Title: The Last Vampire #6: Creatures of Forever by Christopher Pike
Summary: Alisa has fought every battle, against evil, against hate, and even against death itself. Now she nears the end of her incredibly long life and another unexpected force emerges to destroy her, or perhaps save her. But this force… is unlike anything she has experienced before. It seems to emerge from another place, another world, where demons are potential saviors and the future of mankind is already wrapped in the ash of a forsaken hell. This force, these strange beings, present Alisa with hard choices. To save herself, or to save others and risk losing even her own soul. These beings push alias into a place where even the perfect fear to tread.
Tagline: Now heaven spoke to her … and hell.
Once again, none of this seems familiar enough that I think I’ve read it before, and yet it sort of does at the same time. This was the last one published in the 90s, and I can’t actually imagine I wouldn’t have finished the series, but the past couple have felt familiar only in very small ways, so … I have no idea if I’ve read this before or not.
Doesn’t really matter, we’re going to have a wild time of it.
ALISA GODDAMN BEST IN THE WORLD PERN, THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
I am a very powerful vampire.
THERE’S THE ALISA WE KNOW AND LOVE.
Quick recap of the things that have happened recently to make her stronger: Yaksha gave her his blood, her blood was mingled via alchemy with the blood of the divine child, and before she died, beloved daughter Kalika gave Alisa her blood, too. That last infusion’s the one that’s done even more amazing things for Alisa.
Alisa even feels like she has become her daughter, irreproachable avatar of Kali, capable of anything. Because — you weren’t capable of anything before? The last five books would beg to differ. She does worry whether she’s grown any wiser as she grows more powerful.
Probably not, though, because she’s still up to her old tricks: Killing for kicks, and for love.
Such a simple sentence and yet really delightful, too. A+ Pike. A+
More recap: Seymour’s a vampire now, the third exception to her vow to Krishna, and she wonders if Krishna will forgive her one more time. She also wonders if he let her become so powerful because he’s not going to protect her any longer.
Seymour and Alisa are in a bar in Santa Monica chatting with a young lady, but Seymour is thinking about blood and sex. Alisa knows this because Kalika’s blood has made her even more sensitive; where before she could only sense emotions, now she knows all the details.
So she knows that the guy at the end of the bar is thinking about murder, and Alisa’s been sitting there watching him and reading his mind. He’s already killed twice in the past month; he prefers young women who silently scream as he strangles them. Alisa fits this mold at least in appearance, but she struggles to catch his attention.
Seymour flirts by telling the girl — Heidi — that he’s a vampire and Alisa, his sister, is undercover with the LAPD. It’s super awkward and kind of adorable. Alisa’s been watching him closely to keep him from using his vampiric will to get sex because that is rape. I love you, Alisa. (She’s also forbidden him from drinking from his sex partners, but that’s because he doesn’t yet have the control to stop before he kills people.) Unlike Alisa’s dear, dead Ray, Seymour loves being a vampire.
Alisa leaves them to their flirting and goes to talk to the man at the other end of the bar. He tells her his name is Dan. He’s no older than 22 and wears a Rolex to cover a swan tattoo on his wrist. Alisa bores quickly of the chase and uses a tiny bit of her will to get him to leave with her, because she’s ready to get this kill done and dusted. (…heh.)
They walk a little, because he wants to get to know each other. He says he’s a plumber; she introduces herself as an artist who sculpts statues, sometimes nude ones. Things are off, though, because he’s not at ease with her and while he fantasises about how she’ll look when he kills her, he’s also afraid of her, and she’s not just another victim.
Someone warned him about her. Once again, she doesn’t know who could be going around to warn people of her. Well, 5000 years means you still have hundreds of people who could come back from the dead and try to ruin your life.
Alisa is also worried about Seymour, though she’s not sure why, because she scanned Heidi’s mind for a few seconds when they met and there was nothing there but thoughts of drink and sex.
Okay, so you already know that someone warned Dan about you. And you only spent a couple seconds scanning Heidi’s mind. And you’re strangely worried about Seymour when your intuition is more powerful than ever.
And — you don’t act on this at all? PIKE, I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT FOR ONE INSTANT. You cannot give her all these extra powers and intuitions and make me believe she wouldn’t act on them!
Especially when the more she walks with Dan, the harder it is for her to penetrate his thoughts. All she can tell is that he’s worried about her in connection with someone else, someone she will meet, and he worries about how their meeting will go. This someone else is also dangerous, in whatever way Dan thinks Alisa is.
But there should be no other vampires around, so what could it be.
(I suppose you could think this, if you ignore the fact that this series has been called The Last Vampire since page 1 of book 1 and yet there has pretty much always been another vampire lurking out there.)
Eventually, Alisa realises Dan is carrying some sort of weapon in his pocket, which should have been impossible for her to miss, but she did. It’s not a gun, either, and her questions keep piling up, but she’s not ready to walk away, either.
They talk a little about Seymour, the brother she lives with, and the way the guy talks clearly shows that Seymour is still on his mind for some reason. She tells him they have different fathers and that’s why they don’t look alike, and Dan tells his first truth of the conversation: he never knew his father.
They wander to a rundown warehouse, and Dan lets them inside. Alisa knows she should kill him, but she’s curious as to why he brought her there and about whom else he’s been thinking.
She can’t sense anyone else in the building, and it seems like he’s stalling. He asks if she’s really an artist, and she tells him that she lied, and that, when he asks what she really is, she’s a vampire. She confronts him about his murdering while she circles him. He calls her insane, because of course, but doesn’t go for his weapon (his gun, we’re told, though she can’t smell it). Someone’s warned him that going for his weapon could be fatal.
She pinches his ear between her fingers and forces him to tell her what he knows: apparently a girl came up to him after he killed for the first girl. The living girl gave him money and said he could work for her. She has strange eyes, and that’s why he didn’t kill her and take her money. She has eyes like Alisa’s, though she doesn’t know what she is.
He tells Alisa this other girl should be there now, and immediately Alisa hears a noise deeper in the warehouse. She steals his weapon as she spins to confront whoever is there, but she can’t use it. It’s a small rectangle of metal with buttons on one side, and she has no idea what it is.
