Where was I? Oh aye, I was telling you about Lucien wasn't I? So there I was, sitting in one of Lucien's high-backed leather armchairs, a fine single malt sloshing round my glass because I couldn't stop my hands from shaking, and there he is, peering down the length of the blade of that sharp-looking broadsword he has pointing vaguely in the direction of my chest. I remember thinking I wish he'd put that bloody sword down.
Lucien crosses to the fireplace and hangs the sword on some sword stand-type thing. My shaking hands step down a notch. He pours himself a drink while I go to sip mine, miss my mouth and pour half of it down my front. Shit.
There's a smile on Lucien's face as he turns. It's like he heard me or something, but that's daft, I never said a word.
'My name,' he announces like a music hall impresario, 'is Luc de Senniere.'
He bows. All I can think is, Oh God, not only is he a paedo, he's French too. No hint of an accent, mind. I start wondering if I can make it through those open doors to the garden before he can stop me, he seems a bit nifty on his feet. I'm so caught up in that thought I almost miss the next bit. Almost.
'And I am a vampire.'
That last word knocks on my brain to attract attention like a bloke with a sledgehammer. I go all hot and cold at the same time. It's like I'm not really in my own body. I hear myself giggle, then laugh, then guffaw so hard my sides ache. Lucien looks genuinely hurt. I don't think that's the reaction he was expecting. I don't think he was too impressed with my next utterance either.
'Bollocks!,' I hear myself say, still fighting to get my breath. 'You're French.' I still don't know why I said that.
Lucien sits down in the chair opposite and broods for a while. I desperately try to get myself under control while still eyeing the doors out of the corner of my eye.
'You'd never make it,' he says and I believe him.
'Alright,' I reply, 'Presuming for just a moment you really are a vampire, where's your fangs then, eh?'
A half smile crosses Lucien's face, then his eyes roll back in their sockets like a shark's and his fangs slide into place.
'Fuck me!' I'm on my feet now, wreathed in a cold sweat.
'Thave yourthelf the trouble,' Lucien lisps round his fangs, 'Thit down and allow me to exthplain.'
I sit down. I'm about to be shagged up the arse by a French vampire, can this get any worse?
Lucien's face returns to normal and he fixes me with those grey eyes of his.
'You have nothing to fear from me--'
I'll be the judge of that, I think.
'—especially not in the way you seem overly concerned with.'
I do my level best to stop thinking. It's not easy.
'As I said, my name is Luc de Senniere, I am indeed French,' his eyes narrow for just a second, 'from a small village in Bretagne, which sadly no longer exists, and I am a vampire.'
I'm not laughing this time.
'I was born in the year of Our Lord 1163, and Awakened in the Holy Land during the aftermath of the Siege of Jerusalem in 1187.'
I've gone cold inside, very cold. My brain's desperately trying to do some quick maths here.
'So that makes you--'
'847 years old. Yes, that is correct.'
I'm still having trouble taking this all in. I did mention history is not my strong point, didn't I?
'So what were you, some sort of knight or summat? A Templar?!'
Lucien laughs, puts his head back and roars with laughter. It's infectious, and soon I'm giggling along with him, until he stops dead and says, 'No. Not a Templar.'
No-one's laughing now.
'I will tell you my story, but you must promise not to interrupt.'
Oh God, don't tell me there'll be questions at the end, I wonder.
'No, there will not be questions.'
I wish he would stop doing that. Gives me the willies, so-to-speak.
'To cut a very long story painfully short, I was born the youngest of four brothers to the lord of Senniere. My family's holding was a poor place so there was no chance of land or wealth for me as the youngest. My father had designs on the church for me, though I had other ideas and determined to make myself, umm...an unattractive proposition for our bishop. On the day of my twentieth birthday I took the cross, my father having no alternative than to arrange the confirmation of my knighthood. His pride would not have allowed him to do otherwise. With horse and armour I set off for Jerusalem in the Spring of 1183.'
There's a sadness about Lucien at this point so as I almost believe him.
'Jerusalem was not how you might imagine it. An ancient city, yes, but not the place described in history books. I could not believe I had been so naive. The heat, the flies, the smell, the sanitation, the Templars under the command of that bastard Gerard de Ridefort,' he pauses, 'and that devil's whelp Reynaud de Chastillon.'
Lucien almost spits the names so I reckon there must be some history there. I watch as he composes himself again before continuing.
'I was able to find myself a place in the retinue of Guy de Lusignan, and that is a story in itself, but soon I became ill. Leprosy. My lord sent me to the hospital of the Order of St Lazarus outside the city walls, though when Salah ad-Dīn laid siege to the city I, and nineteen of my brother knights similarly afflicted were recalled to duty.'
He pauses and sips his drink. 'Six days and nights we fought. I was next to my lord Guy when the wall came down on September the twenty-ninth. If I had not pushed him to safety he would have been crushed. Of course if I had not acted as I did I may not have ended up buried in the rubble myself. I was hurt, badly, but not dead, though I wished to die before the enemy found me.'
Lucien looks over at me and does that half-smile of his. He must be able to see my eyes are like dinner plates and, despite myself, I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to hear how the story ends. That will have to wait though, Lucien has gone all maudlin and doesn't want to talk any more. He mutters something about the battle of the horns, I think, and wanders back out into the garden.
Please note: the views expressed by the characters in this work may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.