Nathaniel sighed and leaned back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling. I was pleased to see he was getting exasperated by me already. Hopefully it would mean he’d give me my P45 in the morning and I could be on my way.
“You have such the wrong idea about us, Sarah. Maybe in a few days you will see we’re not the bad guys here.”
Damn. Not that exasperated then. Still, I could work harder at annoying him. It was something I excelled at according to Michael.
“I’m not saying you’re the bad guys. I just don’t see the need for what you do,” I shrugged.
He turned his eyes back to me and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. I had the urge to lean back under the scrutiny of his gaze.
“And what’s the alternative? Wait for them to come and find us? Because rest assured they will find us. There’s no point living a chocolate-box life, Sarah. There’s no point thinking we can live like any other person; get ourselves a cottage out in the countryside, with a white picket fence, mow the lawn every Sunday, walk the dog. Do normal things. Because we’re not normal. We’re sensors. And we’re sensors for a reason.”
“So you’re saying that it’s our God-given right to hunt and kill vampires?”
“Well, history tells us that the fight between vampires and sensors was originally a Holy war. Good versus evil. Pure versus unholy. So the idea that our gift is God-given isn’t far wrong. According to vampire lore, the original sensors were members of a secretive religious order who set about ridding the land of the rising numbers of vampires.”
“Vampire-slaying monks?” I smirked, toying with visions of a stake-wielding Friar Tuck.
“If you like,” replied Nathaniel, with a deadpan expression. “The Church was well aware of the existence of vampires as far back as the Middle Ages, with Crusaders returning home with reports of great fanged demons in The Holy Lands. They were horrified of course, but all talk of blood-drinking spirits were quashed quickly and effectively. They believed these vampire entities to be servants of the Devil and feared that the people would blame the Church for bringing evil back to England. They were wrong of course. The Crusaders never brought vampires to our shores; they were already here. But they were lone individuals and were barely seen. In fact, vampire sightings were so rare that folklore just swallowed them up as mythical evil spirits and no one gave any true credence to their existence. No one that is apart from the Church and they quickly sought to destroy any vampire that proved to be real.”
“By employing sensors to kill them?”
“The sensors they recruited into the order were already members of the Church; in fact some even say that it was an off-shoot of the Oxford Movement and that Cardinal Newman himself oversaw the order’s activities. There is a rumour that in his youth the Cardinal was a member of the order, but his eventual move to be ordained by the Catholic Church led to him taking a more distanced, supervisory role. I don’t know how true that is myself; but it would have taken someone of authority within the Church to keep the order so secretive that most clergy would not have known of its existence.”
“Wait, you’re saying that Cardinal John Henry Newman himself was a sensor?” I gasped.
“In his teens, Newman became passionately interested in evangelical Christianity. There’s a possibility that this zeal was fuelled by his abilities and later he was recorded to have said that that his conversion as an evangelical Calvinist saved his soul. Maybe it was his way of combating the feelings we all have growing up knowing that we are different to everyone else? Maybe it was his way to fight against the evil he knew existed? I don’t know for sure. All I know is that vampire legend talks about a sensor who became an incredibly important religious figure within the Catholic Church and who had, during the great Roman Blood Wars of the 1830’s, become injured in battle with one of Europe’s most infamous den leaders Cyrus Valerius . Now, it’s widely reported that Newman fell dangerously ill with typhoid fever during his travels to Rome and Sicily in 1832, but what if it was not typhoid fever that struck him down, but severe injuries caused by a vampire?”
“And you believe this?” I said. “You think this is true?”
“I could not say for sure,” Nathaniel said, hooking one of his loose curls behind his ear. “The sensor movement holds no historical records from that time and any that ever existed are rumoured to have been destroyed following Newman’s death in 1890. In fact, even Newman’s remains disappeared. When they opened up his grave, they discovered the coffin had disintegrated to nothing, leaving only the gilded handles lying in the ground. His bones were never found. Some say, members of the sensor order removed the bones and secreted them away, not wishing his remains to be desecrated by vampires. If there is any real evidence that Newman was a leading figure of the sensor movement, then it is the vampire Elders who possess this. Their records stretch back for centuries.”
