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Amadeo, the Son of Marius
by Hannurdock
Rating: R


Pairing: Armand / Lestat, Armand / Marius mainly, plus other pairings
Disclaimers: The characters from the Chronicles belong to Anne Rice. These stories are purely for pleasure and 'What if's'.  Nothing is meant to infringe upon the author's rights. I am doing this for fun and I love sharing my stories with others.
Notes: Alternate 'The Vampire Armand'
Summary: After Armand burns himself in the sun, he finds hell to be a much more brutal and unbearable world than he could have ever anticipated. Warnings: M/M Slash and Romance. Violence





Prologue

Hello. My name is Amadeo. Those who have read The Vampire Chronicles will know who I am. Or, to be more specific, who I used to be.

For those who have no idea who I was, let me give you a brief history regarding the vampire I used to be. I was brought into the realm of the undead by an ancient vampire called Marius. And this was hundreds of years ago. Time does not mean very much now of course.

Marius was one of the most splendid immortals. He had been a mortal man, in the prime of life given the dark gift by an elder that knew he had the desire for eternal life. He had the most beautiful grey-blonde hair and seductive blue eyes which entangled you and drew you willingly into the depths of his soul.

What had he seen in me? In those days long past when he came to me and offered me eternal life. A slave with tangled auburn hair that fell like a thick carpet over my slender shoulders. I had blazing violet eyes back then, a seductive smile and a terrible desire for life, at any cost. I still wonder, however, why he chose me of all the people on the earth. Why he chose me, the child and innocent lover, over all the decadent and beautiful people in our time.

Why didn't he wait until I was old enough to understand the implications of such a gift, the terrible price I would have to pay for my immortality. I had only just turned seventeen when he seduced me into the world of darkness, becoming my beloved, my maker, my lover for all time. And such adventures I had with my maker Marius, with Lestat de Lioncourt and all the other important vampires of our kind.

However, all good things come to an end.

My vampire life ended in 1994, when I finally plucked up the courage, decided to throw all caution to the wind and just do it. How I regret my rash and foolish decision. I was a fool to trust so completely Lestat's revelations about Memnoch and the Gates of Hell. Memnoch is no prince of fairy tales, no wandering spirit with a moral heart. He is the devil, and the devil he shall always be.

Memnoch was waiting for me, when I crossed into the afterlife. My vampire body, now burnt and the ashes being blown away by the wind, the memories swarmed me and I was suddenly afraid. Memories are extremely important to the dead and wandering. They provide an outlet from your own personal hell that Memnoch provides in his evil, gleeful hatred of anything living. For Lestat only saw what Memnoch allowed him to see. Memnoch is pure evil.

I found, when I stepped through the Gates of Sheol all the horror and despair that death can bring. All my victims awaited me. With their hands they reached out to ensnare me, enfold me, break me en mass. I was afraid. I called for Marius. I called for Lestat. But no-one was to answer my desperate pleas for help.

The victims, they laughed and spat on me, speaking obscenities which wounded me so deeply I only desired oblivion. Any release from the immense pain I was enduring.

There were other vampires in hell of course. I rarely saw them, being so wrapped up in my own personal hell. However, a few names came to my mind every now and then, slight images, slight apparitions of vampires I once knew. I built a list inside my mind of those vampires I recognised - Santiago, Mael, Madelaine, Claudia .... they were all here, unable to escape from the darkness.

All of these things I have told you are relatively unimportant. Nothing really existed in the fear and pain except horror and a dear friend. This dear friend became my only salvation in hell. As I called for the other vampires who had died as I had, he heard me. He came to me and offered his hand. He managed to fill my mind with something other than the pain.

His name was James Raglan.

Although he suffered immensely for his own victims he killed in serial killer fashion, with the cool hand of a card player, he was nearing his limit of endurance. He was gradually learning to have faith in himself, and he had tremendous faith in me. I had met him some time ago, wandering aimlessly through hell. He was changed by his encounter with Lestat and repented his sins - as did I. We became solid friends, and we stayed with each other during the worst days. Memnoch of course tried to destroy our friendship. He and his Helpful Ghosts (as Lestat called them) bombarded us with threats and fear and pain - but we stayed together. We started to learn that as two, we were stronger than we could ever be individually.

As I have just said, and let me reiterate this point, James was much changed as an individual when I met him. Punishment had softened his nature and Sheol had hardened his strength. He was genuinely sorry for the damage he had done in his body switching, mortal life. He lay no blame on Lestat for destroying him, and had learnt to forgive and forget. Ironic, considering the monster he used to be.

All James wanted for us both was to return to earth. In spirit of physical form - away from this damned place. He wanted us to start again, and be free of Memnoch.

So, now you have the scene as it was then, the characters and the background of this story let us proceed into chapter one. Forget the Armand you once knew, the vampire I once was. For Armand does not really exist any more.

Now there is only Amadeo .....





Part 1: Flashback

Dora snatched the veil from the hands of Lestat, her face full of excitement and triumph. Lestat bowed his head, letting her hold the veil aloft and eagerly scan in her memory every little detail. He was too tired to care, his adventure with the devil Memnoch had worn him utterly, he was too wrapped up in his own selfish thoughts to consider the implications.

"Veronica's Veil! You've brought it to us!" Dora was laughing and dancing, clutching the article to her breast, watching the imprint on her shirt and surrendering to another fit of giggles. She looked very young suddenly, and her eyes were bright and glistening with tears.

"Good God!" David was shaken, the face of God Incarnate was staring at him through the cloth, gazing at him tenderly, invitingly. It was also looking at me, Armand, with that same inviting gaze as if imploring me to come to him.

The name Armand was one I had used for centuries. It was a name which I had grown extremely fond of, it was the emblem of my vampire existence. I could barely remember the times when Marius had called me by my true name, the name my mother declared when she held me to her breast on the day I was born a mortal child to her. I was once called Amadeo, but Amadeo was the name for my soul, not the vampire beast I had become when I was born to darkness.

I fell to my knees, crying. I wished Lestat would rise upon seeing the utter despair in my expression and embrace me, tell me everything would be alright. I was the lost child again, seeking comfort from reality. But Lestat stayed silent and sat still, he looked at me once and then turned away.

By this time, Dora had run into the night time streets, shouting to the mortals before her that she possessed Veronica's Veil. Crowds of interesting mortals came rushing to her with interest, holding napkins and other material, watching the image burn into another, and another, and another piece of material.

I was unaware of this at the time, seeking only comfort. I was still crying. The face of God Incarnate was etched into my memory! I could feel my centuries on this earth crowd me like corpses, and I understood suddenly how evil I really was. I was shocked that I was a vampire. Shocked by the revelation. Shocked by my evil nature. I was doomed. I was lost.

I wanted to redeem myself in His eyes, become the Angel at his right hand side. I wanted to show Him I could come to Him, that my courage and conviction towards Him hadn't wavered with my vampire years. I loved God, I loved Him! And it tore at my reason for existence like a sharp knife.

If only I could go back in time and prevent my initiation into the world of darkness, if only I could stop Marius from creating me, the child, in his image. If only ....

"Why?" I sobbed. "Why?"

I suddenly decided upon a resolution. I was going to die. Tonight. In front of the mortal crowds.

It seemed so simple, this decision I had never been so eager to think about, let alone put actions to words. David looked over at me sharply. He was disapproving, he was reading my thoughts.

"No Armand" David's voice like the crack of thunder in a lightning storm, bringing me to my senses slightly.

Dora, meanwhile, was running up to the church door, demanding they let her in and shouting her confirmation of faith, holding the veil up high so they could see the material clearly. She was excited and happy. Contented that she had found the very reason for her faith. God and the Devil existed. She was positive of that now, she knew the truth.

The sun was rising. I did not have much time left. I felt the warmth in every vein, every pore of my skin. It was viciously painful, but I knew that I could not go back on my decision. Not now.

"Go ..." I said simply to David as a single tear rolled down his left cheek. Lestat was not listening to our dialogue, to immersed in his own private pain. "Seek shelter from the rising sun. Take Lestat with you or he will be lost" I was crying again, and Lestat looked up suddenly as if realising my deathly wish.

His eyes focused on my own, his lips parting slightly as he gazed at me in love and disbelief. He rose and walked towards me, putting a gentle arm on my shoulder. It felt so good, and the pain of the sun momentarily vanished only to return with full vengeance a moment later.

"What are you going to do, Armand?" Lestat asked, his voice breaking. He was hurting bad, and I was ashamed I had drawn my death out this long. He loved me, I loved him. And at this moment, both of us knew how much we really meant to each other.

I fought the urge to embrace him one last time, and smiled sadly at him. The beautiful and irrepressible Lestat, the rock star, the lover, the beloved, the Brat Prince. My smile turned into a grin. I understood what I had to do and I accepted the consequences of my own death already.

"I shall bear witness to the triumph of God Incarnate! He has won, Lestat. I shall not seek shelter from the sun, nor will I try to bury myself into the dirt when the pain comes like lightning. I shall die in fire for Him. My death will be the confirmation of it all". Tears were streaming down my face as I beheld his shocked and pain face, he was shaking his head, unable to believe I was thinking about ending my undead existence.

