Chapter 19 – The News
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. ~ Joseph Conrad
Midnight, November 1, 1975, Rostov Manor, Russia
The Lord of Rostov Manor, Gorgevy Rostov sat comfortably behind his leather desk glancing over the day’s financial reports. Dressed in his typical evening attire given the late hour, black plaid silk and flannel and silk night coat over similar colored flannel and silk bed wear. His phone, calendar, papers arranged neatly in their place upon his antique desk; an antique brass lamp softly glowed overhead. The pallor of golden light flickered from a row of candles from the nearby table, shone lightly a silhouette of a slender man as he approached the doorway. Rostov removed his wire frames, laid them on the desk and rubbed his ripened lids. It had been a tiring day, he reflected. The man was handsome given his age. Dark golden skin, matching dark features, deep brown eyes that hid the pupil well, and thick dark hair short around the ears lengthier along his collar. Striking. Woman and men alike once threw themselves at him, in part due to his immerse wealth, the other his handsome form.
“Excuse me my Lord,” a tentative voice from just outside the door speaks.
Gorgevy glanced up from his desk, “Demetrius! Please do come in, I thought you had gone to bed some time ago.”
“Yes my Lord, I was near too when the phone, My Lord, I,” he stuttered, “um we have a caller; the Lord Bartholomew wishes to speak with you at once,” he struggled to explain, understanding from the tone of the caller, and the lateness of the hour, whatever news would not be welcome.
“I’m sorry. I must have dozed off I didn’t hear the ring. Thank you Demetrius. You should return to bed. I won’t be long here.”
“Very well my Lord. Good night then,” he replied, lingering near the doorway for a few moments, before allowing Lord Rostov his privacy. Demetrius, Rostov’s loyal manservant for more than thirty years, as his father’s before him, until his death several years ago.
Rostov placed his frames on his face and reached for the phone. The glasses for show rather than functionality. “Stephanos what brings you to call at such an hour?”
“Oh…I see…” his voice cracked. Ever so slightly the bronze of his complexion faded to an ominous shade of light grey. “You must be mistaken, this cannot be?” his voice stuttered, unable to affectively articulate a mere word, let alone a complete conversation. “You’re certain, then?”
“Distressing indeed.” Rostov responded. The palm of his hand cupped his forehead as his dark eyes moistened, ever so slight. He removed his glasses to wipe away any sign of wetness before it leaked from his eyes. A deep breath in, then out, he gained composure, and continued. “What of the children?”
“I see,” Rostov managed an utterance. He moved his glasses that he was toying with away in the desk. His face, grieve stricken and sallow. “What of the ‘gem?” He lightly tapped his fingers upon the desk as waited impatiently for a response. “Unfortunate.” He paused before he spoke again. He could not find the words he sought. “We must address this within the Council immediately. Given the hour I will have Demetrius make the necessary arrangements to meet at the Château, promptly in the morning.”
Rostov hesitated. “I thank you for your concern. Stephanos this conversation is to go no further, until I can decide how best to move forward. We do not wish to alarm the others. Such a sadistic act upon our family.” His hands began to shake as he hung up the phone. This followed by a violent pain, which surged through his chest and into his heart penetrating deep into his soul. He clinched his hand into a fist and held it tightly onto his chest as the pain slowly diminished. He must not alert others to his weakness no matter how grave. He hung his head over his desk, and slowly, painfully took in another breath and raised his head as he exhaled. It was official – the last of the ruling Akkadian bloodline eliminated. The remainder of the Thoth bloodline must be protected no matter the cost.
Rostov firmly placed his hands on his desk gently pushed himself up, and slowly walked toward the window, stunned and disbelief. His regal frame hunched slightly as he drew back the linens from the window and soberly gazed out into the darkened courtyard to the gardens below reminiscing of his long past and the decisions he had made over the years, knowing some were ill conceived, others in the best interest of the family, this perhaps one of those times. Which? One will have to wait and see.
The light from the moon captured the silvery wisps of hair, which graced his temples. A striking man even at his age, he presumed he resembled a man in his mid to late 50s, certainly not one with his pains, his age, or something or someone as sinister? He recognized he was indeed aging perhaps merely the assimilation of human emotion for living amongst them for such a time. He hoped the latter was not the case. Humans were by far the weaker race. They experienced aches of the heart. Not immortals. His kind obliged for eternity to co-exist with their likes, a pretense, merely, well at least for him. Some of the others in the family did not share Rostov’s beliefs when it came to matters of the heart and their forced existence alongside mortals. While most did so without question, Rostov was one of a few who rebelled. He threatened many times during his youth to spread the word to all mortals. As he grew he changed his beliefs and sided with the family who willingly and gracefully lived peacefully with the likes of mortal man. However, that said, he could not tolerate weaknesses. He had little patience’s for such matters. “If the world only realized the truth,” he mused. He looked to the gardens. He thought he spotted something, move near the lake. One of the many creatures that willingly crossed through his land to the lake he inferred.
