Féasta Fola—A Tale from the Sumaire Web. Copyright © 2012 by Anna Rose
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.
This short story is part of The Sumaire Web collection of novels and stories. It can be read either on its own, or as part of the series, but is a stand-alone story. Keep in mind that any of the Web’s short stories may introduce characters or situations that will show up in subsequent novels or stories, but you need not read them to understand what is going on, although you might miss any “inside jokes” or references between those characters in the novels.
Thank You Shout-Outs Go To…
Katherine, Tammy, LRB, CM and Alice. Once again, you have gone above and beyond with all your support and encouragement. It means the world to me.
And finally, a special thank you to Beth. Your devotion and dedication make it possible for me to make it through each day.
Berlin, Germany 1939
I had come to Germany about two months earlier, long before that country went to war with just about everyone who did not embrace their twisted sense of racial purity. It was a time when I had almost free rein to move about the country. My rather exotic appearance helped me gain entrance to places that might otherwise have barred my presence. I also spoke an older German dialect that added to my mystique. I had learned it during the twenty years I stayed in various locations across that country some one hundred years earlier.
I had no plans for an extended stop here, this being rather in the way of an extended vacation while I firmed up some important arrangements and waited on something else to be completed.
Yes, even vampires like to take vacations when they can do so.
While the phrase “you are what you eat” may not be true, from a vampire’s point of view “you taste like what you eat” is far closer to the truth. That said, Old World Italians are delicious! “Family” members, who seem to eat closer to what their ancestors ate, tend to be the tastiest of all who inhabit the whole of that thigh-high cartographic boot.
I had found during my little “vacation” that I rather enjoyed the thick, rich blood that ran through the veins of the beer swilling, schnitzel and apfel-strudel-eating Teutons of the upper classes. It was a strong counterpoint to the blood of the French citizenry, upon whom I had spent a few decades dining. Their own dietary habits gave their blood a curiously airy taste that almost tingled on my tongue. But one can only drink so much of the same thing before deciding that it is time to sample different fare.
Ah, that had been a time of excess as fighting in and away from the streets gave me the freedom to eat nearly whenever and whoever I wished. A little over a decade of civil unrest and bloody violence from people desperate to improve their lot in life and those determined to keep the best of everything to themselves. Only when things had calmed down, once the grossly out of touch King and Queen had lost their wig-stands, did I leave that country. When peace became the order of the day, it was time for a wise vampire to move on to the next pocket of violence and outright chaos.
In my travels throughout this part of Europe, I had heard rumblings of what the National Socialist German Workers’ Party had been up to, and felt that this was a perfect time for me to pay another visit to that country. Some in the countries that bordered Germany did not seem to give a shit about what the so-called “Third Reich” was doing, as long as it did not affect them personally. That kind of rose-colored glasses thinking enraged me, and so, with my odd sense of justice and knowing an excellent opportunity when I saw it, I spent a few months in Adolph Hitler’s Germany.
I had kept mostly to myself in the time since I arrived, nibbling here and there, but not really filling myself up, but tonight, I had broken my near fast and truly enjoy myself. Thus, I had done a little research and discovered that one of the more sadistic of the Gestapo officers was having drinks at a bar which had been stolen from a Jewish man who was promptly bundled off to a death camp, never to be seen again.
One of the Nazi officers who stood near the bleach blonde pianist could not seem to keep his eyes off me, which was no problem for me. I was hungry, and he seemed an excellent dinner guest. I glanced over in his direction and met his eyes, smiling warmly at him as I imagined his fresh blood filling my starved tissues. Mistaking my meaning (imagine that!), he raised his glass to me and gave me a mock bow.
Playing coy, I gave him one last long lingering glance, and then turned away, heading toward the bar at the far wall. If he really were interested, he would not allow my ignoring of him to stand in the way of getting me into bed.
I closed the distance between the doorway and the bar at an easy pace, not wanting to seem too eager. They stocked the dark wooden bar with a healthy array of decorated Nazis, their shirtfronts nearly dripping with ribbons and metal. While I could not partake of the human-created beverages there, it was an excellent place to do my kind of fishing. Surely, I could slake my gnawing thirst on one of these puffed up popinjays.
