Last Tango in BucharestbyNigel Debonnaire©
"This floor's clear, Diane. We can go up to the top level," Stan muttered as they met at the stairway. It was an elegant mansion: a dacha for a party official in the Ceausescu regime. Built around an elegant, three story entryway featuring a crystal chandelier, the ample dwelling had space for a large retinue, but now it was rather empty with drop cloths covering the furniture. Wan sunlight filtered in through the windows; they would have to find the vampire soon or else he would rise before they could destroy him. Destroying a vampire at rest was far easier.
Flashlights illuminated their way up to the third floor: the last level for them to investigate. The darkness was deeper here. Stan turned, pointed left and right, and whispered in Diane's ear, "Same as before: you take the high road and I'll take the low road." Before they could separate, a figure detached itself from the shadows and spun Stan over the rail; his cry of surprise sailed down to be broken on the floor forty feet below. Diane raised her cross; it was batted over the rail and a black gloved fist separated her from consciousness.
She awoke naked in an oven like room. Lying on a simple bed, her ankles were shackled on a short chain and her wrists were manacled to a long chain that ran through a pulley in the ceiling and then off toward a drum toward the center of the huge dungeon. Fearful implements hung on the wall indifferently, promising cruel unspecific horrors should they be employed. A hooded figure sat on a chair to her right. Seeing Diane awake, it rose.
Heavily accented English with the lilt of a Romance language sang in Diane's ears. "Good evening, Diane van Helsing. Daughter of Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham the destroyer of Vlad Tepes, better known as Dracula. I am afraid that your companion, Mr. Stanley Harker, will not be joining us; he met with an unfortunate accident. He was--delicious. Now it is time for us to pursue this evening's agenda. If you will stand for me, please." The figure walked to the drum and cranked it, pulling Diane's arms up over her head. She rose awkwardly in bonds that permitted a some motion but not complete freedom. Her hands were pulled high over her head without straining, and her breathing increased as the figure came close to her vulnerable torso.
He approached her with a lash. "Now you will pay for your little crusade," the voice hissed with a sharp edge. "Many of the wise and noble have met their doom at the hands of your family, and your intent tonight was to end my existence. Vengeance on the name van Helsing will now be played out on your flesh." The lash sang out: Diane's body jumped in response to the pain, but she resolved not to cry out. Remorselessly and impassively he flogged her, the whip working back and forth across her body, turning her entire back and legs into a nest of angry red trails. Diane was lost in the pain, just when she thought her body was totally consumed by flame, the merciless lash found a new place to burn her. Somehow, she managed not to scream although tears coursed rivers down her cheeks.
At length the lash fell to the floor. A black gloved hand traced figure eights on her breasts, pausing to tweak her nipples. The cowl provided a contour of the face: aquiline, with a proud nose and sensitive lips. The hand moved up to trace the tall neck, the cleft of the chin, the fine cheekbones. She breathed heavily and winced as the hand found sensitive spots. The voice began calmly: "No screaming? Very well, I am disappointed, but you are made of stern stock. Very beautiful stock as well, I must say." The gloved hand traveled to caress her features as he described them. "Such as beautiful, tall neck, strong arms, delicate hands, graceful sides, teardrop breasts that fit my hands so nicely." He gave one a squeeze and brought a moan from Diane. "A flat, well defined stomach, thin waist, apple hips sweeping down to an elegant blossom between your legs." Some attention there was repaid by moans, "You like my attentions, don't you? Centuries of practice: you might say I wrote the book. Strong, curvaceous legs that travel to elegant feet and dainty toes." The figure brought one foot inside the cowl; Diane shuddered as she felt a cold, wet tongue glide lovingly over her big toe. The gloved hands worked their way back upward again. "This is a rare pleasure, Diane van Helsing. Tonight is a night you will not forget."
