Electus Cruor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the midst of revolution, Leir finds himself facing a nightmare worse than he'd ever imagined.

Submitted: June 12, 2012

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Submitted: June 12, 2012

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A horse whinnied in the stables below my window. The candle on my nightstand had shadows dancing on the walls of my bedchamber. A servant girl asked if I needed anything more as she took the foot warmer off the coals and placed it under my blankets.

“A body to warm me?” I replied, smiling coyly.

She wished me a good night, curtsied and hurried out of the room. I could have called her back, ordered her to lock the door and lie down, and she would have no choice but to obey. I had the power, did I not? I was seventeen—a man back then—and the son of a duke. My power and authority could be overruled only by my father and royalty. Not that I needed to depend on my power to get women to come to me. In fact, she was the first of the servants to refuse me. I was a handsome man, with my dark hair and striking green eyes. According to my young sister, I had almost lion-like features that were both graceful and intimidating. I was nigh on irresistible.

Except to the servant girl.

But I didn’t call her back. Instead, I rolled over and closed my eyes as she left. I heard the door open; soft footsteps made their way to my bed. I opened my eyes. My mother sat on the edge of my bed. Her nightdress was covered by a heavy robe; her hair had been let down for the night. I can still remember the way she smelled—like roses and rain—and the way the light from the candle touched her blonde curls so they almost glowed.

“This cannot go on, Leir,” she said softly.

I didn’t answer her.

“Please, I cannot bear this feuding between you and your father. You’re both so stubborn; this can only end badly.”

“I will not go groveling back to him, Mother,” I spit the word out.

“I am not asking you to grovel, Leir. I am asking you to apologize.”

“He should be apologizing to me.”

“Master Claude is asking for you, Mistress.” The same servant girl took one step into the room, head bowed respectfully.

“Very well,” Mother replied; the girl left. “Don’t leave it like this. Goodnight, my son.”

She stood and walked out of the room, blowing out my candle as she left. The only sounds I heard as I fell asleep was the fire cracking and a wolf howling in our woods.

 

When I woke up, the fire was out, but it was still very dark outside.  I could hear people moving around the house, but was too tired to discern specific noises. Why am I awake? I wondered groggily. What could have awoken me?

Suddenly, I heard a loud bang and a scream, followed by many more. I jumped out of bed, grabbed the poker by the fire and ran out of the room. Servants ran by me, completely frantic, as the screaming throughout the house continued. I grabbed the arm of a servant running past and pulled him close to me.

“Tell me what’s happening.”

 He said nothing, but with a terrified look in his eyes, broke free of my grip and ran on. I tried to follow but he disappeared. I reached out for more servants, but couldn’t get a hand on anyone, and instead kept running down the corridor towards the main staircase. The noises were getting closer, though. And then I met them.

Peasants, dozens of them, were flooding my family’s mansion. Torches, pitchforks, kitchen knives—every hand carried a weapon of some sort. I held up the poker, ready to fight as they charged. I did fight, as hard as I could. I was poked, stabbed, hit, burned. I heard my mother cry out. A musket fired twice. I heard my sister screaming in the room directly next to me. Her screams tore at my heart and called me to her—but the crowd kept me away from her door.

I know I killed a few of them and injured plenty more. I could feel the end of my poker penetrating flesh and bone. Their blood stained my clothes, skin and hair; I could taste it on my tongue. Their cries of pain have haunted my ears since that night. But there were just so many of them. Soon, the poker was gone and I was being carried on men’s shoulders—fighting as hard as I could to get down—out of the house.

I saw bodies, bodies of servants and pets, as I was carried out to the front courtyard of our vast estate. The servant girl who had refused me, her body was sprawled on the steps—mangled and bloodied—her vacant eyes staring into mine. I vomited. I began to truly panic for the first time since being awoken. I began screaming and flinging myself about in vain. These peasants were relentless. I heard them shouting at me and at each other. “Kill him—gut him—hang him!” “Death to the noble pig!”

It was a revolution, I would find out later, which would claim the lives of hundreds of nobles, mostly in the capital, but many over-eager peasants sought out us country nobles. Our own king and queen would lose their heads in this movement that would alter our country forever.

