A/N: And this is the end of Part II. If there is any suggestions on how to make this better, let me know. I'd appreciate it. Maybe I could leave out the piece about William. Oh well, let me know.
The Bane of Rendsberg Part II
Sunlight twinkled through the passing clouds to stream through the southern window to dance on the sill. No one noticed its playfulness in the room. Olivier was completely oblivious to its display. He knew the sun was there. He knew it was early afternoon. None of it mattered. He sat in a chair that William had left at the bedside on one of his many visits. The ghost wrung his hands and rocked slightly in his discomfort. His wide unseeing eyes were directed at the deathly still body in the bed. Alteng showed no signs of life since his fight with Lucifer except for his steady breathing.
The young Kobold's arms were heavily bandaged in a way that made it look like he wore a straight jacket. A thick white linen bandage was tied about his head and hung over his empty left eye socket. Under his dressing gown were more bandages bounding broken ribs he had received when Lucifer had thrown him to the floor. Another bandage was wrapped about his wounded ankle, where the vampire had left his mark. For three days he laid there. For three days all signs of consciousness had escaped him. Olivier stood up and approached the body. He placed a hand on the solid cheek of his nephew. He outlined the side of the face. The sunlight passed through his incorporeal body with no hint of a shadow on the bed.
The ghost pulled back his hand to himself like he had done so often over the last three days. The youth was none too fond of him 'pawing' at him. If his nephew would waken, he did not feel like arguing his point of why. He gave a crooked cynical smile. He had spent enough time arguing with William three days ago when Stephen took his nephew from his incapable hands to bring him here. No words about how the dead had no place around the stricken and wounded was going to make him leave his nephew's side.
Olivier stood by as William and Stephen had stripped him down and cleaned off the old mud and the dried blood of both his victims and himself. None of them looked too happy, and Olivier's empathy sensed the normal carefree manner was not present in any of them. Stephen seemed worried, and William tired. They had had bad news, and the spirit twisted his hands as he worried about how to explain about what had happened with Lucifer, but the both of them hushed him in irritated voices. Apparently they had been told the story from Lucifer's point of view, but every story has multiple versions, but all the older Kobolds cared about was the one the vampire had told them, or so it seemed.
Olivier soon learned that William had enough concerns about his two immediate patients. Stephen was worried because of the revelations of the undead creature in their midst and the attack upon the most headstrong member of the family. Johann was distressed at losing his brother yet again. Somehow Olivier could empathize with him the most. After the chaos settled down to some semblance of normality, they did finally listen to what he had to say.
With the exchange of the tales that he had to tell and that was told, the ghost blinked his blind eyes at the contrast of the tale the vampire had told the elders. Olivier distinctly remembered that Alteng attacked Lucifer twice and not the other way around. He chewed on his fingers as the story revealed his fellow undead more of a villain than he really was. Olivier wanted to correct them, but they wouldn't believe him anyway, and Alteng was in enough trouble as it was. Lucifer was not going to take the blame for Hans' injuries, although he did for his own and Alteng's. Apparently, the vampire left that night. No one had seen him since his argument and goodbyes to Johann. Olivier clenched his hands together tighter, then he let his strength fade in them. He had hoped to meet with the other once more before he left.
Yet, he couldn't spare much of his thoughts to his friend. He wasn't sure he could still consider him a friend after what he had done to his brother's son. Alteng had yet to awake from his ordeal. The ghost's shoulders dropped. Still, the vampire did release the youth. He didn't kill him, although he wanted to. Lucifer did not leave unharmed nor did the child he fought to protect. Maybe by the rules of war, Lucifer was in his rights to kill Alteng, but it made it no easier for the ghost.
Olivier sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. He clenched his hands together in his lap. Alteng would be none too happy to find out that the vampire had escaped, and the ghost had found out disturbing news about Hans. Olivier rubbed his arm and shoulder and wondered what kind of retribution he would take out on him for being so slow in the uptake. Would things turn out differently if his mind was able to make the connection sooner?
Alteng's nose twitched and his face squelched up in the effort not to sneeze. The ghost looked up at the youth's change in breathing. The urge passed, and he was still again for several moments. Olivier continued to sit up straight and alert. Alteng let out a low moan. The Kobold mumbled some obscenities. His one eye flickered open and he tried to move his arms to push himself up into a sitting position. He had success in none of it. Olivier jumped from the chair and took hold of him and pulled him close. Spectral tears streamed down his relieved face. The living made some more unpleasant remarks, but because of the condition his arms were in, he was unable to push him away. A look of exasperated chagrin crossed his features as Olivier uttered words of relief and many apologies for his failures.
