The Curse of the RomanibyGryffindor©
A muggy heat descended on the small town of Soulcrest, creating a thick, hazy fog in the air. No one dared leave the air-conditioned safety of his home lest his skin become covered in slick, sticky sweat. Even the animals of the neighborhood had found a cool space to spend the evening. The light of the full moon peaked out occasionally from the dark, thick clouds that covered the night sky.
A single cry from an owl broke the silence in the air surrounding Soulcrest Cemetery. The pale moonlight cast eerie shadows around the tombstones, providing a surreal, ominous feeling to the graveyard. A pair of figures moved stealthily across the hallowed ground making sure to stay close to the shadows. The only sign of their movement was the faint glow of the moonlight as it reflected off the pair's nocturnal eyes.
One of the figures quickly raised his hand, signaling his companion to stop. The duo carefully scanned the immediate area for any signs of movement. The clouds suddenly shifted and the moonlight shone down upon them. The creatures' true nature was revealed a moment later when they opened their mouths and light glinted from their razor sharp fangs. They were possessors of the dark gift, children of the eternal night. Vampires, roaming the cemetery grounds.
Just as the two vampires had decided the area was clear, a new figure--dressed in a black monk's robe--stepped out of the dark shadows created by a mausoleum. The deep hood of the robe was pulled forward over the stranger's face masking his identity. The hungry vampires took immediate notice of the new arrival, grateful that a human snack had been so easily delivered.
The soulless creatures split apart and slowly circled their prey, trying to decide the best course of attack to take their dinner down. In the same instant, the duo sprang into action and leapt to attack. They were both a few feet from their feast when the stranger's hands shot out at them, and they suddenly stopped in midair. The vampires howled in frustration at their inability to move.
"You will no longer hunt these grounds." The figure's quiet voice slipped from beneath the hood. "Burn."
The vampires' howls increased in intensity as their bodies burst into flame. The hunter stood motionless as the vampires turned to ash. The robe-covered arms remained outstretched until the remaining ash of the soulless creatures floated away on the breeze. As the figure turned around, he came face to face with another vampire. Unlike his companions, this vampire stood a few feet away and watched the cloaked figure, making no move to attack.
As their eyes met, the hunter's breath caught in his throat. There was something different about this vampire. An unusual feeling that could not be explained shot through the cloaked figure. The two of them stood silently, carefully watching each other, but neither made any attempt to move. After what felt like an eternity, the vampire slid back into the darkness and disappeared. The hunter's head shook back and forth slightly. He couldn't understand why he let the vampire live. He felt as if he was under some type of spell. As the moon was once again shrouded in darkness, the mysterious figured stepped back into the shadows and disappeared.
Ian Sanders sat up in bed, gasping for breath. His unfocused eyes darted around the confines of his bedroom. A shaking hand reached out and brushed back a piece of blonde hair that was stuck to his sweaty face. His body didn't stop trembling until he realized that he was safe and sound in his own bedroom. Ian sighed as he glanced at the clock on his bedside table. It was too early in the morning to be awake, and the dim light creeping through his windows, signifying the rising sun, solidified the fact.
Ian had been having the nightmares for over a week, ever since his run-in with the mysterious vampire in the cemetery. He couldn't figure out why he hadn't sensed the creature behind him. His reflexes were razor sharp, and it worried him that his abilities had failed him. With another deep sigh, he pushed himself out of bed. There was no way sleep was going to be coming again. Ian was in for a very long day.
Groggily, he made his way into the apartment's kitchen. He filled up the coffeepot before making his way into the bathroom. His six-foot-three frame fit snugly in the small shower stall as he washed himself clean. Ian dried his body with a towel and then brushed his shoulder length hair back and secured it at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather. He threw on some clothes and headed into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.
Ian hoped that the caffeine would help with the headache that was ravaging his head. He had been on pins and needles ever since seeing the mysterious vampire in the graveyard. Ian had to been on guard constantly because he obviously couldn't sense this new vamp. He knew the best course of action would be to talk to his grandmother. If anyone could shed light on the situation, she could.