I’m sure you, like me, are SHOCKED ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED that the people approaching are Heidi and Seymour. SHOCKED, I SAY. Heidi has one of those boxes pressed against Seymour’s neck, and she orders Alisa to thrown down the matrix or she’ll kill him. Seymour sure does spend a great deal of time being in danger so people can make Alisa do something. He’s one of the many damsels in distress in this series, and they are generally all male. I appreciate that.
Heidi is clearly stronger and faster than Seymour, but Alisa isn’t sure if that means she’s stronger and faster than Alisa, too. There is an emptiness to Heidi’s expression that shows no humanity, and Alisa realises that they’ve been set up. You’ve … you’ve only just realised that?!
Heidi tells Dan he can leave, but Alisa orders him to wait. Heidi reminds her of James Seter when he was possessed by Ory, the Setian from ancient Egypt. Oh right, right, we’re back to all that weirdness, I’d almost blocked it out. No wonder I can’t remember reading these last few books.
Heidi breaks Alisa’s subtle control and orders Dan away, but before he can leave, Alisa grabs him to use him as a shield. Alisa threatens to kill him if she doesn’t release Seymour. This goes about as well as you’d expect considering Alisa has zero reason to believe that Heidi cares one whit for whether Dan lives or dies. Heidi uses the matrix on them; Alisa dives out of the way just in time and the weird red light hits Dan and vaporises him.
A ray gun is one way to arm yourself against vampires, I guess!
Heidi struggles to follow Alisa as she moves at high speed, and Alisa estimates that Heidi’s physical powers are about the same as Alisa’s were before Yaksha et al shared their blood. Her psychic control is much stronger, though.
Alisa tries to throw her voice so that Heidi won’t be able to find her while they talk. Heidi says that they don’t want to kill Alisa, they only want to meet with her and make an offer. If they wanted her dead, they could have done it at the bar. Alisa demands an explanation and for her to stop threatening Seymour.
Heidi says that she’s of an ancient tradition, a line that mingled with Alisa’s and with others. They hold all the powers, and as the world moves toward a transition, the harvest must increase. They are on the world as caretakers as well as masters, and if Alisa joins them, she will be rewarded greatly. Heidi won’t give her any more detail, which Alisa and I both want, because that’s a whole lot of vague bullshit right there, nor will she explain what Alisa has that they don’t, because why else would they be interested in her.
Alisa comes out of hiding after putting a knife into place pointed at Seymour and Heidi. She asks more questions. The answers are as useful as ever: they are from here and elsewhere, they are and are not from another world, they are partly human, the number of their group can’t be measured by human or vampire standards, etc. USEFUL.
Heidi grows tired of this and demands Alisa decide whether she will join them or not. Alisa agrees but only if she releases Seymour. Once he’s free, Alisa tells him to leave, but Heidi stops him, because all she agreed was to release him, but to let him go. In order for Alisa to join them, she must sacrifice him as a part of her initiation.
Seymour is certain he’s about to die, of course, but Alisa has not been so easily tricked, not after 5000 years. Heidi and her people know a lot about Alisa, but not everything, especially after all the new blood powering her. While Kalika could affect objects across huge distances, Alisa struggles with it, but she has still been practicing telekinesis. She focuses hard on Heidi while she thinks of the knife and only the knife — it’s a struggle (I mean, in that it takes place in three seconds but feels like much longer), but she manages to send the knife into the side of Heidi’s neck, and her blood pours onto the floor. Even as she tries to remove the blade, she aims the matrix at Seymour and Alisa.
Alisa expects that, too, and is already in motion; she knocks Seymour to the ground and kicks the matrix out of Heidi’s hand. Heidi’s almost removed the knife, but it’ll do her no good, because Alisa literally rips off her head and throws it away so there’s no possible chance that she will heal.
Seymour collects the matrixes (matrices?) (oooh, looked it up and apparently both are acceptable) while Alisa rifles through Heidi’s clothes. She finds a wallet and a passport to study later, but nothing else.
So, Pike, you want me to believe that Alisa would fall for such an easy trick with Dan but survive all of Heidi’s mess because she trusted her enhanced senses, but she did not trust them enough to go back and check on Seymour in the first fucking place? Weak writing here. You made Alisa smart and powerful on the first page of book one and have spent five entire books building her up, you can’t keep making her carry the stupid ball and expect us to believe her characterisation.
The next day, Alisa and Seymour are back with Paula Ramirez and her three-month-old son, John, at Lake Tahoe. Kalika’s ashes are in a vase next to Alisa, which she has carried out of the house because she misses her daughter quite a bit.
Alisa catches her up on what happened in Los Angeles while Alisa basks in John’s presence; he makes her feel happy just by being around him, though she does wonder why she didn’t use his blood to save Kalika like she did Seymour. She knows Kalika did not want to be saved, but Alisa doesn’t understand why she did not want to save her daughter anyway.
They talk about whether Heidi was lying about having seen Alisa before; Paula doesn’t think that she had any reason to lie about that detail, but Alisa cannot remember ever seeing her before. There have been plenty of people you haven’t recognised over the past half a year, but keep telling yourself that means nothing.
Paula admits, suddenly, that she’s been remembering many things, including Suzama, Alisa’s mentor from ancient Egypt; Alisa suspected this but is also surprised. She thinks Paula is the reincarnation of Suzama, but Paula says that they may be the same from life to life but they are also different, and when Alisa speaks to Paula, it is not Suzama answering her. Paula is loathe to admit that she is the great oracle that Alisa wants her to be, but says that she knew that while Alisa was in L.A., she’d confront something very old. She doesn’t know much about Heidi or what she is, though, she just has a feel for her. And she thinks that the harvest reference is interesting.
When Alisa asks about that, she talks about how she’s had visions of a time, very soon, when everything will change and people will either move forward or else repeat what they’ve already done.
Alisa takes this very seriously because Suzama never made casual prophecies.
Paula goes on to say that people will move forward to an entirely different type of light, one they can’t possibly imagine, one of light and bliss. This confuses Alisa, because Heidi was wicked, there’s no way she would want to increase that sort of harvest. But there are two types of harvests, Paula reminds her, and two types of people: those who serve others and those who serve themselves. If there’s a dominance of self-interest, a negative harvest occurs; if a dominance of love, a positive harvest. The date is not set for the harvest, but it will happen sometime in the next 25 years. Not everyone will be harvested; the criteria, Paula believes, is the same for both sides, but it has nothing to do with religion, learning, health, etc., but instead, difficult to describe: life, who is alive and who is not, and people who are negative can be more full of life than those who are positive.
