Once upon a life, they called him king. He ruled over all of England, but at that time in history, it may as well have been all the world.
He was William Rufus, third son of William the Conqueror, and heir to his father’s throne.
The history books tell of his death In the Year of our Lord 1100, but only few knew he had died much sooner than that.
Only few knew his secret, knew him as what he truly was.
Only few called him by his true name—vampyre.
William came into this world much like any other.
He had learned quickly that life was in and of itself a harsh existence, even for the son of a king. It was understood in those times that the first-born son would take his rightful place as king once his father had succumbed to the realms of death’s darkness.
And with two older brothers ahead of him in line to the throne, William had been certain he would not have to take on such a burden of responsibility. He had been resigned to the fact that he would inherit a more manageable title of duke, and live out his days as a wealthy royal simply doing whatever he pleased.
Of course, that was not to be.
He had not taken into account the fact that his father and eldest brother, Robert, carried an ongoing feud between one another for much of their adult lives.
And how was he to predict that his second eldest brother, Richard, would die mysteriously in a hunting accident, leaving him that much closer to the throne.
Indeed, he should not have been surprised when, on his father’s death bed, as the old warrior faced his final battle, he had bestowed upon him the hefty title of king.
Heavy was his head that day in 1087, as he bore the weight of the new crown.
And heavy was his heart as he watched his brother Robert’s face sink at his father’s rejecting words.
“The only woman he had ever loved.”
William could remember that day as if it had been only yesterday.
He could still remember the feel of the gilded crown upon his head, the feel of his father’s ring being placed on his finger.
The feel of his brother’s eyes bitterly casting looks of betrayal and jealousy at his own.
He remembered the way his father looked as he lay on the bed, lifeless and still.
His body was that of a fragile, broken old man, at once rendering him unrecognizable as the great and powerful warrior William had always known him to be.
He cared not for that particular memory of him.
Of the sad and weary, beaten-down king who had finally lost his spirit to live.
That day, so long ago, as he had watched him slip away, William had held his father’s hand for the very first time.
Fully knowing it would also be for the very last.
A memory that would stay with him forever.
And even though he has been alive for over nine-hundred-and-fifty years now, he found that he was still able to recall certain times and events just as clearly and vividly as the day he had experienced them.
But most things faded from his memory with time, elusively dissipating just beyond reach and blurring together into his awareness.
Time, he knew, that would never run out for him, nor ever be completely squandered away.
Though he often wondered if it were different for those with a photographic memory.
Could they remember each and every minute detail of their lives?
Every moment in every day?
In every year?
In every century?
William knew for certain he was lucky to forget.
He’d have gone mad long ago if he had to relive each moment of his past in his mind.
Each and every single life he’d come across in his journeys, each and every single death he’d witnessed, was enough to span a thousand lifetimes’ worth.
It would haunt him forever, and shatter his soul.
Thank Christ for small miracles, William thought now.
Of course, he’d never been one to curse the Almighty for the situation he was in.
What would be the point?
It wasn’t as if He Himself would come down and fix things for him anyway.
And maybe he didn’t want them fixed.
He was rather content with the lot in life that he had been given.
What more could a person want anyhow?
He had his health, his looks, his friends and family.
Not to mention his financial situation was unapologetically better than most.
But even as he told himself he had more than enough to satisfy any man, he knew there was something missing.
Something he’d been trying to live without for a very long time.
The only woman he had ever loved.
The only woman he would ever love.
Her name was Quinnlyn.
And she was long dead.
She was everlastingly emblazoned on his mind.
On his heart.
So much so that William would sometimes wish that he’d never even met her.
Then, he’d curse himself, immediately take the thought back, and only wish that he’d not remember so much of her.
Like the way her long, chestnut hair fell against her alabaster face as she bent to pick meadowflowers for him.
Or the tiny little creases that popped out along the outer edges of her sparkling green eyes when she laughed at something silly he did or said.
Or how her dainty mouth would bite into a piece of fruit and he would have no other choice but to watch her velvety-soft tongue come out, quickly catching the juice upon her lips before it dribbled down her chin.
He remembered how that hair brushed against his face.
He remembered how he lost himself in those eyes.
He remembered how that tongue felt inside his mouth.
He remembered so much of something he could never have again, never see again, never touch again.
And it was killing him inside.
How could he possibly have some semblance of a life if he couldn’t live it with her by his side?
How could he move on with anything when he found himself still loving what was gone?
Sometimes he would catch himself talking to her, all alone in a room with only himself to listen.
He would talk into the emptiness for hours and tell her things—insignificant things—about his day or about the random thoughts running through his head.
It didn’t matter what.
He just needed to fill the void that was her.
To reach out into it and fill all the spaces and cracks she had created when she left.
Even after three centuries, he was still learning how to put the pieces of his broken heart back together.
* * *