James’s Note: In this episode, we find a few more things that aren’t what they seem. We also get to know Anton a little, and find out what he’s really playing at.
“Master Morgan disagrees. In light of recent events, he thinks it’s obvious that mistress Pavlovic killed his brother. Their rivalry was long-standing and well-known. The signs pointing to the Guillotine Society were no doubt placed at the scene to deflect suspicion from her. Seeing as how she is now dead, Master Morgan does not feel any further action is required. You will notice that there is a sizable bonus in the briefcase, owing to the fact that you not only brought the truth to light, but also avenged Master Morgan’s brother.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and downed the Mug of coffee I was working on in one long drag. It didn’t help head off the headache that was developing. “So you’re telling me that your boss, who was ready to go to war with the Guillotine Society, is now ready to say oops my bad and call the whole matter closed?”
“Master Morgan is more than willing to admit he’s fallible. It seems that he was duped exactly as intended.”
I gave Antonn a hard looking over. In the short time I had known him, he had proven to be a surprisingly astute and open-minded person. I decided to take a shot and aim for his Humanity. Which, I will admit, is an ironic tactic when dealing with a Vampire. “Look, Anton, can we cut the crap? Your boss is jerking me around here. First he just wants me to green light his slaughter of the Guillotine boys, now he just wants me to take the money and run? I know old vamps get bored, but I’m having a hard time thinking there isn’t something I’m missing here.”
Anton sat back and sighed. I felt this gesture was overly dramatic seeing as he didn’t have to breathe. He actually stared at the ceiling for long enough to make most people intensely uncomfortable. Fortunately, I am comfortable being uncomfortable. Finally, like I had just wandered into a different conversation, Anton said, “Do you know how old I am, Witcherman?”
This might have thrown some people off, but I was experienced enough at getting people to talk that I knew the best thing to do when the subject wandered off on you like this was to go on the journey with them. Usually, you’d end up back where you started and they’re likely to open up along the way. I eyed Anton appraisingly. “Well, you’re old enough that Cuthbar lets you handle things on your own, but young enough that you’re not really gunning for your own city. I’d guess around a hundred, maybe a little less.”
Anton laughed without humor. “I’ll be three hundred and fifty this Christmas.”
This took me back just a bit. He was even older than Israel. That was more than old enough to be a master in his own right. “Wait, if you’re rocking three centuries, then why…”
“Why am I playing errand boy to a Methuselah?” Anton interrupted.
I nodded, indicating he had nailed my question in one guess.
“Because I’ve been alive a very long time. Maybe not as long as my master, but longer than I have any right to. I’ve buried wives, children, lovers and friends beyond counting, both human and vampire. The world doesn’t have much left for me, but I’m still around because I want to leave it a better place than I found it.”
I will admit to being a little bit surprised at the optimism I was hearing from Anton. I had pegged him for a cynical ladder climber, apparently unfairly. “So, then why aren’t you commanding your own City? If you wanted to make a difference, isn’t that where you’d do it?”
Anton, in that moment, looked as old and tired as he purported to be. “If I just wanted to help one city, then yes that would work, but that’s not what I want. Elder vampires are necessary. Due to the power imbalance, where we are so much more powerful than the humans around us, we tend to, let’s say misbehave more often than average humans.”
That I could certainly agree on. Although, to be honest, it’s not really a inclination I understood. It seems like the majority of creatures, human or otherwise, gain power over others, and immediately want to be in control. I’ve never really had that myself, in spite of the powers I’ve come to wield over time. Now, the path to Hell being paved with good intentions, that I understood. From what I was hearing from Anton, I was getting the impression that his problem was the same as mine. Or at least, what my problem would be if I didn’t watch myself carefully.
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