Alisa is wounded by this and worries that she is only fit for the negative side, but Paula calms her, because who is more ready than Alisa to give her life for others. And that’s true, for sure. (There’s a tiny little aside from Alisa about how the world will react to a brown messiah. I mean, many white people in particular will react badly, but it’s not like he’s the first damn brown messiah. YOU SHOULD BE BROWN YOUR GODDAMN SELF.)
Anyway, Paula says that God’s plan is off, and even though John was born to increase the positive harvest because the harvest will affect heaven and earth, it is hard for any individual to go forward when there is so much evil in the world. God, I hate that this is always, always relevant.
Alisa talks to Paula again about that whole adventure when she saved John, with the turning into light and going into a spaceship that wasn’t and the aliens that were demons, and how it all feels like a dream. She wants to know whether those beings were from a negative harvest, but Paula again calms her because Alisa cannot possibly know all she wants to know. The only thing Paula has left for her is that Heidi did not lie about having met Alisa long ago and that it was long ago when things went wrong for all of us.
What was that best friend’s name? Has she come back yet?
They talk about knowledge and faith and how Alisa wants one so she can have the other, but Paula tells her to have faith in herself. The strangers came for her for a reason, so she must find them and learn what they want and how they will do it. Alisa is not afraid to hear whether Paula has seen her death, but Paula is afraid.
We finally learn why Paula never called Alisa when she was on the run from Kalika: she didn’t call because she had begun to understand Alisa’s destiny, and it can only be lived, not explained.
Alisa has decided it is time to put Kalika’s ashes in the water, and Paula tells her, at last, the words Kalika told her when she came for John: I have no friends, but I am a friend of your son’s. Tonight everything will come together in a wave of blood. But don’t worry, he is stronger than this night.
UGH KALIKA. Alisa and I both mourn.
Alisa also still mourns Suzama, whom she loved and whose death almost killed her; Paula promises her that she was younger then and is stronger now. Still, Alisa wants to know if they will ever see each other again after that day. And Suzama looks back at her through Paula’s eyes, and says to her with Paula’s mouth that no, she thinks they will not.
Alisa pours the ashes into the water in silence, feeling great nostalgia and love. Her memories are strong, but so is her vision of the future. She will leave her few friends and confront an enemy she knows will kill her because she wants love instead of power, but she’s lived all five thousand years of her life to learn this: power is cold as forgotten ashes, and only her love can keep alive the memories and stories of the people she loves — and most of all, Krishna’s grace.
Alisa will miss John, the divine child, the most, miss seeing him grow up and speak his wisdom and change the world.
(She also calls herself the last vampire whose long life now comes to a close but YOU ARE NOT THE GODDAMN LAST VAMPIRE HOLY SHIT.)
She’s afraid that even Suzama and Seymour will forget her, that all her thousand names will be forgotten, that she will go into oblivion, her end erasing her beginning, but she cannot choose otherwise because it is her destiny.
And this fear of oblivion over death is heartbreaking and believable and rocked me to my core. Ugh, Alisa, I think this is a huge part of why people love you, because for all your ridiculous powers and everyone loving you and money and beauty and bla bla bla dude author’s perfect white woman, you are, at the core, deeply real and painful and human.
Heidi is really called Linda Clairee, and she supposedly lived in a house near where Alisa lived when Kalika was born. Alisa flys back to L.A. and goes looking, of course; it’s a nondescript stucco house. There’s someone inside watching tv and drinking beer; Alisa is ready to die, but she’s also figured out how to use the matrix and thinks it is a very cool weapon.
A man in his mid-twenties answers the door (“his gut hangs over his belt like a sausage off the side of a breakfast plate” why do you hate fat people, Pike?!), and doesn’t seem to know anything, not even that Linda is missing. Alisa reminds herself that she didn’t see through Linda in the first place, though, so is on guard — sort of. Not nearly enough, I think.
She talks her way into the house to go through Linda’s room, which is neat and tidy. Pictures of Linda and Brother Bd are on the mirror, confirming this is the right place. Alisa doesn’t find anything interesting until she notices a stack of papers under the bed; they are all newsletters from a UFO foundation, the Flying Objects Foundation. FOF. WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK. FOF? F.O.F.?!
Oh god, that is terrible.
Alisa takes the papers and goes back to talk to Brother Bud in the living room. She burns a tiny hole in his frontal lobes (it’ll probably do him good in the long run, she thinks, FUCK OFF ALISA), so he will tell her where Linda said she was going. To Phoenix for a UFO convention. She goes through a bunch of other questions, most of which are pointless, but we do learn that she works as a secretary in Crays DP Office, whatever that is. He also says that she does weird things like stare at the sky every night.
Alisa makes him forget that she was ever there and tells him to not worry if Linda never comes home, to find himself another girlfriend, that Linda is not important, etc.
Alisa catches the next flight to Phoenix (50 minutes later, which seems pretty miraculous to make that in L.A., but whatever, rolling with it) and gets a hotel room at a nearby hotel because the hotel hosting the convention is full.
She spends some time thinking about Linda and how she was as fast and strong as any vampire Yaksha made, and more powerful, plus all that technology. But Alisa doesn’t know what Linda wanted to initiate her into, though it sounds like a black mass. Alisa knows of such things, sexual magic, from the past, but she hasn’t thought about them in a long time.
Oh, are we going to get the first flashback of this book? Fun.
Though Alisa has talked on and on about how great her memory is across her long life, now she admits that the shadow of her life is long and dark and secrets could lie inside it where blood was exchanged and vows pledged that never made it to her conscious memory. Someone, somewhere, could have her blood.
Suzama’s words linger with her; God’s plan has gone wrong. Alisa prays to Krishna not to let her die, because she knows she’s the one who messed up God’s plan. And maybe that is why Suzama sent her away.
