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AKA The Greatest Story Ever Told, by the Greatest Historian of the World. Aro's lived, figuratively speaking, for three thousand years. Ever wonder what he's seen and done?


2. Beginning

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5630   Review this Chapter

Cold and raw the north wind doth blow
Bleak in the morning early,
All the hills are covered with snow,
And winters now come fairly.

I suppose I should start where most stories do. The beginning. But in my case, that is complicated. Do I speak of my human life? Or does my true beginning commence after I was turned?

Decisions, decisions.

I’ll start with the few memories of my time as a human because, well, they are few memories.

I was born in Ticinum in the year 1000 BC. A Millennium baby. My very birth seemed to dictate I would become great.

Of course, my family never learned just how great I would become.

My mother died during childbirth and I was raised solely by my father. I have no memory of him even uttering my mother’s name but I suppose he did love her. He never remarried; it was very strange at the time particularly since he was still fairly young and had an infant to look after. He never cared for what people said, though, something I greatly admired him for. Instead, he would subtly manipulate anyone who thought differently from until they agreed with his views. These people never seemed to realize just how deeply under my father’s influence they were, which made him an incredibly skilled, incredibly shrewd politician.

From the time I was young, my father tried to teach me this ability. Three thousand years later, I look back on these lessons fondly, one of the few things of my human life I truly remember.

“Aro,” he would say my name quietly. I don’t remember him ever raising his voice. He was the type of man who could control a crowd just with his voice. While still human, I learned to emulate this trait of his. As a vampire, this voice has become one of the many weapons I posses, an irreplaceable tool in many a delicate situation.

“Aro,” he repeated. When he said my name twice, I knew I had to pay him the utmost attention. “Is there such a thing as a justified murder?”

I paused. Just that morning, a traitor had been publicly executed. I had observed it from the other side of the plaza. I watched how the man was brought to the square, chained, and the crowd roared in anger. He could not have been much older than my father but was just as fit. He was trembling but stood wit his back erect and his head held high. His look was calm and did not waver, even when he was struck to the floor. The executioner slit his throat and then began walking on his chest. With every scarlet spout, the crowd’s delighted screams escalated.

I ran from my father’s side and around the side of the building where I heaved everything I had in my stomach. Now, my father was asking me about justifiable deaths. I though about the man, a traitor, and despite my revulsion, I knew what my answer was.

“Yes, if the one killed was dangerous, like the traitor, then his death is justified.”

“And who justifies this traitor’s death?”

“A just man.”

“Ah, a just man. Metrophanes says justice is to benefit one's friends and harm one's enemies. So a just man would be one who aids his friends and harms his enemies. Correct?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Now, let’s say this ‘just man’ was good friends with the traitor. Would he be able to find a justification in the traitor’s death?”

“No, Father.”

“Or perhaps the just man grew angry with his wife and hurt her and the traitor betrayed him by telling another of what the just man had done to his wife. Would the traitor’s death be justified?”

“No, Father,” I shook my head slowly.

He turned and his grey eyes, a mirror of my own, bored into me. His voice grew lower until it dropped just above a whisper. “And what if the traitor stole state secrets in order to save his dying kingdom? Could a just man, a truly just man, justify his murder then?”

“No, Father,” I whispered.

He sank to one knee before me. His hands rested on my shoulders, a warm, familiar weight. “Is any murder truly justified?”

I did not speak.

“Qui tacet consentire,” my father chastised me. Silence gives consent. “Never fall silent during a debate, any type of debate. Always argue your point but ensure you have the evidence to back it. Silence signals defeat and words can be the most effective weapons you ever have. Learn to use them.”

Then, he stood and began to walk away. I followed behind him. I could have caught up and walked alongside him but I was content to follow his footsteps, remain safely ensconced in the long-reaching shadow he threw.

As I grew older, my father chased me out of his shadow. He warned me about the danger of following after another blindly and told me I had never been meant to follow but to lead. I took his words to heart and, from then, did everything I could do in order to rise through the ranks.

