Crystal and Wand: Malcolm de Sade’s Backstory

One of the most difficult things a writer must do is accept that not every piece of the draft will make it to the final product. Something has to be cut, or multiple somethings, unless there is a very good reason for that section of dialogue or narrative to be kept. In Crystal and Wand, at my editor’s excellent suggestion, I plucked out a longish bit on the life history of my malicious and cunning Big Bad, the centuries-old vampire Malcolm de Sade. And it was difficult, because (without giving anything away) I know that part of that backstory gives some answers as to why he is capable of certain things that he does. But the tale of the most significant relationship of his un-life didn’t really serve the novel, in the end. Much like film editors must take away that which detracts from the movement and flow of a film, writers have to delete scenes, too.

I really think, though, that watching the deleted scenes (and the bloopers) are as enjoyable as looking at the final product.

So, dear readers, I thought I’d give you a peek into my head vampire’s secret past right here, by sharing with you this particular deleted scene. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Malcolm’s world in advance of the release of the final installment of the Talbot Trilogy — the release date will be announced soon!

First, my inspiration for the character of Malcolm de Sade, the remarkable, handsome, and sexy Goran Visnjic:

And now, the story . . .

After a near-miss with destruction and losing track of his witches, Malcolm has returned to the home he has taken as his own from Andrea Renaud, the first member of his ill-fated coven. He takes stock of his situation, contemplating some of the choices he has made both in the past and the present. 

He had felt the pressing isolation of his kind profoundly, more than once. After Seingalt was staked, of course, as they had been turned together and had been brothers of a sort. And again, fifty-odd years later, when he’d encountered a talented young artist with the power to move his black heart as it had not been moved since his human days.

Malcolm rolled onto his side, losing himself in the memory so deeply that he almost returned to his day-sleep.

Aleksander Sokolov had been a student in St. Petersburg, on his way to becoming a brilliant painter. They had met at a midnight salon where de Sade had introduced himself as Sergei Davydov. While still a pupil, he had been commissioned for a portrait of a moderate official, an opportunity that opened doors and set him on a path that many of his peers envied as much as they did his looks. With a shock of soft, curling black hair falling over his smooth fair skin, features rounded almost like a woman’s, he was as fetching to regard as his oils on the canvas. Conversation had revealed that his background was similar to Seingalt’s—Aleksander had been sent to boarding school at age six, expected to join the clergy or obtain a degree in law, but had found himself pulled into the world of composition and beauty and accepted at the Imperial Academy of Arts.

A walk in the fresh air had revealed that his predilection was not for women.

Their passionate friendship had filled de Sade’s evenings through the long Russian winter, and he liked to think he had inspired some of his lover’s finest work. Sokolov had a way of using light, shadow, line, and colour to reveal his subjects’ deepest emotions and earnest desires. A young man’s arrogance and flair in one portrait would be followed by a matron’s steely gaze and knowing smirk in another. He could make an ugly princess into a delicate flower, and reduce a generous merchant to a scurrilous miser, all with seemingly careless strokes of his brush. He embodied the spirit of the Romantic Movement, and while it saddened Malcolm that he could only ever watch his artist work in the very early hours or the very late, he could not bring himself to grant the lad a gift that would steal from him the very sunlight that fed Aleksander’s soul.

It was a bitter sunrise that shone on Sokolov’s face the morning after he died of consumption, a scant eight months after their relationship had begun.

Would his art have been any less without his humanity? Or would the world have been granted a magnificent boon, had Malcolm changed him at that last moment? For hours, every breath had seemed to be his last. Held by his beloved Sergei—those were the very words he had used to describe his lover—he had wept a little to leave the world without having painted everything he’d wanted. So much beauty, so many faces, and he’d not even made the time to commit Davydov to a canvas.

“What work you have done, be assured I will never see it discarded, nor burnt, nor torn,” Malcolm promised him.

“In another lifetime, your portrait should have been the highest example of my efforts,” Aleksander whispered. He fingered the ruffles on de Sade’s sleeve. “Sergei, I am a little afraid to die.”

Malcolm sighed. “And if you could live, would you want to live for always? To never age? To never sicken, waste away, or perish?” He felt his mouth tingle and hoped that his lover’s answer would be yes. “We are not meant to last forever. That is why we paint.” Even with the shadow of death hovering about his eyes and mouth, Aleksander Sokolov had the strength and audacity to reprimand his elder. “You might as well ask me to give up my hands, my eyes, or my capacity to feel, if I lost the fragility that lets me portray life in…”

In what, Malcolm never knew. That was the moment his artist’s heart finally chose to end its struggle.

