I did the only thing I could think of to do; I sought out The Council. I knew that The Council had the power to punish both of us for the parts we played in the death of Cahol. I knew that The Council would kill me because it was my fault that Cahol had died. However, I hoped deep within my heart that The Council would exact a punishment far worse than mere death on Aodac for his betrayals. I sought The Council for the vengeance that they would surely seek to exact against us both; I never thought to gain their aid, their wisdom, or their favor.
Aodac had told me the night he had returned to us that The Council were near but far; outside of us but part at the same time. I didn’t know what he meant until the night that I was hunting prey in the valley not far from my home and the man I had caught had begged me not to kill him because of the love he had waiting for him at home. I just snarled and told him that there was no love in this world. I told him that if there was love in this world then mine would not have died because of me. I told him that to be apart was to be within. I had a kind of epiphany in that moment. I thought about what Aodac had said about The Council being apart but within. I thought it couldn’t be as simple as that to find them, but it might be. I drank from my prey and I went home with my thoughts on fire. I knelt at the fire burning in the hearth. I drew a knife from its sheath and cut my wrist. I made my blood offering to The Council that they would exact their revenge on the monstrous wrong that befell Cahol because of me.
It was then that three figures appeared before me. I had expected them to come, but it was still alarming. They stood around me in a silent circle. Their eyes burned holes into me. The one directly in front of me was tall and dark; his eyes were fire and his face was a hard mask. The one to my right was a pale petite woman; her eyes were ice. The one to my left was a muscular boy-man with a hard jaw; his eyes were coal black.
I kneeled before them crying. I told them my whole story; I didn’t hide even one little sordid detail. I told them that Aodac Mendu deserved to be punished for his jealousy. I told them that he deserved to be punished for the brutal murder of a man he called his friend, and my Master. I told them that I deserved to die for what I had done. I told them that if it hadn’t been for me seducing Cahol then he would still be alive. The three members of The Council that stood before me looked at each other and nodded. They moved in closer to me. I thought they were going to kill me. I wanted them to kill me. I wanted to die for what I had done; however they did not kill me. The three of them surrounded me and took me the way they had taken Aodac. They brought me to their lair. I looked around the blackened walls and asked “Where am I?”
One member of The Council looked at me as if only then noticing that I was there and said in an echoing voice, “You are outside and within; apart yet not.”
Another member of The Council spoke, “What crime did she commit?”
The woman member of The Council that had appeared in home said in a sing song voice, “She has committed no crime, but she knows of one who has. We must listen to her testimony.”
“What testimony does she offer?” Another asked.
“She offers testimony of Aodac Mendu.” Said the man with fiery eyes who had stood in front of me.
“Yes, we must listen to this testimony.” Said another.
“It is not yet a year since we set him free. We must listen.” Said yet another.
I think there were twenty members or more around me. I wasn’t sure at that moment.
The Council escorted me into a formal drawing room and sat me in the middle of them all. One took notes as the others asked me to tell my story. The Council had convened to hold another trial for Aodac only he knew nothing about this trial. The Council listened to me tell my story again and again. A member of The Council would ask me a question here or there, but they hardly interrupted me as I spoke and my testimony alone was enough to convince all thirty members of The Vampire Council that Aodac Mendu deserved to be punished in a sever way. The Council offered me the chance to have a say in the punishment that they would exact on Aodac. They told me that as Cahol’s youngling it was my right to have that say in his punishment. The Council and I debated endlessly over how to punish him. It was my argument that giving him his coveted humanity would just reward him since it was what he had desired for centuries while giving him the release of death would just placate him, and giving him me was the biggest reward of them all. All three scenarios came up, too. More than once. It was then that I thought of something I had heard about once years ago as a child. I thought the story was just a childhood morality story, but what if it could actually happen? I thought I could at least suggest it.
“Let’s lock him up in a coffin that he can not get out of, and wall him up in a room for a long time. Let his own mind punish him.” I said. “His mind is his greatest enemy in his vampire body. He despises himself as a vampire and being locked away with nothing but his thoughts will slowly eat his mind away.” I finished.
Many members of The Council liked this idea. They agreed with me that his mind would punish him many times over, and to a more severe degree than the entire Council could do given ten life times. It was decided, and The Council sent a band of twelve vampires to apprehend Aodac and bring him to face his judgment. It took three weeks.
Aodac was dragged into the chamber to stand in front of the entire panel. It was then that the final verdict and judgment were passed. Aodac petitioned that The Council listen to his side of the story, but their minds were of one thought and his petition fell on deaf ears. Aodac went ballistic when The Council rendered their sentence on him. He tried to fight. He tried to get away, but he couldn’t move an inch. Aodac was locked away in a special box made of a thick metal that could not be easily broken; I think it was titanium. Once they had securely locked him away in his box they walled him into a small hollow in their lair. They would ensure that he would not move until his debt was paid in full. We could hear his screams for weeks after he was walled in; day and night he screamed and beat on his metal prison to no avail. The Council was unfazed by Aodac’s suffering. The Council is made up of hard hearted inhuman fiends, who do not deviate from their course when they have set their collective minds to it. They remained fast; Aodac would be walled for half a century.
The Council did not agree with me that I should die for my part in the death of my Master. The Council told me that it was Cahol’s right to chose whomever he had wished for his mate and for his youngling. I knew in my heart that Cahol’s death was my fault and that I should die for it; however The Council would not let me die. They kept me there for a month while they reinforced their beliefs in me that I was not at fault for Cahol’s death. I had never thought to find allies in The Council, but that is what I got. They allowed me to talk to Aodac through the bricks. They allowed me to hear his screams as he begged and pleaded for someone to kill him. I was impassible. My heart was scorned ice; my heart did not hear him. I taunted him. The taunts got worse and worse with each passing day until I finally broke him to madness. I knew in that instant that his mind would kill him slowly, and that The Council was right about me. I knew that there was no more reason for me to remain with them. I knew it was time for me to leave, and The Council agreed. With their blessing I walked away and left Aodac to die within his own mind. I went back to my home in Scotland and passed the time slowly. I waited for the fifty years of torment to be over. It seemed like an eternity and a single day all at the same time. I didn’t truly live during that time. I just was.