Pavia at the time was overrun by Lombard kings. My father had honed his rhetoric into an art form and was able to insert himself into the new royal court easily. He soon became the king’s greatest confidante and our wealth and stature grew.

My lessons had been over for a long time. I was thrown into a world where the smallest word could become a death sentence or a saving grace. I would survive depending on how good a student I had been. Luckily, the king greatly admired my father and predisposed to like his son. We both shared the same sense of dark humor and I watched as my own name grew in importance and not because I was my father’s son. He never said anything to me but I knew he was proud.

When I was twenty I married Chiara Leggièri, a daughter of a prominent family. She was a soft-spoken girl of sixteen with pale blonde hair and even paler blue eyes.

She had no sense of humor.

She once asked me, “Did you see the man tarred today?”

“Yes, frightening how his appearance changed for the worst,” I replied.

She blinked. “Well, he was tarred. It’s hardly a trip to the baths.”

I bit back a retort. It would not do to have her angry at me. She would never let me live peacefully then.

She stood awkwardly, her huge stomach hindering her path.

“I think I shall retire for tonight,” she announced. I knew this to be my cue to take her arm and escort her to our bedroom. She had already lost two babies and was terrified for this one. Until the birth, I knew I would have to be the very epitome of patience or risk having her try and make my life a hell for making her “lose” our child.

The things I do for peace.

Our son, Leandro, was born a month later. He had Chiara’s pale skin and blue eyes but my black hair. Chiara refused to have a wet nurse; instead, she took care of him herself, rarely letting him from her grasp. Even I was caught up. Leandro was a beautiful child and inconceivably intelligent. He was calling us “Mama” and “Papa” by the time he was four months old and was walking shortly after the seventh month. Everyone commented on how quickly he learned, how strange and gifted our son was.

I began taking him everywhere I went, teaching him all I could. He absorbed everything. After he turned three, my father began teaching him the same lessons in oratory he had instilled in me. After a few years, Leandro could debate successfully with anyone about almost any subject.

Two months before Leandro turned ten, my father died. An elderly servant mistook an herb with a poisonous plant.

I never believed this story. During my father’s long political career, he made many enemies. Men he had proved wrong, men envious of his success, men he had defeated in the scramble for power. It could have been any of them, I thought. I grew more careful. I had learned with my father’s death the danger of witnesses. I would not repeat the mistake. I kept my dealings secret and trusted no one.

“This is ridiculous, Aro!” Chiara yelled. I had sent back our food for a third time, not liking the strange stickiness of some cinnamon rolls. “Your father’s death was an accident. A terrible accident, yes, but still an accident.”

Leandro and Milena looked up suddenly when they heard their mother scream. It was strange to hear Chiara raise her voice for anything. Now, they watched her, silent and eyes wide.

“Calm down, Chiara,” I said. My voice remained steady and soft but I knew it would carry. “Your overreactions are startling the children.”

Chiara narrowed her eyes to blue slits. “My overreactions are startling the children? What of their father who sees a murder attempt everywhere he looks?”

Leandro dropped his gaze to the table and Milena writhed uncomfortably in her chair.

“I am trying to keep my family safe,” I say calmly. “If there is something strange with the food then we won’t eat it. It’s not paranoia, Chiara; I’m simply being careful.”

“You can never lose, can you?” Chiara shook her head. “In any argument, you’re sane and you’re logical while I’m hysterical and irrational. I can’t argue with you, Aro. I’ll just lose and you’ll go ahead and do whatever you want as you always have.” Chiara opened her mouth as if to say something else but closed it. She stood nobly and walked away. The table was silent for a few long moments.

“Papa?” Milena broke the silence. Her pale grey eyes looked to me from under her dark curls.

“Yes, Milena,” I say shortly. I did not mean to snap at my daughter but Chiara had left me tense and irate.

“Papa, I’m hungry.”

