Home > Vittorio, The Vampire (New Tales of the Vampires #2)(7)

Vittorio, The Vampire (New Tales of the Vampires #2)(7)
Author: Anne Rice

"High up and looking out over the valley," I said, "if you please, and some supper, it can be stone cold, I don't care."

"You're not going to find any books in this town," said the Watchman, standing about as I beat it up the stairs after the woman. "All the young people go off; it's a peaceable place, just happy little shopkeepers. Young men today run off to universities. But this is a beautiful place to live, simply beautiful."

"How many churches do you have?" I asked the old woman when we'd reached the room. I told her that I must keep the lighted candle for the night.

"Two Dominican, one Carmelite," said the Watchman, slouching in the little door, "and the beautiful old Franciscan church, which is where I go. Nothing bad ever happens here."

The old woman shook her head and told him to be quiet. She set the candle down and gestured that it could stay.

The Watchman went on chattering as I sat on the bed, staring at nothing, until she'd brought a plate of cold mutton and bread, and a pitcher of wine. "Our schools are strict," the man went on. Again the old woman told him to hush up.

"Nobody dares to make trouble in this place," he said, and then both of them were gone.

I fell on my plate like an animal. All I wanted was strength. In my grief I couldn't even think of pleasure. I looked out on a tiny bit of high star-sprinkled sky for a little while, praying desperately to every saint and angel whose name I knew for help, and then I locked up the window tight. I bolted the door.

And making sure that the candle was well sheltered in the corner, and plenty big enough to last until dawn, I fell into the lumpy little bed, too exhausted to remove boots or sword or daggers or anything else. I thought I'd fall into a deep sleep, but I lay rigid, full of hatred, and hurt, and swollen broken soul, staring into the dark, my mouth full of death as if I'd eaten it.

I could hear distantly the sounds of my horse being tended to downstairs, and some lonely steps on the deserted stone street. I was safe, at least that much was so.

Finally sleep came. It came totally and completely and sweetly; the net of nerves which had held me suspended and maddened simply dissolved, and I sank down into a dreamless darkness.

I was conscious of that sweet point where nothing for the moment matters except to sleep, to replenish and to fear yet no dreams, and then nothing.

A noise brought me around. I was immediately awake. The candle had gone out. I had my hand on my sword before my eyes opened. I lay on the narrow bed, back to the wall, facing the room and in a seemingly sourceless light. I could just make out the bolted door, but I couldn't see the window above me unless I turned my head to look up, and I knew, positively knew, that this window, heavily barred, had been broken open. The little light which fell on the wall came from the sky outside. It was a fragile, weak light, slipping down against the wall of the town and giving my little chamber the attitude of a prison cell.

I felt the cool fresh air come down around my neck and felt it on my cheek. I clutched the sword tight, listening, waiting. There were small creaking sounds. The bed had moved ever so slightly, as if from a pressure.

I couldn't focus my eyes. Darkness suddenly obscured everything, and out of this darkness there rose a shape before me, a figure bending over me, a woman looking right into my face as her hair fell down on me. It was Ursula.

Her face was not an inch from mine. Her hand, very cool and smooth, closed over my own, on the hilt of my sword, with a deadly force, and she let her eyelashes stroke my cheek and then kissed my forehead.

I was enveloped in sweetness, no matter how hot my rebellion. A sordid flood of sensation penetrated to my very entrails. "Strega!" I cursed her.

"I didn't kill them, Vittorio." Her voice was imploring but with dignity and a curious sonorous strength, though it was only a small voice, very young in tone and feminine in timbre.

"You were taking them," I said to her. I tried in a violent spasm to free myself. But her hand held me powerfully fast, and when I tried to free my left arm from under me, she caught my wrist and held me there too, and then she kissed me.

There came that magnificent perfume from her which I had breathed in before, and the stroking of her hair on my face and neck sent shameless chills through me.

I tried to turn my head, and she let her lips touch my cheek gently, almost respectfully.

I felt the length of her body against me, the definite swell of her br**sts beneath costly fabric, and the smooth length of her thigh beside me in the bed, and her tongue touched my lips. She licked at my lips.

