experiments to prove the rotation of the Earth. But as Friedrich was secretive in character and avoided publicity - as is the case with all Dhampirs - he thus allowed Johnson and Foucault to steal his glory. C ' est la vie ...


The cuckoo's gyroscope consisted of the ring-shaped gyroscopic frame, the vertical axis of rotation, the gimbals, and the fixed horizontal rotor. In addition to adjusting the centre of gravity of the cuckoo and balancing it in an upright position, the gyroscope had an additional function: it kept the cuckoo constantly oriented as its gyroscopic pointer always indicated southwest (thus acting as a gyroscopic compass before the gyroscopic compass made by German physicist Hermann Anschütz in 1908).


When the time was twelve and a half, the timer of its mechanism set in operation the internal launcher which started the ignition of the compressed gunpowder deposited on the back of the cuckoo. The cuckoo was fired like a rocket at a 45˚ angle from the grass to the air. Flying again as a glider and based on the indication of the gyroscopic pointer, it tilted its wings in such a way so that it'd head southwest, that is, toward the Château.


Simultaneously, as the time reached twelve and a half, the lightning rod above the rotunda was electrically charged (by the clock's generator) and formed a powerful electromagnetic field around it. Entering the electromagnetic field of the lightning rod, the cuckoo was pulled from the lightning rod and stuck on it. As the cuckoo was stuck on the lightning rod, the mechanism inside it adjusted its hooked nails of its feet to bend in the shape of convex tongs resembling pincers. The cuckoo's curved tongs then gripped the cylindrical lightning rod, thereby enabling the cuckoo to slide down and return to the clock.


It is worth noting here that this was the fourth version of the cuckoo that Friedrich implemented. The previous three had problems firing the inner launcher and as a result those cuckoos were left on the pasture grass. Three unsuspecting shepherds collected one each and then kept them as a heirloom, each in his hut. They even shared with each other the common belief that these mechanical cuckoos were devices sent from extraterrestrial civilisations from faraway planets whose purpose was to collect specimens of Earth life for study. Friedrich never bothered to recover those cuckoos from the shepherds. No one, however, can blame him for this. He did not have to deal with the three failed cuckoos in this regard but instead he had to work harder to build a cuckoo that would work successfully. Which, of course, he finally did.


Hamhaduke was sleeping on the Persian carpet for good, sounding a noisy snoring from his nostrils. The Lord stood above him, overwhelmed by the fiery desire for revenge.


"And now, Bugs, it's time I prove to you everything I told you about the punishment that'd await you in case you betrayed me. I must be consistent with you, Bugs. And I assure you, I shall show relentless zeal in this regard. Cruel zeal, I'd say." he said and approached him threateningly.


"No!" the baroness stopped him. The Lord looked at her in amazement. "I've got a better idea. Come with me."



Next to the Château stood a stone obelisk about 100 meters high. The obelisk had always provoked the Lord's curiosity during his visits to the baroness; he had never asked her, however, as to the reason for its existence. Holding a lit torch in her hand, the baroness took the Lord with her and unlocked the door at the base of the obelisk. And after doing so, the two climbed up the inner spiral staircase to the top.


Once they reached the top of the obelisk, the Lord saw the pile of logs and presumed straight away that the pile had apparently been arranged at the spot for making a fire. He did not err in his conjecture. The baroness lighted the pile with the torch and the fire loomed large on the logs.


The baroness then introduced a telescope through the folds of her gown and, looking through its lens, turned it eastward into the dark wooded mountains that stood like unfazed giants under the glowing moon. She waited for a while until from within the dense black of the mountains began to shine a tiny flame that just about was discernible by human eye from that distance.


"Splendid. They received the message." said the Baroness and handed the telescope to the Lord.


"Who did?" the Lord asked and, looking at the telescope, verified the existence of a fire in some part of the mountains.


"You'll see." replied the baroness with a smile that would fit more to the lips of the Sphinx.


They both went down the obelisk and began the preparations. Friedrich attached an extra cart to the coach. He then carried the unconscious Hamhaduke to the cart and placed him in it. The Lord and the Baroness boarded the coach. Friedrich climbed into the driver's seat and hit his whip, and then the horses set off.


