Everything has changed for us, and yet nothing has changed at all, and the stars beyond the windows of my castle on the hill confide nothing. But then the stars never do, do they? It’s the doom of beings to read patterns in the stars, to give them names, to cherish their slowly shifting positions and clusters. But the stars never say a word.
The boy was improvising those words he sang, to a concerto that never had words, and I realized in an exquisitely painful moment that he had likely spent his eternity doing such things, weaving such beauty, creating such magnificent songs, and marveled that Notker had given him this, or that he could give such things to Notker. All the world was filled with immortals who had no such purpose, no such thread to follow through the labyrinth of chance and mischance.
Everything about the tall, lean, and often silent person of Seth suggested great antiquity—including his eccentric mode of dress—a taste for sandals and custom-made floor-length robes of linen—and his slow and often unusual speech. That he now understood almost every current Indo-European language was plain enough, but he chose his words with extreme care and favored a stripped-down vocabulary which suggested a preference for concepts formed in his mind long before a plethora of adjectives and adverbs had been developed in any tongue to nuance them or sharpen them. And even the look in Seth’s deep-set eyes was chilling and remote. Often his expression seemed to say: “Do not seek to understand me or the time from which I came. You cannot.”
He had never had any such idealistic or romantic beliefs. Reared by two entirely modern parents, Fareed had been protected as much from mythology as he had been from religion. His had been the world of science and scientific obsessions all of his life. The great gift of immortality meant that Fareed would live on and on discovering one scientific truth after another, witnessing the world of science make discoveries in the future that would so dwarf the present time that it would seem primitive and superstitious to later generations. And Fareed would share this future. Fareed would be there.
He sat forward and looked into my eyes again. “Understand this,” he repeated. “Everything good in me came from my birth as a human being, my childhood among human beings, my parents on Earth, my teachers on Earth, the wise and the kind of my village, the children brave enough to befriend me and pity me—and not so much from the superstitious and fearful notions of my tribe, but from the underlying morality of the tribe!” He pressed his lips together. Again we saw anger and emotion. “It is from nurture, mammalian nurture, that all human beings derive their sense of what it is to be loved, to be cared for, to feel this world as a good place, to feel life as something good. And it is from mammalian nurture that they derive their crucial sense of fairness.”
Rhoshamandes felt so tired suddenly, so weary thinking that this might go on and on through the hours of the night, and there came back to him some little wisdom he’d picked up centuries ago from a Roman Emperor, esteemed as a Stoic, that all you have to lose in death, no matter how long you’ve lived, is the present moment in which you die. He smiled. Because now it seemed true.
But Louis took no pleasure in his triumph. He received acknowledgments with sad eyes and bitter smiles.
As he watched Lestat move through the inevitable crowds in the Château, Fareed began to wonder whether Lestat possessed extraordinary courage, or whether Lestat simply didn’t know what fear was. He appeared oblivious to the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head.
He danced with the young ones and the old ones, took long walks up and down the mountain with Louis, played chess or cards whenever he wanted, and spent hours watching films in the screening room of the castle just as he had done before.
Maybe Lestat knew something that they didn’t know.
But Fareed doubted that, and Seth said it wasn’t so. Marius said it wasn’t so. Lestat was simply living from moment to moment, with the same brashness and boldness that had always characterized him. Maybe he simply didn’t care.
Marius was weary. Marius was anguished. Marius was alone.
The Devil’s Road had never been easy or simple, and those who traveled it for more than a century did so because they had cared about something greater than themselves and their endless appetite for human blood. They had wanted to be part of something immensely bigger than they were, and they had rebelled in their own way against the inevitable isolation that closes around us all; they had survived because the beauty of life wouldn’t let them leave it; and a thirst for knowledge had been born in them—a thirst for new ages and new forms and new expressions of art and love—even as they saw everything they had cherished crumbling and fading away.
He walks the earth with the power to destroy it. But then so does the human race. And so do we. But what endures is what has always mattered: love—that we love one another as surely as we are alive. And if there is any hope for us to ever really be good—that hope will be realized through love.