Ian placed the half-empty cup of coffee into the sink and grabbed his keys off the counter top. He locked his front door and started walking the few blocks to his grandmother's house. Ian hoped that his father wasn't there visiting, as well. Ever since he came out of the closet a few years ago, there had been a large distance between the two of them. Jeffrey Sanders still felt that Ian was a child, even if he was twenty-two-years-old.
His father was old fashioned, and he wasn't very happy to find out that his son would not be continuing the family name. Ian was the first male child to be born into the family for many generations. The family's bloodline had depended on the women to carry on their heritage for so long, his father was very proud to sire the first boy in hundreds of years. Ian knew that his sexuality damaged his father's pride, but there was nothing he could do about it. Being gay was no different than being born a Gypsy. It ran through his veins defining the man he had become.
Ian slowly made his way up the front steps of his grandmother's old Victorian home. Happy memories from his childhood flooded through his mind as he stepped into the entryway. He would treasure the years he had spent growing up in that house for the rest of his life. As he headed down the hall towards the kitchen, those happy thoughts were interrupted as a warning bell sounded off in his head.
Without even a second thought, Ian dropped to the floor and somersaulted forward. He came up in a defensive crouch with both his hands extended. Every muscle in his body tensed as he waited for the attack to come, but nothing happened. His head jerked towards the kitchen as sounds of clapping reached his ears.
"You've certainly been honing your skills, my young one." Irina Sanders's eyes sparkled with mischief at her grandson. She sat at the kitchen table drinking some hot tea, her silver hair curling around her shoulders as she smiled at him.
"I should have known you were just testing me," Ian growled as he slowly stood up. "There hasn't been a day-walker documented for over a century."
"That doesn't mean you shouldn't always be on the alert." His grandmother motioned him to towards the kitchen counter. "You know where the coffee pot is, dear heart."
Ian grabbed himself a cup of coffee even though he didn't feel like having anything to drink. He sat down at the table and just stared into the cup. His grandmother simply sipped her tea and waited. She knew that when her grandson was ready to talk about something, he would. All she had to do was be patient and wait for him to form the words.
"I took care of two more vampires last night." Ian said quietly.
"That's nothing new. You've handled more than that in one night," Irina replied. "Was something different?"
"They were working together, Grandmother." Ian looked up and gazed into her chocolate brown eyes. "I've never seen anything like it. They circled me and attacked at the same time. I couldn't believe it. Vampires never work together."
"They do sometimes, dear one." She sighed heavily and took a sip of tea. "Did anything else strange happen?"
"Yes." Ian felt a chill run down his spin just thinking of the mysterious vampire. "After I had taken care of the two vampires, I turned around, and, out of no where, another one was standing there. The only problem was," Ian took a deep breath. "I couldn't sense him."
"Have you been having nightmares, Ian?" His grandmother's voice became very serious.
"Yes, for just about a week now. Ever since that night, in fact," Ian replied without thought. His eyes bulged in shock. "How did you know about that? One of the only things I remember is the word Romani. Do you know what it means?"
"Romani means Gypsy in our language, my child." His grandmother reached out and took onto his hand. "I think it's time for you to be told some things."
Stefan Renaldi growled as he paced back and forth across the family study. Images of the robed hunter had been plaguing him for over a week, and he couldn't understand why. Felicia Renaldi stood poised in the study's doorway, watching her son. It had been many years since she had seen him so worked up.
"Are you ready to tell me what is on your mind yet, my child?" Her silken voice floated through the elegant room.
"I encountered a Romani in the cemetery last weekend." Stefan refused to make eye contact with his mother.
"So the Gypsies finally found their way to our small town." Felicia took a seat on the leather sofa. "You are well aware that they cannot sense you. Their family can only sense one of the soulless. You know as well as I do that the only way to lose your soul, and your humanity, is to kill someone. Have you murdered someone, my child?"
"You know very well that I have not," Stefan snarled at his mother, his fangs breaking through his gums as his anger erupted.
"I advise you to calm down, my son. You may be centuries old, but I can still put you across my knee, if necessary," Felicia warned. She patted the open seat beside her. "Stefan, come sit down and tell me what is really bothering you. You have never feared the Romani before."