The figure threw back the cowl: the head could have been a Roman God, with a mass of dark hair, olive skin that was not quite defeated by vampiric pallor and deep, brown eyes surrounded by the bloodshot whites of the vampire. Diane eyes bulged in horror as she thought: "Okay, this is where I get it in the neck." Glamorie, the vampire's hypnosis took her and batted aside her resistance. A cold kiss tenderly enveloped her lips, and trailed down her neck. The hint of the razor sharp incisors faintly dinted her flesh: on her neck arteries, on her ivory chest, down the swelling of her breasts, on her pink nipples, across her flat stomach. The face smiled and approached her navel: a questing ice-cold tongue probed the indentation, moving outward in slow circles until it ascended the summits again. The gloves came off: delicate hands with thin fingers began to caress the petals of her blossom interrupted by an occasional light scratch. The cold touch soothed her hot red lash marks, enchanting away the remnant sting of their making. Diane's breathing was growing more rapid: from a disjointed consciousness, she couldn't believe how this was exciting her, but primal sensations were overwhelming her. The bud was trapped by two sharp nails: the edges pinched but did not perforate. Her body started wriggling beneath his touch, the chains making a staccato tarantella as she spasmed with delight. Places were exchanged: the sharp thin fingers quested upward to trail a path between two pale white peaks while the icy tongue probed the blossom below. The effect didn't take long; Diane surged wildly as her climax took her, the chains clanging their harsh ecstacy for several minutes before diminishing to a rare chink. She hung there by the chains, her body unable to support her weight.
The figure went back to the drum to lower her to the bed. He flung off his robe, revealing a form once handsomely muscled and well endowed, olive skin fighting pallor. He entered her abruptly; she responded to his chill with hot enthusiasm. On a level of disjointed consciousness she thought: "Oh my God, he's fucking me with an icicle," but the chill provoked her more than it deadened her. He scratched red trails into her sides as he rode her. She reached the summit again; he flipped her over and penetrated her dark rosebud, teasing her blossom and her breasts once again with his sharp, thin fingers. After several minutes, she peaked and subsided a third time and he held her, savoring the seeping trails of red as she faded into a deep sleep. Convinced of her deep slumber, he got up, dressed, released her and carried her upstairs.
An old fashioned wind up alarm clock rattled Diane awake. The dim moonlight displayed five in the morning. She looked around; she was lying on a four poster bed dressed in a white silk negligee that reached the floor when she stood up. Her body was sore; muscles and nerves complained from their abuse, and faint wispy trails of red lined the gown. A candle stood on the night stand with a box of matches; she lit the candle and looked around. It was a bedroom out of a gothic novel: luxurious, filled with noble, ancient furniture and objects d'art. The room was a little cold; she was naked except for the gown. The door beckoned: she turned the handle and went into the hallway.
Across the hall, was a door with a faint light beneath it. Softly, she crept across and turned the handle silently. It was a huge library, crammed with two stories of books around three walls. A large picture window gave a stunning vista of the eastern horizon, full of stars and hints of Bucharest's lights. A figure sat in an overstuffed chair facing the window. The light came from a dying fire in a small fireplace. A voice said, "Come over, pull up a chair, and let us talk."
Diane's her bare feet crept tentatively across the polished wood floor. The vampire was sitting at the chair staring out the window. He was dressed as a guest at a Victorian dinner party, with a silk tie and pearl cufflinks. "Please, sit down and do not be afraid. Help yourself to a glass of very fine port on the sideboard." Reaching the window, she paused to regard him: this was the man who was torturing her earlier. "If I wanted to kill you, you would already be dead. Get yourself a drink: you need it, my child. I will wait for you."
Diane crossed to the sideboard where a sparkling crystal decanter three quarters full of dark fluid and a glass rested. She took a sniff of the liquor, filled the glass and sipped it. Relishing the flavor, she took a larger sip and moved a small chair to face the vampire. She said, "Why am I here? This is a surprising turn of events."
The vampire looked at her curiously. "How do you mean, surprising? Oh, that we would be having this entertaining chat after what has transpired between us? Yes, I imagine you thought your awakening would be quite different this morning. It is my desire that we have this little colloquium this morning before the end."
She took another sip. "The end? The end of what?"
