a toast to the lost one
in a departure from their usual habits, Diana finds themself attending an extravagant party.
As the moon gazed down on an old castle well into the witching hour, a rather lively party was being held, despite being hosted by the undead. The sounds of chatter, laughter, and clinking glasses filled the old ballroom, while a live jazz band played the night away. Many vampires had gathered here tonight to reunite with old friends and acquaintances. Yet, despite traveling all the way here and going through the effort of getting all dolled up in a glamorous sparkling ensemble, Diana inevitably found themself sticking to the wall in the quietest corner they could find.
Diana stood with their glass of wine, staring aimlessly through a window. The sky was clear tonight, with a lovely view of the moon and the stars. They swirled their glass, took another sip, and sighed, swallowing a grimace. If they had to be honest, the taste of red wine was never particularly appealing to them. Good for adding acidity and body to a stew, certainly, but drinking it? Absolutely dreadful. Keeping up appearances was getting to be exhausting. Diana knew that they would inevitably reach their breaking point. But it had been too long since they attempted reconnecting with other vampires; it would have been a shame to skip the gathering entirely.
…Perhaps it was time to step out for some fresh air. Diana seemed to recall spotting a balcony on this floor - hopefully it would be quieter outside. They slipped past the other guests chatting away the night, placed their unwanted glass on a random surface, and exited out through the balcony doors.
Immediately, they were greeted with the sound of wind gently rustling tree leaves. A brisk autumn night - just what their soul needed. There were a few other guests who were hanging around outside, but it was not nearly as stifling as it was indoors. Diana exhaled a sigh of relief. They could recharge for a moment. The waning moon shined down from the sky, glowing among the stars without a cloud in sight. No matter where they were in the world, the night sky would always bring them comfort.
As Diana leaned against the balcony railing, their solitude was suddenly broken by the sound of high heels clacking in a steady rhythm. “Goodness, your dress is absolutely stunning!” a woman exclaimed, as she approached closer. Her dark brown hair had been twisted up into an elegant bun, and her pointed ears were adorned with red jewelry that matched her striking crimson eyes. She adjusted her boldly patterned shawl with a pair of long, black silk satin gloves, covering her shoulders from the brisk wind. “Oh, pardon me. I just thought your look was lovely and had to say something. If I’m bothering you, I can leave you be.”
Diana blinked. “Ah. …Thank you. It is not often that I get the opportunity to dress this way.”
“Well, I love the rhinestones. You’re sparkling like the night sky!” The woman grinned wide for a moment with her fangs on full display, before her gaze became fixated on their face. Her eyes widened, her smile fell. Of course. Diana instantly had several theories on why her expression suddenly changed, and most of them assumed the worst. After all, you could never quite tell with some immortals - one moment, they would be friendly with you, and the next moment, they’re spitting out words of bigotry. It was their deep voice, wasn’t it? That usually tended to tempt people take a second look at them. Or… perhaps it was merely Diana unintentionally scowling again.
“…Have we met somewhere before?” the woman suddenly asked.
“It is unlikely that we have crossed paths,” Diana simply responded. “Outside of this gathering, I do not know very many other vampires.”
“Ahhh, hmm. Well, it’s just that…” Her voice trailed off, studying Diana’s face once more. “Do you have a brother…?”
Oh, god damn it.
“No, I do not,” they flatly stated. Diana’s mind was scrambling. She didn’t look familiar, but it had been an incredibly long time since they had crossed paths with other vampires. Besides, it seemed highly unlikely that someone could recognize them from facial features alone; nearly everything else about their appearance had changed drastically over time. Maybe it was possible that they had some estranged half-brother they never knew about? Diana’s past attempts at genealogical research had proven fruitless, but vampire genealogy was always kind of a nightmare.
The woman sheepishly laughed. “Oh, forgive me! It can be so difficult to keep track of who I’ve met. Sometimes I can’t even remember what century I met someone in! You just reminded me of a half-human boy that I knew long, long ago. I was one of his caretakers - oh, he was a very sweet lad, but his father was just awful…”
Diana’s heart sunk into the pits of their stomach. They took another glance at the woman standing in front of them - did they really not recognize her at all? Recalling details from their childhood was a difficult task, as most of those memories had been either lost to the passage of time, or otherwise repressed.
“…What was this boy like?” they suddenly found themself asking. Ordinarily, their judgment would override such curiosity. It would have been safer to politely end the conversation, and walk away. But turning their back on someone who may have been one of the only sources of kindness in their early childhood… it would haunt them for the rest of their life.
