For several years now, I have been roleplaying various characters in the online world of "Second Life." I've played a Dark Elf in a fantasy game and a Time Lord in a "Doctor Who" inspired one. One kind of game that is fairly popular, but I never got into, is the "vampire role-play." The main reason for this is the best known game system in Second Life, "Bloodlines," just isn't my cup of tea (vampires ascend by turning other people into vampires and collecting souls...in other words, convincing new players to purchase the required HUD and recruiting them into the game). I was always bit bothered by the fact that you need to send someone a "bite request" before feeding on them. It's polite, but not terribly vampire-like. Recently I heard of another system, one that did sound much more my speed, and after some thought I decided to jump in.
What follows, gentle reader, is a serialised account of my Progeny role-play. Since it is horror, and more in line with the tone and theme of this blog, between other writing projects I will be sharing the on going story here. The reader does not need to be a Second Life user to enjoy the tale, I hope! Please note; neither the name "Progeny" nor "Lachiel" are my creations. To find out about them, go here. Also, I will be fictionalising certain elements (such as names) of the game to protect the identities of the players and their avatars.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce the latest version of Damien Draegonne, our protagonist.
Click me to enlarge
It begins with me, face down on a marble floor, struggling to get to my knees. It’s pointless, of course. I can feel the poison burning through me. It is pumping through my veins with the same stinging cold you feel scorching your lungs on a bitter midwinter day. I can feel my skin cooling, my muscles shaking. I can feel my pulse begin to stagger, to sputter, and abruptly come to a stop. I try to tell myself I was dead anyway. It was just a matter of time. As the dark rushes in on me, that is cold consolation.
Simon Harrow did not kill me. My life ended halfway around the world from him, taken by a woman. All the same, I never would have died if not for him. His shadow falls over my entire life.
Everyone called him “the Old Man.” I never saw it written down, but you could hear the capital “O” and “M” whenever someone whispered it. He was “the Old Man” when I was in grade school, he was “the Old Man” when my mother was in grade school. No one in living memory could recall a time when he wasn’t “the Old Man.” Of course, that isn’t entirely true. The old timers who always hung around the front porch of the General Store, arguing politics and baseball and agreeing how no one under fifty was worth a piss these days, seemed to recall that “the Old Man” when they were in grade school was the current “Old Man’s” father. Some remembered their fathers talking about yet another “Old Man” before that. The point is, there had always been an “Old Man” up in Harrow House, and there always would be. We all just accepted it as surely as the leaves turning red in the autumn and the creek flooding in the spring.
The money made it easier to accept. Money has a funny way of making nearly anything acceptable. You see, the Old Man was generous. When I was in the seventh grade, and the flood that year was worse than the village had seen in decades, the Old Man opened his pocketbook and helped people rebuild. It was the Old Man who financed the new fire house. It was the Old Man who kept the local library in books. And, of course, there was the Scholarship. Every year, without fail, the student who graduated with the highest GPA received the same letter. The Old Man offered them a free ride, paying every cent of their way through the college of their choice. In the face of this kind of generosity, it was so easy to turn a blind eye towards the Old Man’s eccentricities. Sure…no one had ever actually seen him. The recluse never left the crumbling walls of Harrow House. And yes, maybe it was odd that he clearly was as rich as Midas but let that mansion rot around him. The place looked like any haunted house you’d ever dreamed about. But it’s never a good idea to ask too many questions about the golden goose.
And then it came my turn. As proud as I was to be the valedictorian of my class, what really mattered is that I would be able to go to university now. The day that cream-coloured envelop appeared in the mailbox, with my name and address scrawled across it in handwriting that looked like an ink-drenched spider had written it by crawling over the paper, was the greatest moment of my life. Years of dread, of wondering if my struggling waitress of a mom and I could manage to finance college on our own, ended in a single instant. The Old Man was going to take care of me.
Young Master Damien;
For the first, allow me to extend my congratulations. Long have I watched your progress, the obstacles and struggles that led to this, your triumph. It is no small thing, my child. Indeed, it’s value is twofold. For you have learned that no better weapon than Knowledge exists in this fallen world, and also, you have learned ‘Victori Spoila,’ to the Victor goes the Spoils. You would do well to engrave this deeply in the stone of your being. There is seldom any consideration for coming in second.
