Turned / Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve


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Their footsteps echoed on the wide, stone staircase as they descended. It was dimly lit. Caitlin reached over and slipped her hand into Caleb's arm. She hoped that he would let it sit there. He did. In fact, he tightened his arm around hers. Once again, everything felt OK. She felt that she could descend into the depths of darkness, as long as they were together.

So many thoughts raced through her mind. What was this Council? Why had he insisted on taking her? And why did she feel so insistent on being at his side? She could have easily objected up there, told him that he did that she didn't want to go, that she'd rather wait upstairs. But she didn't want to wait upstairs. She wanted to be with him. She couldn't imagine herself anywhere else.

None of it made any sense. At every turn, instead of getting answers, all she got were new questions. Who were all those people upstairs? Were they really vampires? What were they doing here? In the Cloisters?

They turned the corner, into a large room, and she was struck by its beauty. It was incredible, like descending into a real medieval castle. Soaring ceilings capped rooms carved out of medieval stone. Off to her right there lay several sarcophagi, raised above the floor. Intricate, medieval figures were carved on their lids. Some of them were open. Was that where they slept?

She tried to think back to all the vampire lore she had ever heard. Sleeping in coffins. Awake at night. Superhuman strength and speed. Pain in the sunlight. It all seemed to add up. She herself felt some pain in the sun. But it wasn't unbearable. And she was impervious to the holy water. What's more, this place, the Cloisters, was filled with crosses: there were enormous crosses everywhere. Yet it didn't seem to affect these vampires. In fact, this seemed to be their home.

She wanted to ask Caleb about all of this, and more, but didn't know how to begin. She settled on the last one.

"The crosses," she said, nodding as they walked under another one. "Don't they bother you?"

He looked at her, not understanding. He looked like he'd been lost in thought.

"Don't crosses hurt vampires?" she asked.

Recognition crossed his face.

"Not all of us," he answered. "Our race is very fragmented. Much like the human race. There are many races within our race, and many territories - or covens - within each race. It is quite complex. They don't affect good vampires."

"Good?" she asked.

"Just like your human race, there are forces for good and forces of evil. We are not all the same."

He left it at that. As usual, the answers only raised more questions. But she held her tongue. She didn't want to pry. Not now.

Despite the high ceilings, the doorways were small. The arched, wooden doors were open, and they walked right through, ducking as they went. As they enter the new room, the height opened up again, and it was another magnificent room. She looked up and could see stained glass everywhere. To her right was some sort of pulpit, and before it, dozens of tiny, wooden chairs. It was stark, and beautiful. It truly looked like some sort of medieval cloister.

She saw no sign of life, and heard no movement. She heard absolutely nothing. She wondered where they all were.

They entered another room, the floor sloping gently downward, and she gasped. This small room was filled with treasures. It was a working museum, and they were all encased carefully behind glass. Right there before her, under sharp, halogen lights, were what must have been hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of ancient, priceless treasures. Gold crosses. Large, silver goblets. Medieval manuscripts....

She followed Caleb as he walked through the room and stopped before a long, vertical, glass case. Inside was a magnificent ivory staff, several feet long. He stared at it through the glass.

He was quiet for several seconds.

"What is it?" she finally asked.

He kept staring, quietly. Finally, he said, "An old friend."

That was it. He didn't offer any more. She wondered what sort of history he had with the object, and what sort of power it held. She read the plaque: early 1300s.

"It is known as a crozier. A bishop's staff. It is both a rod and a staff. A rod for punishment and a staff for leading the faithful. The symbol of our church. It has the power to bless, or to curse. It is what we guard. It is what keeps us safe."

Their church? What they guard?

Before she could ask more questions, he took her hand and led her through yet another doorway.

They reached a velvet rope. He reached out, unclasped it, and pulled it back for her to enter. He then followed right behind her, re-clasped it, and led her to a small, circular wooden staircase. It led down, seemingly right into the floor itself. She looked at it, puzzled.

Caleb knelt and undid a secret latch in the floor. A floor trap opened up, and she could see that the staircase continued downward, into the depths.

Caleb looked right into her eyes, "Are you ready?"

She wanted to say No. But instead, she took his hand.

*

This staircase was narrow and steep, and led into real blackness. After winding and winding, deeper and deeper, she finally saw a light in the distance, and started to hear movement. As they turned the corner, they entered another room.

This room was huge and brightly lit, torches everywhere. It mirrored the upstairs rooms identically, with soaring, stone, medieval ceilings, arched, covered in intricate detail. There were large tapestries on the walls, and the huge space was filled with medieval furniture.

It was also filled with people. Vampires. They were all dressed in black, and they moved casually about the room. Many of them sat in various seats, some talking to each other. In the other coven, under City Hall, she had felt evil, darkness, had felt in constant danger. Here, she felt strangely relaxed.

Caleb led her across the long room, right down the center. As they walked, the movement subsided, and a hush descended. She could feel all the eyes on them.

As they reach the end of the room, Caleb approached a large vampire, taller than he was, and with much broader shoulders. The man looked down, expressionless.

