Chapter 15 – Forbidden Flesh
A guilty conscience is a hell on earth, and points to one beyond. ~ Anonymous
May 14, 2006, Mid-morning, Pool House, Castello di Tullevette, Montalcino, Italy
A proverbial sweetness encompassed the air surrounding the Castello di Tullevete vineyard. The scent mysteriously floated unabated, swirling effortlessly melding with a thin mist of angelic fog and stagnant air into unrefined nectar. The nectar fermented like a bad vat of wine, comprised of honey and jasmine interlaced with the earthy fragrance of grape vines and leaves, moldy soil, soot and smoke. The union condensed into a layer of effervescent clouds that reeked of death and burning embers that lingered.
Hadrian inhaled slowly his lungs ingested the mixture of wicked splendor and of horrific terror. Impossible. No. Probable. The scent grew strange and not exhausted the closer he moved to the pool house. No longer in its purest form the scent transformed into a concoction comprised of stench, of fire, of death, of this, Hadrian was certain. At the pool house the smell haunting, overpowering and loitering; prior to the fire, it was an astonishing building boasting two pools and a hot tub inside and one pool and hot tub on the adjacent grounds. This is where the party had been held. Deep beneath the surface of the main floor was an amazing underground chamber of secrets. A dungeon of sorts carved deep within the landscape, the only souls having knowledge of this chamber were those who comprised the inner circle of the House of Thoth.
Hadrian stared at the charred building, it was odd, but the outside continued to boast a brilliant façade. Charred yet still intact. He shut his eyes tightly. They burned. His senses consumed the melodiousness of a perfume so intense, so unimaginably dense, not of one sadly, but that of many. Unpleasant. He exhaled. His eyes pensively re-opened, the tinge of smoke remained in the air when his eyes finally focused. He opened the door and walked in. The vision before Hadrian dismayed him– that of young girls subjugated solely for that of demonic pleasures unknowingly their lives terminated in an unexpected inferno of bloodlusts and flames. He was grateful, the family had cleaners, distant relatives, individuals sworn to secrecy – Thoth’s nonetheless, therefore drinkers of the blood, which kept them all alive, present to remove all evidence and destroy it. No one must know of the murderous events that took place here.
The police would be problematic. The fire had quickly metamorphosed into an explosion, echoing throughout the Italian valley and hillsides of Montelcino. Not unlike an earthquake. Fortunately, the police on Italian time took a long while to reach the large estate and once they had arrived were unsatisfied, at least in the interim with the story Stephanos and Hadrian provided them of the fire.
“It did not look good to have family business plastered all over the news, and to have the Vatican involved, unacceptable. There would be more questions and a long investigation by the police over this.” Caius had told Hadrian. Caius placed Hadrian and Stephanos in charge of manufacturing a story to make sure no one grew suspicious of family business, or discovered the events, which lead to the explosion. Neither man desired involvement in the lies and deceit any longer. But agreed to make sure the ‘cleaners’ would carry out their business. Fortunately these ‘individuals’ took their responsibilities most seriously. They would remove all evidence that would in any way implicate the family of wrong doings, associated with the fire or the deaths.
Few guests saw the horrific explosion, which could be seen and heard for miles; shocked they flocked to see what occurred, the only ones to witness the violent flames dancing a rigorous tango, engulfing everything in its path. Unaware of the carnage and the transgression of evil held within. Stephanos was relegated to speak with the police upon their arrival on scene along with the fire crew chief. The police and fire representatives both insisted they be allowed to immediately begin their investigation. One officer was less than satisfied by the fabricated story Stephan and Markus Hadrian developed of the chain of events, which lead up to the fire. Finally, Hadrian coerced them to allow the family to mourn the untimely deaths of their family and the family security officers would conduct an internal investigate to aid the police and fire chief prior to them conducting their jobs.
Hadrian needed to figure out who had perished and who had been able to free themselves from the clutches of Haides arms, and managed an escape. Haides no doubt would be ecstatic to gain in his clutch more Thoth members, each to live out their lives as his slaves.
The number of potential fatalities given to the police was three. They police needn’t learn of the others. Benandanti too, lost members of their clan, but neither Hadrian nor Stephan had any idea how many where present let alone had managed to escape such a horrific tragedy. Caius would need to complete this part of the investigation.
Hadrian barely realized daylight approached. The light would aid in his ability to scout the grounds for survivors and count the number who had perished. Silently, he questioned himself and those of his kind, how in such times as the present, such horrific occurrences as those which transpired the previous evening could have taken place, particularly the deaths for pleasure continued to persist? Innocent lives brutally ended, and for what purpose? There was no meaning for such malicious and sanguineous acts to occur especially in this time.