Oh, damn, no flashback just yet. Alisa heads to the FOF (WTF) convention the next morning; it has at least 2000 attendees and Alisa wanders through it. There are lots of nerds, you know, overweight with thick glasses no seriously, Pike, what fat person hurt you? Fucking hell.
Only one lecture catches her eye: Control Versus Anarchy: An Interstellar Dilemma by Dr Richard Stoon, a parapsychologist from Duke University. The crowd has all been eagerly waiting for this one and so she heads into it. She ends up sitting next to a talkative woman who has seen Dr Stoon speak before; he’s forceful, opinionated, interesting but arrogant. The woman doesn’t leave, though, because she’s one of those people who have to see everything. Finally, she introduces herself as Stacy Baxter; Alisa uses her Alisa alias because she’s trying to draw out the enemy. Stacy invites Alisa out for coffee after the lecture, and Alisa agrees. For all that Ray and Seymour are so important to her, the majority of the people we see Alisa bonding with closest are women, and I like that.
Dr Stoon talks about there being two kinds of beings, those who strive for perfection and those who submit to chaos. This, of course, reminds her of what Paula — Suzama — said to her before she left Lake Tahoe. He asks why would their “space brothers” alive before humanity has made a choice in their own lives — when humanity makes the right choice to be important in the galactic scheme of things, their space brothers will know and will come to them.
Stacy calls him an evangelist, and that he doesn’t have to say anything to have the effect he wants on people. Alisa agrees; he’s one of those people who draws others in and smothers them. Though he still sounds like Suzama — Paula — his bias is from the other side, even though she can’t put her finger on anything he’s said that is intrinsically negative.
Basically, he wants humanity to cast out the uneducated and the foolish, to plan the use of their genes so that they can rise to the point of their space brothers. Stacy flat out says he sounds like Hitler, and when Alisa objects that he’s not blaming any specific group for mankind’s woes, Stacy makes her contemplate whether he is or not.
(God, it is so fucked up that this sort of rhetoric is still going on what the fuck humanity what the fuck. #teamplanetdestroyingasteroid)
Alisa tries to go meet Dr Stoon after, but as soon as he sees her, he quickly exits. She follows him, first out to his car and then out into the desert until they are the only ones on the narrow road.
Finally he stops and gets out of his car; she goes to talk to him, keeping the matrix visible and ready. No matter what he is, she believes he will die in the desert that night, and she might even drink his blood though after Kalika’s blood, her hunger has vanished.
Dr Stoon asks what she wants, and she turns the question back on him. He says they’ve already told her, but they really haven’t. They go back and forth some more; they are aliens and they aren’t, she’s partially right and partially wrong; they’ve been here a long time and she should remember them but does not. They’ve been there 1000 years, which actually isn’t that damn long for Alisa. I mean, really. They move in space and time through dimensions and distortions and they are there for the harvest. There is only one side of the harvest, the expansion of the self, the growth of self-awareness at the expense of everyone too weak to move forward.
They know Alisa is the most powerful vampire on Earth, they have watched her for centuries, they are brothers to her, why won’t she join them, blah blah blah. (If they’ve been watching that close, why wasn’t Linda better prepared for Alisa’s increased powers?)
Alisa thinks it sounds more like they want her to be a blood bank, and he admits that they do have some of her blood from over a thousand years ago. From Kalot Enbolot. Chateau Merveille. The Castle of Wonder.
I tremble, not just in my body, but in my very soul. In all my long life, there had never been darker days.
Landulf, whoever that is, took the best she had to give and they will take it again with or without her help. She is horrified, because Landulf never touched her, per her memories, but in reality, he bled her, used her, and then twisted her mind so she wouldn’t know. He talks about her swimming away to what she thought was freedom and his words shatter what’s been hiding in her shadows: Landulf and his sex magic, satanic practice that used terror and pain for fuel, human sacrifices, dirty knives, and vicious creatures from an astral hell that appeared to do his building.
Apparently, Landulf sent those spirits across southern Europe, invited in “hordes of invading Moslems” and changed the course of history. Really? You’re going to go with “invading Moslems” as driven by actual evil incarnate? WTF PIKE WTF.
Landulf also changed Alisa’s life and put a stain on it that more than 10 centuries has not totally erased.
Alisa swears that she will defeat Dr Stoon and everyone else who has anything to do with Landulf, who was a demon that they revere as a hero. Their power is a travesty and they will all die.
Three figures in red robes appear, each carrying a matrix. She is trapped between them; when she threatens to use the matrix to vaporise herself before they have her blood, Dr Stoon laughs and tells her to try it. They actually neutralised it at the convention, because of course they did.
Alisa focuses on the one on her right, a male who is weaker than the others, because he will be killed if he fails this and he is worried. He also wants Dr Stoon dead and hates all of his associates. She gets into his head to try to have him burn them all and she does get him to turn a little. This is enough of a distraction for her to get behind her assailants and take one of the matrixes. She takes out the other two robed figures (they’ve taken out the third already) and Dr Stoon is no longer so smug.
Alisa wants to know what Landulf used her blood to do, and Dr Stoon tells her it is obvious, but she does not know. He refuses to be her puppet, though, and if she kills him, the rest of his kind will treat her even worse.
And she kills him.
Once Alisa makes it back to a road, she finds Stacy Baxter waiting for her, sweet southern accent gone. Right away she admits that she followed Alisa out there, and Alisa wants to kill her, but something feels off. Stacy says she is not one of them, but she is a friend. She is Alanda, and she knows Alisa’s real name: Sita. She knows that Alisa suffered at Landulf’s, and everything Alisa has experienced means a lot to her, because she knew her long ago. Alanda was not allowed to come help her because Alisa had to refuse them and to offer to end her life before they could take it from her.
Alisa is ready, once again, to kill her, until for the third time, Alanda looks at her, and for the first time, Alisa really sees her: blue eyes much like Alisa’s own, and the soul within her body reaches out to Alisa to touch her in ways she can’t explain, making her feel profoundly cherished. She is not just a friend, she is a part of Alisa. Sometimes, Alisa felt that way with Suzama, and sometimes with the divine child.
Alanda is a powerful spirit being who loves Alisa more than she can love herself. Alanda is an old friend, but Alisa does not remember her any more than she remembers Landulf stealing her blood.
