"It's wrong," he whispered hoarsely. "There... there must be some mistake..."
"No mistake," Marcel replied. "This is a normal, everyday coin. Fate has made its choice."
"It'll be OK, Mitch," Marius added. "We're brothers. We'll always look out for each other."
"I... I can't believe this..."
Frantically, Mitch walked around in circles on the carpet, trying to clear his head of everything that was going through his mind. As Marius approached him, hoping to comfort him, Mitch seized his forearms - desperate to steady himself by grasping something.
"Oh, God, Marius... how can I be the heir?!"
Smiling, Marius placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"Look, Mitch," he said, "I'm not upset about this. Really, I'm not."
Mitch couldn't explain why he felt so frightened. Recently, his kleptomania had become more and more of an issue. He was constantly tempted to steal wherever he went. What if he got caught one day? People in jail generally weren't allowed to marry or father children. Marius would have been a far better choice. He was smart and sensible... a good-natured person with a bright future. Yet, the coin had been very clear. The movement of Marcel's hand had revealed an engraved head.
"You... you would have been a great heir," Mitch told Marius.
"Perhaps," Marius replied. "But you will be, too. Have faith. You're talented. Just look at your baking. Maybe you'll open a shop or something one day."
Mitch considered this. It was a good point. Perhaps if he ran a little cafe or bakery, he could learn an honest trade, and be tempted away from crime for life.
"I think that's a marvellous idea," chimed in Marcel. "I'm sure I could buy a little building somewhere... a place where you could get yourself up and running, in a year or two. We may as well invest some of the family fortune in a business. Maybe you could pass it on to your own heir one day? Miskin and Sons!"
He laughed. Mitch did too... although his didn't come as naturally.
"Well, now that that's settled," Marcel said, rising to his feet. "you boys will have to excuse me. Maven has invited me to her home in Forgotten Hollow for dinner... and by all accounts, I think it's going to be a special night."
"Have fun, Dad," Marius said brightly.
"I will. And you two behave yourselves. Look after Minerva, and no sneaking lovers into the house."
"What?" laughed Mitch. "Like you used to?"
"Do as I say, not as I do."
When Marcel arrived at the mansion in Forgotten Hollow, it was already nightfall. As he knocked on the large wooden door, the artist was surprised to be greeted not by his red-headed lover... but an elderly gentleman with long grey locks.
"Can I help you?" he said in a gruff tone.
"I'm Marcel Miskin. Maven's boyfriend. I believe you're expecting me."
"Oh! Of course!" the figure replied warmly. "I do beg your pardon. I'm Audric Mortan-Murdac... Maven's father. Please, do come in."
Marcel followed Audric into a large, lavish drawing-room. A log fire burnt softly in the grate, Audric took a seat on a plush sofa - a well-cared for antique, from the looks of it - and motioned for the young artist to join him.
"Maven is just preparing herself," Audric explained. "She will join us shortly, I'm sure."
"Your house is wonderfully decorated," Marcel told him. "Victorian?"
"Oh, no, my boy. Far older than that."
They were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Marcel looked up, and smiled as he spotted his beloved.
"Sorry for keeping you waiting," she said.
Marcel rose to greet her, and kissed her cheek tenderly.
"That's quite all right, love," he told her.
As Audric slowly got up, he looked his daughter in the eyes, coldly.
"Do you... require my assistance at all?" he asked in a firm manner.
"No thank you, Father," Maven replied, equally bluntly. "I'm certain I can handle this."
Audric nodded. After wishing the young couple a good evening, he retreated upstairs to his study.
"What do you think of our home?" Maven asked Marcel.
"I like it very much. That painting in the corner, for instance... it's a real masterpiece. From the Renaissance? Slightly later, perhaps?"
As he went to examine the work more closely, Marcel failed to notice Maven licking her lips eerily behind him... and the deep dark rings that had appeared around her eyes. After pondering it for a few moments, he sighed, and stepped back.
"It's beautiful, in any case," he said. "Anyway - what's for dinner? I could really use a bite."