“How inhumane, we continue to be, through the millennia, myself included. Are we nothing but the same barbarians who walked the earth in ancient times? Sadly, we remain defined by our kind and our need to drink the blood from the living, and have done so amongst the human race for more than five thousand years. We continue to demean ourselves cavorting with the devil himself as though he indeed existed, the sole entity responsible for such vile evil Haides, the merciless Lord of the Underworld and his daughter Lilith. Make no mistake Lilith’s evil subsists within us all; our fate our destiny decided by the gods before we came into this world.” Hadrian bowed his head then looked to the heavens as he spoke.
“ I know we have the power to alter destiny. The path we wish to travel is entirely our choice. Not yours! The road we choose drives our destiny! And yes Haides, I recognize it is not as simple task. For if this journey were easy, everyone would travel this route; choosing the same path and well, honestly, what fun would that be for us, for you? You selfless retched bastard!” Hadrian shook his fist to the sky. His face covered in soot, the temperature near embers remained warm this and the mild temperature his forehead beaded with sweat.
“Know Haides your daughter Lilith will indeed pay for her evils for all eternity. I vow to bring down her relentless source of evil and end this wicked curse bestowed upon us all.” Hadrian bowed his head. Mourning.
Fully aware of what was inside, Hadrian fearful nonetheless. Wavered. He couldn’t bear the thought of what he would find. He fought with his inner soul: frozen. He walked up the stairs to the entrance and with a tug he yanked opened the heavy wooden door now covered with a thin covering of soot. He entered. The room emitted the all consuming stench of chlorine entwined with sulfur and soot from the fire. He choked. Muddled, the odor wholly united with the lascivious fragrance of jasmine, lavender, virginal blood, and smoke.
His eyes swelled as he gazed upon the destruction. He held a cloth over his face. He could not bear the scent. He grieved for the untimely demise of such innocent young women, mere children he knew lost their lives for a thrill. The poor souls, which bequeathed their innocence unknowingly, he vowed again to vindicate their deaths, for that he solemnly gave his word. “Damn the curse and damn you to your hell Haides!” He swore.
Sickened, he sauntered slowly toward the end of the scarlet tinged pool. The cleaners had not yet reached this part of the pool house. They had not been here at all. He reached out, slowly drawing back the burnt and crusted remnants of deep burgundy velvet curtains, which hid the charred remains of thirteen girls, each not more than sixteen. The police would not be privy to these deaths, although, he was unsure of exactly how he would explain the blood, most had mixed with soot much had charred due to the flames – hot flames, the cleaners will indeed be challenged. The thoughts of the girl’s murders triggered Hadrian’s heart to throb for the parents who never would learn what became of their daughters.
Hadrian became sick his stomach wretched. He wiped his mouth with the cloth as he observed the remains – thirteen girls bound; their bodies lay behind a once luxurious purple velvet curtain, out of sight. Their necks, arms, and feet held golden shackles; their corpses cosseted in white linen gowns, gray from smoke and soot, each baring intricate gold and silver binding crossing their hardened breasts. Their charred faces, painted with fear, gazed into the darkened abyss of death tarnished by smoke, which consumed the room; mere remnants from the horrific inferno. He lone wish – the girls perished before the fire consumed them. That he could not bear. The thought prompted his stomach to again wretch. His manner so uncharacteristic he searched inside his soul for answers for why he felt such emotion. Nothing.
He walked along the row of bodies. Each attached to their desiccated arms, long narrow archaic tubing continued to adhere by the needle used to extract their pure essence from their once bluish veins. The siphoned blood, transported the viscous flow to a stainless colored vat used for wine, located behind enthrall’s of yet another door. A larger container was held underground which connected to a nozzle attached to the end of the pool. When turned to the on position, the nozzle would fill the basin with the rich flow of crimson fluid from the girls.
The despicable image drew the subtle bronzed hue from Hadrian’s features, diffusing his mind to the brink of emotional anguish. For it had been at least five hundred years or more since he had last borne witness to such brutality. In the several thousand years of repression, he swore never to forget the atrocities of their kind, repressed, the imagery lodged forever in his mind too horrific to hold near. And now, he must behold the tasteless rituals of his past.
