From Hope Comes Strength

By A. A. Roberts

I dream of the night when my angel flies back to me, for now my life is empty. I walk these city streets, numb, drained and lifeless. I see the nature of her spirit in the glow surrounding every street light. I hear the echoes of her sighs at the edge of other’s hushed conversation. Her perfume comes to me, faint, almost lost on the night’s breeze.

I keep asking myself over and over again, "How did we get here?" We have loved for so long and so passionately. I roll every nuance of our last conversations over in my mind but they only wind up in the same place… she’s gone.

I am a rich man, but I would trade every… "thing" for just one kiss. I would brave a thousand storms just to hold her hand again, to feel her embrace. I would cross every ocean, every desert, and every mountain just to be near her warm heart once more.

I can not eat, although I see a fool in the shadows determined to assault me. He thinks I do not see him or his toy blade. He fingers the edge with a nervousness that is evident in the sweat on his brow. I am perturbed that he has disturbed my thoughts and when he attacks I am unforgiving.

He jumps out of the alcove and slashes for my throat. I grab his hand and take his blade with a painful squeeze. His look of disbelief makes me smile. For that gift I dispatch him quickly for I have not smiled in days. On any other night I would have enjoyed this, but I look at his dead body at my feet and all I can see is how dead I feel.

Her name is Celise. She is the daughter of an English Lord and her lineage can be traced back to the courts of kings and queens. I think where others might wear this history as a cloak of pretension; my Celise simply finds it amusing.

She was twenty-four when she found the night and it was three years after that when I met her. She was playing a harp in a small inn at Salcombe on the southern shores of England. She immediately drew my eye not only because she played this glorious instrument in these humble surroundings, but because I knew she was the same as I. I sat in the shadows in the back of the dining room where she played; enraptured with the gentle sounds she let part from her soul.

After she was done she came to sit with me. I’ll never forget her first smile for it belonged only to me.

"I have heard the nature of your soul, Lady, and it is a sweet place."

I was given another smile for my words and she paused to sip from a cup of wine.

"Pretty words, Sir… pretty words to steal a Lady’s heart, but are they true?"

"They are inspired by your music. How can they not be?"

I remember how she settled back in her chair with the feline grace of a night creature. Supple, defines the lady. What man could resist this woman? I resolved to not even try.

"How is it a high born lady tends to a harp at a commoner’s inn?"

This question caused her to frown and my heart paused. I was perplexed by her reaction, but her words helped me to understand a truth about her nature.

"Are commoners in any less need of sweet sound? Does a rich man, a high born as you say, deserve this comfort more than those who toil every day just to survive?"

Confused all I could reply was, "I meant no offense".

She studied me for a long moment. I could feel her gaze attempting to penetrate me very soul.

"We live this danger of holding ourselves above those around us due to our special nature, due to our history. We are separate from them there can be no denying that, but separate is not better."

"As you say, lady, but given my experience there are those with dark hearts. Are we not better than these?"

She paused to think on this and I soaked in her beauty with a wanting heart.

… Hair the colour of golden straw. Late summer skies tinted the blue of her eyes with a golden ring set about the iris. Her face radiated warmth and beauty born of innocence, but sculpted from the lineage of queens. The confirmation of her body screamed to be held with each perfect line tracing the figure of a goddess… no, an angel.

"I am reminded," she said pensively, "of something I once heard. There, but for the grace of God go I. Men are not born evil, but become that way due to circumstance and the harsh miseries of life. I do believe that evil must be dissected from the world, but I will not give in to hating that which is removed, for if I do than I become that which I try to… resolve."

I pondered the nature of her words and at the time they were strange to me. She taught me at that moment that maybe I did not know the nature of my own heart. I had considered myself a force of nature whose soul purpose was to rid the world of evil, but her words gave me pause. Was my lack of humility causing me to become that which I despised?

She could see the concern in my eyes. She was always like that. She would always know my heart regardless of how I guarded my thoughts.

She banished my worries with another of her glorious smiles, "I did not come sit with you to cause you distress, sir, my apologies."

With every word she stole my heart just a little more, "Do not apologize for opening up my eyes… my heart. Would you take a walk with me in the night air, Lady?"

How could one word hold such sway over me? I felt such joy, such promise, with the mere utterance of the word "Yes".