"The end of the quest of the Van Helsings, my dear."
Her legs immediate drew up under her and she pulled back into the overstuffed chair, trying to make herself as small as possible. He smiled amiably and waved his hand dismissively. "As I said, my dear, if I wanted you dead then you would be dead now. Think about it. You felt the pressure of these teeth on many vulnerable parts of your body. Do you remember them penetrating?"
She thought over the night's events. Her hand caressed her throat, questing, and trailed down over her breasts. As she relived those events, her breathing accelerated and she became warm, but the threat of the teeth had only been a promise to spur her.
"Are you satisfied of my intentions?"
Her awareness jolted back into the present. She took another sip of port and nodded. "I think I'm ready to hear an explanation."
"A little personal history. When Vlad Tepes arose from the dead I was already ancient. My people took this land two millennia ago. I was sent here unwillingly, exiled for immorality by a powerful hypocrite. Octavian Augustus Caesar was one of the most lecherous goats Rome ever knew, yet he instituted a regime of rigorous virtue and chastity, sending me here when I wrote of the beauty of human love and how to savor it. I taught a generation to love, and in a way, contributed to the survival of the species. Ha, ha, ha.
"I became a vampire at the end of a long life, pursuing an exotic thrill at the end of a life pursuing exotic thrills. Exiled from life here after being exiled from home was agony: I was almost caught and destroyed in my blood vengeance against the Colonia here. But my rage passed, and I grew to appreciate my new existence. I saw empires rise and fall, occasionally taking a niche within them; at times I was a hermit and at times I led a community. The human race tore down and rebuilt this land over and over again, the technology changed but human nature did not. My family of vampires grew and I ruled them for centuries.
"Tepes was my enemy; I was glad when your great-grandfather destroyed him when he made his clumsy play at relocating to England. I have traveled more discreetly over the years: back to my beloved Roma again once, far to the Himalayas, over the sea to your new country.
I have painstakingly kept track of human progress over the years; it has been a hunger of mine to know what is going on."
"Hunger? That's an odd way to put it."
"But so very appropriate for a vampire. You see hunger is all we become as vampires. Once we were human, with other interests, other passions, other emotions. With dying and with taking the life of innocents our compassion and humanity is stripped from us: an explanation for our reduction of everything to feeding our appetites."
She nodded as she pondered what he said. "This makes some sense, but it doesn't answer everything I know about vampires. Most vampires I've met are afraid of the Cross and you weren't"
"I was never Christian; I grew up with the old Roman Gods, and they were rather indifferent to the human race unless persuaded otherwise. The vampire reacts in horror to what was considered sacred in life, as one who is beyond hope, at least, beyond hope to their reasoning. There is nothing sacred you could frighten me with."
A pause as she digested this information. She looked around the room, taking in the stacks. "We're talking in a library, surrounded by books. Did the books come with the place?"
"No, I brought them with me. They are my history of the nosferatu. Another hunger of mine: to write, to record, to leave a mark for posterity. One consistency from my breathing days: I was a published author long before the printing press was invented. It is not that much an intellectual pursuit now. As I said before, vampires of creatures of pure hunger. The difference with me is that I have many hungers; most vampires have but one All skill and reasoning and wit is devoted to feeding hunger."
Diane relaxed a bit. "There are things that are happening now that aren't well explained by hunger. I can buy writing as a hunger, and I can buy using your skill to feed hungers, but what was that session downstairs about?"
He chuckled a bit. "The driving hunger of my existence now is aesthetics; it drove me in my breathing days. I hungered for vengeance on your family: I took it. I hungered to know if I could please a woman once again; I wanted to know if I could still do that, even with a little assistance, you might say. Glamorie is usually the means we get our victims to submit to feeding us; it has never been used for pure seduction before. There wasn't time to seduce you in the ordinary way, so I took a short cut. Your response to my stimulations were your own; I did not force your pleasure with anything other than my--technique."
Diane shuddered at that; her body quivered at the memories and she found herself wanting them to return. "Oh. Well. I don't know what to say. Thank you?"
