Chapter 4 - Q & A
Just past midnight the three young people thanked their clients profusely for a thoroughly enjoyable experience, then excused themselves. Ian entered the room with a small tray of cheese and a choice of port or sherry.
"You've outdone yourself again, Ian darling."Eliza purred. "Please endow all three, just call my solicitor, Katharina, and she will arrange it."
"You're very generous my Lady Bard."
"I appreciate good service," her eyes twinkled teasingly, "you know that of all people!"
The old man smiled and blushed.
"Have you reconsidered my offer, darling?"
Ian made himself comfortable before answering.
"I am honored, as always my lady. I know that I only have a precious few years left, if that. I'm not a wizard, not even a squib so I won't enjoy a very long life. But what I've been given Ihave enjoyed, immensely." He raised his glass to Eliza, "Due largely to the gift of your patronage my Lady.
"I just can't imagine outliving my grandchildren, not aging as they do. I don't know how, but I know I will see my beloved Arista in a short while and together we'll wait for you to join us.
"As much as I adore you my Lady, I beg you to not offer your gift again. I have become an old man, and a little fearful of death. I may not be able to resist again, and I know in my heart that I would make a sad excuse for a vampire."
Bella glanced at her ancestress and was startled to see a single blood-red tear tracing her cheek.
"Damn you Ian," she said, her tone loving and kind, "you know you're the only man alive who can make me cry."
Ian produced a small handkerchief and tenderly dabbed Eliza's cheek.
A small voice in Bella's mind said, "Reassure him."
"Ian," she said, "there is a road that winds through the Elysian Fields, and along that road are many resting places where those that have gone on before wait for us. For them the wait is not long, and then together you will walk, or perhaps wait for others. For those who have been worthy of love it is a beautiful place."
Ian beamed at the young vampiress.
"I will miss you darling," Eliza said, a hint of a sob in her voice. "Will you wait for me? I may be a terribly long time."
Bella remembered what Sirius had told her and smiled.
Eliza stood and gathered the little old man into her arms; his head nestled between her breasts. "I miss you too much already darling, but I will respect your wishes."
Bella recognized the farewell for what it was and stood to follow her ancestress out. As they walked they talked.
"Was Arista his wife?"
"She died." It wasn't a question.
"She was killed by zealots." Eliza said bitterly.
"Vampire hunters." She explained, "Women who call themselves "slayers" and their accomplices, the "watchers." They hound us, hunt us and kill us, and then boast of their persecution as if it's a noble calling. Honestly, these people spend all their lives studying our kind and yet do not understand us."
"Wait, you mean Arista was a vampire?"
"Oh yes, a young girl I turned rather than see wither away from a rare blood disease." She pondered, "well, not so rare anymore, it was human immunovirus and I understand it's attacking many of the muggles.
"She was young, pretty and homeless. She made her living the only way she could given her circumstances, and contracted the disease. I couldn't bear to see her suffer so my choices were to kill her or turn her. I turned her.
"She became enamored with Ian, and he loved her, but he loved her like a daughter. Something died in him when she was taken from us."
"So we're immune from AIDS?" Bella asked.
"From all blood diseases, leukemia, sickle-cell, Chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, you name it, we can't get it."
"Wait, wait. He has grandchildren. Is he married?"
"He was, but the bitch left him. Left him to care for a son and daughter, he worked himself half to death before I found him and took him under my wing, so to speak.
"We were lovers in the best sense of the word, he would put the babies to bed and I would come to him, set a few silencing spells around the apartment and, well. . ."
"Rut like stoats?"
Eliza smiled, "Oh yes, but there was more. In true love there has to be more than just animal passion. In gratitude, Iset him up in business. He re-paid my initial investment within three years. There is another restaurant on the other end of his building. The back rooms are by special appointment only. He recruits wait staff based on merit and need. Our servers tonight have the potential to become great scholars, but are desperately poor. Thanks to our conservative government, the poor just keep getting poorer."
"So when you say you've "endowed" them it means?"
"Full ride scholarships darling, including room and board."
"Must be expensive."
"One good thing about living as long as we do, even mediocre investments pay off spectacularly well."
"I refuse to believe you would invest in anything mediocre."
"Well I did buy IBM at one pound and six ashare back in the forties.
"Getting back to Ian, darling man, his kids know he runs a successful restaurant here in London where he works every night. He was always there for them during the day, and he endured their adolescence better than most. Now his son is a chemist in Kensington and his daughter is in Queen's College studying medicine."
"Tell me about the Zealots, the Slayers."
