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    C. Henderson
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Sacrum - 11. Chapter 11

I tossed and turned in my bed for a good six hours after Laura and Angelo’s departure. There was so much uncertainty about my situation, and I was starting to feel hopeless about it all. Vinicius created me to be a shield, a protector for the human and vampire world. A force of good that would stop society from falling into the wrong hands. But every day, I was continuing to fail him and stray further from the vision that he had in mind. And now, I was giving my enemy, Vincent Carandini—son of the family that brought about the need for my very existence—some bizarre and unwarranted benefit of the doubt. If I was truly Vinicius’ devoted student, wouldn’t I have already reported Vincent’s illegal activities to Boeriella Trusting a long time ago? Wasn’t that my job…my duty? It was clear that whatever he was up to with Maratoni wasn’t good and went against the orders of the State.

On the other hand, I heard how vicious Arani Deadnus sounded when she spoke of Vincent. Was that something Vinicius would have approved of? Pure hate towards someone who wasn’t even of age yet. It just didn’t feel right. Vincent had no say in which family he was genetically linked to, but Deadnus and The American Protection League had already made up their minds and marked him as evil. The vampire that raised me never looked at things as fully black and white, he always saw the full spectrum and all the in-between. He wouldn’t have approved of The State’s irrational hatred for Vincent.

“Deep within us lies the power for amazing goodness, as well as the opposite, Dani. Remember, the choice is always ours,” Vinicius once told me. He wouldn’t have written Vincent off. He would have tried his best to find the goodness within him.

I picked up my dream journal and flipped through what I had written down, trying to figure out where the clues led. But nothing seemed to add up or construct any coherent vision. Unlike the Biblical Daniel, I had no ability to interpret dreams. Vincent’s eyes glowing red could translate to him switching off blood juices and onto a fully human diet—a terrifying thought. Or it could be metaphorical—him turning from good to evil. The school burning could be my mind fearing what my gift could do if it misfired and I couldn’t get it under control. And what did I mean when I said something about vampires being “reborn”, a phrase that seemed to terrify Vincent to the core. Was it all just wild fragments of my imagination that had nothing to do with the truth?

Then there was the matter of meeting with Eric Van Sant and getting through the Specials Summit. It all seemed too overwhelming, but I had to figure something out. However, I needed to get through another appointment with Nurse Mildred first.

Slowly, I got up and got dressed, then made my way to the health office, where Nurse Mildred was already awaiting me—with a long and somehow unpleasant smile adorning her skinny face. I sat on the creaky hospital bed.

“Hello Dani,” she said in that fake sugary tone of hers. “Ready for your exam?” I nodded. I still wasn’t sure if telling her would be the right thing. What if something was actually wrong with me, and I was hiding it from her?

“Now remember, my dear, everything we talk about in this room is confidential and a government secret, so we are going to keep it between you and I, you understand? If you feel any symptoms, you are to come straight here, and not tell any of your friends. I hope that’s been made clear to you by Headmistress Trusting?”

“Yes,” I nodded again, even though I had already broken all the rules she listed.

She put her hand on my forehead with such quickness that I recoiled in fear.

“Oh dear, it’s okay. I’m just checking to make sure you’re not overheating,” she said and placed her hand firmly on my skin. Her touch made me uneasy. “Very good, nothing unusual,” she noted, then took out her pen and paper.

“Have you been feeling any strange symptoms lately, anything out of the norm?” I thought to last night when I was dizzy and sick.

“No,” I lied. I felt her eyes piercing into my soul. Did she know I was lying?

“Any headaches?”

“Nope,” I said.

“Have you been feeling bodily temperature changes?” I had. Right before I threw up, I felt my entire body get hotter and hotter, almost as if I was on fire.

“No,” I lied yet again. Her eyes scanned mine for any sign of deception.

“Any pains?”

“No.”

“Have you been experiencing any sweats?”

“No.”

“Have you had any strange thoughts?”

“I’ve thought about how this is a huge waste of my time and seeing as I have an unlimited amount of time, I suppose that’s a pretty weird thought. Does that count as strange?” I asked, unable to hide my frustration.

“Don’t get smart with me. Just answer the questions truthfully dear,” she replied, placing a lot of emphasis on truthfully. “Have you experienced any body changes whatsoever?”

“No,” I replied. I decided I could not put my faith in Nurse Mildred after all. I would start switching my blood juice with Vincent and see if my symptoms persisted.

After I left the office, I went to grab Laura and Angelo and took them to my and Vincent’s hut in the woods. We had about an hour before our first class that day.

