I quickly found myself more easily relating to these ancient vampires than I could to the Slayer family into which I might marry. Despite their age and powers, the brothers seemed to feel “a good time” was anything done together. We had started out with a board game they had first played in ancient Egypt. Aaliyah had revealed to me when I was about to make a bad move that Vito simply love showing off his set, it being an original. The spell around the board and pieces were there to strengthen the set against wear. I could see how even casual play might destroy something over enough time, especially given Papak’s enormous, clawed hands.
Zachary gave me a brief tour through their library, which stretched over numerous floors of the building and was arranged chronologically first. Though I’d have to learn the languages first, I had to admit an interest in reading through some of the tablets and scrolls, just to see what people had to say back when they were written. There was some debate between the three on who would be a better teacher until Aaliyah had said she would teach me. I didn’t tell the brothers, but Aaliyah did teach me on the spot.
Back in normal time, we went on to tour more of the building. I was introduced to various vampires who resided there and shown more of the brothers’ collection of antiques. The building was a haven to any vampire who felt out of place in the current time. They could spend a few hundred years as they liked before catching up on events and trying the world again. There was obvious deference shown to the three here, which made me wonder why Alma had never discussed them with me. What had caused the chasm between the two groups of “protectors”.
When I asked, Vito had brushed the thought aside, saying that the Slayers were simply inexperienced youngsters determined to force their will upon the world. He also claimed that the feud was entirely one-sided. Papak was quick to point out that the brothers were, at times, displeased by the Slayers killing off certain vampires, but Zachary argued that the ones who were killed had gotten sloppy or had abandoned their mission.
“Although what Zachary says is true to an extent,” interrupted Vito, “we would have intervened on a number of occasions if not for advice from that one.” He pointed at Aaliyah.
“She does give good advice.” I stated.
Vito stared down at Aaliyah inquisitively and said, “I sometimes wonder.”
“I don’t.” I told him. “I know I lack the experience with her you must have, but she has only ever done right with me, even when her methods are… unusual.”
“You think I’m strange, boss-man, sir?” she asked, eyes wide with shock.
“In the best of ways.” I assured her.
“I will never grow accustomed to her calling someone ‘boss’.” stated Papak.
“But he is the boss-man!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Never fall for the illusion of control.” argued Vito.
“It’s an illusion?” questioned Aaliyah in a loud whisper filled with wonder.
“Maybe not to you.” he snapped.
“Well, she did offer to fight the universe for me.” I teased.
The brothers looked horrified.
“She was surely joking.” asserted Ariadne.
“Was not. I don’t mind changing fate for my boss-man.” claimed Aaliyah, hugging my leg.
I patted her head.
“That’s a terrifying thought.” stated Zachary.
“No, because James wouldn’t want it. You have no idea how good James is.” she argued.
“Thank you, but I have plenty of faults.” I assured them.
Smiling, Aaliyah said, “See, he’s wonderful.”
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable, James. She’ll likely do something you don’t like eventually.” insisted Vito.
“Oh, she does things I don’t like at times, but I’m merely being slow as to understand why at times.” I argued. “Everything she does has a purpose.”
Zachary laughed and said, “We all can agree with that. Don’t mind my brothers. After years of waiting and watching the world coming apart, we may be growing a touch impatient.”
“The world’s coming apart?” I asked, disturbed by the notion.
“Not in an explosive way.” stated Papak.
“The Slayers pit nation versus nation in numerous ways instead of having them unite. The strife isn’t merely causing misery among humans, the world’s ecosystems are grossly unbalanced. Troubled times are coming again.” explained Vito.
“Surely men capable of conjuring an island can help fix the ecosystems.” I argued.
“Yes, but we’re told to wait.” he admitted.
“Yep!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“She claims someone else will take care of things. We just have to be patient.” stated Papak.
“You do.” she told him.
“See our dilemma?” asked Zachary.
“You know she’s old enough to see some things too, right?” I asked in jest. They obviously knew.