She sighed with a nostalgic smile - one of those smiles that tries its best to sweep bittersweet memories under the rug. “Ah, he was one of those quiet, bookish types. Always spent his free time reading whatever he could get his hands on. I remember sneaking him books from his father’s private library, and he’d finish them before his father ever noticed the book was gone,” the woman recalled, chuckling gently to herself. “Poor boy, though. He ran away from his home when he was just sixteen years old. Not that I blame him at all; just between you and me, but his father was an absolute bastard of a man. Goodness, am I glad that I’m out of his grasp. Haha!”
Her name was Eveline. The way she laughed, her almost relentless kindness, and seemingly unbreakable optimism - it had to be her. Diana remembered how determined she would get to make them smile, even just for a brief moment. It was a bit of a relief to see her alive and well, still stubbornly striking up friendly conversations with brooding loners.
“Did you ever hear from him again?” they asked.
“Oh, no. The last time I talked with him… that must have been the night before he disappeared. He made his escape after sunrise - even for a daywalker, being out in broad daylight like that must have been risky. There were rumors that hunters got to him eventually. It just pains me to think of him ending up like that, though. He was just so young…” Eveline sighed, looking aside with a solemn frown. “Gosh, I’m sorry. Look at me talking your ear off about some kid I knew 200 years ago. I must be boring you.”
“No, I… not at all. I am enjoying listening to you talk,” Diana admitted, and scoured their mind for excuses. “I… find it difficult to talk to others, so sometimes I am thankful for those who can keep a conversation going.”
Eveline cracked a small smile, and chuckled. “Oh, good! Honestly, I always find myself rambling on and on. I must be a wallflower’s worst nightmare!”
“…Would you mind if I asked you something?” Diana said hesitantly.
Her head tilted upwards, curious. “What is it?”
“What about me reminded you of that boy?”
She smiled and hummed to herself, in a somewhat knowing kind of way. “It was the way you were huddled away from the crowd, brooding away and staring up at the moon. A part of you looked lonely, so I thought I would chat with you. But as I walked towards you, your profile looked so familiar, and your eyes… Well! In all my years, I’ve rarely seen vampiric folk with such stunning violet eyes. So there was a part of me that thought… maybe you two were related in some way.” Eveline sighed wistfully, shaking her head. “It was a long shot, I know.”
“I see…” Diana turned aside slightly, lost in thought. At this point, they weren’t sure what else they could really say. There was a small part of them that wanted to confide their secret in her, reassure her that she need not worry anymore, because the child she knew all those years ago is still alive. But Diana had gone through such great lengths and pains to disconnect themself from their past life. Not to mention, there was no guarantee that Eveline would take that revelation well. The idea of their only positive parental figure showing disappointment and disgust with them was too painful to consider.
“Tell me, dear. I know the chances are very slim, but if you ever run into someone who fits that description… reach out to him,” Eveline requested, warmly smiling. “Oh, I bet he’s just as reclusive and lonely as ever.”
“I thought you said he had been slain by hunters,” Diana said, tilting their head back to face her.
“There were rumors, certainly,” she corrected. “I heard someone claim once that von Bauer’s only son had been killed, but you know how it is. Bit difficult to find proof for that sort of thing.”
“I shall keep your request in mind, then.” Diana responded.
Eveline nodded with approval. “Good, good. Well, I’ve kept you long enough, haven’t I? Thank you for being such a kind dear, listening to this old hag reminisce. Have a good night,” she said with a wave, turning to leave. But before Eveline walked away, she stopped in her tracks. “Oh, how rude of me! I never caught your name!”
“…Diana. Diana Hellebore,” they quietly replied.
“Diana Hellebore… what a lovely name. I’m Eveline Fallenberg, by the way. If you ever happen across a stylish bloodsucking windbag again, that might be me. Haha!” Eveline let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, and I know it sounded like an excuse… but I really do think you look stunning in that gown.” With that, she gave one last smile, and walked back indoors.
Diana exhaled a long breath that they had been holding back. They leaned against the balcony railing, staring out blankly towards the sky once more. Their wine glass from earlier was probably long gone, but in their mind, they decided to make a toast regardless. A toast to the lost dhampir, who was just as reclusive and lonely as ever. There was still someone looking out for them, even after all hope must have been lost.
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