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Submitted Question: Zenobia

Marius, you spent beautiful and sometime bittersweet words for people you loved. But what about Zenobia? You never talk about her, but you loved her as well as Avicus, though she passed with you a brief period of her life.
Have you ever tried to seek out her? Did you ever missed her? Did you ever felt leaving Avicus and Zenobia was one of the wrongest thing you did through your long existence? Did you ever regret breaking up with them?
How do you imagine your life would be if you’d never leaved them?
This song by Kamelot always make me think of your farewell to them
Lyrics talk too much about God so there can be any connection between you and the man speaking, but all the song reminds me of your stubborn decision.

Compared to others that I spent centuries with, my time with Zenobia was much too brief.

Zenobia seemed to embody all of my lost dreams, a monument to the failure of my illusion that we immortals, no matter how different in past and manner, could love each other if we shared knowledge. Zenobia was there, this perfect child, and I was responsible for her undoing, her grief. When she cried, never cursing me as I wanted so much for her to do, I could see how desperate and foolish my hopes had been. I could not lie to myself or convince myself that I could have done better to make Eudoxia love me and my companions. Zenobia’s sadness was due entirely to my failure, and we were both crushed for our own reasons.

I felt so silly standing in front of her, none of her weakness could measure against mine, I am sure of this. I felt like a complete and utter idiot standing there in the eye of her innocent and stunning grief. But then isn’t this how every man feels when he is caught in the gaze of absolute beauty. Like Catullus wrote:

Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures geminae, teguntur
lumina nocte.

That was how I felt. Struck dumb, mute, my ears roaring, my body miserable and hot, my eyes blind but to the narrow vanishing point that within resided only Zenobia.

Her abrupt declaration of need for me, while understandable, took me aback. So much had happened in a short time, and I felt like I was running in slow motion in a world moving at double pace. One moment I was sunken into my own sadness, and then the next I had hers weigh against mine and win. All of a sudden I found myself an inconvenient father to a tender orphan and that was truly a point of dumbstruck shock. As selfish as I wanted to be, Eudoxia and I were responsible for Zenobia’s state of being, albeit mine without intent, and with Eudoxia gone, I could not in good mind leave her to a possibly terrible fate.

I was boiling inside, my feelings tripping over each other. I felt undeniable guilt and selfish sadness. I was angry and lost. I was confused but certain of my own course. I hated Zenobia, but I loved her and my desire for her was a cruel finishing adornment to the mess fermenting in the deepest parts of my heart and very soul. I was corrupt and monstrous, and I had no place next to her, with all of her beauty and soft skin.

And then the final blow was to hear her tell me of Pandora, and my heart broke into a million pieces. I could see it, feel it, even taste it. My every step had been some grand failure. I had sacrificed everything for Akasha, and sitting there with Zenobia made me aware of what I felt was then a most terrible fate. An eternity of sacrifice, of giving up, of losing, and of having to kill those I want so much to love because I and only I hold the secret of our strength. I had lost Pandora. I had lost Rome. I had lost Eudoxia. And I would always lose. It was impossible to endure that prospect. I could not have stayed long with Zenobia as I was in that state because she was the perfect representation for everything miserable within me. I would not have been able to gaze at her with love, with kindness, because I would only ever feel sadness and regret.

I needed to escape.

She needed to be cared for, I needed to escape, and Avicus needed passion and beauty. The pieces fit together wonderfully. Her natural sweetness was perfect for Avicus. He had a tender heart, even then, and though he loved Mael, I think every now and then he wished for something sweeter. The sort of salve that only a sweet woman can give a man. Zenobia being as innocent as she was presented the perfect companion because together with Avicus they would discover the world. They would be student and teacher both, and both for one another. Avicus needed her more than I did, though I think she could have healed the damage done to my heart if I had let her. But I wanted none to do that but one woman, and with Pandora fresh in my memory I could not stand to find a replacement.

I wanted Pandora. I wanted to sleep. I did not want the sadness, the guilt, or the reminders of my every mistake.

I had to keep Zenobia alive. Everything short of taking care of her myself. I gave her my blood not because I loved her, which I did, but because I wanted to give her a chance to survive. Also, as I will freely admit, because I desired her and giving her my blood was a kind of intimacy. Zenobia was not my child, but I felt in a way that she was because I had remade her, I had made her a strong and powerful vampire, whereas Eudoxia had wanted her weak and helpless so that Zenobia would never seek to leave. Eudoxia made her weak to keep her at her side, and I made her strong so that I could leave hers.

In a way, too, Zenobia was practice. She was a prelude to a life I would live later on. She was my future of Armand and Bianca, just as she she was my past with Pandora and Eudoxia.

I felt myself charmed to the point of being once again struck stupid at the sweet student she made. There are no words suitable enough to describe how adorably enticing she was dressed as a boy, learning to walk and talk like a man, curved in her sweet girlish softness. I loved every second of teaching her how to be the proper predator. I thought, “she is too pretty a boy! She will fool no one” because no boy could be that beautiful. Then, of course, I later met Armand who possessed her beauty and then some, and I knew I was wrong.

Zenobia held my hand and learned from me, and I felt her falling in love with me. How could I remain so passive as she clung to me as we raced through the streets? It was only her company I desired as I made my final plans to move Akasha and Enkil, and then to find a life where I could protect them as was my duty. She would watch me without saying a word, listening to my secrets, these secrets that could have killed me had they fallen to the wrong ears, but her innocent gaze was no pretense. I had her unquestionable loyalty and devotion. Some nights we would speak until the sun was rising, and I would tell her stories of old Rome and of the Egyptian Queen who ruled over us all with silence. Other nights I would take her through the streets and we would have so much fun that I felt none of my centuries. On the rare night she would wrap her arms around me and whisper things to me as she kissed my cheek. I found the strength to be alone, to leave the world for however long I needed, because of her.

Do I regret it? Of course. But I know that I needed to leave or else I would have gone mad. Then I slept and knew no peace.

When I once again reengaged with the world, I thought of both Avicus and Zenobia often. I think I resented Mael too much even then to think fondly on him then, though I do now and I miss him so much. I always knew then that Zenobia and Avicus were alive, and were travelling the world together with or without Mael as the perfect pair or trio. I suppose I could have found them had I wanted to, and a great part of me desperately did. I was stopped, though, by the sparkling illusion I had once again created around me. They were reminiscent of my past, and what I wanted was a new life that I could once again blind myself within. If I faced the three of them, I would have to remember the past. Much too painful, and very selfish.

Then there was Sandro, and Bianca, and finally Armand, and my heart was lost and no one existed there save them and Pandora, always aching for her. Armand was this bright sun that blocked out every other light, that none could compete with. He consumed every fibre of my being. Zenobia was the personification of guilt. Armand was the redemption of me. Not even when Mael appeared in my palazzo looking every bit the hobo did I want to divert my life enough to find Avicus and Zenobia. No. I was spellbound and enraptured and taken and hopeless.

It has been over a thousand years since I last saw Zenobia and Avicus, since I gave them each a kiss and left them. I have wondered why they never sought me, certainly as my name became more common in the whispers of other immortals thanks first to the stories of Santino, and then later because of Lestat’s unfortunate tendency to let no secret remain sacred. My name was whispered in many languages throughout the ages, and I know they could have found me. They could have called to me. Though just the same, so could I have done. I would like to see them both, and welcome them into my life. I want to see if Avicus has become a wise creature, or if innocence still softens his expression. I want to see Zenobia’s measureless beauty and gather her hair to my lips. I miss them in that deep part of me I bury and refuse to feel except when I am alone and I must.

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