Vatican vamps, p.1
Vatican Vamps, p.1Megan Hammer
Copyright 2011 Megan Hammer
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
The red sun setting over St. Peter’s dome cast an almost angelic aura about the edges. The papal blessing had ended not five minutes ago, but already the streets were nearly empty. The small cafés had closed for the night and the only sounds that could be heard with any clarity were the singing of evening vespers from inside the walled cloisters and monasteries. The ancient buildings’ long shadows fell upon the ground while smaller shadows landed at odd angles, eating up the little sunlight that managed to sneak past the gothic architecture in the waning day.
Hidden in one of obsidian shadows on a smaller building was what looked like a marble angel. Its large, outstretched wings were lifted into the air, matching its face and hands. A soft breeze ruffled the angel’s wings. It slowly lowered its arms and head to crouch down on the roof a moment. Then, without warning, it leapt to the empty streets below. The cloak, which had given the illusion of wings before, floated to the ground behind it, sweeping the pebbles at the feet of the fallen angel as it walked. Every so often, it would pass under a small pool of light from a lone streetlamp. When that happened, there was a small flash of metal from its left side before a hand reached out for the edge of the cloak, wrapping the angel from view.
Not long after its walk began, the fallen angel stopped outside one of the many sanctuaries and drew back its hood. Wavy black hair blended with the night while chocolate eyes peered out from underneath the licorice strands that fell over his face. The candlelight reflecting on the stained glass windows danced with the shadows on his face. There was sudden movement as he turned to face a noise that only he could hear. A figure whose clothes matched the color of the oncoming night approached from out of an alleyway. A trenchcoat danced behind her every step, dark blonde hair mirroring its movement. The only thing that marked her as different from an average teen tourist was a small gun slung over her hip. She stopped a respectful distance away and bowed low for a moment, whispering his title into the darkness, “Prince of Stars.”
Inclining his head slightly, he smiled. “Emaline Noctum. It’s wonderful to see you again, however much your Latin has suffered in your absence.”
“Bain,” she said, softly touching the Mediterranean features about his face, “you know I’ve spoken nothing but French for the past 200 years. I’ve had little reason to speak Latin in France, even as a member of the Noctum Sect. I have no doubt that it will return whence it came when I must use it daily once more.”
He gently removed her hand from his face and replaced it by her side. “And how was France?”
“As well as can be expected. There’s no dress code for anyone. People are constantly wearing clothing that shrinks above their knees or is much too tight. Hideous.” She shuddered slightly. “But enough of that. Tell me, what has happened with the Noctum Sect since I’ve been away.”
“Well, the others have grown much more active in the past couple of months—“
“The Diu Sect?”
He nodded. “Aye. They’ve been going out of their way to hunt down those in the clergy. Why, just this last week, they tried to—“
“Kill His Holiness?” Bain looked at her in mild shock for a moment. “Word travels fast in our kind. Especially in France. You should know that by now. I heard about it not twelve hours after it happened.”
“A pity mortals cannot learn to have a communication system like ours.”
“Their gossip moves at the same speed,” she told him, a wry hint of a smile on her face. “But we digress. Did the Lord of Night send you to greet my return, then?”
“Emaline, does it truly matter?”
Bain sighed. “Fine then. No, Alaric did not send me to greet you. In truth, he does not even know you have returned. He grows older than most of us, as if the Mortal Rule is creeping upon his body like the plague of old. He is beginning to lose touch with the world around him, not even realizing that it is the Diu Sect who is causing all of this trouble. There is talk of a revolution. That he will be taken to Greet the Mane one morning not far from now. But that is not reason for you being here. I sent out the call to you myself. You see, Emaline, I have found where the Diu Sect keeps itself and I believe that we might be able to make our way into their sanctuary and destroy them all.”
She gasped quietly. “But…but Bain! The Codex—“
“Damno the Codex! Don’t you think I know what it says? But this is different Emaline Noctum!”
