Chapter 1: Keeping Ones Place
CHAPTER 1: Keeping Ones Place
Anne was determined not to lose her temper in spite of severe provocation. Her stepdaughter had always looked upon her as an interloper; not really good enough for Gordon, even if Anne could trace her family line to minor nobility. Indeed, her background had been considered good enough to raise Cassandra and her brother! Neither of her two stepchildren had dared to remind Anne of her former position as their governess while Anne's beloved husband lived. His death near the end of the Crimean War had changed everything for Anne and her sweet toddler, William.
The little fellow was only four years old when his father's diplomatic mission resulted in death so far from his much-loved Yorkshire home. The estate was small, but beautiful, with a home farm that more than met the needs of the family. Now Gordon had been gone close to two years and Richard, his eldest son, had moved his young family to the estate and assumed the role of landed gentry.
The first rule of order was to ship off his stepmother and his embarrassingly young brother to the London town home. Gordon would have hated young Will growing up in the grimy city so far from the open spaces of the family home. Anne missed what had been her home for so much of her life as well.
Now Cassandra was insisting that her stepmother and half-brother move yet again. Cass had returned from her honeymoon with grand plans for her new husband, George, to make his mark in the Capital city. A seat in Parliament and a position of importance on something called a "Watchers Council" were his by right of birth. The Travers family could trace its line from the conquest and Cass had worked long and hard to fix George's affections. Cass was ever class conscience; a snob, in point of fact.
The townhouse in Mayfair was obviously not the proper place for her father's second family. Poor daddy must have been closer to his dotage than anyone had suspected. What was he thinking, marrying the governess and siring a second son only four years older than his own first grandson? Shameful is what it was!
It wasn't as if Cass intended to ship them to the wilderness—or even to the continent—for heaven sake. After all, Cass and George needed to entertain in proper style. Anne was a quiet widow with a small son to raise. The house that George had found for them near Regent Street was charming and quite respectable. Why, there was even a lovely small garden where Anne could grow her roses and William could play. And, after all, the Mayfair house had been part of her father's estate and should stay with his first family. Richard understood fully and agreed, even paying for the new home for their stepmother and half-brother.
In time, William would be off to Eton, then probably Cambridge as Richard had done. Perhaps her smaller brother would eventually enter the Holy orders. Richard and George could use their influence to secure a decent post for him. Maybe William would follow their father's career and enter into government service; George could help there. See, Cass was a good sister... thinking of his betterment and helping to secure his future. Cass had loved Anne once, too, when she had stayed in her place... before her father had decided that he would miss having Anne in his home so terribly, once a governess wasn't needed any longer.
Oh, how the neighborhood had snickered when that wedding had taken place. Then came William. The eyebrows surely rose then. Well, he had been a sweet enough baby and he looked just exactly like their father. The gossip had died down a bit then. Besides, Gordon never allowed anything short of respect to be shown to his young wife and baby son. He had even accused Cass of jealousy at one point—ridiculous, of course. Oh, how father had doted on her new baby brother. He just could not see what a fool he looked at his age with a baby. That was the only real objection Cass had. Her beloved father being made to look a fool with his governess wife and newborn son... shameful indeed.
Anne had no desire to move her small son once again. Poor mite, moving about like a gypsy with no father there to protect and guide him. Who would have guessed that her sweet William would need protection from his own half-siblings? Surely Gordon was not resting easily. If Anne believed in the supernatural, she would expect to hear that her late husband was haunting the halls of his beloved Laurelwood trying to make Richard a better son and brother. Cass had become haughty enough to scare a ghost lately... so a haunting would have no impact on her. But, such nonsense was only found in novels like Mr. Dickens' and his wonderful Christmas ghost story. Still... Anne
sighed with guilty pleasure picturing such a haunting.
William deserved better. Such a sweet, loving child. He was a comfort and constant source of joy to her. He followed his mamma everywhere, like a small shadow. He loved to sit at her feet in the parlor while she did needlework. Anne would sing to him as she worked. Gordon would have demanded that pose for an official portrait. He had been a good husband to her, and had been beside himself with joy when William had come along. Yes, theirs had been a love match and William conceived from that love.
Gordon had been well set up even if his own father had invested poorly. William's grandfather had been a bit of a visionary with the unfortunate habit of putting money where his dreams led. They weren't bad dreams or investments... merely too far ahead of their time. Mr. Babbage's inventions, for example, should have raised the family fortune. However, machines to calculate and compute were too far ahead of their time to attract enough investors like Gordon's father. The family coffers were low, but never empty. Nonetheless, Gordon had done his duty and married well the first time, using his head and not his heart. He recouped the losses his father had incurred by following his dreams. Gordon had saved Laurelwood and had two spoiled, haughty children to show for that marriage.
His first wife had died when Cass was still quite young. Anne Howe had come into their lives then and made a family of them all. Her warmth and love had been a precious gift to them all, and the one thing that kept Gordon the kind and loving man he had been to the end.
Gordon would have done anything to keep Anne in his life. He had been happy beyond measure when she agreed to marry him at his age; and completely over the moon when she presented him with William a short year later. Richard was at University and engaged by that time, his future already secured. Cass was fifteen and already turning heads. She knew what she wanted and how to get it. Gordon had been a good father to all three children, but the spot in his heart for his youngest was a bit softer than the rest. Anne supposed that Richard and Cass had felt the difference. Now Richard was the family head, living at Laurelwood with his family while she and William were being moved yet again.
Anne sighed deeply and could only pray that her son didn't understand the cuts and slights of his older siblings. William was an especially sensitive child and fiercely loyal to his mother even at his young age. He was special and Anne knew his future would be as special as he was. He would be well known in time... a name to be reckoned with in that future time. Anne's beautiful boy; they could move them about, but they could never make them disappear!
Chapter 2: A Glowing Start
Chapter 2: A Glowing Start
Cambridge University, 1870
Ah, halfway through the Michaelmas term and 18 year old William was as content as a cat on a warm hearth. No ... wait ... a languid feline resting its wee paws 'pon a coal warmed brick bier ... Yes, that was much better!
In some other time, William would have taken to the roads like the bards of old. He loved to use language to paint pictures, tell tales. Why a person could make a place or a person immortal through the power of words! Time sped by so quickly for the most part, but poetry lived forever!
William knew his brother wanted him to study practical courses. Richard had been pushing him to develop an interest in politics or the art of diplomacy for some time now. William did so wish for the approval of both his siblings, but just had no interest in pursuing any such career. No, he was an artist, a poet in the making. If need be he would teach, but he dreamed of being the Byron of his generation - only longer lived and with less scandal, of course.
Yes, he wished to surround his life with beauty and grace. He was as refined and well born as any of his fellow students. He had several good mates and entry into all the better homes. Someday he would marry a girl with his own dear mothers qualities; a fine lady who would appreciate his special talents.
True, he was too shy to approach any of the younger sisters of his friends at this point. He blushed scarlet at the very idea of a first kiss. Yet the future held all manner of delights to explore in their own time. Meanwhile he would pour out his heart in verse and occasionally prose. Dream the dreams, be persistent and do not take ‘no’ for an answer. Mother frequently said you could achieve any dream as long as you persist.
William loved University life, though he missed his mother's company. Cambridge was lovely and his rooms quite agreeable. Although he did not enjoy some of the lectures on subjects he had no interest in pursuing; he wasn't a bad student, merely easily bored. Numbers had no soul and the sciences seemed too cold. He did the studies required and was an adequate student, but neither discipline made his heart beat faster or his mind race with dreams.
Now the classes where the works of Baudelaire were discussed, the sonnets of Shakespeare, even Byron's offerings ... ah, that was a horse of a different color. No, wait .......... What word rhymes with rapture? Poetry ran like blood in Williams’s veins. Reading the classics, the wonderful works of romanticism, even the eerie works of that American, Poe; those were hours well spent.
When he had time away from his studies, there were the wonderful art objects in the Fitzwilliam museum to devour with his eyes and inspire his writing. The town was as beautiful as a maiden on a bright May morning, at times. Inspiration was everywhere; yes, life was good!
He looked about him and dared to dream. In time, William could see himself writing words that future generations would study right here at this, his future Alma Mater. His brother and sister would have to be proud of him then. No more whispers and disapproving looks, no more holding him at a distance. Blood will always show itself, after all.
Mother already saw the beginnings of poetic brilliance in her boy; eventually the whole of England would as well. No, not just England ... all of the English speaking world! Just give him time to fulfill his potential. His professors might take a mocking tone now, but they only published through the University press. He was special and they would all see it in time. He had a gift to give the world—a gift that burned brightly. Mother knew; so would they, in time.
William's musings were interrupted by the soft, polite cough of a footman in his mother's livery.
"Mr. William, sir", began the old retainer, "Your mother has taken ill and you are requested to return home at once."
At those words, all of William's poetic blood ran cold in his veins. For his beloved mother to call him away from his studies could only mean illness most dire. By God, he could not lose her! They had stood together against the world, against the family, and against the snobs since he was in short coats. He could not face a future without her sweet smile, her warm laugh, her gentle touch, her encouragement, or her undying faith in him. Something would have to be done—and quickly!
No need to panic, he told himself, this is the modern age. All of those droning science lectures spoke of the marvels of medicine in today’s world. These were not the dark ages of illness and death! He would not permit his darling mother to be laid to rest until she had achieved a great old age.
His brother might have Laurelwood and all the entailed properties, but their father had made provisions. Anne and William did not know want. London had the world's best doctors and William would settle for no less for his adored mother; Richard, Cass and all their fancy crowd be damned. She had always been there for him and he would always be there for her as well. Together they could best anything fate threw at them.
Chapter 3: The Best Laid Plans
Chapter 3: The Best Laid Plans
Anne was fairly comfortable in spite of the renewed coughing. William fretted about the amount of blood that came with the consumptive cough. Dr. Gull had been very specific; his mothers health would only worsen. It was killing him as well, to see her like this. All the joy and gaiety had been coughed right out of her.
She had loved to dance, loved the theater as well. Her personality had led to a large circle of friends over the years and she had been used to a lively social life. Slowly the circle had shrunk to mostly just the two of them.
She no longer shone like the warm sunshine. She had aged well beyond her years, looking old for the first time. Eight years of watching, praying, weeping when she could not see or hear him do so. No, he must keep hope alive; she must not be allowed to lose hope as well. It seemed that most of her life had been ruled by loss. William would allow no more of it.
He made sure that more than just her physical needs were met. He insisted on plenty of fresh flowers in the rooms where she spent time. He took her on outings, as her health permitted. Went with her to call on old friends or to purchase colorful threads for her ever present needlework. He sang for her now, as she once had for him. He did not begrudge a moment of time spent trying to make life good for her. A new cook had been hired to prepare foods to tempt her appetite. He read his poetry to her, and tried his hand at dramatic readings. He lived to make her smile. Occasionally, his reward was the precious sound of her bell like laugh. Unfortunately, this was usually followed by a wracking cough and a blood spotted handkerchief these days.
Richard and Cass had said all the polite niceties and all the right words of sympathy. However, they stayed far away from the step-mother who had raised and loved them. They still felt themselves to be superior, and it showed, the rotters! As if anyone could be superior to the wonderful, glowing with love, Anne! God, sometimes he hated the lot of them.
He would have happily never seen the pair of them again, or their respective spouses. The only member of his odd, estranged family worth anything was his brother's youngest, Emily. William often wondered if she was a changeling; a faerie child left in place of a human one. Usually that was supposed to be a bad thing, but in his family it would be a happy trade.
Emily loved her step-grandmamma, and positively adored her uncle William. Maybe it was gypsies that switched little girls and whom he should thank. Emily frequently visited, and always left his mother smiling and happy.
Although William had no desire to spend time with his arrogant siblings, Anne was just as determined that her son not be shut out of the social circles where he rightfully belonged. His mother insisted that he attend his sister's twice monthly parties. She was always telling him that he needed to be around young people and not tie himself to a sick room. She never seemed to understand how time in her company was so comforting, so valuable to him. On some level that he refused to give voice to, he knew their time was limited. The day would come when her warmth would be gone, her light would flicker and go out, and he would be left cold and in the dark. No one had ever loved him as she had, and a life without love was not worth the living.
Anne was dying and fully intended to see her beloved boy happily wed. He was so very easy to love; he merely needed to meet people. He had so much to give, and loving hearts like his were always in short supply. He was a born caregiver, but he needed to look beyond his dying mother and find a worthy woman to care for. He had already had to give up his schooling, his future dreams, to take care of her... all without a word of complaint. She would not allow him to give up future marital happiness, too. Not while she had breath... and a willing accomplice to her plans.
Richard stayed in the country but his lovely daughter, Emily, was often in town. She was launched into society from her aunt Cassandra's house, and a suitable husband was being sought for her. Emily was only ten years younger than William, and quite popular. She had many lovely friends and was always a breath of fresh air. Surely one of these dear friends of Emily's would catch her William's eye?
Emily loved her uncle William and found his poetry charming and dear, if a trifle forced, (although she would die before letting him know she found them so!). She had worshiped him as a child, and still thought of him as her hero. She confided her heartaches and dreams to him and he always understood; always said the right things to make her feel good again. Yes, uncle William had to keep attending the parties and be encouraged to escort her to different functions. Emily would see to it that her dearly loved uncle met someone nice. Someone who would love him when grandmamma was gone.
Anne could not leave such important family obligations to Cassandra, who had done her best to undo all of Anne and Emily's efforts. The cat had re-christened her younger brother "William the Bloody" and publicly made fun of his romantic nature and poetic utterances. Such a cat... no... a viper, just like that prig of a husband of hers. No, there was no love in the Travers' home for William, the bloody younger brother.
Cass had never been overly warm by nature, but marriage to that man with his secret councils and dark mysteries drained the little bit of love right out of her. Her house was as cold as a tomb, and just as welcoming as one. Thank God for Emily, Anne still held on to hope.
William had been so self-sacrificing. Only eighteen years old when he put aside his own life to become caretaker and companion to a dying woman. Never a complaint either; only love and the desire to please her. What a blessing her son was to her and how very proud his dear father would have been!
The right girl for him would have to be very special indeed. Unique and as special as he, a one of a kind woman for her William. Even if it took a while to find her, he was worth it. Once William loved, he would be all a woman could hope for. He would be loyal, devoted and loving... willing to lay down his life for his loved one.
Chapter 4: Effulgent Mirage
Chapter 4: Effulgent mirage
Laurelwood, Yorkshire England, 1879
Suddenly, there she appeared. A vision bathed in sunlight. Her eyes as gentle as a young fawn, her hair a rich dark mass of curls, and her mouth - ah -'twould tempt a priest! Her voice when she spoke was rich, throaty and cultured and William could listen to her for hours without end. Cecily Addams had attended the same school for young ladies as had Emily. The two had been friends even after they had gone their separate ways. A dream come to life... there she stood in the hallway of Laurelwood, sunlight radiating behind her from the still open door. William had never seen a more beautiful sight. She positively glowed. She enslaved him with her first smile.
Small flecks of snow clung to her hair and coat, and her tiny hands were firmly fixed in the warmth of her fur mitt. William longed to cozy up to her and share his warmth with her. That led to pleasant, yet uncomfortable thoughts that served to increase the warmth he had to offer. She drew all eyes to her, ahh, but when it came to William, she also drew his heart. One look at this goddess and he began to re-dream his future. He also found an urgent need for a walk in the snow!