Alanda hugs her like she is a child, but Alisa knows that she is a monster, not a child to be comforted, and brushes her off. Alanda lets her take her time alone. Turns out, Alanda is also telepathic, and she tells Alisa that she is, too, but she is afraid of it. She knows Alisa — Sita — from before, from the stars, and her spaceship is coming. That last bit takes Alisa aback.
Alanda is not taking Alisa away, though, because Alisa can’t leave until what was ruined is set right. Alanda shimmers in a faint blue light that reminds Alisa of Krishna; the stars shine bright above them as if they’ve moved closer. Alanda calls Suzama a sister just like Alisa; Alisa denounces herself, as always. Alanda wants to know why Alisa is afraid of love; because it hurts us all, Alisa explains. But love is good for many things, Alanda promises, she has just forgotten. The veil needs to be lifted. The galaxy is ancient, civilizations rise and fall, there was no veil between the conscious and the unconscious for a long time, but all the positivity in which these people lived meant they had no reason to grow, so there were few harvests.
Alisa finally understands that the source of pain is the veil, but the pain acts as a catalyst for them to grow. Their knowledge of good and evil is not a curse but a blessing; there is a place for negativity just as much as a place for goodness in the overall scheme, no hero without a villain, no peak without a valley, but their path of love demands they overcome negativity.
There is an awful lot of philosophy and very little action in this ALISA GODDAMN PERNE IS GOING TO VAMPIRE BETTER THAN ALL THE OTHER VAMPIRES WHO EVER VAMPED book. Good grief. It’s interesting, and I know it’s been building and building, but this is even more than I expected, and I was braced for a lot.
Anyway, they don’t resist negativity, though, because that makes it persist. Landulf can’t be overcome by force, nor can his work. And they possess her blood; the negative side was never meant to have such a powerful army of warriors and they will overwhelm humanity and turn almost everyone toward fear, making the negative harvest larger than it would have been. Her world is out of balance, and Alisa is the cause.
OH SHIT I THINK I HAVE READ THIS BEFORE BECAUSE I SUDDENLY HAVE A THOUGHT ABOUT GOING BACK IN TIME AND THEN HER MAYBE NOT EVEN HAVING BEEN A VAMPIRE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
So maybe just all the philosophy drove the memory of reading this half of the first part of the series out of my head. I never was one much for philosophy. (I know. I KNOW.)
Though Alisa knew that, it’s still hard for her to hear it. I hurt for her so, so much. Even moreso when Alanda admits that she is from the future and it is in ruins, not just Earth but all of that part of the galaxy. They have come for Alisa — for Sita — to ask her to help, to go back to those days of Landulf, to relive them and keep him from doing to her what he wanted.
Alisa is terrified, because she doesn’t remember as it is. She begs not to have to do that, anything else but that. She wants Alanda to tell her what happened, but Alanda cannot. Alisa must face the memory back in his castle; she refused to face it at the time and that is why he could block her memory that time.
They can’t send her back physically, just mentally, light speed, just to a real outside time and space, crossing light-years in a moment, blah blah blah blah. Landulf is not merely a sorcerer but a master of sorcerers (a master of the mystic arts, perhaps?), above his head the vipers hiss and before his vision wills turn to stone — but he is not greater than Sita, Alanda promises. She cannot directly resist him for fear of becoming him, but she can defeat him. Faith is stronger than stone.
Alisa wants to know if it is her destiny to die, but Alanda cannot say. She knows that Alisa will rewrite their future, and begs her not to ask for more information.
They go meet the flying saucer, blue-white, bright, thrilling, though the threat of Landulf hanging over her ruins everything. She wants to resist him with every fiber of her being, even though Alanda says that is the way of failure.
While they fly, there’s even more philosophy about growth and serving and Alisa having a life before she became a vampire very long ago. Alisa wants to know if she made a mistake and that’s why she ended up a vampire, but Alanda promises her that she returned out of love and if she made a mistake, it was only out of love and she can’t blame herself.
They fly over India and Alisa talks about that moment when she could not kill the unborn Yaksha torn from the womb of her dead friend. She could not kill him out of love, and Alanda tells her to let go of the past. Alisa and I both think that’s rich consider they’re sending her back to deal with her past.
Alisa wishes Seymour was with them, and Alanda tells her that in a sense, he is always with her. This strikes deep at Alisa, and Alanda promises she will see why it is true eventually.
Then Alisa tells Alanda (and Gaia, a friend of Alanda’s on the ship) about her dreams of being on a ship flying toward the Pleiades and how Ray is with her usually but sometimes it was Rama, her husband from when she was human — but they are one and the same. Alanda offers that maybe they were a little of reality and a little of dreams all at the same time.
They prepare for the hyperjump and Alisa must focus on the time just before she traveled to Landulf’s castle. Finally, Alandra warns her that Landulf can not just kill her but imprison her soul in the realm of his kind, and she would only be set free when they are set free. NO PRESSURE THOUGH, ALISA. In the end, Alandra promises, even the negative path meets the positive and all find god, but Alisa could be lost for the live of this universe.
He acts as a mirror, stands before her, shows her what she is, but only the parts that can be used to destroy her, he can cause her to destroy herself. He can only pervert her to his cause if she enters into an agreement with him out of free will. Alisa is adamant she would never do that. Alandra is unsure and anxious.
Alisa falls through the collage of colors and shapes of her life, everything happening in the same eternal moment, all the moments of pain and love surrounded by death and life all connected by blood, Hitler and Lincoln and Grant and defending a castle in the Scottish highlands and condemning Arturo to death and and and and —
— and finally she is in the hills of Sicily outside Messina wondering where she is headed. There is a moment of terribly duality as future Alisa takes over past Alisa — Sita — and then they are one. Alisa. Sita.
That body is not as powerful as Alisa has become used to in her present, and all she has are memories of things that haven’t happened. Those are her only new weapons against Landulf.
Alisa rescues Dante who is being tortured so he will sing and is a leper and is castrated. She cuts down the torturers easily, but offers to let them live if they leave. They swear they will, attack again, and she kills them. The last dies saying that he doesn’t want to die, and we learn the origin of Alisa’s pet phrase. It is Dante who says, then you should never have been born.