“How is it different?” she yelled out. “We’re meddling in the affairs of mortals. Guarding the clergy is enough. The Elders are already on our backs about our comings and goings. If the entirety of the Diu Sect were suddenly destroyed, what do you think would happen to us? Chances are, they would force every single one of us to Greet the Mane. And then who would the Swiss Guards turn to in order protect His Holiness at night?”
“So you refuse a request of the Prince of Stars?”
“No,” she spat out, “I refuse a request of Bain Noctum.”
“But not the Prince of Stars?”
She saw the glint of metal from under his cloak as he pulled it away and recognized it as the symbol of his office, the Sword of Stars. A quiet sigh escaped her lips. “No. I cannot refuse a request of the Prince of Stars. But I wish to make it known that I am completely against this plan. Nothing good can—“
“Quite honestly, I don’t give a damn about what you think of the plan. We’ll meet here tomorrow night once nox notis falls.” Then, turning his heel, the Prince of Stars disappeared with a swirling cloak as he returned to the hidden home of the Noctum Sect.
Silently, Emaline made her way over to the doors of the basilica and fell against them, sinking down onto her booted feet. Her trenchcoat fell to the ground in a pool around her, leaving her ivory skin bare to the Vatican night. The wood and iron doors began to dig into her back so she shifted her body weight a bit to alleviate the pain. She wiped a hand across her eyes and came away with a small streak of blood-tinged tears. This isn’t fair! How can Bain expect me to kill my own… She pounded the strong door with her fist in frustration. Without a sound, it swung open on well oiled hinges to reveal the interior of the old building.
The flagstone floor reflected the small candles pilgrims had lit earlier that day. A statue of a smiling virgin Mary was the first thing she saw when she glanced inside. An almost tangible aura of peace was being offered and she had the sudden urge to go inside, if only for a moment.
She shrugged on her coat once more and walked softly into the holy place. Her boots sounded strange on the floor, sounding loud due to the sheer size even though she walked carefully. Off the worn path of the stone floor was an old oak confessional. It had been decades since she had been in one, and even then, it had been for the purposes of feeding. And yet… And yet I have the sudden urge to pass through that crushed velvet curtain and proclaim my sins to whoever happens to be listening. For there is a great pax about the place. Not a hint of evil anywhere.
Changing course in mid-step, she headed for the box and passed through the curtain of privacy. The air in the small room was still, but it whispered ideas of past sins into her ears. Kneeling down onto the ground, she bowed her head and whispered, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”
“Tell me of them, my daughter,” a voice replied in rusty Latin. Then, continuing on in a rumbling Italian, “For although the time s
“Emaline,” she broke in. “My name is Emaline.”
She could hear the smile in his voice when he spoke again. “Very well, Emaline. What is your trouble?”
She struggled a moment to call Italian to her mind. It was another language she had not spoken for many years. Haltingly, she began to speak. “I…I don’t quite know where to begin. I guess, in the end, it all comes down to whether or not I should do something. Someone I know seeks to have me take part in a task I do not wish to perform. But if I do not take part, there will be dire consequences to pay. I’m lost. Hopelessly lost. And I don’t know where to turn aside from...from someone in a position such as yourself as God has not spoken with me in many many years.” When she had finished speaking, there was silence for a moment. In that silence, she realized that at some point in her talking, she had begun to speak in her more comfortable French instead of the Italian she had been trying to speak.
Eventually, the priest spoke, slowly at first, as though he were carefully weighing words. “Emaline, if, in your heart, you know something is wrong, don’t do it. Follow your heart and your beliefs and you shall go far. Further than if you ventured out blindly following.”
She let out an unneeded breath. In her mind, a plan was already beginning to form. She knew what she had to do now. In a Sect as steeped in tradition and honor as the Noctum was, there was but one choice to her. “Thank you, Father.”
“Thank you, Emaline. Perhaps we shall meet again one day. I would love to hear a voice as yours speak Latin with such mastery again.” She gave no answer to him though, for she had already departed the basilica with hardly a whisper in her wake.
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