Lucius sighed. “Magic, as we know it, is divided into two cateogires: Earth Magic and Arcane Magic.”
“Earth magic is what a human like yourself would wield, were you magically inclined. Magic is an extension of the spirit, and like the living body, the living spirit is different for each living being. Some people or animals may be capable of performing magic to some degree or another, and some others may not. Do you follow?”
I nodded again.
Lucius took another deep breath and continued. “Your friend Lucas is descended from a powerful line of Archmages who excelled naturally at Earthen magic, but who developed their abilities through mental and spiritual means to become even stronger, and as such to have a deeper bond with the Earth. That bond passed down to their descendants, and it is because of their labors to become closer to the Mother,” he paused, “the Earth, he is naturally gifted.”
“But Lucas develops his abilities by learning,” I interruped, “He’s learned from their writings, and from other cultures as well. He’s even developed his own techniques.”
“He has,” Lucius agreed, “And he is right to do so. That’s how humankind bonds closer with the Earth, through the efforts of noble people like himself who seek to help one another with it’s power.
“But let me go on, Oliver. This ultimately has little to do with your friend Lucas. What it has to do with is the two divisions of what we refer to as ‘magic,’ and those divisions are Earth Magic, as I said, and Arcane Magic.”
Lucius knelt down to one knee and placed his hand open-palmed on the soft dirt floor of the cavern. His fingers slid effortlessly through the ground and he pulled up a handful of soil that seemed lighter and more colorful than the ground from which he pulled. He held his hand out and the soil cascased down his palm and through his fingers, leaving brown dirt all over them. “Earth Magic draws from the Mother, from whom all of the elements are readily available in plentiful and endless supply. No Magic user could ever be powerful enough to draw from the Earth more than She is able to give, do you understand?”
“I would think,” I offered reasonably, “That anything is possible, and maybe someone could have that kind of power.”
“True,” Lucius agreed, “But then we wouldn’t really be talking about the phenomenon you and I, as well as the ancient civlizations, have referred to heretofore as ‘magic.’ As I said, Earth-based Magic uses the five elements of the Mother. You know those elements by now, correct?”
Of course I did. I recited them easily. “Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Spirit.”
“That’s correct. Interesting that you didn’t question if Spirit was an element, many philsophers have refused to believe in it’s existance.”
“I am standing in the halls of the Underworld, aren’t I?” I replied.
Lucius smiled a bit and withdrew his hand, not wiping away the dirt. “Your point is well-made. But now, let me continue. There are those who use this ability of their spirit to control the elements in such ways as they are able. Though this kind of magic can be a destructive force, it is ultimately rooted in the connection between the Mother and the living being, who make up one another and sustain one another.
“But there is another kind of magic that needs to be understood in order to understand why vampires exist. Arcane magic is seperate from Earth magic in that it doesn’t draw power from the Source, it draws power from what is already created.”
“So,” I asked, “Arcane magic uses living things to draw power?”
“Yes.” Lucius placed his hands into the pockets of his black trousers. “Arcane magic could be thought of as a deritive of Earth magic because it does use the elements, most specifically it uses the element of the spirit, but it uses elements that make up living beings that came from the Mother, rather than from the Mother herself. An Arcane mage will normally draw from the spirit of a living being, it could be himself or someone else, an animal or a tree, and casts magic using those materials.
Because of this, Arcane magic usually involves suffering, loss and death. It is based upon the principles of siphoning life out of living things to further one’s own ends, and rather than rearranging the elements in a healthy way that can be returned to the Earth, it disconnects the elements from the Mother and steals Her resources. Are you beginning to see parallels between Arcane magic, which draws life from a living creature to perform magic, and vampires, who draw life from living creatures to sustain themselves and their magnificent abilities?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Arcane magic is a profanity.” Lucius said with contempt in his voice. “Vampires are a profanity. They walk and talk as though they were living creatures, but they are cursed, quite literally. They draw life from others because they have no permanent life in them, and their bodies and spirits do not die and return to the Earth as living things do, instead they walk for eternity, trapped within their fleshy prisons, until the light of the sun or the heat of a fire destroys them entirely.”
