Part Four: Love Triangles Always Seem to Start With a Redhead
When last we left off, the apartments on the Rue Royale were in flame (which is an alarmingly frequent outcome when Louis is involved with domestic disputes) and Louis and Claudia had fled for their lives. We pick up with the pair of them safely on the deck of the ship, Louis keeping watch and half-expecting Lestat to come chasing after them. He can’t seem to shake the image of Lestat’s twisted, post-murder attempt form, fearing that they themselves are horrific monsters under their beautiful facades.
Claudia, however, isn’t in the mood for his philosophizing about their nature. For her, this is an opportunity to use Louis’ shaken state to get some answers out of him.
And she asked me until I finally began to answer her, how Lestat had accomplished it. She was no longer shaken. If she remembered her screams in the fire she did not care to dwell on them. If she remembered that, before the fire, she had wept real tears in my arms, it made no change in her; she was, as always in the past, a person of little indecision, a person for whom habitual quiet did not mean anxiety or regret.
Claudia’s concerns are on how Lestat survived, as she remarks first that they should have burned him to ensure his death, and then positing her theory (to Louis’ horror) on how he must have survived being buried in the swamps and eventually made it back to their home. This begins a section in the book where Lestat is keenly felt in spite – nay, because – of his absence. Claudia reveals how she sees others by reasoning out Lestat’s actions based on the logic “that’s what I would have done.” She remembers Lestat as a fellow killer, seeing the ways in which they are alike and assuming that, as they are to her, his other traits must be affectations to cover those instincts.
Louis, meanwhile, is ever more aware of the ways in which Lestat influenced Claudia, where before he could only see himself reflected in her: she has a fondness for light, a fondness for finery, and little concern for money except in how it can outfit them lavishly.
They arrive in Eastern Europe, docking in Varna and setting their carriage’s sights on the part I like to call:
AND NOW, A COMPLETELY POINTLESS INTERLUDE; OR, FUCK YOU BRAM STOKER, THERE’S A NEW HIP VAMPIRE IN TOWN.
Sure, I guess that’s what we’re doing now
Yes, the book has a whole section dedicated to what the movie handily summed up as “the drunken ravings of a demented Irishman” (boy, Louis, you must’ve been super fun during the time of No Irish Need Apply). It completely bogs down the pacing and exists more or less to explain away the myths of the zombie vampires as Not Really Real Vampires (something which is more or less written out of canon in subsequent books anyway). It’s pretty dumb, but I aim to give the full experience so we’re at least going to touch on it briefly.
Louis has bad dreams as they travel, and uses that to make mention of the last time he saw his sister (still unnamed): as an elderly woman laying flowers on his and Paul’s graves. Louis, it seems, was purported to have died in the fire that burned down the plantation. He made a habit of watching her and considering whether to reveal himself, only to realize that would be a worse pain than just grieving his natural death. Such is the angst of being a vampire, and so on.
This is also one of our last cuts back to Daniel for quite a long time – once the story gets to Paris it almost never reminds us of the story’s frame. It must be getting pretty late, since at this point the intrepid interviewer is resting his head on his hand and has red eyes (and there’s a neat bit of ambiguity as to whether it’s purely from exhaustion or if he’s been moved to tears at some point). He’s stopped asking questions, completely taken in by Louis’ story, and so we too are left to be fully immersed for the remainder of it. I cannot help but think of Gonzo noping out during the Christmas Future bit of A Muppet Christmas Carol, because I am an adult.
Here is the long and short of You’re Not My Book’s Real Dad, Bram: Louis and Claudia arrive at an inn where they’re greeted with suspicion, only to be given the go-ahead when they pass safely through the crucifix and garlic over the door. There, Louis meets an Englishman named Morgan who is a total wreck, and it’s hard to blame him. He’s our kinda-sorta Seward analogue here: his wife was bitten and is apparently dead, but the villagers are determined to drive a stake through her heart and lop off her head just to be safe.