The vampire took a rare breath and sighed. "You are most welcome, my dear. I regret that it will not happen again." Outside the window the sky started to purple as dawn approached. "I have one request for you, my love. On this chair there are manacles built into the arms and legs. You will notice that three of them are secured. Would you secure the last for me?"
"Secure you to the chair? Why?"
"It will become apparent. Please, you must before we continue."
Diane went over and inspected the bounds. They had a strange, luminescent gleam, sprouting from the legs and armrests as branches from a tree. As she touched the right armrest his right hand lifted her hand to his lips for a cold kiss. He dropped her hand and put his own into the manacle for her to close. She snapped the link shut; he took another breath to sigh and looked out the window for a few more moments as the stars began to fade. "You are my best lover. Thank you. Now we continue.
"Your family's mission is over, or almost over. This will shock you: the vampires of this land have been destroyed already. There may be one or two in the world that I have lost track of, but I am certain that you will find them out. Destroy them with my blessing. Be more careful next time, my love, you would have died here last night had you found another of my race here.
"As a young man I studied philosophy. Aristotle was a favorite of mine despite the fact I rarely practiced what he preached. The beauty of his thought is evergreen is my mind. He said that it was beneath a man to live driven by his hungers, and using one's resources to feed one's hungers was not the route to true happiness. True happiness is what I hunger for now, and following his advice I have done so by working on other things.
"One by one I commanded the vampires I made to come here; here I destroyed them to their shock. I lured other vampires here or sought them out, they are also gone. This room as seen the demise of many."
"Why condemn your own race? Are there no virtuous vampires?"
"Not one, my dear. I am the closest, and it is aesthetics that brings me this close. Once I wrote of my horror and shame at striking my beloved mistress over nothing; now, the deliberate cruelty I visit finds no remorse in my being. I felt nothing as I whipped you last night or as I consumed your friend; the vengeance was only a matter of form.
"My race deserves to die; your does not. Your race thinks they can train the Darkness out of their hearts; it will never be so. Eden is barred to the human race as my native Roma is: there is no return through Science or Humanism. The cruel wars and crimes against humanity of the past hundred years have surprised you, yet you are still vulnerable to the evils they unleashed. These atrocities played out over the millennia and will play out again; the hunger for power, riches, and vengeance remains and will not go away. In the end, it will make you creatures of pure hunger as it made us. For centuries we deluded ourselves that we were a superior race, an elder race, a superior culture destined to rule our ignorant children who owed us their blood in payment. The wisdom we gained in life have gone unspoken and unpracticed as well as unheard, we stopped listening to anything but our hunger. Unless you understand these hungers, make it part of your awareness, plan for their assaults and withstand them, then Darkness will envelop you as well.
"There have always been vampires who do not suck blood; living vampires that pretend virtue as they selfishly suck from their siblings of dignity, promise and life. This is the way of death; it always has been. Our Fall is a mirror of yours, the arrogance of pride more sharply defined and the submission to hunger much clearer. I offer this history on these shelves to you as a legacy and a warning. Learn from us and live."
The sky in the east reddened with the promise of dawn. "There is one more hunger I must sate. Now my last lover, my most beautiful and dearest, sit with me as I seek my heart's last great desire. Two millennia of darkness are enough for me. I want to see the sun once again."
Diane sat aghast at the calm countenance. He looked in her eyes with an almost human longing. The hungry eyes softened; she reached over and stroked his cheek. He smiled and settled into her hand as the gloom slowly broke. The waxing light turned the horizon from purple through shades of blue, red and gold. He pulled away from her hand and gazed eagerly out the window. "Let go of me now. There will be pain, intense pain, but it will pass. The ending is all that matters, and I will pay the price it demands." The horizon lightened and a bright golden spear poked over the horizon. He gasped, wide-eyed, at the red ball of fire climbing upward and his body began shuddering and steaming. After a few moments, his face contorted in agony as his flesh began to melt, but as his features dissolved, Diane caught a slight peaceful smile that quickly turned to dust and fell away.