The Persecution: Part Three
Light rain drizzled around the brim of Tiberius' hat as he walked along the Neovian canal. The sun was clouded over with soft gray clouds, though it still managed to reflect off the canal's waters. All around the canal people were sitting on benches and docks reading today's issue of the Gazette. As he walked by someone, he heard them mention a new article that was eye opening, but he didn't stop to ask and question. He felt his empty pockets as he walked; buying an issue was out of the question.
As he walked, Tiberius tried to ignore all of the talk about the new article and instead focused on watching the streets. He started to actually enjoy his day just as he looked up and saw a flustered royal Korbat walking in his direction, skirts swirling and her short purple hair windblown. Tiberius put his head down and tried to keep walking without being seen; something was clearly agitating her and he did not want to add fuel to the fire.
Tiberius sighed as he stopped and looked up at Villia's smiling, powdered face. He thought his day might have turned out for the better, but he figured it would just go downhill from here. "Hello, Villia. What's up?"
"Figured I would say hello, seeing you here and all. What are you doing out?"
"Oh well..." Tiberius glanced around to be sure no one was listening. He lowered his voice. "I figured I would give hunting another shot."
Villia smiled wider. "That's good," she said. "I'm happy that you're taking my advice and-"
"Yes, yes, I know, that I'll be having a proper meal."
Villia briefly frowned before responding. "Yes..." She paused. "Did you read the Gazette this morning?"
"Oh... well, don't; it has a particularly poorly written article in it today. Must have been put together by a third grader."
"You mean that article everyone is talking about? Something about it must be good if everyone is reading it."
"Nonsense, you know that people will just read anything put in front of them." Why was she talking to him? Usually when he saw her, Villia was all business. Though... something about her did seem a bit off. She smoothed down her hair, looking across the canal as she did.
"Tib... have you seen Verne lately? I've been meaning to talk to him."
"I did yesterday, poor bloke came over all flustered and upset. Told me he got fired."
"Fired? From the Gazette?"
Tiberius nodded. "He said that someone was trying to publish this terrible article, and when he opposed it, his boss fired him on the spot. He didn't say what it was about, but..."
Tiberius paused. "Verne said his boss called him some rather nasty things..."
"What sorts of things?"
"You know... things about being a vampire."
Villia paused, and something that Tiberius could only read as confusion and anger flashed through her violet eyes. She became very quiet and resumed looking around at her surroundings, ignoring Tiberius' attempts to get her attention again. As soon as he was about to give up, she turned back to him.
"Thanks, Tib. Enjoy your meal, and don't forget the rules." With a curt nod she turned on her heel and stalked away from him. He only had a few moments to contemplate her odd behavior before someone ran right into him.
"Hey, watch where you're going!"
Tiberius tumbled to the ground, stumbling over his own feet and dropping his hat. Scrambling to pick up his hat before someone stepped on it, the clouds parted and the sun spilled onto the streets. Relieved sighs and pleasant remarks spread around Tiberius, but none of them registered to him. As fast as he could he put the hat back on his head and pulled up his collar around his neck to keep off the biting rays. He couldn't cover his hands before standing up, trying to block out the sharp, burning pain as he readjusted himself.
"Hey look, I'm sorry. Are you alright?"
Turning toward the voice, Tiberius squinted the sun from his eyes and looked at the owner of the voice, a white Zafara with a goatee and a long dark leather coat. His dark eyes expressed genuine concern, surprising Tiberius because of the sharp tone he just had.
"No, really, you looked like you fell hard. Look at your coat, it's all scraped up."
Indeed, the whole side of his coat was covered in dirt and the pocket was torn. "Really, I'm fine," Tiberius lied and put his hands in his pockets. "I have to leave, excuse me."
As Tiberius turned to leave, the Zafara grabbed his arm.
"No, I need to make this right. I'll pay for repairs to your coat."
"Uh... alright." He paused, then held out his hand. "My name is Tiberius."
The Zafara smiled and shook Tiberius' outstretched hand. "I'm Gabriel. Are your hands alright? I hear sunlight burns vampires pretty bad."
"You saw that?" Tiberius said as he self-consciously rubbed his hands. "It's not a big deal, the burns will be gone by tonight."
"Uh huh. You know, I've never really met a vampire before."
"Hm. How did you know I was a vampire?"
"I saw the sun burn you, of course."
There was a pause, then Gabriel continued "Did you read that new article on vampires?"
"That's what that was about? Everyone is reading it."
"Yeah, it says some crazy stuff about vampires. I doubt half of it is true, though."
"Stuff like what?"
"Oh, it's not important." The Zafara fiddled with the chain of his necklace, then glanced at his pocket watch. "I have to get going, here." He handed Tiberius a small bag of neopoints.
"That should cover your jacket." He turned on his heal without a goodbye and headed down a small street that branched off from the main canal. Tiberius tossed the small bag from hand to hand. He sat on a bench and contemplated spending some of the neopoints on an issue of the Gazette to see what this new article was all about when he heard a scream come from the street that Gabriel had just gone down. Jumping to his feet, Tiberius obeyed his instincts to help whoever was in trouble and sprinted toward the scream. When he turned the corner, no one was in sight.
"Hello!?" he called, his voice echoing off the walls of the staggered buildings. He stopped and listened, but the only sound he could hear was his own heartbeat. He was about to turn back when he heard a weak cry.
"Over here! The alley! Help, please!"
Tiberius darted toward the nearest alley and looked in, but the darkness was too thick for even his vampire eyes. Cautiously he stepped in, using his nose instead of eyes. He thought he picked up a scent, when a candle flame sprang to life and Tiberius stumbled back from the sudden brightness.