Her words caught me completely off-guard. I looked at her and upon catching sight of her solemn face I could not help myself. I laughed. She looked startled before she began giggling as well. Her giggles were contagious and Leandro started chuckling into the table.

“All right,” I said after I regained control. “Let’s find something, shall we?”

An hour later, I walked to the bedroom Chiara and I shared. I carried a tray with the food Leandro, Milena, and I had managed to make. The kitchen was destroyed but I had not seen my children laugh so much in a long time.

“I brought you something to eat,” I say to the figure laying on the bed, back turned to me. “I know you’re not asleep, Chiara, so you can stop pretending.”

There was no movement.

“All right,” I said, untroubled. I set the tray on the floor, near the bed. “I’m leaving your food here on the floor. When you want to, you can eat it.”

I turned to undress when a pale hand shot from the darkness to latch on to my wrist. Tears had carved a path down Chiara’s cheeks and her usually blue eyes were bloodshot.

“Forgive me, Aro,” she whispered. “I did not mean to snap. I’m just so anxious, what with the pregnancy and your father’s death…” she trailed off.

“It’s all right, Chiara,” I said. My voice softened to a near croon. It was the voice I used to ease many a political situation, calm the men’s fears. “I understand.” I allowed my hand to rest on her shoulder; the other cupped her cheek.

“Something terrible is going to happen,” she said, eyes going wide with fright. “I’ve been feeling it coming closer.”

“Nothing is going to happen, Chiara. It’s just the pregnancy that has you like this. You know how you were with Leandro and Milena. Sleep. You’ll feel better.”

Chiara nodded and lay down. She was asleep within minutes. I was left to undress and lay beside her, staring at the ceiling. It was not the first time that Chiara predicted something but if there were no danger it would be the first time she was wrong.

Questions taunted me all that night.

A week later, Chiara miscarried a boy. Her feelings of danger did not abate, however.

Two months after the baby was buried, a festival was held in honor of the king. As one of his Councilors, my family and I received gifts. We could not go out to celebrate, however, because Leandro had taken ill. He was coughing and sneezing all the time and could not sleep from the fevers. Among the gifts I had received I found a bottle of strong wine. The doctor told us to give Leandro some in order help ease his discomfort. Under the wine’s influence, he relaxed and was able to sleep. The doctor also told us to take some ourselves as it would help settle us.

I collapsed into my bed, exhausted from three days of vigil. Chiara slept in Leandro’s room; whenever one of the children took ill, she never left their side until she was sure they were healthy and strong again.

A scream reverberated through the house. I jumped to my feet and ran to Leandro’s room where Chiara continued screaming. I froze at the door.

Chiara held Leandro tightly. His skin had turned a sickly pallid green and his eyes had rolled into his head. He was drenched in sweat and his body had seized up; his movements were jerky and sporadic, his hands constantly twitching.

“Get the doctor!” I screamed to one of the servants.

“Papa, why is mama screaming?” Milena called. She stood in the middle of the hall, trembling. She moved to see around me and into the room but I grabbed her and pushed her away.

“Sorry, Milenita, but you have to go back to your room.”

“No, I want to stay with you,” she said stubbornly.

“Milena, go to your room.”

She took a step back but stayed. “No.”

With an oath, I grabbed her and shoved her into a slave’s hands. “Take her to her room and keep her there.” The slave nodded nervously and hurried away, Milena’s screams trailing behind them.

“Leandro, please, listen to me. Breathe, love, you’ll be alright. You just have to relax, breathe with me,” Chiara begged inside the room. I stepped toward them.

Leandro was fading. The once articulate child had been reduced to incoherent whimpers. Chiara held him to her, singing softly. Soon, his shudders ceased and he relaxed completely. Chiara kissed his brow.

“You’re fine, see? You’re safe. You’re safe, love.”

“Chiara,” I began. She smiled up at me.

“He’s fine. Where is the doctor? I need him to make sure he’s completely safe.”