Morgan is mostly interesting in how he bears loose parallels to Daniel, a mortal to whom Louis allows himself to become attached (even giving out his real name) and who is overwhelmed and eventually overcome by the supernatural situation he’s stumbled into (with bonus flask-drinking action to try and cope).
He’s interesting in a different and far less complimentary way with his constant reference to the people of the village as “savages.” And there is some weeeeeeeeeeeeird sandwiched shit going on here. Because on the one hand, there’s the irony that this is in fact a thing that needs to be done, because his wife is gonna come back and start eating people if they don’t do the whole shebang. But at the same time, they are positioned as genuinely ignorant and backward from another angle: they don’t recognize Louis and Claudia as vampires, and they’re clannish and superstitious – a portrayal that’s in the name of saying “oh nah, these are basically just zombies; my beautiful existential white European vampires are the real ones, you silly people.” So. Points off before we even begin. Why do I bother keeping track of points anymore.
Oh, and just in case any of this was too subtle for you, Louis goes looking for this vampire and winds up fighting him to the death. And then:
Gradually I realized that Claudia knelt on his chest, that she was probing the mass of hair and bone that had been his head. She was scattering the fragments of his skull. We had met the European vampire, the creature of the Old World. He was dead.
So unfortunately Morgan had rushed out to try and help Louis and got nabbed by the fake zombiepire, nobody cares, Louis pretends he had been sent in secret to slay the wicked vampire, Father Anderson style, and we book it from this stupid sidequest for the actual meat of the third act.
Oh, no, wait. One more interesting thing happens. In the middle of combing Transylvania, Louis is still mourning over Lestat.
I wanted to forget him, and yet it seemed I thought of him always. It was as if the empty nights were made for thinking of him. And sometimes I found myself so vividly aware of him it was as if he had only just left the room and the ring of his voice were still there. And somehow there was a disturbing comfort in that, and, despite myself, I’d envision his face – not as it had been the last night in the fire, but on other nights, that last evening he spent with us at home, his hand playing idly with the keys of the spinet, his head tilted to one side. A sickness rose in me more wretched than anguish when I saw what my dreams were doing. I wanted him alive! In the dark nights of eastern Europe, Lestat was the only vampire I found.
I love this passage. Not because (okay, a little because) it is yet more fodder me to beat that ironic NO NO, THIS IS NOT A QUEER RELATIONSHIP AT ALL, JUST BROS drum, but because of the deep tragedy of it. There were apparently very happy times scattered throughout, but Louis and Lestat were so, so bad for each other in those years at the beginning of their relationship. They couldn’t communicate at all, Lestat was often a downright mean bastard slinging empty threats to try and keep control, and Claudia lit the flame on a powder keg.
So hetero. Much bro.
Finally out in the world, Louis can finally see Lestat as a fallible person rather than some kind of wicked Devil hiding knowledge out of spite – but at the same time, grief is making him gloss over the more painful and harmful aspects of their time together. He’s pining for the good old days, in other words, moving from one state of delusion to another.
While Louis was driven to further despair by the revelation of the zombiepires (they’re called revenants, I’ll just get that out now), Claudia has retreated further into a façade Louis continues to describe as “coldness,” becoming more and more annoyed with his ruminations. The pair head to Paris and set up residence at the Hotel Saint-Gabriel, where Claudia sets about channeling her energy into the elegant and extravagant creation of her own little world. But even then, it’s not enough.
“ ‘Is it as you would have it?’ Claudia asked, perhaps just to let me know she hadn’t forgotten me, for she was quiet now for hours; no talk of vampires. But something was wrong. It was not the old serenity, the pensiveness that was recollection. There was a brooding there, a smoldering dissatisfaction. And though it would vanish from her eyes when I would call to her or answer her, anger seemed to settle very near the surface.
Louis isn’t the only one who became disillusioned in Transylvania. While he came to realize that he had been wrong to pin all his fears and angers about a lack of answers on Lestat, she’s come to realize that being out from under Lestat’s thumb hasn’t given her what she wanted, either. Having left the Rue Royale, she is still a child. While she can walk the streets alone, unfearing of mortals and wearing adult jewelry, talking at last like an adult (she makes an offhanded comment at one point that some assume her to be a little person), as a vampire she is still dependent on Louis.