“And you know that because….?” I trailed off, raising an eyebrow at him.
He smiled and shrugged. “We have our ways as you already know. But these days the sensor network is far more advanced and with factions located across the globe, our system of storing and sharing information is more important than ever. It had to become this way. The nineteenth century saw the first great and most notable increase in the vampire population and we could not have continued as just vampire-slaying monks, as you so eloquently put it.”
“Why did vampire numbers grow during the nineteenth century? What was so significant about that time?” I couldn’t help but be gripped by Nathaniel’s impromptu history lecture.
“Quite simply, it was the sensors growth in power that ignited the Elders into action. They watched in alarm as the sensors began to wipe out their kind with a kind of voracious zeal that they had never seen before. They knew that the only way their race could survive would be to increase their numbers and so gave the instruction that den leaders should start doubling their efforts to make new vampires. Only they didn’t count on the den leaders realising that this was their way to strengthen the power of their den. The greater their numbers, the more powerful and more important their den would be. The more important the den, the more influential the den leader would be, and so on. The nineteenth century saw literally thousands of vampires being created across the world and hence the Blood Wars between the sensors and vampires began.”
“And the Elders didn’t want that? Surely they would have wanted the extermination of all sensors and the Blood Wars could only have helped them achieve that?”
“The Elders never wanted all-out war with the sensors. Let’s not forget that vampires had existed throughout the ages and at no point had they ever sought to significantly increase their numbers. They could have done so at any time, but it was only the rise of the sensors that forced their hands. Rest assured before that time, they were quite content to lurk in the shadows and be the subject of myth. They never wanted to be uncovered. They wanted to be able to go about their business without the Church breathing down their necks. But their own need for survival caused the Elders to make a very drastic decision about their future. They didn’t want the den leaders to gain so much power, as it would only threaten their existence on the Council. Before all this, the Elders were nothing but a tired old hierarchy who had little to do with the everyday existence of your average vampire. With the den leaders motivated into action by their own greed for power, they grew more confident and it raised questions about what the Council were doing to protect the dens. The Council had no choice but to give the order for all sensors to be destroyed.”
“Augustus Bloomsbury!” I cried, remembering the conversation I had with Monty about his exile from the Council and the campaign that Augustus Bloomsbury had waged in order to convince the other Elders to order the killing of all sensors.
Nathaniel sat up straight immediately, his eyes wide with undisguised shock. “What do you know of Augustus?”
I squirmed under his dark stare. The dancing shadow marionette stilled on the wall behind him and I waited for it to reach out a ghostly hand and grip me around the neck, squeezing my throat and forcing me to reveal all about Montague. There was no way I could tell Nathaniel about Monty; I would not put him in such terrible danger. As an Elder I was sure he was capable of defending himself, but against eleven sensors I wasn’t so sure how he would fair. And if they knew the secret of how to shield their blood against the awesome power of an Elder, then I doubted Monty would last long in his basement hideaway.
“Um, I was told about him,” I muttered, trying to avoid his intense gaze which did not relent for one second.
“Sarah, barely anyone outside the network knows the names of the Elders, let alone that of Augustus himself. We fought for years to learn who sat on the Council. You have no idea of the efforts we have gone to try and establish the key figures within the Council; the blood that has been spilled, the people that have been lost, just to get those names. Most vampires don’t even know who sits on the Council. The only people privy to that kind if information are the den leaders themselves, and possibly one of two of their underlings. How on earth would a lone sensor like yourself know the name of the most important vampire alive?”
“I don’t understand?” I said, trying to dodge his question. “Why is he the most important vampire alive? What makes him so special?”
When he spoke, his voice was nothing more than a hiss and the candle light cast dark shadows across his face, twisting his features in a way that made me hold my breath.
“Because Sarah, Augustus Bloomsbury happens to be the man recently elected to sit at the head of the great vampire Council. If you wanted to find the most senior figure in the whole of the vampire race, you wouldn’t have to look any further than him. So I ask you again, how the hell do you know his name?”
Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2012