Two of the humans stopped their conversation to watch me as I approached the bar, and I could hear their heart rates increase as I came closer. I gave them both a languid smile and drifted toward them, my expression never giving away the excitement I felt at the prospect of getting a full meal for the first time in a month. One was a pale blond that was almost white, while the other had hair as dark as a raven’s wing. Both were ridiculously hard-bodied, with that classic movie Nazi officer build seen in all the best World War 2 era films—but I would not learn that stereotype until decades in the future.
“Good evening, Fraulein,” purred the blond one who wore the emblem of the Gestapo on his sleeve. He smiled at me, but it never reached his eyes. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your acquaintance?”
“I was wanting to spend a little time with some real men,” I simpered up at him, being sure to include his dark-haired companion in my flirting. I think if I had made my eyes any wider, my eyeballs would have fallen out of their sockets and onto the floor. “The only man worth his salt belongs to the Party, so this is the place to be!”
The blond seemed to relax and went back to leaning on the bar.
“May I have the honor of your name, Fraulein?”
“Oh! I am so sorry! I am called Margaret,” I lied. “Buy a girl a glass of whisky?”
The blond shot an unfriendly look at the bartender, who silently poured a shot of whisky and set it on the bar in front of me. I picked it up and saluted my benefactor before pretending to take a sip from the glass.
There was no way I was going to allow anything but blood to pass my lips. I knew better. I had learned the results of foolhardiness the gross way centuries ago.
“I am Sturmbannführer Huber. You may call me Gunter, Fraulein Margaret,” he told me with a cat’s smile. “Are you staying in the hotel next door during your stay?”
I leaned into his arm and ran my fingers lightly up and down his arm.
“Regretfully, Sturmbannführer, no. I am staying at an old hotel on the eastern side of the city. The Brunnen des Lebens. My family has been staying there on and off for generations.”
I knew the name of the place would catch his attention, and I was not disappointed. He could not hide the bit of excitement that blossomed in his eyes when he heard where I was staying. It had been a part of Germany for longer than I had been a vampire and only served an exclusive clientele.
It was one of the oldest Havens in the whole of Europe.
“The Brunnen des Lebens? I am familiar with this place. It has a rather exclusive clientele. Who is your family?” I could see him eagerly awaiting the news of my family name. Time to disappoint him.
“My grandfather is Kurt Claussen,” I responded. With the German accent I affected, there was no reason for him to disbelieve me, and over the last few hundred years, I had gotten good at mimicking dialects. Vampires are consummate actors, having to pretend they are something they are not over nearly the whole of their existence.
I was right about his disappointment, as his lips tightened a bit. With the name I had invoked, I had made it nearly impossible for him to attempt to strong-arm me. Herr Kurt Claussen played bridge with some higher-ups in the Luftwaffe, and it would not do to piss him off. I could see him eying my very red hair with doubt in his eyes, and I knew he was about to say something about it when we were interrupted by the bartender.
“Herr Sturmbannführer, will you be having more brandy?”
The Nazi, visibly annoyed at the interruption, rounded on the bartender and dealt him a stunning openhanded blow to the face, fury flushing his face a bright cherry-red. The bartender staggered backward and barely caught himself on the shelving behind him, but still hitting it hard enough to knock a bowl of lemon slices to the floor. He raised a hand to his reddened cheek and made a face, but said not a word.
“How dare you interrupt my conversation with the Fraulein! Keep your mouth closed and do your miserable job!” he barked at the bartender, picking up his brandy snifter and throwing it at the man, who, showing remarkable dexterity and speed, plucked the glass out of the air before it could hit anything and shatter. I left Huber standing there, his mouth opening and closing like a beached trout, as he stared at the otherwise unassuming bartender who held the snifter gently in one hand as he poured more brandy into its empty bowl.
The bartender extended the refilled snifter to the Gestapo officer, who took it without a word. Huber stared at the snifter in his hand as though it had suddenly become much more interesting.
