REVELATIONS OF LOVE
Silver leaves trembled against a violent sky. Their backs turned to the wind, catching misplaced moonlight before rain smashed them free. They hit Nikola's face in waves, sticking to his coat and hair as he fought against the storm.
The world around him howled. Buildings quaked, gas lights vanished, animals cowered from the screaming wind drawing back into the alleyways. Another blinding flare of light tore across the sky. It branched out, angry tendrils searching the city until one clasped onto an iron gate and let all hell spew in white-hot fire through its length.
He ducked, sweeping from the path of a falling tree. Nikola stumbled over the cobble stones, reaching for the wall to steady himself but it scratched his skin away leaving his palm raw and bloody.
There was a light in the attic of the Magnus house. It pierced the night ahead, drawing him forward. Nikola threw himself upon the front door, intent on beating it down. Instead it fell open, knocking him to the rug with a torrent of rain hard at his back.
"Helen!" Nikola stumbled to his feet, heaving the door closed. Silence crushed him. After the fury outside, Nikola's heart was now the loudest sound, thrashing against his breastbone. He wiped a mixture of rain and tears from his face. Something was wrong. Nikola could smell blood on the air and feel another heart beat on the floor above.
He took a lantern, turning its wick up so that a halo accompanied his slender shadow. Nikola followed a set of watery footprints down the corridor. They led to Helen's room where he found the door ajar, her bed slept in. Wet clothes dripped by the fire but there was no sign of Helen. For a moment he brushed his fingers over the book he had given her, laying on the table beside her bed. A piece of him...
It was his own fear that had brought him here. Nikola could not explain the ache in his chest. When she had left his room only hours before he had been on a cliff, peering down into the darkness. The notion of an eternity alone sent him running back to her door. He couldn't give her the life she wished but he wasn't ready to lose her friendship.
Nikola turned sharply as something shifted in the room above.
"Helen?" he repeated, softer this time as he left her room and started up the worn-out staircase. He ducked, narrowly missing a beam. The door was unlocked, giving way to his gentle push with a long, suffering screech.
At first he thought he had disturbed a ghost.
Helen Magnus was standing in the middle of the attic amongst the dying lanterns. Her pale blue nightdress dragged on the floorboards, soaking in her father's blood. She was clutching a gun in her right hand, staring vacantly toward the covered window. Helen could hear the storm but it was muted – part of another world.
Nikola's gaze dropped to the body at her feet. Dr Gregory Magnus was dead. His barren eyes saw nothing, his skin ashen as any vampire. The world was through with him and he with it. No one noticed his fingertips outstretched, forever reaching for the old trunk that still bore his wife's name.
She wasn't crying. Helen couldn't find the tears. The first she knew of Nikola was the soft touch of his fingers to the gun. He was behind her, gently easing the weapon out of her hold until it fell to the floor. Without a word, Nikola stepped closer. He pressed his chest against her back, giving her something firm to lean against. One of his arms slid around her waist, holding her protectively.
They both forgot the terrible scars they'd left on each other only hours before. Her free hand found his, squeezing gently. She started to breathe again, trembling against his wet chest. Nikola always seemed to carry a storm with him. They were immortals and now they were both alone in the world.
Helen Magnus could never prove it but she would always suspect The Ripper of her father's murder. John. In his frequent letters, Watson delicately pointed out that it was not John's usual style – a gun rather than a knife. A clean kill. It was all wrong to his mind's precise logic.
Despite reason, Helen could not shake what she had seen. There had been a flash of purple light. She'd seen the universe tear again and a man step between times that should never touch. It was more than that. Helen would never tell anyone that she had seen two figures that night. If it had been John, he was not alone in her father's murder.
"For the last time, lay back..." Nigel insisted, gently nudging Helen down against the bed. His friendship with the King allowed Griffin a favour from the court's top physician.
