When Janette chose the knight from Brabant, her master was not displeased. She had a right to her own diversions in the hunt. Then he met the fair crusader himself.
In life, Lucius Divius Lucianus had been, for the most part, a man for women. Selene could have attested to that; and he had once had a daughter with her, which proved it. In those days it was, of course, quite accepted that men might also enjoy boys. Nicolas de Brabant, however, was no boy. True, he was young, and fairly slim, and quite ridiculously pretty; but he was definitely adult in years—and, from his attention to Janette, had the appetites of a man. So LaCroix (as he now named himself) was disconcerted to find himself drawn to the handsome knight. It was not in his character, as he knew himself. He should perhaps have simply taken de Brabant like any other prey: it would have been the sensible course; and he could then have put the matter out of mind. But Janette, in her infatuation, begged him to bring the knight over. She said that she did not trust herself in the matter.
Her reservations were not unjustified. She was young and eager. LaCroix thought to himself, though, that he should let her try. That would prove the lesson, and also still his own lust when she accidentally slew her inamorato. LaCroix might even share the kill, and have his knight that way. (But then again, he did not really want the Brabantine drained.)
It was much for her to ask: immortality for the man she loved. Or thought she loved. LaCroix was older and wiser, and knew that Janette would tire of her knight, sooner than later. After which, he would still be bound to them by shared blood. LaCroix had few children; but he could feel them all, their bond attenuated by distance. Did he want to bring that lissome blond into the fold?
He yearned, in his ancient weary soul, to master himself and not the knight.
When LaCroix brought across Nicolas de Brabant, he drained him to the point of death in a long delicious draught that lingered on the tongue. Afterwards, Janette did indeed enjoy her lover, quite as much as she had hoped, at least for a while. Then she lost interest. Years later, for a century or so, she fell in love with him again—and eventually lost interest again. That is the way of vampires, who snatch their meals in a hurry but have all eternity to play at their hobbies.
In life, Nicolas de Brabant had been a knight, newly returned from crusade and jaded. Yet he had a family—a mortal family, that is to say—that he had left behind years earlier, but whom he still dearly missed. He had been en route to return to his home when his path crossed that of Janette and LaCroix in Paris. Once Janette had had her merry way with him, to their mutual pleasure, LaCroix left Nicolas in no doubt that he was more than welcome—in fact, expected—to continue to companion them. LaCroix was a responsible master in his own way, and would never abandon anyone he had chosen to bring over: he knew his duty. He would keep Nicolas close by at least until the new vampire had learned the skills and customs of their kind.
Still, the returning crusader longed to return to Brabant to see his mortal family once more, if only to say farewell. Or so he said. LaCroix sensed that, in his heart, Nicolas did not truly think it would be forever goodbye. His master knew better. New-made, his son might be reluctant to embrace the lures of their life; but there was no going back, not for their kind. It was the nature of the vampire to have no home, but ever to move on. Nicolas de Brabant was, from the vampire perspective, very young. It was all too clear that he needed the loving guidance of his master, and a lesson or two.
So they went to Brabant. And so LaCroix met Fleur.
Nick’s youngest sister, brilliant and beautiful, had her brother’s fair complexion and burnished hair. She was very like her brother—not as he was, froward, wilful, defiant, and obdurate; but as he should have been, eager, pliant, and attentive. LaCroix looked down into her earnest sapphire eyes, so like those of Nicolas, and found them innocent of the horrors that the vampire had committed, in life and in unlife. Her world was bounded by castle and creed. She thought him a man of virtue, blessed by her Lord. Yet her vision encompassed worlds beyond worlds. LaCroix was enthralled. “I want to spend forever with you,” he said. “You make death seem sad.” And it was not of his undeath he spoke, but her mortality. She had so much to offer—her love, her learning, her future. Their future. He wanted to bring her over, to save her from the frailties of flesh, to give her eternity. He clasped her little hands to his heart, and looked into her eyes. They were so like her brother’s, but lit with warmth. In her, LaCroix saw a new chance. Not a chance to reclaim life (which would be death), but a chance to grasp at a love which would be truly eternal. Fleur was so very like Nicolas in all the ways in which LaCroix admitted him to his heart. Yet she promised a love that LaCroix did not—he did not—want from her fair, bitter brother.
It was a chance to try again.
“Take me with you,” she begged.
“If you truly love her, you will not bring her across,” declared Nicolas.
But if I do not, then I lose her—that was LaCroix’s instant response. Then fast upon its heels came the realization: but if I do, I lose you.
In life, Nicolas, son of Brabant, had been very much a fool for women. It was in his blood. Literally. LaCroix had drained him to the dregs, and knew him to the heart. It is the nature of vampires to taste the lives of those they drink. Vampires roam; but they can always speak in the tongue of the district; and they know each territory intimately in an instant. A vampire is never foreign to those they hunt. As yet, Nicolas lacked the skill to interpret fully the memories he absorbed from his prey; but, in time, his skill would grow. And then he would learn that, from the blood, a vampire acquires more than mere knowledge of the lives he takes. For a time, he even shares those lives: with the terror comes the joy; with fear comes hope; with dread, lust.
There would be many women in Nicolas’s future. Of that, LaCroix was certain. His son would woo them to his arms, love them and drain them, and—given his romantic nature—mourn each and every one of them before he moved on to the next. The day would surely come when he would ask of his master what Janette had begged: eternal life for one too dear to lose. And, to hold his heart so, she would have to be as cloying as Nicolas could be, when he regretted his choice and blamed LaCroix, hankering for a return to his mortality, and thence to death. Foolish, wayward, obstinate: Fleur would be none of these.
But all blood is blood. Thus, as he drank from the wrist of the master who brought him across, Nicolas de Brabant learned through his master’s blood, as well. He imbibed the ways of the vampire. But more: he drank his master.
LaCroix was sure that there would come a time when Nicolas de Brabant would understand what he must have read in that blood: that LaCroix’s immortal eager body craved to pin the Brabantine beneath him and take him as one might a stripling youth. There would be a time when, with a sip, Nicolas would sense his master’s lust, his love, his hope, and his joy—and share them through the blood.
LaCroix yearned, in all his ancient weary heart, to master the knight and lose himself.
“You will kill all you love by bringing her across,” declared his son. If he took Fleur, as she asked, then he would lose her brother.
But if he lost Fleur? Would he gain all he loved by not bringing her across?
Not if I lose him to another, thought LaCroix. There must be a bargain. In Paris, I brought him over for Janette; in Brabant, I bring him over to me.