"You've never met such a bunch of self-righteous bigots in your life."
"I've been a death eater," Bella said, not proud of the fact.
"These gits are worse. They go around driving stakes in us, or decapitating us or burning us without so much as aby-your-leave, then congratulate themselves on a job well done."
"Can they be killed?"
"Oh yes, the watchers are human, the slayers however are different."
"If you kill one another takes her place."
"Oh yes, the slayers are always girls just past adolescence - I think that's to make them more malleable, more controllable."
"How can a teenage girl kill a vampire?"
"You mean they're witches."
"No, just magically enhanced. They sense our presence; they are faster than we are and at least as strong. They are programmed with a serious hatred of all things "dark.""
"Aren't we dark creatures?"
"Has no one ever told you that dark is not the same as evil?"
Bella had to smile at that, those were almost exactly the words Sirius had used to reassure her.
"How many slayers are there in London?"
"How many in Great Britian?"
"So why are we worried?"
"Because the slayer and her cohorts have the most annoying habit of appearing at the most inopportune times possible."
"So if I'm not punctured with a piece of wood, beheaded or set afire I can expect to live how long?"
"The most ancient of us are fifty centuries old."
"So we are essentially immortal, what else?"
"We are fast, so fast that in the space of the blink of a human eye we can cross a large room. We heal quickly, even to the point of regenerating limbs. We are stronger than mountain trolls. We are natural animagi, wolf and bat."
"Bat?" Bella asked, incredulously.
Eliza transformed into a very large bat, then back again.
"Was that a vampire bat?"
"Indeed, what else?"
"We have a natural talent for mind magic, acombination of confunding and obliviating. We also release pheromones that enthrall humans."
"Ah yes, dinner," Bella recalled with relish,"and the disadvantages?"
"We are very sensitive to light, especially sunlight."
"Will sunlight kill us?"
"No, just give us a very bad sunburn, Irecommend SPF fifty or better, oh, and very dark glasses."
"So we can walk about in daylight?"
"Yes, it weakens us but will not kill us. Well, I suppose it could but we'd have to lie naked in the sun at high noon in summer."
"What about crucifixes?"
"What about them?"
"Don't they repel us?"
"A crucifix is two pieces of wood stuck together, granted, if you sharpen the end of one and use it to pierce our hearts we will die, but then again so would anyone else."
"How often do we have to feed?"
"At least once a week, we can go longer but then we get weak and become a danger to our food source.
Vampire legends completely ignore the laws of supply and demand. If we killed humans for food there would soon be no food left. If every human we fed from became a vampire then again, there would soon be no food left. We manage our food resources better than most humans do.
Just now you asked how often we have to feed; we only have to feed once a week, but should eat at least one small meal every other day. A ravenous vampire can't stop feeding until the food's heart stops. As I said earlier, this would be very bad for human-vampire relations."
"Anything you're not telling me?"
"The worst part."
"And that is?"
"It is often a solitary existence."
Bella was puzzled at that, "but you have friends, family, and" she looked back in the general direction of Ian's,"love."
"You'll see darling. You'll come to understand that we don't often seek out the company of other's such as ourselves. Truth be told we're a vain, shallow breed. Constantly comparing ourselves to other vampires - we tend to get a bit "catty" around each other.
"Those whom we turn become bound to us, that is, until they "outgrow" us. Honestly darling, it's like being in the presence of a hormonal adolescent when one of our minions decides to "leave the nest,"as it were."
Bella nodded, she could tell she was already beginning to compare herself to her ancestress.
"And the rare few humans we become attached to wither and die in a pitiful few decades."
"I would think we could form groups, covens perhaps, for mutual protection." Bella mused.
"Very good darling, you've hit on the one thing that will knit a group of vampires into a community - enlightened self-interest. We do indeed form covens to serve our own interests. The reigning coven masters and mistresses are always the most powerful vampires in the coven."
"Not the oldest?" Bella asked.
"Age does not impart power my dear, you are already more powerful than half the ancient vampires I know simply because you were a witch first before you were turned."
Bella thought about her previous life, her unending search for power and shuddered.
"I think I'll be content to just live and let live in this new life." She said.
Eliza nodded, understanding the girl more than she let on.
Bella was startled by the little voice in her head again, "find Remus. Help him."
"Ancestress, I need to find someone, a friend of a friend."
"Your friend's friend will probably not know you darling, you will look different to humans - they will know that they know you from somewhere, but will not be able to recognize you as the Bellatrix from before."
"Believe me when I say that that is not a bad thing."
"Where do you need to go darling?"
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