I was carried to a tree—an old tree my sister and I had played under as young children. No longer a refuge from the hot summer sun, it had become a tree of death, the tree under which my father, mother and sister would breathe their last. Four nooses hung from the lowest branch. I heard the rest of my family screaming behind me as the peasants carried them out of the house.

Suddenly, I was standing on one of our gilt dining chairs, a thousand hands holding me still. A noose was put over my head and tightened, my hands were bound. Mother, Father and my sister were on the chairs next to me. My sister was openly sobbing. The front of her nightdress was torn and bloody. Mother had silent tears streaming down her face. Father stared out over the crowd. Everyone around us was laughing, hollering, calling out for our execution. A man in a black cape stepped forward—the executioner, he was supposed to be—and smiled cruelly at me. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. He rested his foot against the front of my chair. I closed my eyes and waited for the short drop that was to come.

“Wait.”

The voice wasn’t loud, yet the crowd fell silent. The executioner lowered his foot. Even I stopped breathing for a moment.

“Wait,” the voice said again.

I heard gasps and sighs as the crowd parted slowly. A woman near me began whispering prayers and crossing herself furiously. A man—or what appeared to be a man—stepped forward. He was severely displaced among these peasants and vagrants. He was dressed in velvets and furs only a king could afford. His fingers were adorned with diamonds and rubies as large as his eyes. He picked up his mahogany and silver-inlaid walking stick as he carefully picked his way through the mud in his fine leather boots.

But his clothes were not what struck me the most as he came through the crowd ever closer to me. About thirty years of age, he was one of the tallest men I’d ever seen. His skin glowed in the light of the torches around him—a deathly pale, but not unattractive. His features were enticing and magnetic—strong jaw, thick auburn hair, deeply lined brow. But his eyes—they could have been blue, they could have been green. They shimmered in the dim lights, like a watery surface at dusk.

He must have been nobility, or at least very rich, yet these marauders didn’t touch him. In fact, no one even spoke as he studied me, stared into my eyes until tears were streaming down my face and I was forced to close them.

“I want him,” he whispered.

“You cannot have him. He will die with the others,” the executioner’s voice quivered.

“I will have him. You decide on what terms.”

“There will be no terms.”

I listened to this in horrified silence. It was finally when I heard the sound of coins falling into the executioner’s hand that I was able to voice my objection.

“Murder me! I will not be sold like cattle!”

The stranger just looked at me and smiled slightly.

“That is but a portion of what I offer—enough to satisfy every man and widow here.”

The executioner consulted a few near him.

“He is yours.”

“Thank you, sir.” The stranger bowed to the executioner.

“Are you sure you don’t want the rest of them? The girl, she’d be worth your while, I’m sure.”

“I want him. You may kill the rest.”

In a rush of movement, the noose was off my neck, I was slung over the stranger’s shoulder with my face in his back and we were moving away from the crowd. I heard my sister scream and immediately propped myself up against the strangers back. Mother, her proud demeanor finally broken, was openly sobbing. She was calling out for my father, who was gazed, emotionless, over the crowd.

“Mother,” I cried.

The crowd began moving closer to my family. Suddenly, someone began kicking the chairs. I watched as my father, mother and young sister fell, only to be caught by a rope around their necks. I vomited again before I passed out.

 

When I woke up, the first thing I saw was the moon through a large, elaborate glass door that led onto a veranda. I looked beyond the railing and saw the sea.

I began to remember what had happened, and in that moment I wanted to get up and plunge myself over the rail into those deep, black waters. But I couldn’t, my hands were bound by thick ropes to the posts of the bed, as were my feet. I fought, but in vain.

I glanced about the room. Tapestries and candelabras adorned every wall, but the only piece of furniture in the room was the grand bed I was in. My shirt was gone. There were burn marks and bruises covering my bare chest.

“I am sorry about the rope.” 

I stopped fighting immediately and glared at the pale stranger as he stepped out from a dark corner.

“You would have run if you had awakened and I was absent. As it is, that was almost the case. I shall return tomorrow night.”

