Chapter no 8

The Queen of the Damned


ONG curving lobby; the crowd was like liquid sloshing against the colorless walls. Teenagers in Halloween costume poured through the front doors; lines were forming to

purchase yellow wigs, black satin capes—“Fang teeth, fifty cents!”—glossy programs. Whiteface everywhere he looked. Painted eyes and mouths. And here and there bands of men and women carefully done up in authentic nineteenth-century clothes, their makeup and coiffed hair exquisite.

A velvet-clad woman tossed a great shower of dead rosebuds into the air above her head. Painted blood flowed down her ashen cheeks. Laughter.

He could smell the greasepaint, and the beer, so alien now to his senses: rotten. The hearts beating all around him made a low, delicious thunder against the tender tympana of his ears.

He must have laughed out loud, because he felt the sharp pinch of Armand’s fingers on his arm. “Daniel!”

“Sorry, boss,” he whispered. Nobody was paying a damn bit of attention anyway; every mortal within sight was disguised; and who were Armand and Daniel but two pale nondescript young men in the press, black sweaters, jeans, hair partially hidden under sailor’s caps of blue wool, eyes behind dark glasses. “So what’s the big deal? I can’t laugh out loud, especially now that everything is so funny?”

Armand was distracted; listening again. Daniel couldn’t get it through his head to be afraid. He had what he wanted now. None of you my brothers and sisters!

Armand had said to him earlier, “You take a lot of teaching.” That was during the hunt, the seduction, the kill, the flood of blood through his greedy heart. But he had become a natural at being unnatural, hadn’t he, after the clumsy anguish of the first murder, the one that had taken him from shuddering guilt to ecstasy within seconds. Life by the mouthful. He’d woken up thirsting.

And thirty minutes ago, they’d taken two exquisite little vagabonds in the ruins of a derelict school by the park where the

kids lived in boarded-up rooms with sleeping bags and rags and little cans of Sterno to cook the food they stole from the Haight-Ashbury dumpsters. No protests this time around. No, just the thirsting and the ever increasing sense of the perfection and the inevitability of it, the preternatural memory of the taste faultless. Hurry. Yet there had been such an art to it with Armand, none of the rush of the night before when time had been the crucial element.

Armand had stood quietly outside the building, scanning it, waiting for “those who wanted to die”; that was the way he liked to do it; you called to them silently and they came out. And the death had a serenity to it. He’d tried to show that trick to Louis long ago, he’d said, but Louis had found it distasteful.

And sure enough the denim-clad cherubs had come wandering through the side door, as if hypnotized by the music of the Pied Piper. “Yes, you came, we knew you’d come. . . . ” Dull flat voices welcoming them as they were led up the stairs and into a parlor made out of army blankets on ropes. To die in this garbage in the sweep of the passing headlights through the cracks in the plywood.

Hot dirty little arms around Daniel’s neck; reek of hashish in her hair; he could scarcely stand it, the dance, her hips against him, then driving his fangs into the flesh. “You love me, you know you do,” she’d said. And he’d answered yes with a clear conscience. Was it going to be this good forever? He’d clasped her chin with his hand, underneath, pushing her head back, and then, the death like a doubled fist going down his throat, to his gut, the heat spreading, flooding his loins and his brain.

He’d let her drop. Too much and not enough. He’d clawed at the wall for a moment thinking it must be flesh and blood, too, and were it flesh and blood it could be his. Then such a shock to know he wasn’t hungry anymore. He was filled and complete and the night waited, like something made out of pure light, and the other one was dead, folded up like a baby in sleep on the grimy floor, and Armand, glowing in the dark, just watching.

It was getting rid of the bodies after that had been hard. Last night that had been done out of his sight, as he wept. Beginner’s luck. This time Armand said “no trace means no trace.” So they’d gone down together to bury them deep beneath the basement floor

in the old furnace room, carefully putting the paving stones back in place. Lots of work even with such strength. So loathsome to touch the corpse like that. Only for a second did it flicker in his mind: who were they? Two fallen beings in a pit. No more now, no destiny. And the waif last night? Was somebody looking for her somewhere? He’d been crying suddenly. He’d heard it, then reached up and touched the tears coming out of his eyes.

“What do you think this is?” Armand had demanded, making him help with the paving stones. “A penny dreadful novel? You don’t feed if you can’t cover it up.”

The building had been crawling with gentle humans who noticed not a thing as they’d stolen the clothes they now wore, uniforms of the young, and left by a broken door into an alley. Not my brothers and sisters anymore. The woods have always been filled with these soft doe-eyed things, with hearts beating for the arrow, the bullet, the lance. And now at last I reveal my secret identity: I have always been the huntsman.

“Is it all right, the way I am now?” he’d asked Armand. “Are you happy?” Haight Street, seven thirty-five. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, junkies screaming on the corner. Why didn’t they just go on to the concert? Doors open already. He couldn’t bear the anticipation.

But the coven house was near, Armand had explained, big tumbledown mansion one block from the park, and some of them were still hanging back in there plotting Lestat’s ruin. Armand wanted to pass close, just for a moment, know what was going on.

“Looking for someone?” Daniel had asked. “Answer me, are you pleased with me or not?”

What had he seen in Armand’s face? A sudden flare of humor, lust? Armand had hurried him along the dirty stained pavements, past the bars, the cafés, the stores crowded with stinking old clothes, the fancy clubs with their gilded letters on the greasy plate glass and overhead fans stirring the fumes with gilded wooden blades, while the potted ferns died a slow death in the heat and the semidarkness. Past the first little children—“Trick or treat!”—in their taffeta and glitter costumes.

Armand had stopped, at once surrounded by tiny upturned faces covered in store-bought masks, plastic spooks, ghouls, witches; a lovely warm light had filled his brown eyes; with both hands he’d

dropped shiny silver dollars in their little candy sacks, then taken Daniel by the arm and led him on.

“I love it well enough the way you turned out,” he had whispered with a sudden irrepressible smile, the warmth still there. “You’re my firstborn,” he’d said. Was there a catch in his throat, a sudden glancing from right to left as if he’d found himself cornered? Back to the business at hand. “Be patient. I am being afraid for us both, remember?”

Oh, we shall go to the stars together! Nothing can stop us. All the ghosts running through these streets are mortal!

Then the coven house had blown up.

He’d heard the blast before he saw it—and a sudden rolling plume of flame and smoke, accompanied by a shrill sound he would never before have detected: preternatural screams like silver paper curling in the heat. Sudden scatter of shaggy-haired humans running to see the blaze.

Armand had shoved Daniel off the street, into the stagnant air of a narrow liquor store. Bilious glare; sweat and reek of tobacco; mortals, oblivious to the nearby conflagration, reading the big glossy girlie magazines. Armand had pushed him to the very rear of the tiny corridor. Old lady buying tiny carton of milk and two cans of cat food out of the icebox. No way out of here.

But how could one hide from the thing that was passing over, from the deafening sound that mortals could not even hear? He’d lifted his hands to his ears, but that was foolish, useless. Death out there in alleyways. Things like him running through the debris of backyards, caught, burnt in their tracks. He saw it in sputtering flashes. Then nothing. Ringing silence. The clanging bells and squealing tires of the mortal world.

Vet he’d been too enthralled still to be afraid. Every second was eternal, the frost on the icebox door beautiful. The old lady with the milk in her hand, eyes like two small cobalt stones.

Armand’s face had gone blank beneath the mask of his dark glasses, hands slipped into his tight pants pockets. The tiny bell on the door jangled as a young man entered, bought a single bottle of German beer, and went out.

“It’s over, isn’t it?”

“For now,” Armand had answered.

Not until they’d gotten in the cab did he say more. “It knew we were there; it heard us.”

“Then why didn’t it—?”

“I don’t know. I only know it knew we were there. It knew before we found shelter.”

AND now, push and shove inside the hall, and he loved it, the crowd carrying them closer and closer to the inner doors. He could not even raise his arms, so tight was the press; yet young men and women elbowed past him, buffeted him with delicious shocks; he laughed again as he saw the life-sized posters of Lestat plastered to

the walls.

He felt Armand’s fingers against his back; he felt a subtle change in Armand’s whole body. A red-haired woman up ahead had turned around and was facing them as she was moved along towards the open door.

A soft warm shock passed through Daniel. “Armand, the red hair.” So like the twins in the dream! It seemed her green eyes locked on him as he said, “Armand, the twins!”

Then her face vanished as she turned away again and disappeared inside the hall.

“No,” Armand whispered. Small shake of his head. He was in a silent fury, Daniel could feel it. He had the rigid glassy look he always got when profoundly offended. “Talamasca,” he whispered, with a faint uncharacteristic sneer.

“Talamasca.” The word struck Daniel suddenly as beautiful. Talamasca. He broke it down from the Latin, understood its parts. Somewhere out of his memory bank it came: animal mask. Old word for witch or shaman.

“But what does it really mean?” he asked.

“It means Lestat is a fool,” Armand said. Flicker of deep pain in his eyes. “But it makes no difference now.”


HAYMAN watched from the archway as the Vampire Lestat’s car entered the gates of the parking lot. Almost invisible Khayman was, even in the stylish denim coat and pants he’d

stolen earlier from a shop manikin. He didn’t need the silver glasses that covered his eyes. His glowing skin didn’t matter. Not when everywhere he looked he saw masks and paint, glitter and gauze and sequined costumes.

He moved closer to Lestat, as if swimming through the wriggling bodies of the youngsters who mobbed the car. At last he glimpsed the creature’s blond hair, and then his violet blue eyes as he smiled and blew kisses to his adorers. Such charm the devil had. He drove the car himself, gunning the motor and forcing the bumper against these tender little humans even as he flirted, winked, seduced, as if he and his foot on the gas pedal weren’t connected to each other.

Exhilaration. Triumph. That’s what Lestat felt and knew at this moment. And even his reticent companion, Louis, the dark-haired one in the car beside him, staring timidly at the screaming children as if they were birds of paradise, didn’t understand what was truly happening.

Neither knew that the Queen had waked. Neither knew the dreams of the twins. Their ignorance was astonishing. And their young minds were so easy to scan. Apparently the Vampire Lestat, who had hidden himself quite well until this night, was now prepared to do battle with everyone. He wore his thoughts and intentions like a badge of honor.

“Hunt us down!” That’s what he said aloud to his fans, though they didn’t hear. “Kill us. We’re evil. We’re bad. It’s perfectly fine to cheer and sing with us now. But when you catch on, well, then the serious business will begin. And you’ll remember that I never lied to you.”

For one instant his eyes and Khayman’s eyes met. I want to be good! I would die for that! But there was no recognition of who or what received this message.

Louis, the watcher, the patient one, was there on account of love

pure and simple. The two had found each other only last night, and theirs had been an extraordinary reunion. Louis would go where Lestat led him. Louis would perish if Lestat perished. But their fears and hopes for this night were heartbreakingly human.

They did not even guess that the Queen’s wrath was close at hand, that she’d burnt the San Francisco coven house within the hour. Or that the infamous vampire tavern on Castro Street was burning now, as the Queen hunted down those fleeing from it.

But then the many blood drinkers scattered throughout this crowd did not know these simple facts either. They were too young to hear the warnings of the old, to hear the screams of the doomed as they perished. The dreams of the twins had only confused them. From various points, they glared at Lestat, overcome with hatred or religious fervor. They would destroy him or make of him a god. They did not guess at the danger that awaited them.

