"We must be strong, for they are strong. We must be fierce, for they are fierce. Our will must not weaken in the face of evil, for They. Are. Evil!"
The Pastor led the meeting of the gathered town folk, whipping them into a frenzy. The good men of Spittle Feylds, which lay north east to the city of London, were circled around the pastor. He stood on his cart so all could hear him, see him and gaze in wonder at the man who stands for all men. The ground beneath the cart from where the pastor preached still held remnants of the pyre and scorched earth used to dispel an evil creature of witch craft only last week. The town folk were grateful for such a diligent pastor to lead their flock. Samuel Cullen had gained the trust of the small town through his many years of good service; first by assisting his father, Tobias Cullen, the old pastor who taught him the skills to win both the hearts and minds of the people. Not that his work was a ploy to do so, oh no, Samuel truly believed he was enacting gods wishes on earth.
"I call on you, my brothers, and sons of brothers, I call on you to take up arms, to defend our women, our children, and our children's children from the deadly creatures of the night who wish harm upon them, who wish to corrupt their minds, their very souls! I will do my duty for my lord above, who will join me?"
The town folk roared in response. The good pastor continued his 'call to arms', quite pleased with the reactions he elicited from the crowd... except one. One young man hadn't joined in the roaring chorus. The pastor appeared well aware of this one. Perhaps if the good pastor hadn't been so focused on this young man, he may have noticed that three such 'deadly creatures of the night' were observing the scene from the top of a high tree on the edge of the woodland.
Eleazar watched his father, who was clearly unhappy with Aro's choice.
"That one, the Pastors son? Why!" Basileus threw his youngest son an incredulous look; there was nothing special about the sullen looking boy stood to the side of the gathering.
Aro shrugged, "why not?" he replied, sounding thoroughly bored.
Basileus had already explained to Aro the reason for increasing their rank. Aro personally thought the whole escapade pointless; he did not need a little vampire brother to help him reconnect to his humanity - as far as Aro was concerned, he had no humanity, and nor did he want it, he was a vampire!
With Aro spending more and more time with Caius, who Basileus held directly responsible for corrupting his son's once good nature with an evil one, Basileus thought it time to bring in another vampire, a calm one, one who could perhaps replace Caius in time and one who could help Aro to remember who he was. Clearly Eleazar had failed, at least, that's how he felt. Eleazar couldn't understand why Basileus didn't just remove Caius, he hadn't asked though, it was not his place.
Basileus turned his gaze on his eldest son, "Will he be useful, El?"
Eleazar focused on the Pastors boy, he was a little further away than he would like. Eleazar's gift to sense the ability of others did often work with humans - he could work out what they would be capable of as vampires if they were turned - but the distance made it tricky. He could sense quite a few humans from where he perched on the branch below his father, but he wasn't getting much from the pastors boy.
"I do not sense a gift, my lord, though I can feel something, he has great control, patience, loyalty..."
"And in what way will that be useful!" Basileus spat, "Aro, choose another one!"
Great, clearly the wrong answer! Eleazar thought. Reproachfully and respectfully, as was his way, he continued, "We do not know if this one will be useful, my lord, we have never had one of his kind before."
Basileus smirked, this pastors boy sounds just like Eleazar, I could cope with another one of him, he thought.
"He will countenance Caius if nothing else" Aro added, and far more quietly, "Is that not the point of this needless folly!"
Basileus heard, of course he heard.
Eleazar quickly interjected, always the peacemaker and hopeful to distract his father's attention from his brother's disrespect. "Perhaps that is his purpose, my lord, tempering Caius' effect at Volterra and, well..." Eleazar trailed off, not wanting to finish his sentence.
Aro's half shouted, angry reply earned him a hard slap across the back of his head from Basileus, and being a vampiric slap, it sounded like the heavens were thundering! Basileus was tiring of his son's complaints, having heard them incessantly on the journey to London from Volterra.
His sons fell silent, waiting for him to speak. He glanced over to the town gathering discussing the fate of vampire kind. As if they have any say in the matter, he thought. The town folk hadn't paid much attention to the noises coming from the woodland, but they were stirring for their vampire hunt... it was time for them to move.