I looked at the boy in my wife’s arms. He was pale, his skin still covered in a fine sheen of sweat. His features were slack and his chest no longer moved. I knelt before them and placed my hand on his chest.

There was no heartbeat.

“Chiara, he’s dead.” My voice had lowered to a whisper, dead of emotion.

“What?” she asked.

“He’s gone.”

“No, he isn’t. He’s just sleeping because he’s tired. He’s not dead, Aro. Leandro wouldn’t die.”

“Chiara, he’s dead.”

“Stop lying! He’s not dead, he’s not,” she snarled at me. Then, she turned to the child in her arms. “Wake up, Leandro so your father can stop spouting nonsense. Leandro. Leandro. Leandro, wake up. Wake up! Leandro!” She began shaking him, screaming at him to wake up. I grasped her hands and pulled them away. With one hand I took the corpse from her lap and laid it on the bed. I grabbed her and pulled her away.

“Let me go! Let me go! He’s my son; I need to get to my son! Leandro, Leandro!” Chiara collapsed into hysterics and I had to forcibly haul her away.

The doctor arrived in time to tell us what killed Leandro.

“Poison,” he said softly. “He was poisoned. Here, Aro, have some wine. It’ll help you relax.” The doctor signaled for some wine and a slave brought in the bottle and two cups. The doctor poured some out for both of us and handed me a cup. He continued, “Has he eaten anything strange, that you know?”

“No,” I said. Chiara slept with Milena. An old slave had made a strong tonic for her to sleep. “He’s eaten everything we have and we’re fine.”

“Has he been anywhere different he usually wouldn’t be at?”

“No, he did—” I stopped short. Leandro had eaten, or rather drunk, something he usually didn’t. The wine. The wine that was now inches from my lips. The wine that the doctor, despite pouring a cup for himself, had not touched.

Fury licked my insides. I remembered one of my father’s slaves had taken ill two days before he died. The doctor had gone to his house. Was he also responsible for my father’s death?

The doctor misunderstood my silence. “I understand how terrible this must be for you but you’ve got to try to remember so that we can find the object and destroy it before anyone else is poisoned.”

“Of course,” I agreed. I pretended to take a sip of the wine. “Why don’t you have some wine? It’s good and to does help ease you.”

“Thank you but no. I’m not feeling thirsty.”

“Then why did you pour a cup for yourself?”

He looked up at my words and blanched. I can imagine what he saw in my face: hatred twisting my features into something indescribable and utterly terrifying. It is how Anna would describe my face a few thousand years later, when she was attacked and when Jane and Alec were burned at the stake.

I did not give the doctor a chance to speak. I too his cup and raised it to his mouth. “Take it. It will help settle you,” I mocked him.

He stood quickly and turned to run to the door but I was faster. I grabbed him by his hair and forced the cup of wine into his mouth. A blow to the neck made him choke and, when he inhaled, he swallowed the wine. I stood back and kept him from trying to vomit. From the large amount of poison I forced him to ingest, he reacted to the wine sooner than had Leandro. He grabbed his neck as he began choking. His eyes had dilated until the pupil was almost lost in a sea of black as sheen of perspiration broke over his skin. His rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed with the same agonized, jerky shudders that had attacked Leandro.

As I looked at his convulsing body, a strange feeling crept within me. It took me a while to realize it was glee. With a delighted joy that children feel when they receive a present, I watched the doctor writhe on the floor, choking on his own fluids. Within seconds, he was dead.

In a bag tied to his waist I found the extract of belladonna he’d used as poison and several foreign coins. I recognized the coins. They came from the country that the king’s closest adviser came from. A man who had succeeded my father’s job after his death. Piero Acerbi.

“He did it, then?”

I turned at Chiara’s voice. I did not know she had awoken. She was staring at the body with hatred.

“No.” She looked to me in surprise at my negation. “He was paid. Piero Acerbi paid him.” As proof, I held up one of the large gold coins.