His mind returned to the phone call with Stephan. He found his body was experiencing jitters, and yet another mortal expression. He first feet a tinge in his heart, followed by seeing object that clearly were not present, tor strange thoughts of poppies and sweet peas. It was the late hour, that and the phone call. Sometimes he hated his brother for leaving the way he did forcing Rostov to take charge of family matters. The role of patriarch was not something to be taken lightly. Now to feel weakness, it was not acceptable. He could not understand why after so much time he was feeling old. That was the only thing he could think. The pain seared within his chest, again. “What the bloody devil is going on?” he cried out.
“Why is it my Lord, that I feel such agony? I do not understand; I’m immortal! Cursed because of you and your ills. Is this pain a sign of fault? The gods, growing angry? Why? What purpose? I ask how it is possible for an immortal such as myself. Is this merely the course of which the curse evolves after so many millennium?” His eyes probed the skies as if he would receive the answers from above. Then if he spoke as if another were in the room. Yet, no one was there but he. Quite often Rostov found himself carrying out a conversation or two with himself. It helped him relax. He also did so when he needed to get something off his chest. Too embarrassed it was yet another human emotion, to ask whether others of his kind experienced similar emotions and thoughts. He was the great and powerful Gorgevy Rostov. He would not succumb to whatever human factor was playing a role with his life. He would not tolerate such weakness.
“I was born into your world with no choice – A Thoth. He was the second son born of the union between his father and the love he had of his mother, Inanna I. It was because of her we are now cursed. Forgive me father for not showing her a bit more respect. But I did not ask for such a hellish life or such an ostentatious name, a title even. Yet I have done your bidding my entire existence without question, which is more than I can say for my brother, your prodigal first-born heir, Caius II.” He allowed his eyes to close for a brief second, instead of thoughts of his past and many indiscretions, he thought of poppies and sweet peas. He rose and paced the floor poppies and bloody fucking peas flooded his mind. Someone was sending a message. Who and what the hell did poppies and peas have to do with anything.
“Poppies and peas. A mere joke from you I am guessing. Because you and your damned curse I’ve been forced to take several surnames. Now it stops! I run no more. I renounce my given name. I will be Rostov until the day comes I see you and Haides in the Chambers of the Undead. And trust me when I tell you I will not give up my family name lightly, like other in our House. Repeatedly we have been forced to find refuge, eventually some even myself I might say have discovered solace, but not until,” He paused a moment. “Ah yes, the early Eleventh Century! The Eleventh Century, do you hear me? Nearly four thousand years after my birth! A regal name, Rostov would you not agree? A name I selected in honor of the oldest Russian city, the day I decidedly abstained from your ungodly rules, to live out the rest of my life in Kievan Rus’, curse be damned!”
Rostov sighed, his queries never to be resolved. Some days it was if time held still, others like this night he felt each year he had walked upon the earth, and each soul with which he consumed or destroyed. Unruly pain. He resolved the pains were a product of sins nothing more. The gods knew all too well he had indeed sinned. Who could possible exist for as long as he without committing at least one sin, let alone several hundred? After all we were all cursed were we not? It couldn’t possibly accumulate one fragment of a difference. “At least I am at peace in my little place of heaven – my Manor.”
It had been more than three hundred years since the day he had first discovered the Manor. An estate constructed for his good friend, strangely a mortal, but friend none the less. The only friend Rostov ever considered to understand him and his needs outside of the family, the great the Tsar, Peter the Great, for which he managed to convince was entirely too small for a man of ‘his’ royal bloodline. Rostov believed the Tsar sold out because he was in dire need of money to fight his many battles, and keep control of his beloved Russia. Whatever the reasons, Rostov benefited and surprised his wife Elisabet with the purchase after the birth of their son, Dagan. Ah Dagan. “My boy you too will be missed as will my sister, your wife. Yet I warned you.” His thoughts reverted to Elisabet. It was she why he thought of poppies and sweet peas. He relaxed some, knowing he was not completely mad.
