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THEODORE BACKSTORY TWO - PART ONE                  Take me home, delicious heart.





Art by Kelly Martin and Christopher Shelton

Story by Kelly Martin

Dedicated to reader Suyoi for his brilliant suggestion of Kingfisher Tarot cards



       “Patricia...? I feel very badly...”
     “I know. Close your eyes.”
     “I can't move.”
     “I know. Close your eyes.”
Theodore had fallen very ill. His day was filled with nightmares. Hacked apart with axes and visions of a ghostly horse that tramped his defenseless body. Patricia sat by his side, though he couldn't move his head to see her. He was wrapped tight in blankets and felt himself sweating and sweating beneath them, yet he was so cold. Sometimes he would vomit, and Patricia would simply lay another blanket on top. The ceiling above was coffered intricately and the beams of the architecture crossed and warped as he stared above and gasped for breaths that never came.


     No one came looking for him. He assumed later, that Patricia had written some sort of excuse to his parents, though he couldn't imagine what. It was too painful to imagine that he was so ill-regarded as to be forgotten that quickly. It really was the strangest nightmare.
     The nights ran together and he made all the right nods and gestures to make it seem as though he understood what was happening. How could he believe it, though? What righteous god would leave him in a state like this? Dead... Yet he was in no heaven, that much was true. What could he have done wrong? --and Patricia, not an angel but something wicked that dragged him into this cold hell? What judgment could he expect? What gods ruled this dark place?
     Patricia tried to cheer him with talk of more lessons, why he could do nearly anything now. He would never tire, never grow sick, never age... What did that mean? Never changing, always like this forever? Stuck in a dank tomb with a withered madwoman?
     And of that madwoman, Kellgren could not be avoided now. Somehow now that she had him there, she'd grown fond of the idea of a son. It seemed perhaps just a whim that would be dropped in a moment, but for that moment she was nearly rabid with excitement. Patricia had tried to help at first, but gradually became more distant. Perhaps feeling helpless to stop the events that seemed to happen according to some horrible prophecy. What once had been an imminent move, had been postponed now that Theodore had been born. The voyage to Koromo was put off for what seemed to be an increasing time.


     She had talked about this event for a week. At last she could introduce Theodore to her friends, the most powerful people in the city. Royalty! Nobles! The most elite. Theodore begged for Patricia to come along but Kellgren scoffed.
     “Not that dullard. She drags every party down, no fun at all. No one wants their appetite ruined by her frumpy figure. Better for her to stay behind and beat the carpets.”
Patricia, standing nearby, made no change in expression at that description of herself.
     “Yes. Theodore, be good.” she said flatly, and left to tend to the laundry.




     The Dragomir estate was tremendous and grand, older than the Kellgren mansion, though with some new additions. It didn't have the empty draftiness of their home. As Theodore understood, there were several inhabitants including many human servants. It had signs of being lived in and enjoyed, and yet..
     The hall was blank and dim, Theodore could only see but for his newly heightened sense. He heard the falls of their footsteps on the glimmering polished floor and in the distance, the faintest sound of civil conversation.
     “I am ever so excited for you, Theodore. Many of the Circle are royalty and scholars. Perhaps one day you can be the ambassador from Kellgren, and travel the seas to spread good will to our compatriots!”
     “...Yes ma'am...”
They entered into an airless sitting room.


       "This is my son, Theodore. I believe he should meet wonderful dignitaries such as yourselves."
     The progenitors were arranged before him, he was surprised to see them expecting him. In this chamber the smell of rotting cloth was strong; likely the ancient continental furniture and gaudy robes that were well past their prime. The tiny woman in curls regarded him with a kind expression, and he would nearly have let his heart rest easier but not for the imperious stare of the tan-skinned woman and the piercing gaze of the monstrous old man before him. A reedy man, who was perhaps just tremendously gangly compared to the shrunken woman next to him, lolled his head and analyzed him a bit too studiously for his liking.
     "I always love to meet new family," the dark woman the smiled eerily with red waxy lips.
     "Yes, yes..." the fuzzy old man said with a gruff and harsh voice, "I do think this is important.”
     "Indeed," Kellgren smiled to Theodore encouragingly, but with the eyes of a mad, emotionless bird. “Theodore, please meet the progenitors of the Circle."