The invitation that had led to his meeting with this gleaming Aphrodite, had been last minute and surprising. They had not joined the family house party in nearly 10 years. Christmas had been quietly celebrated in their comfy London home, just William and Anne and a small number of servants. The rest of the family had continued the traditional gathering in Yorkshire. It was not so much that they weren't welcomed; they simply were not invited. William was now glad his mother had insisted they come. He had wanted to throw the invitation back in Richard's face, but Anne had brought out the big guns of Emily's tearful insistence that they make the trip. It had been so very long since Anne had graced the halls of Laurelwood.
Anne chose to believe that her step-son and his wife were only dutifully concerned with her health. She far preferred that to the more obvious truth that she and William were less than welcomed in the family home. Richard's wife, Charlotte, was never comfortable in a sick room. Why, when they all still continued the pretense of family, Anne was the one summoned to tend their children when they took ill. She and William would receive frequent summons when the children were small. Anne would take charge of the nursery, doling out love and warmth along with herbal remedies, poultices and soup. Graham, the eldest and the heir, was rather frail as a boy and the "visits" were frequent over that period of his childhood. Anne's way with children was what had first brought her to this family so very many years ago.
Emily had come to adore her uncle in those long ago days. No one had ever seemed to have any time for her before. To her father she was just a girl who would require a dowry one day; to her mother... well, not all women were nurturing after all. Graham was fine as brothers go, but mostly, Emily was alone. William paid attention to the shy, somewhat awkward little girl. He always seemed to know how other people felt, what they needed, especially her.
Many were the times when William took his young niece under his wing while Anne tended to a sick Graham. He would make up wonderful stories filled with fanciful creatures and beautiful people. Sweeping adventures told, complete with hand and body gestures, to his wide eyed niece. He took her exploring the countryside seeking treasures of wildflowers and shiny rocks. She feared nothing in his company, knowing her self-appointed champion would let no harm come to his "little bit'. She sometimes felt selfish when she experienced joy as, once again, Graham began to ail.
Even after Graham no longer needed frequent nursing and the estrangement took hold of the family, Emily never forgot her handsome, precious uncle. He always answered her letters and listened to her problems. He never made her feel that she was a gauche child or that her emotions weren't valid or important - that SHE wasn't valid or important! He never seemed to look down on women or feel they had some lower place on some imaginary ladder. He made her feel she could do anything, be anything. She could be a leader, have opinions, seek out her dreams.
She had been thrilled when grandmamma Anne had trusted her with the sacred honor of making sure Uncle William met some lively and suitable young people. She was eager to help her dearly loved uncle find his soul mate. He and grandmamma had been so coldly cut off from the family and now grandmamma was dying.
Emily felt that a "good" marriage would lead the fragmented family back together. Even her socially conscious aunt Cass could be placated if he made a proper match. Why, her own standing had risen when she began to accept the courtship of a young man they fully approved of, selected actually.
As for the estrangement, Richard and Charlotte had not been overtly cruel. They had merely gone on with their lives, leaving out Anne and William. After his younger brother left Cambridge to take on the care of his mother, Richard had arranged a position for William at an import/export firm that the family had an interest in. The boy had shown some talent in deal making. Those many courses hadn't gone completely to waste after all. William had been well taken care of, in his elder brother's eyes. Richard always prided himself on his loyalty to family and attention to duty.
The boy and his mother were comfortable in London. Anne was ill and there was no need to uproot them for visits to the family home. Anne's doctor was a message away there in London. Besides, Cass and her family lived near if an emergency were to arise. Their needs were being met.
William was even meeting plenty of proper young people. His own Emily was seeing to that. Yes, Richard slept well knowing he had done all the right things for his father's second family. Anne even had the best medical care available in all of England. Gull was physician to the crown, for heaven's sake. Many strings had been pulled to accomplish that bit. No, Richard had nothing to be ashamed of on their account. And, he had not publicly held his younger brother up to ridicule as Cass so often had done. She had always had a rather unseemly jealous streak that she would unleash at times.
Emily had been the one to insist that Anne and William be invited this year. She had invited a few special friends with the hope that one of them would catch her uncle's eye. Emily hoped he would find the right girl in time for grandmamma to rest peacefully knowing he would be left with someone to love. Emily had introduced him to some of these friends before, but Cecily and Esmerelda Addams had been on the continent until a few weeks ago.
Emily was holding out hope that William would see the gentle soul that was Esme and discover they shared an interest in poetry and art. Esme was a bit older than her sister and not as heart-stopingly beautiful, but Emily knew her uncle could see treasure in unlikely places.
Cecily already had her eye on a young man who was next in line for a title currently held by an elderly cousin. Mr. Addams was a bad as Uncle George and Aunt Cass when it came to social advancement. Cecily was always hungry for her father's approval and love. She knew he felt cheated that neither of his offspring were male. She knew the power of her allure and also knew what her daddy would expect of her. Cecily would make her father proud. Esme, not quite as stunning, and rather bookish as well, had more freedom to choose.
Before the Yule log was even dragged in to the main parlor it was clear that William HAD taken a fancy to Miss Addams; sadly it was Cecily Addams.
The fair Cecily inspired him to write again, to dream again, to hope again. Given time, he felt sure that a soul as dear as Cecily would see his heart filled with love for her and all would be wonderful indeed. His dreams had a face now and a name..... Cecily!
Time was all that he needed. Meanwhile, he would pour out his heart on to paper, to try to capture her essence in words as she had captured his heart with her beauty. He could be patient. After all, his dearest mother still needed him at this time. Not that he was wishing his mother's illness to its inevitable conclusion; far from it. He would willingly give his own life's blood to save his precious mother's life. No, if he were truly blessed, his Cecily would love her as he did, and William would have everything a man could ever want in life. He must go slowly, of course, a lady of her gentle birth could not be rushed. He would woo her with words as beautiful as she was herself.
It was unfortunate that William did not perceive her need for warmth was not due to the snowy weather, but a cold nature at her core. The brightness he saw in her was only the glisten of ice rather than the glow of fire.
Chapter 5: All the Beautiful Words in the World
Chapter 5: All The Beautiful Words In The World
London, Travers residence, 1880
Emily was to be engaged. William did not like the blighter, not that any of the family had asked his opinion. Basil Kincaid was his age at least, nearly 10 years older than William's sweet "Little Bit". William remembered him from school as a bit of a bully who seemed to enjoy dissections in various science labs. His family were major shareholders in the Railroad, and Richard saw the perfect marriage of his "long Tom" coal to Basil’s railway. Of course, the actual wedding would be poor Emily to the insufferable chowder headed bully, Basil.
He was a cold one too, always cozying up to Cassandra and her set instead of dancing attendance on his betrothed. Shame that Richard couldn't have just married the bugger himself and spared Little Bit!
Emily had been led like a lamb to the slaughter. Women just didn't have the same freedoms as men had, in this unfair world. She could have refused, as William had advised when asked, but her financial stability was totally controlled by his twit of a brother. The visions of exclusive contracts for his mining concerns outweighed any consideration for Emily's marital happiness. To give her her due, Emily had begun to act as if Basil wasn't the repellent bug that William knew him to be. He would keep his eye on this mushroom; no one would be allowed to hurt his Emily. He was her champion now, until death.
The doltish groom- to- be had spent the last two occasions in William's company making sport of him. Basil thought he was quite the wit — witless is more like it, if you asked William's opinion. He had the proper blood, but a dearth of brains and sensitivity. In short, Basil was just another useless crony of George Travers.
Poor sweet Emily, she had the look of a trapped small animal when she felt no one was looking. Most didn't look, but William did, and he didn't like what he saw. Mother said it was just bridal nerves, but William thought it more like good taste on Emily's part and premonition on his. He wished he could help her flee; escape the position he knew she would find herself in as wife to such an unworthy.
Well, there was nothing he could do but keep an eye on her, so on to much more pleasant thoughts of the fair Cecily....William had thought of little else since Christmas. He had written reams of poetry, never having the courage to actually send any of it to her. His sister, Cass, had stumbled upon some of it and had tried to figure out the object of his love poems. She had read them publicly to the amusement of herself and her set, in an effort to ferret out the "lucky lady". Yes, Cass had made "William the Bloody's" goddess the subject of much speculation and mirth.
He wouldn't mind baring his soul, holding his heart out as an offering to his beloved. He did, however, wish it to be in his own time and on his own terms. Preferably without a laughing audience. A lady of her refinement deserved the setting to be as perfect as she herself, when he declared himself.
He had been working —God , how his sister would hate that bit of news to get out to her friends! He hadn't liked the employment his brother had arranged for him, but lately he had put in long hours and invested his pay wisely. He had been building a small nest egg and knew he could offer a comfortable lifestyle to his beloved. He would give her anything she fancied and ALL of his devotion.
He thought back to his first sighting of Cecily this past Christmas. God, she did glow! Beauty fairly radiated from her pores, if such a sample of porcelainperfection HAD pores large enough for anything to radiate from at all. Yes, he definitely felt inspired to write yet another ode to her beauty.
William retired to a small anteroom to put pen to paper before the light of his life arrived. When she was actually near him, it was too hard. Yes, ahem, well... too hard to... um.... concentrate on just the right words.
The footman enlisted by Cass to pass the refreshments to the guests looked a bright enough fellow... perhaps he would know just the right words that William sought. And then............... sigh.............. there she was, entering the room like the princess she was. So like a flower, and all the bees began to swarm about her. Fortunately for his jealous frame of mind, all the young girls also began to draw near to her, moving the hopeful young men back and away from his precious one. Soon the girls were all giggling over the rapidly nearing wedding and the many plans in the meantime.
William would have some time to finish his latest ode before she was free and he could bask in her glow. Just a wee peek and he would resume writing, inspiration being the draw, of course.
Had he been watching more carefully, rather than staring at Cecily, he might have avoided stepping directly into the coil of vipers—with his sister at its core. Basil spotted him at once, and rather loudly asked his opinion of the killings plaguing London lately. They all knew full well that William didn't like to discuss such disgusting topics. That led to visions of blood, terror, gore and usually the urgent need to deposit one's lunch in an empty receptacle. None of them actually cared about the unfortunates, mostly slum dwellers, that had been turning up dead with their throats ripped open. Basil's asking him was merely his way of toying with him; of his trying to show William as less manly than the others in the room, and to lower his image in Emily's eyes. William handled the inquiry with as much dignity as he could muster, and tried to escape quickly.
In his agitation and desire to flee, he forgot the poem he clutched in his hand. Too late; Cass would have yet another go at exposing "William the Bloody" and his not yet polished love poem to his lady. Basil was quick to do the honors. Once more William found himself the main attraction at one of his sister's comedies. He tried to explain the poem was a work in progress, hardly ready for a public airing. Cass just smiled in her cat-like way and purred in anticipation of his embarrassment.
That miserable ponce (there, he had said it) Basil had even won the droll quip contest with his declaration that he would rather have railroad spikes driven in his head than be subjected to William's poetry. William would LOVE an opportunity to oblige the bastard. Visions of revenge began to dance in his head. Yes, the thoughts a brought smile... revenge AND do Emily a service at the same time. The worst part of it all to William was the look on his beloved’s face as she fled from the room. Such a sensitive girl, she must have had overwhelming sympathy for him having been made the object of their derision. He would reassure her that their words meant nothing to him.
Yes, Cecily HAD rushed from the room. Oh, she had the most dreadful feeling that her friend's uncle tendered those feelings for HER. She prayed that no one would realize that SHE was the bloody poet's mystery lady! My God, didn't the man realize that she was destined for a title? Why, if the current elderly earl died soon enough, and she brought Edmund up to scratch, she could be a Countess by next year! Her father would be delighted. Just why Emily's uncle thought she would settle for the sort of life HE could offer was beyond her ability to understand. It was time to nip this wilted rose in the bud once and for all.
She hadn't noticed his interest at first. Cecily had long since stopped seeing the hearts she won and trod upon. It wasn't any real mean spiritedness, just selective vision. She was a woman who knew her value, knew her path in life. If men found her desirable, well, that couldn't be helped and it certainly was not her fault. Now, however, she had to take notice and take action. She couldn't afford to become an item of gossip and speculation. Edmund might misunderstand and think she had actually encouraged William in some way. She had barely noticed him, much less encouraged his fantasies of love or any love for herself. She would just have to be firm with him. She must do it tonight; confront him and make it clear. He would need to be made to realize that she exceeded his reach. Surely he knew deep down how far beneath her he was? Yes,
she would make it clear.
And clear she was... What little shred of self esteem William had left when his sister and her crowd had finished with him, Cecily had ripped away. He would NOT allow any of them the satisfaction of seeing his pain and tears. He had provided the last bit of entertainment for them all tonight. He fled the house that had once, long ago, been his and headed for the stables.
Tears blinded him as he half ran to put distance between himself and the scene of his utter humiliation. His dreams were ashes in his heart. God, how he wished he could stop the beating of that ash filled organ. Each painful THUD reminded him of the ache sure to come once the shame had subsided. He wasn't even able to be civil to the persons he ran into in his haste to get to the stables and safely home. He tore the offending poem just as she had ripped his heart apart and then gave in to the pain.
Suddenly, a voice penetrated his brain. Softly spoken words with an accent of a working class woman... yet the word choice showed intelligence, and even education. Standing before him was a very different sort of woman than would normally catch his eye. No, not glowing.... she was dark, yet not without a certain hypnotic beauty.
She was still speaking to him. Her body swayed; he felt his brain going numb. His entire world was becoming this woman and her words . . . her eyes. He wondered what she was. Was she a witch, a prostitute, a cut purse or just some dark dream his mind had conjured out of the blackness of his despair? He could barely follow what she was saying to him.
Did he know her? She certainly seemed to see right into the depths of his soul, his pain. What did she just say........"effulgent"....my God, she knew his very heart's desires. Did he want.... what was she asking, offering?? Yes! Yes, he wanted it!!! The promise she seemed to hold out to him; all the dark mysteries for him to explore. Yes, he wanted it all. He wanted, he wanted..... to BE wanted. For some reason, the dark, beautiful stranger here in this alley DID want him.
Half hypnotized, and partially intoxicated, it took him a few moments to notice odd things were afoot. He recoiled at the change in her face. God, had she always looked like that? What was she? Was she merely an unfortunate, doomed by deformity yet still beautiful somehow? Before he could puzzle it out, she drew near. Her kiss, once keenly desired, was aimed at his neck and not his too willing mouth. Perhaps that was the way it was supposed to be; Lord knows he had no experience in such matters. The pleasures shared between men and women were unknown territory to William, except in fantasy. He had never fantasized anything remotely like this. His brain screamed at him to run, but he was so tired of running from everything and everyone. What harm could one dainty, slightly deformed woman do him?
God, the pain! What in the name of all that's holy was she doing? He felt the world slowly fading away as she drank the life out of him. Just as he teetered on the edge of death she asked, "Do you wish to live?". Well, of COURSE he did! That part about ending the beating of his heart had been a bit of melodrama, a complete exaggeration. "Here then, drink from me and live forever," she ordered. She made a slice on her wrist with her fingernail and drew his dying lips to the red flow. "Drink this," and he did, he did. With his last act of free will, he drank from her life-giving blood... rich... sweet and as dark as she was herself.
The neurons in his brain fired off their last messages, "Oh God, please help me..... Mother, I'm so sorry," then silence and death stole over the broken heart of William as it stopped its beating at last.
The dark beauty looked up, William's warm blood dripping from her fangs. The exotic eyes shone in her feral face as she looked up and down the alley, searching for her companions. A sly smile began to spread over features that were slowly returning to their lovely, human form. He was a pretty one that she had just sired; and all soft and squishy inside. Full of love and poetry, and now he would be all hers. She wouldn't have to share him with Darla. She had always had to share everything, especially Angelus, but not her pretty young poet.
