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A Christmas Knight Carol
By Amanda Berendt
Copyright December 2004
"Good evening dear listeners..." the sultry voice purred across the radio waves. "Or should I say 'Merry Christmas.' Tonight the world celebrates the birth of the savior who came to earth to give it salvation. Yet the world is very much the same as it was two thousand years ago. Where is this salvation?
"And if I may ask, how many of you actually give any thought to this 'savior' or even to his message of 'goodwill towards men' as you bombard the shopping malls in search of the perfect present?
"As for myself, I adhere to the belief coined so many years ago by Mr. Charles Dickens - 'Bah Humbug!"
Lacroix spend the rest of the broadcast fielding endless calls from holiday well wishers and the occasional listener who actually agreed with him. He was glad to finally sign off and escape into the night.
The ancient vampire walked along the nearly empty streets of Toronto. It was a relief of sorts - to be able to take a stroll unaccosted by the sights and sounds of the mortal world. It was Christmas Eve and the city's mortal inhabitants were sound asleep with visions of the joys of Christmas dancing in their heads... or some such nonsense.
Returning to the Raven, he had an odd sense of being followed. It wasn't another vampire, merely an unknown presence. Just as he stepped through the door, he thought he caught a glimpse of a woman in a velvet dress. Taking into consideration the chill of the evening, he shrugged it off.
The club was empty. Despite his feelings about this dreadful mortal holiday, he had appeased the staff (mortal and vampire alike) by closing the club. It would have been nearly deserted anyway.
Lacroix crossed the empty dance floor to the bar and poured himself a glass of his special vintage. As he sat at the bar, the glass in his hand, he couldn't shake the feeling of another presence. Feeling more disconcerted than he would ever let on, he took his glass and the open bottle and headed toward the stairs. Once inside his apartment above the club, he made sure the lock on the door was secure before settling himself in the large leather armchair in front of the fire.
It hadn't been more than a few moments before he heard a noise on the stairs. Reaching out with his vampire senses he confirmed he was alone in the building. He put the glass down on the side table and stood up to investigate the sounds. When he turned from the fire he found himself face to face with Janette. What small bit of color the vampire had, drained away at the sight.
"What are you doing here?" He asked catching his breath. "Nicholas said you had died."
Janette smiled. "I did, Lucien." Her skin had an inner glow that he had never seen before. She placed a hand on his cheek and a feeling of well being spread through him. "I have come to warn you. You must change your ways before it is too late."
Lacroix had fully recovered his senses and returned to the fire. "Change my ways? Nonsense. You are dead, my dear child, and this is no more than a nightmare fueled by this ridiculous holiday."
She reached out to him again. "This is not dream, Lacroix. Three spirits will come to visit you tonight. Heed what they say while there is still time."
She leaned in to kiss him on the lips and when he opened his eyes to rebut her statement, she was gone. He was alone once more. The door was still bolted and there was no evidence that anyone had been there just moments before.
Lacroix shook his head as he returned to the chair. "Three spirits... rubbish."
For a brief moment, he considered calling Nicholas, then reconsidered. They hadn't been on good terms lately, and bringing up the subject of Janette would only make things worse. It was doubtful Nicholas would believe him anyway.
So he picked up his glass and took a sip as he gazed into the crackling fire. The clock on the mantle struck one. He froze and listened. Nothing. *Nonsense*, he thought.
He picked up a book from the table and began to flip through it. A light began to emanate from behind him. It grew more and more intense and soon his sensitive eyes began to burn. He dropped the book and covered his eyes with his hands to shield them as he stood to face the source.
"What is this light? It burns my eyes." He cried.
A familiar voice spoke up. "It is the light of human kindness. Since you are so unused to its glow, I will dim it for you."
When the light had diminished enough to allow him to focus on the being in front of him, he gazed with amazement upon his visitor. "Fleur?"
He was not granted a direct answer. "Lucien, how far you've come to be in this lonely place." She said sadly, gesturing at the bleak apartment.
His joy at seeing her was cut short by her obvious show of disappointment. "Why, because I don't make merry like the mortal world?" He sneered at her.
"You weren't always this way. Take my hand." She smiled once more and held out her hand.
Realizing that refusing to comply would not make her go away, he took hold of her small hand. The instant they touched, the room dissolved around them. They were flying over a snow primordial landscape.