She suggested that we might satiate ourselves prior to our walk. I gladly acceded to her wishes. We went down to the warves where a quick meal can always be found among the rough sorts that inhabit these places. After our refreshment we followed a path into a nearby wood.

Higher powers were smiling on us that night for an atmosphere of beauty clothed the world. The moon was full and delicate. The stars were sharp and radiant. The air was crisp, but sweet and the night creatures played us a gentle symphony.

We walked until near dawn and over the course of the hours we unburdened our souls upon each other. We shared all the secrets we had held for so long and after a fashion relieved some of our pain.

Our walk ended at a cliff overlooking the ocean. A soothing breeze brushed our hair and I was inspired to take Celise in my arms. We dived into the wells of each others eyes. There we swam, at the outer reaches of our souls for what seemed a pleasurable eternity until finally we kissed. A kiss does not describe the rapture of that moment. We were lost in a place where few ever go. How long we stayed there I can not say, but when we parted we were forever in love.

And on that cliff overlooking the ocean our lives together began. My time with Celise was like some children’s fantasy. The world once again became a happy place for me and I could not bear to be apart from her even during sleep. We spent many a night making love under the open stars with just a blanket for a bed. Romance was to be had every evening and everything about life began to taste that much sweeter.

After a few months together we decided to leave England for the continent. We roamed the world and played about humanity for some time. If it amused us we would infiltrate the intrigues of court and state and toy with those who lacked humility. As always we tried to steer these men from the path of war, but when it came (and it came too often) we took the opportunity to feast. Not all who engage in war are evil, but evil does so love war.

Celise taught me so much about humanity and the nature of a gentler soul. Where as I would be given to fits of rage due to the actions of evil men, Celise would maintain a calm spirit and simply dispatch that evil. She tried very hard to calm my soul too and after a fashion she did, but she could never understand the difference between her base nature and mine.

Time is an old bastard. He numbs your senses, your romantic instincts and your memories. After a hundred years with Celise, I realize now, I began to treat her badly. Familiarity began to breed ill will. I grew tired of her trying to change me, forgetting that she did so because she loved me. Too often I snapped at her. Too often I took when I should have given. Too often I took her for granted. After so many years I had in effect brutalized my angel. I did not do this with physical force but with harsh words. Would that I could take back ever misspoken word.

In a field on the steppes of central Russia, things finally came to a conclusion. We were attacked by a village that blamed us for the deeds of others. We tried to run, but they cornered us against a cliff near a riverbed. Celise dispatched her attackers with care, as did I until a boy of fifteen stabbed me with a sword. I flashed through his mind and saw a terrible thing he did to a young girl in the village. This enraged me to the point where I literally tore him apart. The villagers fled in terror at this site and I was left to Celise’s accusing gaze.

Celise had a special place in her heart for children and she did not see what I had seen in the young man’s mind. In her eyes he was just a boy and what I had done was the culmination of too much ill behavior.

"It is time for me to leave."

Those were her last words to me. I knew what they meant. I watched her go into the night and I could not move. With so few words my world came crashing down upon me. The enormity of what happened caused me to fall to the ground and weep like some infant child...

Over the course of this past year I have drifted back to England. I have been to the bottom of the well of my soul and I do not care for what I see. I have changed so many times over the course of my very long existence, but I have been at my best when I was with Celise.

Originally I blamed our falling out due to our base natures. I am Vamphyre and she is only vampire, but I know this is a lie. True love requires work. You must never allow walls to build between you and your lover. You must be ever vigilant to their needs and you must never take them for granted. I became lazy and now I pay for it with mind numbing pain.

It has been a year since we’ve been apart. I’ve heard from various sources that she too has drifted back to England. I‘ve had many loves during my long tenure in this world, but Celise has been the most profound. I know this to be true from just the power of her smile and how it would lift me up.

My name is Corwin and I am immortal. Recently I have become stronger. Although I am still a wounded animal I am no longer dead to myself. I have a hope that Celise and I may hunt the night together yet again. You see I sent my spirit out on the wind and I found Celise playing the harp in a small inn on the coast. I drifted within the sounds of her sweet music and she saw me there. She rolled my spirit over in her mind, gently, lovingly, and from within her heart sent me the sweetest of smiles. And you see from that smile comes hope and from hope comes strength.