Darla was tired of sharing, too. She had been hinting that it was past time for Dru to sire someone for herself. At first she was hurt, and felt rejected; but just this very day a small rabbit had told her she would find him. It had promised that he would be beautiful and would love her through lifetimes. They would be surprised that she had found her chosen one so soon, as they hadn't heard the rabbit. He had such pretty pictures in his head, and such fancy lovely words as well. A right fine gentleman he was, and she would be his lady.
The four of them would be legends. They would cause rivers of blood to flow—warm sweet rivers of life pouring into the earth, into them. The world would be theirs. She would teach him to pleasure her just as Angelus had once taught her. Angelus himself would teach him to hunt, to kill, to feed. Wait till they saw him! Darla would be jealous this time.
Chapter 6: Interlude, The Mind Of A Mad Woman
Chapter 6: Interlude, The Mind Of A Mad Woman"
London, posh vampires lair, 1880
"OOOH, sometimes Angelus and Darla are just so mean!" Dru was pouting in the corner of her sleeping quarters, pouring her heart out to Miss Edith. Miss Edith, being made of porcelain, was a good listener and Dru's most trusted friend. Everything had been so perfect, he had been so perfect. She had shown her prize to them and instead of being pleased... well!
Angelus had checked the boy's pockets and had become even more angry with her. From a small notebook in the dead mans pocket they had learned his name was William. A fine strong name for a fine strong man. HER fine strong man—or at least he should have been.
Angelus had planned to stake him right then and there, in the place Dru had hidden his body before going to get her sire and Darla. Dru had cried and begged, but what had stopped Angelus was a group of men heading down the alley towards the stables. He rushed his two women away quickly, back to their London home.
At first, Dru thought that Angelus had not wanted to share her with a new partner. Then she saw that Darla was as angry as Angelus, and decided that they were just jealous. Well, they hadn't really been angry until they actually saw the man she had drained. Then, oh my, she had never seen Angelus so volatile; so furious with her.
He had even slapped her and called her a half wit. Well, that was HIS fault, wasn't it? Now the faeries were whispering to her that she should just have kept William a secret until his rising; he was hers after all.
Dru had expected the family to take William for burial, and then be there when he rose—to welcome him and teach him about his new life. All good vampires did it that way with a deliberate siring. Tradition was tradition, after all. There were always so many questions at first, so much to learn.
Angelus said that she had been indiscreet and that her choice of William had placed them all in danger. Darla had scolded her too, and said that Dru should have sired a stable boy if she felt such a strong need for her own plaything. They said that her William was known to too many important people. HE wasn't important himself, but had connections, nonetheless. His death and rising would not go unnoticed as if he were some sailor or lamplighter. Well, that was one of the things that Dru liked about him. He talked pretty—he WAS pretty—he had class and he was hers.
Angelus recognized him as the brother-in-law of a highly placed member of the Watcher’s Council. There was little those men hated more than having one of their own turned. It would look like a declaration of war, and they controlled the Slayer. A note of apology with an explanation that the vampire who had sired William was not mentally sound would do nothing to ease the tension this night's work had brought. Dru may well have brought disaster down on them all.
They had left William's body hidden in the alley. He would waken and need to feed. He would most likely not have any idea of what he was or what he needed to do, and would quickly be dusted by someone. Meanwhile, Angelus had decided that they would leave for Southampton and take a boat across the channel to France. They would lay low for a while until the expected uproar died down.
It wasn't fair at all. Darla had stopped sharing Angelus, and now Dru was being denied her beautiful William. There was that lovely body of his just wasted; laying where they had hidden it. She would have a hard time finding such a one as he again, and a girl had to have her pleasures.
Suddenly, a star in the corner of her room spoke right into Dru's left ear. There was a way, a plan... a bright, green, happy, plan but Dru would have to be fast. Sunrise was not that far off and there was much to do.
First, she needed a cart and a coffin..........
Chapter 7: Bury Your Mistakes
Chapter 7: Bury Your Mistakes
Watford (N. of London), 1880
It had not been easy to get her new mate into the stolen cart. Dru had sufficient strength, of course, but she was having to work fast and secretly. Getting the cart HAD been easy. The previous owner had been old and fat and he had tasted funny. The movement of the old cart made Dru feel like an entire troop of street tumblers were performing in her stomach as she drove her cart north towards St. Albans. She had lost some precious time by insisting on finding and stealing a coffin to bury William in. There were just some traditions a girl didn't want to ignore. After all, her William was from a good family and should have a coffin, at least. He was not a stray dog to be put in a shallow hole, after all.
Somewhere outside the town of Watford, Dru began to run out of time. She found a spot hidden from clear view that would do nicely. She placed the body, now heavy with death, in the simple wooden coffin. Somewhere in the old memories of the woman who had been a vow away from the convent, there was a feeling that something was missing—incomplete. She dug quickly, using her vampire's strength to do a man's job. Fortunately, the ground was soft from a recent rain. She buried William and replaced the earth above and around the coffin. Finally, she moved a pretty shaped stone on top of the grave to make it easy to find later.
Maybe his family wouldn't even miss him for a time. Young men had been known to "disappear" for periods of time, only to turn up later when their wild oats had been sown. Yes, it would all work out fine, and Darla and Angelus would see her William as a good addition to the family.
Dru barely made it into an inn before the sun rose. She had waited to feed until the little maid had drawn a warm bath for her to ease her sore muscles. She shouldn't have had to do all of that hard work alone, and felt poorly treated by her long term companions—her family. She had finally slept deeply; having fed on the innkeeper, his wife and three small children. She had disabled and locked up the little maid and stable men, saving them for breakfast before going out to locate the grave and await his rising. She felt sure she would find it again with ease.
The daisies in the vase next to the bed sang Dru to sleep with happy songs about her pretty boy, and all the necks they would drain and hearts whose beating they would stop. She licked her lips, sighed deeply, giggled softly, and slept the kind of sleep reserved for either the innocent or the truly mad. Darla could have her Angelus; Dru had a "dear boy" of her own now.
Back in London, Darla woke with a start and had a strong urge to check on Dru. She and Angelus had been a bit rough on Dru. Darla wasn't altogether sure they had made it clear why Dru couldn't have THIS boy. Really, with countless numbers of humans to choose from, leave it to Dru to select one with connections to watchers and the Slayer. Even if the young man had no notion of what Travers dealt with on the council, the connection was dangerous at best; deadly if their luck had run out. Dru needed restraint and discretion, but Darla was at a loss about how to explain those concepts to her!
Damn and double damn! Gone, and from the looks of it, long gone. you didn't need the mind of a Darwin or Newton to figure out what mad plan must have sprung up in Dru's childlike mind. She was determined to have the boy. Darla realized that she and Angelus had been far too indulgent where Dru was concerned. Angelus was NOT going to like this bit of news.
Dru's lack of discretion was dangerous to them, but did make tracking her easier. She had not been this reckless since her early days as a vampire. Fortunately, Dru only had a handful of hours' lead on them. Unfortunately, those few hours counted, since they were so close to sunrise. Darla and Angelus had to wait out the day before they could continue their mad dash to catch up with Dru. They only hoped to find her before she drew too much attention to them all.
They finally rejoined their addled offspring, just as she was setting off to retrieve her new companion. Dru offered the little maid, and a stable boy or two, to them before they had to set out to collect their new family member.
As they fed, they waited for Dru to remember just where she had buried her treasure.
Chapter 8: Warm Blood In Dead Veins
small clearing outside Watford, England, 1880
Dark and cold, no... more than simply dark or cold; something beyond defining. Where was he? He felt overwhelming need, but need for what? Panic began to register in his mind. Think, William, think. What has happened? Clear your mind, man; something is radically wrong. Swallow the panic and think.
Yes, he was beginning to remember. Flashes of the last day or so drifted through his mind. Those last clear memories were vivid enough, yet so brief he was only able to catch brief glimpses of shame . . . pain . . . a dark beauty . . . pain again . . . then the darkness. What did the visions mean . . . and where the HELL was he?
He began attempting to touch his surroundings, and discovered he was laying down in something wooden. A cabinet or trunk perhaps, but why? Yes he had been drinking, but he was far from intoxicated. He would have made a large wager on that. Besides, he didn't feel thick headed or sick as from drink. In fact, he felt better than he ever remembered feeling; except for the confusion and muddled memory... and the hunger. Just why on earth would he have crawled into a box to sleep? Well, first he should get out, and then work it all out.
What the bloody hell was going on? What ponce thought it would be funny to lock him in a box? Okay, this was no longer a joke. He was going to seriously clean someone’s clock when he got out and, God, he hoped it would turn out to be that insect Basil.
In fact, he planned to have a piece of Basil even if he proved innocent of this bit of mischief.
Strange, as anger began to surge through him he felt more powerful than he had ever felt in his life. Every nerve ending seemed to be sending messages to his brain at once. It made him feel twitchy, and in need of physical release. He craved a roaring good fight.
What he didn't need was to be locked up in some bleeding box as if he were back in public school at the mercy of older bullying boys! Now, he was experiencing hungers beyond his understanding. The hunger completely suppressed his natural fear.
Had he been kidnapped, then? Perhaps the woman that he dimly remembered had accomplices and they had taken him captive with an eye towards a ransom. The joke would be on them if that was the case. Aside from his mother and Emily, no one would pay so much as a sovereign for his return. In fact, most of his family would pay them to keep him.
But, back to his current dilemma; how to get out of this damned box so he could rip someone’s head off. Anger—no, rage—coursed through him.
It felt strange. He was used to anger rapidly changing to other feelings.
Usually, it was pain or frustration; at times even fear. This near homicidal rage was pure, and new. He felt powerful and focused. Fine, time to focus that power on breaking the damned lock and disemboweling whoever put him in here.
He'd never felt so alone. It was time to get seriously self reliant.
Dru had been "sure" of the spot in which she had buried William five times, so far. Even so, mounds of dirt and tired backs were the trio's only reward for all their digging. Even vampires tired out with this kind of exertion.
Angelus was ready to just forget Dru’s new toy and cut their losses. Damn, they should have been half way to France by now. This whole mess should never have happened. They were just going to have to make sure that Dru was under control from now on. Restrain her... hum... that brought more than a few pleasant ideas to his mind. Dru always did like chains.
Angelus smiled, but as always, it did not reach his eyes. They remained dead and hard. Yes, some punishment was definitely in order; and he was always a good daddy when it came to discipline.
Angelus had sired Dru only after stalking and tormenting her beyond endurance. She had resisted him for long enough to destroy her mind, which gave Angelus pleasure beyond description.
He had wanted to thoroughly corrupt the quiet young beauty. She had confessed her desire to be good and pleasing to her God when she mistook Angelus for a priest. Her innocence and desperation to avoid evil both intrigued and enticed him......... all that sweetness and light there for him to destroy, one lovely torture at a time.
She also had the gift of visions, seeming to know things before they happened. He'd been well pleased to discover that talent remained, even with her mind ripped to shreds.
The visions needed a bit of dissection and study to be useful, as they were now filtered through her madness.
She had been a true innocent, and he had loved every moment spent stripping away everyone and everything she loved; finally destroying her very sanity. He had laid her bare and then—only then—took her life. The most delicious experience of his life thus far was Drusilla.
He was then able to teach Dru to please him in every sick and twisted way he could imagine. He may be sterile in his loins, but he was quite fertile in his mind, his depravity. She was a clean slate but a good student. Damn Darla's jealousy; now Dru would not just be his plaything.
That is, IF they ever found the grave she'd put her new boy in.
The wood had torn his hands till they were like raw meat. The smell of his own blood was causing him to feel hunger, of all things! He paused occasionally to taste the sweet, coppery, sticky stuff that covered his hands and dripped down on him as he clawed at his wooden prison.
Strange, just the thought of blood had always caused nausea. Since his mother had become so ill, coughing up frightening amounts of blood, it had also carried a sense of dread. If the entire situation weren't so macabre, the notion that blood could equate with hunger and yearning might even be funny.
There soon came a new horror as dirt began to cascade in through the spaces where William had succeeded in removing the wood. Precious God have mercy! Someone must have buried him alive! This sort of thing happened from time to time. William had even seen the patents for devices one could have installed in one's grave to deal with this very event.
A mistake—a horrible, horrifying mistake; but at least William knew what he had to do now. He must dig before he really did become a corpse. Dig now and panic later.
Fear fueled the new furnace of strength that William had already become aware of before he knew his true circumstances. He embraced it all, and channeled it into the task at hand. Freedom was hard won; but it came. He dragged himself from the hole that had entrapped him and looked about his surroundings.
It was night, but what night? He was in the countryside, but where? Where? The fear was gone, but left behind were questions—lots of questions. All he knew was that he was lost, hungry and mad as hell!
Whoever the ignorant git was that buried him hadn't even bothered to mark his grave! Nice, no respect for William even in death.
Time he taught everyone a thing or two about William the bloody. Bloody began to sound GOOD; that thought again increased the weird hunger. He began to walk down the country road towards a far off light shining 'midst the trees.
Chapter 9: Making A new Man
outside Watford, England, 1880
"That's it", he thought, then said aloud, "No more, ladies, no more!" Angelus had finally had enough of this senseless digging up of the English countryside. He had successfully avoided work when he was alive; and he certainly had NO intention of doing manual labor this hard in his unlife. Dru had obviously lost her intended playmate.
Just as well actually; Angelus hadn't planned on letting this William join his little family anyway. It was far too risky, and Angelus had nothing to gain from it personally.
He enjoyed the "life" and hunting in London. He and his two ladies came and went, causing not a ripple or stir. They hunted in areas unlikely to draw attention, yet lived amongst the better classes, surrounded by the finest things. His Darla did like a good view.
The last 100 years or so had given him refined tastes and the means to indulge them. As with feeding, he planned carefully; then took what he wanted to satisfy his every desire.
So much of London society was geared to nighttime amusements and sleeping until late in the day. Many didn't stir from their bedchambers until the dreaded sun was directly overhead at noon. A vampire who kept his head ("and a firm leash on Dru.", he thought) could live right under their noses. Hell, they could even attend their parties and musicals, if they so desired. Not that Angelus wished to be that close to humanity.
On occasion, he did indulge his girls with a taste of society—figuratively of course. Feeding was confined to anonymous, un-missed people only.
But, the ladies enjoyed both dancing and the theater. Angelus preferred to stay to himself and avoid the disgusting humans with all of their messy emoting. He preferred to eat his food, rather than socialize with it. He enjoyed playing with it a bit, rather like a cat does, but had no interest in discussing the latest topics of the day with it. Not that odd, he thought; only a madman talked politics and fashion with cattle.
They certainly could not continue this very agreeable lifestyle if William joined them. They could not possibly go unnoticed, as they did now.
William had a recognizable face and dangerous connections with that same London society. Someone would be sure to spot him in time. Angelus himself remembered his face from the fringes of a crowded ballroom or two. He recognized William as soon as Dru brought him and Darla into the alley to see her unwelcome addition to the group.
Serves her right to have misplaced him!
She'd pout and cry. Angelus would just have to tie her up and do the lovely, painful, nasty things that he had taught her to enjoy. She'd been a wonderful pupil with a vast imagination. She even surprised him at times; no one else could do that. Darla would just have to get past her jealousy.
Darla saw him first. He walked boldly up the roadway straight towards them. It was too dark to see who he might be, but he appeared to be unarmed. He walked like a man with a purpose—fairly strutted with confidence and fearlessness.