I called for him until the sun came up.

 

When an old man came into the room, I was still screaming for the stranger. I didn’t know what time it was, though the sun had arisen long ago.

“You, let me free,” I ordered when he entered.

The tray he carried obviously didn’t weigh much, yet he carried it as he would a stone block or marble slab. He wore a simple tunic and breeches, no shoes. Around his neck, however, was an elaborately decorated silk scarf, its colors standing boldly against his pale skin.

“You need to help me. Untie me,” I tried again.

He ignored me.

“Let me go,” I commanded, “Are you deaf, man?”

Again, he ignored me and set the tray on the edge of the bed. There was no food on the tray; just a glass.

“I was kidnapped, please. I don’t know where I am. You need to let me go, please.”

I had never begged before.

He raised the glass and brought it to my face.

“I don’t want it! Take it away.”  I moved my face away from the glass.

With strength I never expected out of this frail man, he grabbed my chin and turned my face back to the glass. I shut my lips tight; he pried them open and poured the liquid down my throat.

It was cold. It burned. It was thick and oily. It was sweet but sour. It was something I couldn’t place. I tried to think about what it might be, but my thoughts were muddled. I was dizzy and everything seemed hazy.

“What is it?” I muttered.

The servant picked up his tray and turned to walk away.

“Wait, I can’t…you need to…”

I was asleep.

 

“Good evening, young one.”

The voice was coming through a fog.

“I know you are awake.”

I felt myself moving, but the feeling was separate from my physical body.

“Open your eyes.”

I was staring at the ceiling.

“Well done, Leir.” The pale stranger was standing so unnaturally still, he seemed almost a statue.

“Who are you?” I spit through my teeth.

“That seems quite irrelevant, don’t you think?” He smiled at me. “Most in your current situation would rather ask: ‘Where am I?’—presuming that if they knew, they could find a way to escape, ‘What do you want with me?’—presuming that if they knew, they could negotiate their way out of an unwelcome position, or ‘Are you going to kill me?’ Such are questions many other men have asked, rather than inquiring as to who I am. Which leads me to wonder if this says anything of your character? Would you truly know me, rather than your own fate?”

I listened to his speech in dumbfounded silence.

“As it is, I’d rather you didn’t know me just yet, so I shall answer the other questions for you instead to the best of my ability. Where are you? Nowhere that you know, nor could you escape. What do I want with you? My reasons will be made known to you in time. Am I going to kill you? I am going to give you life as you have never dreamed.”

“You have told me nothing.”

The stranger thought for a second, and then smiled. “You’re quite bright, Leir. It’s one of the things that attracted me to you. Anyone can see you’re intelligent—it shines through your eyes.”

“You know my name.”

“I know a lot of things and a lot of people.” The stranger thought for a moment. “You’re a very beautiful boy.”

“You bought me—ruined my life—because I am beautiful? My family was murdered, and I watched them die because I am beautiful? You’ve kept me tied half-naked to this bed and given me nothing to eat or drink but a vile liquid forced down my throat by a deaf man, all because I am beautiful?”

“I saved your life. Your family was murdered because they were rich. You are tied half-naked to the bed, not because you are beautiful—I really care nothing for your body, it’s your eyes that truly intrigue me. Your clothes were simply covered in vomit and blood and are not clean yet.”

“Who are you?” I asked slowly.

The stranger laughed. “You may call me Hugo and I must be off.”

“Don’t go.”

He nearly glided out of the room.

Almost immediately, the old deaf man walked in and, once again, force-fed me the liquid. I slept all day.

 

When I awoke again, Hugo and the servant were there.

“You will follow me to your new room,” He said calmly.

Everything about him was unnervingly calm, all the time.

“And if I try to run?”

“You will be caught, and tied down again until you learn obedience.”

“You are a monster.”

“You cannot run, in any case. You are too weak.”

Of course, he was right. I could feel it, the weakness, coursing through me. Even though I wanted to run, I wouldn’t be able to. I doubted I’d even be able to stand.

I did stand, however, when the servant untied me. I had to lean on him, but I was standing.

“Now, you will follow me.”

