Friday, June 10, 2011

Chapter VII

In which the bright light of day proves less than illuminating and Samuel decides discretion is the better part of not looking like a lunatic.

As Byron rose unsteadily to his feet, Samuel frantically began to reconsider his position. He knew Byron would believe him- it was exciting and meant adventure and Byron would find it all too irresistible. But with Hobhouse staring so concernedly at him and the sun streaming in through the windows, Samuel was starting to disbelieve himself.

WELL?” Byron boomed.

Hobhouse winced. “I may not have been drinking all night” he said “but could you perhaps..not shout?”

Oh do shut up, Hobhouse” Byron grumbled, lowering his tone. “Now, Coleridge, what is it?”

Erm...” Samuel was floundering badly and he knew it. “Well. It's a bit of a story.”

So we'd gathered.” Hobhouse crossed his arms.

There was no way he was getting out of this. He thought fast. “I have...a business opportunity. A new publisher. He wants to meet Lord Byron... He's foreign” Samuel added belatedly.

Where is he?” Byron was definitely interested. His week must have been very dull indeed.

“He's...” Where was Machiavelli anyway? Samuel didn't know. “...attending to some business. He says he'll come round later. I'm to...” Samuel smiled, inspired. “Hobhouse? Can I beg a favor on his behalf? I'm afraid his luggage has been detained- would you lend him some clothes? I believe he's about your build.”

Hobhouse waved his hand airily. “Of course, of course. Nothing too fine, mind, but Lord knows I've got coats and cravats aplenty”.

Byron snorted. It was a habit. Hobhouse ignored him. “Would you prefer to collect them now? I'm sure his Lordship here- ” Hobhouse wrinkled his nose “would like to sleep off last night's debauch”.

Byron snorted again. “Don't let me detain you!” he called, disappearing into the corridor.

A moment passed, and then he popped his head round the doorframe. “Do bring your foreign gentleman by later, Coleridge. I must confess I'm simply burning with curiosity”. Then, deftly snatching a bottle of brandy from the sideboard, he disappeared again, this time for good.

“Shall we?” asked Hobhouse.

“Oh- yes. Yes, yes, of course”. Samuel was certainly feeling the effects of his sleepless night. He rubbed his eyes and sincerely wished he had a dark room to stretch out in for a couple of hours.

Hobhouse seemed to read his mind. “Coleridge? You look fagged half to death. I've a spare room if you need to rest and then we can sort some clothing for your friend.”

He's not exactly a friend, Samuel wanted to say. He sent a silent thought at Machiavelli. Wherever you are you damned undead bastard, you'd better come back this evening. And not by flying in a window, either. respectable? Please? I'm getting you some clothes.

“Thank you, I accept” he told Hobhouse.

“Well then” said Hobhouse, holding the door open “let's be on our way”.

Samuel made sure his laudanum was still safely tucked in his pocket.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chapter VI

In Which Samuel arrives at Byron's door and finally has some breakfast.

Shortly after resolving his mind, Samuel stood before Byron's door. Spurred on by worry and desire to see a familiar, if not necessarily friendly, face, he had made the walk with exemplary speed, and, having knocked, prayed that Byron had decided to spend the night in his own bed. His knocking was soon answered in the form of a lanky young man who, while not a servant or the man Samuel had expected to see, was a welcome sight, nonetheless.

“Hobby, old chap!” cried Samuel, almost throwing himself into the other man's arms out of sheer relief.

“I say, Coleridge, this is a bit of do,” said John Cam Hobhouse, who stood carelessly in the doorway, raising his eyebrows at Samuel's disheveled state, and probably at the mere fact of his presence. “But you're very welcome all the same.” he continued. “His Lordship's God knows where, with God knows who, but I'd be happy to play the host on his behalf. In fact, I'd be honoured. Step inside, and I'll see if I can't scare you up a bit of breakfast.”

At these last words, Samuel's stomach rumbled gratefully and rather audibly. Hobhouse smiled.

“Come on in, then.” he said, and Samuel followed.