Dru began to make little leaps up and down, clapping her hands in childlike glee. She gave a squeal next to Darla's ear and said, "It's 'im; it's my Willy! All dug out on 'is own 'e is!", Her voice filled with pride in her pretty boy.
Dru ran towards the newly risen William.
He stopped in his tracks at her approach. Well, maybe now there'd be some answers to be had, for this was the same dark beauty he remembered from just before everything went black.
William could not help but feel anxious seeing her under these circumstances. She was the key to it all, so he was glad to see her... yet... she WAS the key to it all. He had a deep foreboding, his life had forever changed in ways he could not yet imagine. For the first time ever, he felt in complete control of himself while out of control of his life.
Dru saw that he had awakened hungry—as they all do—but he had not yet fed. yet.
They would need to procure a meal before too long, which meant heading toward some populated area. Now Dru wished she had saved a stable boy or two for this his first feeding, but it was too late for regrets now.
Chapter 10: So Much To Learn... Musings of a Teacher
Roadside, Watford, England, 1880
He clearly hadn't a clue of what he was or what had happened. Strange, how the human personality of this William was still so apparent. Yes, he had the strength, temperament and cockiness of the newly grafted demon; but William was still there as well.
All vampires laughed at the ridiculous myths told, written, and codified by the "experts" that sat on the Watchers Council in London.
The Watchers liked to believe the human gone; fully replaced by a demon when a person was made a vampire. Made it all cleaner somehow. Neat round peg in a round hole. No moral ambiguity in killing a demon. No reason to confuse a little girl Slayer about just what sort of animal she hunted down and dusted. It also made the lifestyle much easier for the new vampires to embrace. It could be confusing for the newly sired as well.
The vampire might feel the internal battle, but when the demon inevitably took precedence and began to call the shots, taking over the person – well, it made it much easier to accept the new lifestyle they awaken to. Friends who inspire hunger and a need to kill, rather than pass the time with and share life’s adventures is quite a change. But, believing codified "facts" did not make them true.
In truth, the soulless human shared the body with the demon. The soul left the body at death, going to an ethereal dimension.
Most vampires never bothered to analyze what actually happened, but Angelus was not ordinary in any aspect. He had felt Liam in the back of his mind... rightfully chained, of course and totally unable to influence him in any way—not that he had ever had the strength to influence anyone in life. Still there; still willing to let someone else take the responsibility for his choices and do the work of "living".
The basic equation was nearly mathematical: Human + Demon - Soul (or conscience, restraint, moral "issues") = Vampire.
A wonderful, symbiotic relationship was the ideal to shoot for. Use the knowledge and memories of the human, now freed from any pesky guilt or moral rot, then add the powerful characteristics and cunning of the demon and you had a recipe for a long, bloody, eternal life.
These were the "facts" Angelus had come to believe and passed on to his own vampire offspring. He believed the philosophers were correct when they advised that one should "know thyself".
Sometimes a human was so weak that they nearly did disappear altogether. This was the most common result of a siring. Lots of mostly animals were the result of a siring.
Fortunately, the demon in Liam had been far brighter than most and didn't need Liam for much except memories.
Really, Angelus had decided, there had been no human to kill in those cases; merely a body to fill. These were the vampires that behaved most like the animals they were called.
Those usually had fairly short "unlives". All hunt and kill would just get you dusted quickly. Angelus was more evolved than that, of course, but he avoided that sort of vampire as much as he did humanity.
No, the intelligence and higher thought processes came from the human host ordinarily; maybe even in Angelus, he reluctantly admitted to himself. Liam was always more a doer than a thinker.
Angelus felt sure the council of vampire killers knew these truths—they were not stupid men.
It had been decided long ago that their Chosen One did not need more information than required to function well as the Slayer; she was merely a weapon after all.
He could easily understand that sort of thinking. All of those questions about the moral validity of NOT killing a werewolf because it is human most of the time, but killing a vampire that is partly human all of the time would not have to be addressed. After all, vermin can be exterminated with a clear conscience and everyone could sleep well at night. Warfare was always like that and this WAS war between the forces of light and dark. Angelus was a proud dark champion beyond compare.
William would be a rare challenge for Angelus to train. It was unusual for the human to be so strong an influence. This particular human had been so full of mush... of emotion... yes, he'd be a challenge to cleanse.
But right now, their new protégé needed to feed. They would let Dru teach him the feeding itself; Angelus and Darla would show the selection process and the hunt.
Dru had shown a recklessness in the selection of William they would not want repeated. There were many other things that Dru would be teaching him, and Angelus could see that she fairly tingled with the thought of it!
Chapter 11: Lifestyles Of The Undead And Unknown
St. Albans, England, 1880
The new foursome took rooms at a respectable boarding house. They had continued north to St. Albans, rather than going back to London as William had wished. Not yet, no, he had some learning to do before he could be released into the world.
He took to the feeding without much trouble and proved an agile hunter - at least of small game.
With no human prey nearby it had been decided to take the edge off of the terrible hunger by draining some wildlife. Better meals would follow, but William needed to look human before they could go on a proper hunt. The prey fled too quickly and loudly when you had on your game face from the first approach. No, far better to wait till time to eat to put on the vamp face. Then they were usually too shocked to scream and draw attention. A vampire could dine in peace.
They had managed to find a peddler encamped just outside of town to appease the hunger, before finding shelter from the coming dawn and the threat of sunlight. William wasn't sure which thought upset him the most; the mechanics of the kill or that he would never walk in the sunlight again!
The sunrises he had loved, and that had inspired some of this best nature poetry, would now be an ominous threat to his continued existence. He could sense that any future poetry he would write would be of an altogether different variety than he had written when he was a weak human.
Death wasn't supposed to be like this. Where was the heaven with the golden streets and trees of life the priests had always held out as a reward to a virtuous life?
William had led too tame a life to warrant hell, surely? What of hell then? That place of endless torment and fire unending for the wicked and unrepentant? William figured that with all he had learned of his new lifestyle it was pretty much guaranteed he'd discover THAT place—if it existed—when he was finally dust.
His new family had explained most of the bare essentials of his now and future life.
He wasn't too upset about a lot of his new abilities. He had never felt so strong or powerful. He would never be the punch line of some person's joke ever again. Never be treated like mud scrapings from some dainty boot. The many fears and insecurities that had been his constant companions were gone, replaced with a near swagger... AND... he had the clout to back it up! He had growing confidence. No bleeding ponce was going to humiliate him and survive from this point forward. The worm, as they say, had turned indeed!
He had to do some work on a few areas of his new life, it was true. Dru had to do that first human kill.
William was starved, and intellectually had understood what he would have to do to survive. That stubborn human aspect of him still clung to the nagging memory that murder was repellent and the drinking of blood a bit nauseating to contemplate.
So, much to the disgust of Angelus, Dru did the kill and handed the peddler to William for his first feeding.
Only she saw the tears in his eyes that he prevented, with force of will, from trailing down his sharply sculpted cheeks. Dru assured him that it only got easier.
"Funny,", thought William,"isn't that what a bridegroom was supposed to say to reassure his virginal bride on their wedding night?". Well, now that would not be an issue for him either, he supposed. No bride for him; but no more weakness either. He had a new life with new rules and he was going to be the top of the food chain this time.
Well, maybe no bride, but Dru had hinted rather strongly that sex was still in his future... his near future at that.
He wondered at that, seeing how his heart no longer beat. William would not have thought it possible for a male vampire to perform, but Dru assured him it was not only possible, but rather enhanced in some way.
She had proceeded to prove his complete ability to enjoy the untried "sins of the flesh" by touching him knowingly through his clothes. The way his body instantly responded removed any lingering doubt. Right there on the streets of St . Albans, his body let out a resounding, "hell yes!".
Not exactly a first kiss, but it would do; indeed, it would do!
It almost made up for the centuries of missed sunlight to come. He was beginning to look forward to being a VERY attentive student as Dru was certainly a luscious enough teacher. Yes, St. Albans was closer and a MUCH better destination after all.
Angelus was to be his tutor when it came to the fighting, hunting and killing. He would teach him style that would set William above the common vampire. If he intended to travel with these three, he'd need to fit in. Angelus was said to be the best there was.
William was heartily glad that the lovely Dru was to teach him the rest that he needed to learn. As much as he required the survival skills that Angelus was particularly proficient with; he desired the skills that only Dru could impart.
He hoped he would please her. He intended to try. "Learn what gives her the most pleasure and focus on that.", a friend who had already had a mistress had said to his friends back in Cambridge and William planned to use that advice as his guide.
Chapter 12: So That's How It's Done
A room of pain and pleasure, St. Albans, England, 1880
Good loving lord, he hoped he'd survive her long enough to please her! Surely his mother and father had never................ewwwwwwww, no don't even think long those lines....EVER! But surely no one of his acquaintance had... well... he'd not remembered ever seeing rope marks on any of them or chains in the bed chambers.
Most married people of his circle seemed unbruised and unbloodied after exercising marital privileges. This must be a vampire aspect, different from human. All in all he liked it. He wanted more.
Dru had displayed skill with a riding crop no woman could rival. She taught him the giving of both pain and pleasure. She explained it was best to give and receive both; and then spent the rest of that night—and many thereafter—demonstrating her meaning.
In spite of his initial doubts, he discovered that pain first DID seem to increase the intensity of the following pleasure... or perhaps it was only the pleasure of the pain stopping, he was not completely clear on that. All of this was new to the man who had died a virgin.
Pleasure was not remotely an adequate word for the delicious things she did to him, and taught him to do to her as well.
An eternity would not be long enough to explore this exotic, erotic woman - to touch her, taste her, love her, discover all that was Dru. Yes, this had been worth dying for. Funny, this kind of hunger only grew stronger when fed.
His mind went back over the "lessons" that began the night before. His first time, for so very much.
Maybe it was because he had not been a naughty child, but William's mother had never spanked him. He had been on the receiving end of many a verbal assault from his siblings, but never physical. Loved ones, then, had never been equated with blows, bruising, or bleeding until Dru got through with him.
School HAD introduced him to the concept of a caning, but only as an earned punishment; NEVER a prelude to ecstasy of any sort. He had also had a fight or two over the years, when he was unable to avoid them. He had rarely won and never sought them out. He had preferred using his wits to his fists. Somehow, he had never, never imagined needing to learn such skills, especially to incorporate them into lovemaking.
They had barely entered the room that was to be theirs for the next few nights when Dru, rather violently, pushed him towards the bed. He had thought to kiss her properly.
He had been envisioning drawing her slim yet lush body close in his arms and coaxing her sweet mouth to open beneath his for exploration. He had imagined his kisses deepening, increasing in passion until she was soft, warm and ready for him to gently lead her to the bed.
Instead, Dru had displayed an intensity in her look that made William feel warm all over for the first time since his death at her hands. She was clearly the captain of this ship, matey, and it was time for all to go ashore who were going ashore!
Not for his Dru the cover of darkness, or the cover of anything else it would seem. No maidenly blushes here, unless William sported one - which he desperately hoped he did not. He was still amazed at how quickly she had undressed.
My God, had he ever SEEN beauty before? She was magnificent, glorious—he had seriously misused the term goddess in the past.
William would actually have preferred if she had slowed down a bit for him to touch, taste and savor her ripe willing body. Time for him to drink her in, with his eyes this time. But Dru had her own agenda and as she said at the time, "A girl has to find her pleasures, Luv".
William had a far different fantasy of his long anticipated sexual awakening but, all said and done, she did make his body sing with pleasure. The song title was "More, More" and he'd happily sing it over and over for eternity. As his friend had advised, "Find out what SHE likes and focus on that.", words he would learn to live by.
The now naked Dru began to approach William where he stood next to the bed. Amazingly he was still able to stand. His coat had long ago been stripped off of him. When Dru had shoved him to the bed, she had caught the coat in her hand, removing it as he spun across the room. With a "grrr" she headed towards him.
She laughed her deep, throaty laugh as she reached for his top shirt button. When she had the first three buttons undone, she pulled roughly on the shirt fronts and the other buttons took flight like startled pigeons. His chest was bare, as he was not wearing an undershirt of any sort.
Dru ran her sharp, deadly fingernails down his sweating chest raising four bright, long cuts that began to drip with his blood. She laughed again at his sharp intake of breath as the pain registered on his overstimulated brain. The next sound was his low moan as Dru slowly and methodically licked each red streak with her warm, moist tongue. He shivered with pleasure and desire. Somehow the pain was no longer making itself felt. She ripped what was left of the shirt from his body and tossed it into the corner.
William stood panting, feasting his eyes on her pert, perfect breasts now crowned with rock hard nipples. God, how he wanted her!
His mind must have been dazed, because he had no idea how the riding crop came to be in her hand, but his mind came sharply back into focus when it connected repeatedly with his chest.
Bright welts joined the cuts she had just tenderly ministered to with her tongue. "Ahh, bloody hell, woman, what are you doing?", he demanded with a look of desperation. But as she kissed his wounds and teased his nipples he continued, "Oh yes, more, please, yes....", in pleasure. Again he gasped in pain and steeled himself as she brought the tiny whip down again and again then down, hard, on his left shoulder.
She grinned wickedly at his pained look and tearing eyes. He looked wounded, hurt, and more than a little afraid. Dru was well pleased with her boy, indeed.
She ordered him to remove his boots, then bent over to help. He was distracted from obeying by the view of her magnificent backside. He ached to caress her there and then.
Somehow he managed to get the damned boots off without falling over and making a total fool of himself in front of this fallen angel.
Dru stood before him, upright again. Her black, curling, hair spilling down her back, tendrils framing her lovely face, and strands caressing her breasts in a way that William yearned to do. She was breathing heavily, causing them to rise and fall with each breath—teasing, tempting, welcoming.
William leaned in to kiss her, but Dru ducked her head to avoid any such moment of softness.
Time enough for kisses, soon. The withholding, she explained, was important. Not just of a kiss, but withholding EVERY natural urge, every desire yearning for release. Hold back until it became a pleasure—a reward, paid for in pain. If kisses and touches were what he longed for, then wait he must.
He groaned his acceptance of her terms. Thus far, she had prevented him from any real touching of her, any sweet caress, and he ached with desire.
She was filling all of his senses, save that of touch, to overflowing, and he felt that he might explode on contact. No, not just his... ahem...manly parts, but all of him.
She had been unbuttoning his trousers as she explained about the power of waiting. Now her hands moved around the waistband to his hips. She ran her incredibly soft hands back and down to his bum, squeezing ever so slightly; then she dug those nails of hers into him until he bled.
He yelped in pain and nearly jumped out of his skin; but before he could protest the pain, she moved one of her talented hands to the front and began a caress of indescribable pleasure in that area no other human but himself had ever touched before.
Her hand moved with exquisite thoroughness, bringing his desire into sharp focus and his mind into a state of near madness.
Every movement now was in unbelievably slow motion. Whereas, William had wished for Dru to slow things down before, now the slowness bordered on torture. Or so he thought, until he had real torture to compare it with, anyway.
She eased his trousers and underclothes down to his feet, depositing feather soft kisses intermixed with short painful nips all along his bare thighs and down his right leg. At the same time, she ran her velvety soft hands down his left leg in a caressing movement. She knelt before him and he laid his hands on her shoulders to steady his balance, as his trousers and underthings were kicked to one side.
Her energetic tongue began a delightful dance over the most private area of his body. Tasting him as he longed to taste her.
All thought left his mind as she did things with her mouth that he had never imagined. Things now burned in his memory, where he would imagine them again and again in the future. Fondle them, as he would fondle himself, lost in the memory.
