Eco won best villain at Efestival of words 2014 and the book he appeared in, The House on Blackstone Moor won best horror. He is the chief protagonist of three books in The Blackstone Vampires series. The fourth book features his good friend, Dracula. He is my favorite character I have ever written about. This story that follows is his debut story! I hope you enjoy it!
A Florentine sky at dusk, streaked with orange ﬁre and me, walking along the Ponte Vecchio feeling lonely and dejected. The city looked magniﬁcent in the half light of fading day and approaching night, like a living thing ready for sleep, but perhaps not quite yet. The taverns were full—voices were raised in song and chatter and laughter too. I listened and sighed. It is difﬁcult to be apart whenall around me I see life lived.
My existence and I are something else, something apart and yet connected. I have told you enough of my existence so far for you to know that absolute immortality does bring with it sad and often hopeless isolation. When you are fallen angel spawn and condemned to live forever, forever troubles more than it thrills I fear. This was how I felt in the spring of 1502 when I, merely out for an evening stroll, happened to see the most fascinating creature— rushing along as though her life depended upon it.
She carried herself with such grace and I found myself following, watching her great billowing gown glide smoothly over the cobblestones as if to bless them. Where would such a grand person rush to? I asked myself. I surmised she was probably late for an appointment. Ever more curious I continued my pursuit. Now I do wish to put your mind at ease. I had no wish to harm her in any way, nor did I intend to overpower her in order to drink her blood. Not that I haven’t fallen upon beautiful creatures before to partake of their offerings on occasion.
Blood was to me like a ﬁne wine, sipped but not gulped—savored but never savagely slurped as the vampires drink it. Yes I know I look down upon them, but that is the way I am. Back to my story—so there I was wanting to see where she was going and to whom she rushed to see and–what the circumstances could possibly be and so forth. Though I hadn’t yet seen her full face, I could see enough to know she was beautiful with her intricately coiffured hair encased in the most delicate of jewelled nets–a beautiful but unnecessary adornment for this Queen of the Night.
At last she reached her destination, she stopped and looked up at the most non-descript house imaginable on an ordinary street quite far from the best part of the city. Surely, I thought this cannot be her destination, but it was, for she hurried inside. Now, as you get to know me better, you will learn of my many talents. I am able to ﬂy—and this I now did, hugging the building and ﬂying as close to it as possible, hoping I would not be seen.
I had already observed the building was darkened but for the very top windows, windows belonging to workshops. I wondered: why does this lady seek such a place? Whatever the answer, I crept up quickly and looked inside. The shop was quite large—it must have encompassed a few smaller ones for it was one very spacious room. There were all manner of paintings and paint pots and brushes scattered about in hopeless disarray. In the middle stood a bearded man I recognized at once. He was the one and only, Leonardo DaVinci, master painter and sculptor. This was going to be interesting I thought for I had heard gossip that he had been commissioned to do a painting for some silk merchant.
I heard a knock as DaVinci hurried to the door. “You are late, Signora Del Giocondo. But there was no need to rush. You look ﬂushed. Would you like a drink?”
“Just some wine, Signor DaVinci if you don’t mind.”
Up until this time I had not seen her face and was not prepared for the heavenly sight. She was a vision of demure loveliness—a masterpiece among masterpieces. He was very gracious to her, but she looked increasingly upset. “It is alright, we can do this another time.” I had a feeling they would be leaving soon as she was in no mood to sit.
When DaVinci began to put his brushes down I knew I was right. With the evening the cooler air arrived which did not bother me. My vampires and I can take the cold its heat we cannot stand which is often misconstrued for us not liking the sun. Truthfully, we can tolerate the sun if we consume a steady diet of wolfsbane.
Yes, I know what you are thinking; it is rather remarkable and yet it is effective if brewed in tea, but it is difﬁcult to get; that’s why you see so many vampires stocking up the way they do. Their provincial cousins who reside in rural areas of Eastern Europe either can’t get the leaves or don’t care. In any event they do in fact perish at the very thought of sunshine. They are odd creatures and I have as little to do with them as possible as they call bat dung splattered caves their home. More about them later!
I waited until they left the workshop, whereupon I crept down to the street. They emerged from the building and I heard him offer to buy her a drink. She laughed and her laughter was like music.
“Yes signor, I think I should like that.” I was pleased to hear her laugh, for I hoped her mood had changed. Truthfully I was rather hoping they might walk to a better part of town but they didn’t. Instead they went into a dreary looking and I thought poor tavern. They took their seats and I mine, which was not terribly far away. Their conversation was pretty boring, but then I heard them make reference to the painting having been commissioned by her husband, Francesco to commemorate the recent birth of their son. It wasn’t long before the conversation changed to something rather different. It seemed the good lady had taken a lover!