After what felt like far too long to the wounded, the spirit finally let him go and lowered him gently back to the pillows. Olivier stood back and clenched his hands together, and the gleeful smile he wore stretched from ear to ear. Alteng frowned with a put upon look. With the quiet rustle of leaves, the room dimmed again as a cloud passed before the sun outside. Alteng's brow furrowed, as he glanced to the window. The memories of how he came to be in this position started to filter back into his mind.
"Hello, Olivier," he spoke quietly in a voice that dripped of sarcasm. "What are you doing hanging around me while I'm hurt? Are you waiting for me to die so that you can eat what is left of me?"
The ghost pulled back and blinked his eyes. "I don't eat anymore," he replied plainly.
The youth blew out a heavy breath. He looked up at the ceiling as heaviness weighed on his soul. He turned to look at the quiet spirit. "I thought William wouldn't let you around the wounded," he remarked. He turned his attention back to the ceiling and sighed. "I guess I'm not worth as much as Johann."
"I wouldn't say that," Olivier replied ignoring the tones of self pity in his nephew's voice and words, "I was just persistent. He tried to chase me off, but I'm still family. And William stayed with you for a long time, but he has Hans to look after, too. Then Johann and Sil have been in to check up on you. Stephen came in with Ther. She stayed a bit longer, and she left just before bedtime. It is early yet for the household. Hannah hasn't been to see you, but she is not exactly fond of you." Olivier paused and scratched his head in thought for a moment. "I don't think that she particularly likes anyone."
Alteng wasn't listening anymore. His mind was going over the last events he remembered before he woke. A frown strained his jaws. "I have completely failed everyone here. The vampire and his underling still live to prey upon us, and now I will become one of his legions," he remarked gloomily.
Olivier shook his head fiercely like a child. "I don't understand about vampirism, even though William, Johann, Stephen, and Sil tried to explain it to me." The ghost clenched his hands together tightly and would have blushed if he still had blood and color. "Ther doesn't know anything on the subject, and Hannah doesn't talk to me." The look from Alteng was not encouraging, but Olivier didn't see it anyway. The ghost shook his head. "I may not understand it all, but I do know that neither you or Hans are contaminated by the curse."
Narrowing his eye at the other, Alteng growled, "What do you know!" He wanted to be more animated and violent about it, but he could not not move his bound arms. He grimaced as he turned his head to look out the window. The colors of the brown, yellow, and red leaves brightened as the sun spread its beams across the grounds. The light crossed into the room to his bed and face. He blinked his one eye, but the light hurt him no worse than usual.
"You withstand sunlight," Olivier spoke with his uncanny accuracy, "When you were gone for the week, Lucifer and I talked often. He told me that if a vampire is caught by the sunlight then he burns to dust. He said he didn't know from experience because his spirit was always taken away to the Netherworld at daybreak, but he was warned by them."
"He lies," the other snorted.
"Maybe the people you deal with know as little as you do," the ghost remarked as he narrowed his wide eyes at him. "I know one tainted by death. Neither you or Hans show this taint."
"He bit me!" Alteng cried out. He took in a deep breath to calm himself again. He turned his stare at the ceiling again. "I have been to many places and seen many things. I was aboard a ship that was infected with vampirism. One bite was all it took. The vampires took over the still living to steer the ship during the day. No one was the same as they were before. They were like the walking soulless dead. I don't know why I was not affected by the mind control. Maybe the vampires considered me too small and insignificant, so they ignored me." Sadness filled his face at the memory. It took a few moments before he continued. "The captain broke out of the spell after I continually nagged at him . . ." His face flushed a deep red. "I stabbed the hook into the back of his leg. The pain brought him back briefly. He pushed me off into one of the boats that we used to come to shore along with three other crew members, who were not affected yet. He then set the ship aflame with himself and the infected crew on board. Vampires are not immune to fire or water."
"Alteng," Olivier spoke, "I don't think Lucifer drank of your blood. Maybe he needs to dig his teeth into the wound. The blood on his body during the fight was from his own body and wounds." The spirit paused a moment in thought and swung his feet from the chair. "Besides, you keep food down. Ther and Johann have been force feeding you."
Alteng's cheeks turned a deeper red. He looked down at the sheets on the bed. "I am not really a vampire, am I?" he inquired as he looked up at the ghost. "Or am I being controlled by the vampire?"
"You don't feel the same way that Lucifer felt. I have already told you that," Olivier remarked, "If you or Hans were controlled by him, I don't think either of you would hate him like you do now."
A smile crept across Alteng's lips. "I guess it will be alright for me to continue to dream about Ther as my wife."
His uncle shrugged. "I guess. There is nothing that wrong with you."