She rose before him, this time running her hand slowly up his right leg while drawing that remarkable tongue along the inside of his left leg until she arrived where his skin still tingled from that same tongue moments before.
His breath was ragged as if he had run a long distance in spite of his no longer needing to breathe. He fought the desire to grab her, to push her to the wall and take her there and then.
Finally as naked as Dru herself, William was pushed back on the bed. He reached for his lovely goddess, only to have her dance out of his reach with another small laugh.
She returned to the bedside with a length of rope in her hand.
If his heart could still beat it would be racing now. He felt a sense of fear, but told himself she could do not lasting harm to him, as she had already killed him.
She bound his wrists tightly enough to cut into the tender skin, and stretched his arms above his head, tying him to the headboard but leaving his long legs unbound.
Taking a taper from the table by the bed, she lit the candle and dripped the hot wax in a line down his chest, over his belly, ending only at the hair line.
It hurt, burned, yet it also felt somehow delicious against his cold body. She kissed the flesh on either side of the line of wax, beginning at the base of his neck and working downward. Her hands moved up and down the sides of his torso all the while. Slow, languid movements - the woman was like liquid fire igniting his passion beyond anything he'd ever imagined.
Finally she loosed one edge of the now hardened wax and used her so talented tongue beneath it to remove it from his skin.
This time, she started from the bottom and he nearly lost control at the view of her dark head so near the center of his desire.
Then, when the wax was removed... she kissed him. First his neck and the hollows of his collarbones, then the base of his throat. Slow kisses that made his skin come alive... then full on the lips.
Her lips were sweeter than any wine he'd ever tasted. That talented tongue of hers teased his lips and tongue. She darted it in and out of his parted lips. Her hands caressed his torso at the same time. He felt her soft hair as it brushed his chest.
So many sensations all at one time! God, he hoped he'd maintain control and not end it all too soon. He had his pride, and did not want this goddess to know how very inexperienced he had been.
As if sensing his dilemma, she moved away from him and replaced the candle. She began to touch him in ways that felt wonderful, yet did not compromise his control. She massaged his feet and legs, stopping on occasion to drop a wet, hot kiss here and there.
He had nearly come to the conclusion that this foreplay was going to be all that would happen. Now THAT would be torture; he groaned from the depths of his being.
He never knew lovemaking could stretch in time like this. His friends had always spent a fairly short time with their paramours. Perhaps it was the vampire aspect?
She kissed the hollows of his groin above his thighs while her soft, silky hair teased his lower body and her hands massaged his chest.
Again, as if she could read his mind, she laughed, growled her special "grrr", then draped one of her smooth, beautiful legs over his body, straddling him delightfully.
He held his breath as she slowly—oh, so very slowly—lowered herself onto him at last. Surrounding him in the oldest intimate embrace, and nearly driving him mad with the sensations it created.
As with the entire experience, Dru was in control of timing and tempo - and, oh what control! Driving him to the brink of sweet release only to slow or stop the exquisite movements of her body on his.
He longed to have his hands free so he could grasp her slim waist and achieve what his body ached for, and oblivion, sweet oblivion.
Finally she threw back her head, letting out a primal scream he felt sure all the other residents must have heard as she pulsed with pleasure.
She began the movements again until, once more, she yelled in pleasure; the pulsing within her moving HIM ever closer to some wonderful explosion. Now with her control loosed slightly, he joined her in ecstasy.
They lay, unspeaking, in a tangled connection of damp skin and hair. She lay flat atop his body and panted from her exertions while he waited for his brain to return to his body, as it had surely left some moments before.
He began to laugh, causing Dru to roll off of him and pout. He reassured her that the laugh was a good thing. A laugh of joyous abandonment mixed with amusement at a random thought he had just had.
How did anyone ever get anything else done when they could be doing this? My God, if he wasn't a vampire he'd give thought to becoming a prostitute, or whatever they called those who made a living by pleasuring women! He sighed deeply and asked Dru to untie him so he could hold her close.
By morning, he had proved to Dru what a good pupil he could be when interested in the subject. He also learned a vampire can also bruise in a spectacular fashion even without a beating heart. Maybe he had slept through that part of anatomy class, or perhaps vampire physiology was just totally foreign to regular humans.
No matter, all the necessary parts worked just fine, thank you ma'am!
The four vampires had spent a handful of days in St. Albans, teaching, learning, hunting, and feeding. William was quickly and enthusiastically embracing his new life (and Dru whenever they were alone).
Angelus had begun to accept that Dru's boy might work out after all. Both of his ladies seemed happier and the tensions between Dru and Darla had finally ended.
At least William was fast to learn. He had an unexpected natural grace that lent itself to oriental style fighting methods. He was also bright enough to realize both his and the entire family's survival depended on his paying attention to the lessons Angelus gave.
William had a hot temper that could be triggered easily if he felt himself the butt of a joke or if his, still too human, feelings were hurt.
Angelus enjoyed opening those psychological wounds for a wriggle. Then he'd teach William to use the anger in controlled fighting.
Angelus was a bit alarmed when William began to enthuse over his favorite choice for victims in days to come. He had no real desire to choose the very innocent in the manner of Angelus, or those he found attractive like Dru... no, he wanted to drain the snobs, the elite, and those who felt themselves superior. Angelus tried to explain that these were the very targets most likely to draw attention.
That was the one worry that Angelus still had. If William went on a revenge spree, they were doomed. He told him of a vampire during the French Revolution that he had warned in a similar way. He had called himself L'Hero and had helped the peasants of Paris to overthrow their king. All it had gotten him was a staking.
William's motives might be different—personal revenge not social change—but the results would be the same. He'd need to learn not to attack the ones with power. William would also have to distance himself from the human feelings that could only cause trouble for them all.
While thinking about all the new benefits that came from now being a vampire, William had a moment of Epiphany.
William realized his gift could be shared. Mother! He hadn't given her a thought since he had died. He gave silent thanks that his soul had taken his conscience with it, else he would have wallowed in guilt instead of the small nudgings he DID feel. No matter, he would soon make up for it all.
He kept his personal plans to himself, but suggested they return to London. His three companions agreed, provided William avoid anyone who might discover his changes.
The first nightfall home, William fed on a pair of prancing poofs. Angelus wasn't around at the time to scowl at his choice and they were not from any important families, anyway.
He congratulated himself on having saved some poor girls from a lifetime of marital misery. Future generations could only be improved with those two out of the gene pool.
Perhaps he should have headed back sooner, drained Basil and saved Emily. He would have to check in to that marriage after he settled into his new life.
After they were fed and sated, William told Dru that he wanted to show her his former home. Perhaps they might look into making his old home their new home base in London.
He did not mention his plans for his mother to join them. A wife liked to head her own household, after all. No matter, Dru and his mother would love one another as he did them both.
He also did not bring up his desire to split off from Angelus and Darla. He didn't care for the connection he still felt between his sire and his teacher.
William had a plan—a wonderful plan. His precious mother would never suffer again. She would live forever and never age. She'd glow again and dance again, and laugh again with no more blood coming out of her with every cough.
He would fix it; fix HER. Her boy would accomplish what the doctors couldn't. Warm lifegiving blood would go IN to her, not out, and her life would be perfect and non-ending.
William would have the two most important women in the world to him at his side to care for, provide for and cherish. Mother wouldn't even have to hunt if she didn't care for it; he would take care of her as he always had.
Dru had been startled at the idea of Anne joining them, but had been agreeable in the end. She had liked the house and would eventually come to love his mother. No matter, Dru would see how perfect it all was, in time. His mother would love Dru as he already did. And really, who could NOT love his wonderful mother?
Dru would become like a daughter to Anne. It would be just right for all of time. William was euphoric at the prospects.
His mother had been worried. William had just disappeared, no one had seen or heard from him in weeks. He would NEVER abandon her like that unless something terrible had happened.
Emily had told her everything she knew about the small scene at her pre-wedding party.
Cass had baited her young brother yet again, and held him up to ridicule. How Anne sometimes wished she had embraced corporeal punishment when rearing the little cat.
Her William was so sensitive and easily hurt, but too proud to stay and let it show.
He had left the party and seemed to have dropped from the face of the earth.
Cass' husband, George Travers, had made some inquiries, to no avail. Only Anne and Emily worried, however.
Anne's worry had only increased when William did not show up for Emily's wedding two days after the party.
She knew that William despised Basil, Emily's betrothed, but he would never have let down his beloved niece by not coming. No, something was terribly wrong and Anne was beside herself.
When the old servant made the painful trip upstairs to inform Anne that her son and a strange young woman were in the parlor, she was relieved, yet still could not shake a sense of foreboding.
She didn't feel reassured upon seeing them, either. William acted drunk or as if he'd taken leave of his senses. He didn't act at all like himself. And the woman... there was something greedy and knowing in her eyes. Anne didn't like this one bit.
William began saying the strangest things, as if he had lost his mind.
He spoke of this woman as She who gave birth to him, of all things. The way the two behaved with each other spoke of a very different relationship than mother and son, and there was a charged atmosphere in the room between them.
Anne was sure this woman was loose, and had somehow led her son to destruction, or soon would. My goodness, she had encouraged William to find someone, but his tastes would never reach so low. Something was terribly wrong.
William began to speak of having changed, of living forever and helping her make that kind of change as well. Crazy talks about being a creature of the night—a vampire.
Anne had seen a theatrical piece with such a character years ago, but had no idea where her son had come up with such nonsense.
She decided he must have been more taken with that poem of Goethe's or perhaps that story by the Russian, Tolstoi, than she had thought when he had read them to her.
Vampires, indeed! Yes, he must be drunk, or perhaps that woman had introduced him to some Chinese opium den. Something was not right with her boy.
William began to walk toward his mother. He still had love in his eyes when he embraced her. Soon, she would never be sick again, soon......
Everything would be wonderful. Mother had been fearful and hesitant at first, but ultimately she had trusted her boy. He sired her, giving life to the one who had given life to him. Being her caretaker one last time before she could once more care for herself. William felt intoxicated with the power of life and death he now had.
He hadn't the heart to make his precious mother waken in a coffin as he had done in spite of Dru's pouting that it was "tradition".
He had gathered the few servants and told them that he was taking his mother to a better climate for her health. He gave out written referrals to all but the elderly footman. To him, William handed over a tidy sum of money for him to retire on. The nest egg William had been saving to provide for his dream of Cecily would serve a noble purpose after all.
They laid Anne's body on the setee in the parlor, once the house was empty of all but the dead. William made sure her dear corpse was in as comfortable a position as possible. She would waken here in her familiar home and never know the horrors of the grave.
Thanks to her son's actions there would NEVER be a grave for her. That "tradition" Dru went on about be damned! It was unnecessary, primitive and cruel. He doubted he would ever forget the horror of waking in that way. It was NOT going to happen to his beloved mother.
Dru and William decided to wait until his mother had risen before sharing their little secret with Angelus and Darla.
William was slightly taken aback that his dark angel had not been enthused with his plan that his mother should travel with them. He had told her that they would make a new family unit away from Angelus and his almost mystical influence over HIS Drusilla.
Dru would be all his, and Angelus would not be there to entice Dru and anger him. All the lessons Angelus had given him really only required his continued practice and the passage of time. Yes, they should really split this "family" of theirs into two.
William and Dru went back to their lodging and kept their secret and the plans he had for their future to themselves. Tomorrow, after feeding, he and Dru would explain it all to his mother and they would begin their new lives.
The next evening, Dru suggested that William go alone to his mother's and that she would join him later. She had glanced towards Angelus and licked her lips as she said that. He had a nasty suspicion Dru had a few plans of her own that he'd rather never know about, but with his mother due to rise, he couldn't take the time to argue with Dru.
And there she was, indeed glowing as he had known she would again. No horrible consumptive cough and failing body. Not old and frail but stronger than any young healthy human woman - and - eternally so. Tonight would be a celebration; a birthday of sorts.
(A/N: the vampire L'Hero is from book 1 of the Tales of The Slayers)
Chapter 14: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
London , 1880
How life can change in one short moment. William's had changed that way twice now in this one fateful year.
First, his encounter with Dru had led to his becoming utterly changed forever. Tonight he learned how a short moment could slow and seem to last lifetimes.
Oh God, he'd never known that his mother had hated him until now. Everything he had ever held true about himself and his life was swept away with each hate-tinged word from her lips.
She was aggressive in her hate, leaving him no corner to hide in, catch his breath, or try to make sense of what she was saying. Even Richard and Cass had never been as cruel—had never made such accusations.
She had completely misunderstood his love all these years; that was the worst of all.
Bad enough that she didn't love him and had wanted him gone; but to not see his love for her as the PURE love of an adoring son but instead as something evil and sick. . . It had NEVER been like that. His mind reeled at the very thought.
She said that she wished she had killed him at birth. He heartily agreed with her at this point! She had never wanted his love or company. Hours of his company that he had never begrudged, were unwanted. His life shelved for love of her.
HE would have loved to have continued his days at University, found a lovely woman and married. He had put that all aside because mother had needed him.
Now he found out she might have needed him, but she hadn't WANTED him. She also felt he had wanted her in the most horrifying way imaginable. No, no! William could not even imagine such sickness. He may be a vampire now, but some things were beyond even the evil of a vampire.
His life had finally, truly ended.
She had said such unspeakable things, and then made a final attempt at outright seduction. She even said it was what HE wanted, may God have mercy. Lies, all lies! She had harbored these unnatural, ugly thoughts about him, while he had believed the lie that he had been loved.
Oh God, yes, his question had been answered -- there IS a hell, and, as he had feared, he was condemned eternally to it. And, oh yes, it DID burn.
Had his entire life had been a lie then? She never wanted him, never loved him, was never proud of him, hated his company and had seen him as a monster long before he actually had become one?
He was trapped in a nightmare where her words, her face, her accusations played over and over. Then the final hellish memory of his plunging the broken piece of her cane through her heart and watching as she turned to dust before his eyes.
He had murdered her twice; first from love to give her eternal life and then in horror to end that life, end her words and actions. To make it stop. They say the truth will set you free, but this night of truth had imprisoned William in a private hell he would carry within himself eternally.
Getting drunk wouldn't help this pain. There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to drown these sorrows. He wasn't sure he wanted it, wasn't sure he deserved it. Still he was going to try.
Dear God, how could she have misunderstood so totally? How could he? How could she?
Reeling and raging, William went on a special hunt alone. He was seeking special prey and the neighborhood he was headed towards was sure to deliver both what he needed and what he craved.
All he would need to do is charge into the right pub, put on his best Nancy boy act, yell the right things about the Royal Navy and they would come.
Yes, he would fight back. The days of William the Bloody just taking a beating with no resistance were at an end. He deserved whatever pain they could inflict upon him. He laughed bitterly, knowing his instincts for self-preservation would come to the fore and he would survive this night.
Well if tonight's angry mob didn't finish him, maybe tomorrow's would; or the next, or the next. Too bloody bad he had been such an apt pupil to Angelus—he fought well by instinct alone now.
He didn't fool himself. Dru didn't love him either. She desired what he had learned to do to her, but she didn't love him. He was a toy, like Miss Edith and just as replaceable. Perhaps her ability to love was as lost as her mind had proven to be?
William smelled him as soon as he entered his room. Dru wasn't there, but had been, as had Angelus. He had been right earlier about why Dru hadn't joined him tonight. She had wanted another go at Angelus before they parted company.
"A girl has to have her pleasures, Luv.", he could almost hear her now. Well, bloody hell, what did he expect anyway? She and Angelus had been lovers for years before she had sired him.
Pfft, his own family, his own mother could not love him, why should she?