But what of the twins themselves? What was the meaning of the dreams?

Khayman watched the car move on, forcing its way towards the back of the auditorium. He looked up at the stars overhead, the tiny pinpricks of light behind the mist that hung over the city. He thought he could feel the closeness of his old sovereign.

He turned back towards the auditorium and made his way carefully through the press. To forget his strength in such a crowd as this would have been disaster. He would bruise flesh and break bones without even feeling it.

He took one last look at the sky, and then he went inside, easily befuddling the ticket taker as he went through the little turnstile and towards the nearest stairway.

The auditorium was almost filled. He looked about himself thoughtfully, savoring the moment somewhat as he savored everything. The hall itself was nothing, a shell of a place to hold light and sound—utterly modern and unredeemably ugly.

But the mortals, how pretty they were, glistering with health, their pockets full of gold, sound bodies everywhere, in which no organ had been eaten by the worms of disease, no bone ever broken.

In fact the sanitized well-being of this entire city rather amazed

Khayman. True, he’d seen wealth in Europe such as he could never have imagined, but nothing equaled the flawless surface of this small and over-populated place, even to the San Francisco peasantry, whose tiny stucco cottages were choked with luxuries of every description. Driveways here were jammed with handsome automobiles. Paupers drew their money from bank machines with magic plastic cards. No slums anywhere. Great towers the city had, and fabulous hostelries; mansions in profusion; yet girded as it was by sea and mountains and the glittering waters of the Bay, it seemed not so much a capital as a resort, an escape from the world’s greater pain and ugliness.

No wonder Lestat had chosen this place to throw down the gauntlet. In the main, these pampered children were good. Deprivation had never wounded or weakened them. They might prove perfect combatants for real evil. That is, when they came to realize that the symbol and the thing were one and the same. Wake up and smell the blood, young ones.

But would there be time for that now?

Lestat’s great scheme, whatever it truly was, might be stillborn; for surely the Queen had a scheme of her own, and Lestat knew nothing of it.

Khayman made his way now to the top of the hall. To the very last row of wooden seats where he had been earlier. He settled comfortably in the same spot, pushing aside the two “vampire books,” which still lay on the floor, unnoticed.

Earlier, he had devoured the texts—Louis’s testament: “Behold, the void.” And Lestat’s history: “And this and this and this, and it means nothing.” They had clarified for him many things. And what Khayman had divined of Lestat’s intentions had been confirmed completely. But of the mystery of the twins, of course, the book told nothing.

And as for the Queen’s true intent, that continued to baffle him.

She had slain hundreds of blood drinkers the world over, yet left others unharmed.

Even now, Marius lived. In destroying her shrine, she had punished him but not killed him, which would have been simple. He called to the older ones from his prison of ice, warning, begging for assistance. And effortlessly, Khayman sensed two immortals

moving to answer Marius’s call, though one, Marius’s own child, could not even hear it. Pandora was that one’s name; she was a lone one, a strong one. The other, called Santino, did not have her power, but he could hear Marius’s voice, as he struggled to keep pace with her.

Without doubt the Queen could have struck them down had she chosen to do it. Yet on and on they moved, clearly visible, clearly audible, yet unmolested.

How did the Queen make such choices? Surely there were those in this very hall whom she had spared for some purpose. . . .


HEY had reached the doors, and now had to push the last few feet down a narrow ramp into the giant open oval of the main floor.

The crowd loosened, like marbles rolling in all directions. Daniel moved towards the center, his fingers hooked around Armand’s belt so as not to lose him, his eyes roaming over the horseshoe-shaped theater, the high banks of seats rising to the ceiling. Mortals everywhere swarmed the cement stairs, or hung over iron railings, or flowed into the milling crowd around him.

A blur it was suddenly, the noise of it like the low grind of a giant machine. But then in the moment of deliberately distorted vision, he saw the others. He saw the simple, inescapable difference between the living and the dead. Beings like himself in every direction, concealed in the mortal forest, yet shining like the eyes of an owl in the light of the moon. No paint or dark glasses or shapeless hats or hooded capes could ever conceivably hide them from each other. And it wasn’t merely the unearthly sheen to their faces or hands. It was the slow, lissome grace of their movements, as if they were more spirit than flesh.

Ah, my brothers and sisters, at last!

But it was hatred he felt around him. A rather dishonest hatred! They loved Lestat and condemned him simultaneously. They loved the very act of hating, punishing. Suddenly, he caught the eye of a powerful hulking creature with greasy black hair who bared his fangs in an ugly flash and then revealed the plan in stunning completeness. Beyond the prying eyes of mortals, they would hack Lestat’s limbs from his body; they would sever his head; then the remains would be burnt on a pyre by the sea. The end of the monster and his legend. Are you with us or against us?

Daniel laughed out loud. “You’ll never kill him,” Daniel said. Yet he gaped as he glimpsed the sharpened scythe the creature held against his chest inside his coat. Then the beast turned and vanished. Daniel gazed upwards through the smoky light. One of them now. Know all their secrets! He felt giddy, on the verge of madness.

Armand’s hand closed on his shoulder. They had come to the very center of the main floor. The crowd was getting denser by the second. Pretty girls in black silk gowns shoved and pushed against the crude bikers in their worn black leather. Soft feathers brushed his cheek; he saw a red devil with giant horns; a bony skeleton face topped with golden curls and pearl combs. Random cries rose in the bluish gloom. The bikers howled like wolves; someone shouted “Lestat” in a deafening voice, and others took up the call instantly.

Armand again had the lost expression, the expression that belonged to deep concentration, as if what he saw before him meant nothing at all.

“Thirty perhaps,” he whispered in Daniel’s ear, “no more than that, and one or two so old they could destroy the rest of us in an instant.”

“Where, tell me where?”

“Listen,” Armand said. “And see for yourself. There is no hiding from them.”


AHARET’S child. Jessica. The thought caught Khayman off guard. Protect Maharet’s child. Somehow escape from here.

He roused himself, senses sharpened. He’d been

listening to Marius again, Marius trying to reach the young untuned ears of the Vampire Lestat, who preened backstage, before a broken mirror. What could this mean, Maharet’s child, Jessica, and when the thoughts pertained, without doubt, to a mortal woman?

It came again, the unexpected communication of some strong yet unveiled mind: Take care of Jesse. Somehow stop the Mother But

there were no words really—it was no more than a shining glimpse into another’s soul, a sparkling overflow.

Khayman’s eyes moved slowly over the balconies opposite, over the swarming main floor. Far away in some remote corner of the city, an old one wandered, full of fear of the Queen yet longing to look upon her face. He had come here to die, but to know her face in the final instant. Khayman closed his eyes to shut this out.

Then he heard it again suddenly. Jessica, my Jessica. And behind the soulful call, the knowledge of Maharet! The sudden vision of Maharet, enshrined in love, and ancient and white as he himself was. It was a moment of stunning pain. He slumped back in the wooden seat and bowed his head just a little. Then he looked out again over the steel rafters, the ugly tangles of black wire and rusted cylindrical lights. Where are you?

There, far away against the opposite wall, he saw the figure from whom the thoughts were coming. Ah, the oldest he had seen so far. A giant Nordic blood drinker, seasoned and cunning, dressed in coarse brown rawhide garments, with flowing straw-colored hair, his heavy brows and small deep-set eyes giving him a brooding expression.

The being was tracking a small mortal woman who fought her way through the crowds of the main floor. Jesse, Maharet’s mortal daughter.

Maddened, disbelieving, Khayman focused tightly on the small woman. He felt his eyes mist with tears as he saw the astonishing

resemblance. Here was Maharet’s long coppery red hair, curling, thick, and the same tall birdlike frame, the same clever and curious green eyes, sweeping the scene as the female let herself be turned around and around by those who pushed against her.

Maharet’s profile. Maharet’s skin, which had been so pale and almost luminous in life, so like the inner lining of a seashell.

In a sudden vivid memory, he saw Maharet’s skin through the mesh of his own dark fingers. As he had pushed her face to the side during the rape, his fingertips had touched the delicate folds of flesh over her eyes. Not till a year later had they plucked out her eyes and he had been there remembering the moment, the feel of the flesh. That is before he had picked up the eyes themselves and . . . .

He shuddered. He felt a sharp pain in his lungs. His memory wasn’t going to fail him. He would not slip away from this moment, the happy clown remembering nothing.

Maharet’s child, all right. But how? Through how many generations had these characteristics survived to flower again in this small female who appeared to be fighting her way towards the stage at the end of the hall?

It was not impossible, of course. He quickly realized it. Perhaps three hundred ancestors stood between this twentieth-century woman and the long ago afternoon when he had put on the King’s medallion and stepped down from the dais to commit the King’s rape. Maybe even less than that. A mere fraction of this crowd, to put it more neatly in perspective.

But more astonishing than this, that Maharet knew her own descendants. And know this woman Maharet did. The tall blood drinker’s mind yielded that fact immediately.

He scanned the tall Nordic one. Maharet, alive. Maharet, the guardian of her mortal family. Maharet, the embodiment of illimitable strength and will. Maharet who had given him, this blond servant, no explanation of the dreams of the twins, but had sent him here instead to do her bidding: save Jessica.

Ah, but she lives, Khayman thought. She lives, and if she lives then in a real way, they both live, the red-haired sisters!

Khayman studied the creature even more intently, probing even

deeper. But all he caught now was the fierce protectiveness. Rescue Jesse, not merely from the danger of the Mother but from this place altogether, where Jesse’s eyes would see what no one could ever explain away.

And how he loathed the Mother, this tall, fair being with the posture of a warrior and a priest in one. He loathed that the Mother had disrupted the serenity of his timeless and melancholy existence; loathed that his sad, sweet love for this woman, Jessica, exacerbated the alarm he felt for himself. He knew the extent of the destruction too, that every blood drinker from one end of this continent to the other had been destroyed, save for a precious few, most of whom were under this roof, never dreaming of the fate that threatened them.

He knew as well of the dreams of the twins, but he did not understand them. After all, two redheaded sisters he had never known; only one red-haired beauty ruled his life. And once again Khayman saw Maharet’s face, a vagrant image of softened weary human eyes peering from a porcelain mask: Mael, do not ask me anything more. But do as I tell you.

Silence. The blood drinker was aware of the surveillance suddenly. With a little jerk of his head he looked around the hall, trying to spot the intruder.

The name had done it, as names so often do. The creature had felt himself known, recognized. And Khayman had recognized the name at once, connecting it with the Mael of Lestat’s pages. Undoubtedly they were one and the same—this was the Druid priest who had lured Marius into the sacred grove where the blood god had made him one of its own, and sent him off to Egypt to find the Mother and the Father.

Yes, this was the same Mael. And the creature felt himself recognized and hated it.

After the initial spasm of rage, all thought and emotion vanished. A rather dizzying display of strength, Khayman conceded. He relaxed in the chair. But the creature couldn’t find him. Two dozen other white faces he picked out of the crowd, but not Khayman.

Intrepid Jessica had meantime reached her destination. Ducking low, she’d slipped through the heavy-muscled motorcycle riders who claimed the space before the stage as their own, and had risen

to take hold of the lip of the wooden platform.