“The man who has you father’s job? Who tried to convince the king to remove you from the Council?”

“Yes,” I replied. Chiara stepped closer and took the coin from my hand. She stared at it for a long time. When she spoke again, her voice was unrecognizable from the hatred now coloring it.

“Kill him,” she snarled. “Kill him for killing my son. Make him suffer, Aro.” She took something from her robe and set it in my hands, a long dagger its hilt covered in jewels.

“If I’m not back in an hour, raise the alarm.” Chiara nodded. I kissed her briefly then grabbed my cloak and stepped out of my home into the dark streets.

It took several minutes of following the winding roads to reach Piero’s house. His house was a magnificent sprawling building. Once there, a servant answered.

“I come to see your master. Tell him Aro Visconti requests an audience.”

“Master Acerbi does not take visitors at this hour,” the servant replied. I raised my hand so that the gold coin in it caught the torchlight and glinted.

“I think he would really want to meet with me,” I said.

The servant quickly ushered me and offered me a seat while he went to get his master.

I could not sit still. Instead, I stood and restrained myself from pacing. The servant soon came back and motioned for me to follow him. He led me to a room in the back of the house and opened the house for me. The moment I stepped through, the door shut. I couldn’t help a feeling of entrapment that swept over me.

“Ah, Aro Visconti, the one all of Ticinum calls ‘Deofilion’,” Piero Acerbi stood with his back to the door wearing robes that looked to be made of raw silk. His voice had a slight musical lilt to it. “To what do I owe this honor?”

“I think you know to what. I come here to repay the favor you did me. Favors actually,” I smiled. I forced myself to remain calm.

“I’m afraid I do not know. Could you enlighten me?” Underneath the kind tone was a mocking inflection that I did not miss. My smile remained firmly in place but my hatred spread like the poison that had killed Leandro.

“I come to thank you for killing my father and my son.”

“Your father and son? I knew about Gian’s death, of course, but whatever happened to your son?”

“He was poisoned, as was my father because you needed him gone. Since my father had such good relations with the king he could stop the king from doing what you said. But you don’t like to have someone get in the way of your plans, do you? No, so you called a friend of yours, dressed him as a doctor, and had him feed my father poison. Perhaps the slave’s illness was also your making. Then, after my father’s dead, you take his job and think you’re safe. But my father taught me very well and suddenly you had another who was influencing the king away from you. You’d killed someone once before. Perhaps his son would fall for the same ruse. Except your aid made a mistake. He fed the poisoned wine to my son not me. Don’t worry about him; he sends me with a message: the wine was delicious.”

“And you come here to tell me to try the wine?” Piero’s head moved slightly toward me. I said nothing. “I don’t drink wine,” he continued. “I feed on something…richer.”

I frowned slightly in confusion as Piero Acerbi slowly turned. I had never seen him closely before and was surprised. He was an incredibly handsome man with thick arms. His skin was exceedingly pale and his eyes were a bright, unholy red. He smiled revealing white teeth.

“I feed on something much more delicious than wine,” he continued. He cocked his head, studying me with a detached curiosity. “You’re quite observant. I’ve seen you during the Council meetings. You can predict a person’s history from how they act, what they speak. A useful quality, I imagine.”

I remained silent, biting back the insults crowding my throat.

Qui tacet consentire, I heard my father’s voice.

“What do you get from me, with that ability of yours? What can you guess of my history?” His smile was mocking me.

“You’re old,” I began. “Much older than you look.” His smile widens.

“Go on.”

“You despise life and fear death.” I studied him closely. “You fear the fire behind you.”

His smile grew fixed and he unconsciously edged away from the fire. Unless one had been watching, the movement would have been lost.

“And you’re not human,” I finished. Any monster who dares kill a child isn’t human, I thought. Then, I realized he was sneering, upper lip curled and teeth bared.

He was also silent.

Qui tacet consentire.