What a worthless specimen, he thought as he stood before a mirror. It gave no reflection as if he didn't exist; it lied too.
He finished the last bottle he'd taken from the pub as a victory trophy after he'd killed the last of the customers he had roused to fury. There had been a special thrill in facing a fight he wasn’t sure he could win.
He hadn't even eaten any of them. He'd snapped their necks, rather than use them as a vessel to drink from to kill the hunger.
Maybe Dru had a bottle of something hidden away. If he couldn't even get himself killed properly, well, tomorrow was another day.
His body was badly beaten but it had nothing on his psyche. He had almost said soul - hah!
Once more the joke was on William. William the bloody useless git, the bloody unlovable, the bloody waste, the bloody ................. bloody.
Surely there had to be some way a vampire could get himself staked without making a mess of it as well?
He'd start the damn dance. Death was a pretty partner who knew all the steps and the bloody music had started. Hell, he'd hum along with it. Sooner or later his dance partner would give him the sweet release he desperately desired. Dru had taught him well on that score. He understood reality now. Just dance till it's done; till he's done.
William was finally dead; time to see just who he was going to become - other than just a drunken dead man.
Chapter 15: Spike
London , 1880
The next few months were a blur of drink, painful sex, and fights with as many humans or demons as William could goad into beating him senseless until he finally would kill his opponents, once more saving his less than precious life by instinct alone.
Angelus refused to hunt anywhere near him. He kept the girls far from William when they went to feed and he predicted that William would be dust before the month was done.
Each day just before dawn, William would return to their room a bloody, bruised mess and fall upon Dru seeking the comfort of her body followed by unconsciousness. He never explained, but Dru suspected the cause.
On the positive side, he HAD become quite a formidable fighter. He had fully embraced the inner demon while subduing the remaining human with what seemed like gallons of alcohol.
The "young well dressed lunatic" had built quite a reputation in certain quarters. The sight of him entering a pub or on the dockside caused many a faint heart to pause its beating before its owner turned tail and ran for cover.
Even as drunk as a sailor, William was too much for any to have a chance at beating him. He was fueled by a fury that even impressed demons.
Angelus let this go on as long as he dared. It looked as if Dru wasn't going to give up her maniacal lover, however; and this just HAD to stop.
The boy had fighting and feeding down to a violent art, but he was rapidly turning into one of those mindless hunt-and-kill demons that got everyone around them dusted quickly. Time to step in and either talk sense into him, or distance themselves permanently.
Angelus decided the best chance he had to reach his troubled protegé was to try to bypass the demon and get through to what was left of the human.
He asked Dru for all the information she had on William's life before being sired. Drink had loosened William's tongue over their time together, and he had painted an accurate picture of his life before he had met her.
Angelus went on a different sort of hunt himself. A search for an innocent, but not to drain her, for once in his unlife, at least not quite yet. Perhaps the girl, Emily, could be used to bring some restraint to her uncle’s behavior.
Emily had been as puzzled by her uncle's disappearance as had her grandmamma Anne. Now even grandmamma was missing and all Emily could find out was that uncle William had closed up the house and moved to some supposedly better climate.
He had not come to her wedding and neither of her loved ones had come to say their goodbyes. Emily was hurt, stung by their behaviour. It was all so out of character for both of them. She didn't even have a forwarding address.
The handsome young Irishman approached Emily at an entertainment held at Covent Gardens. She felt uneasy in his company, something she could not name made her look about seeking exits she could use without going too near him.
He claimed to know uncle William, however, and offered to deliver a note if she wished to contact him. This Irishman, who had given his name as Angelus upon introduction, made no mention of grandmamma Anne, and Emily began to worry anew.
Something was very, very wrong.
Had uncle William contracted the same illness as his mother?
He had been her close caregiver. That would explain much, as he would never want to harm another by passing on such a dreadful illness.
Perhaps she should send a note through this rather intense man who claimed friendship with him. At least she could find out what had happened. She would try to arrange a meeting if she could sneak away from Basil.
Her marriage was a nightmare.
Her uncle William had been right on all counts where Basil was concerned. He proved "old fashioned" to a frightening degree, strictly adhering to the concept that a wife was chattel.
Emily had been far too shamed to let anyone know of the beatings she had endured at his hand. She had been raised with the freedoms of a modern woman and had been used to speaking her mind. This did not please her husband at all.
He had courted and married Emily because of her connections. Her father had mining interests that, when added to his own, had greatly increased his personal wealth in addition to her generous dowry.
Her uncle George was well known and his speeches in Parliament were not to be missed. He and his wife, Cassandra, invited only the best people for guests at their frequent socials. Basil's star was on the rise since his marriage into this family.
"Uncle" George Travers was even hinting that Basil run for a seat in the Commons. Basil cautioned Emily against revealing any of her petty complaints about their life together, and punctuated his warnings with blows where they wouldn't show.
Yes, Emily greatly desired the comfort of her childhood champion and life-long confidant, her dear uncle William. Her note asking to see him was quickly written and entrusted to this dour Irishman. Surely her champion would tell her how to remove herself from this disaster she found herself in?
Oh, this was better than Angelus could have hoped.
It was obvious the niece of William was being abused by her husband. What better draw to the human left in her uncle than the need to sober up and ride to her rescue. Yes, this might just save them all. Shame he couldn't have a taste of the fair Emily, however, but first things first.
Angelus had to get his family in order first before indulging in the rare treat that she promised to be.
He might even sire her himself later! Imagine William forced to watch as his Emily became the new favorite of his grand sire…it was making his mouth water to think of it!
Had Dru laid out her Tarot deck before the meeting all might have gone differently.
A small faerie had whispered just such a remark to Dru after her Willy left to see his niece. It had buzzed and buzzed about in her head issuing dire warnings that caused Dru to pack their belongings and prepare for a fast move.
She suggested Angelus and Darla do the same.
They all waited, ready to leave at a moments notice; for the storm clouds to loose their rage.
Perhaps the "perfect" solution had been just the wrong one. The fire driving William had not needed any more fuel. Dru's faeries seemed to suggest this meeting of uncle and niece might just be the mother lode of coal to heap on that demonic flame burning in William.
William had remained sober since reading the note from Emily that Angelus had brought to him.
She would not explain the urgency, only that she MUST see him and soon. They had arranged to meet at her home the next Tuesday, when Basil was to be away from London on Rail Road business.
William had no desire to ever see Emily's repulsive husband again in this or any other lifetime, so all was agreeable to him.
Possibly the end result would have been different had Basil actually stayed gone.
Instead, he returned home a handful of minutes before William was due to arrive. He was already in a black mood because of the business delay that had altered his plans; but seeing Emily preparing to entertain a guest in his absence was the final straw.
HE was in control of this household, by God, and she would toe the mark or answer for it. He hadn't planned on a severe beating, just a reminder of who was king of the castle.
From his peripheral vision, Basil saw a dark, menacing shape swooping upon him.
Emily was prostrate on the floor from her husband's blows and crying too hard to see her uncle's face change into a vision from hell itself.
Her champion began to use every skill he had been developing over the last few months on his niece's attacker and his own former tormentor.
There would be precious little to bury, when he finished tearing apart the bastard who had dared to lay a finger on his little bit.
Basil, beaten to a bloody pulp, was not able to so much as raise a hand in protest as William the Bloody drove a commemorative Rail Road spike from the mantle deep into his head, ending his miserable existence once and for all.
William rushed over to Emily as she began to scream at the scene of carnage before her. She looked to her uncle and, taking note of his deformed vamp face, proceeded to loose consciousness.
William shook off the demon. HE needed to think clearly, like the human he had once been. He had just widowed and terrified the only human he had left that he cared about.
He called to a servant and told him to prepare a bag for his mistress and have a coach brought round.
He managed to prevent the footman from seeing either the bloody corpse of Basil with the spike impaling his head or Emily's unconscious body. Sadly, the servants were no strangers to the sounds of blows in this house.
William wrote a brief note explaining, as best as he could, the situation he had walked in on and his subsequent actions, carefully leaving out the part where he had submitted to the inner demon for extra strength.
He addressed the note to his brother, Richard (Emily's father). Surely the miserable git would take in his newly widowed daughter and do the right thing by her, this time.
Tenderly, William lifted his tiny niece from the floor and carried her carefully to the waiting coach. With all the love left in him, he kissed her forehead before closing the door on the coach. He handed the note to her maid and instructed the coachman to take his mistress to Yorkshire and the safety of Laurelwood and her parents.
William went back in to the parlor and once more put on his game face. He then drained every drop of the bastard’s blood, tearing great gashes in the neck of the late Basil Kincaid, railroad executive and loud poetry critic.
Somewhere between Emily's house and his rooms, William began to think about how his precious little bit had come to be in the hands of that bastard to begin with.
Richard, of course was ultimately to blame, but he had never strayed from Yorkshire. No, the advice that Basil was a good man and a proper match for his niece had come from the Travers house, his sister Cassandra and her husband George. Time to pay a family visit before Scotland Yard got wind of this night's work.
William rode like the wind to his sister's home, where the usual Tuesday night gathering had already begun.
William waited in the entry hall, having sent an urgent message to George that he had a matter to discuss that could not wait.
When his brother-in-law took in William's bloodstained disarray, he became alarmed and had him follow into the study. William wasted no time in telling him the events of this night and Emily's destination.
Then, as George tried to decide just what should be done to prevent the almost inevitable scandal, William stunned him by charging him with the responsibility for what had befallen their niece.
William then went into his vamp face and charged at George. He had his neck beneath his ready fangs when a high scream pierced the air and caused William to pause in the attack.
In the doorway stood the terrified young son of his sister and this ponce he was about to send to his maker.
Philip was barely 15 and had only recently learned about vampires and the Watchers Council from his father. Philip's future with both had been explained to him. This was his first view of the creatures. He did not recognize the beast as his uncle William, so distraught was he.
The demon flung George from him and crashed through the window and away.
Philip's screams brought most of the male party goers to investigate, leaving the frightened women in the safety of the salon.
Quickly, George gasped out to his fellow Council members that he had been attacked by a vampire when his son had interrupted the assault. He neglected to mention his relationship to the body housing the attacking demon. Wards would need to be put on the family homes to prevent unwanted invitations being offered to the demon wearing the face of family. The Council would need to be informed in time, of course, but no need to further ruin this evening.
What a time for the Slayer to be in Spain when Council members were being attached in their own homes! Research would need to take place immediately. Well, no matter, surely they could run down one crazed vampire and send him to the devil.
There was a slight trail of blood to follow and it didn't have a large head start.
The men began to arm themselves and instruct the servants in how to protect the dear ladies.
Philip armed himself with the stake his father had demonstrated the use of this very morning. Adrenaline was high, as the avenging party prepared for slaughter.
Chapter 16: Call Me Spike
abandoned Yorkshire coal mine, late 1880
They sheltered in one of Richard's played out coal mines in Yorkshire.
Angelus had originally vowed to take his women and leave William to his just reward. Two things caused the group to remain together and go into hiding, in spite of the hostility ebbing and flowing between the two male vampires.
First, was a nearly hysterical Dru, deep in a fit of madness, lashing out that Angelus had set this disaster in motion. She had conveniently forgotten the months of tension as her William went on the rampage that had preceded Angelus' part in this mess.
The second—and far more important—reason was that the heavily armed group of men looking for William already knew of his connection with the trio of vampires he had turned to for refuge. Worst of all, this posse was made up of members of the Watcher's Council itself.
William had been the one to suggest the mine. He argued that George would never expect him to hide so near his old family home.
He also remembered well the few abandoned mines in the area. His years of exploration with his small shadow, Emily, had etched these mines in his memory. They would offer both protection and a defensible retreat if it came to a show down. The darkness of the shafts would be a benefit due to the vampires' better vision, and a handicap to those seeking their destruction.
William was in rare form, still seeking an opportunity to fight. He longed to take on his mentor, Angelus, and rend and tear. He had no hope of winning such a contest, as Angelus was far too cunning and skilled a fighter. He would never be defeated by mere rage-fueled brawling.
Still, William pushed for exactly that sort of confrontation. Dru was so fearful of the fight brewing that she had left all sanity behind, as a ship putting out to sea left its safe harbor.
The thought of loosing brought no fear to William. What he DID fear was the total uncertainty of it all. Would today be the day he would die? Where would he go when he did? How many would he kill if he didn't die?
Who, or what was he? There might be a long future of such uncertainty ahead of him, and this he did fear. Nothing made sense any more.
The look of horror on Emily's face that night convinced William that the last tie he had to his human life had been severed beyond hope of repair.
So, he truly was no longer a human. This being a vampire was beyond his ability to fully grasp. Hell, he was not a being at all. He was a demon, a thing, an instrument of death and destruction. He was nothing more than an animated weapon much like the Rail Road spike he had driven deep into the skull of that weasel, Basil.
He feared death, and where it might well lead, yet wished to court it at the same time. He tried to puzzle all of this out.
Too much had happened too quickly and he felt like he was trying to stand amidst storm tossed waves without a boat. A large part of him just wanted it all to be over. The only problem was..........what if that were just the BEGINNING.
Eternity here, eternity there; when what he truly sought was rest . . . peace. He feared death, too, for the greater unknown it might hold.
Nothing like a bit of pain to get back to the basics and drive out the uncertainty. Nothing like a good pounding to make things clear. William taunted Angelus in an effort to start just such a head clearing.
"Spike", he croaked, "the name is Spike". He continued to irritate Angelus by affecting a cockney accent along the lines of his Dru. This re-christening and new speech pattern served to momentarily douse the flames dancing in Angelus' eyes and put a hold on the violence.
"Just what is "Spike" up to?" Angelus wondered. He put the question to William, only to be met with further cocky bravado and an insult from "Spike" in reply.
Darla was simply glad for the break from the boredom of hiding in the mine. Dru, however, was afraid she was soon to loose her pretty lover; perhaps she would even be blamed for his very existence, and punished in a permanent way this time. She drew in her breath in a combination of terror and fascination with the violent show taking place before her.
Angelus had nearly staked William....... no, "Spike", he had called himself. She liked the name; it suited him, all sharp and deadly. Dru so hoped he would not be dusted. She'd not find another like her Spike.
Angelus unintentionally defused the situation by mentioning the Slayer. He told Spike that if an angry mob didn't finish him, the Slayer would.
Spike was avidly interested. Angelus had his full attention now. Just what is a slayer? Time for further instruction, it would seem.
The current Slayer was said to be in Spain, but the Council had but to summon her to alter that circumstance. The slayer could also be defeated due to some demons good fortune and no one knew where the replacement Slayer might surface.
Angelus proceeded to explain the ways of vampires, slayers, demons and Councils to Spike. Time to make him understand the combatants in this eternal war of dark and light.
London, Watchers Council "War Room", 1880
The council was in full session, burning the midnight oil this night at least. There were so many important issues to deal with at one time. The balance of power in the war between good and evil was delicate at best, and effected far more dimensions than this one which the council members called home. As Shakespeare had said, there are more things on heaven and earth.... or some such insight. The weight of this, and of all other worlds, truly lay on their shoulders here in the "war room".
This Council predated history, titles, kingdoms and customs. It had just always been. As long as humans had existed, so too had the Council and its Slayer. One girl, supernaturally chosen; during her usually short life, to be wielded like a mighty sword in the constant battle against the demons and vampires determined on driving the humans to extinction.
The seers could usually determine a general area where the next Slayer would rise. Girls were often discovered who could potentially be called, and those were assigned a Watcher to train and prepare the girl for the honor of her duty.