"Where are you taking me?" he asked.
"The past." she answered.
She looked at him and smiled. "Your past."
The snowy landscape soon revealed a large estate house. The spirit guided them to a window and motioned for him to look inside.
Through the glass, he could see two figures kneeling before a large fireplace. It was Nicholas and Janette. But this was long ago; Nicholas could not have been more than a few centuries. The pair was giggling together as they tied a ribbon on a package. Lacroix rapped on the glass to get their attention. The spirit put its hand on his and shook her head. "These are but shadows of the past, they cannot see nor hear us."
Lacroix watched as the door opened and his past self came in carrying packages of his own. Nicholas and Janette greeted him like two young children. They hugged him in greeting, then returned to the fireplace with their gifts. Nicholas unwrapped an exquisitely carved chess set, while Janette received a beautiful velvet gown. The past Lacroix had seated himself in the large chair by the hearth to watch his children. Nicholas stood and presented his master with the package he and Janette had been wrapping. Lacroix opened it to reveal a long black traveling cloak lined with ermine fur. He stood up and tried it on to the delight of the younger vampires.
The scene vanished as the spirit turned to Lacroix. "It seems you haven't always hated the holiday season."
Lacroix scowled. "Things change."
A new scene had appeared before them. Now it showed Nicholas and Janette speaking quickly. Nicholas was packing clothes in a bag.
"Oh, Nicola! You cannot leave now. It's Christmas."
Nicholas shook his head and turned away from her. "Janette, don't you understand. I need to get away. I can't be *this* anymore and he will never understand that."
During their conversation, Lacroix saw his past self enter the room unnoticed by the younger vampires. "How dare you!" he growled at Nicholas. "How dare you refuse the most precious gift I have ever given you." He raised his fist before his son could react and brought it down across Nicholas' face. As Nicholas collapsed onto the floor, Janette came between them trying to stop the beating.
The spirit shook its head sadly as the violent scene faded away.
When the darkness began to ebb, Lacroix found himself alone in his apartment once more. He shook his head to clear his mind of what he had witnessed. Slumping in the armchair, he emptied the glass refilled it and drained it again. Leaning his head against the back of the chair, he closed his eyes.
His peace was short lived, for moments later the clock on the mantle struck two.
Upon hearing a loud clumping coming up the stairs, Lacroix opened his eyes. He stood up and turned around just in time to see the door to his apartment spring open to reveal a chubby, balding man in a bad suit eating some kind of garlic infused sandwich.
“Howdy!” he said jovially. “I am the ghost of Christmas present.”
Lacroix frowned. “You look more like Nicholas’ dear departed partner.”
The spirit replied. “Well I was always such a ham at Christmas, I guess the big guy decided I could help some people.” He finished the last bite of the sandwich, wiped his hands on his jacket and motioned for Lacroix to go with him. “C’mon, buddy. Time’s a wastin’.”
From the darkness that was once his apartment, tiny sparkling lights began to appear. As the scene grew clearer, Lacroix saw that they were standing outside a suburban Toronto home decorated for the holidays. Guided by the spirit, Lacroix climbed the stairs and looked into the front window. Inside, a woman and a young girl were decorating a tree.
The girl took an ornament from a storage box and held it up with a sad smile. “This was dad’s favorite. He always had to hang it himself.” Lacroix squinted to see the ornament – it was a sparkling donut printed with the words “Merry Christmas 1986.”
The woman hugged the girl and helped her to put the ornament in a prominent place on the tree.
“Are we really going to have to move after Christmas?” The girl asked.
Her mother held her close. “I’m sorry, Jenny. But with just my job and your father’s pension, we just can’t afford this house anymore. I want you to be able to go to university someday.”
They held each other a bit longer, then stood up and continued to decorate the tree.
The spirit poked Lacroix in the shoulder. “See, they have lost so much and they still found a way to celebrate the holiday. You, who have everything, can’t even manage a ‘Merry Christmas.”
Lacroix turned to face the annoying spirit. “These are mere mortals. No vampire would dare stoop to celebrate this ridiculous holiday.”
The spirit chuckled. “We’ll see.”
The house dissolved into darkness and soon the stood on a deserted city street. They were facing a non descript apartment building. The spirit pointed to a lit window on one of the upper floors. Instantly, they stood on the balcony and Lacroix peered through the glass.