Repulsed, Hadrian quickly walked past the remains to the rear corridor leading to the lower depths, as his veins solidified. “They had no idea what they’d done.” He scorned, convinced the two – Dragan and Rostov each shared a hand in the very carnage he now bore witness; the culprits, both of whom so willingly assured Hadrian they would not be up to their old antics.
Regrettably, or at least he hoped they were unaware, the repercussions of their actions would induce on the unsuspecting host – on Alexandra, his granddaughter who now would pay the ultimate price, or would she? He wouldn’t know at least for now.
This sight of these murders tore at his heart beyond recognition. He identified with his feelings, knowing he now had a granddaughter and grandson. Granted he never knew either, he was well aware they existed, which made the pain greater; knowing he could not see them, embrace them. Not even Alexandra. He shared but a minute with her at the party, surely not enough time for him to know her. Now she lay in state, with Benandanti guards watching over her at the Vatican and under protection of the Benandanti group known as the Order of the Echelon at least for now.
Caius had taken it upon himself to have his guards capture her from the flames and carry her with them for protection. There appears to be a leak in the family or elsewhere, for he, as well as Stephanos were being blackmailed. Caius suspected others in the family had as well. It wasn’t clear whether that person perished in the fire or if he or she continued to breathe. To make sure, he allowed Caius to intervene. To allow his guards to protect his granddaughter and grandson at the safest place he knew – the Vatican. ‘Ah the time. The police would be arriving soon.’ He muttered.
“Stephan, good you are here. I have decided the police would only learn of the deaths of six as a result of the fire in lieu of the original three they mentioned earlier. Tobias, Dragan’s manservant; Serena and Lucian; Erric Vanskiiver; Gorgevy Rostov; and the Conte di Tullevette -Dragan; Tobias being the exception, all who perished were members of the House of Thoth. As for Isabella, no remains only dust was present, Stephanos. I believe you will agree she is and has been dead to you and this family for a very long time. Why make more paperwork for the police. The police will be here soon. The cleaners had best be quick in their duties.” Hadrian informed Stephanos somberly.
“You are correct Hadrian, Isabella is dead to me and has been for a very long time. My love and devotion encompasses Alexandra. She is my world now. I thank Caius for taking her in while she heals. I would not be able to care properly for her and our conduct business now. I am grateful. I must tell him this when I see him again. I will go now and search for the cleaners. The last obstacle we must leap, yet a most important one.”
Hadrian tired. Tired of the lies, tired of the deceit. He refused inclusion to such activities ever again. He agreed with Caius because he was in part responsible for what had occurred, to aid Stephan if necessary to convince the police it was but an unfortunate accident that happened. “So many deaths – twenty in total. For what? A thrill for his brother, his nephew for what? A huge mess for the family to scape up and throw under the carpet,” he believed was the cliché he was searching for. He turned.
“Caius! I rather thought you’d returned to the Vatican by now.”
“I have been to make sure Alexandra in the best of care. Now I have returned for the interim, my brother. My path leads me here, it is not my time. I am to fulfill my time with family at this juncture. It is my duty to make sure peace is restored within the House of Thoth. It is a disgrace we have learned nothing in over five thousand years, would you not agree?” Caius’ lips quivered as he spoke. His face redden slightly.
Hadrian nodded. He knew all too well he was one of them. “We indeed invoke a dark history. I assure you my ways will change – for we simply cannot co-exist if we carry on as barbarous heathens.”
“I couldn’t agree more. Shall I walk with you?”
Hadrian grabbed a torch and slowly descended to the bowels of hell alongside his brother Caius II. The smoke-filled cavernous pit once had served as sovereign ground for countless rituals over the millenniums, a complete loss.
“You should have sentenced me with the others.”
“Unlike those three,” Caius II referred to Dragan, Rostov, and Isabella. “Hadrian, your soul is pure. You merely lacked proper judgment; Rostov misled you. He misled all of us. Even I became a pawn in his mischievous game.”
Hadrian and Caius II continued to descend the long stairwell. He repeatedly inhaled the viciousness of evil disguised in a sweet fragrant scent of pure virginal blood. All hope lost. He realized Alexandra, may no longer serve as their salvation from the ungodly curse, which ruled their beings. His hopes vanished with each step encountered down the dingy soot ridden corridor. “For if she had…” Hadrian couldn’t bear to complete the thought.
“She did pay didn’t she Caius?”