"You are right Eleazar, I will watch a while and take him tonight. You two will make your way back to the castle."
Aro didn't turn to face him, but nodded once in agreement, Eleazar was more concerned.
"My lord, there is a whole mob out there! We could help, allow us to stay!"
Calming now, Basileus felt pride in his son's worry and placed a loving hand on his shoulder, "The aim this evening is to claim an additional son, not to risk the two I already have, Eleazar. Go now. I'll not be far behind you."
Not waiting for a response, knowing they wouldn't defy him, Basileus dropped down from the high branch where he'd talked with his sons to land silently on the soft, damp ground. Within a moment, he was gone.
Eleazar turned to Aro, "You shouldn't keep antagonizing him brother."
Aro rubbed the sting from the back of his head, though if he had to admit it, his pride hurt far more. Not only did his father believe he needed to watch closely over him, but that he also needed others to do so for him! Is saint Eleazar not enough? he thought to himself. That father of mine enjoyed my supposed cruelty when it had suited him bringing down the Romanians, but now he wants to play happy families I need to be tempered! Cunt!
Those thoughts would not leave Aro's mouth, they scared him enough being inside his head! He knew full well that Basileus could read his thoughts at will - and he didn't even need to be connected by touch as with Aro's gift. To be fair to the man he had never punished on thought alone, yet. That 'yet' was quite important Aro thought. But Eleazar was right, there was little to be gained from annoying their father - as his stinging head proved!
Eleazar had sat silently whilst his brother struggled internally with Basileus' decisions. Rather than the annoyance Aro felt, Eleazar was plagued with guilt; he should have been more forceful with his younger brother rather than watching passively as he became more and more twisted in his role as the Volturi leader. Eleazar hadn't realized Aro's hand was delicately placed on his wrist. The hiss his little brother made alerted him to it though - Aro had been 'listening' to Eleazar and what he heard, hurt.
The Volturi was supposed to be Aro's job, but it had evolved to become more than that, it was his life now, why couldn't his brother and father understand that! He was serving a duty to vampiric kind, a vital service, keeping them all in control and maintaining order. He didn't really blame Eleazar though, Eleazar was so different to Aro. Eleazar loved him, but he didn't understand what Aro did, or more importantly, the reasons he did it.
Aro dropped to the woodland floor, landing swiftly without making much sound and called back to Eleazar, "Come brother, you think too much."
Eleazar shook his head, his black hair grazing shoulders as he did so, he did love Aro, he just wanted his brother back. Let us all hope this pastors son can help! With that final thought he joined Aro on the ground and the two took off running silently through the night towards their temporary castle lodgings.
Basileus pounced from roof top to tree branch, never missing a step, rounding on the town folk meeting. He couldn't help feel amused by their chattering as if they stood a chance against his kind. All these plans to hunt us, to skewer us, to burn us - poor things should be pitted for their foolish thoughts really.
He came to a halt on the roof of small homestead. The gathering was taking place directly below - the men of the town stood in a circle around the good pastor standing on the back of his horse cart so all could see and hear his preaching. Looking around at the crowd, Basileus could see they were all clutching 'weapons' of one sort or another; a scythe here, an axe there, quite a few sharpened sticks. My blessed food source, he thought, as he silently chuckled to himself.
Closer now, he could size up the boy Aro had chosen, the pastors son. He looked young compared to Aro and Eleazar, only early twenty's, if that, but his face was tired. Living in these retched times would be the cause, no doubt. But Basileus suspected more. He watched him closely. The good pastor drivelled on about evil forces, but the boy wasn't listening and appeared uninterested by the righteous outpourings of his father. Basileus smiled to himself. This had better not be a sign of what I have to come from him, he thought, mockingly. As if! No son of mine would dare.
Eleazar's senses were right though, the pastor's son certainly had a different air about him to the other town folk. It wasn't arrogance, the others had that in droves, it wasn't disobedience either, the boy was going to go ahead with his father's instructions along with the rest of the town, but he clearly didn't believe a word of what was being spouted at him. So what is it then... Eleazar said he was loyal. Is it duty binding him to this irrational expedition?
