A/N: This is the last chapter of Part III. I have a draft of the first chapter of Part IV. I might have it up as early as this weekend, and, yes, the updates will drastically slow down. I have to compose this story after all.
The Bane of Rendsberg Part III
Although Lucifer agreed to stay outside in the woods and await the next night for his appearance, he was over anxious to see his nephew and Hans, and he did want to take part in Olivier's celebration. So, as he had done many times before, he materialized in the shadows of the living room. He could watch the whole event, and no one would be the wiser.
He leaned his head against the adjacent wall of the corner, and a soft smile crossed his lips as he watched Olivier do his introductions to each of the members in their turn. He watched curiously as Hans made a brief appearance then disappeared back into the kitchen. During his 15 month watch over the household, Hans had acted increasingly odd and reserved. He couldn't remember the child speaking a word since that horrid discovery. He briefly wished to blame Alteng for the child's mental issues, but he knew exactly where the blame belonged.
Ther brought the child back into the room for Olivier's introduction. A moment of revulsion rushed through him. Hans had suffered enough at the hands of the Cuxhaven family. He didn't want the crazy cannibal touching him as well. He calmed himself. He was being too harsh and judgmental, but would the family raise arms if he were to harm this one? Xavier had a mother and a father and aunts and uncles. Hans has a crazy flighty cousin, who was a kinslayer no matter what he had done for Olivier, and he had shed the boy's blood once already.
He laughed to himself. He was being overly protective this time. Somehow he knew the things that drove Olivier to do the things he did were no longer here and would not happen again. Olivier now belonged, and the dark empty loneliness was now gone. The vampire silently smirked. Why wasn't he such a cold heartless murderer? He was already being punished for what he was. He could easily murder everyone in this room or make them suffer as he was doing. They would stay with him, because together there was no loneliness. How could they reject him for being a vampire, when they were all the same? He had heard that the creating vampire had some control over the underlings. They could be forced to love and respect him.
It was more than he could imagine, but the thought of the daily punishment came back to him. Each one of them would suffer as he had done the last 85 years. A mild smirk crossed his lips yet again. The Cuxhavens deserved it. Alteng claimed to hate the sunlight anyway, and Olivier couldn't see it. Lucifer remembered the setting sun and the rising of the sun when he was a child at home with his parents. They spent short periods of time above ground. His lip twitched. His father even tried to drown him while the sun shone. Still, he missed the light. Besides, Olivier was already damned once. The older Cuxhaven wrapped his arms tightly around little Hans. What had he done that was so great to escape punishment, and Alteng had hurt an innocent child, too. He turned his gaze to the young Cuxhaven, who sat on the couch with his pale face an amazing shade of red and his one eye downcast. Ther sat next to him, and he shuffled himself about a bit. The vampire drew in a deep breath. No one deserved this life and this punishment, not even them.
His eyes glanced away from the adults and turned downward at the flicker of movement. Within a couple of feet of him was his nephew looking up at him curiously with bright black eyes. A small portion of him told him to run and avoid discovery, but the twinkle of the eyes told him of the proper action. A wide smile crossed his lips, and the warmth washed away all his evil thoughts. Maybe he deserved damnation for wanting to curse such an innocent. He bent down and took up the child in his arms.
Lucifer cradled the infant in his arms with no thought or care for the consequences. His smile softened and his eyes became half opened as he looked down upon the perfect little life in his arms. Over the last six months he had waited for this moment. To feel the warmth of the infant's flesh against his cold ethereal skin had been one of his greatest desires since the little one's birth. His fingers clenched gently around the little body. No fear showed in the baby's eyes. There was no resentment there. A weight was lifted from his soul. He felt cleansed of all of his earlier sentiments . . . of the sin of the continuation of this existence.
He looked up at the other Kobolds about him. Sil was the closest, and she was being restrained by William. A look of pure loathing mixed with the look of despair was written on her face. William tried to soothe her with words, but she was on the verge of tears at the loss of her baby. Lucifer swallowed hard as if the sight before him delivered a physical blow. He did not see Johann holding back Hannah and Stephen and trying to hastily explain the situation. Olivier and Ther held back Alteng. The blind Kobold tried to explain what was going on over Alteng's objections to the young Kiel maiden. The restraining Kobolds both knew that Alteng had no place in this battle. Josef was nowhere to be seen. All Lucifer saw was the horrible distress of the frightened mother before him. He gave a final glance to the child safely nestled in his arm. Xavier fingered his dark unseemly scars about his free wrist. He didn't want to give him up so soon. The innocent accepted him like he did everyone else. There was no difference between him and Josef or William or Olivier. He was another big older Kobold, who was rather cold and pale with funny looking wrists.