Suddenly, a dramatic change came over Lestat's face. A violent possessiveness overcame him, and he grasped at my hand. He would not let me go, not in the passion of a moment that might be regretted later. David picked his maker up with great strength, hurrying away with him. Lestat reached out for me, unable to reach me and he cried my name repeatedly as he pleaded with me to come into his arms.

I was lost. I turned away and for the first time in centuries saw the sun rise. The golden glow of pure warmth filled me with emotion. I cried out in pain and joy, each blending together in exquisite harmony.

"Oh, Lestat! If only you could see this" I cried. The pain was unbearable, but I had to say something before my end came, some words before the curtain dropped and the play ended. "Bear witness! This sinner dies for Him!".


Everyone heard these last words, shouted by my powerful preternatural lungs so that all could hear and watch my end. It seemed Lestat and David heard the words too, as I heard a groan of passionate remorse from Lestat before the two disappeared from sight. There was a scream. Lestat's scream. I was on fire, burning brightly and turning my face to God in the moment of my death I prayed. Smoke bellowed around me as the fire consumed me, lapped at me, taking every inch of my preternatural skin and turning it into such immense pain which I had never felt before.

I suddenly began to panic. God was not responding, He was not here. I looked around myself, looking for an escape route in terror but my body was far too burned to escape now. The deed was done. Unmerciful, vicious and brutal. This was not what I had wanted.

"Lestat ...... Help!" I screamed as my face melted, and the strength of the fire obliterated my reason. There was only pain, pain in a blazing darkness. I couldn't see. My eyes had been burnt away.

Suddenly there was complete darkness. And the pain was gone. I realised quite suddenly that I was dead, and that Lestat could not save me from myself any longer. It was over.




****




My mind raced suddenly, and I suddenly felt conscious of individuals around me. I looked around myself and sighed in relief. I had survived the fire, survived the sun. Lestat would come for me soon.

I suddenly realised, in shock, that my body was not in pain. Indeed, it seemed my entire physical being had been stripped away to reveal my soul. I was not lying burnt as a crisp in some neglected doorway. I was not going to be rescued. It came as a deep shock for me to realise I was indeed dead.

The light around me was unbearable. It ate at my spirit, consuming what little vigour and energy I had. Then a figure emerged and stood between the light and myself. The figure was of a mortal man, wearing simple garments that had been worn by mortals thousands of years ago. He offered me his hand which I took and helped me to stand up.

"Memnoch" I uttered in awe.

"Welcome to hell, Amadeo" Memnoch said. The voice wasn't harsh or malicious. It was gentle, wise and patient. Memnoch looked at me, his eyes full of love.

"The Gates of Sheol await you, Amadeo. You must come with me now. You must repent for the sins of your past" Memnoch said gently, taking me by the arm and leading me towards the very gates Lestat had described. I gasped at the immense size of the gates and the intricate carvings on the metal.

I saw a woman waiting beyond the gates, a shocked look of recognition clouded her face and she rushed towards me with her hands clawing at me in anger. "Bastard!" she shouted.

"Memnoch ....?" I gasped, trying to free myself of her grasp, horrified and appalled that she knew and resented me in some way.

"Don't you recognise your own victims, Amadeo?" Memnoch asked softly. "You killed her, Amadeo. Her and hundreds of others. They are all here, waiting for you".


"No ...." I stepped back, falling, freeing myself of the woman's angry grasp. "Please I beg you .... no!".

Memnoch nodded "Its true. Time to repent for all those lives you've taken, Amadeo".

"Why do you keep calling me by my mortal name, Amadeo? I haven't used that name since I became a vampire" I asked, my fear cresting.

"Amadeo is your mortal name. Amadeo is your genuine name. In this place you will be known as Amadeo. Armand died when he burnt alive in the sun" Memnoch explained, touching on the details that I needed to know so desperately.

The woman lay by my side, crying. I put my arms around her wishing to make amends for hurting her so badly, but she tore at my face and hair viciously, wanting to hurt me as much as she could. I could hear the sounds of others now, other men, women and children who had been my victims. They were all coming for me, and I was terrified. I apologised repeatedly as they swarmed about me, kicking me, punching me, ripping out my hair - and I screamed and screamed, wishing only for oblivion.





****





Months passed in this fashion. There seemed to be no sense of place or self, but the pain was as real as any pain I had ever felt. I was constantly beaten and kicked by my tormentors, who were once my victims. I called to Lestat in agony, and this made Memnoch laugh. I called to Marius which caused the whole place to erupt into laughter. I cried all the time, and this made my victims laugh. There was no rest, no peace. I cursed God for tricking me so horribly. I cursed myself for my foolish death. I cursed Lestat for not having saved me when I needed him so. I eventually called to anyone to free me from this horror.

The only person that answered my cries was James. James Raglan, former body switcher and thief came to me. He held my face in his hands and held me close to his heart. His tears matched my own, and we sat for a long time simply looking at one another, as if sizing each other up. We were both wary, but it was fair to say I loved James from the first moment I set my eyes on him. He became my saviour.

I only knew peace when James and I would talk. I would listen to his tales for hours and hours. He was fascinated by me, as I was by him. We were in love with each other, and I had never felt such strong love for anyone before in my life.

We only had each other. Memnoch saw the bond developing between us and tried to interfere, but it was too late. We had latched onto each other, and would not let each other go. Memnoch began to get brutal in his efforts to separate us. He would try to bully us, and had his Helpful Ghosts try to drive us apart. But our bond only became stronger. Eventually we felt we were immune to Memnoch and his Helpful Ghosts.

But James started to lose his enthusiasm and spirit. I felt fear for him as I saw the sparkle vanish and the fear take its place. He was a very powerful individual with plenty of wit and charm. The distant attitude worried me greatly, and I felt he was slipping away from me.

He began to talk incessantly about his former life as a body thief. He told me about the cold-blooded murders he had committed to acquire the bodies he would need for switching. I was half-interested in this, for in my eyes, James's crimes could never equal the horrific murders I had committed on earth. James was obsessed with life, obsessed with finding a way back. I was fearful that he would get hurt from this dreaming and tried to talk sense into him.

Finally, James began to change his attitude once again. He became extremely restless, and would think for hours without telling me what was on his mind.

One day, I decided to probe him gently, to try and find the cause of his recent distress. He looked at me warmly and then turned away.

"James!" I called. "This dreaming will get you no-where!".

James turned and held my face in his hands. "Shhhhhh, keep this a secret between us, Amadeo. I think I have found a way to get back".






Part 2: Hope

We were walking through hell in silence. Just the two of us. Our arms were loosely around each other's waists, our faces unreadable. Our tormentors and Memnoch were no-where to be seen, in fact they had seemed to have deserted us.

It was wonderful, for once, to be together. Just us, without the cries and tormented anguish. It seemed right.

James turned to me, intent on saying something, but he stopped himself suddenly.

"What is it, James?" I asked, unnerved by his hesitation. James was not a hesitant person, he was strong and wilful. His reluctance made me very afraid. James turned to me suddenly, stopping us from walking, and smiled.

"What else but a plan, Amadeo? Don't you dream of escaping this place, this hell? Don't you spend all your time here wishing you were back in the arms of Marius?".

I looked at him, I saw the anguish in him. I almost couldn't answer him, my pain was so complete. Marius. He had to bring up one of the two names I couldn't speak myself.

"What kind of plan, James?" I asked suspiciously.

"A plan to escape, Amadeo. A plan for the two of us to escape. Isn't that what you want?" James asked, tightening his grip around us.

"Go back to where, James? A place where Lestat would destroy you on sight?" I winced, speaking the other name which caused me ultimate grief.

"You think Lestat would touch me under your protection? I have changed, Amadeo. Changed so completely my life before seems like a vague dream".

"Don't even think about it, James" I said suddenly, sharply. I hadn't intended to be so blunt, but I could feel the heat of my emotions tearing at me mercilessly. "You mustn't even dream of risking Memnoch's vengeance!".

"You are not understanding my plan, beloved. It's a plan which has little risk to us both. If we timed our escape through the heavy, iron Gates perfectly we could return as spiritual beings to the earth we once knew and loved. Once there, we could perform the body switch!".

"No, James. I don't want to hear this" I walked away from him. "To take two bodies from innocent souls! That is your plan! Its absurd! Why don't we just add more tormentors to our list!".

"We would never come back here, Amadeo" James said, catching me before I walked completely away. "Would you really want to end your existence now you know what's here?".

I shook my head. I was filled with a horrific self loathing. I knew I found this plan enticing, but the very idea was despicable.

"How and from whom will we acquire the body?" I asked softly.

James smiled "All we need to do is to confuse those stupid helpful ghosts guarding The Gates of Sheol, that will be the easy part. Once we leave this realm we will plummet back to our beloved earth like the devil being cast from heaven".

"James. The people we switch with will be in the torment we are leaving behind us" I said softly, my voice breaking with agony at the thought of this plan.