The coach exited the mansion and crossed the woods of the Auvers-sur-Oise passing through the tall oaks. The process had to be carried out quickly as the sun would rise any time soon. And that is why Friedrich forced the horses with his whip to gallop faster. He was not in danger himself since the sun did not harm the Dhampir but only weakened them. The Lord and the Baroness, however, would be set alight like ignitable matter if exposed to sunlight.


The coach eventually reached a secluded bank of the river Oise and stopped. That bank was surrounded by dried shrubs that the river was beaching in its pass, and so the three of them could act unperturbed without worrying about being seen by anyone passing by. The waters of the river flowed with a provocative slowness, to such an extent that they seemed to be stagnant. The owls on the branches of the trees hooted the augury of the dawn.


The Lord and the Baroness got off the coach to await their mysterious visitors. As for Hamhaduke, he was snoring on the cart within his deep sleep. From what the Lord could understand, that part of the lakeside was obviously the meeting point and that mysterious visitors would come to the point by some waterborne transport.


"I only hope they won't be too late" said the Baroness with a shadow of concern cast upon her face.


"Not be late, who?" asked the Lord.


"You'll see." giggled the baroness teasingly.


"Hilde, I only hope the better idea you have about getting rid of Hamhaduke is truly better," said the Lord, somewhat distressed by the baroness' silly riddles. "You know, of course, that Hamhaduke was my fault, and I owe on this occasion to act with extreme strictness for his elimination. If I don't, I shall have serious trouble with the Diet of Cluj. Now, I gather you are aware of the punishment the Diet will impose upon me for such an offence. You wouldn't want to see your good friend being in that unfortunate situation, now would you?"


"Oh, don't worry, Jules. Herr Hamhaduke shall be duly handled. Have no doubt about it." replied the Baroness with disarming confidence.


That deep-rooted conviction on behalf of the baroness surprised the Lord. The calm tone of her voice indicated that she knew what she was doing. So he decided to go along with her plans and submit to the suffering of her silly riddles for the time being. But those mysterious visitors were being late. And the sky had already begun to rid itself of the veil of night and to attain the faint azure shades of the nascent dawn.


"Are you sure they will come?" the Lord asked impatiently.


"Yes, they will. They will not miss the opportunity. Anyway they know about ... ”said the baroness and her voice stopped for a few seconds. She regrouped herself and looked sweetly at the Lord." They know what I am. They know they have to be here before sunrise."


From the river came the wooden boat. In its centre stood the tall mast with the open sail blown by the wind. The large cross was embroidered on the sail and below the motto in Latin: CRUX EST SOLUS VIA. The Cross Is The Only Way. Underneath the mast posed the six figures of the monks, dressed in the vestments of the Franciscans: the brown long-sleeved robes with hoods and rope zosters. As the boat stranded the bank, a monk jumped ashore and tied the bow's cordage to a tree trunk.


The monks got off the boat and headed for the baroness, with their heads lowered under the pointy hoods. Before they near her enough, she slipped the black veil over her head and covered her face. As they reached a distance of ten meters, the baroness made a nervous nod with her hand so that they'd hide from her eyes the oversized wooden crosses hanging from their necks. They obeyed by shoving the crosses in the folds of their tunics.


The baroness presented three golden louis on the palm of her hand. One of the monks approached her by holding an open pouch, and then she threw the louis into the pouch. Then the baroness made a second nod and the monks went to the cart where Hamhaduke was sleeping.



Lord Greywood then had the opportunity to see the monks closer. They all had cruel faces with rough angles and eyes that illuminated a sick glow within their dark circles. They were faces that betrayed hardships, the scratches on the cheekbones were caused by dry shaving with a sharp knife. Their hands were hardened, hands defined by streaked muscles and protuberant joints.