“But how did he ﬁnd out?” I heard DaVinci ask. She began to cry.
“I don’t know. He did that’s all.”
DaVinci was doing his best to comfort her but she could not be comforted. “He has left me and taken the children; even little Andrea. He said, “Go to your lover, Lisa I am ﬁnished with you!”
More conversation followed: apparently her parents and sisters had also condemned her affair and had told her the same thing. “Sacre bleu!! I muttered under my breath. “Have they no compassion?” The poor woman was desperate. “You see sir, my life is over I fear.”
“No! No it is not! I won’t hear of such a thing!” He said as he smiled and dried her eyes with his own handkerchief, “You will be ﬁne, I know it!” “But Antonio wishes me to go with him right away.” This appeared to confuse poor DaVinci. “I see,” he said looking lost. “Oh my friend, you are thinking of the painting! I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say.” DaVinci kissed her hand. “My lady, you must live your life as you wish and in happiness. Perhaps in time your husband...” “Oh no, my friend, he will never forgive the slight to his name.” “But your children?” “Perhaps he might let me see them. I shall pray for that.”
She stood then as if to go. DaVinci stood up as well. “No signor. You ﬁnish your wine; I best go home to pack. The servants will let me in.” I left Signor DaVinci nodding sadly to himself and looking quite close to tears I thought. So she has a lover, an Antonio somebody–foolish woman. Yes, do not be surprised, I can be a moralist. After all, it involved the loss of her children and I am not entirely without feeling. I decided to follow her. She hadn’t gone more than a few paces when suddenly I saw a man emerge from the shadows.
There was something about him I recognized. Not only that, but I felt greatly alarmed. I don’t often get that way and when I do the results can be rather dramatic. “Antonio!” They clung passionately to one another–he whispering and she nodding.
“My love, we must leave now.” He said other things and she answered but I was no longer listening for I knew who he was. The realization hit me hard. Eco! My sworn enemy and a fallen angel’s spawn like myself. Remember I told you of the vampires I detest who dwell in stinking caves? Well their master is this wretched enemy of mine, Eco, the bane of my existence an, immortal pox who will forever haunt the world.
Why the hatred, Monsieur Louis, I hear you ask? He is a monster—a destroyer. He is the thing that comes to some people in their wildest nightmares—he is without one redeeming feature. He is a vile corruption that only seeks evil. He and his vampires are singularly responsible for the worst of the vampire legends, I might add. It is he and his clan alone that have given us our reputation. They have caused terrible purges where thousands of the vampire breed were destroyed.
And do you know it never bothered him? And now, this beauty! How had she let him touch her? I shuddered to think of him bedding this elegant lady as I knew he must have. Suddenly I realized I had been so swept up in my own thoughts I hadn’t noticed him looking in my direction!
“You there! I should like to speak with you Louis, but I want to show my good lady to her home.”
“Very well, I shall be delighted to wait!”
I can’t tell you how upset I was standing there on that narrow street, increasingly I felt more outraged, more likely to explode, for truly it wasn’t just anger that inﬂamed me—I was worried that Eco might harm the woman.
At last he returned and I tried to contain myself. “I am honored you waited.” Now I took a very good look at him. The pustule was dressed in ﬁne clothes. He looked like a successful merchant. It was outrageous! “Eco, tell me, have you told your lady of your origins or will you keep that as a surprise?” “I think it can wait. So where do we battle now, Louis...Here or would you like a more dramatic place?”
Why we do this, I have no idea. I think each of us is hopeful that the other might in some way be magically weakened if not destroyed. Foolish I know, but we wish it anyway. “Do you not miss your ﬁlthy bat caves? Why do you have to come to this beautiful country?” I stopped speaking, for suddenly an army of vampires began circling overhead—swarming as if ready to attack. I motioned with my head.
“Will the battle be here, a street in Florence? How like you to be so common. Surely we can go somewhere else.” “The choice is yours!” I began to think. “How about the ancient forest outside Florence? We shall have privacy and...” “And you can summon your own vampires.” I shook my head. “Eco I can ﬁght without their help and I can put you through your paces and rip some of your favorite blood suckers apart in the bargain.
*We met near the Arno River, in a clearing and true to my word I did not bring any help with me whatsoever.