I was immobilized by the chills that went through me, humiliating me and kindling the passion inside me. "Get away, strega," I whispered.

Filled with rage, I couldn't stop the slow smolder that had caught hold in my loins; I couldn't stop the rapturous sensations that were passing over my shoulders and down my back, and even through my legs.

Her eyes glowed above me, the flicker of her lids more a sensation than a spectacle I could see with my own eyes, and again her lips closed over mine, sucking at my mouth, teasing it, and then she drew back and pressed her cheek against me.

Her skin, which had looked so like porcelain, felt softer than a down feather against me, ah, all of her seemed a soft doll, made of luscious and magical materials far more yielding than flesh and blood yet utterly on fire with both, for a heat came out of her in a rhythmic throb, emanating right from the coolness of her fingers stroking my wrists as they held them, and then the heat of her tongue shot into my lips, against my will, with a wet, delicious and vehement force against which I could do nothing.

There formed in my crazed mind some realization that she had used my own hot desire to render me helpless, that carnal madness had made of me a body constructed about metal wires that could not help but conduct the fire she poured into my mouth.

She drew her tongue back and sucked with her lips again. My entire face was tingling. All my limbs were struggling both against her and to touch her, yes, embrace her yet fight her.

She lay against the very evidence of my desire. I couldn't have hidden it. I hated her. "Why? What for!" I said, tearing my mouth loose. Her hair descended on both sides as she lifted her head. I could scarcely breathe for the unearthly pleasure.

"Get off me," I said, "and go back into Hell. What is this mercy to me! Why do this to me?"

"I don't know," she answered in her clever, tremulous voice. "Maybe it's only that I don't want you to die," she said, breathing against my chest. Her words were rapid, like her heated pulse. "Maybe more," she said, "I want you to go away, go south to Florence, go away and forget all that's happened, as if it were nightmares or witches' spells, as if none of it took place; leave this town, go, you must."

"Stop your foul lies," I said before I could stop myself. "You think I'll do that? You murdered my family, you, you and yours, whatever you are!"

Her head dipped, her hair ensnaring me. I fought vainly to get loose. It was out of the question. I couldn't budge her grip.

All was blackness, and indescribable softness. I felt a sudden tiny pain in my throat, no more than the prick of pins, and my mind was suddenly flooded with the most tranquil happiness.

It seemed I'd stumbled into a blowing meadow of flowers, quite far away from this place and from all woes, and she lay with me, fallen against silently crushed stems and uncomplaining irises, Ursula, with her undone ashen hair, and she smiled with the most engaging and demanding eyes, fervent, perhaps even brilliant, as if ours were a sudden and total infatuation of mind as well as body. On my chest she climbed, and though she rode me, looking down at me with exquisite smiling lips, she parted her legs gently for me to enter her.

It seemed a delirious blending of elements, the wet contracting secretive pocket between her legs and this great abundance of silent eloquence pouring from her gaze as she looked lovingly down at me.

Abruptly it stopped. I was dizzy. Her lips were against my neck. I tried with all my might to throw her off.

"I will destroy you," I said. "I will. I vow it. If I have to chase you into the mouth of Hell," I whispered. I strained against her grasp so hard that my own flesh burned against hers. But she wouldn't relent. I tried to clear my mind. No, no dreams of sweetness, no. "Get away from me, witch."

"Hush, be quiet," she said sorrowfully. "You are so young and so stubborn, and so brave. I was young like you. Oh, yes, and so determined and such a fearless paragon."

"Don't talk your filth to me," I said.

"Hush," she said again. "You'll wake the house. What good will that do?" How painful, earnest and enticing she sounded. Her voice itself could have seduced me from behind a curtain. "I cannot make you safe forever," she said, "or even for very long. Vittorio, go."

She drew back so that I could see her sincere and large yielding eyes all the better. She was a masterpiece. And such beauty, the perfect simulacrum of the fiend I'd seen in the firelight of my chapel, needed no potions or spells to advance her cause. She was flawless and intimately magnificent.