The house was, as usual (or, rather, as Samuel suspected was as usual, having only been inside a handful of times), in a state of glorified chaos. Byron's perpetually complicated finances necessitated a bare minimum of staff, and, with the exception of his personal manservant, it was always in a state of flux. Having reached the bottle-strewn dining room, Hobhouse rummaged about in the sideboard and soon produced some cold meat, and a bit of bread.
“I'm afraid that's all there is” he said ruefully. “His Lordship sacked the cook yesterday. The reasons were unclear.” He looked pained. “Plenty to drink, though.”

Ravenous as he was, Samuel thought the breakfast looked very fine indeed, and he set to with some enthusiasm, while Hobhouse read the morning's paper. When he had finished, Hobhouse laid down his reading material, and regarded Samuel shrewdly.

“And now, perhaps” he said. “You'd like to tell me what this is all about?”

Samuel cleared his throat.

It was at this moment that Lord Byron himself decided to tumble through the door, trip, and land in a rather undignified heap at their feet.

“WHAT WHAT'S ABOUT?” he roared.

Hobhouse sighed.

Chapter V

In Which Samuel tries to come up with something resembling a plan.

With Machiavelli asleep and dawn breaking greyly, Samuel was suddenly very alone. Here he was, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poet, Philosopher, and Junkie, standing in the middle of a graveyard having been flown in overnight from the Lake District.

It boggled the mind.

But what was he to do with himself? Get out of this cemetery for a start, he thought bitterly. Even in the growing light, the dankness and morbidity of his surroundings produced a chill. But where to go? He had no money, so paid accommodation was out of the question. His only recourse was to throw himself on the mercy of any one of his acquaintances who were in town. But who would believe his tale? Or how he had come so suddenly to be in London, when he was supposedly vacationing with William so far away? He almost sat down to think it over, but on recollecting where he was, banished the thought and quickened his pace. Finally clearing the cemetery gates, the perfect solution hit him like a flash. Well, perhaps it was not the perfect solution, but it was certainly something resembling a plan, and not a half-bad one at that.

Samuel exited the churchyard with purpose, his mind set and his path clear. Who else could be counted upon to receive him at this hour and under these circumstances? He would go to Byron.

Chapter IV

In which Machiavelli and Samuel arrive in the Great Metropolis and quarrel over the definition of proper lodging.

“Where...where are we?” Samuel asked, his head spinning. He took an unsteady step and promptly collapsed.

Machiavelli was scarcely able to contain his amusement, but managed to give a steady reply. “We are in London, of course.”

Slowly getting to his knees and looking around, Samuel observed his surroundings. “We are in a churchyard” he said vaguely.



“It is nearly dawn” Machiavelli informed him matter-of-factly. “It is time for me to sleep.”

“And you're...going to sleep here.”

Machiavelli shrugged. “I am a vampire.”

Samuel could not argue with this logic. “But where am I supposed to sleep?”

Machiavelli shrugged again. “You can sleep here if you would like. The mausoleum I am in the habit of occupying is quite capacious.”

Samuel took an involuntary step backward. “ is to say...that's very kind of you.”

Machiavelli smiled his ghastly smile. “Shall we then?”

Samuel took another cautious step backwards. “Ehm..I...well, perhaps it would be best if I found lodging with one of my friends here?”

Machiavelli looked slightly crestfallen. “Oh.” he said simply. “I forget that our hospitality is poor to a mortal.”

Samuel felt almost ashamed. “Look here” he said “I'm sorry. It's just that I think I should try to conduct some business whilst here. The money I brought won't last long.” And neither will my laudanum, he added mentally.

Machiavelli inexplicably began to laugh. This irritated Samuel. “Look here!” he said again “If-”

Machiavelli, still mirthful, held up a hand for silence. When he had caught his breath, or rather, stopped laughing, for he no longer breathed, he spoke:

“Samuel, caro mio, do not let such things concern you. This quest we embark upon may be dangerous, but it is not” he said, drawing a heavy purse from the folds of his cloak, “underfunded.”

Samuel stared. Machiavelli chuckled, if that was the proper word. “It is all right. Here.” he handed over the purse. “Get whatever lodging and supplies you may need. That- medicine?- you take? That as well, if you require it. I hope we will be on our way before long again.”

