On the quest for his missing lover Maurice Fitzpons, Seth Keane becomes a pawn in a proxy war between Ravenshaw and Lord Meath. But Seth has learned an important piece of knowledge from the apothecary Joseph Phillips, a lesson which he hopes will allow him to escape his present slavery. Nonetheless, everyone he holds dear is in danger as he struggles to regain his freedom.
The lives of two men–Seth and Maurice–now hang in the balance as the vampires head for their final showdown.
My patient gave a polite, humorous smile. “But obviously alive. Do you have an explanation? A conjecture? A wild guess?”
I stared. Every thought was running through my mind at once, rising on waves of logic, sinking into troughs of panic, wild, unstable. I began to sweat. He should be dead, utterly dead. I’d seen him lying horribly wounded outside Lichburg Manor, death hovering only minutes away. I’d hauled his body to the graveyard myself. I tried to mask my nervousness. A monster was sitting on my metal examination table with his shirt off. His bare chest looked all too normal. I knew more about this horror than any living being, but my knowledge was still so slight.
He was still, waiting for my diagnosis, except for a very fine, almost undetectable motion of his eyes.
I should have been frightened out of my wits, yet–
Maurice Fitzpons wanted an answer. He’d hunted me down to find one.
“What do you know about your condition? What happened to you? I need to construct a case history before I can draw any conclusions.” It was difficult to concentrate. The eyes of my patient were grey, never a warm color, and they were unnerving in the eyes of a vampire, more like that of some insensate animal. “How did you become a vampire?”
The vampire looked closely at me with a hint of suspicion in his eyes. I kept my mind blank and stopped taking notes for fear of making him fall silent.
“I don’t remember.” The vampire smiled slightly, obviously enjoying the perturbation this caused.
“Nothing at all?” I exclaimed. I could not hide my disappointment. Yet I was also relieved.
“I was dead at the time,” he replied with a touch of mockery.
“But did anything happen before you–died–that you can recall?” This was the most ticklish question, and I knew I was risking my life to ask it.
“I tried to kill your uncle. Wasn’t certain if it worked, either. Seen him around lately?”
Now the bright-eyed mockery was on full display. I could not imagine how Keane had been able to bear him as a flatmate.
“I have not seen my uncle,” I replied with fraying patience, “in two years.”
“It must have worked, then.”
I struggled to control my temper.
“Did you retain any of your human personality?” I’d only seen one other brief instance of vampiric madness (which I had no urge to witness again–even today the horror still clung to me), and I knew almost nothing about this condition.
The vampire hesitated. “No. My human mind only returned after I was burned in a fire.”
“Fire,” I said, thinking hard. “Do you mean the fire at Lichburg?” I asked urgently. “You were there?”
“Yes.” His manner was innocent. “Woke up on the lawn. I might have burned the manor down, but I’m not certain. You just can’t remember all these little details when you’re insane. Sorry for the hit to your inheritance, old boy.”
I reddened with a fury I could not suppress.
“I say my mind returned,” continued the vampire, “except for one little difference. I’m far more–,” he leaned towards me with an alarming smile, “–predatory and ruthless.”