Flash of her silver bracelet in the light. And that might as well have been a tiny dagger to the mental shield of Mael, because his love and his thoughts were wholly visible again for one fluid instant.

This one is going to die, too, if he doesn’t become wise, Khayman thought. He’d been schooled by Maharet, no doubt, and perhaps nourished by her powerful blood; yet his heart was undisciplined, and his temper beyond his control, it was obvious.

Then some feet behind Jesse, in the swirling color and noise, Khayman spied another intriguing figure, much younger, yet almost as powerful in his own fashion as the Gaul, Mael.

Khayman sought for the name, but the creature’s mind was a perfect blank; not so much as a glimmer of personality escaped from it. A boy he’d been when he died, with straight dark auburn hair, and eyes a little too big for his face. But it was easy, suddenly, to filch the being’s name from Daniel, his newborn fledgling who stood beside him. Armand. And the fledgling, Daniel, was scarcely dead. All the tiny molecules of his body were dancing with the demon’s invisible chemistry.

Armand immediately attracted Khayman. Surely he was the same Armand of whom Louis and Lestat had both written—the immortal with the form of a youth. And this meant that he was no more than five hundred years old, yet he veiled himself completely. Shrewd, cold he seemed, yet without flair—a stance that required no room in which to display itself. And now, sensing infallibly that he was watched, he turned his large soft brown eyes upward and fixed instantly upon the remote figure of Khayman.

“No harm meant to you or your young one,” Khayman whispered, so that his lips might shape and control the thoughts. “No friend to the Mother.”

Armand heard but gave no answer. Whatever terror he felt at the sight of one so old, he masked completely. One would have thought he was looking at the wall behind Khayman’s head, at the steady stream of laughing and shouting children who poured down the steps from the topmost doorways.

And, quite inevitably, this oddly beguiling little five-hundred-year-old being fixed his eyes upon Mael as the gaunt one felt

another irresistible surge of concern for his fragile Jesse.

Khayman understood this being, Armand. He felt he understood him and liked him completely. As their eyes met again, all that had been written of this creature in the two little histories was informed and balanced by the creature’s innate simplicity. The loneliness which Khayman had felt in Athens was now very strong.

“Not unlike my own simple soul,” Khayman whispered. “You’re lost in all this because you know the terrain too well. And that no matter how far you walk, you come again to the same mountains, the same valley.”

No response. Of course. Khayman shrugged and smiled. To this one he’d give anything that he could; and guilelessly, he let Armand know it.

Now the question was, how to help them, these two that might have some hope of sleeping the immortal sleep until another sunset. And most important of all, how to reach Maharet, to whom the fierce and distrusting Mael was unstintingly devoted.

To Armand, Khayman said with the slightest movement of his lips: “No friend of the Mother. I told you. And keep with the mortal crowd. She’ll pick you out when you step apart. It’s that simple.”

Armand’s face registered no change. Beside him, the fledgling Daniel was happy, glorying in the pageant that surrounded him. He knew no fear, no plans or dreams. And why not? He had this extremely powerful creature to take care of him. He was a damn sight luckier than the rest.

Khayman rose to his feet. It was the loneliness as much as anything else. He would be near to one of these two, Armand or Mael. That’s what he had wanted in Athens when all this glorious remembering and knowing had begun. To be near another like himself. To speak, to touch . . . something.

He moved along the top aisle of the hall, which circled the entire room, save for a margin at the far end behind the stage which belonged to the giant video screen.

He moved with slow human grace, careful not to crush the mortals who pushed against him. And also he wanted this slow progress because he must give Mael the opportunity to see him.

He knew instinctively that if he snuck up on this proud and

quarrelsome thing, the insult would never be borne. And so he proceeded, only picking up his pace when he realized Mael was now aware of his approach.

Mael couldn’t hide his fear as Armand could. Mael had never seen a blood drinker of Khayman’s age save for Maharet; he was gazing at a potential enemy. Khayman sent the same warm greeting he had sent to Armand—Armand who watched—but nothing in the old warrior’s stance changed.

The auditorium was now full and locked; outside children screamed and beat upon the doors. Khayman heard the whine and belch of the police radios.

The Vampire Lestat and his cohorts stood spying upon the hall through the holes in a great serge curtain.

Lestat embraced his companion Louis, and they kissed on the mouth, as the mortal musicians put their arms around both of them.

Khayman paused to feel the passion of the crowd, the very air charged with it.

Jessica had rested her arms on the edge of the platform. She had rested her chin upon the back of her hands. The men behind her, hulking creatures clothed in shiny black leather, shoved her brutally, out of carelessness and drunken exuberance, but they couldn’t dislodge her.

Neither could Mael, should he make the attempt.

And something else came clear to Khayman suddenly, as he looked down at her. It was the single word Talamasca. This woman belonged to them; she was part of the order.

Not possible, he thought again, then laughed silently at his own foolish innocence. This was a night of shocks, was it not? Yet it seemed quite incredible that the Talamasca should have survived from the time he had known it centuries before, when he had played with its members and tormented them, and then turned his back on them out of pity for their fatal combination of innocence and ignorance.

Ah, memory was too ghastly a thing. Let his past lives slip into oblivion! He could see the faces of those vagabonds, those secular monks of the Talamasca who had so clumsily pursued him across Europe, recording glimpses of him in great leather-bound books,

their quill pens scratching late into the night. Benjamin had been his name in that brief respite of consciousness, and Benjamin the Devil they had labeled him in their fancy Latin script, sending off crackling parchment epistles with big sloppy wax seals to their superiors in Amsterdam.

It had been a game to him, to steal their letters and add his notes to them; to frighten them; to crawl out from under their beds in the night and grab them by the throats and shake them; it had been fun; and what was not? When the fun stopped, he’d always lost his memory again.

But he had loved them; not exorcists they, or witch-hunting priests, or sorcerers who hoped to chain and control his power. It had even occurred to him once that when it came time to sleep, he would choose the vaults beneath their moldy Motherhouse. For all their meddlesome curiosity, they would never have betrayed him.

And now to think that the order had survived, with the tenacity of the Church of Rome, and this pretty mortal woman with the shining bracelet on her arm, beloved of Maharet and Mael, was one of their special breed. No wonder she had fought her way to the front ranks, as if to the bottom step of the altar.

Khayman drew closer to Mael, but he stopped short of him by several feet, the crowd passing ceaselessly in front of them. This he did out of respect for Mael’s apprehension, and the shame the creature felt for being afraid. It was Mael who approached and stood at Khayman’s side.

The restless crowd passed them as if they were the wall itself. Mael leant close to Khayman, which in its own way was a greeting, an offering of trust. He looked out over the hall, where no empty seat was visible, and the main floor was a mosaic of flashing colors and glistening hair and tiny upthrust fists. Then he reached out and touched Khayman as if he couldn’t prevent himself from doing it. With his fingertips he touched the back of, Khayman’s left hand. And Khayman remained still to allow this little exploration.

How many times had Khayman seen such a gesture between immortals, the young one verifying for himself the texture and hardness of the elder’s flesh. Hadn’t some Christian saint slipped his hand in Christ’s wounds because the sight of them had not been sufficient? More mundane comparisons made Khayman smile. It

was like two fierce dogs tentatively examining each other.

Far below, Armand remained impassive as he kept his eyes upon the two figures. Surely he saw Mael’s sudden disdainful glance, but he did not acknowledge it.

Khayman turned and embraced Mael, and smiled at him. But this merely frightened Mael, and Khayman felt the disappointment heavily. Politely, he stepped away. For a moment he was painfully confused. He stared down at Armand. Beautiful Armand who met his gaze with utter passivity. But it was time to say now what he’d come to say.

“You must make your shield stronger, my friend,” he explained to Mael gently. “Don’t let your love for that girl expose you. The girl will be perfectly safe from our Queen if you curb your thoughts of the girl’s origins and her protector. That name is anathema to the Queen. It always has been.”

“And where is the Queen?” Mael asked, his fear surging again, along with the rage that he needed to fight it.

“She’s close.” “Yes, but where?”

“I cannot say. She’s burnt their tavern house. She hunts the few rogues who haven’t come to the hall. She takes her time with it. And this I’ve learned through the minds of her victims.”

Khayman could see the creature shudder. He could see subtle changes in him that marked his ever increasing anger. Well and good. The fear withered in the heat of the anger. But what a basically quarrelsome creature this one was. His mind did not make sophisticated distinctions.

“And why do you give me this warning,” demanded Mael, “when she can hear every word we speak to each other?”

“But I don’t think that she Can,” Khayman replied calmly. “I am of the First Brood, friend. To hear other blood drinkers as we hear mortal men, that curse belongs only to distant cousins. I could not read her mind if she stood on this spot; and mine is closed to her as well, you can be sure of it. And so it was with all our kind through the early generations.”

That clearly fascinated the blond giant. So Maharet could not hear the Mother! Maharet had not admitted this to him.

“No,” Khayman said, “and the Mother can only know of her through your thoughts, so kindly guard them. Speak to me now in a human voice, for this city is a wilderness of such voices.”

Mael considered, brows puckered in a frown. He glared at Khayman as if he meant to hit him.

“And this will defeat her?”

“Remember,” Khayman said, “that excess can be the very opposite of essence.” He looked back at Armand as he spoke. “She who hears a multitude of voices may not hear any one voice. And she who would listen closely to one, must shut out the others. You are old enough to know the trick.”

Mael didn’t answer out loud. But it was clear that he understood. The telepathic gift had always been a curse to him, too, whether he was besieged by the voices of blood drinkers or humans.

Khayman gave a little nod. The telepathic gift. Such nice words for the madness that had come on him eons ago, after years of listening, years of lying motionless, covered with dust in the deep recesses of a forgotten Egyptian tomb, listening to the weeping of the world, without knowledge of himself or his condition.

“Precisely my point, my friend,” he said. “And for two thousand years you have fought the voices while our Queen may well have been drowned by them. It seems the Vampire Lestat has outshouted the din; he has, as it were, snapped his fingers in the corner of her eye and brought her to attention. But do not overestimate the creature who sat motionless for so long. It isn’t useful to do so.”

These ideas startled Mael somewhat. But he saw the logic of them. Below, Armand remained attentive.

“She can’t do all things,” Khayman said, “whether she herself knows it or not. She was always one to reach for the stars, and then draw back as if in horror.”

“How so?” Mael said. Excited, he leaned closer. “What is she really like!” he whispered.

“She was full of dreams and high ideals. She was like Lestat.” Khayman shrugged. “The blond one down there who would be good and do good and gather to himself the needy worshipers.”

Mael smiled, coldly, cynically.

“But what in the name of hell does she mean to do?” he asked.

“So he has waked her with his abominable songs. Why does she destroy us?”

“There’s a purpose, you can be sure of it. With our Queen there has always been a purpose. She could not do the smallest thing without a grand purpose. And you must know we do not really change over time; we are as flowers unfolding, we merely become more nearly ourselves.” He glanced again at Armand. “As for what her purpose may be, I can give you only speculations . . . ”

“Yes, tell me.”

“This concert will take place because Lestat wants it. And when it is finished, she will slaughter more of our kind. But she will leave some, some to serve this purpose, some perhaps to witness.”