One of the monks was hunchbacked, with a huge hump on his spine that made him walk constantly bent over. It was he who undertook the task of transporting Hamhaduke from the cart to the boat. Passing by the Lord, he sounded a hearty chuckle which the Lord perceived as a greeting. The hunchback's face was deformed by some congenital malformation, asymmetrical eyes, swollen lips and a tragically deficient denture that caused awe and compassion as it reigned in that wide smile. He carried Hamhaduke on board alone, with remarkable patience given that Hamhaduke was so overweight that even Friedrich - with the power of Dhampir - could not easily manage him.


Another monk was young in age, in his twenties, innocent and inexperienced, but also determined to follow the rules of maturity of the rest of the monks. He was the one who held the pouch with the louis. The oldest monk was single-eyed, his left eyelid half-secured the cloudy glass eye. He was the abbot, and the monks always waited for his own signal before performing any work. His face was pruney, and his cheeks beneath the eye bags were defined by deep trenches. The other three monks were in their forties, with hands tucked under the wide sleeves and heads permanently lowered under the hoods.


When Hamhaduke was taken aboard, the monks lined up in a row and bid farewell to the baroness, raising their right palm with their fingers together. She did the same. The abbot made the point of the cross with a concise and angry hand movement, but the baroness turned her gaze away, denying the abbot's blessing. The monks then boarded the boat and sailed down the river.


The deal was over. The Lord and the Baroness boarded the coach. Friedrich struck the whip and the coach set off back to the Château des Papillons. The sun needed a little more time to rise. The baroness shut the buttons of the cubicle's dark curtains. The Lord had some queries.


"Well? Will you inform me of the gentlemen?"


"Those charming gentlemen you just met are monks of the Black Brotherhood of the Cross. Their monastery is located on the slope of the mountain, at the spot where you saw the fire."


"The Black Brotherhood of the Cross? They are an order of flagellants, aren't they?"



"That's right. Their order was established in the 11th century embracing the ascetic philosophy of Benedictine St. Peter Damian on self-desecration of the flesh. The Black Brotherhood does not, of course, belong to the Order of the Benedictines, it does not belong to any Order of the Catholics. Nevertheless, the Vatican's Holy See never considered them heretics, they rather ignored them simply as hard-core. They always saw them as a movement that combined graphically in their doctrine the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Benedict, and of course recognised their fanatical zeal for the strictly monastic life. But then many Franciscans joined the Brotherhood in the 13th century, thus giving them the religious legitimacy that was until then ambiguous."


"Strange ... I was under the impression that Pope Clement VI had issued a decree condemning the orders of flagellants. It was the year 1349 if I'm not mistaken. At the time of the Great Plague ... Isn't it so?"



"Yes. The year 1349 was the year of the outbreak of the Great Plague that spread across Europe and Asia, nearly one hundred million dead. That was the time of the rise of the practice of self-flagellation, and Pope Clement VI had to suppress the movements of flagellants that were rapidly multiplying and constantly attracting new members to their factions. Most of those movements were heretical and opposed the divine communion and jurisdiction of the church. Some were descendants of the sects of Brethren and Beggin while others were even orders of pagans that worshipped the Devil and claimed they could perform miracles, such as immunity to the Great Plague for instance. Soon the Vatican commissioned the Holy Inquisition to completely eliminate the flagellants, including the Black Brotherhood of the Cross. That was when the miracle happened ... "


"Miracle? What miracle?"



"Hmmm, if you believe in miracles, then you could very well regard it as an intervention of Divine Providence. Otherwise you can only describe it as irony of luck. During the outbreak of the Great Plague, the disease spread to Andalusia and destroyed entire settlements of the territory. But in a small village in Andalusia, in Cartaojal of Antequera, stood a small monastery of the Black Brotherhood. Miraculously, the Brotherhood's monks in that village were not affected by the plague. They were the only people in those areas who remained alive. The news spread like wildfire. New members were constantly acceding the Brotherhood's order. Of course, most of them soon changed their minds as they saw the extremities set by the Brotherhood as a prerequisite for monastic life and the methods of self-desecration they applied on a daily basis. However, under the impact of that "miracle", the Vatican was forced to exclude the Black Brotherhood from the persecutions of the other flagellants. But the Black Brotherhood's case was now so extraordinary that even the Holy Inquisition had no interest in prosecuting them."