“She was ancient when I was a young boy learning to hunt.” claimed Vito. “The world was tremendously different then. The gods weren’t figments imagined. Dragons roamed the world, and the fey replenished the land. You would not believe the magic that was unleashed daily.”
“I don’t know about gods or dragons, but Ariadne surely mentioned that fey live on my land.” I told him.
Papak smiled, his huge mouth revealing sharp teeth, as he said, “Yes, she did.”
“We would quite like to see them if you don’t mind.” insisted Zachary.
“Sure. I’ll gladly welcome you whenever you have the time.” I assured him.
Sighing, Vito said, “You see, James, we failed them. We learned of the Slayers’ plans too late and couldn’t save even one.”
“You saved me.” argued Ariadne.
“In a way, I suppose.” he told her.
“The fey would never blame you.” insisted Aaliyah. “They don’t even hold a grudge against the Slayers.”
“We know. The fey just don’t understand.” stated Zachary.
The tour continued in silence for a while as we ventured down through the building. The brothers were kind enough to keep to my pace, though Vito carried Ariadne at one point, appearing to find joy in her ire. Well, she wasn’t really angry, just loud in her protestations.
I found myself at a complete loss when we came to a simple-looking door with numerous spells well beyond my understanding warding it.
“Open.” commanded Vito, and the door did without a single spell being cast.
As we made our way down, Vito was kind enough to give me a brief demonstration of how voice recognition can be done through magic. Then he went on to explain how he had stumbled across DNA recognition through spells before he even knew what DNA was. I quickly came to believe that even Alma could learn a great deal from the man, as he easily explained uses of magic I only had ever guessed might be possible, such as turning lead to gold. Vito was the source of those legends. He cautioned me against trying such spells on living things, warning that I could easily kill something on accident with such magic.
Deep into the earth, I found myself staring in wonder. The great collection of the three in their home above ground was a small glimpse of their vast wealth beneath the ground. The endless procession of stories that came with the tour were equally remarkable. These men were around for the invention of writing. They had spoken with several of the pharaohs, some of which turned out to be Slayers. Zachary had lived in Mesopotamia for a while. Vito had been there for the Great Fire of Rome. Papak was unfortunately the source of numerous monster tales through the years.
I was surprised to find out that Papak hadn’t chosen his appearance. He wasn’t able to transform like most vampires. None of his “children” could. According to him, he had made a deal with a monster and became monstrous from it. Vito argued that though the dragon was twisted and deceitful, he and Papak both received what they deserved. Both had sought help from a dragon in search of greater power, feeling too weak to fulfill their mission. Both received exactly what they had requested, but neither got what they wanted.
Papak was physically beyond his brothers to a great degree, but his ability with magic was a fraction of theirs. Vito’s potential with magic had been increased dramatically, but he found himself unable to keep up with either of his brothers physically. Zachary claimed to have been a spoiled child, never wanting for anything. He supposedly had been shocked when he found out about what transpired.
“He wasn’t exactly a dragon.” stated Aaliyah.
“What!?” asked Vito and Papak nearly at once.
“Funny enough, the dragon had sought power himself. A demon had made him great promises of power and inhabited his body. By the time you two met him, the dragon’s mind was gone. Don’t worry though, I didn’t take kindly to his behavior.” she assured them, grinning in a way that made me shiver.
There was silence until Zachary took up the tour once more. The other two eventually started contributing again as well, but their silence had extended till nearly dawn.
When the brothers seemed recovered enough, I asked “Whatever became of dragons?”
“They left us to our fate.” spat Vito.
“I didn’t give them a choice.” admitted Aaliyah.
“You sent them away?” asked Papak.
“Not exactly. The dragon matriarch decided her children needed a world of their own, and I helped ensure there weren’t any unwanted stragglers.” she told them.
Dragons… Jarod would want to hear about this. How would I explain all of this to him in a meaningful way? I might well take years telling him as we found the time at a human pace, but I would do my best. History had taken a strange twist in my mind.