Salve, Imperator 
                          By Raissa Devereux 
The hunt had been invigorating, tonight, Lacroix thought. It was always a  
treat when they tried to run, but then he had always enjoyed playing with  
his food. It had started when he was a boy. He always made sure his  
father was watching. His father would become annoyed with the smallest  
thing. And as little Lucius discovered, garnish and sauce sliding  
aimlessly across his plate was a small, yet cumulatively irksome thing.  
Petty deeds were the only weapons he, as a child small for his size,  
could pit against a man with a leather strap. And even when full grown,  
he preferred playing mind games with the old man to external retribution.  
After all, welts always healed and conciousness invariably returned. The  
psyche was not as resilient as people liked to believe, however. 
And so he played with his food. He remembered that last dinner with  
Selene. Nothing she said came through to him that night. There would be  
no last words to hear, as if in a dream, through the ash of Vesuvius. He  
was angry that Divia was still indisposed and silent. He ignored the  
woman who was there, and the herbs went clockwise on his plate for an hour. 
The hour...he heard the clock strike and the foot fall simultaneously.  
Lacroix turned to greet the shadow in the window casing. The figure  
stepped into the middle of the room, shaking off ten stories of dust as  
he came. From the folds of his black, velvet cloak, Lacroix's guest held  
forth a small, simple urn. 
The message was not delivered in the usual gentle, haunting tones. This  
time the voice was choked, cold, and venomously formal: "Salve,  
Imperator." Latin. This must be a lecture coming, thought Lacroix. The  
Lion Prince only ever used his native tongue in anger, when the myriad  
other languages at his disposal failed to meet the task. The sepulchral  
tone in which Vincent continued stopped Lacroix's musings short. 
"...tuus filiolus est mortuus! Solis ortus erat suus exitus." 
Translation: Greetings, General. Your little son is dead! The sunrise was  
his own end. 
She put the remaining fresh chrysanthemums on Charles Chandler's grave.  
He had loved them, because her mother had. It had been a month since  
Catherine had been able to get away from work and visit her parents'  
graves. The McMartin depositions had taken longer than she thought they  
would. Now, at last, she had a day off. Time to be with them. Time to  
hear her father's laugh and her mother's lullaby. Catherine hummed it to  
                       Sleep my pretty one, 
                       Rest now my pretty one. 
                       Close your eyes, 
                       The day is nearly done. 
                       Rest your head, 
                       for tommorow will surely come. 
Yes, thought Catherine, it was time to hear the music of her memory and  
smell the fresh chrysanthemums. And smoke, she smelled smoke. It was  
coming from in front of her. She was reaching for the little boy before  
she even started running toward him. She had to get him out of the light.  
She tried to pull him behind the nearest gravestone. But, the dark-haired  
child resisted her efforts with a force that contradicted his size and  
revealed his true nature. He stood as firmly as a petrified redwood. 
"He kept playin with me 'ead, miss," the vampire child said with a  
Cockney inflection, "I'm tired." 
Catherine choked back her tears as she came to terms with the fact that  
this boy wanted to die. But, if she couldn't save him, she certainly  
would not let him die alone. She held him to her ferociously, despite the  
pain that the implosion was causing her. Her instinct for  
self-preservation overrode her maternal one, however, and she had to let  
go when he actually caught fire. She sang her mother's lullaby for him as  
the too young, too old little boy went to his rest. 
In shock, Catherine sifted through the ashes and fragments left behind.  
So, she thought, this is what would have happened to Nick if she had not  
pulled him in from her balcony on the day they met. A remnent in the ash  
brought Catherine from her reverie. It was the remains of a business card  
that had somehow been shielded from the flames in his coat pocket. The  
one legible word on the fragment sent her into a rage. It was HIS name.  
The name of that emotionally closed, psychotic, patrician.... 
"Bastard!" Catherine nearly shouted it. So, this was his doing. Well, why  
not? Nick was proof that Lacroix abused his adult children. How could  
she expect that little boy to have faired any better as a member of the  
great general's retinue. 
No! She could not let the rage overpower her. Vincent would feel it, and  
he needed only positive energy right now. What with Devin so ill. It was  
inescapably true, though, that Vincent would have to face the pain.  
Someone had to confront Lacroix, and Catherine knew somehow that that  
someone wasn't Nick. 
In this era of asthmatic monarchies, the General, accustomed to repartee  
with Emperors, Proconsuls, and vampires of good stock, regarded Vincent  
as the closest mortal thing to a social equal. After all, he was the  
nocturnal Lion Prince Dauphin of an underground realm. Vincent could  
therefore rebuke Lacroix with more impunity than his own children. After  
all, Nick, Janette, and the little one had obviously learned to fear him.  
Vincent had not. And Vincent would rebuke the General. He would speak  
with her anger as well as his. And he would speak in the General's native  
tongue, as he always did when angry with Lacroix. Staccato latin prose  
would hammer the points home. There was no way Lacroix could erase the  
vocabulary of his past. He'll coldly tolerate Vincent's lecture, but the  
music of his memory will frame those words for his final accounting.