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Part 1: Convalescence

The delicate balance of life on Night Island.


 

I was standing on the terrace at the railing, and I had a great deal on which to reflect. Across the water, the lights of Miami sparkled against the evening sky like a swarm of fireflies. I examined the modern skyline with an eye for detail, noting the shape of every building, the varying shades of illumination, the movements of land and water traffic. Above the city the red lights of airplanes cut ominously through the blackness as if to remind me: Yes, Marius, now even mortals can fly.

Mortals make up the world, now as always, but at the moment this cognizance was particularly heavy on my mind. The panorama before me was not a part of my world; it was a part of their world. The very island from which I gathered this view was teeming with mortals, coming in by the boatload to partake in its many pleasures and forget the dreariness of their daytime lives; lives we as vampires would never be able to face again, dreary or no.

I could have opened my mind to the ever-droning voice of the world if I had chosen to. Or I could have picked out individual voices. I did not listen on this evening. No, instead I was only looking on from afar, meanwhile considering, in another area of my mind, the only part of the world that was not mortal - this fantastic villa with its labyrinth of rooms, secret entrances, gorgeous paintings, and oh, yes: a cadre of almost a dozen vampires.

It was an unlikely situation to say the least. Vampires wouldn't want to come together, I had told Lestat two centuries before. Covens are actually rare, I had said, and vampires are normally solitary creatures, protective of their territory. True enough. Or so it had been for most of the numerous immortals I'd observed in the past.

But now, everything had changed. Akasha was dead, and with her, Enkil. There was no Mother, no Father, no shrine, no incense to burn, no flowers to deliver, no prayers to make. I was free to do... what? As I my eyes followed the path of a distant speed boat, I did not yet know what I wanted to do with my newfound freedom. The world had changed so much for me.

Now I faced the existence of this coven that had come together simply because it seemed the thing to do. Be together. So many of our kind were destroyed -- more room for us than ever to drain the mortal masses of their life-giving blood, although of course not all of us posed such threat to their lives. I took the blood only rarely and I wasn't certain whether Khayman took the blood at all. My beloved Pandora sat before the television or at the piano; occasionally she went out, but I do not know what she did or if she killed.

Louis and Daniel were the deadliest of all, Louis because he still needed the blood every night, Daniel because he wanted the blood every night, full as he was with fledgling passions. I imagined that Santino and Gabrielle were savage and without remorse, although I never tracked their minds as they went out into the city to go about their business.

Of my Amadeo's ways, I was only just learning. It was painful for me to realize how much he had changed over the centuries, how the sorrowful blank slate of an angel I had loved in Venice had grown into a man of cold self-discipline with a world of horrific memories and visions enmeshed in his soul. I observed him carefully as he hosted our coven amidst his personal kingdom, playing chess, bringing in new paintings, speaking in a low voice with Daniel, listening to "Moonlight Sonata" over and over.

Once he had taken me on one of his speed boats and we had driven far out into the ocean. The wind had blown into my face and through my hair and I had felt as if it were somehow cleansing me, although of course no speck of dirt ever sticks to immortal skin like mine. No, perhaps I was feeling the lightness that came from my freedom after so many centuries. Or perhaps it was the idea of being with Amadeo at last.

Then I looked at him, back so straight as he stood at the steering wheel, his hair a tangle of auburn, his eyes looking straight ahead, full of strength but almost expressionless. Such a tight rein he kept on his feelings. I wondered as always what he felt for me. Did he feel any of the old passion? Or was he only spending time with me out obligation, because I was his maker? Or was this ride in the night something else, that had nothing whatever to do with me?

I was about to ask him when he abruptly slowed the boat and cut the engines. I caught the thoughts of the drug traffickers almost at once. My child wanted to attack, as was his habit. We shared the kill, setting aside all pretense of humanity to revel in the chase, the brutality, the blood. In those moments together we were kin to each other again, without need for words or explanations; the hunt forged that dark bond which only predators in a pack can feel for one another. Afterwards as we rode home, the wind hit my face again, but I kept my questions for another time and place.

It was all too raw, too new; I still felt trammeled by all that had come to pass. We all felt it, I thought; a sense of suspension. We were all waiting for the dust to settle, waiting to see the lay of the land after this immense silent upheaval. Eventually there would be confrontations, reconciliations. Old wrongs would be soothed, old arguments revived. But in the meantime there was stasis, a hovering sense of uncertainty, an uneasy truce.

I turned from where I was standing at the railing and walked over to the far end, looking along the side of the mansion. My eye went directly to Lestat's window, open even as the door to the room was closed. He was no longer typing as furiously as before; now he was working on the edits from his publisher. Although really, the reason for his self-imposed isolation had nothing to do with his book. This was as obvious to me as it must have been to every one of us. Lestat was hiding.

Lestat had never been shy, at least not to my knowledge. If I am to believe his autobiography, as a young man he was daring and brash, both on and off the stage. Once he was given the Dark Gift, his audacity only increased with time, culminating in an act of self-proclamation so grand as to have seized the very heart of the Queen herself.

But Lestat had changed and the change was obvious because it was not only his manner, the fact that he had hardly left the island and spent so much time in his room. No, the alteration was plain to see - skin as white as the passage of millenia had bleached my own.

On the occasions when he would be out and among the coven, I found myself startled by the pulse of his immense power. Able to fly, this I knew. Able to incinerate, this I also knew. Able to hear thousands upon thousands of mortal voices in this city and around the world, this was obvious. Able to cope with these powers? I doubted it greatly.

Yes, as ridiculous as it seemed, vivacious, chatty, exuberant Lestat was hiding in room. I wondered when he would finally come out and face even the small world of the coven, let alone the mortal world. Perhaps I would stop by and needle him the way I had a few weeks ago, when I had spoken to him, let him know that we were concerned about him. We had embraced, and then there had come his little taunt about visiting the Talamasca.

And then he had gone to New Orleans and from there flown with Louis to the Talamasca Motherhouse!

That was the last time he had left the island, and that was actually fine as far as I was concerned. I had spoken to him about his foolishness, his carelessness. Taunting the Superior General! Transporting his beloved and delicate fledgling across the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean! He'd laughed at me, of course, just as he laughed about all the other rules we had pledged to obey. There had been no punishment; with his power there was nothing I or anyone else could do.

I let my eyes turn away from the sight of the window and out towards the skyline. Finally I left the terrace and headed inside. Louis had returned from the city, I gathered from the thoughts of those inside the house. I wanted very much to speak with him, this night.

We had all, I believe, made overtures to Lestat in his isolation, but none so frequently as Louis. Every night he ventured to the room Lestat had claimed; we'd all become familiar with the sound of his light knock on that particular door. Sometimes Lestat gave no answer, absorbed in his reflections. If he did answer, his moods could vary widely: some nights his voice was welcoming, some nights scornful and irritated.

It didn't seem to matter what state he was in; if Lestat opened the door, Louis would go inside. I didn't know what passed between them once the door was closed. Louis' first action once past the threshold was to close the window, and the room, like all the private rooms, was soundproofed, obscured from even the keenness of vampiric hearing. One of the little details to remind us that one of our own had conceived and built this sanctuary.

It was a welcome respite, the possibility of privacy. We were all living so close, and we could not help but be curious about one another, and inasmuch as it was possible, eavesdropping was common practice. After all, in the days before the purge, many of us had lived on the edges of our senses, our survival contingent on detecting other voices, other presences nearby. It was difficult to stop scheming, to stop grappling for the upper hand. We had to learn to live amicably, if such a thing were possible.

Privately, I dreaded it was not.