"No, not necessarily. It all depends who we would choose. We are not perfecting the body switch accurately. The souls without a body will seek to regain what they lost. If we choose the right bodies, with suffering souls of inner torment we could not imagine, it should be the easiest task".

We had walked to the very Gates of Sheol, standing so ominously before us as if it knew our plan. Three helpful ghosts guarded the gates with flaming swords. They glowered at us. I was afraid.

"And when we have the bodies .... ?" I asked, my voice breaking with shame.

"... We go to your vampire friends and ask for the dark gift again. It's so simple. Not one of them would allow you to endure this again! Not one of them would want you to die and relive this miserable existence!" James finished.

"Do you really think Lestat would allow you to become a vampire, after the trouble you caused?" I asked, too coldly.

I saw James's eyes soften, his mouth started to curl in misery. I cursed myself for the harsh words I had chosen.

I was about to speak, when James held his hand up for silence.

"You know me better than Lestat. You know my love for you, Amadeo. Whether I become a vampire or not does not matter anymore. I love you".

I sighed and nodded. "This plan is perfectly outrageous, you know".

James grinned and erupted into a laughing fit "That's why it'll be fun! Are you in?".

I grimaced and gritted my teeth "Sure. I think I shall be suffering with guilt forever like Louis is, but its worth being back where I belong. What happens now then, James?".

A smile of relief came over James, and he looked at me lovingly in my eyes. "I have to teach you how to steal a body, Amadeo. I have to teach you how to confuse and muddle the soul of the being we will choose, and direct him to the light".

"And if Memnoch should discover our plan?" I asked.

"We will simply deny everything! He is a very powerful demon but he cannot read the minds of his own damned souls. It's surprising but true. Once he has the soul in purgatory, he relinquishes all mind control over that soul".

I turned away from James suddenly, unable to face him. I sighed and looked at the misty realm of Sheol which I detested. I looked at the flaming swords of the guardians at the Gates.

Then I looked back at James. He was trying to keep his strength of will, staring at me. Begging me with his eyes to accept this plan.

"Very well, James. Teach me how I will steal the body".



****



The next few months became a whirlwind of activity for James and myself.

Memnoch had grown suspicious of our activities together, and was trying to keep us apart.

However, when other matters arose and Memnoch took his leave of us we would practice the art of body thieving.

"Remember" James said authoritively "We are not perfecting a body switch. This is thievery, something which I am well accustomed to".

"So I am to be a body thief" I sighed. "That's perfect, James".

James laughed, and held me close to him. "Its not that bad, Amadeo. I had a good career".

"I'm sure. So how am I too get this soul to leave his body?".

James smiled "You tell him you are an angel, and have come to release him from his suffering. He will understand, and will only be too happy to leave his body and let you take command of it. You see, these people I have decided upon will have no mind left, but the brain will still function correctly. The derangement of the senses is what we will use to our advantage. We will find the perfect body at a mental institution".

"I will feel like a complete shit if I do that" I said suddenly, uncontrollable rage coming from me and directed to him.

James fell back a step. "Easy Amadeo. I didn't say you would find it a guiltless experience. Its going to be a robbery".

I put my head in my hands, weeping soundlessly. "I wish Marius were here".

James was envious of my devotion to Marius, and he stumbled away from me instantly, leaving me to face my pain alone.





****





It had been a long time since James and I had last spoke. Memnoch was increasingly suspicious of us, and kept us away from the Gates as much as possible.

However, a sudden event occurred which would change the course of events for James and myself.

"What's going on?" I asked, as a soul was brought kicking and screaming into hell.

"He's a vampire. You might know him, the name is Alexandre de Kostell" Memnoch informed me, still keeping a watchful eye over me.

"Haven't heard of him. What happened?" I asked.

"He was burnt by his fledgling" Memnoch said softly. "Reminds me of Lestat ....."

Memnoch hated to be reminded of Lestat. He was still in love with the brat prince, and I could see the heartbreak in Memnoch's soft expression as the tortured soul was brought before him.

"Alex, stop struggling" Memnoch commanded.

"So Lestat's books were true" Alex babbled almost incoherently "What a miserable and thankless experience! Help me, please!"

"Do you know Lestat?" I asked excitedly, drawing closer to the sobbing figure.

"No! I am just a vampire who has read his books. Oh help me! Please!" Alex sobbed in misery.

Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly caught sight of James signalling me. I left Memnoch temporarily, and walked over to the body thief, so beautifully perfect, standing with his arms crossed.

"Interesting event" James said, referring to the new arrival.

"Not really. Its sad that this has happened" I said weakly, trying to discard the memory of Marius being burnt to death when I had just joined him in immortality. It would be years later that I'd discover he had not perished.

"Its time, Amadeo. Do you want to leave this place?" James asked suddenly.

I felt excitement at his sudden words, and I knew what I wanted "Yes".

"Very well. We will try it tomorrow, while Memnoch has his hands full with our friend Alex. We will attempt our escape just before the new arrivals come to Sheol, and we will make our way quickly to the asylum. If I should lose you, do not hesitate. Do not look back, keep moving!".

I nodded "What if I do lose you, James? I couldn't handle that".

James smiled warmly, and embraced me. "I shall be with you, Amadeo. I promise that. When we enter our new bodies tomorrow we shall firstly make love before we seek Lestat. We will make love and it will be perfect, it shall be the victory over Memnoch. Trust me, Amadeo. We shall not fail".

I nodded, still embracing James tightly. I felt a terrible foreboding descend over me. Something terrible was going to happen, and I could feel tears rushing to my eyes. What if this experiment didn't work? What would happen if Memnoch caught us before we could escape? What would happen when we would seek Lestat?


I felt weak suddenly. I could feel James strength emanate from him, warming me and keeping me safe. I rested against him, and realised this might be the last moment for affection between us both.





Part 3: The Escape

Why is it, when something terrible happens, you usually have a warning feeling in the pit of your stomach? Is it a sixth sense when you can predict impending disaster? Is it the sixth sense that belongs to all of us?

This feeling I described above is how I felt on the day of our planned escape. It was a feeling akin to nervousness, like the first time you have mortal sex, but scorching your thoughts with fear.

Late in the day, the helpful ghosts left James and I to our own devices. The new vampire soul was taking a lot of work, and Memnoch was using all the help he could get. He forgot about his wariness of us, and concentrated all his efforts on Alex.

I was suddenly surprised and alarmed as I heard the panicked tone of James's voice beside me. He pushed me before him as we ran towards the Gates as fast as we could.

"James! This is crazy!" I said, running beside him.

"Keep moving, Amadeo! Don't look back! No matter what happens!" I heard the tone in James's voice, and I pulled him to me as we neared the Gates.

Suddenly, Memnoch rose up like a reversed waterfall before us. James fell back away from the Gates, and I was pushed roughly towards them.

"James!" I called in fear. I saw his face. He was smiling at me. Memnoch's face was like thunder.

"You've won Amadeo! Keep going!" James called as the helpful ghosts assaulted him.

Despair washed over me, and in terror I continued to run. I didn't look back. I couldn't. I could hear his screams. Dear Lord! They were ripping his soul apart!

I ran, and I ran, and I ran.

The Gates surrounded me amongst perpetual fog, and I lost myself inside them. I kept seeing James's face in my mind. I kept seeing the triumphant expression on his face as I ran through the Gates. He had won in that moment, and yet I found myself alone and in fear.

I fumbled my way along, unseeing. I was blinded by the misty darkness. I feared I would accidentally turn back towards the Gates, and I kept praying to myself, hoping that I would not let James down.

A distant light attracted me. It was vague and misty, but as I neared it I found the light brighter and more mesmerising. I walked up to the light and found, to my complete surprise, that I was standing by a streetlight.

I laughed, despite the trauma and shock I was enduring, and tried to touch the base of the streetlight with my hand. I felt a sudden fear grip me as my hand passed through the seemingly solid object.

"Dear God! What am I?" I wondered, moving my hand back and forth through the base, fascinated. I recognised the area very well. It was in my beautiful city of New Orleans. I walked for a while in the dense, misty and beautiful streets I knew so well, familiarising myself with them once again. I stopped suddenly by a streetlight that looked very familiar.

I turned suddenly. A familiar presence. I could feel the preternatural being approach and turn to look at the streetlight.

Louis.

He was so perfect, standing in his customary faded lace and black cape, surrounded by a veil of mist. He looked directly at me. He sighed deeply. Then he turned and walked away.

This fascinated me more than my hand moving through the base of the streetlight. He had felt something inside, felt my presence vaguely. How interesting.

Before I take my readers any further, I must firstly explain this feeling which proved something incredible about the senses of those alive. Louis had felt something pull in his heart, and had walked away in sadness. I have felt that way before, when I have passed the Theatre des Vampires, when I walked to the very place Nicholas, Lestat's cursed fledgling, burnt alive. I felt it when I passed Claudia's remains. The spirits of those departed linger in our hearts, but if they linger on earth they bring an overwhelming sadness to those beloved ones they have left behind. The sadness is so intense it destroys all logic and reason. It becomes unbearable. This feeling is the presence of the spirit of the person who died. Very, very strange indeed.