Eco, of course had with him a regiment of vampires, all manner of stench-ﬁlled beasts. They reeked so badly, I could smell them as soon as they began to appear. “Where did you get these?” “They are from Romania and The East. Such loyal children are you not my loves?” They began to bay in the most revolting way which must have been their way to voice affection. I could just imagine what excesses they all got up to.
“I am ready!” Eco cried. “When do we start, Louis?” “How about now?” He raised both his arms. “Children! Show your love; kill for me, your father!” His voice was a demonic howl that his vampires answered in kind. They soon began to fall from the sky like great black birds of death; shrieking and screaming as they landed. Soon I was surrounded by hundreds of them.
“Come!” I shouted! I shall destroy you all!” During all this, Eco was ﬂying just to my right. Hovering like an old crow. “There are a lot of them, Louis. Are you certain it won’t be too much for you?”
“Don’t be silly,” I shouted. “You know I cannot be destroyed and you cannot be either—so why is it you have us battle—are you so willing to sacriﬁce your own children as you call them?”
Eco looked horriﬁed, for suddenly his vampires began to hiss at him, having heard my accusations. “Ah, you see I have angered them, I am so sorry, will you forgive me?” Eco wasn’t going to be deterred. “Marco! Marco!” I knew what he was doing. I knew it as soon as the creature came forward. This was his pet, his favorite—an unusually tall vampire— with massive shoulders and oversized facial features. “Where did you get this one?” I asked. “Was it a gladiator that you raised up?”
Eco laughed, but the creature didn’t. It roared angrily and leapt toward me. With one thrust of my arm I hit it squarely on the neck. It fell with a thud. Calmly, as if I hadn’t a care in the world, I bent down and twisted its head off. A great black fountain of blood spewed forth—torrents of it. I was not surprised to see Eco’s “children” spring forth—mouths open—arms outstretched in orgasmic ecstasy as they began lapping it up.
“My, he had a lot of blood, over a thousand years’ worth no doubt!” Eco began to scream at his vampires; “Stop it you monsters!” Before he could utter another word I couldn’t help but say, “But Eco they are no longer your children but monsters now?”
He waved me off as he began to push them away from their bounty. One or two fought back, those he killed himself, wrenching their heads off, but with no ﬁnesse whatsoever; there was quite a lot of carnage. The others were beaten back into submission. When they were cowering and completely docile, Eco gave them permission to eat. Yes, you see, that’s another thing about Eco and his lot. His vampires eat their own kind, I ﬁnd that obnoxious, don’t you?
“I’ll be leaving now, Eco. As usual it’s been interesting.” He turned his back on me. Now we have over time tempered our encounters somewhat. They used to be worse. I mean truly there was a time when we tried to do the impossible. But after a while we realized we were equally matched and nothing would alter that. I did say one last thing to him that night. I said, “Eco, if you don’t leave that woman alone I shall destroy all your diseased children, is that understood?” He said it low but I heard it. “Yes.” “Yes what, Eco?” “Yes Darton I understand, damn you!” Now that last part was rather ironic-don’t you think?
*He left after that. I was so delighted that I decided to seek out Signora Del Giocondo. I told DaVinci I was a friend of her family’s and I wished to see her on urgent business. For such a genius I found him to be extremely trusting. “Oh yes,” he said. You will ﬁnd her in Paris. She has taken lodgings in Rue de Beaubourg.
By the way, are you sure you are not a suitor?” he asked, smiling. Hmm, I thought he isn’t easily deceived after all. “Well,” I said, “she is a delight to the eye, no?” He smiled. “I know what you mean though I share different pleasures than you my friend.” He pointed at the unﬁnished painting. “She was such a good model; I shall have trouble ﬁnishing it. I wonder if I should bother.”
“Oh, please sir. Do bother, for it would be a shame if you didn’t. She has a rare beauty and the world deserves to see it.” “Yes,” DaVinci said. “I think I must portray her in a different light, as an enigmatic example of feminine beauty. She who might be all things to all men—and yet a puzzle just the same. I myself am still unsure of exactly what I saw within her face, because of that I want people to see the riddle and wonder what the answer can be. This friend shall be the painting’s legacy, but a shame her husband didn’t pay me!”
Legacy indeed, yes the world would have DaVinci’s timeless masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. I left his workshop that night somewhat disturbed for it suddenly struck me as I wondered what might have been the lady’s fate had Eco reverted to form and remade her into one of his vampire children."
***© 2010 Carole Gill
This is one of the stories in House of Horrors. There are five Louis Darton stories in the collection.
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