Nicholas’ mortal friend, Dr Natalie Lambert stood decorating her own tree. She was humming along with the carols playing in the background. Lacroix opened his mouth to protest, but the spirit motioned for him to stay silent and pointed to the door. At that moment, the doorbell chimed.
Dr. Lambert put down her box of ornaments and went to answer it. The visitor was Nicholas himself. He hugged the doctor in greeting and gave her a brightly wrapped present. She smiled and the couple returned to the living room. While she placed the present under the tree with the packages already waiting, he draped his coat on a chair. Soon they were decorating the tree together, laughing and singing along with the carols on the stereo.
The spirit smiled at the scene. “See you don’t need to be mortal to celebrate the season. Even Nicky-boy can shed his gloom to have a good time. Why can’t you?” He asked poking the vampire in the middle of the chest.
Before Lacroix could react, the scene dissolved into darkness and he found himself once again alone in his apartment. He sighed and sat down in the armchair.
Before he could even make himself comfortable, the clock on the mantle struck three.
It wasn't long before the room began to grow very cold - even for a vampire. A tall-cloaked figure appeared out of the shadows in front of Lacroix.
"Am I to suppose that you are the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?" Lacroix asked.
The spirit nodded, but did not say anything. It held up a skeletal hand and pointed to the chair before the fire. There sat a future version of himself. Although he hadn't aged physically, there was a tired and haggard look to his face. It appeared as if he had given up.
Lacroix turned away from his future self to look around the room. It too had changed. It seemed to have fallen into a state of despair. The windows were broken and caked with grime and there was a layer of dust on everything.
He looked to the spirit. "What has happened here?"
The spirit held out its long arm and the darkness opened to reveal a graveyard. A light cover a snow blanketed the ground. Lacroix looked at the spirit questioningly. In response, the spirit pointed to a pair of headstones atop a small hill.
Lacroix walked up the slight rise to examine the stones. The first was engraved "Natalie Lambert - beloved friend." Looking at the matching stone next to it, he was taken aback to see the name "Nicholas Knight - eternal friend" engraved. Reading further, he noticed the dates of death were identical on both stones. *No.* he thought. *Not Nicholas too.*
Hearing someone behind him, he turned to see his future self approach the stones. He laid an arrangement of white and red roses between the stones and shook his head in sorrow.
"Oh Nicholas," the future Lacroix said to the headstones. "You and your doctor friend finally succeeded in your quest, but at so great a price. You tried Janette's cure, but took too much. Then I..." He paused, drawing in a deep breath of the cold December air. "I granted you your final request by helping you join her. Now, I am alone." He took off the black fedora he wore and held it against his chest as if in silent prayer.
Lacroix could see the sky begin to lighten and wondered why his future self did not seek shelter. He watched in horror as the first rays of morning hit and the vampire began to smoke.
Turning to the spirit, he pleaded. "No, this cannot be what happens. I cannot be left alone like this." The spirit remained silent. "Tell me this is doesn't have to happen... that the future is not set... it can change."
Suddenly, he found himself sitting once more in the chair before the fire. He looked around the room and saw everything was as it should be. There was no evidence of the visitations.
He looked at the clock on the mantle. It was just minutes after midnight on Christmas morning.
Picking up the telephone from the table beside the chair, he phoned his accountant. He first apologized for the hour of the call, then promised a large bonus. He arranged to have the Schanke's mortgage paid off and a college fund set up for Jenny - all anonymously, of course.
Setting down the phone, he filled his goblet once more and took a long drink. Replacing the glass on the table, he picked up the phone once more and dialed.
When the voice on the other end picked up, Lacroix took a deep breath before speaking. "Merry Christmas, Nicholas. I hope you are enjoying the festivities."
There was a long silence on the other end. He could hear Dr Lambert in the background asking who it was. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he sensed his Nicholas relax. "Merry Christmas, Lacroix." He could hear the smile in his son's voice as they spoke for a few moments before saying goodbye.
Hanging up the phone, Lacroix smiled as he gazed into the crackling fire. For the first time in many centuries, he felt a warmth inside of him that had nothing to do with the flames flickering in the hearth.
What! Did you expect Lacroix to go romping through the streets like Scrooge did?!?!?! Come on... he wasn't about to change _that_ much.