My name is La Croix; I am a diabler: I kill and eat my fellow vampires.
Once I was a knight in the service of Almighty God, long before you that read this were embraced. It was my privilege to fight in the Holy Crusade and bring to bear His crushing hand on the swarming infidel.
There were few more eager soldiers than I. I watched those who in my native Poland were cheered as braver and more chivalrous than I, fall by the road side as hunger, sickness for their mother’s sides, or disease take them. That fate would not be mine, I vowed. My procession to Judgement would be on the bodies of heathens. My sword would cut down a mountain of them so high I could touch the face of God Himself and He would see how I was his most faithful servant.
And I was fulfilled. In battle my peers became nought. Sword to sword, lance to lance, hand to hand, I was victorious wherever I faced battle. Men, drawn to the safest places in battle, stood behind me knowing none would live who stood before. As I richly soaked the Holy Land in moor blood I raised my face to Heaven so that God might look upon mine and see how it was I who won back His Holy Jerusalem.
The sin of pride does not go unpunished.
One night, as the Holy City burned and good Christian men wept at the sight, a stray arrow, yielded from mine own under some folly, or by mine enemy outside of the rules of engagement, I know not, struck me in the arm, piercing through the muscle. When the wound failed to heal I was taken to the Hospitalier in the hopes that their knowledges and lore might bring me salvation. However, it was not salvation that found me in those wretched nights.
She appeared before my bed; a figure of such divine beauty as I called out to my fellows that I was visited by the Blessed Virgin herself. To the fever they blamed my callings for they could not see what I could but I was certain that she there stood. As all around me fell back into their own private pains, she approached me and whispered in a voice so sweet that Angel’s grow green with envy at the sound, ‘God is pleased with you, my child,’ she said. ‘Now he has use for you in another life.’
My heart thumped. The blood in my veins rushed through my head with all the noise of a waterfall after the spring thaws. My lady kissed me, not on the cheek, but on the neck. In my delirium, so I thought, I felt not the blessed relief of being enveloped into the loving arms of the Holy Family, but such pain and burning that I despaired I was being dragged into the fires of Hell itself. I screamed, or at least I attempted for the sound that gushed from my lips was the gurgling of a drowning man’s last breath of air. And indeed, I was drowning, my lungs filled with liquid. Only later was I to discover it was my own blood that extinguished my life – and her blood that saved me from me brink of death itself.
The Hospitaliers, whether they saw her now or did not I know not, for certain they saw me thrashing and fitting on my tabletop bed for now they rushed around me, holding down limbs and praying to Almighty God that I might go in peace. As the light from the world went dark I searched for one last look of the lady to whom I owed my deliverance unto Hell but she was gone; back into the ether of my feverish, failing mind.
What happened after that I am still unaware. What I can be sure of is that I was moved, like all those thought to have died. But not was I moved unto the Potters Field, or Akeldama as it is known in the native tongue, however, I was moved to another part of the Hospitalier’s fort. I briefly remember surfacing to conscious several times and on more than one of those occasions remarking upon the lack of windows, or light of any kind in the room. Mirthless laughter was all the answer my ignorance was granted.
When I awoke, it was to the sight of demons in knights robes. Invigorated by the Spirit and full of His Holy vengeance I flung myself at this wicked and vile creatures. They flew from my sight but bolted the door behind them, leaving me locked in a cell. I beat against the door but after only a few minutes, I grew weak and tired. Thereafter they returned and began to teach me our ways.
I presume it was by the grace of God that I was unconscious and thereby spared the pain and suffering of our kind’s Embrace but, I have had occasion to wonder since, would the shock and crushing despair I felt upon seeing my face, and those of the others, been any less had I endured the pains?
I am always forced to answer the drivels of my mind with the same answer: No.
For six whole days they refused to present to me a mirror, though they themselves would appear to me as they truly were. Hideousness incarnate. While I could see my hands, twisted sticks of bone and flesh and grasping talons, they were bound in chains to prevent me from harming the others.
They taught me that through our blood we could control how, and even if, others saw us. For the six days, though I starved, they refused to feed me until I vanished from their sight, or my face appeared as it had done when I was alive. One tutor, Nargel, showed me how to take create an entirely fictitious appearance, as she confessed, she had done to me. She used a statue of the Virgin Mary to construct a vision. I did the same, using paintings I had seen as a child. By the end of the five days I was more masterful at the art than any in the fort. On the sixth, I delivered a mirror. It was the first and last that I have ever looked upon. The face I saw that night burned more deeply into my soul than the wrathful image of God in the eyes of the dead heathens.
On the seventh night of my incarceration I prayed as I always did on the Sabbath; praying that God might look upon me and despair, ending my sorrows but such was not His will. As I finished my prayers, I dined in blood. The blood of an innocent; as close to that of Christ as those I was with could find.
It was then that I suspected: I was created for a purpose. Later I was to discover, in the last words of the one responsible, that the arrow whose course sent me on mine was launched by one of this clan deliberately.
Never ones to shy from seeking pleasure at my discomfort, my fellows, my gaolers toyed with me. Even my sanguinous lust during these periods was a source of amusement for them. They found the toughest, the bravest of the Knights on the pilgrimages and the Crusades and brought them before me. These, my fellows, could now never be disguised from me but remained to appear to these brave knights as the flesh of their brothers-in-arms. A demon, I was called and shown to be, and the Knights were given leave to destroy me on God’s Will; lies whose only purpose was to pitch the Knights against me in mortal combat. Though I was chained by my wrists and ankles to four feet from the wall, I always came out satiated and Christendom gained another nameless martyr. After I drank the blood of these fine men, I flagellated my skin to punish myself for these blasphemous meals.
Within a month, feats of strength soon became to me nothing more than mere trifles; breaking a sword with my fingertips was to me no different a task than doing the same with a dry leaf. My last torment was to kill three of my own comrades, Knights I travelled to the Holy Land with who were returning from their Crusade. In my despair and my anger I tore my restraints from the wall, and snapped through my comrades’ weapons, armour and flesh as is they were nothing more than dry leaves.
I feasted on their life’s blood; my meal drank to the accompaniment of their death rattles. I prayed for forgiveness for my sins. Knowing I had already fallen beyond the grace of God I did, nonetheless, hope that He might, one day, see fit to release me from my punishment made flesh.
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