“What is this place?” Angelo asked upon seeing the hut.

“Old hunting lodge. We can practice here, away from the school,” I explained.

“Good idea, Dani,” Laura replied, putting her backpack down.

“So, where do we start?” Angelo asked eagerly. I shrugged my shoulders.

“That’s the problem…I have no idea. Anytime anything has happened, it’s been out of my control. Kind of…spontaneous.” I had to be honest with them if I wanted this to go anywhere. There was no point in secrecy anymore. These sessions and Eric Van Sant were my only hope before the Specials Summit in December, just a few weeks away.

“Okay, let’s figure this out. So, when Ekhart touched you, and you got angry, you ended up burning him. Have you experienced any other circumstances where you felt like you used your gift in some way?” I bit my lip and nodded.

“Yeah, I uhh…I managed to make a cactus bloom.”

“Great!” She said. “How did you do that?”

“I…uhhh, well, me and Vincent sort of….kissed,” I replied. Angelo’s mouth opened in surprise while Laura raised her eyebrows.

“You and Vincent kissed?” She asked and I nodded sheepishly.

“Have you lost your mind?” Angelo said.

“It just happened!” I tried to defend myself.

“Vincent Carandini? He’s the enemy, Dani!”

“Okay, let’s calm down now,” Laura said. “Vincent is just a student at this school, Angelo. There’s no need to associate him with anything his ancestors have done.”

“Thank you,” I said, and Angelo scoffed.

“Please Laura, we both know he’s always been up to no good. He thinks he’s better than everyone else. If the monarchy was reinstated, he’d take over in a heartbeat and become a tyrant, just like his grandfather,” he said, and I felt the anger rise within me.

“Wow, you’re sounding a whole lot like Arani Deadnus. You’re condemning him without having any actual proof.”

“And you’re colluding with the enemy. I highly doubt Vinicius would be happy about this, seeing as he literally created you so that you could fight off anyone like Vincent in the future. But if you’re the person we’re relying on to keep us safe, while you’re sneaking around and kissing him. Well….I guess we’re doomed then,” he said, and his words felt like a thousand slaps. I could see Laura’s mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear anything. The heat within me boiled over. All I could feel was a righteous type of anger within me. Suddenly, Laura screamed and the piercing sound brought me out of whatever state I was in. There was a loud thud and the three of us fell on the floor.

“What the hell happened?” I said getting up, as my two friends stared at me with fear in their eyes.

“You didn’t feel that?” Laura asked.

“Feel what?”

“You made this place levitate,” she said in a whisper.

“I did?” Angelo helped Laura get up.

“You really have no control over it?” He asked, his voice slightly nicer. I shook my head, feeling embarrassed. I put both of them in danger by trying to practice without any supervision. There was a reason we had mentors—people who specialized in each gift. Laura and Angelo were not equipped for this.

“I’m sorry you guys, I should have known better than to involve you in this,” I admitted.

“Stop it, Dani. We asked to be here. We want to help,” Laura replied, gently rubbing my arm. “You can’t go into the Summit with nothing to show. Maybe we can just try to focus your energy on the small things, and try not to anger you,” she said. “But I think we’re done for today,” she added suddenly, then wiped her sleeve under my nose. “You have a nosebleed.”

They walked me back to my room to rest. But I couldn’t rest. Something was going on with me. Maybe I’d have the chance to speak to the other Specials during the Summit and see if any of them were experiencing these bizarre side effects. How could I possibly have a nose bleed? I was a vampire. Was my gift the reason for the inexplicable physical symptoms I was experiencing? Or was something actually wrong with me. I wanted to ask Maratoni, but after hearing his conversation with Vincent I knew that he wouldn’t tell me anything. He didn’t want me to succeed. He was actually happy that I was in the dark and had no control over anything. He wasn’t on my side. But if that was true, where did that leave Vincent? Whatever they were doing, they were on the same side. The racing thoughts gave me a painful headache. Another symptom I had no business having.

After tossing and turning for far too long, I decided to skip class and made my way over to the cafeteria to grab a blood juice. I felt weak after my earlier stunt, and I needed some form of nourishment. I would need to find Vincent and swap with him first. I took my dream notebook with me, hoping that I could sit in the cafeteria and read through it one more time to find some clues. Anything that could help me figure out my next move. But before I could do any of that, I stopped in my tracks. Sitting in the cafeteria was none other than Eric Van Sant.

I immediately recognized his black leather jacket, shoulder length blonde hair, and dark stubble.