Before Aleksander, his purpose had been in acquiring knowledge he could use against others, both for pleasure and in manipulation of the soul. He had buried his loneliness, refusing to admit that it even existed, focusing on his games. And then into his world of darkness, this young man had exploded like a dying star. His very being was so pure, Malcolm had never even told him of his true self. His lover went to his grave without knowing that Sergei Davydov would never join him in eternal sleep.

He had believed himself inured to this kind of loss, immune to emotional pain, entirely free from the failings of humanity. Alek proved all of that wrong, but until this evening’s pairing with Damon Sabre it had not been clear to him just how much he remained vulnerable, or how deeply he had buried himself.

Not that Malcolm was some sorrowful shadow, or had ever been. After losing his artist, he neither lost himself in misery nor indulged in long fits of melancholy, bemoaning his situation. Instead, he carried on as he expected to, always: moving to a new place, finding someone to bed and on whom to feed, leaving the past behind. What was the point of mourning? Death was simply part of a mortal’s existence. If anything, Aleksander Sokolov had been luckier than most of his era, leaving his work behind as evidence that he had once walked the earth. When Malcolm felt the need to remind himself that their encounter had been more than a dream, he only needed to return to St. Petersburg, later Petrograd, and view the paintings on display.

Perhaps paintings on display were what had drawn him to Damon in the first place.

Malcolm turned onto his other side in Andrea’s soft flannel sheets, disturbed at the turn of his thoughts. Damon was so similar to Aleksander, in so many ways. They were of the same age, though Damon was taller than Alek had been, and in this time, the former was still considered by some to be a babe of the world—though the country’s government conferred on him most of the rights of adulthood—while Alek had been considered fully a man. There was that reservation in his manner, retiring in unfamiliar company, but unrestrainedly humourous among friends. True, the lad had not been completely honest with him about his sexuality when Malcolm had first broached the subject, that night at the hunters’ cabin, but it was to be expected in this era when it was growing nigh impossible to keep one’s secrets out of others’ hands. De Sade had seen this for himself, exploring the Internet, reading personal conversations posted for all to see and judgment cast upon those who challenged the perceived status quo.

Another reminder why the flawed human race needed creatures with greater perspective and experience to rule them.

Even though he himself enjoyed wringing secrets out of people, it was not his business to spread them. He collected their confessions and recorded them in journals, sometimes using code, to cherish as his own private treasure. After all, if there was anything he’d learned from Seingalt’s experience, advertising himself was dangerous. It was far better to avoid conflict and confrontation by staying hidden, even if that meant falling further and further from the comforts of society.

He frowned. Of course, eventually that had brought him to feeding on the homeless and indigent of society, living in filth no better than a rat. But that pattern had so swiftly come to an end. And it hadn’t been because of a handsome young man catching his eye—it had been the sight of an attractive witch, both powerful and fertile. Charlotte Fanning, now Mahonen, cursed be that name, had changed the course of his existence. It should not matter how much potential Damon Sabre could express with brush and paint. He had not seen the young man indulge his talent in many weeks, though; not since before he had become part of Malcolm’s coven. Perhaps that gift had already vanished, drained away with his life’s blood, replaced with cynicism and thirst. After all, an artist had to have a beating heart, able to feel both love and pain, and a soul that yearned for beauty in order to return it to the world. It was impossible for a vampire, the living dead sustained by carnage and ugliness, to come close to creating anything aesthetic that was also original. Witness Seingalt, who collected precious artwork and hired decorators to surround him with beauty, but made none of his own. And Malcolm himself had taken possession of this comfortable home but could claim none of it as his own design.

Whatever Damon Sabre had been, as his human self, it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. This was the reason Malcolm had given him a new, last, name. But if all this were true, why was he so determined to make a baby? To combine his seed and spirit with that of a witch? Many humans called infants beautiful, and each were original creatures, unique unto themselves.

Restless, he rose from the bed and paced the length of the bedroom. This was why he no longer enjoyed time alone. His thoughts took him to uncomfortable places, questioning reality in unacceptable ways.

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SOON TO BE RELEASED! Read the Prequel: Mist and Midnight, Book One: Wind and Shadow, and Book Two: Blood and Fire, available through Melange Books.

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