Khayman gazed at Armand. Marvelous how his expressionless face conveyed wisdom, while the harried, weary face of Mael did not. And who can say which one understood the most? Mael gave a little bitter laugh.

“To witness?” Mael asked. “I think not. I think she is cruder than that. She spares those whom Lestat loves, it’s that simple.”

This hadn’t occurred to Khayman.

“Ah, yes, think on it,” Mael said, in the same sharply pronounced English. “Louis, Lestat’s companion. Is he not alive? And Gabrielle, the mother of the fiend, she is near at hand, waiting to rendezvous with her son as soon as it is wise to do so. And Armand, down there, whom you so like to look at, it seems Lestat would see him again, so he is alive, and that outcast with him, the one who published the accursed book, the one the others would tear limb from limb if only they guessed . . . ”

“No, there’s more to it than that. There has to be,” Khayman said. “Some of us she can’t kill. And those who go to Marius now, Lestat knows nothing of them but their names.”

Mael’s face changed slightly; it underwent a deep, human flush, as his eyes narrowed. It was clear to Khayman that Mael would have gone to Marius if he could. He would have gone this very night, if only Maharet had come to protect Jessica. He tried now to banish Maharet’s name from his thoughts. He was afraid of Maharet, deeply afraid.

“Ah, yes, you try to hide what you know,” Khayman said. “And

this is just what you must reveal to me.”

“But I can’t,” Mael said. The wall had gone up. Impenetrable. “I am not given answers, only orders, my friend. And my mission is to survive this night, and to take my charge safely out of here.”

Khayman meant to press, to demand. But he did neither. He had felt a soft, subtle change in the atmosphere around him, a change so insignificant yet pure that he couldn’t call it movement or sound.

She was coming. She was moving close to the hall. He felt himself slip away from his body into pure listening; yes, it was she. All the sounds of the night rose to confuse him, yet he caught it; a low irreducible sound which she could not veil, the sound of her breathing, of the beat of her heart, of a force moving through space at tremendous and unnatural speed, causing the inevitable tumult amid the visible and the invisible.

Mael sensed it; so did Armand. Even the young one beside Armand heard it, though so many other young ones did not. Even some of the more finely tuned mortals seemed to feel it and to be distracted by it.

“I must go, friend,” Khayman said. “Remember my advice.” Impossible to say more now.

She was very close. Undoubtedly she scanned; she listened.

He felt the first irresistible urge to see her, to scan for the minds of those hapless souls out there in the night whose eyes might have passed over her.

“Good-bye, friend,” he said. “It’s no good for me to be near you.”

Mael looked at him in confusion. Below, Armand gathered Daniel to him and made for the edge of the crowd.

The hall went dark suddenly; and for one split second Khayman thought it was her magic, that some grotesque and vengeful judgment would now be made.

But the mortal children all around him knew the ritual. The concert was about to begin! The hall went mad with shrieks, and cheers, and stomping. Finally it became a great collective roar. He felt the floor tremble.

Tiny flames appeared as mortals struck their matches, ignited their chemical lighters. And a drowsy beautiful illumination once again revealed the thousands upon thousands of moving forms. The

screams were a chorus from all sides.

“I am no coward,” Mael whispered suddenly, as if he could not remain silent. He took hold of Khayman’s arm, then let it go as if the hardness of it repelled him.

“I know,” Khayman said. “Help me. Help Jessica.”

“Don’t speak her name again. Stay away from her as I’ve told you. You are conquered again, Druid. Remember? Time to fight with cunning, not rage. Stay with the mortal herd. I will help you when and if I can.”

There was so much more he wanted to say! Tell me where Maharet is! But it was too late now for that. He turned away and moved along the aisle swiftly until he came to an open place above a long narrow flight of cement stairs.

Below on the darkened stage, the mortal musicians appeared, darting over wires and speakers to gather their instruments from the floor.

The Vampire Lestat came striding through the curtain, his black cloak flaring around him, as he moved to the very front of the platform. Not three feet from Jesse he stood with microphone in hand.

The crowd had gone into ecstasies. Clapping, hooting, howling, it was a noise such as Khayman had never actually heard. He laughed in spite of himself at the stupid frenzy, at the tiny smiling figure down there who loved it utterly, who was laughing even as Khayman laughed.

Then in a great white flash, light flooded the small stage. Khayman stared, not at the small figures strutting in their finery, but at the giant video screen that rose behind them to the very roof. The living image of the Vampire Lestat, thirty feet in height, blazed before Khayman. The creature smiled; he lifted his arms, and shook his mane of yellow hair; he threw back his head and howled.

The crowd was on its feet in delirium; the very structure rumbled; but it was the howl that filled all ears. The Vampire Lestat’s powerful voice swallowed every other sound in the auditorium.

Khayman closed his eyes. In the heart of the monstrous cry of the Vampire Lestat, he listened again for the sound of the Mother, but

he could no longer find it.

“My Queen,” he whispered, searching, scanning, hopeless though it was. Did she stand up there on some grassy slope listening to the music of her troubadour? He felt the soft damp wind and saw the gray starless sky as random mortals felt and saw these things. The lights of San Francisco, its spangled hills and glowing towers, these were the beacons of the urban night, as terrible suddenly as the moon or the drift of the galaxies.

He closed his eyes. He envisioned her again as she’d been in the Athens street watching the tavern burn with her children in it; her tattered cape had hung loose over her shoulders, the hood thrown back from her plaited hair. Ah, the Queen of Heaven she’d seemed, as she had once so loved to be known, presiding over centuries of litany. Her eyes had been shining and empty in the electric light; her mouth soft, guileless. The sheer sweetness of her face had been infinitely beautiful.

The vision carried him back now over the centuries to a dim and awful moment, when he’d come, a mortal man, heart pounding to hear her will. His Queen, now cursed and consecrated to the moon, the demon in her demanding blood, his Queen who would not allow even the bright lamps to be near to her. How agitated she had been, pacing the mud floor, the colored walls around her full of silent painted sentinels.

“These twins,” she’d said, “these evil sisters, they have spoken such abominations.”

“Have mercy,” he had pleaded. “They meant no harm, I swear they tell the truth. Let them go again, Your Highness. They cannot change it now.”

Oh, such compassion he had felt for all of them! The twins, and his afflicted sovereign.

“Ah, but you see, we must put it to the test, their revolting lies,” she had said. “You must come closer, my devoted steward, you who have always served me with such devotion—”

“My Queen, my beloved Queen, what do you want of me?”

And with the same lovely expression on her face, she had lifted her icy hands to touch his throat, to hold him fast suddenly with a strength that terrified him. In shock, he’d watched her eyes go

blank, her mouth open. The two tiny fang teeth he’d seen, as she rose on tiptoe with the eerie grace of nightmare. Not me. You would not do this to me! My Queen, I am Khayman!

He should have perished long before now, as so many blood drinkers had afterwards. Gone without a trace, like the nameless multitudes dissolved within the earth of all lands and nations. But he had not perished. And the twins—at least one—had lived on also.

Did she know it? Did she know those terrible dreams? Had they come to her from the minds of all the others who had received them? Or had she traveled the night around the world, dreamless, and without cease, and bent upon one task, since her resurrection?

They live, my Queen, they live on in the one if not in the two together. Remember the old prophecy! If only she could hear his voice!

He opened his eyes. He was back again in the moment, with this ossified thing that was his body. And the rising music saturated him with its remorseless rhythm. It pounded against his ears. The flashing lights blinded him.

He turned his back and put his hand against the wall. Never had he been so engulfed by sound. He felt himself losing consciousness, but Lestat’s voice called him back.

With his fingers splayed across his eyes, Khayman looked down at the fiery white square of the stage. Behold the devil dance and sing with such obvious joy. It touched Khayman’s heart in spite of himself.

Lestat’s powerful tenor needed no electric amplification. And even the immortals lost among their prey were singing with him, it was so contagious, this passion. Everywhere he looked Khayman saw them caught up, mortal and immortal alike. Bodies twisted in time with the bodies on the stage. Voices rose; the hall swayed with one wave of movement after another.

The giant face of Lestat expanded on the video screen as the camera moved in upon it. The blue eye fixed upon Khayman and winked.


Lestat’s laughter rose above the twanging scream of the guitars.


Ah, such a belief in goodness, in heroism. Khayman could see it even in the creature’s eyes, a dark gray shadow there of tragic need. Lestat threw back his head and roared again; he stamped his feet and howled; he looked to the rafters as if they were the firmament.

Khayman forced himself to move; he had to escape. He made his way clumsily to the door, as if suffocating in the deafening sound. Even his sense of balance had been affected. The blasting music came after him into the stairwell, but at least he was sheltered from the flashing lights. Leaning against the wall, he tried to clear his vision.

Smell of blood. Hunger of so many blood drinkers in the hall. And the throb of the music through the wood and the plaster.

He moved down the steps, unable to hear his own feet on the concrete, and sank down finally on a deserted landing. He wrapped his arms around his knees and bowed his head.

The music was like the music of old, when all songs had been the songs of the body, and the songs of the mind had not yet been invented.

He saw himself dancing; he saw the King—the mortal king he had so loved—turn and leap into the air; he heard the beat of the drums; the rise of the pipes; the King put the beer in Khayman’s hand. The table sagged beneath its wealth of roasted game and glistening fruit, its steaming loaves of bread. The Queen sat in her golden chair, immaculate and serene, a mortal woman with a tiny cone of scented wax atop her elaborate hair, melting slowly in the heat to perfume her plaited tresses.

Then someone had put the coffin in his hand; the tiny coffin that was passed now among those who feasted; the little reminder: Eat. Drink. For Death awaits all of us.

He held it tight; should he pass it now to the King?

He felt the King’s lips against his face suddenly. “Dance, Khayman. Drink. Tomorrow we march north to slay the last of the flesh eaters.” The King didn’t even look at the tiny coffin as he took it; he slipped it into the Queen’s hands and she, without looking down, gave it to another.

The last of the flesh eaters. How simple it had all seemed; how

good. Until he had seen the twins kneeling before that altar.

The great rattle of drums drowned out Lestat’s voice. Mortals passed Khayman, hardly noticing him huddled there; a blood drinker ran quickly by without the slightest heed of him.

The voice of Lestat rose again, singing of the Children of Darkness, hidden beneath the cemetery called Les Innocents in superstition and fear.

Into the light We’ve come

My Brothers and Sisters!



My Brothers and Sisters!


Sluggishly, Khayman rose. He was staggering, but he moved on, downward until he had come out in the lobby where the noise was just a little muted, and he rested there, across from the inner doors, in a cooling draft of fresh air.

Calm was returning to him, but only slowly, when he realized that two mortal men had paused nearby and were staring at him as he stood against the wall with his hands in his pockets, his head bowed.

He saw himself suddenly as they saw him. He sensed their apprehension, mingled with a sudden irrepressible sense of victory. Men who had known about his kind, men who had lived for a moment such as this, yet dreaded it, and never truly hoped for it.

Slowly, he looked up. They stood some twenty feet away from him, near to the cluttered concession stand, as if it could hide them

—proper British gentlemen. They were old, in fact, learned, with heavily creased faces and prim formal attire. Utterly out of place here their fine gray overcoats, the bit of starched collar showing, the gleaming knot of silk tie. They seemed explorers from another world among the flamboyant youth that moved restlessly to and fro, thriving on the barbaric noise and broken chatter.