“Where did you learn to catch like that? Were you part of a circus?” he asked the bartender quietly.
The bartender shrugged and shook his head.
“My brothers and sisters and I would challenge each other to feats of juggling to pass the time when we were snowed in. Our old family Governess, Frau Golda, was a great believer in athleticism, so when we were not out climbing trees and running through the forest, juggling kept our minds keen. I’ve kept as one never knows when such skills might be useful,” he replied noncommittally. “It has helped keep the number of broken glasses down.”
That was probably not the brightest thing he could have said to the SS man, but instead of becoming angry, the officer chuckled.
“I would imagine so, Herr–“
“I am called Dietrich. Dietrich Vollmähne.” He accompanied his introduction with a compact bow that involved only his head and neck. Sturmbannführer Huber smiled and returned the bow with an identical one of his own.
“Perhaps we shall have the opportunity to speak of your remarkable skills at some other time, Herr Vollmähne. The Reich might have a need for such a delightful talent such as yours,” once again, the smile he gave the bartender did not reach his eyes, which were calculating. Internally, the human’s heart beat slowly but steadily, with the calm anticipation of the accomplished predator. I believe he thought the bartender to be a gypsy performer in disguise. “That is an unusual patronymic, Herr Vollmähne. From where is your family? Your Governess, Frau Golda. What is her family name, also?”
The name Golda could be from just about anywhere in this part of the world, but I believe this toff was attempting to ferret out those the German High Command considered to be “undesirable”. He would not get that satisfaction this time, either.
“She was also a Vollmahne. She was from my Father’s side. My family is from Vienna. We have been called Vollmähne since before the time of my grandsire’s grandsire. I moved here to be closer to the center of the Reich,” Herr Vollmähne replied. His words seemed to surprise the SS officer, who cocked an eyebrow at the man, silently encouraging more information. “To be close to the seat of the Führer’s power is of utmost importance to me. I live near to the Brunnen des Lebens, myself. Their maitre d’ and I often play at dominoes.”
That the man knew that Franz loved dominoes disclosed a familiarity I could not ignore, and to reveal it relatively publicly meant that things were serious. Things were obviously not as they seemed. What was the man’s game? I surreptitiously sniffed at the man and suddenly knew that whatever he was, he was not human. Why I had not noticed that before, I cannot tell you, as his scent was almost like a feral perfume, not rank, but more like a fine cologne that tickled at my nose.
It was not a scent I recognized, but I now knew that I was not the only predator on the hunt this evening. I had thought vampires were the only human-appearing predators out there, but now I stood corrected. He caught my eye, and I knew that he knew I also was not what I appeared to be. Obviously, his answer had worded to catch my attention and let me know that something was up.
“Are you the Dietrich of whom he has spoken? The world is a tiny place!” I replied enthusiastically. “He says he has challenged you to a rematch.”
What I said was entirely untrue, but I wished him to know that I understood what he was trying to tell me in as conversationally secretive a way as I could find. Herr Vollmähne beamed and winked at me as though letting me in on his little joke.
“He wishes to recoup the ten marks I won from him when last we played. I wish him good luck with that, but I hope for his success.”
He had gotten my point, as Franz had not lost a round of dominoes in the past two hundred years. Vampires came from the world around to try their luck at outwitting him, to no avail. Fortunately, this was not common knowledge in the human world, which was a good thing.
I glanced around and saw that we were the only people remaining in the room, beyond the bartender and a busboy who disappeared down the corridor that led to the kitchen area with the last load of dishes and dirty glasses.
“Gunter, we must go now. There are those things we must address in the morning,” the other, dark-haired Nazi said in a low but urgent voice. “We have several kilometers we must travel tonight.”
“Hans, we have plenty of time to spend with this delightful young lady, and Herr Vollmähne here has plenty more excellent brandy to pour!” the blond said with a shark’s smile. “I would not dream of abandoning her to her own devices. I am sure that Herr Vollmähne will indulge us by staying awhile longer, correct?”