"Oh, yes," she confessed, her half-visible eyes searching my face, "and I do find such beauty in you it pulls on my heart," she said. "Unfairly, unjustly. How am I to suffer this as well as all else?"

I struggled. I wouldn't answer. I wouldn't feed this enigmatic and infernal blaze.

"Vittorio, get out of here," she said, lowering her voice ever more delicately and ominously. "You have a few nights, maybe not even that. If I come to you again, I may lead them to you. Vittorio. Don't tell anyone in Florence. They'll laugh at you." She was gone.

The bed creaked and rocked. I was on my back, and my wrists ached from the pressure of her hands, and above me the window gaped on the gray featureless light, the wall beside the Inn rising up towards a sky I couldn't quite see from this helpless vantage point. I was alone in the room. She was nowhere.

All of a sudden, I willed my limbs to action, but before I could so much as move, she appeared again, above in the window, visible from the waist to the top of her bowed head, peering down at me, and with her hands she tore loose the low embroidered border of her gown and bared her na**d white br**sts before me - tiny, rounded, very close together and with piquant ni**les visible only in their darkness. With her right hand she scratched her left breast, just above the little nipple, made it bleed.

"Witch!" I rose up to grab hold of her, to kill her, and instead felt her hand grasp my head, and there came the pressure of her left breast into my very mouth, irresistibly frail yet firm. Once again, all that was real melted and was swept away like so much idle smoke rising from a fire, and we were together in the meadow which belonged only to us, only to our diligent and indissoluble embraces. I sucked the milk from her, as if she was maiden and mother, virgin and queen, all the while I broke with my thrusts whatever flower remained inside of her to be torn open.

I was let go. I fell. Helpless, unable even to raise a hand to keep her from flying, I fell down, weak and stupid onto the bed, my face wet and my limbs trembling.

I couldn't sit up. I could do nothing. I saw in flashes our field of tender white irises and red irises, the loveliest flowers of Tuscany, the wild irises of our land, blowing in the greenest grass, and I saw her running away from me. Yet all this was transparent, half-tinted, and could not mask the tiny cell of a room as it had done before, only linger, like a veil drawn across my face, to torment me with its tickling weightless silkiness.

"Spells!" I whispered. "My God, if you have ever committed me to guardian angels, will you spur them on now to cover me with their wings!" I sighed. "I need them."

Finally, shakily and with dim vision, I sat up. I rubbed at my neck. Chills ran up and down my spine, and the backs of my arms. My body was still full of desire.

I squeezed my eyes shut, refusing to think of her yet wanting anything, any source of stimulation, that would soothe this awful need.

I lay back again, and was very still until this carnal madness had left me.

I was a man again then, for not having been, at random, a man.

I got up, ready for tears, and I took my candle down to the main room of the Inn, trying not to make a sound on the crooked winding stone stairs, and I got a light from a candle there on a hook on the wall, at the mouth of the passage, and I went back up, clinging to this comforting little light, shielding the shuddering flame with my cupped hand and praying still, and then I set down the candle.

I climbed up and tried to see what I could from the window.

Nothing, nothing but an impossible drop beneath me, a sloping wall up which a flesh-and-blood maiden could never have climbed, and higher, the mute, passive sky, in which the few stars had been covered by fleecy clouds as if not to acknowledge my prayers or my predicament. It seemed absolutely certain I was going to die.

I was going to fall victim to these demons. She was right. How could I possibly exact the revenge they deserved? How in Hell could I do it! Yet I believed in my purpose utterly. I believed in my revenge as completely as I believed in her, this witch whom I had touched with my very own fingers, who had dared to kindle a wanton conflict in my soul, who had come with her comrades of the night to slaughter my family

I couldn't overmaster the images of the night before, of her standing bewildered in the chapel door. I couldn't get the taste of her off my lips. All I had to do was think of her br**sts, and my body would weaken as if she were feeding my desire from her nipple.

Make this subside, I prayed. You cannot run. You cannot go off to Florence, you cannot live forever with nothing but the memory of the slaughter you saw, that is impossible, unthinkable. You cannot.

I wept when I realized that I wouldn't be alive now if it had not been for her.

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