I was so amazed at Louis reaction, that I followed him home. He would stop periodically, and quickly turn around. It was as if he knew I was there.

"Good evening, Louis".

I turned quickly, and felt Lestat's body move through my soul. I gasped as he continued to walk towards the younger vampire, completely mesmerised by his child, and failed to interpret or sense I was there.

"Lestat! Why do you do this? I was in complete fear before you showed up! I felt as if I were being followed" Louis said, breathing relief as his maker continued his steady advance.

"There is no-one following you" Lestat said in a reassuring voice "I wouldn't let them".

I reached out to them, and again Louis looked in my direction. He shivered involuntarily.

Lestat, quite perturbed by his fledgling's nervousness, followed Louis gaze into the still night.

I turned away from them quickly, and made my way into the night. It was bad enough I couldn't converse with them, but to have them simply looking through me was too disturbing.

I walked to the mental institution without another moment's delay. I walked through the heavy doors as if they were mirages or illusions. I walked to a small room in the back of the institution, away from the regular inmates. I found the man I wanted. He was desperate to leave this earth. I was desperate to become a fleshly creature again. He looked at me, and I looked at him. He understood why I was here. He thought I was an angel come to take him to the light.

As his spirit, his very essence, rose from the sound body I threw myself into the form, tensing as I felt the limbs surround me and envelope me. I could feel the heart pumping lustily. I could hear the sound of my harsh breathing. I stood up. I looked in the mirror and was pleased with my reflection. This body was even more handsome than my old vampiric one.

Tears suddenly began to roll down my cheeks. I gazed at them in surprise. James hadn't made it. We were not going to make love, we were not going to see eternity together. He was gone.

I had no sense of Memnoch at all. I was thankful for that. I did not want him to come for me, the thought instilled a fear in me that was unparalleled.

"James" I whispered, the voice sounding alien to me as I touched my face with these heavy hands, as I felt my lip. I closed my eyes and imagined James's lips were my fingers, that my body was shivering and surrendering to his gentle touch.

I sighed and realised with a heavy heart that James was not going to make it. A cold realisation swept over me, and as I wept and called his name, I realised how futile my grief actually was.

I was alone.





****





I had no real desire to escape, yet I forced myself to do this in respect for James.

The orderlies did not expect the escape, so it was an easy task to confuse them, to run from their big and clumsy hands, their desperate clutches.

I ran free of the institution and ran free from my bonds. I felt more alive than ever I had felt in the past. One aspect of my rebirth still remained unfinished. For this last unfinished process I needed Lestat or Marius.





****





I wandered to the orphanage I knew so well. An imprint of this orphanage was locked in my memory. I was tired and feeling rather heavy from lack of sleep. My eyes were closing and my thoughts were becoming random. I was losing consciousness.

As I neared St Elizabeth's Orphanage, I became aware of two figures standing under lamplight, talking in hushed tones.

I recognised the woman first, as the man had his back to me. I saw her face clearly. It was Dora.

How she had changed with time so quickly. The lines on her face were deeper, and her hair was whitening rapidly. Her eyes were completely dull and lifeless and with a start I realised that the cause of this apparent decline in health might be due to one of the vampires feeding from her.

At that moment the man turned around and looked directly at me.

My heart missed a beat. It was Lestat.

He was finely dressed in velvet, his blonde hair thick and wavy around his shoulders. He stood very still, gazing at me as if reading my mind.

I felt my legs give way and I saw a flurry of activity around me. I could hear a cacophony of voices around me, but none of the voices were distinct.

I called for Lestat and Marius and felt something warm on my lips, something refreshing. It was blood, vampire blood.

That was the last thought that crossed my mind until utter darkness enveloped me and I was unconscious.





Part 4: Armand Reborn

It was close to the sunrise when I next awoke. My head was hurting and I was feverish. I looked around desperately for Lestat, only I could not find his presence with my dim vision in the room.

Dora smiled sweetly when she saw I was awake "Good evening, sleepy. You've been out for the last three nights".

"Out?" I asked confused, trying to sit up with little success.

My throat was dry and I thought of the blood the evening before. "Where is Lestat, Dora?"

Dora's eyes narrowed with suspicion and immediately she looked away "I don't know who you are talking about".

"Yes you do" I said, persisting. I knew she was lying. A liar knows another liar.

"You collapsed outside my orphanage. A ... friend brought you inside and lay you on this bed. He left a little while ago".

My eyes widened with disbelief, my words hurried "Lestat left? After giving me a taste of his preternatural blood?"

"Hush now" Dora said kindly. "I have no idea what you mean. The soothing warmth you felt on your lips was warm milk".

I cried out in anguish and Dora looked alarmed for a moment, before regaining her composure. She quickly darted to the cupboard where she kept her medicines and sharp little needles, and brought one over.

"Please don't let me pass out again" I begged in vain, as the needle was inserted into my arm and blissful darkness once again took over.





****





When I awoke next, night had fallen. I felt slightly better, and was able to raise myself easily into a sitting position. I got up slowly, and dressed at snail speed. Then I left the bare yet warm little room and wandered down the massive stairs and into the living room.

I froze as I entered the room and gave a small cry of joy and recognition.

"Lestat!" I mumbled, walking unsteadily into the heart of the room and watching the vampire start in confusion.

I had never before seen Lestat so inviting, so alluring. His very presence was enough to drive me wild with anticipation, and I looked at him, then back at Dora.

He was once again breaking the rules with pleasure. He was sitting beside Dora with his arm around her shoulders, watching me enter the room as if I were an intruder.

Then, quite suddenly Lestat vanished.

"Lestat!!" I cried, trying to appeal to him with my desperate cry. It was too late. He had disappeared, and I was left here alone with Dora.

I started to cry, and my shoulders wracked with my sobs, my misery complete.

I felt Dora's small arms surround me with warmth and security as she hushed me tenderly. She helped me to my small room where I promptly fell asleep once again.

I had no desire to wake from this sleep. I was dreaming of Lestat, and of Marius. Both vampires were joyfully embracing me and Lestat said in a raw voice 'I knew you would return to us'.

Finally the sleep lifted once more, and my eyes struggled to see in the ominous darkness.

Dora was sitting to my right. Her long hair tied neatly in a ponytail, her clothes painfully simple. The colours she wore were grey and brown, dull and lifeless.

I turned my head and smiled when I saw the man sitting to my left.

Lestat gazed at me, his preternatural eyes scanning my form in the dim light. "Welcome back, Armand".

I realised he was in the process of scanning my thoughts, and let all my memories with him flood my mind. He nodded briefly, as if confirming it was truly I, and bent close to me.

I drew back, a little afraid as his searching eyes met my mortal eyes.

"Do not be afraid, little angel" Lestat said passionately. "I am only too happy to have you back with us".

I sighed. Lestat believed me. I relaxed into the soft down of the bed and gazed at the vampire tenderly. "I wish I had not been such a fool".

Lestat laughed and brushed my cheek with the back of his hand "We are all fools at time, beloved. All of us. I am glad you made it back from that dreary place".

He leant even closer, and brushed his fangs lightly against the skin of my neck. I moaned softly as his lips parted even more, and his fangs sank gently into my flesh.

I clutched his hair wildly "Lestat .....".

Lestat drew back, a little blood still visible on his lip "I had to make certain it was really you. Armand ...... Or should I say, Amadeo?"

"Amadeo" I said, smiling.

Lestat took the covers off me, and lifted me easily off the bed and into his arms. His strength was no less amazing than when I had seen him before, and I gasped at what little effort he was using.

He wrapped his coat around us both and then turned to Dora "I have to leave. This one must come with me".

"I understand" Dora said softly. "I will see you soon Lestat".

Lestat nodded and I buried my head into his chest as the wind whipped around us. I knew we were flying, but nothing of the journey was clear as I drifted in a sub-conscious state, oblivious to Lestat's presence.

Finally I realised that the journey had ended. I looked up at Lestat who was still smiling at me while I unwound my heavy legs and stood on the path before him.

"Mortal life difficult?" Lestat asked softly, memories from his own misadventure sparking his passion as he gazed at me.

"Yes, very. Why are we here, Lestat?" I asked, looking at his house, the familiarity of the place striking a deep chord in me.

"I want the others to know you are back" Lestat said simply. "In this house Louis sits reading a book. His pain since losing you is immeasurable. Upstairs, David sits at a computer. He is editing my latest book. His heart is heavy from the loss of you. They deserve to know you are here".

I nodded. I agreed with him. They did not deserve to believe I was dead, when I had returned to earth successfully.

"Very well" I said. I took Lestat's offered hand and walked with him up to the little house. I could see Louis slight profile in the window, a single candle spilling its light over the pages of a book.

Lestat rang the doorbell, and I watched Louis rise delicately and walk past the window briefly. I heard the door open and Louis opened it, looking confused at me, and then at Lestat.

