I opened my eyes when the back of my lids grew dark again, and found myself standing before Niklaus again. I felt a pang of longing the moment I saw that I was not in Lunarian's company anymore, and clutched more tightly to the cloak around me.
"Did you say your goodbyes?" Niklaus asked me simply. I nodded. "Very well. Sebastian has been released. You can try to extract his story from him today, and then you have two days to rest. On Monday, you will start your training at noon."
"Thanks," I said, leaving the room. Knowing that it would be the easiest, I called to the air around me, "Claude?"
"Yes, my lady?" he asks a moment later, having appeared beside me.
"Where is Sebastian?"
"Wherever you are not, I'm afraid."
"That's understandable, but I want to know his story and apologise properly," I said, "Tell him that I directly order him to meet me in the library this instant."
"Yes, my lady."
As Claude vanished in a black blur, I wondered if I was going about this the right way. I mean, I would have been furious if some kid, hundreds of years younger me, started ordering me to tell her of my past.
But, I told myself, In my own defence, I am trying to help him.
When I entered the library on the first floor, Sebastian was standing at the door. Even though no hint of any kind of emotion was visible on his face, I could practically sense the hostility coming off him.
"Come on," I said, leading him further to the back.
Between each of the massive shelves, was a desk and several chairs. A few of the servants - who I guessed were on breaks - were sitting at them. Once I reached an empty table, I walked toward it and sat down on it with my feet resting on one of the chairs. Sebastian came to a halt a few feet in front of me.
"Look," I said, "I'm not trying to piss you off. I'm trying to help you. You know I've been trying to set my record straight, and I think this is the final straw. You saw what happened when Niklaus saw you show emotion, and I get it. You had a terrible childhood. My mother-" my voice hitched at the thought of her "-used to say that talking about things is the best way to deal with them."
"That makes sense," he said, avoiding my point.
"I've managed to get Niklaus to give you permission to talk about your problems with me, today," I said, "Not only do I believe that it will help you if you show emotion just this one day, I am also dead curious as to what the hell it was that I saw in your mind. Once again, I'm really sorry I did that. I'm sure you understand."
"I do, my lady," he said, still avoiding the point.
I sigh heavily, "Tell me about what I saw."
"It is an order ..." he said heavily, his eye twitching slightly. He took a deep breath. "I was born three years before Claude. My - my mother always protected us. She always chased us upstairs and into the attic whenever my father came home. It was a time of harsh living. Women were mistreated in the most brutal ways. I always tried to shield Claude from the noises that I could hear coming from downstairs. I could hear him beating her half to death, raping her on a nightly basis, sometimes whipping her and it even happened a few times that he..." For the first time ever, I saw his face contort with rage, and it set my heart hammering. It was a terrifying sight. "He shared her with his friends.
"The memory you saw when you invaded my mind... it was a particularly good night: one of the best ones I could recall as a child. The police had come to tell us that our father had been in a particularly bad fight in an alley, and he might not be home. She was tucking us into bed, singing to us for the first time in several months, when he stormed into the house. She had no time to rush us to the attic, and when we tried to run, he threw us against the wall. He ripped her clothes from her body and - and he took her as we watched. I was eight, and Claude five.
"He beat her to death right in front of us. Claude lost his mind with grief. He could not accept her death. Psychiatrists were not as good then as they are now. If anything, they made his mental state worse. Our father beat us until we bled until, finally, he died one night due to alcohol poisoning. Claude and I were left to fend for ourselves. Orphans, in a harsh environment. The orphanage gave us enough money to go to school, and you saw the girl I developed romantic feelings for when I reached your age. All the boys wanted her hand, but everyone ridiculed Claude and myself because of the circumstances we grew up in.
"I grew up to be a blacksmith's assisstant, and Claude worked at the village vet. All throughout his childhood and teenage years, he mourned for our family, he got into regular fights trying to defend their honour, and cried all throughout each night. He dealt with his pain, and he became my role model. I pushed it away. I had to be strong, for him. Until - one day - war broke out. Even with no military experience, the king sent for all able men to be armoured and sent into battle. Claude and I died beside each other, and Lord Niklaus - found us and - gave us - his blood."
I was horrified. I could not believe that he came from such a harsh environment. I felt my own eyes well up with tears, which I hurriedly blinked away. As I watched, angry tears streamed down Sebastian's face. I had never seen him cry before, and I had no idea how to react. I recognised the look on his face, because I was all too familiar with it: he wanted to punch something indestructible until he could make it break, he wanted to kill someone, he wanted to release all his frustration and he wanted to do it now, but he was afraid to because of me.
"Follow me," I told him. I stood up and held out my hand. He took it, and I led him to a nearby window. It led to the field that Niklaus called a back yard, which led to the forest. I took him there, and we ran through the forest until we reached the clearing that I usually used for training.
As he stood there, tears still streaming from his eyes, I closed my own and cleared my mind, concentrating. I manipulated some of the water inside my body, multiplied it, and released it, so that a mighty bubble of water hovered before me. With difficulty, I forced it into a rectangular shape and hardened it as much as I could, squeezing the molecules together so tightly that it was just before the stage where the wall would burst.
"Punch it," I told Sebastian. "Let all of your anger out. Imagine your father's face on one fist, and that girl's on the other, and punch until you can't anymore, and then punch some more."
"What will that achieve, my lady?" he asked.
"It will make you feel better," I said, then smirked, "I speak out of experience. Go ahead."
I watched as he gazed at me thoughtfully before taking a few careful steps forward. He pulled back his arm and punched the ice wall, but I could see that his heart was not into it. Well, I knew how to get him motivated.
