Chapter 2 – Two Worlds Collide
Between two worlds life hovers like a star, twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge. ~ Lord Byron
May 10, 2006, Rostov Manor, St. Petersburg, Russia
The gardens of the Rostov Manor filled with the aromatic scents of roses, lilacs, and sprigs of lavender – sweet bouquets so intricately intertwined with the heady scent of freshly cut blades of verdant, which eloquently dance in the subtle breeze. Their marriage illustrious, snapped an extraordinary photograph of rainbows, sunshine, and grass visible throughout the grounds.
A white iron filigree table perched high atop the gray stone deck stylishly overlooked a magnificent sea green marsh. Four matching chairs randomly sat around the table each holding yellow cushions with red and white striped fabric, more for comfort than looks.
Gorgevy Rostov sat relaxing in one of the wrought iron chairs, observing a pair of white swans, which gracefully skated atop the stoic pond. Several ducks contentedly broke the glassy water as they dove in search of a meal. Rostov meditated peacefully as he watched the display. He sipped his routine morning coffee laced with lamb’s blood, occasionally nibbling on a side of his favorite biscuits with grape jelly and cream. He reached for his newspaper a large manila envelope lay on the table, ignored.
“Good morning my Lord, you have guests.” Demetrius spoke.
“Thank you Demetrius.” Rostov glanced up, his eyes warm as he folded his paper and placed it on the table.
Moments later a causally dressed man arrived wearing a gray sweater, a clergy shirt and clerical collar, dark slacks, and Italian hat covering the top of a gray mat of neatly trimmed hair. “Ah and what do I owe the pleasure of your visit Monsignor?”
Before he could respond. Rostov was gesturing for him to take a seat. “Please won’t you sit down?” Rostov said.
“I believe you already know why I have come,” the Monsignor said callously.
“I am not sure exactly what you are referring to Monsignor Morpheus.” Rostov coyly replied. It is indeed a pleasure to see you. It has been what, well over twenty years, thirty even, has it not? Please do come and sit, enjoy the gardens.
The Monsignor gazed around the gardens. “The gardens are lovely. The help of a greenhouse no doubt.” The Monsignor’s voice grew brash. He helped himself to a chair across from Rostov. He stared callously.
“Yes, true, but nevertheless I’m pleased you find them as lovely as I. Why only yesterday, the gardener placed the last of the roses in their beds. So, remarkable to enjoy such beauty this early in the season in Russia, and on such a bright a sunny day, wouldn’t you agree.” Rostov said with a pressed smile.
“Gorgevy, please, let us place our pleasantries aside, you know very well why I am here. As representative of the Watchers Council, I am here to report to you, that behalf of the Watcher’s Council, we find you in contempt of our agreement. We are in the least pleased with how you are handling the affairs of your House. In fact, we’ve come upon some very disturbing news. Perhaps you care enlighten me?”
“Monsignor, I assure you I have no idea what you are insinuating.” Rostov answered as he refilled his cup with hot coffee. “Would you like some?” he said as he held up the pot.
His guest nodded with slight pleasure. “Gorgevy, playing games? Is this how you are going to behave. It seems your promise to control your family back in January has proved less than well successful.”
Rostov was carefully guarded as he observed his adversary. Inquisitively, he poured his guest a cup of coffee. “Cream or sugar?”
Shaking his head no, the Monsignor, continued, “We have known each other for a good number many years. And unlike my colleagues, I believe by now I can ascertain when you are lying. So, if you will do me the courtesy to cut through the lies and speak the truth.”
“Monsignor, I assure you I most certainly do not lie, and to a priest, no less. Please. Perhaps if you explain why exactly you are here, I might in fact be of some assistance.” Rostov abruptly responded. He reached for his pitcher and generously poured a scarlet fluid into his cup. He then sat back and slowly sipped on the contents of his cup.
“Have you seen the photos and documents sent to you?”
“Ah, so that is what this envelope contains, is it?” he said as he lifted up the envelope from its place on the table with interest. “Am I to assume these are a gift from you?” he inquired as he tilted his head then gently set the envelope back on the table.