That night, Alisa muses on the fact that she killed the three this time the exact same as she did last time. Knowing they would die changed nothing. I wonder if this bodes good or bad for the coming confrontation.
Dante and Alisa talk about Sicily and Dante’s belief in the Christian God and how the Duke of Terra di Labur has turned to support the “heathens” which is why they’ve come to Sicily. She is surprised, even though she knows these things; the future feels more and more like a dream, which seems like it is going to be a problem — Alisa doesn’t think so, though, it feels natural.
She gets into Dante’s head and makes him tell her about the duke, who has actually given him his leprosy. There was a trial, his duke was accused of calling forth the devil, Dante wouldn’t lie about him and was also accused — in the end, they were banished from Rome but allowed to live. But at that point, Dante could see a metaphorical black snake reach out from the duke’s eyes and touch the Holy Father to control him.
The duke first invented magic in Persida, and Dante had to stay with him even when he called forth the great serpent, the living Satan, a snake that grew in his intestines and screeched when it saw the light of the world. The duke made Dante sick for his own pleasure.
Dante at last tells her that he did not escape the duke but was sent out into the world to find an immortal ruby beyond all worth and bring her back to him.
Her vampiric blood, Alisa wonders. The duke — Landulf — already knew about her.
It takes a week for them to get to Landulf’s aerie in the heights of Monte Castello where the Oracle of Venus, the Goddess of Love, once stood. Dante tells her stories, she struggles to believe in Landulf’s evil, and she continues on their path. She’s drawn to meet Landulf to see his magic whether it is black or white — though she knows it will be black and that she’s visited him before, but what she remembers of the future grows more and more abstract.
Dante tells her the story of Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, sent to destroy the Medusa, etc. (He makes a point about how it is never clear whether Medusa’s beauty turned men to stone or whether her monstrous hair did so, because she stayed beautiful, only her hair changed.) Perseus kept Medusa’s head, defeated Atlas, stole the golden apples of the gods, turn a Titan to stone and saved Andromeda who would become his wife — he would never give up Medusa’s head, it was too valuable a weapon.
When they finally approach the aerie, Dante tells her all sorts of terrible things about Landulf to try to get Alisa to turn back, but she refuses. She does rescue some young women locked naked in cages on their way to the castle. She knows she has saved them before, but that is not why she chooses to save them now. She feeds from one of the soldiers who resists her questions even with her will behind it, kills the rest, and takes herself to the castle.
She meets Landulf’s wife, Lady Cia, first, a striking, beautiful woman who is not threatening and is not afraid of Alisa. Alisa spins a tale about her uncle being killed on the road when his horse threw him, and Cia offers her food and shelter.
Part of Landulf’s collection is a statute of Perseus holding Medusa’s head.
Alisa joins Cia and Landulf for dinner, meeting him for the first time. He looks frail and delicate, but physically agile. There’s more talk of the “Moslems” as “bloodthirsty monsters” because of course, it is only the will of God when white Christians engage in bloody battles with the world.
Lots of talk and lies and layers. Landulf shows her what he claims is the Spear of Longinus, the spear Gaius CAssius used to pierce the side of Jesus to end his suffering on the cross. This moment fulfilled all the prophecies about Jesus.
Alisa touches the spear and feels a strange power sweep over her; it brings to mind the thought of a brown-skinned child and though it is a weapon of war, it comforts her.
That night, Alisa feels sluggish and drained in ways she hasn’t felt in 4000 years; she has been drugged. She vomits twice to try to clean her stomach; her head clears, but she is still weak. Her maidservant is waiting outside the door, sent by Cia to wait for Alisa to pass out. She was then supposed to take Alisa to the sacrifice.
Alisa makes her lead the way even as the poison still works through Alisa’s system, making her weak and sick and dizzy. Maria takes her to a different passageway, though there is a metal grill and if anyone looks up, they will be seen.
From above the altar, Alisa watches the ceremony. They sing the Catholic Mass, in Latin, backward, because of course they do. The knife Landulf has is an upside down crucifix, because of course it is. Standard “satanic” details in stories. After the mass ends, a bound woman is brought in, one of the girls Alisa thought she saved. Landulf is going to crucify the woman, and Alisa, as much as she wants to stop it, knows she cannot, that God allowed it long ago-in the now — but she cannot bear it being done.
And then Marie stabs her in the back, making her cry out and spilling her blood onto Landulf’s face below. Marie’s knife is poisoned and Marie licks up Alisa’s blood, infuriating Landulf.
They fall, and Alisa lands on the knife, driving it through her live and out her front. She can’t get the knife out to heal, the tortured girl screams at her as if she’s a demon, their blood mingles and flows into the silver star, and Landulf is pleased that she came to where he’s always wanted her.
He asks her to join him, and all she must do is finish crucifying the woman.
Alisa tells him to go to hell, and an especially dark darkness comes over her.
When Alisa finally wakes up, she feels like she has been crucified; she is chained to a wall in a cell in a black dungeon, arms spread out like the wings of a bird; she cannot break free in her current condition. The knife was removed and that wound has healed, but crucifixion is death by slow suffocation and she is still poisoned. Her pain is great and she begins to cry; she feels as if she has at last been defeated.
In her suffering, on the verge of death, she remembers Alanda and Suzama, Seymour and the baby John. She remembers the stars and how old she really is and that she’s from the future and that she has come back to defeat him.
And she remembers the Spear of Longinus: in 1927, in Austria, she saw the Wagner opera Parsival about the adventures of King Aruther’s knights searching for the Holy Grail. In the opera, the Spear is used as a magic wand, and it made Alisa wonder if there was historical accuracy in the opera, because perhaps the evil man in the opera was really Landulf. Later, she reads the work by Wolfram von Eschenbach upon which the opera was based, and the spear plays an even more central role in it. There was an important identifying mark on the evil man in the story/opera, which is also the basis of his evil, but Alisa cannot remember that mark.
Landulf comes to her, cleans the blood from her face, and kisses her. He’s compassionate, and she wonders if she’s slipped into a dream of the ash of the world when demons become angels. Then Landulf slaps her and she’s back to where she actually is.
He tells her this is war, back to the birth of the stars, he’s God’s greatest devotee, will is stronger than love, power lasts longer than virtue, etc.
