When he drops by her house unexpectedly, a misanthropic teenager must play hostess to the one and only Florian Werther Bathory Byron, a vampire with a tragic life story, a luminous complexion, and a dangerous reluctance to actually kill anything he decides to eat.


4. Life and Other Tragedies

"I was born a very long time ago, in the middle of nowhere, to a painfully insensitive family in a remote European backwater whose name and crest I have long since blotted from memory. We came from an ancient lineage, but by the time I was born, gambling debts and a lack of birth control had reduced our holdings to a few scant fields and our household to destitution. As the youngest of seven sons, and by far the handsomest and cleverest, I stood to inherit nothing: my brutish, illiterate father and brothers had always hated me. Only my beautiful mother ever showed me any affection - "

"Wait a minute," I interrupted, "You said you'd give me your life story, not the vampire Lestat's." My aunt's old reading library, and my own disinclination to leave the house that summer, had perhaps over-familiarized me with certain florid vein of modern literature: and I recognized his opening at once. "If you're going to tell me a story, at least make it an original one. Or put Originals in it. Or were-wolves. Get with the times."

"Ahem," Florian blinked. "This is my life story, Sabilla. Who do you think Anne Rice got her opening chapters from, anyway? Besides, there is a knock-out of a witch, I just haven't got to her yet."

He was very good at keeping a straight face, I thought. Unless he really was serious... But in that case he might get upset if I challenged his world-view, so I figured I might as well go along with it for now. At least until he decided he was finished telling the goddamn story, and I could escape to the front garden to look for my cell phone without upsetting him.

So I shrugged lightly and laughed. "Haha. Right. Go on."

"Though heavens," Florian continued, still dead-pan, "I'm certainly not French and I never hunted wolves like she wrote I did. Ugh. I always had a natural sensitivity and love for the natural world, you see, which set me apart even as a child. And I had on top of that a sense of fellow feeling for all animals, given that my family of origin - even before I underwent the Change - always treated me like one. "

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said, somewhat chagrined. He really did know how to fix you with an eye and make you feel like a monster. It had also occurred to me somewhat belatedly that if he really was sick, what he needed right now was professional attention, not snarky commentary: but there was just something so bothersome to me about the way he kept emoting that I couldn't contain myself.

Florian only shrugged, and looked distant. "Anyway," he continued, pulling one long leg up onto the couch, and resting his laced fingers on the knee, "as I was saying, when I was only seventeen, my mother died. Shattered by the loss, I quickly determined that I must escape my rural prison, before my sire had time to ship me off to the priesthood, something he had been muttering about since I reached the age of seven and started to eat more than one of his dogs at table. Only my mother's influence had restrained him thus far. Now, I had no intention of letting anything get between me and - how did Cordelia used to put it? - following my bliss, and even at that age, I knew my destiny lay far outside the common fold."


"So I ran away, and joined a band of artisanal shadow-puppeteers! I was a splendid performer, a natural. The crowds flocked to see me!"

"I'm sure they did..."

"Yes. Unfortunately, at the end of the traveling season we came to a misunderstanding over how the profits should be shared, and they drugged me and left me behind at a crossroads, on the first snowy night of the year. If it hadn't been for the kindness of a passing noblewoman, I might have lost my nose for all eternity..."

"And what a great loss to eternity that would have been."

"Bill, I hope you're not being sarcastic. Sarcasm really is the ugliest form of wit. Anyway, you see, that passing noblewoman was a beautiful red-haired witch called Helena, and that night she saw my inner potential and cast a spell on me which brought me into the fold of the immortals. I can still remember her beauty like it was yesterday - but not so much her first words to me. Anyway, she recognized something in me, something I was only then unconsciously aware of - not only my inherited beauty, but the inner greatness of my spirit, my unparalleled sensitivity to the human experience. "

"Um." I stared at him blankly. "What?"

"She exalted me to higher dimension! Lifted my poet's soul from the depths of despair to the heights of earthly rapture - "

"Ok, ok, ok, I get it. Too much information, thank you very much, you can move on now."

"Bill, this is the most important part and you're not even paying attention! Stop petting that indiscriminate sycophant of a tabby and look at me!"

"Fine," I said, nudging Selene off my lap and turning to face him. "But I really don't need details, ok? So you two went Indochine in the carriage and then what?"

"Are you blushing again? You've misunderstood, Sabilla. That's not it at all. Well, not entirely. What I'm saying is that that - that was the night that, by the power of ancient and wholly natural magics, she made me a vampire."

"I see." I said. My nerves were very frayed by this point, and I was through even pretending to play along. "Let me guess, she was tragically burnt at the stake shortly afterwards and left you all her earthly possessions, too."

"Indeed," Florian replied, with a sad half-smile, quite impervious to my poor temper. "Most foully murdered by the accusations of her husband, who was jealous of our love. He might also have been a werewolf, the hypocrite - what a unibrow that man had! And awful breath, too. Ugh. I don't know how she managed before I came along. At any rate, Helena's generosity was matched only by her wisdom. She was my salvation - and my immortal despair. She made me what I am. And with her dying breath, before the flames took hold of her radiant curls, she promised me that no matter what - we would be together - for all eternity."

As he said this, he pulled a tarnished silver locket from under his shirt, and scooted closer to me on the sofa. "And that, my dearest Sabilla," he said, throwing open the locket with one hand and snaking the other around my shoulders so I couldn't move, " - is where you come in."

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