Samuel was almost undone by his kindness. “Thank you, M- Niccolo.”

“Think nothing of it, cari cuore.” He scanned the skies. “Dawn is coming. I should withdraw.”

“Very well” said Samuel. “But how shall I find you again?”

“Do not worry, Samuel!" Machiavelli scolded. "I will find you.”

Samuel swallowed nervously. “Very well.” he repeated. “But I think...”


Samuel smiled. “I think I ought to get you some supplies as well.”

Machiavelli looked offended. “What do I need?”

“Clothes.” Samuel grinned.

It was Machiavelli's turn to stare. He drew himself up proudly. “But I have clothes.”

Samuel sighed. “My very dear Niccolo” he said. “When was the last time you changed your clothes?”

Machiavelli looked exceedingly put out. “I would have you know” he fumed. "that I have always been considered very well dressed. This cloak for example-"

“Styles have changed.” Samuel interrupted. “If I'm to travel with you, you need to be presentable.”

Machiavelli opened his mouth to reply but shut it immediately when he realized dawn was imminent.

“Do as you wish.” he snapped and was gone among the tombs.

“Oh I shall” Samuel said to the empty air. “I most certainly shall.”

Chapter III

In which Samuel and Machiavelli finally begin their adventures and Samuel objects.

“So” said Samuel delicately. “How exactly are we to travel?”

Machiavelli looked slightly embarrassed.

“Well” he said. “It would be fastest if I were to fly.”


Si, si!” answered Machiavelli, with typically Italianate over-gesticulation. “Volare.

“But” clarified Samuel “I cannot fly.”

Machiavelli looked slightly embarrassed again. “I will carry you.”

Samuel made an indescribable face. “I see.”

Machiavelli shrugged. “It really is the best way.”

Samuel set his jaw and looked resolutely forward. “Very well” he said.

Molto bene!” beamed Machiavelli.

Samuel stepped carefully towards him. “How...?”

“Take hold of my shoulders” Machiavelli instructed. “Like...ehm...children?...a pig?”

“Piggy-back?” inquired Samuel.

Machiavelli nodded enthusiastically. “Si, certamente!and offered his back.

Samuel hesitated for more than a minute.

“Well, I suppose there's really no help for it.” he said.

“I do not think so, Samuel.”

Samuel wished very much that Machiavelli had not chosen that precise moment to call him by his chosen name. But there really was no help for it. Taking another sip from the precious bottle, Samuel unceremoniously leaped onto Machiavelli's back.

Machiavelli nearly fell over.

Samuel, who had been worried already, felt his anxieties jump skyward yet again.

“How,” he asked, “are you going to manage this, if I nearly just knocked you over?!”

Calma, calma.” soothed Machiavelli. “You startled me. I did not expect you to jump with such force, Samuel!”

Samuel reflected on what a good thing it was that the Italian couldn't see his face and its new and colourful hue.

And then Machiavelli himself jumped skyward, and suddenly the whole world was a blur.

“I do not need to breathe, Samuel” said Machiavelli, “But if you were to loosen your choke-hold, I feel this would be far more pleasant for both of us. I will not let you fall.”

Samuel obligingly loosened his hold has much as he dared.


“Where are go-” Samuel started to ask, before the sight of the ground flying by beneath them froze the words in his throat.

“London. And you may wish to close your eyes, Samuel. I would not wish you to be sick upon my robe.”

Quite sensibly, Samuel took his advice.

Chapter II

In which Coleridge's not-quite-so-terrible not-so-secret comes to a vague kind of light and not much else.

Having gathered only what little ready money he had (Machiavelli had stressed the immediacy of their departure), Samuel stood outside his house, looking about confusedly. He had left a short note on his writing table:

Have been suddenly called away. Please do not worry. Return date unknown. Signed, STC

Honestly, he wondered why he had bothered. Who would worry over his departure? Certainly not William. William would just think he was frittering away his money in some low place, high on his laudanum without a care in the world...Samuel automatically reached into his coat pocket, and finding the comforting bottle within, withdrew it. He eyed the level, glad he had thought to refill it in those last hurried moments in the house, and, noting that Machiavelli had not yet re-appeared, raised it to his lips and drank. It was at this precise moment that Machiavelli materialized from the darkness. Samuel jumped back with a cry, nearly dropping the bottle as Machiavelli approached curiously, wrinkling his nose.

