Author’s Notes: I was trying to write about the friendship between David and Dwayne, but realized that it was important to know what happened immediately after David became a full fledged vampire. I also knew Esperanza and C’erri didn’t like one another, and that needed to be explored a little as well…
A Battle of Queens
“Do you not approve of my methods, my love?” Max asked Esperanza, her dark eyes flashing fire. Max gave her a sidelong glance, as if to appease her. He cupped a hand underneath her chin. “We could not afford David to turn out like our other son.”
Slowly, she reached up and pushed his hand from her face, her nostrils flaring humanlike in her anger. She never could have imagined Max would complete David’s journey in this manner. To allow C’erri to be a part of the final transformation was unthinkable. David was already far more powerful than a new vampire should be, considering he drank a powerful combination of both Esperanza’s and Max’s blood. Now, Max had taken it upon himself to initiate David without so much a mention of the rules he should follow. She could only imagine the seductive scenario C’erri had dreamed up. All pleasure, no consequences, no rules for the ‘all powerful immortals’ that they were. Esperanza’s emotions whirled into a tempest.
“Expand your family how you will,” she spat angrily, knocking to the ground a glass of wine he had offered her. The blood wine spilled in droplets to the floor, mixing with the fine sawdust in a grisly design. “I will no longer be responsible for the consequences.”
In a whirl of hair and skirts, she was gone, the door practically coming off its frame as she slammed it behind her. Only the faint scent of gardenias remained as proof she had been there.
Max sank into his chair in frustration, chewing thoughtfully on his pipe as he did so. While he understood Esperanza’s anger, he was fairly certain her fury was mainly due to C’erri’s presence over her own. Despite his best efforts, the problems between the two women were escalating, rather than diminishing.
His eyes wandered towards the slightly open bedroom door, where C’erri now stood, anger also marring her face. “Now you will go and beg her forgiveness, I’m sure,” she said, her words stinging like freezing rain. Max motioned to the chair beside him, but instead, she looked at him with disdain. “When will you understand that she can only bring ruin to your dreams of family?”
He made no comment, and made no moves in her direction. For the moment, he was weighed down by the gravity of the arguments. Max could only watch as C’erri gathered her emerald colored skirts and follow the same path as Esperanza out of the house.
She pulled open the heavy door and cast one glance back in his direction. “You have your reasons for your actions, I’m sure,” she snapped. “Just remember I have reasons for mine as well.” With a cool nod, she glided outside.
Max remained focused on the closed door that blocked his vision of the outside. Somewhere out there the two women in his life wallowed in fury. It was too easy for them to take their anger out on each other. Max shuddered. He had a fairly good idea of who would emerge victorious. He sighed as he became lost within his thoughts.
C’erri was coming along beautifully, in his estimation. She was gorgeous, seductive, incredibly cunning, and moving steadily towards downright vicious. There had been no doubt she was the perfect individual to coax David into fully coming across. The family they would become could be unstoppable.
Esperanza had the rather irritating habit of coddling her children, instead of preparing them for greatness. Several of her brood had been destroyed, either by hunters or other means. Only Dwayne remained.
Max slammed his fist onto the table in irritation. Dwayne. The exact type of remorseful, soul searching vampire Max detested. How could they ever become the ruling race with an apprehensive and resentful Prince?
Dwayne’s lack of progression as a vampire had infuriated Max to the point that he left Esperanza for a time. He left the west coast for the east, returning to Boston. The Boston he remembered had grown quite a bit. Immigrants from Ireland came in daily by the boatful. Their dreams of finding opportunity and riches were dashed quickly by the huge amount of anti-Irish sentiment. Boston, it seemed, had forgotten its own humble, immigrant beginnings.
Max saw the woman huddled on the pier, vibrant red hair askew, brilliant eyes soulfully seeking kindness from passersby. He recalled how suspiciously she had first regarded him. Dozens of Irish girls made their livings on the rough Bostonian streets, either by petty thievery, or prostitution, or both. The vitality that blazed in her eyes stopped him from making her a quick and satisfying meal. No, instead he gave her an opportunity she could not have possibly imagined.
Initially, C’erri was merely grateful that he provided her with quarters and food. She never questioned his nocturnal habits or his whereabouts. Receiving material goods in exchange for sharing his bed was a huge leap from where she would have ended up by taking her chances on the pier. Before long, Max found himself growing terribly fond of the eager to please woman.
What an initiate C’erri made! Her willingness to learn allowed him to gently mold her as he willed. C’erri progressed as he shaped her into his image of an ideal vampire. Her turning was not unlike David’s; a bottle of wine, a handsome and willing young man, and minimal coaching by Max. How eagerly C’erri devoured her prey, eradicating her human self in the process. As each night passed, he became more certain the vampire C’erri had become could be the best way to prove his point with Esperanza.