“Only in time shall we know the ramifications of their actions. It is a mystery even to me whether her soul will have transformed to that of evil after having consumed the taste of virgin blood.” Caius solemnly spoke. “We must not allow Stephanos to learn the truth as of yet. For he has been through so much, his heart joined with Alexandra’s from the day she was born. The gods prophesied her birth along with the fact that Stephanos’ heart would fuse with the chosen one. And we know she is the chosen one.
Hadrian’s body shivered at the thought and vowed revenge upon her soul. Try as he might to disregard, he was all too aware of the consequences the consumption of blood from a child would have on a soul, which was pure. He hoped that Caius was not abreast of his actions. Knowing Caius and his great knowledge, he believed he already was aware of his horrendous actions.
“The actions of a young blood drinker a time when the laws were different and while not allowed were nonetheless carried out by many of their kind. Today is so very different from those days in our history; clearly life is not the same. We must face our past and pay for our sins one must atone for ones actions, regardless of which god we pray to. Whether it is: the Christian law, the way of Islam, the Jewish law, or the many gods and goddess, we know exist. We recognize humans would not function, we see from their current behavior – the useless wars and fighting among themselves for greed, religion, race or social stature, or sexual preference, what ever useless reason one employs, they find a means to fight, ignoring their own laws, hypocrites, really. In all this time, they have not learned from their mistakes their ills. We while are certainly not perfect, have evolved to a higher level than the human race. And for this alone they would not understand. We would become a reason for a war upon us, the Benandanti, and the many other beings humans could not possibly understand. There is enough useless fighting in this world. They must not learn of us. A sin, is a sin, is a sin, no matter how you tear it apart. And one must face their sins and atone for their actions before they may enter the palace of the heavens, or in our case of those cursed souls like us, the fires of Haides.” Caius stated most profoundly. Hadrian knew right then, Caius was aware of his actions.
It had been such a long time ago, the images engrained in Hadrian’s mind as if the incident occurred yesterday. How ironic, the previous night, such an act did indeed occur. With that thought, Hadrian’s, mind returned to the age, when he like many blood drinkers conceded to such violent acts of cruelty more often than not, and more often than Hadrian cared to admit. Through the course of his actions and those in his family he saw his fair share; they drove many an innocent soul toward insurmountable evil.
For one in which the traits of an impure soul are portrayed, the consumption of virginal blood has no deleterious effects; however, the same generally does not hold true for those in which goodness rules the soul.
For a pure soul may not always withstand the powers of evil, something many of their kind failed to consider. Or they had, like Rostov. It was very likely he knew all along Alexandra would replace Serena Lucia in the ritual ceremony. And the actions were his and his alone. Regardless, of who was responsible, the actions swayed destiny, of that Caius was certain.
Caius II and Hadrian entered the burnt chamber and stood before the charred remains of a once glorious altar. Hadrian’s eyes welled as a stream of blood-red tears dampened his cold somber face. He walked back to his stone throne and took a seat for a last time. He held his hand to his head. “Oh Caius what have I done? I am grateful our father has spared me of the crimes I have committed at least for now, and those that many in our family had committed so long ago. For surely we would be thrown to the depths of Haides,” he muttered softly.
“Markus, unlike the others, you have and will continue to reconcile your daemons.” Caius took a seat next to Markus. He tried to consult the man; he laid his hand upon his for comfort. It took Stephanos some time after he turned Isabella against our wishes. Our rules, the human rules all are in place for a reason. We many not always understand the reason at the time, but they are indeed in place to serve a purpose. A purpose of good, perhaps it is because we have become accustom to learned everything the hard way. This is why we are strict in our ways. I feel rather confident, as do the gods, you will also. “
“Perhaps. But can I live with myself for my actions, that is the question?”
“For that I cannot answer. In time Markus, it is my belief you shall come to terms with your fate. You are strong and fully capable of doing so. You recognize there is more for you and for Stephanos. Your destinies have not yet been met. In time you both will understand this. For now you must trust in me and begin to trust in your souls. Your souls will guide you. You must help guide Stephanos, Markus. For he too will struggle to understand the ramifications of what has happened to his Alexandra.”
“How I wish I had your confidence Caius. I will do as you bid.” He sulked. Unequivocally, his mind was drawn to his beloved sister Elisabet the love of his immortal life who was taunted so mercilessly at the hands of his brother and cousin, in this very place so long ago. She was bound and he forced to witness. All so she would partake in the flesh of a child. A gift. Such a precious child was she, the youngest daughter of Hebrew servants who faithfully served the House of Thoth for hundreds of millennia.