“Dani!” He shouted with joy upon seeing me. He smiled, but the emotion didn’t reach his eyes. I assumed he was still dealing with the loss of Vinicius.

“Hello Mr. Van Sant,” I replied.

“Please, call me Eric,” he said before drawing me in for a tight hug. I could smell the cologne on his neck. “How are you?” He asked, as I sat across from him at the table, putting my notebook down next to me.

“Good, slowly settling in,” I replied.

“That’s good to hear. I’ve been thinking about you a lot, I just haven’t had time to reach out. I apologize. They moved you over here so fast, I didn’t even have time to come say goodbye,” he rambled. I smiled. He felt like a distant family member, and I finally felt like I had someone who was on my side.

“I’m glad I was able to find you,” I said. “Things have been so confusing,” I started and suddenly saw him visibly tense up.

“I’m sure, I’m sure. How’s Maratoni treating you?” He asked, and I could hear the distaste he held for the man as clear as day.

“That’s sort of why I reached out to you,” I started. “He’s…well, I don’t feel like he’s really trying to help me at all. Perhaps even the opposite. I haven’t made any progress and I’m feeling so overwhelmed. I was hoping you could help me,” I pleaded with him. Eric smiled, then, almost as if he had practiced it, he launched into a speech.

“Ah, to be young and to think everyone in the world is against you. How I miss the teenage years,” he said, making my stomach drop. Eric Van Sant was my last hope. If he didn’t believe me, if he didn’t help me, nobody would. “Listen, Dani. Professor Maratoni is a very capable vampire and Mentor. He is surely looking out for your best interest.”

“But…” I tried to interject, but he cut me off.

“Baritone High School is perfectly capable of helping you get through these struggles. It’s just going to take time Dani. You have to have faith in the process and listen and follow to your Mentor’s instructions,” as he continued talking, he slid his hand and gently pulled my dream notebook away from me and towards him. “Every young vampire has these feelings of uncertainty, it’s absolutely normal Dani.” He opened the notebook to a random page then pulled a pen from his pocket and wrote something. He then slid it back to me.

I read the note as he continued to speak. “They’re listening. Know any place private we can meet?” I tried to cover the shock on my face, then quickly wrote back. “A shack in the woods behind the school.” He read the note, then swiftly closed my notebook and continued on as before.

We ended our conversation shortly after, and he went in for another tight hug.

“I’ll see you there in an hour,” he whispered. Then he was gone.

Eric Van Sant’s visit added 10 layers of new confusion to my already existing issues. But one thing was sure, something strange was going on. I had to act normal though, just in case somebody was actually listening or watching. I walked over to the counter and asked the lunch lady for my juice. Then I walked straight to Vincent’s room.

I was pleasantly surprised to find him actually there. I closed the door behind me gently. He was sitting on the edge of his bed talking to someone on the phone. With shock, I realized he was speaking a different language.

“Ne vedem în curând. Pa,” he said to whoever was on the other end.

“Was that Romanian?” I asked when he finished. He nodded, smiling at me. “You never told me you spoke Romanian. What else don’t I know about you?” I questioned.

“Oh, just a few small things,” he replied playfully.

“Who were you talking to?” I asked, curious.

“My mom,” he replied. The infamous Princess Alessandra Letizia Carandini. I wondered whether I should ask further questions, but Vincent changed the subject right away. “Wanna swap?” He asked, looking at the blood juice I was holding. I nodded.

“It’s the only way to find out, right?”

“The quickest way,” he replied, and handed me his. We drank them in front of each other. I couldn’t taste anything different, but only time would tell if my doses were getting injected with something else. “Wanna stay the night?” He asked, his hand playing with my fingers. I thought about telling him what happened with Eric Van Sant, but there was something in me that decided against it.

“I can’t, I promised Laura and Angelo we would study together,” I lied. Vincent and I both had secrets now, I realized with sadness. He looked disappointed but nodded his head.

“Can I at least get a kiss?” He asked, leaning his head towards me, his brown eyes playfully sparkling. I met his full lips gently. I couldn’t risk making something crazy happen with our wild energy and raising any suspicion. I needed to meet with Eric. I pulled away quickly.

“I have to go,” I said, noting the frustrated and puzzled look on his face. “Let me know if you start feeling anything weird,” I said in regards to the juice, then left his room. I made sure nobody was following me, then I slowly walked out of the school and made my way back to the hut in the woods, hoping that I wouldn’t make it levitate this time.

It was empty. What if he couldn’t find it? The school grounds were big, after all. Worse yet, what if somebody got to him first? My paranoia ramped up. If Eric wasn’t going to make it, I would be completely on my own. Just as I was starting to think the worst, the door flew open.