Fifty Years Later
I knew the time for Aodac’s release was drawing close, so I decided it was time to leave my safe haven and return to The Council once more. I was received with the open arms of life long friends and the ease of distant loved ones. I asked The Council if they had released Aodac. They assured me that they had kept him locked away until only two days past when they had acknowledged that he had served his sentence and was released from his solitary prison. I thanked them for everything they had done for me and left quickly to find Aodac once more. I returned to our old neighborhood where our bitter story had begun. I figured that it was possible that Aodac would return to the place where it had all started. I didn’t have to wait long.
I sat alone in the park on a dark night only two weeks after returning to the place where it all started. I had been there for maybe twenty minutes when a shadowy figure approached me. I began to cry. It was a broken, beaten, and whimpering shell of the man I had at one time called friend. This was my fault. I had done this, and I wept harder. Aodac sat next to me on the bench. My animosity had gone with the years. I no longer hated him; I hated myself for what I had done. He started to cry. I may have beaten him, but I felt no joy at knowing it. Only my tears remained. I put my arm around him, and forced his head to my shoulder. We cried for an eternity. I reached up with my free hand, and gently lifted his head up. I kissed him tenderly on cracked and dry lips. Aodac deserved better than this black widow he was getting, but I guess I was still what he wanted. He kissed me back. He still wanted me even after all of the pain, hurt, and betrayal we had caused each other.
We left the park and went to the lair that Cahol and I had shared. The place had been abandoned for fifty years. The place was covered in thick layers of dust. There were cobwebs in every corner. The furniture was tarnished and rickety. We didn’t stop long enough to consider what we might be doing. We made love on the old bed. It creaked and shook with our movements. At long last our past was behind us. Only our future lay in front of us. We were free to live in the moment with no inhibitions, no weights, no yesterdays, and no tomorrows. Neither of us was expected to dance on strings or be a puppet. We could finally be one. We could finally lay to rest a past that was filled with pain. If only I had known the truth.
I awoke the next night unable to move. Realization dawned on me slowly that I was chained and immobile. I searched for Aodac but I could not see him immediately. I struggled against my chains but they would not break. Why would Aodac have chained me only to leave?
I had been awake for almost twenty minutes when Aodac came into the room. “Good evening, Francesca. How do you feel?” his voice was different from the previous night. He sounded distant and bitter. His eyes swam in the depths of madness. He was beyond my reach. For the first time since I had seen him again I was scared, because it was at that moment that I realized just what I had done. Aodac had spent every second for fifty years plotting his revenge against me while he lay in that box, and now he finally had me where he wanted me.
“Aodac, what’s going on?” I asked in a voice full of confusion.
“You’re what’s going on, bitch! I’m going to take every minute of the last fifty years of confinement, torture, and pain from your ass!” he ranted.
“Aodac, can’t we just forgive each other? I forgave you for what you did to Cahol, and me, and us: you and me, a long time ago. I just want you back.” I said in a voice that shook with unshed tears.
“I wish I could say the same, Franny.” He said with feeling in his voice. I knew I was in trouble in that moment when I heard him say “Franny”. Aodac never called me “Franny” unless he was so mad at me there was no way back until he’d purged the madness.
“Aodac,” I said in the calmest voice I could manage, “what are you going to do? Are you going to torture me with knife wounds? Bullet wounds? Impale me with sharp objects? Are you going to lock me down here for fifty years in isolation, trapped and chained to this bed? Well, go ahead! I’ve spent this last fifty years alone, forgiving you and cursing myself! I’ve put myself through fifty years of torture! What’s another fifty? What’s a hundred? I deserve it!”
“Franny, I don’t give a damn! You deserve an eternity of torture for what you’ve done to me and Cahol! Cahol and I were brothers until you waltzed into the picture! We raised you from an orphan and we watched you grow into a woman. Everything changed after that! All of a sudden we were both resisting the urge to make you ours and we both lost! My jealousy killed Cahol, and your rage killed me! Now I’m going to kill you.” He said with the hardest voice I’d ever heard him use.
“I understand, and I forgive you for this, Aodac. I deserve to die. Go ahead; do it.” I said calmly, somberly. “Will you grant me one last request?” I asked in a quiet voice as silent tears ran down my face.
“What?” he asked me in his hard voice.
“Let your face be the last thing I see. Let me see you as I die.” I pleaded.
He nodded his head, but did not say anything else. He walked over to me and in one swift strike he impaled me with a stake through the heart. He shoved the stake in so hard that it impaled the mattress as well. I looked him in the eyes as tears shone in mine, and I managed to mouth the words “I love you,” to him through the pain and the fire that erupted in my breast. Blood gurgled up my throat and out of my mouth. My eyes began to close as I choked on my own blood.
I don’t know why, but Aodac’s resolve broke at that moment and he pulled the stake from my chest. I was weak and bleeding; I lay there helpless as my body tried to heal itself. Aodac bit his wrist and feed me from his vein. He kissed my forehead as I fell into a deep coma like sleep. I do not really know how long I slept. I remember blackness. I remember feeling liquid running down my throat. It was only after I awoke that I found out that Aodac had continued to feed me for almost a year of my blessed unconscious oblivion.