The pastor went on, though he seemed to have noticed his son and the lack of attention he showed. Basileus doubted the other men knew the reason for the pastor's voice raising an octave or two, or even that they noticed it had at all. Basileus knew though, he was pissed at his son and Basileus wanted to know why. Using his gift, he focused on the boy and followed his thoughts.
I'm so bored. Pastor Cullen, my father, the most tedious man alive! Look at him up there on his podium whipping his sheep up for a fight against the devil. How did I ever believe in this pig swill! Ridding the world of evil... you're the evil, old man! Carlisle's thoughts rolled around in his head fuelling his anger. He wanted nothing to with his father or any more of these missions. He had stupidly believed in his father's words and in the good work they were doing - ridding the land of evil.
Rebecca wasn't evil, and you, you bastard, you had her MURDERED! Carlisle's resentment bubbled beneath his calm exterior. He stared ahead with a hard, pensive look which seemed at odds with his youthful features. He was sure he looked attentive to his father's ramblings and was managing to fool his old man. It was only a few hours ago, just before they left their home to come to this very meeting in fact, that the good pastor had reminded Carlisle of the expectations he had of him:
Samuel had finished packing the few books he would need for the evening's meeting into his well-worn brown leather satchel. He set it on the sturdy table top and took a moment to sit at his desk. It had been a very long week - not a day had gone by without an argument with his son. He understood his son was upset with losing a friend, but that Rebecca girl was leading him astray and after what he had caught the pair doing, well, only witch craft could make his son blight his soul in such a way.
Carlisle is behaving like a spoiled brat! I've been far too lenient with him, I cannot put my son's mood swings ahead of god's work. This ends today. His son would disagree with those thoughts - in no way or form was the pastor lenient, Carlisle had the scars to prove it.
Samuel knew time was getting on, he called out to his son, "Carlisle, we need to be leaving soon, we will have the whole town waiting on us!"
Shaking his weary head, for he was too tired to deal with his son's behaviour again today, he made to stand, the wooden chair scrapping noisily against the floor.
"Which do you want son, the axe or the scythe?"
From the other side of the wall a quiet, but determined voice spoke, "I won't be coming, so neither!"
Carlisle winced as he said the words. He had no idea why he was quite so brave at the moment, or stupid. Without thinking he leaned his back against the wall of the house, "Fuck!" That hurt. The bruising stretched from the nape of his neck reaching down to the top of his calves and were punctuated with the stripes or raw, red skin still trying to heal. Though his wounds were a week old, they were still painful to touch. A horse whip will do that, Carlisle mused as he grimaced with the pain.
Cursing into the air as the pain subsided, Carlisle hadn't noticed his father come out side. It wasn't until Samuel had grabbed a fist full of Carlisle's collar that his son realized he was no longer alone. With as much force as he could muster the pastor landed a single sharp smack to his disrespectful son's bruised backside.
With his breath caught in his throat at the explosion of pain, Carlisle was spun around by the neck to face his father. Giving a squeeze to the fabric in his fist, Carlisle was rendered useless as he struggled to breathe.
"We have been through this son," Samuel began. "She was no good for you, she was an evil blight on this good earth and the things she made you do - only witch craft could be so powerful. Unless you are telling me Rebecca was not the one being led astray..."
Would he really accuse me of witch craft? Surely not, not his own son, will his vile imaginings know no end?!
Watching Carlisle, Samuel saw his sons face change as the realisation of his words settled in his mind. Knowing he had his boy's full attention, the pastor released his hold.
Carlisle was incensed. He was ashamed and angry and heartbroken all at the same time. His father had deemed his girl a witch and had her burned at the stake. Now Carlisle couldn't claim Rebecca was the love of his live, but he was very fond of her, and enjoyed their time together. He valued her friendship and was stricken with guilt to be the cause of her demise. He was ashamed at the childish way his father still punished him and for how, even as a man of 23 years, he couldn't take a hiding without being brought to tears. His bruised body, now burning from fresh assault should have been warning enough to quell his temper, but instead the pain just added to the injustice of it all.