“Are you alone?” He asked, quickly shutting it behind him.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Good. Listen, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Can you tell me what’s going on. Who was listening back in the cafeteria?” I asked, frustrated.

“Most likely one of Arani Deadnus’ ghouls.” There was slight panic in his voice.

“Why are they following you?” I asked, confused.

“They’re following anyone they deemed close to Vinicius,” he replied, taking a quick look out the window. I could feel the anxiety from his body, and it made me nervous as well.

“Why, I don’t understand,” I asked. He looked at me as if I was a little slow.

“To see if we know anything, of course.”

“Know anything about what?”

“About his death, Dani. His apparent ‘suicide’.” He said, mocking the idea. I let his words sink in.

“What are you saying?” I asked slowly. I needed to make sure I understood the implications he was making.

“Come on Dani, I would think you’d know your mentor better than this,” he snapped, his eyes sharply focusing on me. “Vinicius didn’t kill himself. He was murdered.”

Copyright © 2021 C. Henderson; All Rights Reserved.
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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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I was thinking that was where this was going, there were clues that Vinicius didn’t kill himself.

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11 minutes ago, VBlew said:

I was thinking that was where this was going, there were clues that Vinicius didn’t kill himself.

Thanks for reading!

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This confirms my earlier suspicion of the suicide being a murder and it's only part of a larger conspiracy. Part of it seems focused on making Dani fail. I hope Eric can help him, but he is terrified himself.

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18 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

This confirms my earlier suspicion of the suicide being a murder and it's only part of a larger conspiracy. Part of it seems focused on making Dani fail. I hope Eric can help him, but he is terrified himself.

Yes, you guessed it a while back! Good catch.

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Honestly, there being a murder and a conspiracy has been pretty obvious from the get go. But I think it's deeper than that. I think this is a full on gambit pileup involving multiple semi-related conspiracies.

There's whatever Vincent's conspiracy is, which I think is actually DISTINCT from the obvious conspiracy to bring back the vampire domination of humans by the vampire nobility. There's the conspiracy of Vinicius and his "vampiric rebirth" which, I assume, is some form of "turning vampires human again." There's whatever potential additional conspiracies that Trusting and Daedalus are involved in. And, of course, there's the conspiracy Dani himself is slowly forming in response to the other conspiracies.

Not that this is that surprising, given that conspiracies are very common in vampire stories, but it does mean that I actually don't really know where this story is going, which is a plus in my book. I can usually follow the meta lines, but here, there are a lot of directions the story could go, so congrats to that!

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5 hours ago, Nightlit said:

Honestly, there being a murder and a conspiracy has been pretty obvious from the get go. But I think it's deeper than that. I think this is a full on gambit pileup involving multiple semi-related conspiracies.

There's whatever Vincent's conspiracy is, which I think is actually DISTINCT from the obvious conspiracy to bring back the vampire domination of humans by the vampire nobility. There's the conspiracy of Vinicius and his "vampiric rebirth" which, I assume, is some form of "turning vampires human again." There's whatever potential additional conspiracies that Trusting and Daedalus are involved in. And, of course, there's the conspiracy Dani himself is slowly forming in response to the other conspiracies.

Not that this is that surprising, given that conspiracies are very common in vampire stories, but it does mean that I actually don't really know where this story is going, which is a plus in my book. I can usually follow the meta lines, but here, there are a lot of directions the story could go, so congrats to that!

That's a lot of conspiracy theories just floating around 😁  I like it! Thank you for providing your insight, that was actually very helpful for me.

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6 hours ago, Nightlit said:

Honestly, there being a murder and a conspiracy has been pretty obvious from the get go. But I think it's deeper than that. I think this is a full on gambit pileup involving multiple semi-related conspiracies.

There's whatever Vincent's conspiracy is, which I think is actually DISTINCT from the obvious conspiracy to bring back the vampire domination of humans by the vampire nobility. There's the conspiracy of Vinicius and his "vampiric rebirth" which, I assume, is some form of "turning vampires human again." There's whatever potential additional conspiracies that Trusting and Daedalus are involved in. And, of course, there's the conspiracy Dani himself is slowly forming in response to the other conspiracies.

Not that this is that surprising, given that conspiracies are very common in vampire stories, but it does mean that I actually don't really know where this story is going, which is a plus in my book. I can usually follow the meta lines, but here, there are a lot of directions the story could go, so congrats to that!

I hope they all have their dues paid up with the United Confederation of Conspirators or they'll be in big trouble.

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