“You are a wise man, however I cannot take credit. They were, how shall I say, sent to us from an anonymous source. So, I am sure you now see the relevance of my visit.”
Monsignor replied as he picked up the warm coffee, blowing slightly before taking a loud sip.
“I must admit I am intrigued. Please continue, with your little game, Monsignor, I will bite.”
“Ah and literally I might add,” the Monsignor chuckled.
“Well, please if you will do me the courtesy of opening the envelope.”
“Oh very well,” Rostov set down his cup and removed the envelope from the table. He took the table knife from his plate and released the seal pulling out an impressive stack of photographs and legal briefs. He returned the knife to the plate. He skimmed through each photo. The first few images depicted a beautiful young brunette walking the streets of New York City he recalled having had met several years ago in St. Petersburg. There were various prints of her including some he presumed were shot in St. Petersburg. He began to check the other photos a bit more intently. She was seen exiting from an apartment building in Manhattan, and another with a striking young man with dark sultry eyes and charcoal colored hair in a warm embrace. Michael Covington. Then his eyes widened as if he had realized the meaning of those images. His lips mouthed the name ‘Alexandra.’
He flipped through to the next image. His heart skipped a beat more from curiosity than the real image. He was fully aware of details behind the photo. However he wondered what the churches interest more specifically the Watchers Council had in all of this and why someone would send them to the Vatican.
He stared at the disturbing image of himself and his manservant Demetrius, in a most unflattering pose. The next image was of himself and Lucian Milev. Rostov’s face, hardened. He could feel his blood pressure surge. Again he questioned the churches interest as he flipped to the next images.
The next set of photographs appeared – surveillance footage of a convent or monastery, a man, nuns; the last images pictures of a priest and three nuns dressed in their traditional habits, obviously dead, nearly unrecognizable a man who resembled Erric Vanskiiver. He was clutching in his hands three exceedingly large uncut gemstones: a ruby, a white diamond, and a yellow diamond. Son of a bitch!
The last photo was indeed Vanskiiver and a priest exchanging envelopes and what appeared – money. What in the name of Haides?
Attempting not to portray signs of unease, Rostov continued reviewing the documents as the blood slowly drained from his lightly bronzed face.
He held a brief from someone claiming knowledge of an apparent eye-witness account of the murder of Elisabet Milev Tullevette at the hands of her husband the Count. His heart sank. Elisabet murdered. He felt ill, suddenly.
Rostov replaced the photos and documents into the envelope and placed it on the table. “What does this information have to do with me or our House? Are you planning on blackmailing me and the family over something as trivial as these papers?” he inquired, his face worn and gaunt, he allowed no display of emotion.
“Do you take me for a fool Gorgevy? You can’t tell me that you have no idea about what this information signifies?”
“Monsignor, why don’t you tell me your interest in all of this?” he said holding his right hand up to his chin, gently pulling on the scuff of his whiskers, his lips pressed faintly outward.
“I believe it is rather straightforward. I am amazed you don’t see it.”
“Enough with the games, what do you want!” Rostov calmly, albeit sternly requested in an attempt not to slam his hands down upon the table or worse, grab the Monsignor by the throat.
The Monsignor sat modestly, his back upright against the chair, slowly sipping from his coffee. “You can’t possibly think that after all these years that your activities have gone unnoticed by us? And for that matter that you are someone other than the great Gorgevy Rostov? You have tried and failed to protect your secret society of vampires, then you’re a fool to believe you and your family has fluttered about undetected by others in the church, besides the Watchers Council? We also are well aware well what you are up to!” he stated as he glared acutely into the elder man’s cool colored eyes.
Rostov called for his guards, yet he slowly relaxed back into the seat of his chair forcing himself not to rip the Monsignor’s head off. All he could do was stare coldly at the Monsignor. In seconds, Rostov’s guards were standing over the men. He held his arms out, alerting the men to halt.