These visions usually became more clear as the time for the passing of the torch drew closer. The Chosen One had gifts that made her very effective in this battle, but the never ending war ensured a fast turnover in Slayers.
Seers had just reported to the Council that the next Slayer would be somewhere in the former colonies across the Atlantic. They had only narrowed it to somewhere between the Eastern coast of the United States and its Mississippi river.
A few good men were being commissioned, assigned a potential, and sent in preparation, as Watchers in the field. This was the first order of business, as the continuance of the Slayer line was the highest priority of the Council. On occasion, a girl was chosen who had escaped early identification and had no Watcher. Therefore, and extra Watcher, Ethan Bently*, was to be sent along to remain at ready in New York City as an ad hoc Watcher.
With that out of the way, the current Slayer and her success in averting an apocalypse at the Hellmouth near Barcelona was discussed, analyzed and written into the permanent record. She had done well, and even survived, at the tender age of 14. Now came the issue lately brought home to the very Council members present, by recent events in London.
A group of rogue vampires had attacked at a party given by a highly placed member of this very Council. Several Council members and their spouses were in attendance and placed in jeopardy! George Travers, himself, gave testimony for the record. Three members of this demonic group were already known to the Council, and there was information about them in the files. Those who had given chase swore all four identified had taken part in the assault, thus preventing a quick end to the problem by a rapid staking.
The male leader, Angelus, had a singularly impressive history. That creature had a reputation for intelligence and cruelty far above most others in the Council's records. The two females were equally deadly, with the elder having been the one to sire and teach Angelus. The younger was sired by Angelus after he drove her mad. This formidable trio had never before committed any such reckless assault. The new member of the group appeared to be the wild card. It was in tracing this one back to their nest that the entire group had been identified.
Making the issue even more urgent was the fact that the vampire who led the attack, the new member, was housed in the body of someone related to one of the more powerful members of the High Council, George Travers.
Actually, this demon was using the body of Sir George’s own brother-in-law. This was embarrassing at best, dangerous at its worst, and the situation needed to be dealt with immediately. To think that one knighted by Her Majesty only in the past year would have such a blot on his family tree was a shame.
Fortunately, there were discrete precedents and measures in place to deal with these unusual occurrences where a demon found its way into prominent families.
Several of the great houses of Europe had faced this problem at one time or another. Now the Council itself had the issue brought home. This demon had been anything but subtle in its behavior. It would not be as easy to cover THIS up.
This demon had savagely murdered the nephew through marriage of the human it had replaced, torturing poor Basil with a rail spike.
Sir George gave a bone chilling account of the events. The victim had been a young man of good family and reputation, with a promising career in high circles ahead of him.
His new bride was left in hysterics, and would doubtless have been murdered as well, if not for the quick thinking of a servant in removing his mistress from the house as her husband was being drained of his blood.
She was currently in seclusion in the country, refusing to discuss the horrors she had witnessed. She had escaped with multiple bruises and a cut but, blessedly, no neck trauma, Travers assured the council in his report.
Research had been done on any similar situations to assist the honorable members of the High Council in a course of action. Time was of the essence. The Council had its position, reputation and various treaties and pacts to consider; as well as their own personal safety.
The Council was in many respects a political organization, and was structured as such. What had started as a small circle of Shamans who identified and trained the Slayer, working a bit of magic from time to time, was now an international concern. It had been based in London since shortly after the Hundred Years War.
Those on the upper rungs of the ladder, the High Council, were members by right of birth, much as the British House of Lords. They represented the cream of international families of power dating back to the time of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire. They, alone, were privy to ALL the power and secrets of the Council, the Slayer, the seers and the archives. Only they had the power to remove or alter information if it was necessary for the greater good. Only they could create the necessary situation to remove a Slayer that was not performing properly.
The other divisions of the full Council had power limited to their actual need.
The Grand Council was made up of those men who had actually been Watchers to potential Slayers and the Chosen One; current field Watchers, although usually at the sides of their girls, had seats as well. These field Watchers were entrusted with making sure all possible information was gathered and documented on the enemy.
The diary of the current active Watcher was to record his Slayer's entire history in as much detail as possible.
Hellmouth activity was observed and recorded by specialists permanently assigned to the various active and dormant Hellmouths.
Centuries of information was available to be called upon with only slight delay. Most data was accurate, except when political expediency required the "tweaking" of information or, as in one special case, removal.
The High Council of a previous generation had removed all mention of a demonic intermarriage and breeding involving a Royal family in Eastern Europe. These things happened from time to time. Many great families did not wish a close look at their genealogy, in fact.
There were few incidents where a parallel could not be found in the records, and a plan for dealing with the current issue be formulated
Literally hundreds of people with varying skills were employed to research, translate records, then write out suggestions for plans of action. The Council was a well-oiled machine.
There was, of course, the Slayer; the Chosen. She had the backing of all that power, information, and training. Naturally, the girl was not to be considered a member of the Council. She was their weapon in this war. One endlessly replaceable girl, supernaturally chosen and gifted, with no other Council standing or seat. Did one ask advice of one's sword?
In fairly recent history, pacts had been made with various ruling houses and governments that guaranteed nearly unlimited power to the Council and its agents. In return, the Council and its Slayer were always to be available to assist said governments. **
This had come in handy at times for both sides.
The High Council members were the only ones fully aware of the intricacies of the commerce between human and demon, seen and unseen, good and evil. It was up to these men to ensure that humanity always be protected, the balance kept. Dimensional treaties always had to be weighed in favor of the human element.
Those on this Council who had been raised in Christian homes recognized the reality of the Bible passages referring to demonic powers behind earthly political power and the constant war between good and evil. In some ruling families this demonic power took the form of actual demons, in human guise, ruling directly! Needless to say, THAT bit of information was not available to the Grand Council itself. A delicate balance to be kept, indeed.
Some facts had to be altered at times, to accomplish this balancing act and to prevent embarrassment.
Vampires were the most common causes for the necessity of such information manipulation. They had been human at one time and any families might be impacted.
Countless good and noble families had such tragedy befall them, and plans had to be in place to deal with any fallout from this abomination.
Yes, vampires were to be destroyed as quickly as possible. Except, of course, when such destruction caused more notice or harm than not.
Now, the High Council was trying to weigh possible outcomes of this decision they had to make. What were they to do about this assault on Council members themselves by one of these troublesome beasts ?
The vampire had been brother to Casandra Travers, and the son of a titled hero of the Crimean war. A Pratt, for God’s sake! His mother had been a Howe and was descended from a Duke.
Cassandra's mother had a bloodline every bit as important as her husband's. It was one of the reasons the match was so perfect.
This William had ties to good families. His mother had gone missing, as well, and was feared to have been murdered by these animals, George sadly reported.
There seemed to be no way to avoid embarrassing many good people if something was not done immediately and correctly.
If they had only been able to trap and stake the monster the night it began its maniacal rampage, they would all be snugly at home abed. It had eluded them, however, managing to reconnect with the other three. They had all disappeared then, vacated London presumably, and gone to ground.
William’s brother, Richard, had chosen this time to demand safe passage and protection for his "brother" William. This in spite of the rather glaring facts that his younger sibling was dead and a demon resided in the body.
Richard was being quite firm on this, and had sufficient leverage to use that caused his brother-in-law, George, to pay him heed. Richard had the title, after all.
The elder brother felt honor bound in the matter for many reasons, not the least of which was a recent debt involving his daughter, Emily. Richard was insisting Travers deal with the situation himself, ensuring an outcome agreeable to him or more trouble could follow.
George did not hesitate to comply. Vampires live eternally until dusted, after all. William was reckless and some future generation would be sure to destroy this particular menace.
Meanwhile It and its fellow vampires must be removed from England, and any visible connection to George Travers' family or the Council.
Information showing this particular vampire to be highly dangerous would be placed in its file. This should ensure all researchers would take the threat of "William the Bloody" seriously. All in good time, the information would guarantee its demise.
William was traveling and hunting with three vampires already famed for their brutality, which also increased the odds of a short lifespan. Perhaps one of its fellow vampires would put an end to it.
Angelus was a name that could frighten even the most seasoned of Watchers, and cause the Slayer to weigh the dangers against her duty in seeking its destruction.
All three of these animals had ended the life of a Slayer in the past. *** Angelus had a reputation for inflicting tortures, some with no name to place on them, simply for pleasure. One former Watcher was currently residing in Bedlam compliments of such torture.
Yes, George decided, William would be short lived, even without the Council acting. Of course, if William adapted, these three could make it a force to be reckoned with, in spite of its newness to the game.
No... George had to believe that William the Bloody would be dust soon enough.
It was finally concluded that a one time deal would be offered to this fearsome foursome. They would be granted safe passage out of England to a distant location on the continent—a permanent relocation. The details would be carefully concealed from the general membership of the Council. It wouldn’t do to have any member think the background of this vampire gave any special privileges to it. The information would be recorded, of course, but placed in the area of the library that only a chosen few had access. This satisfied the opposing desires to record the actual doings of this august body while keeping secret those doings that led to discomfort. The purpose of the council was to protect the human population of the world and not every member would see that it was only a matter of time for this particular vampire to be dust. There were so many other factors to consider.
India or Asia would even be encouraged as new hunting grounds. Life was harsh for humans in those parts of the world and vampires were not known for long unlives there. The Council’s purpose would prevail in the end.
One Council member with assets tied to the India Tea Company objected to India as a recommendation, and suggested the Orient as a far better destination for such killers of note.
William's background would be concealed forever, and all connections to any family would be permanently severed. No future communication would take place, and his surname would be kept from the records.
"Facts" would be placed in the file to describe the background of "William the Bloody" as one long string of murders prior to his becoming a vampire to give him the protection of a fearsome reputation.
His true human life, and that of his mother, would be handled with dignity and respect. Anne and William would be "buried" on family land, and their honor maintained. The story would be spread that both had succumbed to the disease Anne was well known to have contracted a few years before.
Now, how to find these demons and lay the deal before them, yet survive? How to induce them to accept and comply was another matter altogether. Those were the issues causing the High Council to plot and discuss well into the next day.
* Ethan Bently, Watcher, is a character from Tales of the Slayer, Vol 1
** this is an established "fact" in Tales of the Slayer, Vol 1
*** implied by Angel's remark in FFL, "Now you're one of us." when told of Spike killing his first Slayer. Since Spike had already been a vampire and part of that family for 20 years, what else could that statement mean but that they had each killed a Slayer at some point?
Chapter 18: Offers Not To Be Refused, or truth is often stranger than fiction
No one was aware of them in Yorkshire. After a week or so, each vampire made separate, careful, trips away from their fortress in the mine.
Hunting was confined to wildlife, at least at first. Later, the occasional traveler or gypsy was carefully stalked and eaten. All four took exceptional care not to draw any attention to their presence. Their survival depended on stealth and secrecy.
Even in her madness, Dru was savvy enough to be permitted limited hunting. She had begun to be more stable, now that Angelus and Spike had achieved a truce of sorts. It was not easy being a female in a pack containing two powerful, competitive, males.
Angelus had already decided that William needed some strong instruction on pack order, as soon as the present danger had passed. Time enough then to show the boy who was the leader—and that the leader was entitled to do anything and take anything he pleased .
When it was decided that preying on the occasional human would be safe, it was clearly understood that there could be NO witnesses left behind. Great care would need to be taken in choosing the victim and time taken to ensure seclusion for the kill.
They would never feed in the same area twice, and would not hunt together at all. Human blood would be the rare treat so as to not create an uproar at a sudden spate of murders in the largely rural area in which they found themselves hiding.
When the need grew too strong to ignore, a ride to one of the larger towns with a higher population would be undertaken. Leeds and York were the best choices with the safest hunting.
Spike's need finally got the better of him and he headed for York. He had barely reached a good area for the hunt when he spotted the perfect meal.
The man looked fit and tasty—just what the doctor ordered. Spike nearly drooled in anticipation. He held back his impulses and checked the area. He planned the kill carefully as Angelus would have done.
He stifled the strong urge to just grab and kill. Study the prey, plan each step, be sure of the details....... that was the path to success.
Spike's patience was rewarded three fold! The man lived in a small, but well concealed, home. The kill should go unseen by passersby. The man also had a wife and, from the sounds of it, a small child. Spike could use a nice three course meal after all this time.
His stomach growled in a way that reminded him of Dru and the other hungers he planned to feed as soon as he returned to the mine.
The plan was to grab the man while he was outside, and use the threat to him in order to get the wife to invite Spike in. Once in the house, he could tie up the others while feasting on each victim in turn.
It all worked perfectly the husband and wife died as they had lived, together. Now the search was on for the missing little girl.
Spike stood in complete silence. He stopped his habitual breathing and just listened. There...... yes, there it was.... the tiniest of sounds coming from the coal bin near the hearth. He quickly flung the top from the bin, grasped the toddler and lifted her up. He found himself looking into Dru's eyes. Not really Dru,'s eyes, of course, but it MIGHT have been her when she was 3 or 4 years old.
The child had the same cat-like eyes of his beloved, the same dark curls and feline features. He put on his vamp face and tried to get the visions of a young Dru out of his head. This was LUNCH, not offspring! The child whimpered in fear.
He couldn't do it. It would feel too much like killing Dru. Now what was he to do? No witnesses, remember, Spike? This little one was all alone thanks to him. She couldn't survive alone if he simply left her.
Spike had a strange idea that he suddenly couldn't shake. It was a dangerous plan that he could never reveal to anyone, not even his Dru. They would think him too human once again...... of course the humans wouldn't believe a word of it.
His niece Emily was also alone, thanks to him.
He had kept an eye on her progress, or lack of it, since arriving in Yorkshire. She was a shell of herself. Her father took her in, of course, but she was just lonely and lost. Spike looked at her and saw emptiness, emptiness HE was responsible for creating.
Spike knew that Emily had not loved Basil and any dream of eventually doing so had died with the first of the beatings. He realized that Emily's marriage, however brief, had served to discourage her from even entertaining the idea of another marriage, eventually.
No, her emptiness was much like his own. That large empty void that posed as the future. The future where any option chosen seemed to lead to one dark area or another. She was doing her own dance, just as he was.
He hated the fact that he had started the music by his own violence.
Well, time for Emily to have a new partner and to start a dance of life. Yes, put some life in those dead eyes of hers; give her a reason to plan future joy. Take her out of herself and the nightmare he had dragged her into, leaving her filled with horror.
The little girl was terrified even though Spike had made certain that she had no vision of her dead parents. She was young enough to believe a well-told story to cover what had happened and what was going to happen to her.
Halfway to Laurelwood, the child finally told Spike that her name was Alice. She fell asleep in his arms atop the horse. The little one, so like Dru, touched a part of Spike he would have sworn dead for good. Yes, Alice would bring Emily back to the land of the living. They needed each other and might make up for the harm he had done each of them. If Alice could touch HIM, she would be sure to work a miracle with his little bit.
Spike and little Alice waited out the day in an abandoned cottage not far from Laurelwood. He tried all the stories and games he had used to entertain Emily all those years ago, even coaxing a short laugh at one point. He lied to the child that her parents had to go away and had asked him to take her to a wonderful castle with a beautiful princess who would be her new mother. How could Emily say no?
As soon as the sun passed the western horizon, Spike crept onto the grounds of the estate, Alice in hand. He felt the long forgotten surge of hope swell in him at the thought that he could do some good for these two who had a place in his heart. Yes, he could still love!
Surely the child was too young to be any threat to him? She had seen nothing of what had happened in her home. It had been fast and, mercifully under the circumstances, there had been no screaming to burn in Alice's memory.