"Think about how your father treated your mother, Sebastian," I said, shamefully taking a leaf out of my father's book, "Think about all the things he did to her, all the times he raped her."
He pulled back his arm again, landing another punch, this time with a fierce growl.
That's the spirit, I thought.
"Come to think of it, maybe you and Claude were results of his rapes. Think about it: he made her suffer for nine months, two times, and perhaps even raped her while you were in her womb."
Another punch, this time so powerful and rage-inducing that nearby birds fled from the trees.
"Think about the little bitch who turned you down in front of all her friends." Another punch. "Think about how your father beat you." Another punch, and a crack in the wall appeared. "Think about it, Sebastian! Really take it in! He's probably mocking you from the other side, mocking you because you tried to shove away these feelings!" Another punch, and the crack grew bigger. "Let them out, Sebastian! Let out all your rage!"
I saw that the wall would not last much longer, so I bended the water from the nearby lake and slowly but surely created three more walls. They were not quite as strong, but they served their purpose. As Sebastian broke one wall I created another. The shouts of rage coming from him were astounding and terrifying: the curses he hurled at his father's name were worse than anything I would ever have come up with.
I continued taunting him until he started yelling back, trying to convince me that he was the better son, convincing me of his strength and that he was the son his mother would have been proud of. I was honestly surprised that my idea had worked. I had no clue that anyone else had the same kind of rage piled up inside them.
Finally, when I was gasping for air at the strength I spend, he landed one last, sorrowful punch, and the last wall cracked and burst, showering us with shards of ice. I manipulated them into gas that showered over me. I stumbled over to the lake and took three mighty gulps of water before looking back at Sebastian. He was panting and tears were still streaming down his face, but not as much as before. I sat down on a nearby shard of ice.
"Feel better?" I asked.
"Surprisingly, yes," he panted, wiping his tears away. He fell down on the ground beside me. "My lady, I have a favour to ask of you."
"Claude cannot know of what transpired here today."
"I won't tell him," I promised, "I'll just tell him that you told me about your past, and then we trained for a while. That sound good?"
"Yes, my lady."
"I just have one last question," I said, and I saw him stiffen. I smirked. "If you and Claude were so close growing up, why do you hate each other now?"
He sighed. "While we were growing up, he always looked up to me, but when he became the sort of manager at the village vet, and I became a blacksmith's assistant, something changed in him. I suppose the locals started whispering. He grew ashamed of me. When we became vampires, he tried everything in his power to get Lord Niklaus to distrust me, to send me away, or to have me killed. For a few years, it worked. I was shunned to do the worst of the duties. But when Claude fell in love with Victoria Narlith, I did not hesitate to inform Lord Niklaus. His feelings toward us reversed. I am now the person he looks to the most."
"I never thought Claude to be that kind of person," I said, frowning, "He's always so modest."
"He was ordered to be so. He holds his head high even though Lord Niklaus still resents him."
"So why keep him alive at all?"
"Claude deals with the servants very well, and he knows all the duties off by heart and can do them himself in little under two hours. If he were to die, the mansion would fall into ruin."
"I see," I said, keeping silent for a moment, but my curiosity got the better of me and I asked, "So what happened to her? Victoria Narlith? I keep hearing about her but I don't actually know anything. Who exactly was she? And why do all of you think I look like her?"
"A quick glance into your family history will reveal that she used to be the lover of one of your ancestors, but they never married," he replied. I gaped. "This was a high level of disgrace in those days. She gave birth and fled, but not before Lord Niklaus encountered her. She was very selfish, cold and very calculating, at times even downright cruel. She used people to get her own ways, and when she caught Lord Niklaus's eye, she wanted to become immortal to preserve her beauty. Lord Niklaus never saw this, however, and when she fell ill to a deadly sickness, and died in her sleep, he was grief-stricken. He experimented with all manners of grotesque ways, attempting to revive her, but nothing ever worked."
"All these years, I thought I carried such a huge burden on my shoulders, and now I hear your stories," I said, shaking my head to myself.
"You have asked me about my past, my lady, and I have answered fully. Please allow me to ask you something in return."
"Ok..." I said suspiciously.
"What is the thing that fuels that unbelievable vengeful desire you walk around with? What has your father done that has made you hate him so much? Everyone loses family members over the years: you heard my story, but I was not the one to take revenge on my father."
I was so sick of being asked this kind of question, but I knew he deserved an answer after everything I put him through today. I sighed. "He killed my entire family, Sebastian. Every cousin, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, sibling and mother I had. All of them. For no reason. He tormented me and tortured me in ways you can't imagine. He whipped me daily, for things such as talking too loudly or running inside the house. I am going to kill him in the name of my family, but also in the name of every other child that has to suffer through such horror."
"I see," he replies.
We remained sitting there for a few moments, listening to the strange sounds of the nature surrounding Niklaus's castle, and I wondered what on earth he had been thinking, creating the creatures that lived in the forest.
"We should probably be getting back," I said as I saw the sun starting to set. “But I want to do something first.”
I stood up and gestured for him to follow. Feeling just as awkward as I was sure he was, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around his waist.
“There are still people who care, Sebastian,” I told him, refusing to let go, despite his stiff posture. After several moments, I felt him hug me back.
I spent the following day talking with Claude, taunting Aurora, looking through the shops within the mansion or else closely inspecting the paintings in the mansion. I knew that I needed to rest, and as Sunday evening passed, I grew apprehensive about what might follow in the morning.
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