We went down one corridor after another—all of them dimly lit, all of them lined with paintings of fields, mountains, castles, still-lifes, but no portraits as far as I could tell.

“Have you no paintings of your family?” I asked feebly.

“They were burned.” Hugo stopped in front of a door and opened it for me.

The room was much smaller than the one I had been in before. There were no windows and only one other door besides the one we had entered through. The bed in this room was much smaller, less grand than the other. My clothes lay at the foot of it, freshly cleaned and folded. There was a wardrobe and a small, grated fireplace. Other than these things, the room was bare.

“This is where you will sleep. And in that room,” he pointed to the other door, “is where we will work. During the day, you will be locked in here until you learn not to run. Eventually, when the work is done, I will free you.”

“What work am I to do?”

“We will begin soon enough.”

“So, if I do this work for you, you’ll let me go?”

“I will free you.” He repeated. “Let us get to work now, Leir. Get dressed. No, not your own clothes—wear something in the wardrobe. The blue one, I believe would be best.”

I moved away from the bed, where I had gone to don my clothes, to the wardrobe. Everything inside was as sensational as what Hugo was wearing. I immediately reached for the blue thing Hugo had asked for.

“Hose and a doublet?” I said, holding it up. “No one has worn hose and a doublet for centuries. What is this?”

“It is suitable.”

“For what, precisely?”

“Put it on and follow me.” He exited through the other door.

The servant immediately began helping me dress: hose, shirt, doublet and a ridiculous hat. Feeling the fool, I walked through the door, and was shocked.

Everything was set up like a painter’s studio. A false window was painted on one wall, overlooking a fake sea at sunset. Against the wall was a table on which were musical instruments, and a stool at the table. A thick red curtain, which would have served as a divider in a real room, was pulled back but gave the illusion of covering the rest of this false room. Hugo sat at an easel, another table next to him on which sat little trays of paint and tools.

“You want to paint me?”

“Yes.”

“You want to paint me?”

“I do. You see, I long for a human subject.”

“Why did you not just ask me to sit for you?”

He took a deep breath. “Because I knew when I was finished the paintings, I would want to keep you. Your family kept you joined to this life, so when the peasants attacked, I seized the opportunity.”

“What do you mean you want to keep me?”

“I don’t yet. You are far too troublesome. Now, please sit at the table.”

I didn’t move

“Are you going to let me go?”

“I will free you.”

“My family is dead. I wish I had died with them,” I murmured to myself.

“Please, Leir, do not test my patience. For as old as I am, I still have not mastered that particular virtue. Sit down.”

“How old are you?”

He sighed. “I can see we will get nowhere today.”

He stood and, grasping my arm with more strength than any man should possess, led me into my bedroom. He locked the door to the studio with a key and turned to leave.

“I shall see you tomorrow night. Perhaps we shall get along better then.”

I heard the door lock from the outside.

 

I hadn’t slept much while he was gone. In fact, I had fought with my body to stay awake; I did not want to be caught unawares by that creature. Yes, by that point of my captivity I was reluctant to call him a “man”, though what my proof was, I couldn’t say; the decision was subconscious.

My efforts were in vain. I had not been fed the awful red liquid (which I concluded was a sort of sleeping draught), yet my eyes had closed.

“Leir,” A soothing voice called through my dreamlessness, “Leir, awake.”

I was staring at a ceiling that was almost lost in shadow.

“We will try our work once more. Wear the blue again. I shall await you in the next room.” Hugo said before gliding through the door to the studio.

I fought him for a week.

 

I was painted.

Hugo had said once that it was my eyes that captured him, drew him to me. Yet, in every painting, though I would initially be facing him, Hugo would turn me away and finish the painting with my eyes averted. After he had finished the third painting, I ventured to ask why he never painted my eyes if they were so beautiful to him. Instead of answering me, however, he grew violent. He threw his paints—almost ruined the painting—and his tools—a small spade scratched my cheek, barely missing the eyes that were so precious to him. He screamed and stormed out of the room. I didn’t see him for a week after the incident.

Each painting took two weeks to complete. Early on in the work, I tried to talk to him.

“How old are you?”