The young Kobold laid his head back to the pillows and remained quiet in thought for several moments. Olivier remained sitting in the chair contentedly for a long time just happy that his nephew was still alive. Memories flashed across the young living Kobold's mind about the fight. Everything seemed to be in a red haze. He squinted his eye close with the onset of a coming headache. "Olivier, how did I get here? Why am I still alive? He meant to kill me, didn't he?"
The ghost moved his feet nervously and pulled his knees together. He picked at the hemming of his spectral shirt. Turning his eyes downward, he placed a hand to his throat. Swallowing hard, he answered. "I asked him not to kill you, and I dragged you out of the cellar. Stephen carried you the rest of the way through the house. You're a bit heavy for me to carry."
Alteng was able to force himself up in a sitting position. His mouth moved without words. Feeling that he had done something wrong, Olivier withdrew into a ball in the chair. The young Kobold shook his head. "You saved my life?" he finally queried.
The ghost relaxed and slid his legs back over the edge of the chair. "That's why I'm here," he replied.
Alteng looked down at his bandaged arms. The gears in his head were turning through the haze of pain. He swallowed hard. He gave a glance up at the other. Loneliness suddenly fell over him with the certain realization. Almost six years ago he killed the Kobold before him. For five years his greatest fear and adversary was dead. and away from him. His most aching anxiety was that he would turn around and see his attacker behind him again. The most terrible thing happened with the return of his ghost. He could not believe his horrible fortune. He could not kill the spirit no matter what he did or tired. Finally, he gave up and signed the Contract of Forgiveness with his own blood with the hopes that it would banish the spirit from what was left of his life. Nowhere in his heart was there any kind of forgiveness for the deeds done to him. Nowhere in his mind was the thought that the twisted creature before him was the same race as him much less related to him. This spirit of a Kobold, who maimed him and brought out all of the violence in his soul had not only saved his life but from the curse of vampirism as well. His chest tightened, and he swallowed down the lump in his throat. Did he truly forgive this creature . . . Olivier . . . his uncle. This would vanish the ghost, but he didn't want him to leave now.
"Alteng?" the apparition inquired with a trembling voice. The silence hung heavy between them.
The young Kobold did not answer right away. He looked at the immaterial figure before him. Olivier clutched his hands above where his heart would have been had there been a physical body there. It was only fair. Olivier wanted the peace of Oblivion, not this existence. He frowned. Who would want an existence like this . . . unable to touch anyone or anything except a being, who wished him harm and exercised all hostilities on him? He moved his mouth, but he could not pronounce the words that would set the ghost free. Olivier's large blind eyes were opened wide with the sense of fear.
"Olivier," he finally said. The ghost's eyes eased as did the tension at the sound of the even voice. Alteng sought the words he needed and pushed himself forward. "I . . . uh . . . I forgive you." It was now out for better or worse. The spirit could go free . . . Go back to where he belonged. Alteng bit his lower lip. He would not cry. He was too strong to cry! Why would he cry anyway? This is what he wanted, wasn't it?
A crooked smile crossed Olivier's lips. "I know," he answered.
"Don't leave," Alteng added quickly with a selfish hope.
The smile straightened and widened on the spectral face. The young Kobold blinked his good eyes and cocked his head to the side. "The curse is now broken. You can go back now," he added softly.
"There was no curse," the ghost replied, "I stayed here out of my own freewill. When you signed the Contract, I was free. I only wanted to make up for what I did to you."
"If you weren't damned, then why did you say that was the reason you felt that you could make physical contact with the vampire?"
Olivier shrugged. "My soul is still tainted from my deeds."
"You were free to leave at any time?" he exclaimed.
"I can stay until the seventh anniversary of my death," the other replied without emotion.
Alteng looked down and his eye moved with thought. "You have a little better than a year and two months to go."
The ghost shrugged again. "Everything must end eventually," he answered. A big smile suddenly raced across his face. "But the last year will be the best," he added cheerfully.
"So, the bit about getting my true forgiveness and watching out for me and seeing that I succeeded in carrying on the family name was a load of play acting!" the other complained.
Olivier looked down and wrung his hands. "Not exactly. I might be here by choice, but I had every intention of trying to gain your forgiveness, and I planned to do what I could to protect you. I did promise Michael. The last part with you carrying on the family name . . . well, I'm not exactly good with the lady Kobolds either."
"I guess I'm not really mad at you." He threw himself back down to the bed. The shot of pain that rippled through his body told him that was not the brightest of ideas. "What of the vampire and Hans?"
