Previous chapter: Gilles de Rais
From Eco's, journal:
"Yes, Erzsebet Bathory, the Blood Countess herself.
“Eco,” he said. “There is a countess, she is a most intriguing creature…I have been watching her for a long time from Hell.”
This was the first I heard of it. Now I was to learn Satan often watched those he considered to be in some way promising and deserving of his attention.
He had taken me to Hell with him where I was to learn of Bathory—Bathory, damned nearly from birth for her soul had indeed been handed over to Satan and freely, too.
He stared at me, clearly wanting me to ask him questions, so I did.
“How is it you watch her then?”
He nodded toward the special mirror he has there. It is what the French call le miroir à deux voies, or two-way mirror.
It’s one of Satan’s most prized possessions. I believe an ancient sorcerer gave it to him, someone who thought (mistakenly as it turned out) that it would keep Satan from collecting his due. Well, it didn’t. I often saw the fellow skulking around Hell’s deepest caverns, cursing at his fate.
“I often watch her,” he admitted. “You would not believe what she does.”
It was funny because Satan looked and sounded like a dirty-minded school boy. I had to restrain myself from laughing.
“What is it that she does?”
“Come and see!” he urged, motioning for me to have a look for myself.
At first I only saw a rather attractive woman bathing. She looked regal, very haughty and proud. And she seemed to take delight in barking out orders to servants.
Satan was staring at me. “Well, have you nothing to say?”
I didn’t know what he meant and began to study the image more carefully. It was then that I noticed her bath water was red!
“That’s not blood, is it?!”
“It certainly is!”
I spun around. “You mean she bathes in it, in blood?!
I wondered why she did. I mean, really—even I found it revolting.
Satan shrugged. “She thinks it helps her to stay young.”
“Does she really?”
Satan nodded. I waited for him to tell me how old she was, but he didn’t.
“Alright,” I said. “How old is she?”
“I’ll be damned!” I said.
We could not help but laugh at that. Both of us were in near hysterics for some time. At last, I collected myself.
“Well, she looks no more than thirty, possibly even younger, so it must be working!”
Naturally, I had many questions. I wanted to know where she got the blood from.
“It is not difficult,” Satan explained. He went on to explain she was an all powerful aristocrat in a backward country and could get away with anything.
The implication was clear. “But whose blood is it?”
“Well, let me put it to you this way, peasant girls have been missing for ages—the families don’t dare report them missing either!”
I nodded for I could imagine why.
“She is the most powerful woman in the kingdom. Her family name is old and no one would dare to question the goings on, not even the nobles…not even the king!”
I found myself staring at her, willing her to rise out of that bloody water so I could see this Venus of the blood at last.
Satan realized and encouraged me to wait. “It will be worth the wait,” he assured me.
At last she stood and I gasped. Never did I see a more perfect feminine form; supple and slender, graceful beyond measure—it was not the body of a woman of her age.
As her maids wiped the blood from her body, I could see her skin was like alabaster. She was a vision of perfect loveliness!
I knew Satan must have had a very good time watching her. I wondered how long he had been spying on her. From the expression on his face, I could tell it must have been quite a while.
Suddenly, I felt certain he must have made her acquaintance, if you take my meaning. He had, in fact. He was to tell me not only the details of the soul taking, but other things as well. Like his dalliance with her on more than one occasion.
“So you know her intimately?” I asked with as straight a face as I could.
“I certainly do, dear boy. Did you think I do not?”
Yes, he was showing off again. He had been with her many times.
“It is rather interesting, her story. The pact and all, for it concerned the promise of an infant’s soul. Yes, an infant; not an ordinary occurrence.
She was dying, you see, and her nurse wished to take her to the witch of the forest. Yes there are such things and really, the only people that give those brave women the credit they deserve are the Eastern Europeans.”
Satan and I both had respect for these sorts of witches of old, Rose, for they practiced their craft conscientiously and always recognized their betters as betters.
I asked him to continue and he did proudly. “As in all summoning rites, I could hear someone calling my name, pleading with me to come. I arrived almost at once in a swirl of noxious smoke.
“Great Lord of the Underworld you are welcome here!” the summoner cried.