Lestat pushed me forward and held his arm out to Louis

"Louis .... Armand is back".





Part 5: The Reunion

Louis stared at me. His soft eyes caressing mine as he looked into the very depths of my soul with his tender and enduring expression. He shook his head elegantly and turned to Lestat "How can you be sure?"

"Drink a little of my blood" I said passionately. "See for yourself".

Louis drew nearer to me and gently clasped my face in his hands. They were cold and white and strong, hands that could crush my face in a second, had he not been as gentle and soft. He leant towards me as if I were a victim and kissed me gently on the forehead "This won't hurt".

I laughed "I know that, Louis. Just go ahead and pierce my skin and get it over with".

Louis brushed his lips against my face, travelling down to my neck with an exquisite and tantalising slow pace. He stopped when he reached the soft flesh of my neck and drew in a sharp breath.

I was rooted to the spot in a sudden fear. Wildly, I thrashed against him as he sunk his fangs into my skin and I cried out in sudden rapture.

"Careful, Louis" Lestat warned, parting us with a little force.

I sank back into Lestat's chest, feeling his arms support me. He turned me around to face him and quickly sealed the wounds Louis had created with his own blood from a fresh cut on his finger.

I turned to look at the astonishment and confusion on Louis face. His expression was one of pure love and terrible pain.

"Armand. Where the devil have you been?" Louis asked in a low and passionate voice, the white face drawing close to my own for yet another forbidden kiss.


***


"How did you get back, Armand?" David asked me. His tone was full of excitement, the expression of joy on his face was indescribable. He briefly looked at Lestat with a warm smile, and his cheeks flushed with humiliation at the love he felt for me.

I sighed deeply and then began the tale. I told them everything that had happened to me since my fatal decision to destroy myself. I described Memnoch and Lestat nodded in agreement with my descriptions, I told them of my lost lover, James.

At this moment, the moment I related my love for James, I saw a change come over Lestat. He looked vicious and wild eyed for a second, as if he were going to hit me. Then his face softened and he asked me to continue.


When I came to the end of my horror story, I watched the faces intently of the three vampires sitting beside me. Each of them were deep in thought.

I felt my tired body begin to give in to sleep. My eyes were closing, and I was having to force them to remain open. Lestat, sensing my discomfort, signalled for Louis and David to leave us alone. Then he lay down on the sofa, with me in his arms and gently kissed my forehead. So lost in utter abandonment and rapture was I, that I soon fell asleep.

When I awoke I felt Lestat's body pressed against my own still. I was powerfully stimulated by the nearness of this vampire I loved and my body responded to my excitement with an ever-growing erection. I felt humiliated as Lestat smiled down upon me and kissed my forehead.

"You've slept solidly for two hours" Lestat said softly, moving his lips against my forehead. The movement of his lips sent a shiver down my spine, and I moaned as I sought to press myself against the cold and preternatural body, feeling the pleasure come in waves, obliterating every other thought.

Lestat let me press urgently against him repeatedly, a smile of contentment on his lips as I climaxed painfully against him.

"This is worth being human?" Lestat asked, watching my cheeks flush with a vampires interest.

"Absolutely not" I confessed, feeling all the more tired from my antics against one of the strongest vampires of all time, body to body.

"The others are coming" Lestat said gently, holding me ever closer, clutching me tightly to his chest as if afraid to let me go.

"Others?" For a moment I was confused and uncertain. Then I realised the meaning of his words. "Marius?"

"Yes, Armand. Marius, Pandora, Daniel and Santino are coming".

"Oh" I sighed against him and felt his lips seek out my own. Time stood still as we kissed, and I nearly swooned. Finally he drew back and his expression became very serious.

"I have something to ask of you, Armand" Lestat began. I sensed an awkwardness to his tone, something terribly shy about his manner.

"What?" I asked.

"Would you accept the dark gift from me if I were to offer it" Lestat said softly. Immediately he caught himself and rephrased the question. "What I meant to say, is would you rejoin us? Tonight?"

"Tonight ...." The implications of Lestat's words dawned on me. And I wanted nothing more in this world than to become what I so hastily threw away in the heat of a moment that would never be repeated.

"I'm sure Marius will complain about that" I smirked.

Lestat shook his head. "He wants you back. How is unimportant to him".

I paled slightly. "Lestat, its been so long since I was initiated into this vampire life. I was so very young, and I can't remember what happened".

"Are you afraid, Armand?"

"Yes. Of course I am".

"Don't be. Do you think I would hurt you?"

"No. Not now. Once maybe. A long time ago. But not now. I see too much love in your expression for me".

"Then will you come, or no?"

I gasped with uncertainty and fear "Yes. I want to be with you forever".

"My beautiful Armand. I have dreamt of this moment, this intimacy between us" Lestat sighed, and inhaled my scent sharply. I drew back from him afraid, but he held me tenderly in his arms, cradling my body with his right hand, and brushing my hair away from my face with his left.

He looked at me and smiled. I smiled back, the fear melting away as he continued to look into my eyes, into my soul. I knew he was putting me in a trance, so I would not feel the initial tear as his fangs entered my skin. I moaned with pleasure as he tore at my skin and started to drink.

My blood was rushing into him. I felt a whirlwind of anticipation rush over me as he drained me slowly, relishing the fact I was helpless in his arms. I felt myself reach orgasm repeatedly, over and over as he rocked me gently. Waves of pleasure rushed over me, and I felt my heart begin to beat slowly.

I suddenly began to panic. I couldn't move and Lestat had drawn away from me quickly. My eyes would barely remain open, but I saw him tear viciously at the skin on his wrist, and watched the blood flow from the wound - bright and red - and felt the steady stream enter my mouth like a flood of energy, revitalising me.

I drank deeply, savouring the intimate taste of him. Lestat and Armand. Finally.

Then he took his wrist away from my mouth and again bit into the sore flesh on my neck, puncturing the same wounds and drawing the blood with an intensity that terrified me.

I cried out as I felt my sexual organ again unable to stop itself from coming. I was orgasming without rest, and my body was wearing down.

Lestat caught my head gently in-between his hands and again bit into his wrist. He sealed the wrist against my mouth and again I drank. I took back all he had drained from my body and more.

Again he drew away. This was exquisite agony. I cried for him to stop, that it was too much but he merely smiled at me. Such love and tenderness reflected in his grey eyes. He reached for my limp wrist and bit into it savagely. I started to sob in pain as he drank slowly, making me feel everything.

Then he tore at the flesh on his throat and I tried desperately to lift myself up to reach the gushing fount. Finally I reached his neck, but the wound was already closed.

"Bite me, Armand. Use all your strength to tear my flesh" Lestat instructed gently.

I did as I was told. I bit the hard and cold flesh and felt the blood spurt onto my tongue. It was rich and powerful and I clung to Lestat, knawing away at the flesh on his neck, now tender from the repeated attempts of my feeble teeth to bite the solid flesh.

Finally I drew back, exhausted. I looked at Lestat who was curled beside me, his eyes closed as if in sleep. I looked around myself at the room in delight.

It was exactly the same as before.



****


David and Louis were overwhelmed and utterly delighted by my transformation when I emerged a little later in the evening. Lestat's arm was casually slung about my shoulders and he led me over to them with a smile on his face.

I embraced each of them for a long while, allowing them to feel my hair and face. They touched me reverently, and I was filled with an unspeakable joy.

Suddenly, I doubled over with a sharp and intense pain. I fell to the ground roughly as I felt Lestat's arms pick me up and swing me into a close embrace with the gentleness of a mother nursing her newborn.

I winced in agony as I felt an overwhelming tiredness descend upon me.

"Nice timing Lestat" David said as I realised dawn was approaching fast and soon the pain wouldn't matter at all.

My head fell limply onto my maker's shoulder and I sighed and closed my eyes. Within moments the agony had dissipated into unconsciousness.





****





I had a dream.

The dream was of Memnoch and he looked angry and defiant as he glared at me. "Why did you go back?"

"I have tasted hell and I have no hunger for eternal suffering" I said in answer.

"Eternal suffering? Armand, that's EXACTLY what you thought when you destroyed yourself in your old body. You didn't want to go on because it meant eternal suffering".

"Not anymore" I said with conviction. "I am satisfied now, content. More so than I ever was. Leave me in peace, I've come home".

Memnoch gradually disappeared from my sight.

The nightmare was over. Or so I thought ....





Part 6: A Return to the Fold

I awoke as a vampire reborn the next evening.

I looked around myself. The windows were securely covered with dark curtains, ensuring sunlight would not escape through the dense fabric. I was wrapped in silken sheets the colour of blood and Lestat's arm was casually resting over my waist. We were facing each other in a beautiful big king size bed and Lestat was smiling as my eyes focused on him.

"Welcome back, beloved" Lestat said gently, kissing my forehead tenderly.

A moan distracted Lestat and I, and we turned and burst out laughing as Louis emerged from beside the bed rubbing his head.

"Mon dieu! You two hog all the space! Where am I supposed to go?" Louis complained.