"I felt drawn to the hunter, Mama." Stefan dutifully sat down. He felt his mother's hand as it came to rest on his shoulder. "I could not see his eyes, but I felt my skin burn as his gaze locked onto me. It felt as if I was falling, and I did not want it to stop."
"Wait a moment." Felicia's hand tightened its grip on her son's shoulder. "What do you mean, 'he'? The hunters have always been women."
"I can not say for certain that it was a man because of that damn robe." Stefan growled, again. "This hunter was tall, Mother. At least an inch taller than I am. I have never met a woman that tall. Besides that fact, the hunter seemed to have a broad, muscular build under his robe. So, unless he are using his Romani magic to cloak his appearances, this hunter did not have breasts."
"A man is hunting?" Felicia's face was paler than normal. She pushed a strand of her midnight black hair back. "This is not good, my son. A male Gypsy has never hunted our kind. He may possess powers we have never heard of. What if he can sense us as well as the soulless?"
"Calm down, Mama." Stefan laid his hand over hers on his shoulder. "I told you that he could not sense me. When he turned to face me in the graveyard, his body language showed how shocked he was to see me standing there. Besides, he did not burn me on sight. Something strange passed between us, and I can not put my finger on it. It almost felt like I knew him."
"You are to avoid this man at all costs," Felicia ordered her child. "This may be some new Gypsy trick, and I would throw myself into the sun if anything ever happened to you."
"You worry too much. I will be careful," Stefan assured his mother. He watched as she rose from the couch and moved towards the door. She was so graceful, it almost appeared like she was floating, but, then again, knowing his mother, she might very well have been.
"I will speak to your father about this. We will need to warn the rest of the family." Felicia smiled at her child. "Remember my warning. Avoid this Romani at all costs."
Stefan watched as his mother closed the door to the study, leaving him to his own thoughts. He began to pace again because his body would not be still. Something was pulling at the back of Stefan's mind, but he just couldn't figure out what it was. His thoughts returned to his mother's warning.
"I'm sorry, Mama, but I have to find out what is going on. Forgive me." Stefan's voice echoed in the room.
"What things do I need to know?" Ian's heart nearly stopped at the serious tone in his grandmother's voice.
"I think it is time for you to learn about the curse that created the vampires," Irina said as she stroked the back of her grandson's hand.
"Grandmother, Papa told me those stories when I was young." Ian sighed. He didn't feel like sitting through another retelling of his family's history. "A gypsy girl was supposed to be married to a boy in another tribe. She betrayed her family and ran off with someone else. Our family cursed the boy's family as revenge."
"Do not take that bored tone with me, child." Irina was clearly irritated. "That load of rubbish your father told you is not the true story."
"What do you mean?" Ian wasn't sure what his grandmother was talking about. "Everyone in the family has told the story of the curse, and it was always the same."
"You are well aware of the fact that you birth was very special." Irina smiled at her grandson. "The first male child born in the family for centuries. The first male to be born since the curse. Your foolish relatives were afraid of history repeating itself, so they created the story to tell you."
"But why tell me now?" Ian asked.
"Your run-in with the mysterious vampire," Irina explained. "I knew this day would come, but I am getting ahead of myself. Get yourself some more coffee, child."
Ian stood and poured himself another cup of coffee. A thousand thoughts ran through his head. Why would his family lie to him about the curse? What did they have to gain from not telling the truth? He was anxious to hear what his grandmother had to say, but at the same time, he was fearful. How would the truth effect him?
"Centuries ago, the Merripen and Renaldi families lived beside each other in happiness. The families had become so close, in fact, that an arranged marriage was going to take place between the Merripen leader's son and the Renaldi leader's daughter." Irina paused and took a sip of her lukewarm tea. "The two tribes were very excited about the union of their families. It was decided that once each child reached the age of twenty-one they would be married. The number twenty-one was considered to be a sign of good luck."
"An arranged marriage!" Ian exclaimed.
