Like the pictures, this story is the property of White Wolf through the Camarilla Australia and has been published in Beyond the Sunset, Camarilla Australia's magazine as well as being my own intellectual property. Do not use it without permission.
A Most Timely Death
When Nil awoke she was lying on the seat of a carriage. Across from her sat Daniel and the mysterious man. This could mean all kinds of terrible things but she didn’t panic. Narrowing her eyes, she searched Daniel’s face for some clue as to what was going on. He was smiling, looking as contented as the Cheshire Cat. Nil felt somewhat relieved but still very uneasy.
“Ah, I see you are avake” said the gentleman in a thick Russian accent. “Zer is nothing to fear. Daniel and myself thought perhaps you could both use your time better vorking for me as servants in my house than picking pocket, no? It does get very lonely there by myself as my keeper has recently left me.” Nil bristled and shot Daniel a dirty look.
“I aint noone’s bloody maid she responded acidly.
“No, no, ve would be more like friends, yes? I give you clothes, food, a roof over your heads and pay you a little. You just do a little dusting and washing, hm?” Out of the corner of her eye, Nil saw Daniel’s lips round ever so slightly, which meant ‘explain later’.
Truth be told, Nil couldn’t help but like this Russian. He was tall with short dark hair, spectacles and unassuming but there was... something about him. Something mysterious. And after all, he could have had them arrested instead of taking them in.
“All right. We’ll see ‘ow it goes. And you Daniel can wipe that damn smug look off you face, agreeing to something without asking me first” her tirade trailing off into unintelligible grumblings.
The Russian smiled happily like a child at Christmas.
“Excellent!” he exclaimed, clapping his hands. “I am Ruvinsky. Anatoly Ruvinsky. And you are ‘Nil’ and your friend there is Daniel. See, now we are all friends.” And with that he went back to looking out of the window. Just then, Nil began to cough. Daniel came and sat next to her.
“You all right?” he asked, rubbing her back. Nil threw him off violently.
“I’m fine! I keep telling ya, I’m right as rain!” Meekly, Daniel went back to his seat still watching Nil. The gentleman was still watching out of the dark window, pretending that he hadn’t heard the exchange.
Half an hour later he piped up, startling both Nil and Daniel out of their own private reveries.
“We vill stop for the day and continue tomorrow night. Being from the Mother Country you see I have very sensitive skin. And it is hot here, so hot and your sun so harsh I have found the being here much more comfortable if I conduct my affairs and activities by night rather than day.”
“So where is it that we are going?”
“Vhy, to my house of course.” Nil rolled her eyes. Daniel chuckled quietly.
“I think she means ‘where’ is your house.”
“Oh, the Central Coast. Lovely spot. Overlooks the sea. The house is almost on ze beach.”
When their employer was asleep, Daniel took Nil aside and explained his reasons for agreeing to this jaunt in hushed tones.
“You know, he’s well off and if we get in ‘is good books, well, who knows where it might lead?”
“Artful Dodger or little Oliver?”
“Well, that depends now, don’t it? On circumstance and the like. But ways I see it, Dodger always had enough for that day and maybe the next if he were lucky. Oliver on the other hand was set up for life. Besides, didn’t Dodge end up wearing the arrows?”
“You always said Oliver was a ginger pansy.”
“And I’m not saying he aint but it’s better than being in the tanty and we both just might end up rich.” Nil decided to see how it went. She was sure, that like last time, Daniel would get bored and then they’d do a runner with as much stuff as they could carry.
Mr Ruvinsky’s was a modest house by a toff’s standards but still the largest residence Nil had ever been in legally.
The duties of the two young vagrants were light. Mr Ruvinsky acted more the host than the employer and very quickly became Anatoly to his new friends. All thoughts of taking advantage or ripping him off left Nil’s mind completely.
He dressed Nil as befit her station in a well made but modest black dress and had her wear her hair up, grey stockings and polished shoes. Somehow, no matter how neatly dressed Nil was nor how tightly pulled back her hair, she still always seemed ‘messy’ as though neatness was something that happened to other people.
Daniel it seemed was being groomed to buttle. He was dressed in a waistcoat suit, saw to the day-to-day running of the little household, greeted Anatoly’s guests and showed them through. Daniel took to his new station in life like a duck to water. He all but strutted in his new clothes. Nil felt permanently uncomfortable in hers. Daniel also seemed very interested in and perfectly at ease with Anatoly’s guests. Nil distrusted them and always felt... wrong around them. Some of them didn’t even look right. They wore low hats or hoods pulled down over their eyes. Once Nil thought she saw a man wrapped in bandages under his wide-brimmed boater. Daniel however didn’t seem worried by any of this at all.Though Nil rankled at being a paid servant and having to wear stiff dresses instead of her old skirts, the girl was in many ways happier than she had ever been. She genuinely liked Anatoly and his company. It was strange because Nil had always despised the upper but as much as she hated to admit it, her employer was different.