     “First, and most importantly is Tomasz Dragomir, he is the emperor and warrior of the Circle!”  
     “Well, this is an alliance of equals,” Tomasz puffed in faux-modesty, “but perhaps you might consider me the chairman.”


       “--and then, Aubrey Greyburn is the holy authority, the archcleric of the Circle.”
     “God deigns to speak to me, on occasion...” the haggard looking man made sweeping, maladroit hand movements and rolled his eyes to the ceiling like an awkward parody of a holy worshipper.


       “Inka Lepponen is the wise oracle, she speaks directly to the spirits.”
     “There is much to be learned in this world, child...” she spoke in a strange timber, and curled her tiny lips into the smallest of smiles.


       “--and our youngest progenitor, Angela Sombreta. Erm... what would you consider your specialty again, Angela?”
     “I won't waste time on humility, I am the diplomat and strategist, of course.”
There was a brief exchange of inscrutable looks among the other Circle members.


     “What of the young man, then?” Tomasz asked, his pale eyes glistening in the dark like wet, white marbles, “What does he have to offer us?”
     “Uhmm..” Kellgren wrung her hands briefly, “Ehh---”
Theodore shifted uncomfortably, the eyes of the ghouls fixing his attention and repulsing him at the same time.
     “--Well, what would you of him?” she asked with an eager, nervous smile.
     “I suppose we'll have to find out what his virtues are. Let us have a private meeting with the lad." Tomasz's intense look was briefly masked by some attempt to look affable, which failed miserably.
     “Oh certainly,” Kellgren clasped her hands in a modest bow, “Theodore is mine to offer. Feel free to do with him what you will.” She primly patted his shoulder, and turned to click her heels down the marble hallway.



  Those fiendish eyes staring at him, Theodore could not imagine what horror would await him. At least he wouldn't die of it, though, would that be any comfort really?  




     “When will we leave?” Theodore asked, in a thin voice.
     “Very soon.” Patricia stared ahead, seeming more and more like a stone cemetery angel with every passing night.
     "How can you..." he trailed off, and kept a rapt eye on the swaying of the carriage's curtain.
     "How can I do this? There is no choice. They will do what they will. There is nothing to be done," she stared ahead blankly.
In that moment, he began to no longer care what became of Patricia.




     "There is a wonderful fête tonight!" Kellgren had taken to leading Theodore around by the hand, telling him to stand here, stand there, wait in the carriage for hours while she caroused and fed. On the worst nights, she expected him to share with her. He had to pretend that the strange creatures with firey auras were something less than humans, because their suffering was too difficult to bear otherwise.
     "Mum, I don't.. I want to go home.." Theodore knew it was hopeless as she nearly stuffed him into the carriage with a single shove.
     "Don't you want to have FUN? Don't be a prissy little nit like your worthless sister. I need to enjoy myself before we leave."


       The Greyburn estate was as fragile and spindly as its namesake. A bell tower had collapsed many years ago and had yet to be reconstructed. The skeletal remains had been run over by vines and stunk of swampy water and bird droppings. The cathedral had obviously been deconsecrated long ago, because now it was dated and rotting. The carpets had been worn to threads in pathways and dark, foreboding stains created a new pattern on their faded designs. The plaster had gone soft, and the stone statues were covered in furry coats of dust. Inside, a few bruised-eyed servants shuffled about, and scuttled away on sight of the vampires that entered.
     “You have to learn how to have a good time, Theodore...” Kellgren murmured, as she bustled down yet another lengthy hall. From behind a heavy black curtain, there were strange wet noises and whimpers. Before he could turn his head, the curtain was pulled back.