And with such natural reticence they stared; as if they were too polite to be afraid. Elders of the Talamasca looking for Jessica.

Know us? Yes, you do of course. No harm. Don’t care.

His silent words drove the one called David Talbot back a pace. The man’s breathing became hurried, and there was a sudden dampness on his forehead and upper lip. Yet such elegant composure. David Talbot narrowed his eyes as if he would not be dazzled by what he saw; as if he would see the tiny dancing molecules in the brightness.

How small it seemed suddenly the span of a human life; look at this fragile man, for whom education and refinement have only increased all risks. So simple to alter the fabric of his thought, his expectations. Should Khayman tell them where Jesse was? Should he meddle? It would make no difference ultimately.

He sensed now that they were afraid to go or to remain, that he had them fixed almost as if he’d hypnotized them. In a way, it was respect that kept them there, staring at him. It seemed he had to offer something, if only to end this awful scrutiny.

Don’t go to her. You’d be fools if you did. She has others like me now to look after her. Best leave here. I would if I were you.

Now, how would all this read in the archives of the Talamasca? Some night he might find out. To what modern places had they removed their old documents and treasures?

Benjamin, the Devil. That’s who I am. Don’t you know me? He smiled at himself. He let his head droop, staring at the floor. He had not known he possessed this vanity. And suddenly he did not care what this moment meant to them.

He thought listlessly of those olden times in France when he had played with their kind. “Allow us but to speak to you!” they’d pleaded. Dusty scholars with pale eternally red-rimmed eyes and worn velvet clothing, so unlike these two fine gentlemen, for whom the occult was a matter of science, not philosophy. The hopelessness of that time suddenly frightened him; the hopelessness of this time was equally frightening.

Go away.

Without looking up, he saw that David Talbot had nodded. Politely, he and his companion withdrew. Glancing back over their shoulders, they hurried down the curve of the lobby, and into the concert.

Khayman was alone again, with the rhythm of the music coming

from the doorway, alone and wondering why he had come here, what it was he wanted; wishing that he could forget again; that he was in some lovely place full of warm breezes and mortals who didn’t know what he was, and twinkling electric lights beneath the faded clouds, and flat endless city pavements to walk until morning.


ET me alone, you son of a bitch!” Jesse kicked the man beside her, the one who had hooked his arm around her waist and lifted her away from the stage. “You bastard!” Doubled over

with the pain in his foot, he was no match for her sudden shove. He toppled and went down.

Five times she’d been swept back from the stage. She ducked and pushed through the little cluster that had taken her place, sliding against their black leather flanks as if she were a fish and rising up again to grab the apron of unpainted wood, one hand taking hold of the strong synthetic cloth that decorated it, and twisting it into a rope.

In the flashing lights she saw the Vampire Lestat leap high into the air and come down without a palpable sound on the boards, his voice rising again without benefit of the mike to fill the auditorium, his guitar players prancing around him like imps.

The blood ran in tiny rivulets down his white face, as if from Christ’s Crown of Thorns, his long blond hair flying out as he turned full circle, his hand ripping at his shirt, tearing it open down his chest, the black tie loose and falling. His pale crystalline blue eyes were glazed and shot with blood as he screamed the unimportant lyrics.

Jesse felt her heart knocking again as she stared up at him, at the rocking of his hips, the tight cloth of the black pants revealing the powerful muscles of his thighs. He leapt again, rising effortlessly, as if he would ascend to the very ceiling of the hall.

Yes, you see it, and there is no mistake! No other explanation! She wiped at her nose. She was crying again. But touch him,

damn it, you have to! In a daze she watched him finish the song, stomping his foot to the last three resounding notes, as the musicians danced back and forth, taunting, tossing their hair over their heads, their voices lost in his as they struggled to meet his pace.

God, how he loved it! There was not the slightest pretense. He was bathed in the adoration he was receiving. He was soaking it up

as if it were blood.

And now as he went into the frenzied opening of another song, he ripped off the black velvet cloak, gave it a great twirl, and sent it flying into the audience. The crowd wailed, shifted. Jesse felt a knee in her back, a boot scraping her heel, but this was her chance, as the guards jumped down off the boards to stop the melee.

With both hands pressed down hard on the wood, she sprang up and, over on her belly and onto her feet. She ran right towards the dancing figure whose eyes suddenly looked into hers.

“Yes, you! You!” she cried out. In the corner of her eye was the approaching guard. She threw her full weight at the Vampire Lestat. Shutting her eyes, she locked her arms around his waist. She felt the cold shock of his silky chest against her face, she tasted the blood suddenly on her lip!

“Oh, God, real!” she whispered. Her heart was going to burst, but she hung on. Yes, Mael’s skin, like this, and Maharet’s skin, like this, and all of them. Yes, this! Real, not human. Always. And it was all here in her arms and she knew and it was too late for them to stop her now!

Her left hand went up, and caught a thick tangle of his hair, and as she opened her eyes, she saw him smiling down at her, saw the poreless gleaming white skin, and the tiny fang teeth.

“You devil!” she whispered. She was laughing like a mad woman, crying and laughing.

“Love you, Jessica,” he whispered back at her, smiling at her as if he were teasing her, the wet blond hair tumbling down into his eyes.

Astonished, she felt his arm around her, and then he lifted her on his hip, swinging her in a circle. The screaming musicians were a blur, the lights were violent streaks of white, red. She was moaning; but she kept looking up at him, at his eyes, yes, real. Desperately she hung on, for it seemed he meant to throw her high into the air over the heads of the crowd. And then as he set her down and bowed his head, his hair falling against her cheek, she felt his mouth close on hers.

The throbbing music went dim as if she’d been plunged into the sea. She felt him breathe into her, sigh against her, his smooth

fingers sliding up her neck. Her breasts were pressed against the beat of his heart; and a voice was speaking to her, purely, the way a voice had long ago, a voice that knew her, a voice that understood her questions and knew how they must be answered.

Evil, Jesse. As you have always known.

Hands pulled her back. Human hands. She was being separated from him. She screamed.

Bewildered, he stared at her. He was reaching deep, deep into his dreams for something he only faintly remembered. The funeral feast; the red-haired twins kneeling on either side of the altar. But it was no more than a split second; then gone; he was baffled; his smile flashed again, impersonal, like one of the lights that were constantly blinding her. “Beautiful Jesse!” he said, his hand lifted as if in farewell. They were carrying her backwards away from him, off the stage.

She was laughing when they set her down.

Her white shirt was smeared with blood. Her hands were covered with it—pale streaks of salty blood. She felt she knew the taste of it. She threw back her head and laughed; and it was so curious not to be able to hear it, only to feel it, to feel the shudder running through her, to know she was crying and laughing at the same time. The guard said something rough to her, something crude, threatening. But that didn’t matter.

The crowd had her again. It just swallowed her, tumbling against her, driving her out of the center. A heavy shoe crushed her right foot. She stumbled, and turned, and let herself be pushed along ever more violently, towards the doors.

Didn’t matter now. She knew. She knew it all. Her head spun. She could not have stood upright if it were not for the shoulders knocking against her. And never had she felt such wondrous abandon. Never had she felt such release.

The crazy cacophonous music went on; faces flickered and disappeared in a wash of colored light. She smelled the marijuana, the beer. Thirst. Yes, something cold to drink. Something cold. So thirsty. She lifted her hand again and licked at the salt and the blood. Her body trembled, vibrated, the way it so often did on the verge of sleep. A soft delicious tremor that meant that dreams were coming. She licked at the blood again and closed her eyes.

Quite suddenly she felt herself pass into an open place. No one shoving her. She looked up and saw that she had come to the doorway, to the slick ramp that led some ten feet into the lobby below. The crowd was behind her, above her. And she could rest here. She was all right.

She ran her hand along the greasy wall, stepping over the crush of paper cups, a fallen wig with cheap yellow curls. She lay her head back suddenly and merely rested, the ugly light from the lobby shining in her eyes. The taste of the blood was on the tip of her tongue. It seemed she was going to cry again, and it was a perfectly fine thing to do. For the moment, there was no past or present, no necessity, and all the world was changed, from the simplest things to the grandest. She was floating, as if in the center of the most seductive state of peace and acceptance that she had ever known. Oh, if only she could tell David these things; if only somehow she could share this great and overwhelming secret.

Something touched her. Something hostile to her. Reluctantly she turned and saw a hulking figure at her side. What? She struggled to see it clearly.

Bony limbs, black hair slicked back, red paint on the twisted ugly mouth, but the skin, the same skin. And the fang teeth. Not human. One of them!


It came at her like a hiss. It struck her in the chest. Instinctively her arms rose, crossing over her breasts, fingers locking on her shoulders.


It was soundless yet deafening in its rage.

She moved to back away, but his hand caught her, fingers biting into her neck. She tried to scream as she was lifted off her feet.

Then she was flying across the lobby and she was screaming until her head slammed into the wall.

Blackness. She saw the pain. It flashed yellow and then white as it traveled down her backbone and then spread out as if into a million branches in her limbs. Her body went numb. She hit the floor with another shocking pain in her face and in the open palms of her hands and then she rolled over on her back.

She couldn’t see. Maybe her eyes were closed, but the funny thing was, if they were, she couldn’t open them. She heard voices, people shouting. A whistle blew, or was it the clang of a bell? There was a thunderous noise, but that was the crowd inside applauding. People near her argued.

Someone close to her ear said:

“Don’t touch her. Her neck’s broken!”

Broken? Can you live when your neck is broken?

Someone laid a hand on her forehead. But she couldn’t really feel it so much as a tingling sensation, as if she were very cold, walking in snow, and all real feeling had left her. Can’t see.

“Listen, honey.” A young man’s voice. One of those voices you could hear in Boston or New Orleans or New York City. Firefighter, cop, saver of the injured. “We’re taking care of you, honey. The ambulance is on its way. Now lie still, honey, don’t you worry.”

Someone touching her breast. No, taking the cards out of her pocket. Jessica Miriam Reeves. Yes.

She stood beside Maharet and they were looking up at the giant map with all the tiny lights. And she understood. Jesse born of Miriam, who was born of Alice, who was born of Carlotta, who was born of Jane Marie, who was born of Anne, who was born of Janet Belle, who was born of Elizabeth, who was born of Louise, who was born of Frances, who was born of Frieda, who was born of—

“If you will allow me, please, we are her friends—”


They were lifting her; she heard herself scream, but she had not meant to scream. She saw the screen again and the great tree of names. “Frieda born of Dagmar, born of . . . ”

“Steady now, steady! Goddamn it!”

The air changed; it went cool and moist; she felt the breeze moving over her face; then all feeling left her hands and feet completely. She could feel her eyelids but not move them.

Maharet was talking to her. “ . . . came out of Palestine, down into Mesopotamia and then up slowly through Asia Minor and into Russia and then into Eastern Europe. Do you see?”

This was either a hearse or an ambulance and it seemed too quiet

to be the latter, and the siren, though steady, was too far away. What had happened to David? He wouldn’t have let her go, unless she was dead. But then how could David have been there? David had told her nothing could induce him to come. David wasn’t here. She must have imagined it. And the odd thing was, Miriam wasn’t here either. “Holy Mary, Mother of God . . . now and at the hour of our death ”

She listened: they were speeding through the city; she felt them turn the corner; but where was her body? She couldn’t feel it. Broken neck. That meant surely that one had to be dead.