“So, are they dead, or are they cursed?” I’d been wondering this for a very long time.
“They are both living and dead, but they are most certainly cursed. Vampires exist because of a very ancient Arcane curse that was placed upon the original brood of vampires.”
“Then that curse can be broken,” I interrupted excitedly. “You yourself told Lucas that any magical curse can be undone.”
“Oh, of course it can broken.” Lucius said matter-of-factly. “The problem is that no one is powerful enough to break the curse.”
“You’re the god of the Underworld,” I said, “Don’t you have the power to do it?”
“I am the keeper of the gateway that leads living spirits back to the Earth. If there is any magic I am proficient in, it is Earth magic, and most certainly not Arcane magic.”
I felt my excitement drain. “Oh,” I said defeatedly. So maybe there wasn’t any hope for Wolfgang.
“You’re thinking of your friend, Wolfgang, aren’t you?” Lucius asked knowingly.
“I thought you didn’t read minds?” I asked.
“I can sense emotions very well, I’ve felt enough of them, guiding every living creature into the Earth. Let me explain what I mean about the curse. It’s unbreakable because it was originally brought about by a powerful and ancient Archmage who is belived to have been one of the original gods.”
“There have been different gods?”
Lucius smiled, it seemed he was smiling to himself and not to me. “There have been many things in the history of the Earth, Oliver. Most of the gods do not even remember their birth or how long they’ve existed. But knowledge of the vampire curse has been passed down amongst the gods as well as humans. Some legends say the original vampire was one of the creators of the world. I can safely assume that is just a superstition, however.
What I do know the be fairly true was the that original vampire was someone of immense power, whether he was a god or a human, and he placed the curse upon himself. He must have been an extremely power Arcane mage, to cast such a potent spell. You see, what he did was impose the very principles of Arcane magic, a profane and unnatrual practice, onto a living being, and turn himself into the personification of the Arcane. The vampire does not die, but without draining life from living creatures, he fades and becomes a shadow. Only through the Arcane practice of draining blood does he come to life, his many abilities to travel with invisiblity to the human eye and life great weights with gargantuan strength, strengthened.”
“So then,” I began, “Wolfgang…”
“When your friend Wolfgang was given the curse, he became a vampire. His body was drained and he was given blood touched by the Arcane curse to drink, and when his body had drank the same amount that was taken it began to change. His body died, but his spirit did not, and his body came to life again in a new form, one powered by Arcane magic, and infused with the many strengths of those who came before him in the vampire geneology: strength, swiftness, intuitiveness, abilities that humans do not under normal circumstances ever possess.”
“And now Wolfgang is trapped in a dead body.” I think I whispered the words.
“Oliver,” Lucius said comfortingly, “Wolfgang is trapped in a cursed body. When he does not drink, he grows weak, and when he comes into the light of the sun, which nourishes and provides to the Mother, his cursed skin is burned by light and truth. His cursed body is seen for the profanity that it is, and his poor living soul remains trapped within that body. Only when that body has been entirely annihilated can his spirit ever finally find peace within the Earth.”
“So… Wolfgang has to die to be free.” I tried to hold back tears that began to sting my eyes.
“Yes, Oliver.” Lucius said softly. “This is the unfortunate and harsh truth, and I offer it to you with great sympathy and love. And I love Wolfgang too, he was cursed and became a killer because he had little other choice. He probably couldn’t have died even if he wanted to because he was made a vampire by one who is old and powerful and has much of the undiluated original vampire blood within him.
“As you may know, the transformation does not always work. Sometimes the spirit or the body is something else entirely within the living being is too weak to accept the Arcane magic, and they mercifully die before it can take place. Were enough blood to be given, any living creature would become vampire, but sometimes the initial blood is not enough, and the person may die. Death is ultimately an important and vital part of the survival of each individual spirit and the Earth itself, because we are all one, and our spirit energy must commune with itself to remain whole. Vampires steal spirit energy from the Earth and cause it to very slowly die. If the vampires were to make all the world into what they are, and keep living humans alive only to breed for sustanence, the Earth would wither, because it’s materials would be drained, and eventually the Earth would die.