Helen returned her head to the pillow, turning to the side. Sun, warm and soft flooded her skin. She was oblivious to the hive of activity around her. Griffin, the doctor and a team of three nurses swarmed over her laying pieces of silver in trays, folding clean cloths, washing her skin. The only stationary figure was Nikola. He had taken up residence in the ornate chair by her bed and was presently pretending to read.
Despite the fiction regarding vampires, he seemed to quite enjoy the sunlight though it had no effect on his pale skin. The lavish nature of the room suited him. For a moment she pretended he was an ancient vampire king.
"This is your last chance to back out..." he reminded her, quietly fussing with a piece of folded cloth in his free hand. He must have refolded it a thousand times. His manner was polite and charming but it was simply a cover for whatever pieces of his heart she'd left among the Autumn leaves.
"I cannot have this child," she replied. "Whatever darkness is in John – I will not bring another part of it into the world."
"And yet you cannot kill it," he whispered, eyes catching hers – the book forgotten. "This might very well kill you – indeed, it should kill you."
"Nikola, you know what I am..." Helen rested her hand on her stomach for a moment. "This will not kill me."
He eventually nodded. Damn her, she had always been stubborn. Nikola poured chloroform onto the cloth and then pressed it against her face until her eyes fluttered closed and she went still.
Gregory Magnus was not buried. In addition to the mystery of his murder, his body vanished in the hours following his death. Helen never decided whether the uncertainty – the lack of any concrete reminder – was a blessing or a curse. It left questions lingering in her mind. What if he were immortal too? What if he revived? Whenever she delved into such fantasies her closest friends filled her glass and let her dream.
Helen's hand rested against her stomach again. It was flat and empty of the child she had carried. She had thought of it often in the few months that had passed, entombed in a glass vial and locked away in the vaults at Nigel's estate. Alive. She did not let her mind pause there.
She paced back to the door, looking out onto the street. There was a carriage coming now, out of place with its layers of dirt and mud acquired during the long ride home. The horses dragged their feet, heads down, tugging against their bridles and wearing their teeth away on the bit.
James could not contain himself, leaning out the window to wave at Helen as she stepped from the house. He alighted burdened with an enormous cage nearly half his height and solid enough to make him stumble. It was covered with a black cloth and fastened together with a heavy chain and lock.
"My dear Dr Magnus..." James greeted, setting the cage down so that he could sweep her from the ground. It rattled somewhat unhappily beside them as he spun her round and round.
"Dr Watson," she grinned, resting her head on his shoulder, eyes back to their vibrant shade of blue.
They settled in her living room with the cage framed by fire. James was wary of it, using one of the iron pokers from the fireplace to slide away the covering. Inside was an eagle like none the world had ever seen. At first glance it was black, feathers soaking every ounce of warmth from the room. When it shifted, ruffling its wings, Helen saw the blinding gold duffel underneath. If it were ever free to stretch its wings it would be a truly glorious sight.
"A demon? No..." James managed a crooked grin, sitting back down on the chair beside her. The four foot bird eyed them both with beady, black orbs not unlike a vampire's. "Though it has certainly seen its share of blood." The talons alone could gut a man, its deeply hooked beak tear an artery free. "We found no evidence of It hunting humans in particular but it is deeply territorial and protective of its nesting site which the villagers had dashed to pieces several months ago."
Helen and the bird eyed each other.
"What do you expect me to do with the poor thing? It is not as though we can set it free in Oxford's skies."
"That would be unwise," he agreed, "which is why I have come to you with a proposition. Your studies are transferable?" She was taken off guard by the question, nodding. "Then come to London with me. There is a certain residence that I would like to introduce you to. Its walls might have seen better centuries but I promise you, Helen, you will find no finer charm in a building, or walls that take on every measure of fragile sunlight."
When she continued to look at him with bemusement, James reached forward and touched her arm.
"I have found a Sanctuary for you."
Three weeks later a coach pulled up on a lonely street. The horses stood calmly side by side; one black, the other blonde. Helen and James emerged as the first rays of sun struck the east side of the four story ruin. It was old, half-fallen on one side. Every shadow hid a stain of lichen or meandering rose lending flourishes of colour to the stone.