       “Oh what a treat! Who has made this lavish preparation?” Kellgren asked, unbuttoning her blouse.
     “Ever the host...” Angela gestured with her dagger to Dragomir, who cackled as he showered in the stream of blood. Theodore was frozen, unable to look away from the unbelievable scene before him. Aubrey wiped back a gout of blood from his face with a delicate gesture, and gave him a semblance of a sympathetic look.


     “Dear one, is it a shock? --But does this not rouse some part of your soul? Feed we must, and here is the bounty. They will die, yes, but they will die without your participation as well. Sooner or later... why not now, and assist us, whom God has chosen, to live and flourish as we may? This is what you are, this is what you come from. Out of the earth and from the ashes we live and we worship in the ways we desire. Join us!”
A hanging victim made eye contact with Theodore, her eyes pleading and wet in the darkness.
     He turned and dove behind the curtain, sprinting down the musty hall until his emotion took him over, and he rooted himself in place, holding in the screams.






     “You! No wonder Patricia wanted you for herself, you're both as boring as dirt! I thought better of you.” Kellgren's voice sounded abrasive and wheezing, her breath metallic and a mist of blood spraying out with every syllable.
     “You'll join us now, just so I don't make a fool of myself, you damned dullard.” She gripped his sleeve with a webbed hand, and back he went to the bubbling of arterial blood and muffled whimpers.


In time Kellgren had grown completely un-enamoured of him, and he was left alone. He was allowed time alone, and he spent it by locking himself in a bathing room with a stack of old books. Anything to forget, anything to imagine something different than what was really happening. Patricia left him alone as well, and tended to her housework as though she really was just a servant. They hardly spoke.
     One evening Theodore sat in a long cold bath, re-reading an outdated tale of adventures on the high sea, when he heard a low conversation from a lower floor. Did they forget his now heightened sense of hearing?

     “--No you can't, that's horrible. Haven't you done enough?”
     “Well I don't like him, and what if we want to make new ones in the savage lands?”
     “Why would you... I'm sure there would be plenty of room.”
     “Then you can expect to care for him. It is your problem.”
     “...Was I not already doing that? Wasn't I the one who had to truss him back together after you chopped him to bits? One of his arms kept falling off, I wanted to make sure it reattached properly.”
     “Disgusting. You know there is a way to get rid of them...”
     “Of course but--”
     “Haha, you think you know what I mean. I know more than you, child-- As I always will. I have an idea for some fun in Koromo, and perhaps if you're lucky and stop acting like such dour mare, I'll share with you.”

Then there was silence.

He was well aware of what 'fun' meant.


     The season changed, and Theodore was able to steal moments out of the estate. Patricia warmed to him just slightly, but he had the sense that it would never be the same as it had been when he was alive. Why did she hate him now? Or had she always? Some of the young vampires were curious about the new child, and sought him out. He was polite as well as he could be, but his mind was fraught with images of horror every time he met another of the damned. What atrocities did they commit? Or were they just like him?

     Tomasz layed down the line, and Kellgren could no longer dawdle. The Circle waited on her departure to form, and that wicked alliance was not one for patience. Theodore realized as they re-packed Elizabeth's extensive belongings, that he had nothing. Patricia had purchased him a few new outfits, and he had a few books and toiletries from his long-ago summer suitcase. Otherwise, he hadn't a Glenmark to his name. He knew no one other than his monstrous family. Patricia was not much of a friend these days, and he would of course never be able to see his family again.



     What could he do? He'd have to travel to this foreign country with no choice of course. What then? Would his life be nothing but eternal suffering, murder and horror for all eternity? Before, the sea had smelled of promise and adventure. Imagined lands on the other side were vivid in his imagination. Now, he smelled the rot on the tide, dead fish putrefying on the shore, the sweat of weary passengers.
     Patricia patted his shoulder, and gave him a look that hinted at a glimmer of emotion behind the marble face. Perhaps, away from those horrible Circle demons, things would be better?





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