"Vampires. I would have thought you were smarter."
Tiberius looked up and saw Gabriel standing there, his hands tucked in the pockets of his long coat. He was smiling a cold, unnerving smile, and he was perfectly unharmed.
"Wha-?" Tiberius' senses screamed at him to get out as the Zafara pulled his hand out of his pocket, but before he had a chance the alley filled with white smoke which filled Tiberius' sensitive nose and stung his eyes. He coughed and spluttered and tried to regain his senses, but just as he stumbled toward the mouth of the smoke filled alley, there was an ear shattering scream again. He covered his ears and tried to get back to Gabriel, but before he could his consciousness left him.
Tiberius' head throbbed as he slowly blinked his eyes open.
"Ah, sleeping beauty is awake."
Tiberius rubbed his eyes and looked up. A large royal Lupe with deep blue fur stood over him, grinning. He had a deep scar over the side of his face, making the expression all the more menacing.
"You had a rough night."
"I did?" Now there was ringing in his ears. Tiberius rubbed them as he said, "What happened?"
"Like you don't know." They both turned toward the owner of the new voice, and Tiberius' heart sank when he saw who it was.
"Villia? What are you doing here?" He looked around at the unfamiliar gray room. The only furniture in it was the chair Tiberius was sitting in and the table he was sitting at. Glancing down, he noticed something he didn't see before. He was handcuffed to the table.
"You tell me. We were just called here, the police say you did something rather bad."
"Why did they call you?"
Thaddeus leaned against the wall. "They don't like dealing with vampires, especially after reading the article."
Villia scoffed. "I have better things to do than babysit you. Now tell me what you did."
"He bit me."
Everyone turned as the door swung open and Gabriel stood in the doorway, backed by two sturdy police officers.
Villia frowned and looked flustered. "What do you mean?" She turned to Tiberius. "Don't tell me you tried to hunt and got caught!"
"No, I didn't! I just bumped into this guy on the street!"
Gabriel stepped forward. Tiberius tried to stand, forgetting about the handcuffs. The table jumped an inch and pulled Tiberius back into his chair.
"You attacked me, vampire." He rolled up his sleeve revealing a bandage wrapped around his arm. Thaddeus flinched at the sight of the bandage, but Villia simply turned her icy glare toward Tiberius. He started to shake, his blood suddenly running cold.
"N-No! I d-didn't do anything! This is a mistake, he's setting me up!"
"I highly doubt that, Mr. Fletcher." Her voice was calm, but there was a knife edge to it that made Tiberius' heart race.
"You know I wouldn't do something like this, I d-didn't even bite him!"
Thaddeus dubiously said, "Then how did he get this wound?"
"Yeah, how did I?" The Zafara glared at Tiberius, eyes full of hatred.
"How am I supposed to know!? I didn't-"
"That's enough, Tiberius!" Villia stepped into between him and the Zafara. Despite her only standing a few inches taller than him while he was sitting, it felt like she was looking down at him from a great height. "You broke the rules, Tiberius. You know what happens to vampires that break the rules."
Tiberius swallowed. He glanced at the police officers, who were looking at each other nervously.
Villia turned to the officers and Gabriel. "I'll deal with him; this usually doesn't happen. He will appropriately be punished."
Gabriel didn't look satisfied. "You know what? I don't care. I'm getting out of here." He stepped back. "I'm going to tell everyone about this, I'm going to tell everyone in town that you're just a bunch of crazy bloodthirsty monsters!" With a last glare with a hint of smile at Tiberius, the Zafara stomped out, followed by the police officers.
The silence was deafening as the three vampires took in what just happened. After what felt like hours, Villia finally turned back to him. "Thaddeus?"
She paused and took a deep breath. Tiberius wasn't sure what she was going to do, but eventually she just said, "You know what to do." Then she smiled. She smiled that cold, knowing smile that Tiberius knew so well.
"This wasn't my fault, you know. It was him; he staged it." He felt somewhat calmer now, though he wasn't sure why. Maybe he was accepting his fate.
Villia laughed softly. "I'm sure it was." She then turned around and stepped toward the door. With her back toward him, she paused.
"You're lucky I'm not making you leave town, Tib, though I don't ever want to see you again."
"Good. Now Thaddeus?"
Another pause. "Be quick."
As Villia swept out, Thaddeus rolled up his sleeves. Tiberius tried to step back, once again forgetting about the handcuffs. "Thaddeus, please... you know me..."
Thaddeus frowned and looked away briefly. When he turned back, his eyes were emotionless. "I thought I did."
Pathetic. Humiliated. Weak. The emotions swam around Tiberius' mind as he slowly trekked home, pausing every few minutes or so to check that this nightmare was real. Each time he did he felt the memories come back and the anger well back inside him, not just at Villia and Thaddeus but that Zafara, that liar that ruined his life. He wasn't ever going to be himself again, he would never be allowed back into Vampire society. He was an outcast, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Tiberius paused once more to carefully feel inside his mouth. He could feel the gaps in his teeth where his fangs once were, the empty holes where his most prized possessions were taken from him. They were the things that made him who he was, and without them he didn't even know what he was. Was he still a vampire, or something else?
A raindrop fell on his nose. He sighed and shook the water off, flinching in pain as he did. Eventually his fangs would grow back, but it would take months. Until then, it didn't matter, nothing mattered anymore. There wasn't anything worth doing anymore, except...
Tiberius looked up into the sky as the rain continued to fall, forming small puddles between the streets' cracked cobblestones. He smiled, allowing the rain to fall onto him. Yes, there was one thing he could do. It might not get his fangs back, but Tiberius was sure it would fix something.
He was going to get his revenge.
To be continued...