It was as though the bastard had decided that he was the orchestra’s conductor and we were the dancers who performed to whatever tune he played. I decided that his tune was a bit too flat for me, but that I would have to continue to dance carefully to avoid getting my feet stepped on. A quick glance at the bartender showed me that the SS officer’s cavalier attitude was more than a little off-putting to Herr Vollmähne, but he also knew better than to protest.
Instead, he grunted noncommittally, a sound the SS officer interpreted as assent and offered me more brandy, although I am certain he had noticed the contents of my glass were untouched. Somehow, he made it appear as though he was adding more alcohol to my snifter, when in fact, all he really did was hold the bottle’s mouth over the brandy that was already there. Fortunately, the Nazis did not notice the subterfuge, so involved were they with their own argument?
So involved that they did not hear the key turn in the outside lock that closed the bar off from the public eye.
This was not something I had arranged, so I wondered if I had discovered a previously unknown pocket of resistance within Germany, itself. The children of the so-called Fatherland rebelling against the injustices of their parent. I cannot say I disapproved.
Believe it or not, vampires prefer democracy and republics to fascism and totalitarianism. Close scrutiny of everything one does seldom lends itself to a successful existence as one of the Undead. In some cases, vampires have even come together to overthrow mortal despots. History will never know the truth of how some of the world’s most terrible tyrants met their end, only the plausible fantasy that was supplied in order to disguise the truth.
Vollmähne was tidying up his area, wiping things down, drying glasses and carefully replacing them in their normal areas, refilling the officers’ snifters as their contents were drained. Both men were at least tipsy, with the dark one being slightly more in his cups than the other. I liked them slightly off balance when dealing with more than one threat, but their pistols still gave me pause. I was wondering how I would do that when the blond turned to speak with me again.
“How about spending some time with me upstairs in my room, Fräulein? Perhaps we can plant a strong Aryan baby in that womb of yours!” His proposition made me feel a bit nauseous, even though I was unable to conceive. “Hans would not know what to do to make that happen. His mother, Frau Hesse, kept him so sheltered, the poor boy.”
Huber rocked backward as Hesse swung at him wildly, just barely grazing the blond’s chin with his clenched fist. He began shouting invective at his mate and tried once again to hit Huber, but missed entirely and ended up on the wood floor in a puddle of brandy and crushed glass. The blood that oozed from the fresh cuts on the palm of his hand tickled my nose, and it was all I could do to control myself. Glancing up, I saw an odd expression on the bartender’s face that suggested he also could smell the blood that spilled out onto the floor.
The blond laughed at his mate’s predicament, an ugly sound that matched his Party-line steeped personality. Instead of offering him a hand up, he joked about the man’s damp trousers, making a bad situation even worse.
“Soiled yourself, have you, Hesse? Such a disappointment as yourself should not be allowed to reproduce! Perhaps, even given the chance, you would be unable to perform,” Huber opined harshly. What a pig. So nice that this was one of the people who had decided he had the right to deserve who lived and who died.. I could hear Hesse’s heartbeat surge in line with his fury, and barely stepped back in time to avoid being bowled over when he lurched to his feet and began to flail wildly at his superior officer. “It would not surprise me to discover you have subhuman blood infecting you.”
“Screw you, Huber!” cried Hesse, trying to connect once more with Huber’s jaw, but instead only managing to put himself back down on the floor once more. It was a particularly pathetic failure to watch.
I have no clue what I may have walked in on, but it began to dawn on me that these two were not friends at all. Whatever this was, it had festered for quite some time and had finally burst. The liberal application of alcohol to their respective internal censors had thinned that very important social wall, and now all hell was breaking loose as a result. It seemed they had completely forgotten about the bartender and me. I wondered how much alcohol they had consumed before my arrival, or if the bartender had given them stronger drink than they expected, as the three brandies I had watched them consume should not have rendered them quite so tipsy.
However, as the alcohol they had consumed would have no effect on me, it did not really matter in the scheme of things. My only problem was that I had two of these idiots with whom to deal, and that could get dicey, even as intoxicated as they were, as each was armed. I knew from our brief conversation that the bartender would not interfere, but wondered what would happen when I made my move.