"You must remember, Ian, that it was a different time back then." Irina gave her grandson a patient smile. "Arranged marriages were very common place at that time. No one thought that there would be any problems with the arrangement between the families. It soon came to light though that the marriage would not work."
"What happened?" Ian was being drawn into his grandmother's story.
"It was during one summer night when fate decided to stick her hand into things and change the families forever. The Merripen boy was found in the woods having…relations." Irina chuckled as Ian rolled his eyes at her choice of words. "The problem was it was not with the girl he was to marry."
"Who was it with?" Ian asked.
"He was with the girl's brother." Irina sighed heavily. "Needless to say the Merripen family was outraged. They couldn't believe that one of their own would mate with someone of the same sex. They were even more upset when the Renaldi family didn't even blink an eye. In fact they offered their son in place of their daughter."
"Are you serious?" Ian was shocked. "Their family was that open-minded?"
"The Renaldi family loved their children very much and only wanted for their happiness. The Merripen family felt very differently. They demanded that the boy still marry the Renaldi girl. Of course the boy refused, he claimed he was in love with the young man." Irina's eyes filled with tears as she continued the story. "The boy threatened to run away with his lover. His father gave him a choice: either stay with his family or he would be hunted down and killed. The man believed his son was betraying the family."
"So the boy had to choose between life or death, his love or his family?" Ian's eyebrows rose high on his head. "That is so wrong."
"Wrong and ironic, Ian, because the name Merripen in Romani means life or death." Irina continued. "It gets worse, my child. The boy was so fearful for not only his life, but his lover's life, he choose to remain with his family. His father is the one responsible for the curse. He forced his child to perform the ritual and curse the Renaldi family. They were cursed to forever walk in the darkness, to never see the light of day again."
"How could someone do that to their own child?" Ian was pissed off. "That had to have destroyed the boy."
"It did break his spirit." Irina agreed. "The full impact of what the curse had done was not realized until weeks later when half of the Merripen family were killed in their sleep. The Renaldi family sought justice for the cruelty that was inflicted upon them."
"They had every right to!" Ian exclaimed. "They did nothing wrong. Their family should have never been cursed!"
"I agree with you, my child." A sad smile appeared on her weathered face. "The Merripen family was scared for the remaining lives of their family. So they called upon their ancestors to help protect them. The Merripen family had some Gypsy magic in their blood, but with help from their ancestors they became very powerful. They vowed to hunt down and destroy the creatures that killed their family."
"You mean hunt down the people that they had fucked over to begin with!" Rage surged through Ian's veins. "They cursed the Renaldi family, and if they wouldn't have done that then no one would have died. It makes me sick to even be a part of this. I won't hunt anymore. I refuse to! This is why no one has told me because they knew I wouldn't agree!"
"You must continue to hunt, my child." Irina gave Ian a stern look that told him to keep his mouth shut. "The boy had worded the curse very specifically. His father wanted the family to be stripped of their humanity, but the boy's love stopped him from doing that. Yes, he turned them into creatures of the night, but he did not take their souls."
"What?" Ian's head pounded in confusion.
"The Renaldi family was forced into the night because the sun was deadly to them, and of course they were forced to drink blood to survive." Irina explained. "However, they were not monsters because as long as they didn't kill and only fed from willing humans, they would keep their souls and their humanity."
"So I'm not hunting innocent beings." Ian's eyes showed his understanding. "Once a vampire takes a human soul on purpose, they lose their own soul. And if they lose their humanity, there is nothing that would stop them from killing again and again. I'm hunting murderers."
"Exactly! I knew you were a smart boy." Irina patted his hand. "The Merripen ancestors were very smart as well because the power they bestowed on the family would only allow us to sense vampires without souls. That is why you were surprised by that vampire. You were not supposed to kill him because he still has his humanity, his soul."
"Are the vampires aware of this?" Ian asked.
"Are they aware we only hunt the soulless?" Irina smiled as Ian nodded his head. "Yes, Ian, they are aware of it. A few decades ago a hunter ran into one of the Renaldi family members. She was completely unaware that the woman was a vampire. They were attacked one night walking through a park, and when she killed the soulless creature with her power the vampire revealed herself."