She can’t make another vampire, and she can’t be on her own without a caretaker, not in the matters of finance and travel. And for Claudia, independent at every chance, this is another unbearable blow to her pride. No matter how much she moves around the world, no matter how she learns from books and life experiences, she will always be helpless – even into the future, since no surgical or mechanical aid could affect her body permanently. It is a Hell she was consigned to by thoughtless parents. It’s no wonder she’s angry – an anger that, to Louis’ fear and despair, is beginning to bubble over to include him.
‘It’s a lady doll,’ she said, looking up at me. ‘See? A lady doll.’ She put it on the dresser.
“ ‘So it is,’ I whispered.
“She was laughing soundlessly. ‘A beautiful child,’ she said glancing up at me. ‘Is that what you think I am?’ And her face went dark as again she played with the doll, her fingers pushing the tiny crocheted neckline down toward the china breasts. ‘Yes, I resemble her baby dolls, I am her baby dolls. You should see her working in that shop; bent on her dolls, each with the same face, lips.’ Her finger touched her own lip. Something seemed to shift suddenly, something within the very walls of the room itself, and the mirrors trembled with her image as if the earth had sighed beneath the foundations. Carriages rumbled in the streets; but they were too far away. And then I saw what her still childish figure was doing; in one hand she held the doll, the other to her lips; and the hand that held the doll was crushing it, crushing it and popping it so it bobbed and broke in a heap of glass that fell now from her open, bloody hand onto the carpet.
Angered by her thoughts, by her limitations, Claudia begins to ask Louis questions, pushing against his conception of her as an eternal child, his daughter. She asks him, at last, what it was like making love (‘the pale shadow of killing,’ he manages at last). Unnerved by her taunting, he rushes out into the streets. And there he meets, as it were, his destiny. Well, one step removed anyway.
As he walks along Louis becomes aware that someone is following him; not just following, but perfectly mimicking his pace and actions even from some distance away. When he finally catches sight of the other vampire (because of course it is), the shadowing becomes a full on game of mimicry, from movement to words, in perfect time. Louis, not pleased to be mocked on the new contender for Worst Night of His Life (a hotly contested title), fires off a few softball insults (“buffoon,” edgy). This…does not go over well, and the two get in a knock down drag-out vampire street fight that Louis suspects is secretly some kind of dominance contest.
LEAVE NO SETPIECE UNCHEWED, GOOD SIR
Louis is holding his own, if barely, when yet another vampire comes to his rescue, shooing away the Tall Asshole Vampire.
Slowly, only because my eye was totally concentrated upon it now, a figure emerged from the darkness of the wall above me. Crouched on the jutting stones of the lintel, it turned so that I saw the barest gleam of light on the hair and then the stark, white face. A strange face, broader and not so gaunt as the other, a large dark eye that was holding me steadily. A whisper came from the lips, though they never appeared to move. ‘You are all right.’
“I was more than all right. I was on my feet, ready to attack. But the figure remained crouched, as if it were part of the wall. I could see a white hand working in what appeared to be a waistcoat pocket. A card appeared, white as the fingers that extended it to me. I didn’t move to take it. ‘Come to us, tomorrow night,’ said that same whisper from the smooth, expressionless face, which still showed only one eye to the light. ‘I won’t harm you,’ he said. ‘And neither will that other. I won’t allow it.’
The card invites them to the Theatre des Vampires, with a handwritten note on the back signed “Armand.” I am not even going to pretend even a little bit of detachment here, folks. This is my favorite character in the whole damn series. If you thought I was getting out the tweezers for the other characters, just you wait.