I read the rest over and over again, never once stopping to ask myself what was meant by him watching my progress. Watching how? Watching why? I should have asked, but again, the money blinded me.
The Old Man was true to his word. he financed my undergraduate career, and then paid for my Master’s. I was halfway to my Doctorate, also at his expense, when I did, at last, begin to question.
It began quite innocently, really. I was working towards a PhD in History, and one of the assignments we were given in a seminar on local history was to research the roots of our own communities. Always an enthusiastic scholar, and always wanting to be the best, I dug very deep. Much of what I found was unremarkable. The first settlers were the Dutch, in the days when New York was still New Amsterdam. Then came the Palatine Germans who laboured in camps along the Hudson to work off their passage. The Scots-Irish came after that. But in 1715, I came across a curiosity. An extremely wealthy gentleman from the Lorraine region of France appeared and bought up vast tracts of land. His name was “S. Harot.” I remember staring at the document for a long moment. “Harot,” which in French would sound exactly like “Harrow.” was this, then, the distant ancestor of my own patron?
The assignment suddenly became less interesting to me, as I veered off course in pursuit of this new trail. It occurred to me how little I knew of the man who sponsored me, how little anyone seemed to know. Surely it couldn’t hurt to see where the path led me?
And so, off and on, this became my project for the next ten years. I received my PhD, delivered a well-received dissertation, and landed a teaching assignment at a university in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Arkham. My life had begun, and the direction of it had taken me far from humble roots. But this, of course, is the thing about roots. No matter how tall your grow, they are always there, holding you down in the earth.
In the winter of my thirtieth year, two things happened that changed everything. I had been for some time suffering migraines, intense headaches that brought with them debilitating pain. When I finally surrendered and checked myself into the university hospital, the diagnosis was not an encouraging one. I suffered, it seemed, from a genetic flaw…a severe one. There was a complex of vital arteries deep in my brain badly flawed. There was a very high probability that one of these days—at any given moment—the walls of one of these vessels would collapse and I would either survive paralysed or brain dead, or expire immediately.
I was living under a death sentence.
This had a great affect upon me. My drinking, for one, increased. I began a long string of one-night stands at first with women, and later, with men. Sometimes both. I broke a long standing rule of never having sexual relations with my students…even fucking one face down on the desk of my office. My tastes became darker, more morbid…as did my thoughts. I became increasingly obsessed with the death. Friends I had known for years began to drift away as the transformation in me deepened, and who could blame them? Told death was coming, I was rushing to meet it.
The self-destruction spiral met it’s apex at a dinner at the Dean’s house, when I was discovered in his upstairs bathroom between dinner and desert getting a blow job from his eighteen-year-old son.
It didn’t matter. Nothing did. I left the university with a grin on my face. I had no idea how I was going to support myself, but didn’t feel much concerned by that either. Instead, as my finances dwindled, I poured myself into my research. I wanted a puzzle, I needed a puzzle, to draw me out of myself. So I chased the name “Harot” back and forth through history.
The etymology was interesting. It seemed to originate in Lorraine, and most agreed it was derived from a word meaning “to cry out,” “to scream.” Others thought it came from a Spanish bird of prey used in the south of France, the “harrotte.” More interesting, though, were the “Harots” of “Harrow House.” I found records of the masters of Harrow House—Sebastien, Sinclair, Simon, often with juniors and ‘the second’ or ‘the third’ after the name—but nothing about wives or daughters. It crossed my mind that “the Old Man” really was an old man…three hundred years old, at least. Then I laughed at myself and finished another bottle of cheap scotch.
One evening, over even more drinks, I began to ramble about all of this to the one associate I had left. I wouldn’t go far enough to call Danny Cho an actually “friend.” He was an assistant librarian at the university I occasionally got drunk or slept with. To my surprise, though, Cho thought he recognised the name. He couldn’t tell me from where. We ended up having sex in the alleyway that night and it was two weeks before I heard from him again.
The name “Harot” was prominently mentioned in something called “Cultes des Goules,” penned by Francois-Honore Balfour, Comte d’Erlette in 1703. I asked if Danny could get me in to see it, though it was in the library’s restricted section. It took some convincing, but he did.