“You agree to the fact that you’re not human?” I grin.

“Aren’t you clever?” he snarled. “Can you answer me this? If I am not human, then what am I?”

“A pathetic monster.”

“That’s not a specific answer,” he grinned but there was something wrong with his grin. It was feral and I realized his eyes had turned completely black. “Let me show you then, what I am, and you can decide later if I am still ‘a pathetic monster’.”

I tensed, waiting for him to attack. Instead, he disappeared. Before I could gather my thought I felt a blow to my chest that sent me reeling to the opposite wall. I hit it but before I could begin to slump forward, a pale, freezing hand shot out of nowhere to wrap around my neck and hold me prisoner against the wall. The hand moved and a sharp pain stabbed into my neck. I looked down and saw Piero’s head against my neck. I reached into my clothes and withdrew Chiara’s dagger. I angled it against Piero’s head and stabbed. Before my unbelieving eyes, the dagger shattered.

Piero slowly raised his head. A dark red liquid rimmed his lips which he greedily licked.

“I’m indestructible,” he grinned. His head again angled down but I threw an arm to cover my neck. His teeth sank into the flesh of my forearm and a biting heat invaded it. I struggled in his grasp. I angled one hand back to try and punch him away. With a sickening crack, the bones in my hand shattered upon contact with his marble-like skin. I felt him smile against my skin.

As my blood was siphoned away, I felt myself growing weaker. My vision was rapidly becoming hazy and I felt more lightheaded with every second that passed.

My memory becomes erratic at this point.

Piero attached to my neck like a giant pale leech.

Voices and yells reverberated through the house.

I collapsed as Piero dropped me turning and roaring.

Chiara’s warm hands on my face as she tells me that I’ll be fine, begging me to stay awake with her.

A man’s voice yelling, “Fire! He hates fire!”

An agonized roar that no human could make.

Chiara’s face as she tells me, “It’s over, now. He’s fled. Don’t leave me, Aro. Don’t leave me…”

Pain seared through my body, scorching me from my veins to my skin. I writhed in agony, clawing vainly at the bed for purchase before another wave of pain jerked me again. I foamed at the mouth, choking on pain. My eyes rolled into the back of my head. Convulsions shook my body. The smallest movement brought on racking torture but the sheer amount of pain did not allow me to lie still. A vicious circle.

My skin burned as the heat of venom raked through my skin. The heat was intense enough that it did not burn my skin away. Instead, it seemed to freeze it, hardening it.

The pain became a tide, ebbing and flowing, bringing with every tide a new wave of fire. I bit down on my lower lip to keep from screaming. I would not shame myself or add to Chiara’s suffering by screaming. Then, the new wave rocked my body violently.

Every breath was an arduous torture, seeming to fan the flames licking my insides.

I could not bite it back anymore. A scream tore its way out of my throat to echo back to me. My pores screamed their own pain as the gold shades of my skin were burned away leaving me dressed in nothing but a white pain.

One last wave hit, stronger and more painful than all the others combined. It struck my body like a bolt. My heart clenched within my chest, iron bands tightening. One hideous scream sucked the air from my lungs, draining me of my human past. Then, the pain eased as my body’s temperature cooled.

I did not feel weak or ill. Instead, I felt stronger and better than ever before. Like I was indestructible.

The memory caused my eyes to snap open and sit up abruptly. A surprised gasp stabs into my ears. It sounded loud, louder than normal. I was suddenly aware that I could not only hear the prey’s respiration but their heartbeat as well. I turned my head slowly.

The prey is small but smells absolutely delicious. The smell was beyond description, ambrosia itself. I could grow heady on the smell alone. And if it smelled like this, what must it taste like?

I lunged at it, a pale cold hand wrapping around a slender neck. The pulse was erratic, beating out under my hand—an incredible massage. I could see the pulse, the course the blood charted and I lowered my head reverently toward it. My tongue darted out to taste the skin. Sweet and soft. My teeth grazed the delicious skin and sunk through to the liquid heaven underneath.