Elisabet wanted no part in this relation’s callous mischief, for children were forbidden. Even for blood drinkers. Young women, who had bled, fair game. But to prey on innocent children was a serious crime. Those who chose to partake would face the wrath of the Master himself. Inanna tried to intervene but Elisabet would not allow her twin to fight her battles. So she allowed her brothers to take her willing.
Hadrian recalled standing painfully bound in chains by his cousin’s hand. He cried out in despair for his sister, the woman he so desperately loved and whose heart had been merged long ago. The child also had so loved Elisabet unconditionally she accompanied her. Rostov embraced the girl in his arms like a father, and walked with her, while his other younger brother Romulus held Elisabet tight. Both females unsuspecting at first, innocent escorted down into the fiery pits of hell.
As they approached the darkened corridor, the little girl’s hazel eyes widened in question about their intended destination. Elisabet hushed her as Rostov set the girl down and firmly held her hand. Together they slowly stepped down the narrow, dimly lit stairwell.
The pungent air was a sulfuric stench emanated from the line of dimly lit torches – the foul odor hung heavy, nearly suffocating as they passed. The flames warmed the cool confines of the passageway scorching the limestone walls, which seethed with blackened soot and ash. As they reached the bowels of the catacombs, neither the child nor Elisabet were sedate. Fear consumed both as their wild eyes met the sight of iron chains, and bones, and skulls; the child screamed. But, her dauntingly morbid cries met upon deaf ears, for those around watched in sadistic pleasure, salivating like rabid wolves in anticipation of the kill.
The girl struggled, which only aroused the group into near chaotic frenzy, her pulsating heart increased the sweet fragrant flow of blood through her tiny veins. One man grabbed her arms and bound her wrists and ankles with twine then shoved a linen cloth into her mouth to muffle her cries. Once silenced, Elisabet escorted to a table of concrete for which they placed her on her back and bound her hands at each end of the table with iron shackles, the same to her feet. Laying spread eagle they left her to attend the girl. For Elisabet could only watch in terror.
The linen cloth finally removed from the child’s mouth she cried out and fearfully stared as the fervent daemons, dressed in long black cloaks, removed the rotting bones from where they hung shackled to the wall. Elisabet lay helpless sickened she knew what was to become of the girl. Yet, she did not falter. She watched as tears of blood welled in her sunken golden eyes as one fiend carried the girl to the wall and stood her up. He released the twine replacing it with iron restraints to her neck, her arms, and feet. The child’s eyes begged for mercy, as tiny tears trickled down her round tender face, fearful of what was to come.
And yet another fiend brought with him archaic tubing attaching at the end, a tiny needle he punctured into the girl’s jugular. With Elisabet nearby she softly whispered to her in hopes to calm her fear “hush my sweet for you will feel no pain, all will be over soon, sleep, my child, sleep.” Forced to watch, her words forever engrained into Hadrian’s mind, as the scarlet fluid slowly flowed into a pewter vase.
When the last drop of pure essence dribbled into the vase and all life was expunged from the child, she slumped and the tubing removed and discarded on the floor. Romulus then poured from the vase into a pewter chalice the crimson blood, filled to capacity. He walked to where his sister lay and with his hand he held down her head and forced upon her its contents. Elisabet fought the drink, but they held opened her mouth and she choked down the lascivious liquid. The girl’s soul was encapsulated within the fluid, which now coursed through Elisabet’s veins.
As she lapped up the fluid her body convulsed but not with pleasure as her brother’s had anticipated, but in excruciating pain. While unbeknownst to those around her, Elisabet’s fate was sealed that day her soul forcibly divided in half turned forever to the dark side. Her curse lay hidden until millennia later when it emerged raining havoc down over the entire family.
Seething at the memory, Hadrian’s eyes transformed into a cavernous shade of navy, as his anger intensified to rage, his eyes mutated into a cool shade of blood-red – the color of his true demonic nature. He inhaled deeply and exhaled. His anger soothed.
Compulsory, he progressed forward. The dreaded memories of the previous evening and those of a past so long ago, placed forever in a distant void of his mind.
He faced Caius II. His stare darkened, cold.
“It is up to me to make sure that history does not repeat itself. I must seek retribution for my ills and for those which unknowingly destroyed so many unsuspecting souls, souls within our family bloodline, those within the House of Thoth for Alexandra, Alexander, and Keres.”
“And indeed you shall with the aid of Stephanos, you shall persevere.” Caius II said. “And with one, another child will rise: the daughter of darkness. As the sun becomes the moon and the stars align in few, two souls will entwine as one, daughter of light, daughter of the night.”