C’erri’s trust in Max made it simple for her to adapt to her new lifestyle. She used her beauty to seduce her victims and essentially thrived upon the power of the kill. Every word from Max’s lips, every lesson he conscientiously taught, she accepted unconditionally. His eagerness caused him to rush her to Santa Carla to present her to Esperanza.
In retrospect, he realized that his haste had been a grievous error. Neither woman was prepared for the meeting. He could feel the tension present itself immediately upon their first meeting. Esperanza stared in undeniable shock, and C’erri grasped his arm possessively, sneering at Esperanza as she did so. “No wonder you left her, Max.” He could still hear C’erri taunt. “She practically reeks of Human Weakness.”
Max’s eyes widened in surprise and he prepared to discipline C’erri by teaching her the proper respect of an Elder. Esperanza, however, moved first. Her features remained neutral, but her eyes betrayed her true emotions. A bickering retort would not have been Esperanza’s fashion. She had no time for impudence.
Before he could intervene, Esperanza had C’erri by the throat and began squeezing it, allowing tiny droplets of crimson appear on C’erri’s torn skin. “Best that you mind your manners, Little One.” Esperanza scolded. “Another immortal might not be so merciful.” Esperanza reared back, and hurled C’erri’s rigid body through a nearby wall.
Max cringed at the sight of the wreckage. The wooden wall was utterly demolished, allowing the frigid night air into the room. The ocean was fully visible in the gaping hole, and only a small moan from C’erri could draw him away from the sight. Swiftly digging through the wooden rubble, he pulled C’erri to him, noticing with horror the large wooden sliver protruding from her chest. The wood had not pierced her heart, but was deep enough to cause damage to the new vampire. Her eyes brimmed with blood tears of pain as he pulled the offending object from her breast. “Sleep,” he whispered to her in a choking sob, and she helplessly obeyed.
Max looked at Esperanza, an apology beginning to form at his lips. “Keep her, if you wish,” Esperanza fumed. “I’ll not deny you your plaything. But keep her a fair distance from me. I will not be so gentle if she angers me again.”
Max nodded sadly, aware that his plan had gone terribly wrong. “I only wanted you to see the kind of Child we needed to benefit our cause.” He pleaded remorsefully, hugging C’erri to his chest.
Esperanza looked at him with nothing but contempt as she left him standing in the ruined room. By not arguing, by accepting Esperanza’s demands, he unknowingly fueled the burning hatred between the two women.
Back to the present moment, Max contemplated his actions. A wider rift would not make a good impression on the impressionable David. Bickering Queens would not convey the closeness of family he strived for. He placed his pipe on the table, and rose to his feet. It was time to coerce the women into making amends for family sake.
Esperanza gathered her shawl around her body as she reveled in the power of the wind. If only its power were great enough to carry away the troubles which had befallen her pack. The bluff usually managed to ease any foul moods she happened upon, but not this evening. That wretched girl! she thought to herself.
Max doted on C’erri like a lovesick youth. He coddled her incessantly, and submitted to her every foolish whim. Max talked a great deal of C’erri’s superiority as a child vampire, but Esperanza saw her differently. If ever a creature truly lacked a soul, it was C’erri. The girl knew no shame, no manners, no values, and even her loyalty was questionable. Esperanza rubbed her temples, as if she expected her head to begin throbbing in mortal fashion.
Esperanza remembered well the night Max came home with C’erri draped on his arm. The joy she felt upon seeing him quickly dissolved into disbelief, and anger. How dare he flaunt his classless whore in front of her without any warning? She understood instantly that C’erri was Max’s revenge for Dwayne. Or rather Max’s attempt to prove he was superior at molding young ones into powerful immortals.
Then C’erri made her snide comment, nearly causing Esperanza to reach through the offending other’s chest and rip out her blackened heart. Only the sight of Max kept her from destroying C’erri and offering her remains to the rising sun. Max, her companion and lover of these many years, how foolish he must have felt. Better to let him wallow in his guilt than have him hold her responsible for the destruction of his child.
Afterwards, she and C’erri managed civility, but each inwardly longed for the moment when the other was obliterated.
Esperanza was certain C’erri cajoled Max into hastening David’s transformation. Max had never disregarded explicit instructions from Esperanza before C’erri’s appearance. Now… it appeared that Esperanza’s powerful blood was good enough to begin vampiric transformations, but her guidelines regarding the progression of change were ignored.