“Cultes des Goules” lived up to its title. It was an extended treatise on late medieval witch cults that worshipped, and served, the hungry dead. It spoke of someone or something called “les Progéniture de Lachiel,” the “Progeny.” It spoke of tribes or clans of the dead. “Sébastien Harot” was spoken of as one of these living dead, a vicious, immortal creature dating back to at least the early years of the Black Death. He was said to be an “Outcast” among his kind, driven from their society.
I am not sure that anyone can really say where the line between sanity and madness lies, but I think it is probably safe to say that for days and weeks after that I was wavering back and forth across it like a drunk man. The thoughts growing in my head were mad…I knew that. But didn’t they also say “there are no atheists in foxholes?” I was going to die, it could happen at any instant…so what if? What if there was an immortal creature in my life, a creature that had “watched my progress” and already saved me once? Could I dare reach out to him, to it, and ask for help again? Even if that meant becoming something blasphemous myself?
For the first time since the diagnosis it occurred to me that I did not want to die.
Thus began my letters to Harrow House. I told Harrow (Harot?) everything. I told him what I was facing. I told him what I had discovered. As the weeks and months stretched on and these all went unanswered, I began to plead. Foolishly, I even threatened to go public with what I had learned. Like an idiot, I played chicken with a bloodthirsty monster.
And then the letter came, that unmistakable handwriting on the thick, antique paper. I stared at it for a dozen hours before the courage to open it came to me.
Young Master Damien;
Where last we spoke I offered you my congratulations, let me now convey my utmost disappointment. Foolish boy. That you have resorted to threats demonstrates only that you are sprung from your father’s seed. Not long ago, a lifetime to you and the blink of an eye to me, a young Daniel Draegonne attempted to blackmail me as you have. The result? His son, you, grew up fatherless. Indeed, I would have visited my wrath upon his pregnant wife and unborn child had I not owed a favour to yet another Draegonne, his great-grandfather. I chose to let the bloodline live.
You have nearly given me cause to regret that mercy.
I said “nearly.” Your father was a hot-blooded young fool who thought he could extort me into paying a fortune for him to raise his family. He was a lazy, indolent coward who thought the world was filled with free rides. I, and I alone, decide who profits and who fails where my shadow falls. The extent of my charity to your community has only ever been to ensure their silence and compliance. My contributions to scholarship reflect only my recognition that the strongest deserve more than the rest.
So, the sin of the father is repeated in the son. Shall the son suffer as his father did? Perhaps, some evening, were you come to Harrow House I could show you the cell in which your father died, slowly, over the space of two years after his ‘disappearance.’ I bled that one a very long time. But you are not cut of the same cloth entire. No. You are an animal in the throes of death doing anything it possibly can to survive.
This, this I can admire.
I cannot, however, give you what you seek. There was a time when I could, but that magic was stripped of me when I was driven from my homeland. Indeed, even if I were able to do what you ask, you would find little welcome in the arms of the Living Dead. My name is not much loved amongst them, and were you my Get and I your Sire, you would start your path not only in Darkness, but in Exile.
Nay. I cannot give you this, but I can give you a chance.
There is a place, an Old World castle from which the Progeny of Lachiel first poured forth to feast upon the living. You may perhaps still find some of my kind there. You may plead your case with them. It may be that they make a supper of you, bleeding you until you are a white and lifeless pile of meat. Pity is not in our natures, generally speaking. But some of our Nations are more welcoming than others. If you are clever, and if you are lucky, you may find the Salvation you seek.
I find that for my part I shall be wishing you success.
And if, by some black Miracle, you enter this Eternal Non Life, perhaps you would see fit to come back to Harrow House some night. I have been without Get of my own for so long now, and the nights are lonely.
We shall see. On the paper attached, please find the hints, the clues, the directions you seek. Go. Seek them out. Meet your Death.
I find myself wishing you rise from it.
Curious as to the fate of young Master Damien.... Wonder if it was his rotting corpse I smelled at the entrance to hell......Perhaps....ReplyDelete
Keep reading parts 2 and 3 for the answer....Delete
Seek the Progeny of Lachiel for they might have you for dinner or grant your request.ReplyDelete
Sought, and found.Delete