Just before Afentis started his story I noticed the forlorn look in his eyes. Even though I didn't have many memories like it, I knew what it was. Fond, long past memories that warmed your heart when recalled. Rays of sunshine in the snow, that patch of light that makes you grow.
Afentis spoke. "I guess I should start with how I became a vampire. I'm not going to elaborate very much on it, but it will give you some understanding on why I met Muriel as well."
It was some time before the Roman Empire flourished. I was, not exactly a slave but a servant for certain families. I taught their children, you could call me a scholar but not one that was respected much, paid, or could enjoy much freedom. But, fortunately, I had been taught to read and speak two languages and had a firm basis in arithmetic. Most men in that age did much worse.
The family I was with had two children, boys that needed to be taught everything while their father was away in the army. The mother took care of most of the house and it's inhabitants, cooking, tending for the garden, and sometimes play with the children. Though the latter was rather the exception than the rule. Other teachers, some of them living in the house as well, were in charge of different subjects; fighting armed and unarmed, strategies of war and tending to horses.
It started, I think, when a man and a woman, visited the house one evening. Apparently they were friends of the father and were travelling the country to read some scrolls, as far as I understood. It wasn't very unusual at the time. Besides messengers, sometimes people went out for specific scrolls that would not be copied or given to a messenger. Out of value or security, obviously.
The man presented himself as Cian, the woman as Muirgheal, both definitely not from around the province with their names and their accents. Their Greek was flawless but there were hints of a more Anglo origin. Of course I didn't know it at the time.
Strangely enough, the man talked to me. I wasn't allowed to sit at the table, but I was clearing some of the scrolls and the ink-wells.
The man spoke first. "Servant, can you read?"
I nodded without speaking. Please understand I was as old as I look now, about thirty-eight I presume, and had lived a life of servitude. I knew very well how to behave and not to speak unless it was needed.
Cian, however, frowned a little. "Can you write as well?"
The mother smiled proudly. "Both Greek and Latin. He teaches the children."
Cian, using Latin, spoke directly to me. "Are you able to understand it as well?"
I nodded and replied in Latin. "Yes, Master. I am able to write and speak both Greek and Latin." I felt nervous, to be honest, at their direct question. It was hard not to make it sound like boasting as it was only right for the owners of a servant to speak his or her abilities.
Cian directed his next question back at the mother, who looked blank at the words spoken in Latin and was happy the conversation was shifting to Greek again. "Would it be possible for us to use his services for a few weeks, a month at the most?"
The mother looked at me with doubt in her eyes. "I couldn't refuse a friend of my husband a request like that." She didn't sound all that convinced.
Cian smiled kindly. "Thank you, of course I will reimburse the family for the temporary loss." He took out a pouch from his belt and laid several big coins on the table. It was strange, part of me wondered why the coins were in such good state. Did this man create his own?
The woman, Muirgheal, looked at me with a smile while I stared at those coins. It was as if she could read my thoughts and was smiling because of my conclusion.
But why did I think that?
Did they place thoughts in my head?
Now why did I think that? It was like my thoughts were being led, but only by the minutest of suggestions. Allowing me to find out things without having to go through the trouble of pondering every step.
It wasn't very common for a servant to be loaned to others, but certainly not unheard of. My skills in reading and writing made it all the more explainable for them to need my services. But still, there was something about them, they looked larger than life, more present for some reason.
There wasn't much time for me to pack anything but some basic clothes. I wasn't even allowed to bring any of the scrolls, pens or ink. It was also surprising, to me at least, that they left before dawn. They stayed and slept in the house as was to be expected. But usually people wouldn't leave until the sun was well and truly up.
I guess the journey is when things started getting weird...