"I need an audience," Caleb said simply.

The vampire slowly turned and walked through the doorway, closing the door firmly behind him.

Caleb and Caitlin stood there, waiting. She turned, and surveyed the room. They were all  -  hundreds of vampires  -  staring at them. But no one moved to come close.

The door opened, and the large vampire gestured. They entered.

This small room was darker, dimly lit by only two torches at the far end of the room. It was also completely empty, save for a long table on the opposite side. Behind it sat seven vampires, all staring grimly back. It looked like a panel of judges.

There was something about these vampires which made them look much older. There was a harshness to their expressions. Definitely a panel of judges.

"Council in session!" the large vampire yelled, banging his staff on the floor, then quickly exiting the room. He closed the door firmly behind them. It was now just the two of them, facing the seven vampires.

She stood tentatively at Caleb's side, unsure what to do, or say.

An awkward silence followed, as the judges studied them. It felt as if they were staring through their souls.

"Caleb," came a gravelly voice, from the vampire in the center of the panel. "You have abandoned your post."

"I did not, sire," he answered. "I have kept my post faithfully for 200 years. I was forced to take action tonight."

"You take no action but for our command," he answered. "You have jeopardized us all."

"My duty was to alert us for the coming war," Caleb answered. "I believe that time has come."

A gasp came from the Council. There was a long silence.

"And what makes you think this?"

"They doused her in holy water, and it did not burn her skin. Doctrine tells us that the day will come when the One will arrive, and will be impervious to our weapons. And that she will herald war."

A hushed gasp spread across the room. They all stared at Caitlin, scrutinizing her. Several of the judges began talking amongst themselves, until finally the one in the middle slammed the table with his palm.

"Silence!" He yelled.

Gradually, the murmur died down.

"So. You risked us all to save a human?" he asked.

"I saved her to save ourselves," Caleb answered. "If she is the One, we are nothing without her."

Caitlin's head spun. She didn't know what to think. The One? Doctrine? What was he talking about? She wondered if he thought she was someone else, thought she was someone greater than she is.

Her heart sank, not because of the way that the Council looked at her, but because she began to worry that Caleb had only saved her for his own sake. That he didn't really care for her. And that his affection for her would disappear when he knew the truth. He would find out that she was just an average, ordinary girl, no matter what took place over the last few days, and he would abandon her. Just like all the other guys in her life.

As if to confirm her thoughts, the judge in the middle slowly shook his head, staring at Caleb with condescension.

"You have made a grave mistake," he said. "What you fail to see is that you are the one who began this war. Your departure is what has alerted them to our presence.

"Furthermore, she is not the one you think she is."

Caleb began, "Then how do you explain - "

Another council member spoke this time, "Many centuries ago there was a case like this. A vampire was immune to weaponry. People thought he was the Messiah then, too. He was not. He was just a half-breed."

"Half-breed?" Caleb asked. He suddenly sounded unsure.

"The vampire by birth," he continued, "one that was never turned. They are immune to some weaponry, but not to others. But that does not make them one of us. Nor does it make them immortal. I'll show you," he continued, and suddenly turned to Caitlin.

She felt nervous with his eyes staring through her. "Tell me young one, who turned you?"

Caitlin had no idea what he was talking about. She didn't even know what his question meant. Once again this night, she found herself wondering what the best answer was to give. She hesitated, feeling that whatever she said would have a great impact not just on her safety, but on Caleb's, too. She wanted to give the right answer for him, but she just didn't know what to say.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I was never turned. I don't even know what that means."

Another council member leaned forward. "Then who is your father?" he asked.

Of all questions, why had he had to ask her that? That was the question she had always asked herself, her whole life long. Who was he? Why had she never met him? Why did he leave her? It was an answer she wanted more than anything in life. And now, on demand, she certainly could not provide it.

"I don't know," she said, finally.

The council member leaned back, as if in victory. "You see?" he said. "Half-breeds are not turned. And they never know their parents. You are mistaken, Caleb. You have made a grave error."

"Doctrine states that a half-breed will be the Messiah, and that she will lead us to the lost sword," Caleb snapped back, defiantly.

"Doctrine states that a half-breed will bring the Messiah," the council member corrected. "Not be."

"You are parsing words," Caleb answered. "I am telling you that war has begun, and that she will lead us to the sword. Time is swift. We must have her lead us to it. It is the only hope we have."

"A child's tales," answered another council member. "The sword you speak of does not exist. And if it did, a half-breed would not be the one to lead us."

"If we don't, others will. They will capture her, and find it, and use it against us."

"You have committed a grave violation in bringing her here," another one of them said, from the far end of the panel.

"But I - " Caleb began.

"ENOUGH!" shouted the lead council member.

The room grew silent.

"Caleb. You have knowingly violated several laws of our coven. You have abandoned your post. You have disgraced your mission. You have sparked a war. And you have risked us all for a human. Not even a human, but a half-breed. Worse, you have brought her here, right into our midst, endangering us all.

"We sentence you to 50 years confinement. You will not leave these grounds. And you will cast this half-breed out of our walls at once.

"Now, leave us."


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