“This is what Arcane magic does. It drains, and takes without giving back. It steals from the Earth to create unearthly abominations that wander in torment and pain, no matter how great their endowments and abilities. Arcane magic serves no real purpose, because it’s practical uses, such as healing, are innefective in comparison with Earth magic. One might use Arcane magic to stop the death of a living being, for instance by pulling spirit energy from one person who is alive and well to another who is wounded and dying, and the dying person may be healed. But the cost of the healing was the life of another. Arcane magic upsets the balances of the elements within the Earth and destroys, rather than creates. People and other living things are manifestations of the Earth, but they are not the Earth Herself, and so they do not offer elements the way She does.”
I remained sitting on the dirt floor of the open cavern. I’d been crying through Lucius’ explenation and I didn’t make any effort to hide my pain, I just wiped the tears from my face. “Is there no way at all to heal a vampire then, without destroying their body?”
“Unfortunately, Oliver, once a vampire is old enough, even destroying their body isn’t enough, becuase it will reform. The matter that has been scattered will reform and become the vampire again, and always their soul will be locked to it’s pieces.”
I felt horrified and panicked. “So, once a vampire has lived long enough, they can never, under any circumstances, die?”
“Not without my help,” he said simply.
There was silence for a moment. “How can you help?” I asked.
“I can take apart the cursed body, I can release the soul from it and return it to the Earth. I can do this because I have a closeness with the Mother that no other living creature does, and it is within my power to destroy what has been cursed. When the spirit leaves the cursed body, the body evaporates.”
I sobbed again and wiped the tears from my cheeks. “So you’re telling me that you could release Wolfgang from the vampire curse…”
“But I would kill him in the process, and his spirit would return to the Earth. Likely he would want to rest for a long time before rejoining living beings in a new form.”
I took a deep breath and tried to stop crying. I felt so sad, so overwhelmingly sad.
“Take your time, Oliver.” Lucius said comfortingly, “This is a lot to take in.”
I sighed resolutely. I remained silent for a long time.
There was quiet, but for the gentle wind that echoed through the caverns of the Underworld. Lucius made no movement or sound, I could tell he was patiently waiting for me to speak again.
Finally I did speak. “I will not allow Wolfgang to die.” I said resolutely.
“Then you will find a cure for him?” Lucius asked.
“Yes.” I responded fiercely. “I love him.”
Lucius closed his eyes and sighed in a sad manner. “Love is the very essence of the Mother, Oliver. The Mother who Wolfgang is seperated from. Though his human spirit still feels emotions, he is trapped within the body of a monster. He can only be released through death. Don’t you see that if you love him, you should accept that this is what’s best for him? Bring him to me, Oliver, and I will release him. You can bid him farewell and I can set him free. It’s what the humanity left within him would want.”
“You’re wrong,” I said defensively, somewhat angrily. I looked up at Lucius and stared into his bright grey eyes. “Wolfgang wants to live. He wants to be human. And he wants to do it in this lifetime. He feels so much shame for the things he’s done as a vampire, but what he wants is to be human again, while he’s still himself. He wants to be human Wolfgang, and no one else, and then die naturally when death comes to him as a human being.”
“Of course he does,” Lucius responded patiently, “And so have a thousand other vampires before him. But unfortunately Oliver, no one is powerful enough to break the curse placed on him. There aren’t even any Arcane mages left in the world. Knowledge of it’s existance has passed away, but for those gods who still remember it, and even we may someday forget it.”