"You can always sleep underneath me" Lestat whispered sensually.

Louis groaned "I'd do better digging myself a grave at the Lafayette cemetery".

"Not so" Lestat extended his arm and grasped Louis securely by a beautiful velvet green strap wrapped around an oriental style dressing gown.

Louis indulged his maker's sensual needs and sat by Lestat's side, still nursing his bruised head which was healing slowly.

Lestat kissed the bump on Louis head "Ah, my poor Louis! He's hurt his head. Just think how faster my blood would heal that wound".

"The answer is no" Louis said dryly.

Lestat laughed and forced Louis to lye between his body and mine. He looked up at us warily, his piercing green eyes focusing on us both in turn.

"What do you want of me?" Louis asked softly, a small worried glance appearing on his face before it disappeared into indifference.

"We want to look at you" Lestat said, watching Louis squirm uncomfortably under both our soft and probing gazes.

"You know I hate being looked at so intensely" Louis chided.

"What? You would deny me the pleasure of watching my beautiful fledgling helpless beside me, awaiting my touch, my kiss, my love?"

Louis looked more uncomfortable. He drew away from Lestat's prying hands and edged away to the side of the bed. He stood up indignantly, glaring at Lestat for a moment, and then left the room without another word.

"Lestat" I said softly "I think you offended him".

"Rubbish! He's too much the gentleman still. Any mention of male vampires touching makes him very uncomfortable. When I've finished with him he'll definitely be de-sensitised to all that garbage".

I chuckled. I could believe that.

Lestat gestured to the wardrobe and I sighed as I realised it was time to get up and dressed. The others were here, and they were anxious to see me.





****





I sat on a deep and comfortable recliner watching Louis pretend to ignore Lestat's shoulder slung casually around his shoulder. They were sitting on the couch, and Lestat had purposely moved closer to the uncomfortable vampire.

Lestat put his free hand habitually on Louis knee, and Louis allowed this as he knew this was a favourite habit of his maker.

I retold my story out of respect for Marius, Pandora and Daniel who listened intently without uttering a word as I related my journey.

Marius was extremely contemplative as I finished the tale, relaxing into my chair. I waited for one of them to speak, but the room was deathly silent.

"Do all souls go to Sheol, Armand?" Louis asked in a fragile whisper.

I don't know" I confessed "I didn't get to see the good side. I was stuck in hell, remember?"

"Would I?" Louis probed gently.

"Would you what?" I asked, confused.

"Would I be a spared soul, or would I go to hell" Louis asked, his voice heartbreakingly human in its despair.

"Enough of this nonsense!" Lestat said, a little sharply. Louis looked hurt for a moment and turned away from Lestat in deep pain.

"Would I?" Louis repeated.

I was desperate and upset. "I don't know! Probably not. I had illusions about going to heaven when I plucked up the courage to end my existence and look where I ended up!"

Louis shut up instantly, sensing the panic in my voice. Lestat took his hand away from Louis knee and enfolded one of Louis remarkably pale hands with his fingers.

"Louis, do you really think I would let you go?" Lestat said softly, meeting the sad and lost gaze of his stricken fledgling.

Louis smiled sadly "If I were to lay in the sun tomorrow, how could you stop me?"

Lestat sat up instantly, concern flooding his features. "Are you in danger from yourself, beloved?"

Marius spoke up, determined to relieve Louis of his apparent distress "Armand, will Memnoch return to claim you back?"

I shook my head, uncertain "I'm not sure ...."

Louis was shaken up and Marius seated himself next to Louis and held the younger vampires hand in a comforting gesture.

"This could be a sign for me to end this life" Louis murmured.

"Louis! You really think I am going to let you out of my sight? Your a danger to yourself, its painfully clear. Now shut up and be silent" Lestat felt the sting of his own words and immediately regretted his choice of words.

Louis looked downcast, completely miserable "I want you to let me go, Lestat".

"No" Lestat answered more softly and took hold of Louis forcefully and embraced the struggling fledgling tightly "Not in a million years, my beloved".

I sighed. Louis was lost. How long could Lestat keep Louis to his chest? How long before Louis escaped and the sun did its deadly work? This was exquisite pain I was feeling. Not Louis! Of all of us, not him! He could not begin to understand the horrors that awaited his death eagerly, he could not even begin to comprehend the fear and the loneliness.

I was afraid for him, and I loved him.

"Stop struggling, Louis" Lestat commanded "I won't let you go so you may as well have a little dignity about you".

Louis stopped squirming and looked at Lestat with tear filled eyes. "Why?"

"I love you" Lestat said simply, the three words conveying so much more. Louis sighed and accepted this, sitting on Lestat's lap, resigned.

Lestat felt Louis trembling fearfully and tightened his arms around the reluctant vampire, tenderly bestowing feathery kisses on Louis face and neck. Eventually, Louis softened in Lestat's arms and allowed himself to be held and comforted.

"I think its time for us to feed" Marius said, changing the subject.

"Yes, a good idea" Pandora said quickly. She rose and took Marius's arm whilst Daniel hurried over to me. I kissed his vagabond hair and deep sensual lips and held him closely to me.

Finally, we walked out of the little townhouse together, and said a brief 'hello' to David as he walked past us on his way back to the house. He had fed early and was eager to return to his learning and writing.

We were quiet, walking soundlessly into the night. I was pressed between Pandora and Marius, and Lestat and Daniel had Louis between them, Lestat holding his fledgling tightly, refusing to let go.

I sighed, contented with myself. Had the awful foreboding feeling regarding Louis not been present, I would have been in bliss.

We stopped briefly. I scanned the surroundings intently, realising my moment had come when I saw the old woman shuffling slowly along the sidewalk.

"My victim" I whispered tenderly, stepping away from my two protectors and moving forward to greet the old woman in my deathly embrace.

The others were watching me quietly, their gazes distracting me slightly. I sank my fangs in deeply, catching the fount in a gasp of sensuality. The blood was heated and throbbing with life, and it spilled into my mouth and down my throat like a river.

I sighed as I felt Marius' strong arms encircle my waist and draw me gently away from my victim. In a haze of confusion I fought with him briefly until I realised the reason for the intrusion and separation. The old woman was dead.

I felt an overwhelming grief as I hid my face in Marius chest and cried softly. He covered me in his warm, thick coat and our little party moved on.

I watched the others kill as if it were a dream. I heard their voices but they seemed distant and unreal.

Why was I feeling this utter separation?

I decided to broach Marius with this difficult and hazy subject the next evening when we would be alone for a moment. He, of all of us, would be able to advise me during this period of uncertainty.





Part 7: Separation

The next evening I felt cold and distant as I sat opposite Marius in a comfortable leather chair. He waited patiently until I had settled, and then leant forward and took my hand.

"Marius, I need to speak with you" I said softly.

"I know" Marius said.

"I am feeling something which I did not feel before, or more truthfully I could ignore the feeling before" I felt stupid, fumbling for words.

"Of course. But remember, you were old and powerful. There was a time you felt separated and connected to nothing. Its part of the course".

I sighed. I did not remember that feeling in my old life, but Marius obviously did. "I regret the rash decision I made".

Marius nodded "Yes, I know. But there is no way to change our actions, we can only learn from them".

I smiled. Marius had a way with words which soothed my aching heart.

I listened to the sounds which enveloped me, keenly aware of Marius' gentle and undemanding presence. Sounded like a cacophony of voices. And in the middle of the noise came the most beautiful and sensual music. Appassionato.

"Yes, beautiful" Marius too was listening to the sweet music.

We had no time to reflect on the music, as Lestat came in the room angrily and sat beside me. He placed a loving arm around my waist and confronted Marius, fear in his eyes.

"Louis is gone" Lestat said, panic lining his words "Can you find him Marius?"

Marius closed his eyes and listened for what seemed an eternity. Then he opened them slowly and looked at Lestat's fearful countenance. "I can't sense his presence here or elsewhere. Nor can I pick up his image from the minds of others".

Lestat gasped in horror and sat back thinking. He was powerfully upset by the events of yesterday's discussion and Louis' revelation about wishing for death.

"If Memnoch has done anything to my fledgling ...." Lestat vowed, his voice low and threatening.

"Let me think and search the minds of others" Marius said softly. "If he is still in this world, I shall find him".

Lestat nodded and drew me to my feet. "Come on, we'll try a physical search of New Orleans. He can't have gone far".

I nodded, and grasped Lestat's hand tightly as we left the room and wandered out into the night.





Part 8: The Search

We walked all over New Orleans, covering the same ground twice in the hopes we would find him.

Nearing dawn, we returned to Marius, deep in contemplation. It was very disturbing to have Louis disappear so suddenly, and naturally we feared the worst.

As we walked through the door, I immediately sensed Louis' presence inside.

Lestat rushed up to Louis who was sitting on the couch, deep in thought and took him into his arms with an animal abandon. He lifted Louis' frail form to his breast and held him so tightly it looked as if he would crush the younger vampire.

"Thank God your alright" I breathed, relieved. "We were worried sick".