As the pastor made to go back into the house - he needed to collect his books and ready the carriage for their journey - Carlisle, in another moment of fleeting boldness, called out "We had sex father, there is nothing evil about it! You're the only evil in London!"
Samuel stopped mid step. Carlisle froze. It seemed like hours before the pastor reacted and Carlisle's bravery had up and left him - it was half way down the Thames by now, he was sure. Carlisle stood and watched as his father rounded on him. He wanted to run - why wouldn't his legs move? He wanted to apologise - why wouldn't his mouth work! Damn it, he's going to kill you, Carlisle told himself. Do something you fool!
A resounding crack could be heard by the closest neighbours, though they would never guess the cause. No, Thomas Comptom and his family, like the rest of the town, well believed the good pastor was a man to be respected, kind hearted and good to all men. They would never guess that crack was sound of the good pastor slapping his son's face so hard with the back of his rough hand that the young man fell dazed to the ground!
Kneeling down to the pitiful boy at his feet, Samuel pulled Carlisle close to him by the front of his shirt.
"Do you want to say that again boy?"
Carlisle could feel the warmth from his father's stale breathe on his face, the mild heat on the glowing hand print to his left cheek intensified the pain. Thankfully, Carlisle's bravado decided to stay well out of this one, he shook his head and cast his eyes to the floor, muttering apologies as he did so.
Taking a few moments to glare at his son, Samuel wondered whether he had time to whip the boy before the meeting or not. No, I cannot make the town folk wait for my errant son. I'll take care of his whipping when we return home. As the pastor released his son's shirt and made to rise, he took one more look at the boy at his feet.
"Don't go getting any ideas tonight, you will respect me boy, and you will do well to set a good example at the meeting, too. Now get the cart ready whilst I fetch the tools."
And there he left him.
Carlisle got to his feet and dusted himself down, gently. Thinking of the meeting ahead, he felt a sudden sickness realising he would be attending with a burning backside and hand printed cheek. Being physically chastised was humiliating enough, though he knew many of his friends were subject to the same fate. But still, he was ashamed and that shame was quite literally printed on his face! I'll play the devoted little pastors son you wish me to be, but I am leaving this place as soon as I have enough money to get out of here.
"Carlisle, Carlisle!" the hushed, hurried voice of his friend John brought Carlisle out of his memories.
"What?" Carlisle whispered back.
"You haven't been paying attention, he's noticed Carlisle! You were staring off in a world of your own every time he looked at you! You'd better come up with something good!"
Basileus heard the quiet exchange, and the 'fuck' that followed. Carlisle clearly looked uncomfortable he thought. And now he was really studying his movements and facial expressions, he knew why. Basileus' guess as to why the boy was sporting a perfect hand print on his cheek, and could not stand still, refraining from sitting altogether, weren't far from reality... he had been around a long time, he knew a well beaten young man when he saw one.
The meeting was drawing to a close and having educated the town folk on the deadly creatures of the night the pastor called his son to him at the cart whilst the men began to assemble into their mission groups.
"Where is your head boy?"
"Right here father, I am ready."
Carlisle was not ready to risk public humiliation, at least not any more of it, by bucking against his father again that day.
The pastor looked his son up and down, trying to decide whether his son was taking him for a fool once more...
One of the townsmen, William, broke the pastors thoughts, "Samuel, we need to get this search party moving if we are going to catch anything tonight! I don't fancy being stuck in the sewers all night!"
"Right you are Will," he called back, "Carlisle will lead the group, he has some redeeming to do!"
The pastor slapped Carlisle's bruised shoulder eliciting a guttural grunt in pained response. Samuel and William, along with a good few others laughed heartily at Carlisle's expense. Taking the axe offered to him by his father, and deciding against levelling it into the cruel old bastards head, Carlisle stalked off towards the entrance of the sewers with his group trailing behind.