What was that, the light she could see through the jungle? A river? It seemed too wide to be a river. How to cross it. But it wasn’t Jesse who was walking through the jungle, and now along the bank of the river. It was somebody else. Yet she could see the hands out in front of her, moving aside the vines and the wet sloppy leaves, as if they were her hands. She could see red hair when she looked down, red hair in long curling tangles, full of bits of leaf and earth. . . .

“Can you hear me, honey? We’ve got you. We’re taking care of you. Your friends are in the car behind us. Now don’t you worry.”

He was saying more. But she had lost the thread. She couldn’t hear him, only the tone of it, the tone of loving care. Why did he feel so sorry for her? He didn’t even know her. Did he understand that it wasn’t her blood all over her shirt? Her hands? Guilty. Lestat had tried to tell her it was evil, but that had been so unimportant to her, so impossible to relate to the whole. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about what was good and what was right; it was that this was bigger for the moment. Knowing. And he’d been talking as if she meant to do something and she hadn’t meant to do anything at all.

That’s why dying was probably just fine. If only Maharet would understand. And to think, David was with her, in the car behind them. David knew some of the story, anyway, and they would have a file on her: Reeves, Jessica. And it would be more evidence. “One of our devoted members, definitely the result of most

dangerous . . . must not under any circumstances attempt a sighting ”

They were moving her again. Cool air again, and smells rising of gasoline and ether. She knew that just on the other side of this

numbness, this darkness, there was terrible pain and it was best to lie very still and not try to go there. Let them carry you along; let them move the gurney down the hallway.

Someone crying. A little girl.

“Can you hear me, Jessica? I want you to know that you’re in the hospital and that we are doing everything we can for you. Your friends are outside. David Talbot and Aaron Lightner. We’ve told them that you must lie very still ”

Of course. When your neck is broken you are either dead or you die if you move. That was it. Years ago in a hospital she had seen a young girl with a broken neck. She remembered now. And the girl’s body had been tied to a huge aluminum frame. Every now and then a nurse would move the frame to change the girl’s position. Will you do that to me?

He was talking again but this time he was farther away. She walked a little faster through the jungle, to get closer, to hear over the sound of the river. He was saying . . . .

“ . . . of course we can do all that, we can run those tests, of course, but you must understand what I’m saying, this situation is terminal. The back of the skull is completely crushed. You can see the brain. And the obvious injury to the brain is enormous. Now, in a few hours the brain will begin to swell, if we even have a few hours ”

Bastard, you killed me. You threw me against the wall. If I could move anything—my eyelids, my lips. But I’m trapped inside here. I have no body anymore yet I’m trapped in here! When I was little, I used to think it would be like this, death. You’d be trapped in your head in the grave, with no eyes to see and no mouth to scream. And years and years would pass.

Or you roamed the twilight realm with the pale ghosts; thinking you were alive when you were really dead. Dear God, I have to know when I’m dead. I have to know when it’s begun!

Her lips. There was the faintest sensation. Something moist, warm. Something parting her lips. But there’s no one here, is there? They were out in the hallway, and the room was empty. She would have known if someone was here. Yet now she could taste it, the warm fluid flowing into her mouth.

What is it? What are you giving me? I don’t want to go under. Sleep, my beloved.

I don’t want to. I want to feel it when I die. I want to know!

But the fluid was filling her mouth, and she was swallowing. The muscles of her throat were alive. Delicious the taste of it, the saltiness of it. She knew this taste! She knew this lovely, tingling sensation. She sucked harder. She could feel the skin of her face come alive, and the air stirring around her. She could feel the breeze moving through the room. A lovely warmth was moving down her spine. It was moving through her legs and her arms, taking exactly the path the pain had taken, and all her limbs were coming back.

Sleep, beloved.

The back of her head tingled; and the tingling moved through the roots of her hair.

Her knees were bruised but her legs weren’t hurt and she’d be able to walk again, and she could feel the sheet under her hand. She wanted to reach up, but it was too soon for that, too soon to move.

Besides she was being lifted, carried.

And it was best to sleep now. Because if this was death . . . well, it was just fine. The voices she could barely hear, the men arguing, threatening, they didn’t matter now. It seemed David was calling out to her. But what did David want her to do? To die? The doctor was threatening to call the police. The police couldn’t do anything now. That was almost funny.

Down and down the stairs they went. Lovely cold air.

The sound of the traffic grew louder; a bus roaring past. She had never liked these sounds before but now they were like the wind itself, that pure. She was being rocked again, gently, as if in a cradle. She felt the car move forward with a sudden lurch, and then the smooth easy momentum. Miriam was there and Miriam wanted Jesse to look at her, but Jesse was too tired now.

“I don’t want to go, Mother.”

“But Jesse. Please. It’s not too late. You can still come!” Like David calling. “Jessica.”


BOUT halfway through, Daniel understood. The white-faced brothers and sisters would circle each other, eye each other, even threaten each other all during the concert, but nobody

would do anything. The rule was too hard and fast: leave no evidence of what we are—not victims, not a single cell of our vampiric tissue.

Lestat was to be the only kill and that was to be done most carefully. Mortals were not to see the scythes unless it was unavoidable. Snatch the bastard when he tried to take his leave, that was the scheme; dismember him before the cognoscenti only. That is, unless he resisted, in which case he must die before his fans, and the body would have to be destroyed completely.

Daniel laughed and laughed. Imagine Lestat allowing such a thing to happen.

Daniel laughed in their spiteful faces. Pallid as orchids, these vicious souls who filled the hall with their simmering outrage, their envy, their greed. You would have thought they hated Lestat if for no other reason than his flamboyant beauty.

Daniel had broken away from Armand finally. Why not?

Nobody could hurt him, not even the glowing stone figure he’d seen in the shadows, the one so hard and so old he looked like the Golem of legend. What an eerie thing that was, that stone one staring down at the wounded mortal woman who lay with her neck broken, the one with the red hair who looked like the twins in the dream. And probably some stupid human being had done that to her, broken her neck like that. And the blond vampire in the buckskin, pushing past them to reach the scene, he had been an awe-inspiring sight as well, with the hardened veins bulging on his neck and on the backs of his hands when he reached the poor broken victim. Armand had watched the men take the red-haired woman away with the most unusual expression on his face, as if he should somehow intervene; or maybe it was only that the Golem thing, standing idly by, made him wary. Finally, he’d shoved Daniel back into the singing crowd. But there was no need to fear. It was sanctuary for them in this place, this cathedral of sound and light.

And Lestat was Christ on the cathedral cross. How describe his overwhelming and irrational authority? His face would have been cruel if it hadn’t been for the childlike rapture and exuberance. Pumping his fist into the air, he bawled, pleaded, roared at the powers that be as he sang of his downfall—Lelio, the boulevard actor turned into a creature of night against his will!

His soaring tenor seemed to leave his body utterly as he recounted his defeats, his resurrections, the thirst inside him which no measure of blood could ever quench. “Am I not the devil in you all!” he cried, not to the moonflower monsters in the crowd but to the mortals who adored him.

And even Daniel was screaming, bellowing, leaping off his feet as he cried in agreement, though the words meant nothing finally; it was merely the raw force of Lestat’s defiance. Lestat cursed heaven on behalf of all who had ever been outcasts, all who had ever known violation, and then turned, in guilt and malice, on their own kind.

It seemed to Daniel at the highest moments as though it were an omen that he should find immortality on the eve of this great Mass. The Vampire Lestat was God; or the nearest thing he had ever known to it. The giant on the video screen gave his benediction to all that Daniel had ever desired.

How could the others resist? Surely the fierceness of their intended victim made him all the more inviting. The final message behind all Lestat’s lyrics was simple: Lestat had the gift that had been promised to each of them; Lestat was unkillable. He devoured the suffering forced upon him and emerged all the stronger. To join with him was to live forever:

This is my Body. This is my Blood.

Yet the hate boiled among the vampire brothers and sisters. As the concert came to a close, Daniel felt it keenly—an odor rising from the crowd—an expanding hiss beneath the strum of the music.

Kill the god. Tear him limb from limb. Let the mortal worshipers do as they have always done—mourn for him who was meant to die. “Go, the Mass is ended.”

The houselights went on. The fans stormed the wooden stage, tearing down the black serge curtain to follow the fleeing musicians.

Armand grabbed Daniel’s arm. “Out the side door,” he said. “Our only chance is to get to him quickly.”


T WAS just as he had expected. She struck out at the first of those who struck at him. Lestat had come through the back door, Louis at his side, and made a dash for his black Porsche

when the assassins set upon him. It seemed a rude circle sought to close, but at once the first, with scythe raised, went up in flames. The crowd panicked, terrified children stampeding in all directions. Another immortal assailant was suddenly on fire. And then another.

Khayman slipped back against the wall as the clumsy humans hurtled past him. He saw a tall elegant female blood drinker slice unnoticed through the mob, and slide behind the wheel of Lestat’s car, calling to Louis and Lestat to join her. It was Gabrielle, the fiend’s mother. And logically enough the lethal fire did not harm her. There wasn’t a particle of fear in her cold blue eyes as she readied the vehicle with swift, decisive gestures.

Lestat meantime turned around and around in a rage. Maddened, robbed of the battle, he finally climbed into the car only because the others forced him to do so.

And as the Porsche plowed viciously through the rushing youngsters, blood drinkers burst into flame everywhere. In a horrid silent chorus, their cries rose, their frantic curses, their final questions.

Khayman covered his face. The Porsche was halfway to the gates before the crowd forced it to stop. Sirens screamed; voices roared commands; children had fallen with broken limbs. Mortals cried in misery and confusion.

Get to Armand, Khayman thought. But what was the use? He saw them burning everywhere he looked in great writhing plumes of orange and blue flame that changed suddenly to white in their heat as they released the charred clothes which fell to the pavements. How could he come between the fire and Armand? How could he save the young one, Daniel?

He looked up at the distant hills, at a tiny figure glowing against the dark sky, unnoticed by all who screamed and fled and cried for help around him.

Suddenly he felt the heat; he felt it touch him as it had in Athens. He felt it dance about his face, he felt his eyes watering. Steadily he regarded the distant tiny source. And then for reasons that he might never himself understand, he chose not to drive back the fire, but rather to see what it might do to him. Every fiber of his being said, Give it back. Yet he remained motionless, washed of thought, and feeling the sweat drip from him. The fire circled him, embraced him. And then it moved away, leaving him alone, cold, and wounded beyond his wildest imagining. Quietly he whispered a prayer: May the twins destroy you.


IRE!” Daniel caught the rank greasy stench just as he saw the flames themselves breaking out here and there all through the multitude. What protection was the crowd now? Like tiny

explosions the fires were, as groups of frantic teenagers stumbled to get away from them, and ran in senseless circles, colliding helplessly with one another.

The sound. Daniel heard it again. It was moving above them. Armand pulled him back against the building. It was useless. They could not get to Lestat. And they had no cover. Dragging Daniel after him, Armand retreated into the hall again. A pair of terrified vampires ran past the entrance, then exploded into tiny conflagrations.