"Louis has had an interesting adventure" Marius said softly. "I think it wise for us all to listen to this story, as it is a warning as clear as I have ever received".

"What happened?" Lestat asked, sitting on the couch with Louis still pressed firmly in his arms.

"I had a visit from Memnoch" Louis said.

Lestat gasped. "What? Did he threaten you?"

Louis shook his head, trying to free himself a little from the tight embrace "No, in fact he was very civilised. He told me quite simply that we must relinquish Armand else the punishment will be endured by myself. I told him that would never happen. He just glanced at me with a wry smile and asked me to inform you what I had said". Louis stirred softly in Lestat's arms. "Its either Armand or myself, and I am quite prepared to die to save our friend".

"No" Lestat said firmly. "Never! I would fight for you both, neither of you will even consider leaving this world to go with Memnoch. I will not allow it, and you Louis are staying in my firm embrace until this episode is ended".

Marius nodded. "It is wise under the circumstances for me to guard you Armand, and Lestat to guard Louis. We should all stay together in case Memnoch tries to take one of the younger ones. We should also get David by our side as soon as possible in case Memnoch goes after him".

Lestat looked glum "What is to stop him from going after Gabrielle? Or Pandora? Or another of our loved and trusted friends".

"I have summoned all vampires together. We must leave as soon as we can for the Sonoma Compound, where the others are waiting for us". Marius took my hand in his own and stood up.

"The others? Who?" Louis asked quietly resigned, sitting on Lestat's lap without struggling.

"All the others. This threat is very serious and all old and young ones have come together. The old ones to shield the younger ones, and there is an advantage to large numbers, it will make things all the more difficult for Memnoch if he should show up" Marius walked over to the door, practically dragging me along with him.

"We must hurry then" Lestat said worriedly, bounding over to the door with Louis tightly pressed to his heart.

Marius took off in flight almost instantly, with Lestat close beside him. I was powerfully excited by the vampires coming together once more, which reminded me of the time we had faced a similar threat and stood against Queen Akasha.





***




The Sonoma Compound was a massive structure, the height of luxury and befitting of the vampires extravagant luxury.

I walked inside and embraced Daniel eagerly.

"Its good to be back here" Daniel said enthusiastically.

I nodded gratefully. "Yes, indeed it is".

I surveyed the large living room which was splendid and civilised. Pandora sat in the corner by the window, glancing disinterestedly at the outside night time sky. Santino and Eric were playing chess and Santino was winning. David was watching the game, whilst reading a copy of 'Faust'.

Jesse Reeves was talking to Maharet, who was sitting beside Mekare and Mael on a large and comfortable leather couch.

Lestat was busily engaged in a conversation with Gabrielle, who was embracing her son eagerly and defending his protectiveness with Louis, as Louis protested a little. Khayman was sat comfortably by the fire, watching the flames leap and lick at the logs of wood.

I glanced at Marius and then Daniel and smiled. "Its perfect, exactly how it was before! I am thrilled to be back in such perfect company".

Marius smiled as Santino triumphantly clapped his hands and smiled. "Checkmate!"

Amongst the vampires were a couple of younger ones, most likely fledglings. I walked towards them, so as not to be rude and introduced myself eagerly.

"Nice to meet you Armand. My name is Angela. I am Eric's fledgling" Angela replied, eagerly returning my welcoming gesture.

"Ah, a pleasure to meet you dearest. Eric is exceptionally lucky to have you, for you are as beautiful as the intricate snowflake".

Angela smiled and blushed. I was faintly amused by her seeming innocence and turned away from her reluctantly to shake hands with another new and young fledgling.


"I am Damon. I am Jesse's fledgling" Damon introduced himself "Pleasure to meet you Armand".

"The feeling is mutual, Damon" I responded.

Marius clapped his hands to obtain the room's attention. "Now for the business at hand, friends. We have a situation which could be dire for some of our loved ones".

"I know" Maharet murmured. "This being Memnoch is the very devil that Lestat wrote about. I have no doubts that he would indeed take one of our kind, pluck them from the very earth and take them away to that dim realm".

"Exactly" Marius agreed. "And the strategy to be followed is this. All younger vampires must hunt with a more senior vampire. Indeed, hunting parties must consist of four vampires - two old, and two young. This way, we have more safety in numbers. When at the compound, no vampire is to be left in a room on his/her own in case of attack. Each room will be covered by a senior vampire. The lower rooms will be frequented by Mekare and Maharet and Jesse, as they will be maintaining their family records during this period of danger".

Maharet nodded her agreement at this.

"Lestat, myself and Pandora will frequent these downstairs rooms. All rooms here are open and connected, so if their is an attack an older vampire shall be on hand immediately. Finally Khayman, Eric and Santino will cover the rooms upstairs. We shall all sleep in the sub basement of this building until the danger has passed. All together, which will be a little crowded, but far easier to manage" Marius glanced around quickly "Any questions?"

All the vampires appeared lost for words.

"I am the cause for this terrible situation" I said miserably. "If Memnoch comes, let him take me".

"Never" Marius and Lestat said together, their tones firm and decided.

"Our fates are similar. We will not let this being, Memnoch take our children. What's to stop him from coming for the others? It shall not happen" Khayman said firmly. I was surprised, I had never seen Khayman so resolute.

"Really?" A voice answered in the shadows. My heart sank. I knew that voice very well. I glanced at Lestat who also recognised with a start who it was.

It was Memnoch.





Part 9: Memnoch

He walked towards us, the ordinary man Lestat had described in his novel. He looked at me briefly, and then turned to Louis with a slight smile.

Maharet was trying to restrain Khayman, who was like an angry lion trying to reach the devil.

"Louis ..." Memnoch politely addressed Louis.

"You address me" Lestat snarled defiantly "None of my children! Understood?"

"Louis has a mind of his own, thank you" Memnoch said indifferently. "I will address him".

Louis got up shakily, and walked towards Memnoch. In an instant, Marius had caught him by the shoulders and stopped him from taking any further steps. He drew Louis around and embraced him, eyeing Memnoch wearily.

Maharet let Khayman go and he immediately walked over to Armand and Daniel, to protect the younger ones from the evil before them.

"Louis" Memnoch said softly. "We need to talk. Alone".

Louis moved out of Marius' hold gracefully and looked with sad and defeated eyes at Memnoch. "I will do what my maker wishes".

The elder vampires had formed a circle of resistance in front of the younger vampires. Eric stood patiently by Maharet's side. Maharet was standing next to her sister. Santino was next, then Marius, Lestat and Khayman. The younger vampires stayed well behind the elders, and watched the event fearfully.

All except Louis who was watching Memnoch in undisguised wonder by Marius' side.

Memnoch sighed with infinite patience and transformed his shape in front of the startled vampires to the dark winged angel Lestat feared.

Maharet gasped aloud, and Khayman actually took a step back in sudden panic.

Memnoch easily brushed the elders aside and knelt beside Louis, his hand closing over the preternatural flesh. Louis felt a rush of warmth and comfort covering hid entire being. He sighed, and looked into the angel's eyes with admiration and respect.

"Come with me, Louis" Memnoch said gently.

Lestat rushed at Memnoch instantly, only to be knocked across the room. Louis watched Lestat crash into a mirror and gasped.

"You are the gentle soul I have always dreamed of" Memnoch continued. "You will be my prince, Louis. I will show you salvation from your suffering, from your fears and from what you are. I can give you another chance".

Louis smiled sweetly, and gently pulled away from the angelic figure, backing away just a little. "Memnoch" he addressed respectfully.

Memnoch nodded and waited for Louis to speak. Louis seemed to be finding the right words, seemed to be thinking hard of the right thing to say. Finally he spoke.

"Memnoch. I thank you for your wonderful presence. Nothing could have prepared me for the wonders I have witnessed tonight. Indeed, I am overwhelmed by you, your graceful body and infinite patience".

Memnoch smiled. "Such wonderful compliments".

Louis smiled shyly. "However, I cannot refuse my love for Lestat. I have become what he is, I had a choice. I gave my existence for this life, to be by Lestat's side. In a way I view this commitment as a kind of marriage. I am wed to Lestat, body and soul. I love him, and to betray his trust would destroy me utterly". Louis stopped and drew in a sharp breath.

Lestat smiled, tears shining in his eyes as he looked at Louis tenderly.

"We have endured too much, and we have survived" Louis continued "I would never give that up".

Memnoch sighed and turned to me. "I guess that decision is the same for you both then?"

I nodded quickly. "Yes. I don't ever want to go back to hell, Memnoch".

Memnoch smiled and transformed suddenly back into the ordinary man, his posture unassuming, his expression calm and collected.

"Very well" Memnoch walked over to the door, and opened it with a small sigh. He looked back at Lestat briefly. "The despairing soul still understands the meaning of love. Would that you could understand what a sacrifice he has made tonight".

With that, he was suddenly gone, leaving us speechless and in awe. The sunrise was approaching, and it was time for us to sleep in the cellar.

