A Civil Conversation

Image from Unsplash, taken by Alexander Grey

You can find the first part of this story here – Rat

Benedict stalked across the black and white tiled floor, past the maroon leather sofas and the aspidistras and stood in front of Lysander. “It’s getting worse,” he said.

“Good evening, it’s nice to see you too,” Lysander said. “Please, Benedict, take a seat. I trust that I find you in good health?”

“This is no time for fripperies,” Benedict snapped. “I have just destroyed half a dozen vampiric rats.”

Lysander raised an eyebrow. “I would have thought that they would be your perfect pets.”

Benedict’s fangs lengthened. “Do not try me, Lysander. I am in no humour for this. They were not hunting blood. They were hunting the aether currents. That cannot continue.”

“Our Creator has made such a wonderful variety of life,” Lysander murmured. “Of course creatures will feed on the aether currents, especially now that there are so many amplified sources.” He looked down at his ring. The iridescent aether stone gleamed in the heavy silver setting. “And I am grateful for it.”

“You were not always so fastidious,” Benedict snarled. “We are vampires – dark creatures. Our nature demands that we embrace that darkness. Relying on a chunk of stone is ridiculous! When did you last feed from a living mortal? And I don’t count the geese and bulls you have bled in the past.”

“Does it matter?” Lysander said wearily. “Please, sit down and try and relax. I can summon Brigitte. She is always willing to be your chalice and perhaps you will be calmer if you have fed.”

Benedict dropped into the neighbouring armchair and a little tension left him as his fangs retracted. “We are what we are. You cannot hide from your own nature. We feed on blood.” He glanced around and smiled thinly. “And I ate before I came here.”

“We don’t have to be enslaved by our nature,” Lysander said. “Now that aether stones are so common, many of our kind are glad to be free of the need to always tend our…”

“You have always called your food ‘chalices’ and not people,” Benedict said. “Half the time you don’t even remember their names. Using the aether stones instead of feeding properly cuts us off from who we are and why there should be so few of us. London is one of the greatest cities in the world, and there are perhaps no more than a dozen or so vampires here. Any more would be a risk to us all.”

“There are a few vampires that we know of,” Lysander said. “But who knows what else is in the shadows. I agree, there can’t be too many of us. I remember the lynch mobs in Tirana too well. That was a new vampire that became, what is the word?”

“The bloodlust overwhelmed them,” Benedict said coldly. “Jomar calls it ‘berserk’. But do you think that things would have been so much better if they had been feeding from the aether currents? I heard all about it from Alexias. It was the power that went to their heads. They deserved to be destroyed, and you know it.”

“That’s why I lit the pyre when they were caught,” Lysander said calmly. “But it is still unsafe for vampires, even a decade later.”

“As coldly pragmatic as ever,” Benedict said. “But you don’t understand. Half the time, it’s the tie of the blood that keeps us in check. The reality of hunting, hiding in the dark and knowing the darkness inside you stops the excesses. The aether stones release us from that tie. They remove limits.”

“And that is a bad thing?” Lysander asked.

“You know it is,” Benedict snapped.

“We could achieve wonders,” Lysander said dreamily. “We have the resources to forge to the coldest wastes, the deepest, fever-ridden jungles and into the thinnest air of the mountains. Think of what we could discover! Think of all we could do!”

“We could end on a pyre,” Benedict said. “Even those who feed from the aether leave traces, like these rats. It is my belief that we have another new vampire, another debutante who has been playing with aether crystals. They turned rats, and have no doubt turned themselves and have no sire or dam to explain what has happened or how they need to protect themselves and the rest of us.”

Lysander paused. “There have been several such recently. They have not had happy transitions.”

“None of them survived,” Benedict said brutally. “And what of that office worker who turned wrong and ran crazed in the slaughterhouses at the East End. It took all of my time to track and subdue him. Where were you when that happened?”

“I found out a little too late,” Lysander said. “Perhaps you should have called earlier. I’ve dealt with problems at other times. There was that rogue from Croatia a while ago, and I’ve spent my fair share of time patrolling some of the more obvious hunting grounds.”

Benedict snorted. “It’s not enough. It’s always bad when someone turns with witchcraft or curses, but the aether kind are dangerous. They are dangerous to mortals and they are dangerous to us.”

“How are they so dangerous?” Lysander snapped. “Because they don’t hurt others?”

“Because their wills are unstable, they have no direction, and they have no hunting ground to track,” Benedict snapped back. “They have all been insane – you know what they say about aether miners! And because they have no hunting ground, we can’t spot them to let them know the proper ways and introduce them to Society. And because we can’t track them and find them, and because they are insane, they run amok and mortals get hurt. At some point there is going to be a link between these sad creatures and Mr Stoker’s creation. Too many have heard of vampires. And once these aberrations have been destroyed, they will start looking for us. How well do you hide yourself, Lysander, with your discreet club and loyal servants. Is it discreet enough?”

“I am confident in my situation,” Lysander said coldly. “But perhaps you are correct. The thought of so many potential kindred unknown to us and quite out of our influence chills me. Besides, those created by the aether crystals have all been somewhat deficient. We should cull them before they become a risk to us. I’ll share my thoughts with the rest of us. I shall also spend some time studying the latest scientific papers on aether waves. Perhaps then we can take further steps.”

“And are you going to look for this debutante?” Benedict asked.

Lysander stared at his ring for a moment. “I doubt that they exist,” he said. “Rats get everywhere and now so many crafts are using aether stones, there are bound to be a few incidents. I think I shall speak to the rat catchers.”

“So you won’t look,” Benedict said.

Lysander shrugged. “If there is an aether kind, and I doubt it, they will make themselves known soon enough. But don’t let me stop you from hunting. You always did enjoy the exercise.”

“I’ll look, and I’ll look carefully,” Benedict said. “They are out there, and when I find them, I’ll deal with whatever situation that I find.”

“Kill them,” Lysander said.

“I’m not killing for the sake of it,” Benedict said. “But I’ll deal appropriately with any rogue.”

“I’m sure that you shall,” Lysander said. “And so shall I. Where did you find the rats?”

Benedict looked at him thoughtfully. “Why? You said that you wouldn’t be looking.”

“I wish to speak to the local rat catchers to see if the contagion has spread,” Lysander said, staring at the play of light on his ring.

Benedict raised an eyebrow. “I trust that you will enjoy the encounter. I found the rats at Woolwich.” He stood. “I’ll take my leave.”

“Let me know if you have found and killed anything,” Lysander said. “Leave nothing that could be a risk. There should be no vampire outside the influence of our Society.”

For a moment Benedict’s fangs lengthened, then he shrugged. “I’ll send a message. Goodnight.” Then he swept out of the room and into the London fog.

This is part of the amazing October Frights Blog Hop. Please check out the awesome authors that are also taking part.

Be Afraid of the Dark

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Dark Reads and Intersectional Feminism


Frighten Me

Brain Matter – The Official Blog of JG Faherty

Angela Yuriko Smith

James P. Nettles

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