When an hour had passed, and you had not yet returned, I started to grow afraid.
I am not very good on my own, Master. Thinking for myself, making my own decisions...these are skills I have never really had opportunity to develop. As a young child I watched my mother follow orders, from the men she pleasured for money, from the pimp who collected her earnings, from the Prague syndicate who noticed her son was 'pretty' and took him to make illicit movies. She didn't even argue with them. They told her to turn me over and she did.
And then it was my turn to follow orders. I understood implicitly that my body did not belong to me. It was theirs to use. If I ever had my own will, my own volition, I discarded it very early on.
Except for that one time.
When adolescence started to erase my boyishness, when the drugs started to take their toll and I was no longer wanted for the cameras, I made my way as my mother had. Down on my knees in filthy bathroom stalls, down on all fours in alleyways. Just so long as the men could pay. I think maybe I was dying when she found me, I think maybe I didn't care. But when I saw her, suddenly I did.
She looks like a statue come to life, like one of those angels you see in churches. "Your blood is diseased," she told me, staring unblinking through eyes that had watched centuries flow past. "Luckily it is a disease that can be cured, but next time you won't be so fortunate."
I said nothing. It had been awhile since I had scored, and the need was very strong. I was lying in a pool of my own filth, shuddering. "I too understand addiction," she whispered gently, stroking my cheek. "My kind understands it as the Quick never could. But I can save you, child. Come with me, and I will take care of you. You will never need to serve these men again."
I remember staring up at her, shaking. Her golden hair looked like a halo. "Why? Why would you help me?"
"The addiction, of course," she replied softly. "My kind needs what flows in your veins."
That was the one time, Master. The one time I decided. I decided to serve her, to serve you, to serve the Progeny. And I became what now I am.
And being what I am, I need you more than you can possibly understand. I need to serve you. And when you did not return, it was like someone had stolen the sun from my sky.
As the hours went by it grew worse, terror gnawing at my insides. This was my fault. Mine. Because you are so gentle with me, Master, because you are so kind, you would not Feed from me after the attack in Geneva. So you went out to hunt. You went out into danger because your servant had failed you. And as I watched the sky start to lighten, dawn drawing near, I hated myself so intensely I could have slit my own throat.
No, I could never do that. My blood is not mine to spill. It is yours.
I spent the entire night by the window, watching for you. That was how I saw the girl, the one from the lobby. I hid myself carefully, peering out through the narrow slit between the drapes so she couldn't see me. And I watched her.
She sat in her car, staring up at our room sucking smoke from some bizarre apparatus. I felt my jaw clench, my hands ball into fists. Why did she spy on us? Was she in league with Harrow? Had she hurt you? The anger this raised in me was so hot it felt like acid in the back of my throat. If she had somehow hurt you, Master, I would do things to her far worse than any of the tortures I saw back in Prague. She would scream for death.
I armed myself, and I waited for an opportunity. It was morning now, and wherever you were, you were not coming back to tell me what to do. I needed to act on my own, for you. Always for you.
She finally gave me all the chance I needed, getting up out of her car and stretching in the daylight. Then she approached the motel and vanished from my sight.
I moved as the Mistress had taught me, as I was trained to do alongside all of the other Tenebrati Familiars. Because, my Master, we do not merely serve you by giving our blood. We are all trained to kill for you, to lay down our lives for yours. I moved without a sound, and quick, closing the door behind me and rushing down the stairs. Keeping my head low, I stole a glance at her at the soda machine, and they rushed across the parking lot to her car. Fool. She had left the door unlocked.
I climbed inside.
When she returned, I could feel my pulse racing, throbbing in my neck. I was quivering with rage. The thought that she might have hurt you filled my head with hot, red images. I would make her bleed. I would strap her down and fuck her with the knife blade.
And when she gave me the chance, I sprang.
"Why have you been watching our room?" I asked her, pressing the knife just hard enough against the skin of her throat to draw blood. "Where is my Master? What have you done to him? Answer me or I swear I will bleed you out right here."
Her eyes bulged. I could see them in the rearview mirror. To my surprise she didn't struggle or scream. She barely even breathed. "Please...please don't kill me. I won't tell. I won't tell anyone."
She was pleading, of course, but her voice was very low, almost calm. I thought to myself that she was either very brave or very foolish. "Tell anyone what? Are you spying for him? Do you serve Harrow?"
She swallowed, and winced as the knife bit just a little deeper. "I saw in the mirror last night. I knew what your father...Master...was. But I swear, I won't tell anyone if you let me go."
Mirror? What mirror? I made a mental picture of the lobby, but saw no mirror. Inwardly, I cursed myself. It was my job to notice these things, to protect my Master from discovery. I had been so tired from the flight, and from recuperating. Had I failed him?
"Please...please...just let me go." Her voice was very low right now, and a single tear slid down her cheek.