Lestat walked towards Louis and embraced him eagerly, all the years of love for his fledgling pouring out of him in an unashamed display of affection. He held him securely, running his hands over the cool flesh of Louis face, and gazing at the slender hands he clasped so gently within his hands.

"The despairing soul" Lestat repeated softly, tears falling freely from his eyes. "If only he knew how terrible a thing that was to say. But it is true".

Louis was overwhelmed with pity and kissed Lestat on the forehead and eyes, lapping at the blood tears gently.

Lestat only became worse. Small tears of relief turned to floods. He buried his head into Louis shoulder, shaking. His hands ran through the raven black hair as he kept saying Louis name.

"Lestat, it is over" Louis said softly, but not unkindly. "We are alright".

"Are we? Are we truly alright?" Lestat asked fearfully.

Louis nodded, and smiled. "Yes".

"My conscience. My life" Lestat said passionately, kissing Louis face and hands and anything visible of Louis to kiss. His lips moved silently up Louis loose sleeved shirt, kissing the tender arm reverently. He removed his own shirt carelessly and tossed the silken garment onto the floor. Louis stared at Lestat's chest, desire overcoming emotion.

"Drink, Louis" Lestat said softly. "You have made the choice to stay at my side. I want to ensure that will be for eternity".

Louis looked heartbreakingly miserable "I cannot do this Lestat".

"If you love me" Lestat barely choked his words "Then please, spare me the worry and the torture of always wondering if you will survive. Please".

"I can't" Louis tears were running freely.

"Yes you can" Lestat encouraged gently "You have the strength inside you. I know you are fearful of this power, but it can only strengthen you against harm".

Louis sighed, and looked a little subdued. "May we do this privately?"

Lestat smiled "This is our family, Louis. I want us to do this now, without another moment's hesitation".

Louis sighed again, and walked towards Lestat. He embraced the half naked vampire tenderly, and Lestat moved his head eagerly to one side, allowing the younger vampire access to his neck.

"Drink beloved" Lestat gasped, feeling the light breath on his shoulder, and then his neck.

And Louis drank.





Part 10: Appassionato

I listened to the music, the gentle caress of the keys making the melody almost unbearable in its purity.

I was unaware I had rose to my feet and left the room, steadily following this tender music until I reached the source.

An apartment.

I opened the door with my mind, and entered the little abode. The hall was full of stolen paintings, cocaine was hidden in several drawers.

I walked on until I reached the room beyond and caught sight of the fragile girl playing the music with such abandon.

Her blonde, wispy hair played with the dust around her, catching the artificial light perfectly. I listened to her soul and in that deep and secret place I learnt her name. Sybelle.

"What do you want?" A threatening voice. I turned to face a man roughly twice my size, his face set in a permanent scowl. I suddenly realised he was the dealer, and that he beat that girl playing the most enchanting music I'd ever heard.

I saw red.

I moved towards him, and took his bulky form securely in my arms. I hadn't intended a feast tonight, but this was simply scrumptious. I drank deeply, feeling the heart pull and pull, my fangs deliberately causing pain over the two incisions I had made in his rough flesh.

Sybelle starting playing faster, the melody becoming one seeming continuous note as I approached his death, feeling the music spur me on. His heart stopped, and at that same instant Sybelle stopped playing.

I turned to her and smiled.

She was amazed. "Who are you?"

"My name is Armand" I answered.

"You killed him?" Sybelle whispered. "I thought I would never be free. Benji protected me the night he tried to kill me, and he took his hatred out on the poor boy, beating him to a pulp. Now Benji lies in hospital half dead and unlikely to survive".

"You are free" I whispered. "I will protect you, Sybelle".

I walked away from her, and she sat back at the piano and played once more. She played with her whole heart crying with joy that she was free at last.

I wanted her. I wanted to have her with me in eternity. However, I needed to enjoy my new family now, and come to terms with my vampiric nature once more.

I would be ready to create a fledgling one day. But not yet.



***



Lestat was writing his next book when I entered the small room. He turned and smiled at me gently, his expression was full of love. He gestured to a seat and I sat beside him and placed my hand on his knee.

"All good things come to an end, Armand" Lestat said gently.

I sighed. "I guess I thought we'd all stay a little longer at the compound this time. I miss everyone already. I can't believe Marius has left me once again".

"You are with David, Louis and I, aren't we enough?" Lestat asked.

I nodded "Of course, I feel honoured that you have taken me in as your own".

"You are my own, Armand" Lestat smiled. "Or is Amadeo more fitting? I never asked you that before".

"Armand, I think. Since everyone knows me by that name, it seems wise to stick to that" I said, laughing a little.

Lestat grinned. "Want to be in my new novel, Armand?"

"No" I said instantly, knowing it was a futile answer.

"Good" Lestat said, paying no attention to my response. "Read that and tell me if it is accurate, the way you were thinking, the events that happened".

I sighed "Okay, Lestat. Its not like I can change your mind about publishing this, is it?"

Lestat shook his head of golden hair and let a little laugh escape his lips "Not really".

"What are you going to call this adventure?" I asked in a mocking tone.

Lestat smiled and sat back "I'm not sure Armand".

He looked a little drawn suddenly, a little sad.

"What's wrong, Lestat?" I asked, concerned.

"Nothing. Just wondering if you were going to write a book, I'd love to read the experiences you endured firsthand".

"Me?" I gasped. I had never even considered the idea. I had to admit though, it sounded good.

Lestat grinned and turned back to the computer screen and continued typing. "I'll leave that one up to you".


I smiled and sat back, contented.

I was at home with Lestat, and he was giving me his love like never before. Marius had even become redundant since I had started 'hanging' with Lestat.

He had me intrigued however. Write a book? Might be good to have a distraction, to write my experiences that would stand alongside Lestat's in the never ending bookstores that advertised The Vampire Chronicles.

I decided to do it. I was powerfully excited by the prospect of writing a book on my adventures in hell.

Lestat merely grinned. He certainly did have me intrigued.





Epilogue: Amadeo, the Son of Marius

The week before my book hit the stores, I was sitting with Louis discussing some amiable subject I cannot recall now. He was deep in thought, contemplative - which was nothing new.

Marius had visited me regularly, whilst dealing with Pandora who was still phased by her experiences with Akasha.

Marius had come to me whilst I was discussing this amiable topic with Louis. He had asked me why I had chosen the title, Amadeo for the novel.

I sighed. Did it really require an explanation? I respected him, and wanted to ensure he knew I would always be his son. Lestat's blood could not change our bond in the slightest.

Marius sighed, and looked relieved. He kissed me on the forehead and left as Lestat came through the door, and wrapped his strong arms around Louis.

"Armand, what are the projected book sales looking like?" Lestat asked, pulling Louis into the sofa and straddling him playfully. Louis merely smiled, and did not object. Since drinking Lestat's stronger blood, he had become chilled and more comfortable with himself.

"Its looking like a bestseller" I answered, throwing myself playfully between the pair of them, being stuck in-between Louis and Lestat was more than exquisite. It was erotic.

Lestat grinned and pulled me and Louis into a tight embrace, I choked theatrically and moved away from Lestat a little, melting against Louis and closing my eyes.

"Louis and I have a present for you" Lestat winked at Louis and I looked at them both suspiciously.

"Yeah?" I was dubious. Lestat generally was not very good at surprises. Usually, Lestat's idea of surprises rocked the entire civilised world.

"Do you trust me?" Lestat asked quietly. I laughed.

"Trust is a relative term, Lestat. Depends on the scale of the surprise" I smiled, showing him my small fang teeth and baring them at him. He laughed with delight.

"Come with me" Lestat said eagerly, blindfolding me with a silken scarf. Louis took one arm and Lestat took the other. I walked unsteadily between them, cursing the fact they were both stronger than me, and I was effectively at their mercy.

We stopped and I felt them disengage their arms and I was left alone in darkness. I wondered if I should remove the blindfold on my own, but I did trust them. So I waited.

I waited some more.

I waited for what seemed like hours.

Finally, I removed the blindfold, angry with my own impatience and looked around myself in amazement.

The room was low and a few candles made the darkness melt into a soft and yellowish light. The bed in the centre of the room was wide and comfortable-looking. There was a small bookcase and couch with a table. It was all very homely.

"Do you like it?" Lestat watched me eagerly in the corner of the room.

"Yes .... is this for me?" I asked.

"For all three of us" Lestat explained. "You see, security is a vampires greatest concern. This secluded room is below street level, and has a heavy metal door which resembles the kind on bank safes. Its thoroughly secure, the door is completely unmovable except by those of our kind".

I sighed. "Its amazing. So, we all sleep together?"

"Why not?" Lestat countered "Cuts down on the security measures we need to take if we are all in the same place".

"True" I sat down on the bed and watched Lestat with a satisfied smile on my face. I turned to Louis sitting at the desk and glanced at him with tenderness.

This was so perfect. Lestat, Louis and Armand. Now and forever.

I closed my eyes and allowed myself to drift into an easy sleep.

I had never expected my life to turn out so complete. I was content.

I was loved. I was safe.

Memnoch would never come between us again.




THE END

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