“I don’t care.” I said resolutely. My tears had stopped now, though they still remained dry on my cheeks and the wet spots on my pants were still there. I felt relieved to have heard it all and understood it, to finally understand the truth of what Wolfgang was and how he could be freed. I knew that if the worst happened, he could always come to Lucius and be set free. But that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to make him human, like me. I wanted to hold him in my arms and let him relieve himself of all that responsibility that comes with being eternally powerful and graceful and perfect and terrible. I wanted his skin to shed away the layers of darkness that covered it and be truly bright and human again, I wanted his body to be able to sustain itself and take in food and water and I wanted him to never have to taste blood to survive again.
“There is nothing, my beloved little child, that you can do.” Lucius said simply.
“But I will try.” I said, and I stood up.
“You will fail, headstrong boy.” There was no anger in Lucius’ voice, only sadness and pity.
“Tell me, please, what is my first step? I know you have to have an idea of how to break the curse.”
Lucius sighed once again. “In theory, if you wanted to break the curse, you would need to find someone so skilled in Arcane magic that they have the ability to unravel the intricate spell that was placed upon the original vampire by himself. As you know, magic is sometimes available to be used whenever knowledge of how it can be created or has been created exists within the mind and heart of the user. The mind connects to the heart and the heart connects to the spirit, and the spirit summons magic. Someone would need to understand the principles of Arcane magic, and have done enough Arcane magic to know it intimately, and be able to take apart, piece by piece, the masterfully woven tapestry of vampire covering the body of the human.
“But you know, Oliver, I can’t predict what would happen if the curse were to be lifted. Wolfgang’s body has lived for far longer than it would have as a natural human, and when the Arcane magic giving it sustanence lifts, his body might wither and die on the spot.”
“He would die as a human, at least.” I said, feeling a jab of panic in my stomach at the idea.
“Essentially, what Wolfgang needs,” Lucius said, “Is for his cursed body and maligned spirit to be purified. He needs something pure to break the curse. This is all very philosophical, but that’s what it is that he needs: purity. Love is pure, but your love for him alone may not be enough to break the curse. You don’t have magical abilities. If you did, then perhaps you could innately trigger some kind of magical reaction that would heal him, but those abilities are far beyond your grasp.”
“They’re not beyond Lucas’ grasp.” I said.
“Lucas does not love Wolfgang with the passion which you do.”
And then it came to me. The terrible idea that might save Wolfgang.
It could kill Lucas, it could kill me, it could hurt any number of people.
“Lucas has performed Arcane magic.” I whispered, my eyes wide with wonder at the awful thought that had occurred to me.
“Accidentally.” Lucius said.
“Still, he is capable of it, because he is magically predisposed.” I said it with a cocky tone, the words sounding like the words Lucius might have used.
“What do you intend to do then?”
I knew what we would do. It might take years, but we would do it. Lucas would help me. He was my friend.
“Lucas will switch our bodies. Place my spirit in his, his spirit in mine.”
Lucius sneered. “That is unholy and ridiculous. Only an outside mage could switch your bodies in the first place, the moment his spirit left his own body it would die, and the same for you.”
He was right.
“Unless you do it.” I said.
“I will NOT perform Arcane magic.” Lucius said with an angry tone. “And furthermore, I do not lend my abilities to humans to help in their endeavors. I usher spirits from one life to the next, and I live here in the Underworld.”
“But you could do it, Lucius.”
“Do not dare speak my name, little child.” Lucius’ tone was of warning.
“You could do it. Please.” I felt tears beginning to come on again and I didn’t want them to. “Think about it. You know better than anyone how to move a spirit from place to another. You could keep our bodies alive while our spirits switch. If I’m inside Lucas’ body, I can use his magic.”
“His magic comes from his spirit as well as his body, it’s just as possible you wouldn’t be able to do a thing.” Lucius said.
“But what if I could? What if I gained his abilities because I was in the body that belonged to him? What if I could use his power to undo the spell and heal Wolfgang?”
“What if I failed and you both died in the process?”
“Then you have my permission, should Wolfgang ever choose it, to release him from his curse and let him die. But until there is no breath left in me, whichever body I’m in, I will not let that happen.”
Lucius took a breath and seemed to be trying to steady himself. “If I did this for you, there would likely be no way for the two of you to return to your original bodies. And I have not agreed to help you, nor will I.”