“The Benandanti are not pleased that you and other members of your family have meddled with ‘things’ that were to have been left well enough alone. Kill off your own kind, by all means. Less blood drinkers the better. However, when the bloodshed enters our house and the sacred vows we have all accepted are thrust aside, like those you choose to rid, well there lies a problem. You know as well as I the ramifications for those who break the vows of silence. The Benandanti’s sole purpose is to make sure you are watching over your domain and your secrets, and quite frankly, insuring that they stay secret.” The Monsignor continued. His face reddened as his eyes turned gray, then bright gold.
Rostov inhaled the stagnant scent of anger exuding from the Monsignor’s pores. How dare this beast insult him!
“Can you imagine what would happen if humans learned the Church has covered such things up? It certainly is bad enough with what you and your family have been up to this past millennium, but to involve priests in some of these actions is reprehensible. What I am trying to say is that our priests have managed to get themselves in to a bit of trouble, and well, they don’t need the likes of your family, to help them along their way. Am I clear now? We must struggle nearly daily with the actions of our priests and their unsavory antics and various other conspiracy theories involving the Church.
If word of vampires became known, descendants of Noah, no less, well, you understand what ramifications this would have on the church and of humanity? We no longer would have any credibility. Society would not be able to cope with such an indignity.” The Monsignor explained agitatedly.
And you, Gorgevy, are oblivious if you don’t see it. You have become more of a hindrance than a help and will if need be, be taken care of in the ways of the ancients. And, I think we both know that would not be a pleasant scenario for either sides of the coin, if you will. It will however, set in course action over a serious dilemma within the ranks of your family as you know. You have failed to reduce the problem. We soon will be forced to take your place by ending this crisis once and for all? One more chance, you have. You had best resolve the problem, and quickly otherwise the Benandanti will take action.”
Rostov sat speechless as he stared unemotionally into the Watcher’s eyes. The man of cloth, he had known so long. He reflected. How uncanny that Benandanti held such regard within the Church, infiltrating among the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. That in of itself would shock the world of which he clearly failed to mention.
He was all too aware, the Benandanti were correct, he wasn’t completely insightful. It was an entirely different matter to have one sit before him and accuse he and his family of insubordination. But he was damn sure not going to allow them to ruin his plans.
“Consider yourself warned Gorgevy – a friendly message from the Vatican. You had best control the business interests of your House and make sure that secrets remain secret. I am sure I make myself clear.”
“How dare you come to my home and threaten me!
“I assure you that our family is doing their share to keep our secrets – secret as you so delicately insinuate. Furthermore, if by some chance word leaks, then it would seem as though we both would have a problem, then wouldn’t we?” Rostov retorted wildly.
“Perhaps it is merely you that wishes to protect your own power and moral authority over mankind or is it you wish to rid yourselves of us and your responsibilities?” Rostov continued.
“Don’t be preposterous why ever would we do that?”
Rostov considered that it was perhaps time the world learned of the churches secrets; what fun that would be. A scandal so delicious, the world would have such a profound impact within their precious church. The ramifications would far exceed those imposed by the Vatican. They would trickle throughout the entire world throughout every religion and culture, pandemonium of magnanimous proportions, an interesting scenario. He was getting ahead of himself. Patience would be in order he rationalized. He didn’t want anything to foil his plans. He had to ensure the world or the very secrets we have been bestowed were never revealed. It of course was the right thing to do was it not?
“I appreciate your concern, Monsignor. But I assure you if there are troubles within our family they will be dealt with amongst ourselves in our ancient ways. You have my word.”
“Well, the Church is concerned that if something is not done and quickly…”
Rostov interrupted the Monsignor before he could utter his next word. “I am sure you must have more important matters to concern yourself. And I must in fact prepare for a meeting. So if you will excuse me, I must bid you farewell. Demetrius will show you out.”
The Monsignor reluctantly stood and walked back toward the main house escorted by Demetrius, who intriguingly, appeared as Rostov completed his sentence. “Apparently you have the ability to mind read,” the Monsignor muttered as he was so graciously escorted from the Manor.
Rostov remained seated in wooden table and drank the remains of his coffee, then poured into his cup the remnants of red liquid from the pitcher and swallowed the luscious essence in its entirety. He then stood up from his chair and journeyed to the house with a particular mission on his mind.