Nil also enjoyed lying in the sun on the beach. The cove was private and there was no one to interrupt her. She quickly learnt to have some shade after a nasty incident where she came in scarlet but nowadays it seemed she would start to shiver though the season was high summer. She enjoyed lying on the sand and Daniel even taught her to swim.
“Where’d you learn to swim?” she asked surprised.
“You don’t quite know everything about me, girl,” he replied with a grin.
When she did have a coughing fit, Daniel would fuss much to Nil’s chagrin, trying to force all manner of foul tasting concoctions down Nil’s throat in the hope of dispelling the cough. Nil managed to convince Daniel that it wasn’t anything to really be worried about, that it would pass eventually with the warm sun here on the coast. She didn’t miss the flicker in Anatoly’s eyes when she coughed before he slid his expression away. He knew what was going on. And he knew that she knew that he knew. As long as Daniel didn’t know then that was fine. As such, neither Nil nor Anatoly ever broached the subject. Nor did it get mentioned even when Daniel was not present. That would somehow make it ‘real’.So the trio continued, almost like children playing ‘house’. After some months, Anatoly began to include Daniel in some of his business dealings, showing him how to follow leads and tell fakes from the real thing in order to help Anatoly’s business in rare antiquities. Nil remembered being affronted when Anatoly asked her if she could read. “Course I can bleeding read. Everyone can nowadays.” When he raised his eyebrows at her she sighed. “The free-schools. You are out of touch, ain’t ya?”
Mean whilst Daniel showed far more aptitude for the books and finances than he did for the actual curios. Anatoly bought Daniel the clothes of a young well-to-do gentleman and brought him into the business. Anatoly seemed thrilled with Daniel’s progress and encouraged him. The more Daniel was encouraged, the more he achieved until he was handling most of Anatoly’s finances, leaving Anatoly free to track and value the items.
Whilst Daniel flourished, Nil worsened. She was no longer capable of cleaning, though that she no longer worked was never mentioned. She slept in a dark room much of the time, taking short walks when she could. She could never get warm enough either and the coughing fits were almost constant.
Daniel, predictably, fretted. Anatoly could see the distress Nil’s condition was causing his prodigy and so kept Daniel as busy as he could. “No doctors.” Nil had said to Anatoly when they were alone. Anatoly nodded. Nil hated being reliant upon others and doctors were expensive. Also they both knew that doctors now would do no good. Soon neither Nil nor Anatoly would be able to keep the fact from Daniel. Nil was just glad that he had found what he wanted. It wasn’t her life anyway. As well as Daniel had done for himself, Nil longed for the freedom of the streets, the gutters, the thrill of the chase when running from the Bobbies.
One night, somewhat unexpectedly, Anatoly announced that they would be going for a walk. Daniel began to protest that Nil was not well enough but to Nil it sounded pleasant. Nil shivered in the night air though the night was warm and balmy, and the very height of summer.
Anatoly led the way down to the beach, Daniel following with Nil supported on his arm.
“Let’s stop and have a rest, shall ve?” Anatoly asked through his thick Russian accent. Given Nil’s laboured breathing, Daniel quickly assented.
Nil began to cough again. Daniel put an arm around her shoulders. By now she was too weak to resist. In fact, she felt oddly calm, a strange sense of serenity having washed over her. Anatoly could murder them right now and leave their mangled bodies lying on the beach and she wouldn’t care, wouldn’t resist. She felt... detached. She coughed again, blood spattering her pale, white hand, a spasm racking her sickly frame. Daniel panicked. Nil smiled calmly at him.
“It’s all right, Daniel,” she tried to assure him in a hoarse whisper. Her lungs burned and it hurt to speak but he seemed so upset. There was nothing to be upset about. It was the way of things.
“It is all vight. Or at least it will be soon.” Nil turned her sore, red eyes to look up at Anatoly silhouetted against the velvet night sky. He wore a black cloak and hood so only his pale face showed, reflecting the wan moonlight.
“As you may possibly have guessed, I am no ordinary man. In fact, I am not a mortal man at all.”
“What?” Daniel gasped. They hadn’t suspected at all. Nil didn’t react however. Nothing could surprise, shock or frighten her now. She was at peace with everything.
“I am vhat is called one of the Kindred. I am an immortal creature.” He paused to let that sink in. “Not only do I and my kind live forever but have all kinds of special powers. Zere are of course downsides to such a gift. It is two edged. Ve live only by night. Ze sun, she is anathema to us. We must find shelter during ze day. As such, ve must also hide from mortals. Zey do not understand and would seek to vipe us out should they learn of our existence. And our diet, it is very unpalatable.”
“Why.... why are you.. telling us this then?” Nil asked, pain lancing her lungs and throat. Already she thought she knew the answer. There were only two real possibilities.
“Because I love you both like children, and I vould make you, if you agree, my children of ze night. Share in eternity with me. Share my powers and,” here his eyes stared into Daniel’s but briefly flickered in Nil’s direction, “live forever”.