She had even seemed to like and trust him once she got past her fear and shyness. Children had always liked William...... Wrong, SPIKE, William is DEAD.... remember that!
Still, he was committed to uniting these two lost and lonely souls, that was all; he wasn't going all soft.
Emily was terrified of him. Somehow Spike had not expected that, or the pain he felt at her rejection. He didn't even have his game face on! She had actually quaked at the sight of him. She had drawn away from any physical contact at all. His little bit who had adored him now wanted to run in horror. Only the sight of the little girl kept her from bolting.
Spike tried to converse with his niece, it had NEVER been difficult in the past but was nearly impossible now. He left out significant portions of the story of Alice, mostly telling Emily that the child was an orphan with not a soul to care for her.
Emily knew more than Spike had realized about who, or rather what, he now was.
He could see in her eyes that she had a good idea of how Alice had come to be an orphan. The revulsion on her face cut him more deeply than he would have believed possible at this point in his life.
In the end, Emily was unable to turn Alice away. She was, however, QUITE able to turn away from Spike. Turn and run, clutching the child to her.
Spike didn't say a word about Alice or Emily when he rejoined his new family.
He knew exactly what their reaction would be, so what would be the point? He did what he knew he had to do to keep living in this world in which he found himself. He had learned that he could still love, and held that fact close to his no longer beating heart. His private solace.
Richard wasted no time sending word to George and his Council, informing them of the fugitives' whereabouts. At last they had a location for them to hone in on and lay out the deal.
George had been astonished with Emily's tale of the little girl. William had always been odd as a human and, it would appear, made for an odd demon as well.
It would seem Emily's welfare was still of concern to him, even now. This could be the key, what they needed to draw out William. They could use Emily as the lure, present the deal and utilize his obvious concern for his former niece to get him to comply. That, or they'd just stake him on the spot.
Chapter 19: A Fool For Love
The plan was simple, but required one thing the Council had trouble believing would be available—access to human emotion in this vampire. Not just any base, rough emotion either, but higher ones of love, responsibility and a willingness for self sacrifice, if need be.
Travers seemed confident it could be done, and his fellows involved in the plot execution assumed some magics had been performed. They didn't ask, merely made ready.
Travers went ahead to speak with his brother-in-law and Emily; the basket all of their collective eggs would be placed in.
Emily was filled with reluctance to aid in the plan for more than one reason.
First, she still held fond, loving memories of her late uncle William. This, she was assured, was not a problem as the demon she would help trap was what had murdered that very uncle.
Her other problem with the plan was a natural loathing of that demon, and a fear of being near it again. Uncle George explained she would be completely safe, as he and his assistants were fully versed in how to handle such a monster.
Her father finally got her to consent by mentioning that if this plan did not work and William and his friends did not accept the generous deal offered, William would have to be destroyed for the greater good.
Emily WAS afraid.... afraid OF uncle William, or rather of what he had become, and also afraid FOR him.
Yes, she was terrified when she had been with him after she realized he was a vampire. She had heard many a story while living with her uncle George and aunt Cass in London.
She had seen the face, the fangs, the blood and violence so very unlike uncle William. Yet she had also seen his tender concern for Alice, indeed, for HER very self. THIS William was the one she would always remember.
If she had but time, perhaps she would feel better about this plan. She knew George Travers cared nothing for his brother-in-law William, looked down on him actually. Could he be trusted? Would they use her to lure William to his doom? God, what was she to do?
Her father might be cold towards his young brother, but he would never actively seek to harm him, she knew. He said she was William's only hope.
Oh, Lord, she wished herself a brave woman who would seek out her loved uncle, tell him all and let him decide. Still -- that face, those fangs.... little Alice was an orphan because William had killed her parents. Emily didn't need those words said, she had seen it in uncle William's eyes the night he brought Alice to her. If he could do that....... no, she had not the courage to go to him. Yet this very plan of theirs spoke of their belief that her uncle DID still love her. Would her confusion never end?
One thing she was sure of—she would always love her champion, her dear uncle—and she would not be able to deal with causing his....... what did they call it.... dusting.
Such a gentle word on the surface, bespeaking something soft and quick. She suspected it was neither, as the end result was the termination of life of some sort. A life they themselves said was capable of feelings.
It was simple really, he had come to her that night in London out of concern, he had been watching over her here in Yorkshire as well. That same concern would draw him if he felt she was endangered.
He had looked so hurt the last time she had seen him, when she had pulled away and ran in fear. Her opinion of him must still matter. Oh, how she did not want to appear to be siding with those who wished him ill!
But, who really was he? Did she know him any more? Uncle George said that he had killed his own mother, grandmamma Anne. If he could do that, then he could do anything. No, she had to do it the way they planned it.
A staged abduction would take place in view of enough villagers to cause word to spread. Emily would be taken to a place prepared; a place that would be one of safety for her, but entrapment for Uncle William when he, inevitably, attempted to rescue her from the false abductors.
Once trapped and made unable to fight, the deal would be offered, and all would be well. Emily had been assured that no harm would be done to him, and she could only pray this was truly meant.
As expected, it took only a short while for Spike to hear of the "attack" on Emily. He knew by now that it was essential to keep his reactions from his "family". Angelus had started to lecture immediately on the need to keep a cool head and leave the problems of the humans to their human kin.
It wasn't as if Spike were the only hope she had, her own father and brother were right there. Spike said not a word, but began to plan a rescue.
It had been painfully easy to track her. The enhanced senses Spike had as a vampire had many uses. He waited outside the small hut where he knew Emily was being held.
It looked like three men were there with her. They wore rough clothes and had a scruffy look to their appearance, but something just wasn't right.
Spike couldn't put his finger on it but something just seemed off. The men looked the part but what speech Spike could hear sounded educated, out of sync with their style of grooming. Something more than a kidnapping was afoot, but what?
George pulled his cap lower over his eyes and looked once more to the bushes around the hut. He was sure he had seen IT there for a brief flash.
They had to get IT into the hut. A pit was hidden, as in the manner of big game hunters. When the demon fell in, the lid would be closed. They had the good sense to have the underside covered with crosses so the beast could not even touch it to force its way out.
Then the deal would be offered and, if rejected, the crossbow he had hidden beneath his jacket would be employed. One way or the other, this personal affront would come to an end. George privately hoped it would be rejected and this unseemly business would be over once and for all.
Emily sat on the far side of the hut from the only doorway. She had no idea her uncle George had a crossbow, but knew enough to stay alert. The character of her uncle William might be up for question now, but she had NO questions about uncle George. She didn't trust him. She was appalled to see the bear pit they intended to use and only hoped William would not break a limb in the fall.
Spike scouted around the perimeter making sure he knew the number of his enemy. There was only one way in or out of the hut, unless one were to go through the loosely thatched roof. That was his final decision; they would be looking towards the doorway and not the roof. Spike was more fit than in his lifetime, and his agility made the climb easy. The months of practice at stealth made him silent as well.
Damn, how to get past the need to be invited in? Yes...... he took a loose branch overhanging near the roof, moved carefully to just above the door frame, and used the branch to rap on the door.
He wasn't sure what to expect. Perhaps one of the men would come out to see who was there when the doorway was empty? Yes, humans were predictable.
Spike grabbed the unfortunate man by his collar and yanked him straight up.
The Councilman gave a startled yelp as he shot upward with no warning. One quick snap of the neck and it became two against one. Spike liked these odds better, but much preferred one on one, for Emily's sake.
Everything had happened too fast for George and his companion to be sure what had transpired. One minute the guard was looking out the door, and the next he seemed to be raptured upwards. There was no sound and neither man relished the idea of going out to see what had happened.
George pulled the crossbow from under his jacket and prepared it for use. Then several things happened so quickly it was difficult to determine the order.
Emily yelled a warning for her uncle William, Spike threw the dead body of the kidnapper through the roof and George shot off the crossbow, hitting Spike in the left shoulder.
Spike shouted to Emily to invite him in, but she said he should run, that it was a trap. At about that time, Spike saw through the makeshift disguise of Travers and began to understand that Emily was not truly in danger. He tried to move from the roof and into the safety of the small wooded area surrounding the hut.
The roof chose that time to prove unstable, George muttered a"Yes, do come in", and Spike crashed through the roof, plummeting into the pit they had hidden beneath the large, thin, rug. Success! The lid was slammed shut on Spike as he lay dazed on the floor of the pit.
George prepared the crossbow and began to take careful aim at his demon-infested brother-in-law. Emily began to scream in genuine fear.
Fortunately for Spike, his brother, Richard, had the same opinion of the sense of honor residing in George Travers as did Richard's daughter.... he did not trust him at all.
Richard had been observing from a safe distance. At his daughter's scream, he decided to intervene and make sure the deal he had helped draft was the one that would be made. He owed his father, and William that much at least.
Richard pointed out that, as the Council's man had been playing the role of kidnapper, William could not be held as having murdered him in what he thought was an effort to rescue Emily. He didn't, however, feel so warm towards William as to arrange his removal from the pit.
Richard was no idiot and he could see this vampire version of his little brother was not likely to turn the other cheek when enraged.
"When I get out of this sodding pit, I'm going to rip your bleeding head off and use it to bludgeon your sorry mate, George," Spike declared, with complete conviction.
Emily crawled to the edge of the pit and looked in on her beloved uncle.
She begged him to forgive her part in entrapping him, and asked him to please listen to the offer the Watchers' Council had for him and his companions. "Oh, please do listen as I can not bear another loss. I love you and will hate myself if I cause your death. You brought Alice to me to bring joy in my life again, don't take away any chance I have of it by being stubborn or a fool," she pleaded.
Spike heard the real concern and love in her voice, and it reached the William in him. Alright, he'd hear the bloody bastards' offer, but he wasn't about to trust George.
The deal was laid out and Travers pressed for an answer. Spike pointed out that his was not the only consent that would be needed and his "family" were not there to consult.
After much mistrust on all sides, and more haggling than at a market-day stall, it was decided that Spike would relay the offer to the others.
If they chose to accept, a message would be sent to the Council headquarters.
There would be a packet with documents and money placed on a boat that would cross the channel for France. Then they would make their way towards Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Spike agreed to let them know in one week. If the Council heard nothing, by that time, they could assume the group had decided against the offer—Travers and his Council could go to the devil, and they would happily assist them on their trip to hell.
George informed Spike that if he and his "family" declined the offer, the Council would use all of its resources to hunt them down like rabid dogs and send them to hell at last.
Poor Emily was beside herself, with most of the male members of her sorry family threatening each other—and meaning it.
She added her plea that William just take the offer and go; get as far from England as possible. She also asked him quietly not to leave without saying a farewell to her this time.
Spike left, impressively, from the pit as soon as the cover was removed. He seemed to fly out. He couldn't resist putting on his vamp face and growling at George. He dearly hoped he was right in thinking he'd made Travers wet himself. Spike learned he not only could still love, he could still laugh.
Laugh he did, all the way back to the mine. He had some vampires to convince and a future to consider.
Chapter 20: Doors Close, Windows Open
It wasn't as hard to convince Angelus and Darla as one would have supposed.
How often does the Watchers' Council pay good money, and arrange free transport for vampires to move along? That part about "permanent move" was just nonsense; even the Council knew better. England wasn't going anywhere, and none of them were getting any older. They'd be back, all in good time.
Dru was not happy to be heading to France. "I don't like France, it's all butter and snails and fish. The women taste funny and the men smell like garlic," she complained. Spike promised they'd find a nice foundling home, for her to feast on lots of little French toddlers that were too young to taste funny.
Dru perked up a bit. Spike also promised to buy her a new porcelain doll for her little family of silent children.
Dru was so pleased she practically dragged Spike to the area they used as a bed, for more of her indescribable tutoring. Spike was careful to not show her his relief that the pleasure was going to outweigh the pain this time.
As he held her close after the lovemaking, he heard her small whimpers in her sleep. She was dreaming again, about the days when she still had her soul and her mind. She had been doing that a lot while they were in hiding.
He had come to know the extent of the damage Angelus had done when he had savaged her life years ago. Dru, too, had LOVED, and deeply. All of those dear to her were gone now. They were slowly tortured, and then drained in front of her. From the youngest to the oldest they died, crying out for her to save them.
Dru was so fragile. Angelus had no love or kindness in him. He had continued to use and abuse Dru for his pleasures, driving her deeper into depravity and the madness it led to. She NEEDED Spike—a protector, a champion, a lover. He could teach her to love again. He could protect her; especially, from Angelus.
Yes, Spike's old life, and his old self, was gone. But a new purpose had been there all along; he only needed to open his eyes and heart to see it. Dru would be his sun, his beating heart, his warmth, his future.
When the rest of the world's sun finally set, Spike fulfilled his promise to Emily.
He met Emily in the garden of his prior family's home.. She had been crying, but knew he HAD to leave. She promised her dear uncle that she would follow her heart, and not allow herself to be bullied again by anyone. After all, she had to set an example for Alice.
When Alice became a woman, a new century would be here and Emily was going to be certain the girl was ready for it. She also vowed to always have her dearest friend, her childhood hero, her uncle William in her heart.
Spike left before he lost himself in William again, and made an idiot of himself in the face of her love, so unexpectedly offered.
He stopped by an Inn on the way back to the mines. He didn't eat a soul, but did purchase enough home-made whiskey to float that boat they would soon board to take them to unknown shores.
He went to another mine shaft for a private farewell party. Spike sat alone, or at least as alone as he'd ever be again, and opened another bottle. His head was going to explode when the hangover hit, but for now he needed it to keep the demons at bay. All except for the one demon, of course.
"I wanted to be a poet, an artist,", he said to THAT demon, the one inside him...... the OTHER that would always be there. He had these dialogues often since he was sired by Dru.
The demon within, his roommate of sorts, his other half, shared space with William but had most of the true control of the skin and bones and muscle they shared. He talked to it often, but not usually aloud. He wasn't as daft as Dru, not yet. One of them had to remain sane for the both of them.
He took another large drink from the bottle and continued his conversation. "I suppose I still am, only now death is my art and I make it every day". He laughed, but this time the sound was more haunted than joyful.
Time to make his OWN deal, with the devil within. "Right then, you bloody wanker, you may be in control but I'm still here and not going anywhere. I have a say in some things too," he began to state aloud HIS terms. The terms of William the bloody good man he had always tried to be, and still wanted to be at his core.
"First off, none of this Angelus stuff and nonsense. Keepin' far from humans and human things. I happen to like humans; for more than a snack, too!
"I like parts of being a human so I'm gonna still do those parts startin' with this bottle I've got right here. So there'll be none of this avoidin' everybody and hidin' out in some dark hole comin' out only to feed," he spoke with determination.
"Second," he continued, "I'm not gonna' be some walking joke. I've had enough of that. I intend to be a man of the times, not like those vamps you see and know right off when they were sired. You'd think they'd take a bit of pride in their appearance, ya' know. Yeah, keep up with the times, learn new things. Don't get stuck in the '80's," he promised himself.
"Third," his words began to slur slightly from the drink, "I'm still gonna' love. Don't care what Dru wants, she NEEDS me to love her for real not just use her like YOU wanna'."
"There's more," he concluded, "But I can't think of 'em now.
What I'm sayin' is, I may be Spike and we may share everything, but I'm still me too," he announced. "William the Bloody, and I'm not goin' away. I'm not gonna' sit in some dark corner of what used to be MY mind and let you just take it all over," he vowed. "Nope, that part of William is changed forever too - I'm not runnin' from ANY soddin' fight, especially with you, you mindless git."
"There's a new Big Bad in town named Spike and he's not beneath ANY soddin' demon or human," he nearly shouted just before passing out cold.