If I had thought my transformation into a vampire meant the end of my tutelage or apprenticeship to Marius, I was quite wrong. I wasn't immediately set free to wallow in the joys of my new powers.
The night after my metamorphosis, my education began in earnest. I was to be prepared now not for a temporal life but for eternity.
My Master gave me to know that he had been created a vampire almost fifteen hundred years ago, and that there were members of our kind all over the world. Secretive, suspicious and often miserably lonely, the wanderers of the night, as my Master called them, were often ill prepared for immortality and made nothing of their existence but a string of dreary disasters until despair consumed them and they immolated themselves through some ghastly bonfire, or by going into the light of the sun.
As for the very old, those who like my Master had managed to withstand the passage of empires and epochs, they were for the most part misanthropes, seeking for themselves cities in which they could reign supreme among mortals, driving off fledglings who attempted to share their territory, even if it meant destroying creatures of their own kind.
Venice was the undisputed territory of my Master, his hunting preserve, and his own private arena in which he could preside over the games which he had chosen as significant for him in this time of life.
"There is nothing that will not pass," he said, "except you yourself. You must listen to what I say because my lessons are first and foremost lessons in survival; the garnishes will come later on."
The primary lesson was that we slay only "the evildoer." This had once been, in the foggiest centuries of ancient time, a solemn commission to blood drinkers, and indeed there had been a dim religion surrounding us in antique pagan days in which the vampires had been worshiped as bringers of justice to those who had done wrong.
"We shall never again let such superstition surround us and the mystery of our powers. We are not infallible. We have no commission from God. We wander the Earth like the giant felines of the great jungles, and have no more claim upon those we kill than any creature that seeks to live.
"But it is an infallible principle that the slaying of the innocent will drive you mad. Believe me when I tell you that for your peace of mind you must feed on the evil, you must learn to love them in all their filth and degeneracy, and you must thrive on the visions of their evil that will inevitably fill your heart and soul during the kill.
"Kill the innocent and you will sooner or later come to guilt, and with it you will come to impotence and finally despair. You may think you are too ruthless and too cold for such. You may feel superior to human beings and excuse your predatory excesses on the ground that you do but seek the necessary blood for your own life. But it won't work in the long run.
"In the long run, you will come to know that you are more human than monster, all that is noble in you derives from your humanity, and your enhanced nature can only lead you to value humans all the more. You'll come to pity those you slay, even the most unredeemable, and you will come to love humans so desperately that there will be nights when hunger will seem far preferable to you than the blood repast."
I accepted this wholeheartedly, and quickly plunged with my Master into the dark underbelly of Venice, the wild world of taverns and vice which I had never, as the mysterious velvet-clad "apprentice" of Marius De Romanus, really seen before. Of course I knew drinking places, I knew fashionable courtesans such as our beloved Bianca, but I really didn't know the thieves and murderers of Venice, and it was on these that I fed.
Very soon, I understood what my Master meant when he said that I must develop a taste for evil and maintain it. The visions from my victims became stronger for me with every kill. I began to see brilliant colors when I killed. In fact, I could sometimes see these colors dancing around my victims before I ever even closed in. Some men seem to walk in red-tinged shadows, and others to emanate a fiery orange light. The anger of my meanest and most tenacious victims was often a brilliant yellow which blinded me, searing me, as it were, both when I first attacked and while I drank the victim dry of all blood.
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