Chuckling, Maven grabbed Marcel's shoulder, and spun him around to face her.
"Oh yes, darling..." she hissed. "I know the feeling."
Marcel gasped as he saw the horror of her true, ghoulish face - its pleasant youthful beauty cracked and peeling, and replaced with demonic disfigurements. As he attempted to back away, horrified, Maven merely waved her hands over him... and in an instant, he was stripped of all energy. Unable to resist, he lurched forward into Maven's open arms... and winced as she sunk two sharp fangs into his neck.
As she pulled away, Maven produced a small blade that she had hidden away in her belt, and gently cut at her wrist. As crimson liquid rose to fill the opening, she grasped the back of Marcel's neck, and guided him down towards her arm... compelling him to take his first taste of blood.
"Yes, my darling... drink it all up..."
After Marcel had drunk obediently, Maven helped him to stand to his full height. He was woozy and unsteady - unable to think, or make his own decisions. He was completely under Maven's control.
"Go home now, my love," she ordered. "Get some rest. You are to return to me in three nights' time. Then, everything shall be made clear."
The front door opened of its own accord, and Marcel lurched out into the night.
The next morning, Marcel awoke in his bed with a slightly nauseous feeling, and no memories of the night before. As the hours passed, this mysterious malady of his only worsened.
Mitch baked him an apple pie as a special treat, and usually, it was his favourite dessert... but bizarrely, he found himself unable to eat it. Indeed, the mere idea of food seemed to sicken him. He suffered from an upset stomach, and regardless of how many glasses of water he drank, it did nothing to satisfy his thirst.
By the third day, Marcel was getting seriously worried. As he did some housework - clearing out the closet in his grandfather's old room, preparing it for Mitch - he contemplated whether or not he should call a doctor.
Suddenly, his knees buckled, as a sharp stabbing pain coursed through his abdomen.
Before he could even get his breath back, Marcel felt himself being lifted off the ground by some unknown, unseen force. His mouth ached as his felt four sharp fangs force their way through his gums, and his eyes grew dark and black.
As he was slowly lowered back to the ground, Marcel, terrified, immediately ran out of Milo's former bedroom, and barricaded himself in the upstairs bathroom. As he regarded himself in the mirror on the wall, he stifled a scream as an awful realisation dawned upon him.
He no longer had a reflection.
Trembling, he steadied himself on the sink, unable to comprehend what had happened to him. Suddenly, like a beacon of light through a heavy mist, a thought came to his mind. He knew exactly who he had to go to.
Maven was sat quietly reading a tome about ancient magic, when the doors of her family's mansion were wildly thrown open, and a roar rang through the halls.
"What have you done to me?!"
Chuckling, Maven approached the frantic intruder, smiling in a sinister fashion.
"Oh... hello, darling," she whispered in her most seductive tone. "I see you've followed my instructions."
"Don't mess around with me!" Marcel screamed. "What the hell are you?! What have you done?!"
"Calm down, dearest," Maven replied. "I have merely given you what you wanted."
"What do you mean, 'what I wanted'?"
As he continued to interrogate Maven over her actions, Marcel failed to notice the bat flying into the room behind him. In a puff of dark smoke, it transfigured into the form of Audric... who watched the argument with some interest.
"Now, now, my boy," he said, jovially. "You really must learn to control yourself better. After all.. you are in the presence of royalty."
Marcel was shocked to not only hear the older man's voice, but also, the words it had said. More confused than ever, he turned to face him.
"What on Earth are you talking about?"
Audric, grinning, gestured towards his daughter.
"It is my great honour to present Her Dark Highness, Maven Artakama, of the House of Mortan-Murdac... Daughter of Audric and Meryetamun, Great Beauty Immortal, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, Descendant of Anubis, Hecate and Nosferatu, Second Amongst Vampires, and Princess of the Damned."
Maven curtsied politely, and then motioned towards her father.