“I was born in 42 B.C.”

“That can’t be true.”

“But it is.”

“Who was your father?”

“A Roman senator—Casca.”

“Casca?”

“Yes, he was the first to stab Julius Caesar. That was two years before I was born.”

“Who was your mother?”

“His slave, Cornelia.”

“Will you ever tell me the truth?”

“I am now.”

“When you were born?”

“I was born in 42 B.C.—the very moment Casca committed suicide.”

“How can you know that?”

“My mother told me often that the moment I left the womb, she felt Casca’s spirit leave this earth. That was when she knew I was destined for evil.”

Eventually, I stopped asking questions.

 

I remember the day it happened. I’d been with Hugo for ninety-four days.

He walked into my room, left the door open and meandered slowly to the studio door. I almost ran then, but Hugo told me to stay. I couldn’t move if I wanted to.

He was restless and irrational, pacing about the room, muttering to himself so I couldn’t hear. Finally, he stopped in front of the thick, heavy, studio door. He turned from me, leaned with one hand against the door and let his head drop. He looked so defeated, but I couldn’t care. This might be my only chance for months, I told myself. I began planning how I would get outside. I had no idea how far from the outer wall of the house I was.

I just need to find a window, I thought, even if I die when I throw myself out I’ll no longer be the prisoner of this mad—

“I was right,” he said after a moment, “I was right when I told you I’d want to keep you. I tried to fight it. I’ve lost so many…so many…” He fell silent again. 

“You said you would let me go,” I said when I finally found my voice again.

“I said I would free you, and free you I shall.”

“What do you mean?”

Hugo turned back to face me.

“Leir, if I told you I have the power to give you everlasting life—”

“That’s blasphemy. Immortality is reserved for God alone.”

“God does not know me anymore.”

“How can you say these things?”

“Lucifer gave the power to Lilith, who passed the power to her children. I possess it now and I long to bestow it upon you. I want to keep you, Leir.”

“Lilith is a myth.”

I began edging my way to the open door. Hugo, surprisingly, let me.

“I told you I wasn’t lying about my life—my past.”

“You’ve told me nothing about your past.”

“Well then, I shall tell you now.” He smiled a deceiving smile. "My mother named me Claudius. I changed it to Hugo when I moved to France in 1756. My mother, who I’ve told you did not love me, died when I was sixteen years of age. I was left to care for myself until I was thirty—and then Mallus found me.”

“Who was Mallus?”

“Mallus was my creator. He is dead now.”

“What are you saying?”

“Leir, you are not an unintelligent man. What are you thinking?”

I took a deep breath. “If everything you are telling me is true, you cannot be human. I’ve heard stories—peasants tales and myths.”

“Tell me about them.” Something in his eyes gave me chills.

“Stories of creatures that never come out in the daylight—you only visit me at night. Stories of creatures that are forsaken by God, who are immortal—you say that you are both. The creatures are inhumanly beautiful and strong. They can control people and animals. You calmed a crowd of hundreds with only one word.”

“You are forgetting one important detail, Leir. Tell me one more thing about these creatures.”

I hesitated.

“Tell me!”

“They live by drinking the blood of humans,” I whispered.

“The ancients called us vrykolakas and strigoi.” Hugo smiled broadly. “Vampire.”

 

I ran—as fast as I could, down one hall and then another. The old man was walking toward me with a tray; I pushed him as hard as I could out of my way. The tray fell with a crash and I knew I hurt him, but I kept running. Eventually the hall opened into a large, marble ballroom. There were six doors on three walls. As quickly as I could, I ran to each door—locked, every one. I was on my fifth door when I heard him speak again.

“Leir, I’m faster than you could ever dream, and you don’t know the way out.”

I turned as Hugo strolled into the ballroom through the door I had used. I turned away again to try the final door, but now Hugo was leaning against it. I remember screaming and falling. Then, Hugo was kneeling next to me, lifting me up by my shirt collar.

“Do not fret, my Leir. By tomorrow morning, you will be one among the most beautifully frightening creatures mankind has ever known.”


© Copyright 2018 Jessica Beth. All rights reserved.

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