She was a horrid looking thing, just what you’d expect—warts and matted hair, filthy and stinking. But she was so excited and thrilled that I had actually come, I almost found her charming.
She explained that a nurse and an infant would be arriving shortly. That was the first I heard of it.”
“An infant?” I asked.
“She said the child was indeed only a few months old and was dying. She went on to explain that she dreamt it all and knew it to be true.
I believed her, for such a woman would indeed have the gift of second sight. The more she spoke, the more delighted I was to have a soul of one so young. I was so thrilled I barely heard her protestation of apology. You see, she was sorry I had been summoned to the forest.
“Please, while you wait, you will be more comfortable in my little home.”
Home, indeed! It was an awful, stench-filled hovel with animal parts in various stages of decay. This was the stuff she used in her many concoctions. There were also potions and herbs that were odious. I don’t usually find such things nauseating but I did then.
I asked her to tell me about the child and her family, it was pretty clear that this was no ordinary summoning on behalf of a miserable peasant baby.
Once again the witch fell to her knees. “You know all things! Yes, the child is from nobility. Her family rules the kingdom! There is no greater name than that of Bathory!”
I was most impressed; this was an all too rare occurrence, and quite frankly I was basking in my favorite sin: pride!
Naturally, I knew I could not be summoned to the castle, not with all the clergy hanging around her parents, calling for prayers to be offered up to heal the child.”
Satan mentioned how it did seem to be taking the nurse a long time to get there. “I asked where on earth they could be. But that was when we suddenly heard the sound of horses.”
He told me two riders pulled up: a man and a woman. It seemed the man was there to protect the woman and the child. Satan didn’t see the child right away; not until the woman lifted her cape and revealed a small bundle.
“The witch told her who I was and the nurse cried out her joy and thanks and held up the child for me to see.”
The babe was beautiful, an exquisite child. It was clear however that she was very ill for she could barely breathe, so laborious were her breaths that she was nearly crimson from the effort.
The nurse wept. “She is dying. Already I hear the death rattle. Please, help!”
“I said I could but told her I would have to take her soul. I always say this at such a time just in case there is any misunderstanding later. It was agreed and I touched the child’s head.
The nurse cried out as the babe began to tremble. So great is the effect when the soul passes away from someone, especially from a child, you see.
A great golden light began to swirl around her like a halo. As soon as it did, the baby gurgled and appeared to brighten.
“The child will live! The child will live!” they cried. On and on they went, shouting their relief and thanks.
At last they stopped. “There were many candles burning and I could see the babe now looked absolutely radiant. She opened her eyes and turned toward me and I saw the unmistakable sign—the mark of the void, the sure sign that the soul was gone never to return.”
The nurse whispered. “She has no soul now. You can see.”
They both agreed and began speaking one to the other as though I was not there. I left then, I left quickly for the rite had been done. Soon there were many small demons that had manifested themselves; small ones, because of the age of the babe.
“We have her soul!” I cried. And they shouted and shrieked and played with it. Yes, it has an actual shape, you know. It is, in fact, like a ball of light,” Satan said. “They kept passing it from one to the other until I at last took it, whereupon the light went out completely.
I ate it then, but I was selfish for I always share with my demons. Yet I could not give any of it up. It was sweet, you see, souls of the young are!”
Satan paused in his telling and looked at me. He had made his point. I hadn’t ever thought of pacts in that way. I hadn’t considered the age of those whose souls were taken.
In this case, it was tragic, for the child had not entered into any dialogue with anyone. She didn’t know what was happening, poor infant that she was; she didn’t know that her soul would be gone.
Yet as Satan said, he saw it in her eyes, that void that should have been light-filled—it was a dark abyss.
“Was she wicked from then on?” I asked him.
“Oh yes, she was. I saw the evil.”
“And what of the blood and the bathing—surely there is something else behind that.” I waited for him to answer.
He smiled. “You are most clever, Eco. You know, there is more to that than her desire to look youthful. Yes, the blood, now that is odd. She’s always been fascinated by blood. I think it’s because she’s a natural vampire.”
I just looked at him and he smiled once again. “I bet I know what you’re thinking,” he said.
I smiled back as the thought of creating such a woman first occurred to me. Yes, that was the very first time I thought of it; what better woman could there be for me than a natural vampire?
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