Elisabet had been quite enamored with the beauty the manor, perched behind the confines of an immense wrought iron gate overlooking the Neva River on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, he recalled. She beamed nearly as bright as the sun that day as she curiously gazed from their carriage the grounds as they proceeded through the grand drive toward their new home.
Rostov explained to her the manor’s fascinating history, Indeed the wood frame was simple, but perfectly suited their family: a three-story residence with ten rooms occupying each floor, traditional Russian architecture of the era combined with simple Dutch influences which perfectly paralleled their chosen cultures, his of Russia and hers loosely of Dutch. The large, elaborate windows and a steep gabled bottle green roof covered with emerald colored wooden tiles, which so closely emulated the color of her eyes.
The façade was of red brick in lieu of the typical stone used in Europe during the early Seventeenth Century. Small gardens surrounded a moderate circular drive of stone. Trees and bushes trimmed in the most elaborate topiaries and the side yards, which led to the lavish backyard gardens decorated with marble statues and fountains. But none of these wondrous amenities impressed him, for it was the pond that drew him to the Manor, a small lake, which mesmerized him, as much now as it did then. And funny that he found himself talking aloud to those who once walked the earth with him. It was if their souls floated as the lilies atop of the water with graceful beauty and charm.
During the light of day, the irregular shaped water body exuded life and sanguinity, from the vibrant rainbow of flora and vast diversity of the fauna which inhabited in its midst. Yet as darkness fell the pond seemingly transformed into another realm, into a sea of mystery and intrigue not so unlike he and his Elisabet’s world, or their world.
He brought to mind the vast silken sea of glass the light of the full moon had so delicately illuminated the perfect curvature of the pond. The swaying tree branches eerily floated like shadows over the water with the iridescence of the light. As if mirroring images, their bodies wed as they danced that evening under the light of the full moon. For it was she who planted a gardens near the lake filled with an assortment of sweet peas and poppies, it was truly lovely and full of life, color and fragrant smells.
Rostov blinked, as he forced away his thoughts of Elisabet. Yet, it was as if she were standing alongside him with him now, their souls having blended one last time. Her presence was unmistakably near. “I must be going mad.” He murmured.
The strong scent of jasmine and lavender lightly filled the air around him did poppies and sweet peas as he looked off into the darkness – he swore she was near. Impossible. “I cannot be mad.” His eyes focused on the gardens below, remotely out of his sights. An image hovered. He blinked again, as he saw a tender smile and the delicate porcelain of her face. He froze. The likeness of Elisabet drew him toward the image, with penetrating eyes of perfectly cut emeralds.
The ethereal form approached the patio. The air inside his quarters became frigid. Fear coursed his veins. He vacillated. Slowly moving toward the French-like doors he briskly swung open the right side then stepped out and abruptly stopped. He stared at the form. It was indeed that of Elisabet. Disbelief hung on his face like an old rag. She reached for him. His body swayed backward to avoid contact, uncertain of its motives. Her arm neared again, this time he was unable to flinch. The suppleness of her skin was frighteningly cold as were her fingers, which caressed over the stubble of his unshaven face. Chills rose along the back of his neck, and his blood swirled through his veins as if longing for her touch. Only that was not the case.
His heart raced as the ghostly form faintly spoke, “Gorgevy know those whom are responsible for such despicable acts of brutality upon our family, and on Dagan, will be punished. There is much unrest amongst the gods, if the prophecy holds true, it will be the end of our kind. Our bloodline must be protected no matter the cost.”
Rostov’s stare weld with nearly frozen tears weary, he rationalized he was hallucinating, or worse was exhibiting signs of dementia – and a human diseases. He stretched his arm toward the apparition, reaping in the loss as the ghostly vision vanished.
Wearing contrition on his face, Rostov sighed. For he was responsible for having torn their family apart so long ago, driving Elisabet back to the arms of another. A man, he in truth despised. He knew she never stopped loving him; and that man never stopped loving her. Out of his own unbinding love, she needed to have what he could not possibly give – that of himself. His actions eventually ended in her destruction and ultimate death – Rostov lived with the guilt, a weakness for which he never recovered. Human emotion, or at the very least an emotion set in play by the damned curse. Regardless, such feelings were a weakness. Rostov slowly retreated to his office as his heart ached with enduring remorse for which he no longer would tolerate. He reached for his phone and dialed. After a couple of rings a very tired voice answered.
“It has begun.” Rostov uttered. Not waiting for a reply he hung up the phone and returned to his chair and sat down. Holding his head in his hands he whispered. “The day has come. I only hope my actions will not disturb you, my Lord. No longer can my urges be controlled. I will not allow our kind to be destroyed.”