Olivier got out of the chair and approached the bed again. "Lucifer left. William and Johann were none too pleased with his explanations of what he is. I never fully got it out of him why the truly living hated him so. Johann is a bit uneasy about the whole thing. I guess he was really happy to have his brother back, but it turned out to be untrue after all." The ghost shrugged again. "I told you I don't understand about vampires no matter how you guys try to explain it to me. He was a really nice fellow, and despite what he did to you, I still like him." Olivier looked down and pulled at his sleeves. "No one ever tried to teach me to read before."
"You are really clueless," Alteng complained, as he closed his eye and furrowed his brow. "He is a bloodsucking demon!" The young Kobold gave a heavy sigh. "I guess it makes sense. You have no blood."
"Hans is still here. You've hurt him pretty bad. William says he won't be able to walk right again. He will always have a nasty limp at best. Lucifer left him behind, because, he says, it is too dangerous to travel with him anymore. William has promised to take him to Preetz when he is well enough to travel. Lucifer feared that you would go after him again."
Alteng shrugged. "If he is innocent of the vampirism, I have no reason to go after him. I am not a child killer."
"You came awfully close!" Olivier commented with his arms crossed and his eyes narrowed. "Ther is none too happy with you about it either."
Alteng drew in a deep breath. "I would suspect she wouldn't be," he stated, as he tried to relax the throbbing pain in his head.
"I have more news that isn't too pleasant either," the ghost announced, as he put his finger to his mouth. "I think I have this correct. Family trees and relations aren't my best subject . . ."
"That's because your parents were brother and sister," the youth smirked.
Again, Olivier would have blushed. "I think that Hans is your cousin," he stated.
Alteng put on a disbelieving look. "How do you figure?"
"You told me my brother married your mother, who was from Schönberg, and she had a brother, your Uncle Gustave. Hans' surname is Schönberg."
Alteng threw his head back to the pillow, and the pain shot through his body again, and he winced. "I am getting too good at this kinslaying thing."
"You didn't kill him, and he'll get better," Olivier chirped happily. His face darkened, and he pulled at his sleeve again. "I don't know how he'll feel about you, but he's not about to die."
William entered the room followed by Ther. Although the healer looked haggard, his eyes opened wide and his face lit up at the sight of an awake and an aware Alteng. He went to the young Kobold's bed and gave him a hearty hug. He pulled back and ruffled the other's hair. Alteng blew out a breath and quietly allowed the elder to fuss over him.
Ther only stood back and put on a false frown. She did not want to let on that she had any feeling. She carried a tray of food that she silently set upon the night stand. Alteng watched her, but she quickly huffed and turned her back on him. A grimace crossed his face and his shoulders slumped. William squeezed his shoulder, and the youth returned his attention to him.
"Give it time," the elder told him, "The Kiel family takes some time to pick a mate and settle down. Look how old Sil was when she married Johann."
The youth relaxed in the pillows William propped him up and began feeding him. Alteng was not the most cooperative of patients, but the healer would not hear anything about he wasn't hungry. After this laborious chore was done, William went about changing some of the bandages and made some comments about how the wounds were coming along. Olivier left the chair in favor of sitting in the corner and out of the way.
"Alteng, my boy, you truly are a fool," William reprimanded as he took out a clean linen bandage. "You do not have to be so secretive about everything. We are a family here. We do things together. You are part of that family. You are no longer alone. You could have gotten yourself killed, and we would still be in the same danger."
Alteng shrugged. "I was afraid that he would kill all of you if you knew."
"I suspected," William confessed, as he awkwardly tied the bandage about his head. "I know a few things about illnesses, you know. It is my job after all. Stephen told me about he had no reflection in the mirror. I found that really odd, if the unknown illness was not enough. So, I sent Stephen into town with a letter to my cousin Josef in Preetz. You know he studies strange things and has knowing about legends and superstitions. Not to mention, Lucifer was in Preetz before he came here.. I got a reply just before you returned. Josef is coming to stay with us as soon as he wraps up his present research." He sighed. "It all seems a bit useless now. "
"If you knew, why didn't you get rid of him then and there?" Alteng insisted.
William looked down and pulled away from his patient. "Because he really had not caused any harm. Both Lucifer and Johann seemed so happy." The healer gave a glance to the quiet ghost. "He even cheered up Olivier. He didn't really try to hide from us or pull one of us off in private. Except for Olivier, and what could he do to a ghost. Still," he added quietly, as he rubbed his left arm that was missing the hand, "A vampire is a monster, and I shouldn't have had pity on him. Sometimes I wish I could be like Johann and treat monsters the way they should be treated." A sad smile crossed his lips as he remembered the days of his youth, when his family pushed him away for a similar reason. He shook it off and went back to his duties in the present. He pushed the youth back to the pillows and went about tending the ankle. "I could have lost my adoptive son to him because of my silly sentiments. I don't think I could have lived with myself then."