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The Gentleman Vampire
In my research on vampire legends, I found it curious that while so many vampire myths of the East seem to be centered on a fear of female power, the vampire stories of the West often focus on the male vampire. The zombie-like revenants of Slavic folklore somehow morphed into the suave and sophisticated “gentleman vampire” of Gothic literature.
The evolution is attributed to the story, The Vampyre, written by John Polidori. It’s commonly believed that the 19th century English poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron, inspired the depiction of the vampire in this book. In 1816, Polidori, a recent medical school graduate, accepted a position as Byron’s personal physician and traveled with him to the continent.
Byron was a kind of rock star in his day, known for his scandalous love affairs with both sexes. He created what is known as the “Byronic hero”, a deeply flawed man given to bouts of melancholy. Lord Byron, his mistress Claire, the poet Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Polidori participated in a contest to write a ghost story. The most famous of these, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, spawned the genre of science fiction. Polodori’s tale was most likely begun by Byron, but tossed aside. In any case, Polidori finished and published it.
While not as well known as Frankenstein’s monster, the compelling vampire, Lord Ruthven, set the stage for vampires such as Count Dracula, Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat, Barnabas Collins and even Twilight’s Edward Cullen.
Servant of the Goddess by Denise Verrico
Can an Immortyl society survive in a modern world?
From the ashes of the first battle of the Immortyl Revolution, vampires Mia Disantini and Kurt Eisen set out to build a new Immortyl society. Trouble arrives in the person of Cedric MacKinnon, a runaway adept of the ancient arts, who brings tidings of upheaval at the chief elder’s court that threatens everything Mia and Kurt have accomplished. Mia finds it hard to resist when Cedric pledges his service and tempts her with the legendary skills he learned as an Immortyl courtesan. Facing opposition from both within and out, Mia begins to doubt Kurt is up to the task of leading their followers to his vision of an Immortyl Utopia. Torn between her loyalty to Kurt and Cedric’s insistence that she is the earthly manifestation of the Goddess Durga and destined to lead, Mia confronts the greatest challenge of her life.
Sudden shouts battled against the sound of the wind. I peered down the block. Teen-formed Immortyls, sewer rats, closed a circle around a tall male, who held his hands high above his head. From the direction of the wind, I couldn’t yet ascertain this stranger as mortal or Immortyl. Best to investigate. I ran toward the disturbance, wrapping my fingers around the Glock strapped to my hip.
A shrill whistle split the air. Two of the sewer rats lunged for the stranger. He crouched and pirouetted on one leg, letting loose a rapid succession of kicks that knocked his attackers sprawling onto the sidewalk. A rat named Tommy growled and launched himself at the stranger. To my amazement, the stranger leapt high into the air and hovered there for a moment like a falcon before lashing out with both feet. Tommy’s head snapped backward, and he flattened against the pavement. The remaining rats hung back.
The slender figure of a boy maybe eighteen or nineteen touched down and crouched again, poised to strike. No mortal could perform such maneuvers with this speed and agility, not to mention almost ballet-like grace. The Immortyl’s face betrayed raw emotion, indicating he was new to the blood, probably not much older than his form suggested. Eamon, the rat pack leader, drew and aimed a pistol at him. The stranger raised his hands above his head once more.
I gave a sharp whistle for Eamon to stand down. “What’s going on here?”
Eamon lowered the gun and spit on the ground. His forever-twelve-year-old face scrunched up. “We found this one skulking about,” he said. Even after a century and half in New York his speech still gave away his Dublin origins. “Says he’s come from the chief elder’s house.”
The wind kicked up harder. Long, auburn hair whipped about the newcomer’s face. He shivered, hugging an Indian-styled shirt around him. Traces of black kohl and sienna rouge clung to his eyes and mouth, as if he’d scrubbed the paint off in a hurry. The make-up and impractical clothing pointed to origins more exotic than the russet hair and milky complexion suggested. His story sounded plausible. However, the odds that this kid had escaped the chief elder’s compound near Calcutta and made it all the way to New York on his own were unlikely. No slave had ever left there of his own accord.
Kurt had stood trial at the chief elder’s court for inciting rebellion. He’d told me that the chief, Kalidasa, employed state-of-the-art security, as well as vampire-eating tigers. The place was a veritable fortress. Still, there was always a first time, and this newcomer had held his own against Eamon’s band.
I had to admire the kid for standing up to Eamon and his thugs.
The pack leader and I didn’t care much for one another, but he’d fought for Kurt in our recent war with a rival elder. For political reasons, I forced myself to take a civil tone with him. “Did you bother to ask his business before you ordered an attack?” I called to the newcomer, “You–come here.”
The boy lowered his hands and slinked forward. I’d never seen a man move quite like this, with delicacy just brushing the feminine, yet suggesting coiled up, sinewy strength like a jungle cat. Instinct prompted my hand to reach for the Glock concealed on my hip. The kid had danger scrawled all over him in big garish letters.
“Is this true?” I asked.
“I ran away from court,” the boy replied, his speech tinged with a Scottish burr. “I’m seeking refuge here.”
The plaintive tone struck a chord in me. I sized him up again. His winsome looks didn’t belong to the usual brand of vampire assassin, but to a household slave chosen for his decorative value. Still, his swift feet could kill if given the chance. Wouldn’t it be just like Giulietta to send death in such an appealing guise?
“Kurt’s counselor, Chase Powers, can vouch for me,” he continued. “Take me to him.”
“You know Chase?”
“We met in India during Kurt’s trial. He said I’d be welcome here. Please Miss. You have to believe me. I’ve come such a long way and got nowhere else to go.” Desperation filled the spooky, green eyes. They almost glowed, more like a cat’s than a man’s. “There’s probably a bounty offered for my return by now.”
“What did you do?”
“It’s not what I did. It’s what I am.” He held out his hands. Henna tattoos snaked around the wrists and tops, elaborate whirls and spirals. “The marks of my order. I’m an adept of the ancient arts.”
He was an adept? I’d always imagined these temple devotees and de facto courtesans as Indian in origin. I gave the boy a closer look. His clothing had seen better days, but the sinuous way he moved made them a fashion statement. You couldn’t deny the perfection of feature and figure required of his order. He stood out from Eamon’s mangy lot like an emerald in a box of Cracker Jacks.
About the Author:
Denise Verrico is a New Jersey native who grew up in Pennsylvania. She attended Point Park College in Pittsburgh, where she majored in theatre arts. For seven seasons she was a member of The Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC with whom she acted, directed and wrote plays. Denise has enjoyed vampire stories from the time she was a little girl and a fan of the Dark Shadows television series and Chiller Theater. She enjoys reading non-fiction and fiction of all kinds, particularly historical fiction, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, manga and graphic novels. Every April through October you can find Denise climbing to heights of four hundred plus feet at speeds exceeding one hundred and twenty miles per hour on her favorite roller coasters. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, teenaged son and flock of seven spoiled parrots.