The vampire took a step towards her. The distressed matron bit her lower lip, and the tears burst forth. Lucifer felt the stab of guilt run through his chest like a weapon. William's grip on her lessened, and he swallowed hard as he turned away. Sil wanted to kicked at this uninvited invader or throw something sharp and painful at him, but he still held her child, whom he could so easily crush. Her mind wheeled. What kind of contamination had he passed onto her child? Her brother's soft reassuring words made no sense to her. He could not possibly be defending this monster. What kind of betrayal was this from the eldest? How could he? He, who took all the abuse and pain from her father and Johann and themselves as they grew up, could turn his back on her now and be part of this atrocity! He would not abandon his duty to them even when he had lost who he was and was close to death. Was allowing her child to fall into the hands of this beast and making excuses for him his revenge for the abuse that she and Stephen gave him then?
Stephen never had the strong bond with William that Sil did, and he never fully trusted him after his father's condemnation of him. This was all the proof he needed to keep that belief. He was raised to trust Johann, who also held him back. Why was Johann doing this? Hannah called him many harsh but proper names because of his defense of this dark haired brother. He couldn't understand the elder Rendsberg on this. The monster held his child. This was his own flesh and blood.. If no one else would defend his older sister and her child, he would. He pulled away from Johann, who was preoccupied with Hannah's struggles and arguments. He grabbed a burning candle for a weapon. He was not knowledgeable about destroying vampires, but he was pretty sure they could be burned to death.
Josef, appearing out of nowhere, stepped before him and took his shoulders in his firm grip that Stephen didn't know that his cousin possessed. His eyes opened wide and accusingly. "This is no time for one of your crazy experiments!" the younger Kiel protested.
"Think!" Josef exclaimed, "If you burn him, we will all die in the fire caused. Let this play out."
Stephen looked into his cousin's eyes and relented. What good was he? With trembling hands he put out the candle and looked on helplessly to the scene before him. There was nothing he could do to save his sister's child.
Hans stared wide eyed at the scene before him. His heart caught in his throat at the vampire's appearance. With an effort, he made his way towards his once guardian and friend. The memories of their time together and the laughter they shared flooded his mind for the millionth time since he was left in this place. His progress forward was stopped short because of the struggles. He knew that Lucifer would not harm the child, but the others would not listen to him. How could he want to harm the baby? He had been so kind to him in their travels. He squinted his eyes closed. The knowledge of what he traveled with came back to him. Ther was so sympathetic to him because of this, but she very much hated the vampire.
Lucifer took the matron's trembling hand and squeezed it softly in hopes of calming her. Although he didn't want to give up the child so soon, he couldn't stand to see the mother's distress any longer. He placed Xavier firmly in her arms and looked straight into her eyes.
"Thank you so much for giving my brother such a wonderful child," he said quietly.
She wrapped her arms about her child and stepped back and away from him. She turned a fierce scowl upon William. The elder bit his lip and backed away. She wanted to pursue him, but the urge to run to her room and cry was stronger. As much as they knew she needed to calm down, Johann kept her in the room. She was needed here to take part in his brother's sentencing.
"How could you!" she complained to both her husband and her brother, as the tears burst forth and flowed freely down her cheeks.
"Lucifer means no harm," William replied softly as he stepped back from her. He felt a great weight crushing him from the forcefulness of the pain of his sister's sentiments.
"Father was right about you!" she spat, "You are some kind of demon, who killed my real brother's soul and took over his body. Otherwise, how could you say such a thing! This monster tried to kill your ward last year . . . the young Kobold that you pledged yourself to protect, or did you conveniently forget? Yet, you allow him to come back into this house to try and kill off the rest of us."