Per the invitation, Louis and Claudia attend the Theatre – a show by invitation only, at which they are the only vampires. Well, the only vampires in the audience, anyway. And I truly, truly wish that I had a clip to show you, because watching Stephen Rea chow down on every piece of scenery within reach is an absolute delight. Suffice it to say that the majority of the show is a broad physical comedy in the style of the Commedia del Arte, with Santiago (the vampire who was stalking Louis) playing masked Death as a sort of master of ceremonies trying to shirk his duties toward the old, ugly, and infirm.
Boy, Statler and Waldorf really got a makeover post-Henson
It’s all well and fine, even if Louis finds the mockery of death distasteful, and then the show takes a turn for its grand finale: they let a poor mortal girl loose on the stage, confused and unable to see beyond the footlights, and “Death” falls in love with her – and not just him, suddenly, but a whole troupe of vampires. She pleads for help but the audience, thinking this is all part of the show, is unmoved. They taunt her with the threat of lurking death, old age, and finally begin to literally strip her bare.
“ ‘But then, why should you care if you die now? If these things don’t frighten you…these horrors?’
“She shook her head, baffled, outsmarted, helpless. I felt the anger in my veins, as sure as the passion. With a bowed head she bore the whole responsibility for defending life, and it was unfair, monstrously unfair that she should have to pit logic against his for what was obvious and sacred and so beautifully embodied in her. But he made her speechless, made her overwhelming instinct seem betty, confused. I could feel her dying inside, weakening, and I hated him.
Still, the hoard of vampires is unable to sway her – until a lone, separate observer on the stage speaks to her. And he says, simply.
And that’s enough. After all of that, the idea of painlessness is better than the terrified anguish she’s just been through, the long and terrifying life that’s been sold to her. Broken and fully naked (her pubic hair is described as “a child’s down” because we cannot have nice things fucking dammit Anne), she submits first to being bitten by Armand, and then passed around among the rest – and finally left as a naked, broken corpse alone on the stage. It is an evocative, genuinely horrific image. It might be the one place where Louis’ strong moral reticence unabashedly works, lending dignity to the victim in a genre where they so often become meat for the grinder (a trend which, to be fair, Anne kind of helped push with her focus on the monster over the victim).
Louis is all but shaking with rage when the show is over, but that’s soon cut short by a visitor to the private box from which they’d watched the show.
“He would have startled me, except for his stillness, the remote dreamy quality of his expression. It seemed he’d been standing against that wall for the longest time, and betrayed no sign of change as we looked at him, then came towards him. Had he not so completely absorbed me, I would have been relieved he was not the tall, black-haired one; but I didn’t think of this. Now his eyes moved languidly over Claudia with not tribute whatsoever to the human habit of disguising the stare. I placed my hand on Claudia’s shoulder. ‘We’ve been searching for you a very long time,’ I said to him, my heart growing calmer, as if his calm were drawing off my trepidation, my care, like the sea drawing something into itself from the land.
Notice Louis’ description of calm he doesn’t understand? A fascination he can’t shake? There’s a fun extra element to Armand’s scenes (well, fun for me, the nerd) that require a certain extra attentiveness. Armand, you see, is almost half a millennia old, and he is really, really good at vampiric mind powers. In every scene he’s in there hangs a certain question of how much the character around him are acting of their own free will – indeed, how much Armand himself is acting genuinely and how much is staged for Louis’ benefit. As to why that is…don’t worry, we’ll be coming back to that well a lot.
Armand beckons the newcomers to follow him, leading them to a massive ballroom carved from the catacombs, which is apparently where the theatre’s titular vampires reside. It’s lovingly decorated with the art of Bosch, Traini, and Dürer, with a giant mural of Breugel’s “The Triumph of Death” overlooking it all. A real charming place all over, I’m sure you can imagine. Louis, so long convinced that vampires are creatures of evil, finds himself overcome with horror at these enshrined images of human suffering. Which means that it’s time to employ Armand’s Mind Trick Corner (now with bonus flirtation!) to keep him from freaking out.