It was beautiful. Helen smiled at once, edging closer until she could touch its cold wall.
"You like it, I can tell," James stood behind her, gently guiding her to the door. It was entirely absent, robbed from its hinges. It did not matter. "There are two levels beneath us in good condition, perfect for the preservation of records and creatures."
She stepped inside, her gaze lifting to the ancient chandelier swinging slowly above. It was heavy, forged from iron and clutching dozens of burned-out candles. James, who had left her for a moment, reappeared beside her with the eagle perched on his arm. It dug its talons into the specially made leather arm band, looking calmly about its new home – quite tame.
"What do you think, Nikky?" James asked the bird, named for a vampire with a similar tendency toward sharp claws and dark eyes. "Indeed, where is that devil of a vampire?"
Helen turned with a smile, petting the bird affectionately as she replied.
The gentle white hills and stark cliffs behind had all the appearance of an ocean frozen by a storm. He had never noticed the wall of black glass arching toward his home – how sinister its arms were as they encircled the tiny village.
He could feel the rumble of hooves on the air. A mare was thundering through the snow, chased by the storm. Wild, she bounded over the frozen streams and tore into the thick forest around his house. Branches snapped against her hide, scratching her silken coat until she thrust free and broke the stockyard gate. Terrified, she reared up at the tiny child that appeared beneath her feet. Her hooves slid in the mud as she tried to stop, thrashing and pounding at the ground. The child, a boy of ten screamed as the full weight of the horse fell upon him. The last sound he heard were the cries of his younger brother cowering in the rain.
Nikola shook, eyes snapping open. Milka was standing at the door to his room with a tray of coffee and toast.
"My brother sleeps..." she mocked softly, setting the tray on his desk before sitting on the bed with him. A black cat stirred, half awake beside Nikola. Its purring was nearly as loud as his other sisters, Angelina and Marica, playing cards in the living room.
"Vampires sleep too," Nikola replied, sitting up with a boyish smile. Milka reached forward to touch his cheek, then withdrew her hand at the cold skin. "I am well," Nikola assured her.
"It is not an easy thing to get used to. Soon the others will notice how young you are."
Nikola thought of his two elder sisters laughing several rooms away. They did not know his secret.
"They will both marry soon and move away from here," he replied quietly. "There is no need for them to know."
Milka laid down, her head on her brother's chest as he stroked her back softly. She had intended to marry Mr. Fort but now she could not stomach the idea of marriage at all.
"Will you make me a vampire?" she asked, barely a whisper.
Nikola frowned, his hand stilling against her silk dress.
"I cannot," he murmured.
"The Source Blood is gone, Milka. Even if it wasn't, I am an accident – an experiment gone monstrously wrong. It is not a matter of simply turning you into a vampire."
She lifted her head, looking at him with grey, vampirc eyes, her features narrow and crisp like his. Even her skin was pale as snow, in every manner she could pass as a creature from the ancient world. "Please..."
A crunch of snow and knock at the door interrupted the laughter in the living room. Marica answered it. A few minutes later she lingered at Nikola's room. In every way, Marica was more like their mother; tempered, tall and reserved. The Tesla wildness was replaced by a warm glow. Nikola had always thought her perfectly lovely, living in a different world to him. She would never learn what her brother had become or the darkness locked away in her blood.
"Milka, it's addressed to you," Marica handed her sister the package and left her siblings alone again.
Milka turned the simply wrapped item over in her hands. She had seen dozens like it, all tied with a length of silk. She knew what it contained before the fragile pages were revealed. Sketches, beautiful and terrifying – twisted works of art each capturing a creature that should not exist.
She hugged them to her chest. Charles was alive, he had to be. The significance of the package was lost on Nikola. He had laid back on the bed, one hand idly stroking Macak.
"Are you still accompanying me to Paris tomorrow?"
Milka looked down at her brother with a smile. Life had returned to her features. "No, dear brother. Though I promise I shall visit you. Do you intend to meet your Miss Magnus there?"