Alisa tells him that she loves virtue and human love, and his path may be swift and sure, but it is barren. He can leave her to rot in the cell but she is not forsaken; when she leaves her body, she will drink of Christ’s and Krishna’s fathomless love and will be happy while he crawls on his hands and knees to invoke his demons.
… I can 100% see why teen!Wing blocked out this part of the series, because holy shit, I was raging at religion at the time (grew up in what was basically a religious cult, ask me anything) and I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t throw these books at the wall a few times. This is not what I expected from my vampire adventure series.
He is unmoved and promises her that not only will she beg for his mercy, but she will kill at his bidding.
Landulf has Dante brought in; he could not leave her, so he lingered outside the castle walls. Landulf lifts him with one hand, which is far too strong for a human, but he does not show the signs of being a true vampire. Alisa remains confused.
Landulf asks her to beg, but she won’t beg for what doesn’t exist. Landulf then threatens to cauterize and seal all of Dante’s sores even though Dante served him loyally for years; he betrayed Landulf at the end, and that is all that matters, not the manner of the path, Landulf says.
He tortures Dante, Dante begs for Alisa to save him, and Alisa is stricken because even coming back with the wisdom of the ages, she can do nothing.
She begs him to stop, at last, and that is the first step of the initiation.
Landulf has Dante chained next to her and then leaves them alone.
Dante is unconscious for a long time and Alisa alone in the dark — but then she has a moment of hope. She gets him to wake and tells him he is a true hero. She needs his crucifix, hidden in his leg brace, because she is going to use her toes to mold it into a narrow instrument to pick the locks.
Alisa manages to make a lock pick with her toes and picks a lock with her fucking foot holy fucking shit. Goddamn, Alisa, that is some amazing shit right there. And then it gets even wilder, because she has to stretch her right foot up to pick the lock on her left wrist. This is wild.
Dante is going downhill fast, though; Landulf damaged healthy skin as well as the wounds, and Alisa wants to sprinkle a few drops of her blood on the sores to ease his pain. He is close to death, though, even as she holds him.
He knows of a secret passageway that the duke might not even know. She can’t break through the door to their cell, but water drips down the wall and she remembers that the mortar must be weak. The secret passage sometimes floods, but it should not be fully flooded this time of year.
Alisa does her flying kicks and soon creates a hole big enough for them to climb through. She sends Dante out toward the woods, but not before she gets him to tell her that Landulf spends most mornings at the Oracle to Venus.
The sun is rising as Alisa leaves the passageway and goes toward Landulf; Venus shines bright in the eastern sky, and Alisa takes her white light as a good omen. Landulf has the Spear at the center of the pentagram, and there is a young woman chained to the cliff, the one who assisted Alisa when she tried to rescue those girls.
As Alisa approaches, she also sees Cia on the ground near the chained girl, her heart cut from her chest. Landulf holds it in his hands.
He tells Alisa that it was a necessary sacrifice to bring her to him in that spot. The girl is there for the next step of her initiation. She tells him that her hearing is sensitive and they are alone on the cliff; he would need an army to protect him from what she will do next.
He asks if she cannot see what she is up against. Then she sees a strange vibration in the air as if they are surrounded by a swarm of insects. There is nothing there, but he’s slid a thread of fear into her thoughts.
She can’t enter his circle unless she sacrifices an innocent. Her memories of the future are back, and she wonders if he has an alien shield protecting him, because she cannot find a weakness to it. The last time she confronted him, she used his wife as a shield to “defeat” him, and this is the first event that has played out differently from the last time, so this is the moment for which she came back — but she doesn’t know what to do.
She threatens to wait for him to come out; he blocks off one end of the passageway and threatens to do the other so Dante will die inside. Alisa refuses to kill the girl, but there is doubt in her. Landulf will kill the girl anyway. Alisa can’t take her down the side of the cliff.
Alisa hears the beating of Cia’s heart in her head loud enough it starts to break her. Alisa turns on the girl, because what is one human life; in 4000 years she’s killed a parade of innocents, killed thousands, and this girl’s sacrifice is necessary, and God should see Alisa has no choice in the matter.
But Alisa knows he will not see it that way — she is five thousand years old, not four, and she knows that to murder innocents is to murder her own soul.
The beat of the heart is inside her, tearing her apart; her mission will fail, billions will burn. And finally Alisa listens to him and thrusts her head into the girl’s chest. The girl’s eyes are as blue as Alisa’s.
Alisa carries the heart and leaps into the circle. The heart vaporises, because they are always hungry. Landulf is pleased and tells her that she’s passed the second step. They prepare to fight; Alisa must stay within the pentagram lines, but Landulf can move all over the circle. She also can’t jump or walk through the center, because there is an invisible thing there waiting to consume her.
Landulf plans to use the Spear to pierce her side and channel the blood into his body; he could not do it while she was unconscious, though, because he needed to do it in his place of power and she needed to enter of her own free will.
He knows she is from the future, because he is, too. He is Linda’s boyfriend, the one who sent her into the desert.
She tells him that he is more clever than any enemy she has ever encountered. This pleases him, and he says she need not suffer if she surrenders. She agrees she will, if he will let her open her own veins with the nail at the tip of the Spear, the one that was on the cross. If she is going to die, she wants to be pierced by the same nail that pierced Jesus.
Then she pushes his button, maybe the only weakness — he hates to be called a coward, and though he doubts her honesty in this, when she tells him that he will never be successful as an immortal if he lives in such fear, he cannot possibly refuse.
Alisa holds the nail in her right palm. Here she has no telekinesis, no power brought to her from Kalika’s blood, but Kalika sacrificed herself to save John, the divine child, and that child’s blood, in an earlier reincarnation, was on the nail once. There is a connection of sort.
Alisa believes in the miracle of the blood: her belief comes from experience, it is stronger than evil incantations from cruel spirits, it is stronger than stone. She made a mistake stealing that girl’s heart, but she will give hers in exchange. The nail hits Landulf in the forehead, and she can then get the spear and stab it into his heart. He stumbles into the center of the pentagram and his flesh is ripped from his body and then he disappears into nothingness. Deliciously gross.
Alisa flees via water, then, swimming far away, and tries to return to the place she promised to meet Dante, but he is not there. She knows he is dead. Death is all she knows, death is all she gives. The blood of that girl is still on her hands, and she can’t wash it free.