I was still considering this when Huber decided to make me part of the melee by grabbing my hand. I had to consciously work to be gentle, as I could very easily have snapped the small bones of his fingers with the slightest pressure on my part. Only by the greatest willpower was I able to keep from snarling at him in response to his rudeness and temerity, but it was a very close call.
“Sturmbannführer Huber! Unhand me!” I cried, gently attempting to extricate myself from his iron grip. The smile he gave me was ugly, his eyes calculating. “My father will not tolerate this insolence!”
“Fräulein Claussen, if that is indeed your name, I think you and I need to have a longer discussion at headquarters. That red hair of yours does not indicate pure Aryan stock to me,” he pulled me close and jammed his sloppy wet lips against my own to kiss me. That was the point when my fangs descended, ready for use. “You come up to my room, maybe I will not shoot you outright. Even if you are a mongrel, you still have the correct equipment!”
“Mongrel? Hardly,” I told him softly, smiling at him to reveal my elongated canine teeth. “I am of a far more elite line than any you might boast. That withered excuse for your manhood will never penetrate me.”
He tried to scream, but in his terror, he was only able to let out a squeak. While no one outside the room heard it, however, unfortunately, the Nazi on the floor did. He stood with surprising alacrity and drew his gun, pointing it at my head. This was of concern to me, because I knew that destroying a vampire’s brain will also destroy the vampire.
“Step slowly away from him, monster. Do it now, or I will put a bullet in you,” the other ordered, holding his weapon in a remarkably steady manner. It surprised me that after the dust up between he and Huber that he was even concerned for the other’s survival. “I think our scientists would love to get hold of you.”
He either had forgotten about the bartender, or did not consider the man to be any kind of threat, because he never even glanced over in that direction.
As I began to loosen my grip on Huber, mind working to find another avenue of escape and seeing none that would not result in at least my being seriously wounded, a dark shape came flying over the top of the bar with a snarl. Instinctively, I drew back, taking Huber with me. As I watched the bartender make his rather astounding leap, he still looked human as he flew through the air, but as he landed and tore out Hesse’s throat, he became what looked very much like a lion, although more slender and much paler in appearance. It was almost gratifying to smell the stink of Huber soiling himself in terror as he watched his world come apart.
“No, please. Don’t kill me! I can help…” he begged me, babbling like the fool he was. I laughed.
“Oh no, bastard. I am hungry, and you are the main course,” I replied. I crushed his fingers in my hand, laughing again as I heard the satisfying sound of the little bones shattering into dozens of much smaller fragments inside the skin of what once had been his fingers.
I licked along the side of his neck, delighting in the taste and aroma of his terror. His heart slammed in his chest like a jackhammer, making me want to finish him even more, but I held off just a moment longer.
“At least you and your friend will not be murdering anyone anymore. It is always nice to see good things happen,” and I tore into him hungrily, not caring that his blood sprayed both myself and the room around me. I was only vaguely cognizant of the sounds of Vollmähne feeding on the corpse of the other Nazi. This was a feast, and I would finally drink my fill for the first time in months, but that did not stop my mind from wandering as I did so.
I nearly choked as the meaning the bartender’s last name finally dawned on me.
“Vollmähne? Full MANE? Oh, very clever,” I muttered, rolling my eyes at the terrible pun.
Until that moment, I had never known about the existence of shapeshifters, so to say that I was surprised is a profound understatement. As I fed, I watched Vollmähne devour the corpse’s soft flesh, even as he left the tougher bits of the body behind. The belly was torn open and the organs were removed and consumed, only leaving the inedible offal behind and dangling from the raw open cavity. I found it all to be a fascinating process, to be honest.
When I could no longer easily draw the blood from Huber, I let him fall to the ground so he could die there. Once a human dies, the blood that remains in their veins is no good to me, anyway, so it was no great loss. As it was, I could feel the blood I had consumed filling up my starved tissues and knew it was granting my skin a temporarily ruddy appearance that would disappear completely over the next few days.