In horror, Daniel watched the skeletons glowing as they melted within the pale yellow blaze. Behind them in the deserted auditorium a fleeing figure was suddenly caught in the same ghastly flames. Twisting, turning, he collapsed on the cement floor, smoke rising from his empty clothing. A pool of grease formed on the cement, then dried up even as Daniel stared at it.

Out into the fleeing mortals, they ran again, this time towards the distant front gates over yards and yards of asphalt.

And suddenly they were traveling so fast that Daniel’s feet had left the ground. The world was nothing but a smear of color. Even the piteous cries of the frightened fans were stretched, softened. Abruptly they stopped at the gates, just as Lestat’s black Porsche raced out of the parking lot, past them, and onto the avenue. Within seconds it was gone, like a bullet traveling south towards the freeway.

Armand made no attempt to follow it; he seemed not even to see it. He stood near the gatepost looking back over the heads of the crowd, beyond the curved roof of the hall to the distant horizon. The eerie telepathic noise was deafening now. It swallowed every other sound in the world; it swallowed every sensation.

Daniel couldn’t keep his hands from going to his ears, couldn’t keep his knees from buckling. He felt Armand draw close. But he

could no longer see. He knew that if it was meant to happen it would be now, yet still he couldn’t feel the fear; still he couldn’t believe in his own death; he was paralyzed with wonder and confusion.

Gradually the sound faded. Numb, he felt his vision clear; he saw the great red shape of a lumbering ladder truck approach, the firemen shouting for him to move out of the gateway. The siren came as if from another world, an invisible needle through his temples.

Armand was gently pulling him out of the path. Frightened people thundered past as if driven by a wind. He felt himself fall. But Armand caught him. Into the warm crush of mortals, outside the fence they passed, slipping among those who peered through the chain mesh at the melee.

Hundreds still fled. Sirens, sour and discordant, drowned out their cries. One fire engine after another roared up to the gates, to nudge its way through dispersing mortals. But these sounds were thin and distant, dulled still by the receding supernatural noise. Armand clung to the fence, his eyes closed, his forehead pressed against the metal. The fence shuddered, as if it alone could hear the thing as they heard it.

It was gone.

An icy quiet descended. The quiet of shock, emptiness. Though the pandemonium continued, it did not touch them.

They were alone, the mortals loosening, milling, moving away. And the air carried those lingering preternatural cries like burning tinsel again; more dying, but where?

Across the avenue he moved at Armand’s side. Unhurried. And down a dark side street they made their way, past faded stucco houses and shabby corner stores, past sagging neon signs and over cracked pavements.

On and on, they walked. The night grew cold and still around them. The sound of the sirens was remote, almost mournful.

As they came to a broad garish boulevard, a great lumbering trolleybus appeared, flooded with a greenish light. Like a ghost it seemed, proceeding towards them, through the emptiness and the silence. Only a few forlorn mortal passengers peered from its

smeared and dirty windows. The driver drove as if in his sleep.

Armand raised his eyes, wearily, as if only to watch it pass. And to Daniel’s amazement the bus came to a halt for them.

They climbed aboard together, ignoring the little coin box, and sank down side by side on the long leather bench seat. The driver never turned his head from the dark windshield before him. Armand sat back against the window. Dully, he stared at the black rubber floor. His hair was tousled, his cheek smudged with soot. His lower lip protruded ever so slightly. Lost in thought, he seemed utterly unconscious of himself.

Daniel looked at the lackluster mortals: the prune-faced woman with a slit for a mouth who looked at him angrily; the drunken man, with no neck, who snored on his chest; and the small-headed teenage woman with the stringy hair and the sores at the corners of her mouth who held a giant toddler on her lap with skin like bubblegum. Why, something was horribly wrong with each of them. And there, the dead man on the back seat, with his eyes half mast and the dried spit on his chin. Did nobody know he was dead? The urine stank as it dried beneath him.

Daniel’s own hands look dead, lurid. Like a corpse with one live arm, the driver seemed, as he turned the wheel. Was this a hallucination? The bus to hell?

No. Only a trolleybus like a million he had taken in his lifetime, on which the weary and the down-and-out rode the city’s streets through the late hours. He smiled suddenly, foolishly. He was going to start laughing, thinking of the dead man back there, and these people just riding along, and the way the light made everyone look, but then a sense of dread returned.

The silence unnerved him. The slow rocking of the bus unnerved him; the parade of dingy houses beyond the windows unnerved him; the sight of Armand’s listless face and empty stare was unbearable.

“Will she come back for us?” he asked. He could not endure it any longer.

“She knew we were there,” Armand said, eyes dull, voice low. “She passed us over.”


E HAD retreated to the high grassy slope, with the cold Pacific beyond it.

It was like a panorama now; death at a distance, lost in

the lights, the vapor-thin wails of preternatural souls interwoven with the darker, richer voices of the human city.

The fiends had pursued Lestat, forcing the Porsche over the edge of the freeway. Unhurt, Lestat had emerged from the wreck, spoiling for battle; but the fire had struck again to scatter or destroy those who surrounded him.

Finally left alone with Louis and Gabrielle, he had agreed to retreat, uncertain of who or what had protected him.

And unbeknownst to the trio, the Queen pursued their enemies for them.

Over the roofs, her power moved, destroying those who had fled, those who had tried to hide, those who had lingered near fallen companions in confusion and anguish.

The night stank of their burning, these wailing phantoms that left nothing on the empty pavement but their ruined clothes. Below, under the arc lamps of the abandoned parking lots, the lawmen searched in vain for bodies; the firefighters looked in vain for those to assist. The mortal youngsters cried piteously.

Small wounds were treated; the crazed were narcotized and taken away gently. So efficient the agencies of this plentiful time. Giant hoses cleaned the lots. They washed away the scorched rags of the burnt ones.

Tiny beings down there argued and swore that they had witnessed these immolations. But no evidence remained. She had destroyed completely her victims.

And now she moved on far away from the hall, to search the deepest recesses of the city. Her power turned corners and entered windows and doorways. There would be a tiny burst of flame out there like the striking of a sulphur match; then nothing.

The night grew quieter. Taverns and shops shut their doors,

winking out in the thickening darkness. Traffic thinned on the highways.

The ancient one she caught in the North Beach streets, the one who had wanted but to see her face; she had burned him slowly as he crawled along the sidewalk. His bones turned to ash, the brain a mass of glowing embers in its last moments. Another she struck down upon a high flat roof, so that he fell like a shooting star out over the glimmering city. His empty clothes took flight like dark paper when it was finished.

And south Lestat went, to his refuge in Carmel Valley. Jubilant, drunk on the love he felt for Louis and Gabrielle, he spoke of old times and new dreams, utterly oblivious to the final slaughter.

“Maharet, where are you?” Khayman whispered. The night gave no answer. If Mael was near, if Mael heard the call, he gave no sign of it. Poor, desperate Mael, who had run out into the open after the attack upon Jessica. Mael, who might have been slain now, too. Mael staring helplessly as the ambulance carried Jesse away from him.

Khayman could not find him.

He combed the light-studded hills, the deep valleys in which the beat of souls was like a thunderous whisper. “Why have I witnessed these things?” he asked. “Why have the dreams brought me here?”

He stood listening to the mortal world.

The radios chattered of devil worship, riots, random fires, mass hallucinations. They whined of vandalism and crazed youth. But it was a big city for all its geographic smallness. The rational mind had already encapsulated the experience and disregarded it. Thousands took no notice. Others slowly and painstakingly revised in memory the impossible things they had seen. The Vampire Lestat was a human rock star and nothing more, his concert the scene of predictable though uncontrollable hysteria.

Perhaps it was part of the Queen’s design to so smoothly abort Lestat’s dreams. To burn his enemies off the earth before the frail blanket of human assumptions could be irreparably damaged. If this was so, would she punish the creature himself finally?

No answer came to Khayman.

His eyes moved over the sleepy terrain. An ocean fog had swept

in, settling in deep rosy layers beneath the tops of the hills. The whole had a fairy-tale sweetness to it now in the first hour past midnight.

Collecting his strongest power, he sought to leave the confines of his body, to send his vision out of himself like the wandering ka of the Egyptian dead, to see those whom the Mother might have spared, to draw close to them.

“Armand,” he said aloud. And then the lights of the city went dim. He felt the warmth and illumination of another place, and Armand was there before him.

He and his fledgling, Daniel, had come safely again to the mansion where they would sleep beneath the cellar floor unmolested. Groggily the young one danced through the large and sumptuous rooms, his mind full of Lestat’s songs and rhythms. Armand stared out into the night, his youthful face as impassive as before. He saw Khayman! He saw him standing motionless on the faraway hill, yet felt him near enough to touch. Silently, invisibly, they studied one another.

It seemed Khayman’s loneliness was more than he could bear; but the eyes of Armand held no emotion, no trust, no welcome.

Khayman moved on, drawing on ever greater strength, rising higher and higher in his search, so far from his body now that he could not for the moment even locate it. To the north he went, calling the names Santino, Pandora.

In a blasted field of snow and ice he saw them, two black figures in the endless whiteness—Pandora’s garments shredded by the wind, her eyes full of blood tears as she searched for the dim outline of Marius’s compound. She was glad of Santino at her side, this unlikely explorer in his fine clothes of black velvet. The long sleepless night through which Pandora had circled the world had left her aching in every limb and near to collapsing. All creatures must sleep; must dream. If she did not lie down soon in some dark place, her mind would be unable to fight the voices, the images, the madness. She did not want to take to the air again, and this Santino could not do such things, and so she walked beside him.

Santino cleaved to her, feeling only her strength, his heart shrunken and bruised from the distant yet inescapable cries of those whom the Queen had slaughtered. Feeling the soft brush of

Khayman’s gaze, he pulled his black cloak tight around his face. Pandora took no notice whatsoever.

Khayman veered away. Softly, it hurt him to see them touch; it hurt him to see the two of them together.

In the mansion on the hill, Daniel slit the throat of a wriggling rat and let its blood flow into a crystal glass. “Lestat’s trick,” he said studying it in the light. Armand sat still by the fire, watching the red jewel of blood in the glass as Daniel lifted it to his lips lovingly.

Back into the night Khayman moved, wandering higher again, far from the city lights as if in a great orbit.

Mael, answer me. Let me know where you are. Had the Mother’s cold fiery beam struck him, too? Or did he mourn now so deeply for Jesse that he hearkened to nothing and no one? Poor Jesse, dazzled by miracles, struck down by a fledgling in the blink of an eye before anyone could prevent it.

Maharet’s child, my child!

Khayman was afraid of what he might see, afraid of what he dared not seek to alter. But maybe the Druid was simply too strong for him now; the Druid concealed himself and his charge from all eyes and all minds. Either that or the Queen had had her way and it was finished.


O QUIET here. She lay on a bed that was hard and soft, and her body felt floppy like that of a rag doll. She could lift her hand but then it would drop, and still she could not see,

except in a vague ghostly way things that might have been an illusion.

For example lamps around her; ancient clay lamps shaped like fish and filled with oil. They gave a thick odoriferous perfume to the room. Was this a funeral parlor?

It came again, the fear that she was dead, locked in the flesh yet disconnected. She heard a curious sound; what was it? A scissors cutting. It was trimming the edges of her hair; the feel of it traveled to her scalp. She felt it even in her intestines.