"Why?"



"You know the reason. You read it when the boat reached the bank. CRUX EST SOLUS VIA . The Cross Is The Only Way. For the Black Brotherhood, the most glorious death that befits a true monk is the painful death of the crucifixion. And if there is no cross, death in this case must be far more torturous than that of Jesus. They consider such a death a blessing for their joining God's Kingdom. As you can see, the Holy Inquisition couldn't do much with these people. The monks of the Black Brotherhood would gladly accept a gruesome condemnation of the Inquisition. Additionally, there was always the risk of exacerbating the fanaticism of the Brotherhood's members. The Vatican and the Holy See ought to make a political maneuver in this regard. This was precisely the exclusion of the Brotherhood from the persecutions of the flagellants. A political move on the part of the Catholic Church."


"I see. However, I would expect a country like France to have eliminated such religious movements by now. I mean, the political equipoise of the country has been so precarious in the last century that orders like the Brotherhood would have been reasonably rendered denounced."


"Oh no, that's not the case with the Brotherhood. Quite the opposite in fact. It all started with Catherine of the Medici and her son King Henry III of France who supported the Black Brotherhood and authorised them to maintain monasteries within the French territory. This silent protection tactic enjoyed by the Brotherhood was subsequently adopted by the House of Bourbons. As a result, the Black Brotherhood has survived in France for nearly four centuries. Of course, its members are now few and the monasteries have been reduced to two, one in Auvers-sur-Oise and one in Marseilles. However, their practices remained unchanged."


"I see."


"They are honest people, these monks. And consistent. I have collaborated with them several times. They have a particular fondness for vampires. In fact, they specialise in converting vampires. This is exactly what they will do with Herr Hamhaduke. They will attempt to convert him and make him human again."


"Convert him? Can they really do that? Convert a vampire? "


"Of course not. But they go crazy about trying and insisting on that purpose. It's their favourite activity."


"Hmm, I see."


"My only complaint with them, however, is that I am the one who pays them. Normally the opposite should happen."


"What do you mean?"


"Logically they should have paid me for the amusement I am offering them. You see, Jules, Herr Hamhaduke for them is not a real chore, even if they want to believe so themselves. For them, occasions like Hamhaduke aren't but causes for celebration. That's exactly what I offer them. A celebration."


The Lord drew some vague idea of ​​what Baroness was saying, but he still had question marks in his mind. The Baroness sensed the Lord's bewildered look by her side.


"As far as my judgement is concerned, Jules, these people are unbalanced."


The Lord leaned his back on the seat. Through the slit of the curtains, his eyes gazed at the backdrop of the forest passing before him. A faint smile formed on his lips, consequent of some bizarre compassion he now felt for Hamhaduke. And who would have really expected that one could feel compassion for an abomination like Hamhaduke...! It was merely an impulse of the moment on the Lord's behalf, nothing more.



However, he was tormented by the damned curiosity. The truth was that he preferred to know what was going to happen to Hamhaduke rather than being sidelined in unawareness.


The sun still needed a little more time before rising.









---

[to be continued next Friday, 19 June 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]

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A few words about the author


Dimitris Apergis was born in Larisa, Greece, in 1978. He graduated in BA (Hons) Film Studies in the UK. He lives in Greece.

His books are published in both English and Greek languages, by the OKYPUS PUBLISHING. https://en.okypus.com/okypus-publisher

Dimitris has received several awards for his literary work.

In 2018 he received the First Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his novel Gerard & the father. Additionally, in 2018 his novel Gerard & the father also received the First Literature Award at the 8th International Literature Contest held by E.P.O.C. (Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus) under the aegis of UNESCO.

In 2017 his novel ‘At the Whiskey County’ received the First Literature Award at the 7th International Literature Contest held by the Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus under the aegis of UNESCO.

In 2015 his novella ‘Jazz Room’ received the Second Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers.

In 2013 he received a Praise from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his short story Labyrinth.

In 2012 he received the First Literature Award from the MONITOR Press for his short story Acid Rain.

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