As always, Nikola turned his head away to hide the faint colour in his cheeks. His reply never changed. "She is not my anything, Milka."
"That was not an answer to my question," Milka whispered, laying down against her brother.
Nikola thought quietly for a while then let a fragile smile form on his lips. "One can never tell when the great Dr Magnus will grace us with her presence."
"And this?" Milka held up the folded scrap of papyrus she had found in her brother's coat. It was some form of map but the language was beyond her learnings.
"An adventure... perhaps," Nikola whispered, taking it from her. She was always finding things that she shouldn't. "This is a way into Gregory's last secret," his voice grew softer as he considered sleep again. "The path to Bhalasaam."
The painfully tame gardens were interrupted by an arch of stonework and line of iron rails of the Griffin mausoleum. Their arrow tips were razor sharp, cutting through the rain drizzling over the English countryside. Nigel looked up from his desk, sighing at the miserable weather that had set in. Autumn again and this time they had been robbed of all the coloured leaves by storms until there was nothing save bleak trees and dying grass.
His house keeper, a lady hardly a year older than himself, was kneeling on the floor collecting discarded parchments, burning them in the fire one by one. Nigel was certain he would marry that girl. He could happily wake to her crimson hair and freckled features until there was no more sun to be had.
"Can you hear it again, Mr Griffin?" she asked, watching the last flare of light as the paper was consumed between the logs.
"It is only the wind," Nigel insisted, leaning back until the leather chair creaked. He needed to find a different room, one that did not gaze over such a melancholy sight.
"When I was small, my parents used to say that the wind carries the voice of departed souls. Do you think that true?"
Nigel beckoned the young woman closer, taking her hand and drawing her down to sit on his knee.
"The wind is simply a result of pressure changes in the sky," he explained. "Its sounds are like those of an instrument, shaped by the trees and hills. If there are voices on the air, they are of the living."
Inside the tomb of stone was another slab of granite. It was eight feet long, five high, four wide and took up most of the mausoleum. A heavy coffin laid atop it, edged in twisted brass. Inside, its captive slept, neither alive nor dead. The Source Blood crawled through Samuel's veins, turning him cell-by-cell into a creature of the night. It was a delicate process taking many decades. One day his pale eyes would open and another vampire wake into the world. The balance would tip and a slaughter begin.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY, ENGLAND 1884
A dark haired foreigner – a Serbian boy fresh off a train was knelt on the lawn amid a flurry of pigeons. They hopped around him, pecking at the grass, grazing him with their soft, white wings. One of them ventured close enough for him to run his fingertips over her back.
They started to scatter, beating their wings and flying up towards the the university walls. All the young Nikola Tesla saw emerge from the chaos was crimson, flowing yards of it tapering up to a woman's narrow waist where it met a few lingering gold curls. Nikola's gaze eventually lifted to a set of steel blue eyes very like his own.
The woman smiled at him and his heart instantly trembled. She came to a stop, filling his whole world.
"Volim te..." he whispered, quite accidentally.
An indulgent grin formed on Helen's lips. "I think you mean, 'Dobro jutro...'"
( This story is continued in its two sequels, 'People of the Sand' and 'Sanctuary of the Moon'. In addition, there will be a collection of stories written in this universe that occur in the years between this story and its sequels. It will be called: '1905 - 1944' )
"Volim te..." : "I love you..."
'Dobro jutro...' : "Hello..."
Author's Note: Many of these characters were real people who changed our understanding of life and its creatures in ways we cannot measure. They were people that saw the world for its uncharted mysteries; the beauty and the terror of truth. Some explored it, others measured it and a precious few untangled it. One went a step further and fashioned it into a future that we can never step back from. He may not be a vampire but Nikola Tesla is a man who built our future with peace and reverence in his soul. It is fitting then that his truest friend was a snow white dove - a symbol of the hope he held for us all.
I would like to thank everyone for reading. It has been a pleasure to write for you during the last five years.