Melchiah sat down heavily on the black clothed bed in the middle of the dark room and held his head in his hands. Why had he come here? It always caused him such pain to be in this chamber, a pain that he had convinced himself that he never wanted to feel again in his entire life. But then why had he come? It would be one of those rhetorical questions that he would always ask himself until his dying day, never receiving an answer. The furniture was draped in black cloth so that the ever-present dust that floated through the air would not destroy the fabrics. The massive wardrobe in the corner still held all the clothing, the bureau all the makeup and the baskets all the dolls, all covered up and placed away so time would not warp them with its harsh effects. The servants had dutifully cleaned the carpet ever second week as they had been ordered to, everything they had moved placed back with such diligence to make it look like they had not been there to begin with. Pictures hung in ornate frames had been covered in the same black cloth; the windows tightly sealed and the light blocked as well.

Perhaps, Melchiah thought, I come here because... because I want to remember the happier times, those simpler times. Perhaps because I cannot let go of the past, even if my other brothers urge me to. But I know they do not really mean it. They feel the pain I do, if to some lesser extent, and I know they come here as well to reflect on those times, those memories that they cannot let go. Even Dumah, who believes himself to be immune to emotion, could not let go of the past.

The Clan Lord stood and fixed the bed sheets, then walked over to the wardrobe and opened it. Colourful dresses, wrapped and folded carefully, sat silently and seemed to mock him. Melchiah's eyes welded up with tears and he quickly shut the doors but not before something fell out on the floor next to his feet. He looked down and saw the doll staring back up at him.

It was a simple rag doll: black yarn for hair, buttons for eyes, a goofy smile sewn on at an angle, and a dress made of blue wool. The vampire picked it up in one talon and looked at it closely, his throat feeling tight. He went back to sit down on the bed, still holding the doll and looking at it with a wistful gaze in his yellow eyes. Melchiah remembered this doll more than all the others he had given her; he had made by himself. A clumsy and poorly constructed doll compared to the fine porcelain and china ones that had once lined the now vacant shelves in this room, but she had loved it more than all the others.

Clara.

The thought of her still made Melchiah want to cry as he was now doing, silent tears tracking down his pale face. The memories of those happier times came flooding back to him, the memories that he held on to in his mind and would never let go of. He looked at the doll and remembered when he had first started down that road; a road that he wished could of never ended.

* * *

It was raining. Melchiah hated it when it rained. His vampires could not hunt; his servants could not clean the halls of his palace properly with the dampness seeping in from every crack in the wall. It slowed everything down for him and boredom set it very quickly. Melchiah's territories were located right between Raziel's and that of a swamp; beyond the swamp lay the human villages and towns that pledged their loyalty and faith to him and his vampires, and spawned food for them. A good arrangement for the Melchiahim Clan, they were the weakest of all the vampires and did not have to go far to feed or collect humans to turn into new vampires. But when it rained and the sky lit up with lightning as it was doing now, Melchiah did not think it such a grand idea.

In fact, it stunk.

The Clan Lord wandered the halls of his silent palace, passing by rooms filled with fledglings learning their skills from older vampires, nodding and talking to his children if they asked him a question or two, then continuing along his way. In a way Melchiah liked the silence of his Clan in comparison to the boisterousness of Clan Turelim or the silent plots and schemes of Clan Zephonim. Soon the youngest of Kain's Lieutenants found himself standing in the main hall of his palace, looking out at the great storm with his arms folded across his chest and a blank look on his face. Matron, the only human female Melchiah found competent enough to manage the day-to-day affairs of his servants, approached him quickly.

"Does something ail you, Milord?" She was sixty-one in human years but her body did not show it. Matron's face was heavily lined from years of stress, but she was still strong. She wore her steel gray hair tied back in a severe bun, her black wool dress always ironed and looking crisp and wearing the ring of keys to the household around her neck from a thick chain with pride; her badge of office.

"Nothing ails me," Melchiah spoke quietly, his voice still carrying in the mausoleum he called home. "Have you completed all of your work for the evening, Matron?"

The old woman chuckled, teeth clacking together. "With this rain, no. It will create even more work for those lazy servants tomorrow but they will not complain if they do not wish to has the stitch across their backside." Melchiah nodded slightly and was about to leave as a gigantic boom of thunder rumbled across the night sky, stopping him. It was not the thunder that startled him, but something else. He thought he heard someone knocking on the front door... there it came again.