"Why are you sitting out here, watching?"
"I..." she swallowed and winced again. "...I was afraid for Don, the guy who replaced me. I mean, I couldn't tell him what I had seen--he'd never believe it--but I was worried your...umm...Master would do something to him."
I stared very hard at her eyes, and behind the terror in them, I felt certain she was telling the truth. Something inside of me collapsed. She didn't know where you were, Master. She had no idea.
I lowered the knife, and then collapsed into the backseat. I couldn't stop myself. I began to weep.
The girl didn't try to run, she didn't scream. She sat frozen while I sobbed, watching me in the mirror. Then suddenly, she turned around to face me directly. She cleared her throat. "He's...missing?"
I wiped my eyes, looking up at her. I thought of the Laws that forbade me from sharing the secrets of the Progeny with her, of the dire punishments that would fall upon me if I broke them. But then I thought of the Mistress. Of Athena. Of the orders she gave me.
Forgive me, Master. I lied to you.
She had come to the Familiars' Quarter, the others bowing and moving out of her way as she approached me. She sat beside me on my bed, smiling gently. "You have bonded with young Damien, haven't you."
It was not a question, nor to it require an answer. We both knew it was true.
"It happens, sometimes, between Familiars and certain Progeny." She stroked my hair like a pet. "Something in the Blood calls out to the Blood. His Kiss is now an addiction for you."
I nodded at this.
Athena gave a gentle sigh, and tossed her golden mane of hair. "He's very foolish, this one. Right now he is planning on running away. He thinks I do not know about it, if you can imagine such a thing." She smiled sadly at me.
"Because Blood calls out to Blood," she repeated. "Because I am his Sire, but the Blood of another is also in his veins. It always has been. He is my Get, but he is also another's Familiar. Only, he does not know this yet."
"I don't understand, Mistress."
She nodded. "It is not necessary that you do. But he is going into very great danger, Stefan." She turned and looked at me. "Terrible danger. It might destroy him."
I frowned. "Then forbid him, Mistress."
Athena tilted her head slightly, a faint smile at the corner of her lips. "But I want him to go, Stefan. It has been my plan ever since he first came to us."
I didn't know quite how to feel about this, Master. Athena had saved me, taken me in, given me purpose. But as she said, I had now bonded with you.
"I need you to go with him, Stefan. I need you to look after him. But he mustn't know that you are my eyes and ears. We must let him think he has slipped the leash."
It was pointless asking her why. Besides, that is not my nature. I nodded and did as I was told.
Now, my Master was in the very danger Athena had warned me about. And I was a boy in a strange country I knew nothing about. He was missing, and I had no resources to find him. I didn't even know where to look. So to fulfil my instructions, to do as Athena had told me, I broke the laws of our Clan.
"My Master went out to Feed last night," I said quietly. "He never came back."
The girl stared at me, both terrified and visibly excited. "When you say Feed, you mean he killed someone?"
I shook my head vigorously. "No. Not my Master. My Master is kind. He takes only what he needs. His prey seldom even knows they have been Fed upon."
The girl nodded at this, and seemed even more excited to me. I couldn't understand her reaction. She should have been afraid.
"So there are good ones," she said. "Your Master is one of them."
I nodded at this, and something clicked in my head. Wait. She is one of those. She is one of those who has fantasies about your kind. "Yes. He is kind, and good, and gentle. But there are very bad ones as well."
I watched her reaction to this, and she nodded slowly. Her face was a bit flushed, like a schoolgirl discovering her imaginary friend was real all along. I realised I could use this. I could use her.
"In fact, he is here on a mission. He has come because their is a very evil vampire in this community. My Master has come to rid you all of him."
She blinked rapidly, leaning a little closer towards me. "You mentioned 'Harrow' before. Did you mean 'Harrow House?' That old place by the cemetery?"
I stared. "Yes. Yes. That is what I meant. The evil vampire lives there."
She bit her lower lip, and I knew that it was working. Good and Evil. Ha! Forgive me, my Master, but the people of your country are so simple. They see everything in Black and White, and always themselves as the White side. This was an illusion I could work with. "But I am afraid for him. I am afraid the evil vampire has done something to my Master."
The girl nodded again. "You think he is at Harrow House?"
"Yes, I do." I put on my most innocent, pleading expression. "Could you...could you possibly take me there?"
She seemed to weigh this in her mind. A reasonable person would call the police upon the knife-wielding maniac who just put a knife to her throat. But this girl had always wanted to believe in vampires, in her fantasy of good guys and bad guys. She was starting to think of herself as one of the protagonists in one of her silly stories.
"Sure. I could drive you there. If you can help him."
"Yes," I nodded, genuinely relieved. "Yes please take me there. My Master will be so grateful."
The girl seemed to have a second thought, then dismissed it. She turned and started the engine.