“What's that?” he asked.

“It's...medicine.” Samuel answered cautiously. “A kind of medicine I take.”

Machiavelli looked a bit concerned.

“Are you ill, Samuel?”

“No..not's just-” Samuel floundered. “it's good for me.” he finished firmly.

“Wise, then.” Machiavelli nodded approvingly.

“Wise.” Samuel agreed with a brave smile.

Chapter I

In which Machiavelli quickly reveals his terrible secret and Coleridge is put in rather an awkward position. Not physically. Yet.

Samuel opened his eyes to see Machiavelli's skull-face hovering blurrily over him.

“Oh dear” he said reddening “Did I..?”

Machiavelli nodded sympathetically. “You fainted, Signior Col-e-ridge.”


Machiavelli nodded again. “Col-e-ridge.” he said.

Samuel grumbled softly. Foreigners. He thought. He remembered vaguely being in Germany with William. They never got his name right there either. He didn't think it was a terribly difficult name to get right, but it was his, so he supposed he was used to it.

“So.” Samuel said, carefully sitting up. “What exactly is going on? Aside from you being dead and all.”

Machiavelli regarded him balefully. “ You might well say 'And all'” he confessed. “It is closer to the truth than you could guess..." he sighed and broke off. "Signior, let me be honest. It would not be my choice to tell would not be my choice to tell anyone- but, I fear I have no choice. I will be honest-even though it seems unbelievable, I am...” He paused. Shook his head. Looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling.

“I do you say...not-dead...undead...un vampiro.”

Samuel stared.

“You're a vampyre? You're real? You lot actually exist?”

“It is a particularly painful and unpleasant story.” Machiavelli said, mournfully, but with infinite politeness. “I do not wish to speak of it now.”

Samuel was deeply ashamed. “Oh yes...of course. How insensitive of me.”

“It was necessary that you know.” Machiavelli drummed his fingers on the table, having resumed his place in Samuel's chair. “Necessary so you would not question why we must travel only at night.”

“Travel?” Samuel was perplexed. “Where are we going?”

“A great many places, Signior Col-e-ridge”.

Coleridge.” Samuel muttered under his breath.

“A great many places.” Machiavelli repeated. “There is a shadow of evil stretching across the world, and we must try to stop it, before it destroys us all.”

“Even to a poet” said Samuel, “that sounds a bit dramatic.”

“I am a vampire” Machiavelli said simply. “A vampire who has known the Medicis. My life is, as you say, 'a bit dramatic'.”

Samuel had no response to this.

“I'm a poet” he said, after a time. “What could you possibly need me for?”

Machiavelli nodded, pleased. “Esattamente. You are a poet. A poet of profound imagination. You are an incredibly important man, Signior Col-e-ridge.”

“Col-” Samuel started to correct him and then thought better of it. “Look here, I...why don't you just call me Samuel?”

Machiavelli's thin face suddenly split into a painful-looking grin. “Signior Sammi?” he suggested delightedly.

No.” Samuel countered firmly. “Samuel will do.”

“In that case” Machiavelli said, making a grand gesture, “Samuel. I would be honoured if you would call me Niccolo. It seems only right.”

“I...” Samuel was going to say that it wouldn't be proper, but he had started this informality, and he would be damned if he was going to let that Italian make him feel odder than he did already. “Sir. Niccolo.”

He held out his hand and Machiavelli took it in his icy fingers. After shaking firmly, Samuel quickly dropped his hand, and cleared his throat uncomfortably.

“Well then.” He looked helplessly around. “We're in it then, aren't we?”

“We would seem to be, Samuel.”

Samuel suddenly felt very funny. Quashing the feeling, he became businesslike.

“I say we make a start of it now.” he suggested. “No time like the present.”

“Indeed.” Machiavelli inclined his head gravely. “We have a great deal to do.”