I watched him all the harder, convinced it was some powerful illusion I could penetrate with keen attention; and the more I watched, the more he seemed to smile and finally to be animated with a soundless whispering, musing, singing. I could hear it like something curling in the dark, as wallpaper curls in the blast of a fire or paint peels from the face of a burning doll. I had the urge to reach for him, to shake him violently so that his still face would move, admit to this soft singing; and suddenly I found him pressed against me, his arm around my chest, his lashes so close I could see them matted and gleaming above the incandescent orb of his eye, his soft, tasteless breath against my skin. It was delirium.
“I moved to get away from him, and yet I was drawn to him and I didn’t move at all, his arm exerting its firm pressure, his candle blazing now against my eye, so that I felt the warmth of it; all my cold flesh yearned for that warmth, but suddenly I waved to snuff it but couldn’t find it, and all I saw was his radiant face, as I had never seen Lestat’s face, white and poreless and sinewy and male. All other vampries. An infinite procession of my own kind.
“The moment ended.
Actual found photograph of the tiny terrifying redhead
The moment throws Louis off his game, and Armand is able to nudge him into feeding from a mortal in front of all of them – no less than what seems to be Armand’s personal attendant, who is super down with this vampires-nomming-his-neck business, if his reactions to Louis are any indication (by which I mean, boners). And all this would be fine and well if the text hadn’t just described this kid as a “young boy” and GODDAMMIT ANNE I NEED TO GO SCRUB MYSELF WITH STEEL WOOL UNTIL I FEEL CLEAN AGAIN.
Anyway. With that done Armand leads them down to his personal rooms, Louis still confused and plagued by that singing in his head. And as soon as they’re safely shut away in Armand’s room, Louis’ head clears right up (he attributes this to the heat of the fire he’s sitting next to. Oh honey). Armand’s attendant Denis came along with them too, so Claudia could get a bite, and he’s described as a “Botticelli angel.” This will never not be surreal, given that that description is inexorably linked with Armand pretty much from here on out.
Yeah, you’d never ever know it from the way he’s been described up to now, but Armand was only seventeen when he died. He’s an itsy bitsy little thing (variably described as between 5’2” and 5’6”, because what is continuity), the closest cautionary tale of a child vampire before Claudia came along. That, uh….that’s gonna be relevant later.
Right now though, it’s LONG WINDED DISCUSSIONS OF THEOLOGY time. There’s a picture of an old-fashioned cloven hooved devil being worshiped by a coven of witches to set the mood and everything. And while Louis is concerned that the usually sharp-tongued Claudia is acting docile and unusually quiet, that doesn’t stop him from getting drawn into discussion with Armand.
“ ‘I’m not certain,’ I said, unable to keep my eyes off that awful medieval Satan. ‘I would have to know from what…from whom it comes. Whether it came from other vampires…or elsewhere.’
“ ‘Elsewhere…’ he said. ‘What is elsewhere?’
“ ‘That!’ I pointed to the medieval picture.
“ ‘That is a picture,’ he said.
“ ‘Nothing more?’
“ ‘Nothing more.’
Helpful and concise!
I cannot begin to tell you how much Armand’s blunt literalism fills me with joy, readers. There are not words. The two get onto a discussion of whether vampires are Satan’s children, something Armand scoffs at. And everyone who’s rereading this with knowledge of the following book is somewhere between laughter and bitter weeping, because Armand spent about three centuries brainwashed into membership in a cult dedicated to the exact idea that vampires are meant to serve Satan. You’d never know it from the way he acts here, though, as he pelts Louis with questions about why he believes as he does – why he is upset at all.
Under this inquisition of sorts, Louis has a revelation about his codependency.
I thought myself then possessed of a passive mind, in a sense. I mean that my mind could only pull itself together, formulate thought out of the muddle of longing and pain, when it was touched by another mind; fertilized by it; deeply excited y that other mind and drive to form conclusions. I felt now the rarest, most acute alleviation of loneliness. I could easily visualize and suffer that moment years before in another century, when I had stood at the foot of Babette’s stairway, and feel the perpetual metallic frustration of years with Lestat; and then that passionate and doomed affection for Claudia which made loneliness retreat behind the soft indulgence of the senses, the same senses that longed for the kill. And I saw the desolate mountain-top in eastern Europe where I had confronted that mindless vampire and killed him in the monastery ruins. And it was as if the great feminine longing of my mind were being awakened again to be satisfied.