“Of course,” Daniel said, nodding his head. “Why would anyone refuse such an offer?” Why indeed? Nil thought. She already knew Daniel was filled with power-lust. She still loved the boy like a brother but he had certainly changed since coming into Anatoly’s household; always seeking more when a year ago he would have been content to have an apple with no soft patches. Never mind that they would never again feel the sun, must hide from people, and this strange diet.
Anatoly gave Nil a questioning look. She nodded. That pleased-as-punch grin spread across his solemn features, the same one he had in the carriage when Nil agreed to work for him. It did not come as a surprise however. Nil had nothing to lose and Daniel had everything to gain. He had known that before he brought them out here.
“Zere is a ritual that I must perform, to bring you over, to make you like me, an immortal creature. Daniel, you vill be first. Nil, don’t panic, do not fear, vhatever you see, remember zat I love you both and it will be all right.” Nil assented with a slight nod. There was nothing she could do anyway, even if she chose to take exception.
“Come here, Daniel.” Daniel removed his arm from around Nil and stood in front of Anatoly. Their eyes locked and so they stood until Anatoly brought his hands up to Daniel’s head and gently tilted it to one side, stroking his exposed neck. Anatoly undid the neckerchief that Daniel wore and lowered his head to Daniel’s neck. Nil couldn’t see what was happening from where she sat but neither Daniel nor Anatoly made a sound. It was not until Daniel, the boy who looked after her, protected her, helped her, whom she grew up with, a brother in all but blood, began to sag like wet washing in Anatoly’s arms that Nil became frightened. Not for herself, that was a forgone conclusion, but Daniel, he had too much ahead of him. She cried out and tried to rise to her feet. Her panic made her cough and she doubled over, hacking and covering her hands and the sand in spatters of blood. So involved were the intertwined couple that they noticed nothing of Nil’s impotent protests. Lying on the sand gasping, her wrecked lungs couldn’t draw enough breath and soon her vision blacked and the young woman passed out.
When she came to she was still lying on the sand where she fell. She saw that Anatoly and Daniel were sitting on the sand a few feet away, looking at each other intently.
Daniel looked as though he had lived his entire life in the dark and suddenly someone had given him vision and light and colour. Nil looked on, reluctant to interrupt the private moment.
After what seemed an age, Anatoly turned to look at Nil. He rose and brushed the sand from his cloak. Walking over to Nil, he smiled and extended his hand to help her up. She took his hand. She did not let go of his eyes and felt his own boring into her very soul. He lovingly brushed the hair away from her face, away from her neck. She shivered in the warm air, the gibbous moon hung pregnant in the sky, the twinkling stars in startling contrast to the endless depth of the night. All these things Nil noticed, yet she noticed nothing but he who stood in front of her. His hand moved to her chin. Nil had to fight down the urge to back away at the intimacy of the touch. This was not the cruel touch of her mother’s lodger. This was Anatoly who would never knowingly hurt her.
“What if I change my mind, here and now? What if I turn and scarper?” she whispered quietly so Daniel couldn’t hear.
“Zen zat is your choice. But it vill be ze death of you, and Daniel will be shattered ven you die” he sighed back quietly. It was then that Nil knew the truth of it. Daniel was the one Anatoly wanted. He loved Nil but Daniel was the apple of his eye. He could not take Daniel without taking Nil as well. She was the tag-a-long. “Do you wish to go, to leave us?” Nil laughed quietly. She still had nothing to lose, regardless of the Russian’s reasons.
“No.” she replied, shaking her head. It was a decision Nil never regretted. Not then, not ever, no matter how hard, painful or frustrating her existence became. Then she began to laugh more boisterously, inducing another coughing fit. Anatoly put a hand on her should blade.
“Vat is it?”
“e’s been after me for so long, dogging at me ‘eels and I’ve beaten ‘im. I’ve bloody well won!” she rapsed.
“Who?” Anatoly asked, confused.
“Death.” He stroked her hair again.
“No more about zat now. You need never worry about it again. I vill look after you. From here until forever.”
With that the vampire lowered his mouth to her throat.
Nil cried out as the burning sensation washed from her neck and cascaded all over her body when the fangs pierced her skin. Soon however the sensation became pleasant and Nil leant into it like a lover into a passionate kiss. As he drained her blood, the feeling changed to ecstasy and Nil’s body began to shudder and convulse. They were now sitting on the sand and he held her still, holding her in an eternal embrace.
As she felt her remaining strength ebb away, her life being drained from her, Nil knew Death had tricked her and won after all. It had been a long chase and was a fair cop. Though he was killing her, part of Nil still cared for Anatoly. And Daniel was all right. Perhaps Anatoly would tell Daniel something had. Had. Had gone wr.. with that thought, Nil died in Anatoly’s arms.Much to Nil’s surprise, she awoke, still lying in Anatoly’s arms on the beach. She was hungry and could taste the copper of blood in her mouth. The diet; of course. The Russian smiled down at her. Without anyone saying a word, the trio picked themselves up off the sand and walked silently back to the house, the warm breeze ruffling their hair and clothes.