“I do not know if you understand me, but I thank you for your timely intervention,” I said to the still hungrily feeding werelion. “I must say that I have never seen your like, nor did I know you even existed.”
The creature raised its bloodied head and looked at me steadily before returning to its grisly feasting. I finally sat down and waited for it to finish, as it was obvious that we would not be interrupted. When it finally stopped eating, after it had also torn out the throat of and disemboweled the Nazi I had killed, it proceeded to lick the gore from its claws and to bathe the blood from its face.
After about fifteen minutes or so, the werelion stood, shook itself off and then shuddered back into human form, standing naked before me.
“I gather that you have never before seen a werelion, Fraulein. Do not be surprised that you have not, as we are an endangered species,” he said, grabbing the rag from the top of the bar and wiping down his mouth and cheeks, where minute amounts of blood remained. “We do not reproduce very often, and even then, there is no guarantee that our cubs will inherit our legacy.”
“I have heard tales of werewolves…” I began but was quickly interrupted.
“There is no such thing as werewolves, Fraulein Margaret,” he interjected as he went back behind the bar and pulled out a set of street clothes, which he promptly put on. “They are the product of fairy stories told to entertain and perhaps warn young and old, alike. Most of the most well-known tales of supernatural monsters are children’s stories passed down through the centuries. However, the Fae are real, though they have little to do with those not of their own kind. They have enough to plague them without adding those such as you and I to their troubles. I thought you were old enough to know of us already? Are you a new Kind des Bluts?”
“I am nearly four hundred years old, so no, I am not new to all of this,” I replied. “I have traveled all over the world, from my native Ireland to the Americas, and I have never encountered a werelion.”
“We do not call ourselves werelions. We are simply the Leone.”
Reaching over the bar, he grabbed a clean, damp cloth and handed it to me. Then he gave me a long look and somehow came up with a simple brown dress from behind his miraculous bar. He silently handed it to me and then gallantly turned his back while I removed my blood-soaked clothing, wiped myself down as best I could, and donned the dress. It was a trifle large on my spare frame, but I was grateful to have clean clothing to wear. I continued to chat with him as I cleaned myself up.
“The Leone? Are there many of you here in Germany?”
“No. We are few here. I lost my mate, Danika, a few months ago to a Nazi bullet.”
“I am so very sorry, Herr Vollmähne!” I exclaimed and meant it.
“The pig that killed her lies on the floor now. I vowed that he would not live any longer than was necessary,” the Leone declared in a low voice. “The one you killed was his commanding officer. Like any dead Nazi, he is nothing to mourn. I thank you for your help this evening.”
“I am merely here on vacation, Herr Vollmähne. I am pleased that I could have been of help to you tonight. The greater world will not miss the existence of any of the so-called ‘Master Race’, and in fact, may celebrate their passing,” I told him.
“My children, though they could not be here to assist in the hunt, will celebrate with me later,” he said enigmatically, and I suddenly realized why he had gorged himself so. In human form, his gut was grossly distended from all he had consumed, which could not have been at all comfortable. “I wish I could remain to get to know you better, but time is of the essence. Perhaps we will meet again, Fraulein Margaret, in a happier time.”
“Call me Siofra,” I replied, surprising myself a bit with my openness, but then, he had trusted me with his own secret at the last moment, so I could do no less, I suppose. He nodded once and gave me a fleeting smile.
“Then you must call me Dieter, Fraulein Siofra. It has been my great pleasure to meet you. I believe that in this grand adventure, we have bypassed the formalities and have become instant friends.” There was a wistful quality to his expression, and I could not help but move forward and impulsively embrace him. Something which, after only a moment’s startled stiffness, Dieter Vollmähne returned.
And with that, he stepped back and suddenly became a blur of man shifting into lion as he left the room through one of the wide glass windows, leaving behind only the crash of glass as it cascaded down to the lacquered wooden floor.
I stood there a moment longer, mesmerized, and a bit bemused by what I had seen, before I made good my escape through that same convenient hole to the outside world.
It had been a strange night, one I would long remember, and it would not be the last time I saw Dietrich “Dieter” Vollmähne.