A tiny vagrant hair was plucked suddenly from her face; one of those annoying hairs, quite out of place, which women so hate. She was being groomed for the coffin, wasn’t she? Who else would take such care, lifting her hand now, and inspecting her fingernails so carefully.

But the pain came again, an electric flash moving down her back and she screamed. She screamed aloud in this room where she’d been only hours before in this very bed with the chains creaking.

She heard a gasp from someone near her. She tried to see, but she only saw the lamps again. And some dim figure standing in the window. Miriam watching.

“Where?” he asked. He was startled, trying to see the vision.

Hadn’t this happened before?

“Why can’t I open my eyes?” she asked. He could look forever and he would never see Miriam.

“Your eyes are open,” he said. How raw and tender his voice sounded. “I can’t give you any more unless I give it all. We are not healers. We are slayers. It’s time for you to tell me what you want. There is no one to help me.”

I don’t know what I want. All I know is I don’t want to die! I don’t want to stop living. What cowards we are, she thought, what liars. A great fatalistic sadness had accompanied her all the way to this

night, yet there had been the secret hope of this always! Not merely to see, to know, but to be part of . . . .

She wanted to explain, to hone it carefully with audible words, but the pain came again. A fiery brand touched to her spine, the pain shooting into her legs. And then the blessed numbness. It seemed the room she couldn’t see grew dark and the flames of the ancient lamps sputtered. Outside the forest whispered. The forest writhed in the dark. And Mael’s grip on her wrist was weak suddenly, not because he had let her go but because she couldn’t any longer feel it.


He shook her with both his hands, and the pain was like lightning shattering the dark. She screamed through her clenched teeth. Miriam, stony-eyed and silent, glared from the window.

“Mael, do it!” she cried.

With all her strength, she sat up on the bed. The pain was without shape or limit; the scream strangled inside her. But then she opened her eyes, truly opened them. In the hazy light, she saw Miriam’s cold unmerciful expression. She saw the tall bent figure of Mael towering over the bed. And then she turned to the open door. Maharet was coming.

Mael didn’t know, didn’t realize, till she did. With soft silky steps, Maharet came up the stairs, her long skirts moving with a dark rustling sound; she came down the corridor.

Oh, after all these years, these long years! Through her tears, Jesse watched Maharet move into the light of the lamps; she saw her shimmering face, and the burning radiance of her hair. Maharet gestured for Mael to leave them.

Then Maharet approached the bed. She lifted her hands, palms open, as if in invitation; she raised her hands as if to receive a baby.

“Yes, do it.”

“Say farewell then, my darling, to Miriam.”


IN OLDEN times there was a terrible worship in the city of Carthage. To the great bronze god Baal, the populace offered in sacrifice their little children. The small bodies were laid on the statue’s outstretched arms, and then by means of a spring, the arms would

rise and the children would fall into the roaring furnace of the god’s belly.

After Carthage was destroyed, only the Romans carried the old tale, and as the centuries passed wise men came not to believe it. Too terrible, it seemed, the immolation of these children. But as the archaeologists brought their shovels and began to dig, they found the bones of the small victims in profusion. Whole necropolises they unearthed of nothing but little skeletons.

And the world knew the old legend was true; that the men and women of Carthage had brought their offspring to the god and stood in obeisance as their children tumbled screaming into the fire. It was religion.

Now as Maharet lifted Jesse, as Maharet’s lips touched her throat, Jesse thought of the old legend. Maharet’s arms were like the hard metal arms of the god Baal, and in one fiery instant Jesse knew unspeakable torment.

But it was not her own death that Jesse saw; it was the deaths of others—the souls of the immolated undead, rising upwards away from terror and the physical pain of the flames that consumed their preternatural bodies. She heard their cries; she heard their warnings; she saw their faces as they left the earth, dazzling as they carried with them still the stamp of human form without its substance; she felt them passing from misery into the unknown; she heard their song just beginning.

And then the vision paled, and died away, like music half heard and half remembered. She was near to death; her body gone, all pain gone, all sense of permanence or anguish.

She stood in the clearing in the sunshine looking down at the mother on the altar. “In the flesh,” Maharet said. “In the flesh all wisdom begins. Beware the thing that has no flesh. Beware the gods, beware the idea, beware the devil.”

Then the blood came; it poured through every fiber of her body; she was legs and arms again as it electrified her limbs, her skin stinging with the heat; and the hunger making her body writhe as the blood sought to anchor her soul to substance forever.

They lay in each other’s arms, she and Maharet, and Maharet’s hard skin warmed and softened so that they became one wet and tangled thing, hair enmeshed, Jesse’s face buried in Maharet’s neck

as she gnawed at the fount, as one shock of ecstasy passed through her after another.

Suddenly Maharet drew away and turned Jesse’s face against the pillow. Maharet’s hand covered Jesse’s eyes, and Jesse felt the tiny razor-sharp teeth pierce her skin; she felt it all being taken back, drawn out. Like the whistling wind, the sensation of being emptied, of being devoured; of being nothing!

“Drink again, my darling.” Slowly she opened her eyes; she saw the white throat and the white breasts; she reached out and caught the throat in her hands, and this time it was she who broke the flesh, she tore it. And when the first spill of blood hit her tongue, she pulled Maharet down under her. Utterly compliant Maharet was; hers; Maharet’s breasts against her breasts; Maharet’s lips against her face, as she sucked the blood, sucked it harder and harder. You are mine, you are utterly and completely mine. All images, voices, visions, gone now.

They slept, or almost slept, folded against one another. It seemed the pleasure left its shimmer; it seemed that to breathe was to feel it again; to shift against the silken sheets or against Maharet’s silken skin was to begin again.

The fragrant wind moved through the room. A great collective sigh rose from the forest. No more Miriam, no more the spirits of the twilight realm, caught between life and death. She had found her place; her eternal place.

As she closed her eyes, she saw the thing in the jungle stop and look at her. The red-haired thing saw her and saw Maharet in her arms; it saw the red hair; two women with red hair; and the thing veered and moved towards them.


EAD quiet the peace of Carmel Valley. So happy were the little coven in the house, Lestat, Louis, Gabrielle, so happy to be together. Lestat had rid himself of his soiled clothes

and was resplendent again in shining “vampire attire,” even to the black velvet cloak thrown casually over one shoulder. And the others, how animated they were, the woman Gabrielle unbraiding her yellow hair rather absently as she talked in an easy, passionate manner. And Louis, the human one, silent, yet profoundly excited by the presence of the other two, entranced, as it were, by their simplest gestures.

At any other time, how moved Khayman would have been by such happiness. He would have wanted to touch their hands, look into their eyes, tell them who he was and what he had seen, he would have wanted just to be with them.

But she was near. And the night was not finished.

The sky paled and the faintest warmth of the morning crept across the fields. Things stirred in the growing light. The trees shifted, their leaves uncurling ever so slowly.

Khayman stood beneath the apple tree, watching the color of the shadows change; listening to the morning. She was here, without question.

She concealed herself, willfully, and powerfully. But Khayman she could not deceive. He watched; he waited, listening to the laughter and talk of the small coven.

At the doorway of the house, Lestat embraced his mother, as she took leave of him. Out into the gray morning she came, with a sprightly step, in her dusty neglected khaki clothes, her thick blond hair brushed back, the picture of a carefree wanderer. And the black-haired one, the pretty one, Louis, was beside her.

Khayman watched them cross the grass, the female moving on into the open field before the woods where she meant to sleep within the earth itself, while the male entered the cool darkness of a small outbuilding. Something so refined about that one, even as he slipped beneath the floorboards, something about the way that he

lay down as if in the grave; the way he composed his limbs, falling at once into utter darkness.

And the woman; with stunning violence, she made her deep and secret hiding place, the leaves settling as if she had never been there. The earth held her outstretched arms, her bent head. Into the dreams of the twins she plunged, into images of jungle and river she would never remember.

So far so good. Khayman did not want them to die, to burn up. Exhausted, he stood with his back to the apple tree, the pungent green fragrance of the apples enveloping him.

Why was she here? And where was she hiding? When he opened himself to it, he felt the low radiant sound of her presence, rather like an engine of the modern world, giving off some irrepressible whisper of itself and its lethal power.

Finally Lestat emerged from the house and hurried towards the lair he had made for himself beneath the acacia trees against the hillside. Through a trapdoor he descended, down earthen steps, and into a dank chamber.

So it was peace for them all, peace until tonight when he would be the bringer of bad tidings.

The sun rose closer to the horizon; the first deflected rays appeared, which always dulled Khayman’s vision. He focused upon the soft deepening colors of the orchard as all the rest of the world lost its distinct lines and shapes. He closed his eyes for a moment, realizing that he must go into the house, that he must seek some cool and shadowy place where mortals were unlikely to disturb him.

And when the sun set, he’d be waiting for them when they woke. He would tell them what he knew; he would tell them about the others. With a sudden stab of pain he thought of Mael, and of Jesse, whom he could not find, as if the earth had devoured them.

He thought of Maharet and he wanted to weep. But he made his way towards the house now. The sun was warm on his back; his limbs were heavy. Tomorrow night, whatever else came to pass, he wouldn’t be alone. He would be with Lestat and his cohorts; and if they turned him away, he would seek out Armand. He would go north to Marius.

He heard the sound first—a loud, crackling roar. He turned, shielding his eyes from the rising sun. A great spray of earth shot up from the floor of the forest. The acacias swayed as if in a storm, limbs cracking, roots heaved up from the soil, trunks falling helter-skelter.

In a dark streak of windblown garments the Queen rose with ferocious speed, the limp body of Lestat dangling from her arms as she made for the western sky away from the sunrise.

Khayman gave a loud cry before he could stop himself. And his cry rang out over the stillness of the valley. So she had taken her lover.

Oh, poor lover, oh, poor beautiful blond-haired prince . . . .

But there was no time to think or to act or to know his own heart; he turned to the shelter of the house; the sun had struck the clouds and the horizon had become an inferno.

DANIEL stirred in the dark. The sleep seemed to lift like a blanket that had been about to crush him. He saw the gleam of Armand’s eye. He heard Armand’s whisper: “She’s taken him.”

JESSE moaned aloud. Weightless, she drifted in the pearly gloom. She saw the two rising figures as if in a dance—the Mother and the Son. Like saints ascending on the painted ceiling of a church. Her lips formed the words “the Mother.”

IN THEIR deep-dug grave beneath the ice, Pandora and Santino slept in each other’s arms. Pandora heard the sound. She heard Khayman’s cry. She saw Lestat with his eyes closed and his head thrown back, rising in Akasha’s embrace. She saw Akasha’s black eyes fixed upon his sleeping face. Pandora’s heart stopped in terror.

MARIUS closed his eyes. He could keep them open no longer. Above the wolves howled; the wind tore at the steel roof of the compound. Through the blizzard the feeble rays of the sun came as if igniting the swirling snow, and he could feel the dulling heat move down through layer upon layer of ice to numb him.

He saw the sleeping figure of Lestat in her arms; he saw her rising into the sky. “Beware of her, Lestat,” he whispered with his last conscious breath. “Danger.”

ON THE cool carpeted floor, Khayman stretched out and buried his face in his arm. And a dream came at once, a soft silky dream of a summer night in a lovely place, where the sky was big over the city lights, and they were all together, these immortals whose names he knew and held to his heart now.

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