The vampire tried to approach her and explain himself, but she pulled away violently. She clutched the child to herself tightly and lashed out at the intruder with her free hand. Although her physical attacks would do little harm to him, he frowned and bowed his head. He took a step back. William looked down and fingered his hook and the sleeve that hung over it. He hadn't thought of the attempted murder of Alteng, but the youth tended to bring it upon himself. That didn't matter though. He was derelict in his duty to the young Cuxhaven. He moved his mouth to speak words in his own defense, but her words about the demon stung him deeply as well.
Hannah came from behind Sil and placed her arm around her and the child. She narrowed her eyes at her two brothers and her brother in law in turn. "The three of you are idiots! What do you know of preciousness of the life of a child? Lucifer moved his mouth to object, but his sister's glare held his tongue. "You were told to leave and never return. What are you doing here now?"
The dark haired Kobold stood up straight and proud in his ragged clothes. "I asked to return. I wanted to make peace with my brother and see my nephew."
"You were told by my father and brother that you are no part of this family. You have no business here!" she cried out as she stepped in front of her sister in law to face down the vampire.
Lucifer opened his eyes wide and stepped back until his back hit the wall. He jumped as he made contact. He swallowed down his fear and faced her.
"Johann reinstated me in the family. I did no wrong to this family except being born, and I believe that was mother and father's decision! As far as being a vampire, I am not the smartest of the three of us, but I am not so dense to want eternal damnation! I didn't ask for this either!" he pointed out.
She huffed at him, but his rising anger would not stop her. "Did you consider asking for permission before touching the child?"
"She wouldn't have granted me permission," he argued.
"Damn right she wouldn't have! A child is helpless and depended upon us to protect him from monsters like you!"
He shook his head. "I mean no harm to any of you and least of all my nephew. If you fear the curse, it is not so easily passed. If it was, the world would be overrun with vampires," he explained logically and calmly. A growl emitted from her throat, and he held up his hands defensively. "If the curse passed by touch, then you all would be cursed from the last time I was here. There is no waiting time on the curse, so the young Cuxhaven is not contaminated by my malediction, even if I bit him. It takes a bit more. I think that I have to drain off a good portion of the blood of the living to pass it on."
"You should never have been allowed to enter this household in the first place!" Sil yelled at him through her clenched teeth. "I curse he who allowed you entrance, then!" She turned her vehemence upon her elder brother.
William swallowed hard and shuffled his feet. His cheeks turned red, and he continued to hang his head, but his eyes turned up towards her shyly. "You were the first to bring him here. I was with Johann, who was wounded at the time when he originally arrived.
She huffed at him, and then a frown crossed her lips. Her shoulders dropped in defeat. Lucifer wanted to explain that he really didn't need her invitation to enter the place. That was just a spread rumor. After all, he was not only not invited in the humans' home that he served, but he was strictly forbidden to enter even by the first generation, who kind of liked him. He would sneak into the house every once and awhile just to see how these people lived differently than his own. After awhile, he enjoyed listening to them talk to each other and interact. As far as he knew, they never saw him or were aware of his presence. Yet, the thought that it was the matron's fault in the first place seemed to have a calming effect on the conflict. He really hated conflicts. He remembered quickly disappearing when the humans argued among themselves as well. He kept quiet as she walked away from them with the child clutched in her arms. Xavier had crawled his way up to her shoulder and looked to his uncle with a cheerful fascination. The pain and concern fell from Lucifer's face, and he gave the little one a small smile and a little wave. The innocent knew nothing about what the adults argued about.
The vampire turned from the sight of the retreating mother and child and scanned the room and made eye contact with Hans, who stood only a few feet from him. The child gave him a look that washed with joy at first, then it turned to a hateful glare. Taking in a deep breath and bracing himself, Lucifer determined that he had to go forward. This was the last task he came here for originally. In the background, he could hear Sil weeping and more voices arguing like some kind of omen of disasters to come. He was indeed a curse among them. He didn't think that there could be a person who despised him as much as he did himself at that moment. He had not intended such chaos. His eyes scanned the quiet Hans, who leaned on his supportive crutch. The vampire swallowed hard and felt more self loathing. All, who associated with him, came to harm.