Basileus could take out the whole group, easily. But a massacre was not needed that night. It was exactly that sort of attention brought on by reckless vampires that had required his intervention in the first place. No, instead he would go ahead of the little hunting party and with the speed this Carlisle was stalking, he would meet him before he entered the sewers and take him from there into the night. The others would assume Carlisle had already entered the tunnel network and no doubt go on in to try and catch up.
Bobbing his head to himself as he solidified his plans, Basileus pounced again through the crisp night air, from tree to tree and roof to roof. He was so graceful in his movements that you would be forgiven for believing he was actually at flight. With ease he moved ahead of Carlisle and as planned, settled at the entrance to the sewer tunnels before Carlisle had arrived.
Carlisle held his torch up above his head and looked into the tunnel head now flooded with the light from his flame and met the sewer opening in all its anti-glory. The stench assaulted his senses. Gagging, he covered his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his free hand.
"You don't have to go in there, friend."
The velvet tones of a strong voice floated into Carlisle's consciousness. Spinning quickly on his heel, Carlisle searched for the owner of the voice. He was clearly way ahead of his hunting party, he could barely make out their torches in the distance on the path he'd walked.
"Come to me, my son."
There it was again. Am I going mad? Fearing for his safety, and slightly his sanity, Carlisle spun around again, his torch held out defensively and with his free hand he unbuckled the axe from his belt and held it above his head, ready to strike.
"Why are you afraid son, I am reaching out to you, I can offer you so much more than the life you have, a chance to be free from mortal trappings, free from your fathers punitive glare. Come to me, my son, come to the woods, come, follow me." The voice was entrancing, it sounded hopeful and somehow, safe...
In an almost dream like state Carlisle dropped his torch to the ground and started walking towards to the tree line. A black figure waited for him there, welcoming him with wide open arms. He was a very tall man, looking to be in his forty's, maybe older, though his handsome face showed little age, just maturity. When Carlisle reached him, he spoke again.
"I am here to take you from this life Carlisle, you are destined for greater things that this, come with me."
The voice wasn't in Carlisle head - he saw the man's lips move and he heard him talk. Carlisle appeared hypnotised by the peculiar stranger and walked straight into Basileus' open arms and found himself enveloped in his floor length, heavy, black cloak.
As Carlisle looked up towards the enchanting stranger, Basileus looked down and smiled. It was then that Carlisle felt a sense of foreboding. Looking at this smiling man, he saw the brilliant white teeth shinning out of his mouth, and sweet cool breath chance upon his face. Those teeth, they looked, well, not quite like any teeth Carlisle had seen before - along with being brilliant white, they looked, sharp, some looked... pointed.
As the 'sewer group' approached the tunnel opening they noticed Carlisle's torch light lying a few meters away.
"Well he wouldn't have gone in there without a light, he may be green but he isn't stupid!"
A shriek of pain pierced the night air and disrupted the men's mutterings. The sound seemed to surround them. Man and boy alike took up their weapons, ready to defend themselves. Eyes darted from left to right, up and down, and then questioningly to each other... nothing. As quickly as the sound had interrupted them, it had disappeared.
Over at the tree line, Basileus, seeing the group approach the sewer tunnels knew his time was short - he didn't have time to play with this one. Whilst Carlisle was still trying to work out how he had ended up in this strong man's cloak, Basileus turned the boys head slightly and fixed his mouth on the soft, warm, pulsating throat.
"I'm not going to lie to you," he whispered. "This is really going to hurt."
The initial bite as Basileus allowed his teeth to penetrate Carlisle's skin stung like a bitch. Carlisle winced, but he braced himself, he could take it, he thought. And then came the venom. It was as though boiling poison had been forced through the new holes in his neck.
The shriek of pain would have embarrassed Carlisle if he had been aware of the sound he'd made. He wasn't aware though, he wasn't aware of anything right then - not that his cries were being muffled by the strangers hand across his mouth, nor that the man was holding him tightly to stop him from lashing out in pain. He didn't notice that he was being carried away from his home, from London, from everything he knew and through the woods at full vampiric speed. All he was aware of was pain. Burning pain that engulfed every single one of his senses.