While searching for something to share, I realized I wanted to revisit a chapter in The Grey House (book one). This chapter is about Carlos, a mage in Vincent’s employment, but it shows a lot about Vincent as well.
Vincent follows his own rules. He rewards loyalty with everything he has. He rewards betrayals with just as much enthusiasm. I’ve thought about exploring Carlos a bit more, as his story intrigues me. Not sure I will though. Lots of paths and stories to follow in my head.
Without further ado, Chapter Six from The Grey House:
Carlos sat on the couch at the far end of the small meeting room, waiting for Vincent. It was a comfortable room with plenty to keep his eyes busy. Vincent kept historical artifacts, books and maps of the world from many centuries in this room. Were he not so tired, Carlos would be sifting through the maps, plotting his long overdue vacation. Instead he sat on the overstuffed leather couch and tried not to fall asleep.
The mage rose from his seat when Vincent entered, too tired to make sure his shirt was tucked into his jeans. Both men looked haggard, dirty, and ready to start the day over. The vampire looked the man up and down. He took in Carlos’ small stature without really thinking about it. Vincent felt it was always best to know with whom he were dealing with. He always scrutinized those he was speaking with, including those he knew well. The small Latino man looked wearily at his boss with his dark eyes and ran a shaking hand through his dark already unruly hair. When Vincent indicated Carlos should take a seat at the desk, the mage sagged into the chair. Vincent went to the side bar to pour himself and Carlos some brandy. He handed the mage a glass as he sat on the edge of the maple desk.
Carlos took the glass willingly, swirling the dark liquid, warming it. He looked up at the vampire who loomed above him and raised the glass in a toast. They clinked glasses and Carlos downed his drink, while Vincent sipped at his.
A shudder gripped Carlos as liquid fire rushed down to his stomach. The tremor passed and he placed the glass on the desk. “You shouldn’t have wasted your good brandy on me tonight.”
Vincent swirled the liquid and took a sip. “Did you enjoy it?”
“Then it wasn’t wasted.” He stood and walked to the other side of the desk. “How long has your family been in my debt Carlos?”
“Five generations.” There was a tinge of disbelief in his voice, of something said so often, it couldn’t possibly be the truth.
“Five generations is a long time for a family to be in debt to a vampire. Yet here you are. You have proven yourself a worthy mage, and a worthy ally. I have always found that mages make good allies and have considered your family’s debt to me quite an asset. I feel it would be a shame to lose you. You’ve paid off your debt in full, but I would like to retain you. That’s why I’m offering you a permanent place on my payroll. My resources would be open to you and you would be able to improve your skills beyond your knowing. What do you say?”
Carlos looked at him in disbelief then bent forward and hung his head. After a moment of silence, he got up and walked to the window. This side of the house faced woods; there was nothing to look at but the reflection of the room. Carlos looked at Vincent’s reflection and found it fitting that the vampire’s reflection was distorted.
“I want out, Vincent. I never wanted to be a mage in the first place. My mother foisted the responsibility upon me. She told me the story when I was very young. I didn’t really understand what was going on. When I had to come home every day from school and learn spells, instead of playing with my friends, I started to understand how serious this debt was.”
Carlos turned, crossed his arms and sat on the window ledge, looking at a point somewhere between himself and the wall behind the vampire. “High school was worse. I wanted to join clubs, sports teams, anything, just to not have to practice. That was when my mother told me the whole story; of how much you’ve done for my family since the debt started. She said that we had the house because of you. She only had to work part time because of you.”
He looked at Vincent. “I started to wonder why. I threw myself into magic just to be able to maybe repay you for what you did for us, not what you did for an ancestor. Then I started wondering if you were helping us to keep us in debt. So now I need to know. What will it take to get me out of your debt?”
Vincent leaned back, slowly swirling his glass. “You are out of debt. Your life is your own. You may do with it as you please.”
Carlos doubted the sincerity behind the words. “How? How can my family possibly be out of your debt? And how do I know you won’t kill me like you killed your three bouncers?”
Vincent kept swirling the glass taking small sips of the fine brandy. “They betrayed me, you did not. I repay betrayal with death and torture. I repay loyalty in a much different way.” He stood, placed his glass on the desk and walked over to Carlos. “Do you really believe I would repay loyalty with disdain?”
“I don’t understand why you helped us. We were in your debt.”
Vincent turned to the window and watched the wind move through the trees. The glare from the lights in the room barely hindered his sight. He drew a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “It’s obvious you never truly understood the loyalty of your family.” Vincent turned, sat on the window’s edge and looked toward the map over his desk. The map was so old it still showed where the world stopped, stating ‘Hic Sunt Dracones’. He folded his arms, then regarded Carlos. “Do you not understand how easy it would have been for your family to end the debt without re-paying it?”
Carlos looked at Vincent with a blank expression on his face.
“Obviously not. Your ancestor was an only child. No family, no wife, no aunts, uncles, cousins. Just himself. After I helped him, he vowed to repay me, found a wife, had a child and passed on the debt. Each generation has had one child, just enough to keep the debt repayable.”
Vincent paused and walked to his desk. He unlocked and opened a drawer. He pulled out a small lock box, opened it, pulled out an envelope, and put the box back. “It would have been very easy for your ancestors to end the debt. Any of them could have ended it without paying it back. All they would have had to do was not have children or kill themselves. But generation after generation, your family made sure there was someone to pass the debt on to. It showed me the amount of loyalty your family had. And as I said, I repay loyalty.”
Vincent placed the envelope at the opposite edge of the desk. Carlos stepped forward and saw his name on the envelope. He picked it up and opened it. Inside was a folded bank statement. He could see his name on the exposed half. Hands shaking, he opened it and looked at the ending balance, then at Vincent, then at the ending balance. Carlos backed away from the desk, tried to sit in the chair, but missed and fell to the floor. Vincent chuckled as he rounded the desk and helped the mage to stand up.
“I repay loyalty.” Vincent placed Carlos in a chair.
“I can’t accept this, Vincent.”
“Don’t upset me Carlos. I don’t like being denied.”
Vincent’s voice had a hard edge to it and Carlos heard it. He looked at the statement again, folded it and put it back in the envelope.
“All right. Thank you, Vincent. You don’t know what this means.” He stood and took the offered hand. The mage was almost to the door before the vampire spoke again.
“If you have children and one happens to take up the arts, send them my way.”
Carlos looked back at Vincent. He was sitting on his large desk again. Could he really deny this man a promise? “I will, sir.”
Vincent watched the mage leave, upset to lose Carlos. The money didn’t matter, not when put against five generations of loyalty. Having a mage in his debt had been ideal. It would have been pleasant to have one on his payroll. He hoped he could find another one, but knew it was near impossible to find one that would work for a vampire in this city right now. Vincent sighed and sipped his brandy, waiting to hear from Joseph.
His friend called an hour later with the news. Markus was still human, but Edwin had been trying to seduce him to his side. Markus, happy with his current boss, kept denying the vampire. Joseph, wanting to keep the human safe, had placed him on Vincent’s private jet. Markus was being sent to New York. It was safer for him there. Vincent’s sire, Lorraine, ran the city and was always happy to shelter Vincent’s friends, especially of the male variety. Although Vincent was glad Markus was safe, he was rather perturbed. He was losing two of his most loyal people on the same night. It left him with a bad taste in his mouth.