She would have continued to stand in her angry silence for hours, had she not felt the hostile presence moving in her direction. Her heavy black curls shook from side to side as she became more aware of C’erri’s presence. The girl was not very schooled at concealing her presence, was she? Esperanza grinned deviously.
“Shall we end this now, Child?” she asked, not turning from the majestic ocean view.
C’erri was taken aback momentarily, not sure how Esperanza could have known she was there. Then her pretty eyes narrowed into catlike slits. Wasn’t it like typical and uppity Esperanza to display her so-called authority over her? It was as if the woman believed she was superior to all the earth’s creatures. “As you wish, Elder,” C’erri tossed into the air.
Max stepped outside the house, hearing footsteps approaching from each side of him. He looked to his left and watched Esperanza advancing, practically floating along the ground. C’erri approached from his right, her eyes fixed on Esperanza. Deep in the pit of his stomach he recognized the heavy feeling of doom. “Don’t,” he whispered to them in horror, but neither of them looked his way.
“You knew this would happen eventually, Max,” Esperanza muttered, her words riding along the sea air as she moved closer to C’erri. It was time to give the girl back to her God.
“You cannot have two Queens, my love,” retorted C’erri, not to be undone. “Only one of us truly understands the goals you have for this family.” C’erri was perfectly aware that she lacked Esperanza’s strength, but she worried not. The trace of a smirk hesitated on her lips as her fingers caressed the bottles of holy water concealed in her skirts.
Max panicked. How could he have blindly hoped the two women could function harmoniously? Worried, he broke into a run, hoping beyond hope he could prevent any disaster from happening. He threw himself between them only to feel himself being hurtled through the air at a dizzying rate. Sand flew at his face, blinding his eyes and filling his mouth. Esperanza had thrown him aside as if he were no heavier than a piece of parchment.
He leaped to his feet, ignoring the blanket of powdery sand which coated his dress suit. Stumbling in the sand dune, he tried to move back to Esperanza and C’erri. He was stopped in his attempt by the pained howl from Esperanza. She buckled to her knees, grasping the side of her face.
C’erri stood above her, brandishing an opaque bottle. Holy Water, Max realized, half in despair, half in admiration of C’erri’s resourcefulness. He lunged forward, grabbing C’erri’s other hand before she could bombard Esperanza with another dose of the burning liquid.
C’erri looked at him triumphantly. “My Love,” she managed before the words turned to a sick gurgling. Esperanza had suddenly attached herself to C’erri’s neck and was drawing the younger immortal’s blood from her body.
“No!” cried Max, reaching towards Esperanza. She swatted him away, releasing C’erri’s neck momentarily. Dark vampire blood dripped from her full lips. Her eyes were glazed over in a predatory sheen.
“The child earned this end,” Esperanza reminded him in the deepened voice of an ancient vampire. She clutched C’erri’s limp body to her, not noticing C’erri’s weak attempt to fight her off. “She overstepped her boundaries far too many times.”
Max held back a sob and nodded miserably. He had made this grievous error, and was prepared to accept the loss of his first child as punishment. Rules, he thought. First I must teach them the rules. His eyes focused on Esperanza’s stunning face, now marred by hideous holy water burns. He touched his fingers to C’erri’s bleeding neck, and then touched them to Esperanza’s burns. The wounds sizzled and popped, but slowly began to heal themselves.
Esperanza winced at the pain, and dropped the drained corpse to the ground beneath her. Max dropped to his knees, staring at his bloodied fingers. All of the work he had done reduced to tiny droplets. He stared miserably at the empty vessel that would be turned to ash by the morning sun. “My fault, my fault,” he whispered.
How she longed to be angry with him, to let him suffer in grief over the body of his whore. But…they had a family to consider. A family to groom and nurture. And families had methods of forgiving one another. She knelt beside him. “It is done, Love,” she murmured, kissing his cheek. “And our son David is out there without our guidance.”
Max nodded slowly and corrected her. “No,” he replied. “Both of our sons are without our guidance.”
Her eyes widened in surprise at his acknowledgement, as he threw back his head in a delighted laugh. Without warning, he rose and lifted them both to their feet. Sand fell from their clothes, caught in the breeze, and surrounded them in a gritty haze. Esperanza chuckled as Max deftly brushed his suit clean. He gently placed his arm around her waist and led them forward, in search of Dwayne and David.
Neither vampire noticed the weak and twitching fingers that grasped at Max’s foot as he vanished into darkness. C’erri’s near lifeless eyes fluttered with the effort to stay conscious. She reached out into the night air. “Not you, Father,” she muttered before she faded into sleep.