Heeeeeeeeeeey Louis, you’ll never be able to maintain a healthy long-term relationship with that mindset. You will make each other miserable over time, as you may have observed with every single one of the relationships you listed, including the one you’re about to embark on. Louis’ description of his mind as “feminine” is really interesting in the classical sense, while we’re at it – a lot of literary and philosophical texts, which Louis has probably read, regard the feminine as an Other. It exists in reaction to the masculine, is passionate and dark and emotional where the masculine is supposedly bright and rational and steady (and if you’re wondering where all the ugly dehumanizing that comes along with viewing a woman as Mysterious and Unknowable originated from, here’s a good starting point).
But Totally Straight so on and so forth.
Armand puts forth the idea that if good exists in gradations, then evil must too, which Louis regrets. His faith shaken, he says that if there is no God then they are the highest form of consciousness, and therefore their taking of life the highest form of evil in existence. And this strikes Armand silent.
“He sat back, as if for the moment stopped, his large eyes narrowing, then fixing on the depths of the fire. This was the first time since he had come for me that he had looked away from me, and I found myself looking at him unwatched. For a long time he sat in this manner and I could all but feel his thoughts, as if they were palpable in the air like smoke.
He considers this, the conclusion he comes to never announced – though I can tell you what they are. This is the moment that he decides, I think, that he must have Louis in his life. The fact of a person, beautiful and vibrant, who can bring him new and unconsidered knowledge, is one of the things Armand holds dearest. This is very bad news for Claudia.
To Louis’ sight the two of them are having a silent conversation, totally inscrutable, before Armand returns to him. Armand tries comforting him in a roundabout way, saying that after 400 years he’s seen nothing that should give Louis reason to fear either God or Satan, nothing but themselves.
How could you believe in these old fantastical lies, these myths, these emblems of the supernatural?” He snatched the devil from above Claudia’s still countenance so swiftly I couldn’t see the gesture, only the demon leering before me and then crackling in the flames.
“ ‘Are you mad?’ I asked, astonished at my own anger, my own despair. ‘We stand here, the two of us, immortal, ageless, rising nightly to feed that immortality on human blood; and there on your desk against the knowledge of the ages sits a flawless child as demonic as ourselves; and you ask me how I could believe I would find a meaning in the supernatural! I tell you, after seeing what I have become, I could damn well believe anything! Couldn’t you? And believing thus, being thus confounded, I can now accept the most fantastical truth of all: that there is no meaning to any of this!’
“I backed toward the door, away from his astonished face, his hand hovering before his lips, the fingers curling to dig into his palm. ‘Don’t! Come back…” he whispered.
And then Louis storms out, even leaving Claudia behind in his despair. There’s a bit more plot to discuss before we part, but first I want to take you through that scene with a very particular lens. Armand, you see, is a very particularly special sort of character in my heart: the kind who bears up astonishingly well under alternative interpretation. Not the school that plays with the theoretical possibilities of a text – i.e., wouldn’t it be nice if these books weren’t so blindingly white – but the trickier school of close reading, picking out a theme or interpretation that almost certainly wasn’t intended by the author but is supported by a close reading of the text.
At which point, we return to Armand, and one of two interpretive convictions I bear about the series (the other won’t be relevant for a while): Anne accidentally wrote a vampire on the spectrum. Armand is a character most often by detachment and a love of logic and processes (“difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and nonverbal clues”/”takes what is said too literally”), a physical stillness that strikes Louis as uncanny, a constant sense of being separate from the other vampires (“comes across as aloof or detached”), and a lack of human social skills (his prolonged staring and blunt speech – “inappropriate social skills”). He picks up even more in Queen of the Damned (where a big chunk is dedicated to his specialized obsessions with modern inventions), but for now let’s go with this.