Hans did not pull away from his approach. The elder knelt down in front of him and moved to put his hands on the child's shoulders, but he stopped short with the knowledge that this young one knew what he was now. He probably had a worse opinion of him and what he was from the horror stories the others had told him about vampires. He closed his eyes and forced himself to thought. Was that not what he had intended in the first place? It would be good for the child to have a good healthy fear of the undead. Still, the fear was hard because he still loved him and missed him at his side. He still watched over him from the shadows. It was already dark in the days of winter before the household stirred, and he could hover near the child's bed unknown in these times. No one knew he was there, so there was no harm done. After all, there had been a breach in the contract on their side. Hans was still in Cuxhaven and not in Preetz like what was promised to him.
Finally, his fingers closed about the child's small arms. Hans did not struggle, squirm, or make any attempt to pull away. The wide dark eyes looked into the eyes of his once guardian, and then they narrowed into anger.
"Why did you leave me?" he demanded.
All noise of argument about them silenced. The child had not spoken since his accident. The vampire paused and looked down before he responded. He was not sure what he had come to say to his once traveling companion, but this prompted question was not what he had expected. There was anger behind it, but it was the anger of abandonment and not towards his curse.
He moved his right hand to stroke the child's face, but Hans pulled away from him and stumbled on unsteady feet. The vampire put out his hands to steady him. Finally, looking down, Lucifer responded to the question presented him. "It is dangerous to travel with me." He closed his eyes and squeezed the young one's shoulders. "Especially with your injuries and . . ." he stopped. With an effort and another deep breath, " . . . and with what I am. People will attack you because you associate with me. They think you are a vampire as well."
"Why didn't you tell me! Maybe I would have been more prepared to deal with the attack if I only knew . . . maybe I could have protected us both!"
"Hans," he defended, "I was afraid you would leave me in hatred. I was selfish then, and I couldn't bear you leaving my side. I wanted to teach you to hate my kind. I could be so dangerous to you, and you didn't know what horrible things I could do to you. When I was little, I trusted a being, and he was a vampire. He did this to me. I never wanted this to happen to you as well. Yet, as you traveled with me, and I woke every night knowing that you were there, and I brought you food, and I heard you laugh and talk with me, my duty to you became harder. How could I make you hate me? You gave me purpose to my existence."
"So you turn around and leave me here with a bunch of house Kobolds without a word," the child accused, "You tell William to take me to Preetz without regards to how I feel."
"I figured that you didn't want to stay here after all that had happened.," reasoned Lucifer.
"I didn't want to stay here either!" the young one cried out with clenched fists at his sides. "I wanted to be with you!"
He pulled away from the black haired Kobold. He stumbled, but Lucifer knew better than try and help him this time. Hans regained his balance and made his way to the kitchen again. The vampire collapsed back on his heels and hugged himself. He wanted to cry, but no tears would come forth to show his misery.
"He's done now!" Sil's voice cut through his sadness, "How much longer do I have to put up with his presence?"
Lucifer didn't move. He didn't want to leave and be alone again. He didn't want the eternal damnation that came with death. He heard Josef's cheerful voice, and Sil shot him a few nasty words. Maybe he should just take the damnation and be done with it. Josef's words of escape and redemption were too good for him. He tore this perfectly happy family apart by showing up here when he really was not wanted. He moved to get out before he caused more turmoil.
"He's staying!" he heard Johann's voice say. He felt his brother's fingers about his shoulders.
"I think I might find a way of undamning him," Josef announced in his matter of fact voice.
"Please," William said, as he touched his sister's arm. She pulled away from him. "Give Josef a chance. He has been right on a good many things before."
She turned about on them suddenly. Fierce flames lit her eyes, and the males backed away. "I give you six months," she hissed, "If that thing is still cursed and under this roof in that time, I am returning to Kiel with Stephen. William, you were exiled from the family, and Stephen is the heir. We can keep you out! You will not follow us there. If this fiend comes within ten feet of my child again, I will leave right then and there!"
The elder turned pale, and Johann fidgeted. Lucifer looked up at the two of them. "I am not worth this," he told them in an effort to set things right.
Johann patted his back. "You are my brother. Of course you are," he assured him, but his voice was cracked and worried.
William took in a deep breath. With an effort his chased away all his anxiety from his face. "Josef will find a way," he told him with a forced smile. "If all else fails, we could all go back to Preetz."