He stalked towards the front door and opened it up quickly, making sure than none of the rain that was pouring down heavily landed on him. No one stood on the massive steps leading up to his palace, but it sounded as if someone had pulled at the heavy iron knocker on the door. Melchiah was about to chalk it all up to the rumoured ghosts of the swamp when a cry pierced through the rain, the sound of an infant. The vampire lord looked down at the doorstep where, swathed in ragged blankets in a reed basket, was a baby. Matron pushed past her lord, saw the infant, gasped like a fish out of water, then quickly picked up the basket and moved back inside. Melchiah followed, closing the door behind him.

"Matron, why the look on your face? It is only a human child, left out there by some mother," he said. The babe screamed and kicked out with tiny legs, hollering for all it was worth. It could have been no more than three weeks old.

"I know, my lord, but I wonder where this child came from? It is not everyday that a child is deposited in front of a Clan Lord's holdings. I will remove the infant from your sight, my lord." Before the old woman could move away with the basket that contained the crying child, Melchiah had reached in and taken out the baby, holding the human in the fashion he had seen other human women do with their own infants. Immediately the child's cries lessened, small arms failing around to grasp onto Melchiah's talons. The baby's tiny eyes opened, showing the irises to be a light blue. For a few moments Melchiah regarded the infant he was holding, just as the baby was looking back at him. Then instead of crying out as all human children had done upon seeing the Clan Lord, the baby simply cooed and burbled happily.

"My lord," Matron spoke apprehensively, "shall I take the child from you now?" She could not believe the sight she was witnessing, that Lord Melchiah was holding onto a human infant which moments before she had been unable to calm and was now resting in the vampire's arms. For Melchiah, Matron had disappeared from his world. The thunderstorm and rain had faded silently into the background and all he could do was look at the child he was holding.

"Someone must have brought the child here for a reason," Melchiah muttered. "For some reason."

"It does not need concern you, Lord Melchiah. Just some peasant woman in one of the villages probably, hoping that her child would be given the gift of immortality. I will set the babe up with a mother if you wish, or have it killed." Matron hoped that the vampire would hand the infant over to her and that everything would be forgotten. She knew that sometimes the lord chose the best skin of his human slaves and took them as his own, even if the humans had once been children, even babies. Melchiah fixed the old woman with one of the most evil stares she had ever seen.

"Kill," he hissed. "Kill an infant, Matron? The very idea of you wanting to kill one of your own still surprises me, old woman. I will hear no more of that disgusting topic; remove yourself from my sight. But before you do, know this. I intent to raise this infant as my own. Why do you look surprised?"

"I-it is just that, my lord, she is a human and you are a mighty Clan Lord. You do not need to be beset with the problems of raising an infant when you have your own Clan to think about. I will take the child and give it to a mother who has lost her own infant, if it will please you."

Matron made a half-hearted attempt to take the baby from Melchiah's arms, but the vampire simply moved off to one side while holding the infant protectively in the crook of his arm. "It would please me, Matron, that you keep your views to yourself unless I ask of them. Prepare a room for this child and anything that it might need."

Matron coughed politely. "My lord, do you even know if the child is a boy or girl?" Melchiah gave the old woman a withering look, and then handed the child over to her. The old woman turned away, then turned back. "Well Lord Melchiah, you are the father of a baby girl, and as healthy as they come." The lord took back the young infant quickly, wrapping his own Clan banner around the babe for warmth.

"She will need a name," he spoke, a ghost of a smile playing across his lips. In fact, Melchiah now seemed to be full of a light that Matron had never seen him display, not even around his own vampiric children. It seemed that in the very brief time Melchiah had held this baby in his arms a change of such significance had passed over him. "Clara. Yes, you'll be Clara, my little daughter. My only child that is human and will remain so."

"She will need a wet nurse, my lord, as well as a nanny."

"You fill in the details Matron. That is what you are here for," Melchiah absently waved a hand over his shoulder as he cradled Clara close to him. Already she was asleep, one of his talons entrapped in her tight grip. Matron bowed and left to oversee the preparations of a quick nursery, leaving Melchiah in the main hall. "I have always been the weakest of my brothers, but now here is someone weaker than me, seeking my help and protection," Melchiah whispered softly. "Clara, my little daughter, my only child. I will love and protect you to the end of my days."

* * *

Melchiah wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, and then looked down at the doll. Yes, that one night had changed his whole life. He saw in that unprotected and undernourished child a chance for... for what? Salvation of his soul, a break from constant boredom in an increasingly uninspired life?

No, he saw someone that needed to be loved and the Clan Lord had enough love to spare for over ten Clara's. Melchiah clutched the doll protectively against his chest as he remembered when his brothers had found out about him adopting a human child of his own. He remembered how Raziel had approached him on the subject, not wanting to believe that Melchiah was capable of such an act of kindness.

Yes, he remembered...