He’s helped along by his ability to read minds, but even that isn’t enough: he asks Louis question after question in an attempt to understand his worldview from facts, confused by the angst and emotion of it; when he figures out that Louis is distressed by thoughts of the Devil, he destroys the physical representation in the room to try and comfort Louis…and is then confused when that doesn’t work.
He’s become very good at reading and reacting to others once he has a set script of expectations in place (“the leader of the coven,” “the executioner,”) but his chief drive is his reliance on someone to teach him the expectations of a new era. That’s why, in part, he begins courting Louis here. In some ways, he’s as reactionary as Louis is. But Louis is busy setting up a brand new pedestal for his latest crush to fall off of, and Armand is prepared to play to that expectation if it gets him where he needs to be. If it helps him survive, and gets Louis to come to him.
Gentle readers, I present to you the Anthy Himemiya of the Vampire Chronicles.
Louis is really in no shape to revolutionize the world
But let us return to our ostensible protagonist for the moment. Louis is shaken by his conversation with Armand, thinking in the depths of his despair that he wronged Lestat by expecting him to know all the answers when it seems there were none to be found. He’s apparently thinking all of this quite loudly, because Santiago corners him on the stairs and starts asking him about this mysterious person whom he “wronged,” starting to get violent again before Armand comes conveniently by to once more play savior and to return Claudia (still out of it, guess whose fault that is) to Louis.
Armand cautions them not to talk about where they came from (because Mr. Mind Games TOTALLY KNOWS) before inviting them to socialize with the rest of the troupe. Louis is already getting attached.
Several women vampires had gathered around Armand, and I felt a tumult of feeling as I saw them put their arms around his waist. And what appalled me as I watched was not their exquisite form, their delicate features and graceful hands made hard as glass by vampire nature, or their bewitching eyes which fixed on me now in a sudden silence; what appalled me was my own fierce jealousy. I was afraid when I saw them so close to him, afraid when he turned and kissed them each. And, as he brought them near to me now, I was unsure and confused.
On your guard there, Louis. I do believe it might be that kind of party. Any appeal that idea might’ve had dies out real fast as the vampires of the coven all reveal themselves to be rather horrible people. Claudia has the worst of it, forced to sit and smile as two of the vampires fuss and touch her as if she were a doll with no agency or personal space of her own. Which, at the very least, has the bonus of making Louis realize that he’s probably done the same thing.
“Estelle and Celeste are the names I remember, porcelain beauties, who fondled Claudia with the license of the blind, running their hands over her radiant hair, touching even her lips, while she, her eyes still misty and distant, tolerated it all, knowing what I also knew and what they seemed unable to grasp: that a woman’s mind as sharp and distinct as their own lived within that small body. It made wonder as I watched her turning about for them, holding out her lavender skirts and smiling coldly t their adoration, how many times I must have forgotten, spoken to her as if she were a child, fondled her too freely, brought her into my arms with an adult’s abandon.
Being Claudia is suffering, y’all
The talk of the evening is what Makes a Vampire: they collect the paintings in the hall to prove that humans can be as hideous as any vampire, and then seek to outdo those horrors; they dress all in black and dye their hair, all but Armand. In fact, Armand isn’t just kept apart from them by space.
“ ‘Oh, but tell us about the old days,’ said Celeste, her voice shrill, at human pitch. There was something vicious in her tone.
“And now Santiago took up the same baiting manner. ‘Yes, tell us of the covens, and the herbs that would render us invisible.’ He smiled. ‘And the burnings at the stake!’
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH HOW MUCH ARMAND’S BACKSTORY IS A BAD TIME.
And then Claudia, at last, asks the most pertinent of questions: is there no punishable crime among vampires?
I was gonna quote it but this page is verbatim, and LOOK HOW PRETTY
…Yeah, that’s gonna be a problem.
NEXT TIME: Armand is charming, Claudia is done with Louis’ shit, and we all have a nice long talk about depression.