“I think that you will.” I believed what I said, and I didn’t know why, but I just somehow believed that Lucius would help us.
Lucius was silent for a long time.
“You will go back to the surface,” Lucius said with finality.
“Will you help me?” I asked.
“You will return to the living world, and I will think on what you have told me. I want to see the vampire curse broken as much as you do, for I have seen the pain it has brought the human race and the Mother herself. I don’t know if I can do what you ask. I will see what I can learn. But there is much on the surface that concerns you. Nations are plotting war against one another, using your friends as the tools, and your lover believes you are already dead, and that he will never see you again. Return to him, and to your friends. Tell them what you’ve learned if that’s your desire, but never attempt to come here again.”
“Will you at least give me a yes or no?” I asked.
“If I find that there is nothing I can do, and there is no way for your naive scheme to work, I will make you aware of it.”
“I have many ways of sending messages.”
“And should you find that you CAN help, and there is hope for Wolfgang, and for other vampires?” I asked.
“I will notify you then, as well. But you must also understand that my duty is hear. Spirits need guidance, and it is my place to guide them.”
“I understand.” I said calmly. “But please, come and find me when you learn what you need to learn.”
“I will notify you, should you still remain living.”
I found that statement cryptic, and I wondered if he meant that he wouldn’t find me and tell me what he’d decided if I were made into a vampire. But I didn’t want to be a vampire, I wanted to stop the curse and heal the person I loved.
“Now go.” Lucius said simply.
I nodded, and for some reason I couldn’t help myself, and I walked forward, and in silence and strided over to the Lord of the Underworld. Tears began to well up in my eyes again, stronger and more powerful emotions than the ones before, as though the closer I stepped to him the more emotions I seemd to feel. I closed my eyes as the stinging tears began to fall again, and I stepped close to him and wrapped my arms around him and laid my head against his chest. He was warm, he smelled of damp earth, but to touch him felt like I had found someone who understood everything I had ever felt, and through my mind flashed all of the death I’d witnessed and all of the pain I’d felt, for myself and for others, and a wave of comfort came over me.
I stayed there, holding close to him and crying for what felt like a few minutes, or possibly hours, I couldn’t tell anymore. But he didn’t move, he didn’t try to push he away, he just stood there, and I had the sense that he didn’t mind me being there, and that he understood why I was doing it. Even I didn’t know why I’d done it, but it felt right.
Eventually I stepped back and wiped my eyes again, feeling full of life and energy and determination, and I nodded at him again, wordlessly. He kept his hands his pockets and quietly nodded back at me knowingly. I took a breath and exhaled, and then I turned around and faced the mouth of the cavern, and walked back toward it, on my way back to the surface, to my friends, to my lover, and to my world. The world that I wanted to help heal, now that I knew about the curse that plagued the people of the world. I wanted to help Wolfgang, myself, and the Earth itself. I knew that Lucius wanted to help too.
I’d walked right into the heart of the earth with the intention of meeting the God of the Underworld and asking him for advice, or help, or I don’t know what else, and I was leaving surprised and happy that he’d agreed to at least try and help us. I felt that if I could convince a god to listen to me, meet with me, and even help me, maybe I had enough determination in me to help stop the wars that were about to break out back on the surface of the Earth, and to help the people who lived there.
But ultimately my goals were selfish. I was in love, and I wanted my lover to be free, to be happy, to be healthy, and to be alive the same as I was, so that we could live together as equals, and so that we could be happy together. I wanted those vampires I’d met who I knew somewhere deep down wanted to be human again to have that chance to be redeemed, and not slaughtered like a monster. I wanted to extend mercy to those who showed little, because a vampire had shown mercy to me. I wanted to make things right, and break the dark spell that was placed on those living beings who had become vampires. I wanted to heal the wound that had been inflicted upon the Earth, and heal the same wounds that had been inflicted on the one I loved. I wanted to heal myself, and to heal Wolfgang. I wanted to bring peace to a suffering world.