All Things In Good Time

© Joan Ann Lansberry

''Strength And Courage''

After Sardok left, the four remaining vampires looked at each other, mouths and eyes wide. ''Is that our best defense, 'please don't incinerate us'? '' Gwen wondered out loud.

''Well, I wasn't given any special instructions by Lucius. I had to think on the fly,'' Michael explained.

''And we sure didn't expect Seb to desert us!'' Golden wailed.

''He goes where he can get the swankiest room and board. A mobile home and cow's blood aren't as ritsy as Sardok's mansion and young virgins!'' Livia fumed. ''I agree, that was a surprise. I did not think him so superficial,'' Gwen concurred.

''I'm withholding judgment on that, until I know further. There may be factors which we do not yet understand,'' Michael explained as calmly as possible under the circumstances.

Golden paused to think about what Michael said, and remembered his private exchanges with Sebastion, and grew more hopeful. He went to Michael, kissed him and spoke in telepathic mode to him, ''Thank you! I needed that!'' He hugged and kissed Michael once more. A single tear fell from his eye.

Michael grabbed him, hugging him in return while looking him in the eye. He also spoke telepathically, ''You are using the 'MIND GIFT'! Yet you are a new and weak fledgling. How is this possible?'' Golden whispered into his ear, ''Sh-h-h-h!'' A pleasantly puzzled Michael said again without aural words, ''Oh, I shall say no more!''

Having hugged Golden, he went to each of the other two and hugged them, ''Strength and courage, my beloved!'' he told each one. They repeated these hopeful words back to him as they returned their hugs.

Meanwhile, Sebby was slowly descending into Sardok's dark lair. It was underground, hidden under some derelict buildings, which he also owned. A narrow passageway also led to his main chamber, as had the other well-protected vampire lair. But this passageway was painted black, and small candle sconces had been placed intermittently to light the way. There was something about it that reminded him of a bizarre dungeon belonging to one of his odd lovers. It was filled with special instruments of torture, designed for sexual excitement. Any minute now, he expected to see whips and chains.

But when he was at last ushered into the main chamber, a rather different surprise greeted him. The walls were still painted black. However, this was to better contrast against the several well-lit portraits of himself Sardok had commissioned. He recognized one as being of Rembrandt's artistry. Another evinced Cezanne's more solid form of Impressionism. He even had one by Picasso. There were over a dozen portraits. Sebastian was surprised he'd even employed the colored pencil artist who did a group portrait of Michael and his fledglings and later of Sebastian himself. She'd caught something of his inner menacing nature.

Perhaps Sardok had faith this artist would be as famous one day as those masters long passed on. Anyway, it was the only portrait he'd ever had done in 270 years. After 250 years of looking the same, he rather took his appearance for granted. He couldn't imagine if he had been fated to be muscular and handsome, if he would have felt differently. In recent decades, his extreme thinness, along with never being seen eating, was taken by several concerned lovers as a sign of anorexia. While he assured them he fed most greedily, they did not believe him.

And of his hook nose, a couple recent companions had even discreetly suggested plastic surgery to remove the end of it. One even brought his profile up on a plastic surgery website, to show him his profile if the nose was whittled. He laughed at the woman. If he had attempted such a thing, his faithful blood beings would regrow the missing nose end, exactly to its former dimension, in a day. No, vanity was not for him, though he marvelled at those who had it.

At least his ridiculously stretched out proportions enabled him to run fast. He'd needed fast flight on quite a few occasions.

By the time he'd had ample opportunity to study each of Sardok's portraits, and notice his imposing gold throne against one of the chamber walls, between the two largest portraits, the living flesh and blood man himself appeared, looking jovial and robust. If he had allowed himself one thought, Seb would have thought, ''Showtime, Seb, showtime!'' He did allow himself a good deep breath.

go to Chapter Forty-Eight, Sardok Unmoved
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