The blood rushed into my mouth, sinfully delicious, lusciously decadent. I moaned from the taste, the delicious taste, like Elysium riding in your mouth. I drained the blood grabbing the prey’s long blonde hair in order to have a better angle to the blood in it.

Then, as the blood flow lessened, the Thirst’s howl lessened as well. My hand dropped away from the pale blonde hair as my eyes slowly looked up at the prey’s face. Uncomprehending, I dropped a woman’s body as I stood. Blood had dribbled onto my chin, one of my hands, the front of my robes. I eagerly lapped all the blood I could. As the Thirst began to settle, my sanity returned and with it, I saw Chiara’s body on the floor, a vicious gash in her neck from which no blood flowed. Her eyes were wide and glassy, reflecting the room around her but showing no light behind them.

I knew it was Chiara, I knew she was my wife. But I did not understand why she was lying so still on the floor. I especially could not understand how she was not bleeding from such an awful wound.

The Thirst settled but kept its claws embedded deeply in me. I was not free of it completely. But the fog it had laid over my brain cleared for me to comprehend what had happened.

I killed Chiara.

A scream destroyed the horrible silence in the room. A slave stared at Chiara then to me and continued screaming. Her shrieks brought forth others. A man was at their head who stared at me shocked before shaking his head.

“He’s one of them! We cannot allow him to live!” The small group behind him quickly screamed its approval. At their approach, a roar tore its way from chest that sent many stumbling back. I took this chance to run through the door, striking anyone of the way who did not move fast enough. In most cases I heard the snap of broken bone but did not pause.

I had killed Chiara because I was not able to control myself. Milena was still in the house; I had smelled her. I would not kill my daughter as well.

I ran away from the city into the forest. Once deeply ensconced in the trees, I collapsed, trying to make sense of everything that had happened in the last few hours. My son had been killed so I went to avenge his death. His killer had bitten me, tried to drain my blood but did not kill me because Chiara and the men she had managed to rouse arrived. Somehow, they used fire to frighten the man (the leech?) away. He did something though that made me turn into someone like him. The pain must have been the result of the changing. When the pain eased, I awoke thirsty and attacked the closest thing with blood to feed on: Chiara.

I clapped my hands to my head. Upon thinking her name, hundreds of memories had rushed forth, memories that were not mine. I tried to sort them out, losing myself in them.

A young girl crying over her mother’s body.

A boy offering his hand to a little girl to help her up.

A sharp pain and a sudden heat as blood pooled into a woman’s skirts.

Myself, my eyes redder than Piero’s as I attacked the woman, teeth sinking into her neck.

Chiara. These are Chiara’s memories, I realized. How did I get her memories?

I concentrated, forced myself to find a semblance of order and soon Chiara’s memories were receding into the back of my mind where I locked them away.

I stood slowly. I could hear the trickling of a stream toward my left and ran that way. I stopped quickly and looked back.

I had covered a large distance in a matter of seconds.

I’m indestructible.

I bent down and picked up a twig. I tightened my grip and when I opened my hand, I saw the twig reduced to nothing but dust. I raised a fist and slammed into the nearest truck. It shattered upon contact, the tree collapsing. I looked in awe to my hands, pale and unblemished. Perfect.

I finished the run to the river, now needing to see myself.

I had paled considerably, my long black hair contrasting against the icy palidity of my skin. My eyes were a brilliant red, several shades brighter than the blood I now seemed to feed on.

I made a decision there by that river in my first hour as a vampire. The Thirst did not seem to fade completely. Even now, I could feel it as a hollow in my body. I would feed on humans constantly, whenever I felt the Thirst begin to stir. That way, I would ensure my prey were ones that would not bother me with their death. I would not allow my instincts to overcome me and cause me to attack randomly again. I owed that much to Chiara.

In three thousand years, I am proud to say I have not broken that promise once.