The first step is done. The second is done. The third step will never come.
The pond is perfect and clear and she can remember, clearly, the future. She hears a strident refrain from the opera. She sees the opera playing out in the stars. She is still afraid of Landulf. She cannot remember how the evil man in the opera was stained. Nor can she understand why she feels like Dante was trying to teach her a lesson with his story about Medusa.
She pushes on that, and pushes on that — Medusa was capable of turning someone to stone so they did not move unless she wished it, like a Wizard might do. Medusa did not kill her enemies, she put them under complete mind control. She knows, then, that Dante was trying to warn her of something unseen — and then he comes struggling up the path to the pond.
Dante tells her how he was trapped in the tunnel and when he finally made it back into the castle, he thought he would be locked up, but everyone ignored him because something terrible had been done to Landulf.
Alisa is uneasy and tells Dante what happened. She is afraid now that she has become one of them, that by killing an innocent, that was all the initiation needed her to do. Dante calls her an angel, bringing light into the darkness, hope where there is despair, etc.
Alisa loves him so and offers him her blood to heal him. He believes that it is God’s will that he is sick, punishment for his sins. She promises him that his disease is not a punishment but something he caught from someone else with the same disease.
He doesn’t want to use her blood because Landulf wanted it so much, but she says Landulf wanted to use it to hurt people, she wants to use it to heal him. Dante still refuses, because blood should not be shared; when the duke was accused of blasphemy, it was that he was sharing blood with children.
Alisa uses some of her will on him, because he is dying and she is determined to save him. What the fuck, Alisa. You used to be so good at not doing this, and at letting people make their own choic–you know what, never mind, no, she was never good at that. The second she started turning people, she always made the choice for them, except maybe for Seymour who begged for it for so long.
He, of course, gives in under that, until she wants to take him to the pond to clean his sores. He is afraid he will drown in it; though he is under her spell, but he also refuses, somehow. And she can’t read his mind clearly, even with all her powers at hand.
She leaves him resting on the rock and goes to wet her shirt so she can clean his sores. The pond is still and reflects the stars. She did this before, too, gave Dante her blood and sent him on his way healed of his disease. So this is the famous Dante? Oh good lord.
She sees the Andromeda constellation in the reflection and can almost see the story play out before her. Perseus creeps closer, Medusa’s head hidden in his bag; he will only show it at the last minute when the Titan has exposed himself. It was Dante who told her Perseus would have been a fool to part with such power.
Dante calls for her, and she kneels to wet her shirt, but once again pauses. She can hear the opera in the silence of the night air. And she remembers the mark she’s been forgetting. The evil man in the opera was smooth in a delicate spot — and the truth is horrible beyond belief.
She is turned to stone with the pain; she refuses to accept the truth. Her faith is stronger than stone, but all stone is worn away by water eventually. Or tears.
Alisa wets her shirt, grabs a lizard from the side of the pond, and hides it as she approaches Dante. She cleans his sores gently, then pours reptile blood over his wounds. As she does, she watches him, waiting to see how he reacts; what she sees is barely disguised contempt.
She drags him to the pond and in the reflection, he is so beautiful he is almost a goddess.
He tells her that he should have known that she would return with greater wisdom. She was easy to trick last time, but now he is the one who has been fooled. But he has not been beaten; he will not be able to pass her blood on to others as he did before or make her his initiate and shift her toward negative polarization, but her blood will be useful to him for a long time. His psychic powers are stronger than hers; he holds her in place.
She tells him that she has still stopped him from raising his army, which is what she was meant to do, and she is at peace. He will turn to stone when he finally sees himself, he will die and rot and the world will be relieved of its great burden. She tells him to kill her if he has the nerve and spits on him; he was going to kill her quickly, but now it may take all night.
But he can’t even make the first cut, because her body has begun to glow and the stars are brighter than ever. She is transforming. He tries to offer her to join them again, but she laughs him away, and she is gone.
There is a brief, brief moment when she’s on the floor of the spaceship, but Alisa is tired of adventures; just as Yaksha finally grew weary, so too does she crave a change. She focuses on that night when Yaksha was born and she was a young girl.
And this time, Sita stabs the knife into Amba’s baby. It is the blood of one, not thousands, and the creature inside Amba’s body stops moving.
Back on the ship, Alisa’s body has stopped breathing and her heart as stopped. Gaia comforts her, because Alisa always goes her own path and she needs to be let to go this way. They return Alisa’s body to the pond and for a moment, she becomes a constellation, but then the body, too, is gone.
Sita awakes on a moonless night, twenty years old, sleeping between her husband, Rama, and their daughter, Lalita. The sound that wakes her is the peculiar sound of nails scraping over a blade. But nothing — no one — is outside when she looks, and she returns to bed.
A strange man comes to meet her at the river where she plays with Lalita. It is Krishna, of course, though she doesn’t know him. Krishna has come to see if she was happy, and she is, oh, she is. He tells her that her happiness is all that matters to her, and he asks her to remember him. She never sees him again, but she never forgets.
Oh god, an epilogue. Seymour has been writing all night for the last six months trying to finish this story. He’s dying of AIDS and has very little time left. He has finally finished his story, though. Her story. Alisa Perne, his Sita, the Last Vampire. Oh god, Pike, this is so fucking pretentious.
He hears a noise outside his window, but it is nothing. Sounds this late at night always make him think of her, though, coming through his window to save him of his illness. But she chose the only destiny worthy of her, to vanish, to exist only in his heart.
Oh, god, I take it back, this part is fucking heartbreaking.
It ends like this: He thought he would miss her forever.
This was a much more powerful ending before I flipped to the next page and the first line is literally “Alisa lives on…”
So, my questions have been answered. I very much did read the series up until this part, I just blocked out pretty much everything except Alisa’s actual ending. I have never been very big into the metaphysical stuff or philosophy or religious theories, but this was somewhat more interesting as an adult. Not much, I’m still not all that interested, but somewhat. And Alisa continues to be amazing.
I’ll miss her forever too, Seymour. I’ll miss her forever, too.
Or at least until this time next month, when we hit book seven, which I have really and truly never read before.