"And it is an honour beyond my station to introduce His Imperial Dark Majesty, Audric Caldwell, of the House of Mortan-Murdac... Magus Immortal, Beloved of the Moon Goddess, Incarnation of the Reaper, Descendant of Hecate, Servant of Anubis and Nosferatu, First Amongst Vampires... and Great Eternal Emperor of the Damned."
Marcel merely stared at the pair, open-mouthed.
"I... I don't understand..."
"Marcel, my boy," he said, "I am of a far greater age than my years convey. I was born in the early 11th century, in most mysterious circumstances, to a priestess of Hecate, the great goddess of witchcraft, in return for an offering to the Grim Reaper. Those born of my blood were to carry his heritage. As I grew older, I became most proficient in various magicks. In time, I was even able to resurrect the dead."
"Such as my mother," Maven added in a nostalgic tone.
"Ah, yes," Audric replied. "My dearest Meryetamun. A princess in the ancient court of Ramses, and a descendant of Anubis himself... killed by rebellious peasants at the age of twenty-three. I brought her back to life, and swiftly lost my heart to her, as she did to me. We were wed merely three moons after our first meeting."
"And the gods looked upon our union with favour. Soon, we were blessed with our beloved daughter... the beautiful Maven whom you now see before you."
"But then, a tragedy. One winter's night, a fire tore through our house. Maven and I were able to escape, but Meryetamun... she was not so fortunate. When the flames died away, it became apparent that she had died with them... her body turned to ashes. As such, I was unable to perform my dark miracle a second time, and I was left to raise Maven alone."
He paused to compose himself after reliving this terrible memory.
"To spare both myself and Maven the pain of ever losing a loved one again, I became determined to unlock the secret of eternal life. After several years of study, I finally succeeded. Maven and I exchanged our humanity in order to be freed from death, but must drink the blood of other creatures to survive, converting them in the process. In short, we became what is commonly known as... vampires."
"But... but Maven went out in daylight..."
"I, too, am a skilled sorceress," Maven explained. "I use magic to grant myself immunity to the sun."
By this point, Marcel was trembling. His legs wobbling madly, he found himself tumbling backwards into a chair.
"But..." he asked, "what does any of this have to do with me?"
Smiling, Maven reached out to stroke Marcel's cheek, doing so with great love and affection.
"My darling," she said, "I have waited centuries for a man worthy of becoming my bridegroom. When I met you, it was clear that you had a strong desire to become immortal, and now, I have granted you that wish. From now on, you shall reside here with me - to remain by my side as my Dark Prince."
"You mean... I can never see my family again?"
Audric nodded gravely.
"It is for the best, Marcel.The world fears us, and will never understand us. Have no fear. I have instructed my servant, Renfield, to speak to your family, and to inform them that you have died. All of the necessary arrangements are in place. They shall grieve you for some time, I'm sure... but one day, they shall resume their lives, and continue to honour you for generations. From now you, you must merely watch them from afar.
He decided to change the subject to something more optimistic.
"And, of course, there is the matter of your artwork. You are now a young genius who perished in his prime. Naturally, this means your works are now timeless, and will be admired forever."
Slowly, Maven lowered herself onto one knee.
"Enough talk," she said. "My love... there is a ritual we must perform."
Producing a ring from her belt, she offered it up to Marcel proudly.
"I request that you, Marcel, of the Houses of Rhodes and Miskin, become my bridegroom this very night."
Marcel took the ring from her, examining it carefully as he held it in his hands.
He was still very much in shock about everything that happened... but one thing he knew at this moment is that he loved Maven, vampire or not. Although it was not what he had expected, she had, ultimately, granted him his greatest wish. And although he'd never given much thought to marriage, this was a woman who'd waited for centuries to choose someone to love.
Slowly, he slid the ring onto his hand.
"Who am I," he whispered, "to reject the proposal of a princess?"
"Father and Imperial Dark Majesty - I present to you my husband, His Dark Highness, Marcel, of the Houses of Rhodes, Miskin and Mortan-Murdac... Artist Immortal, Beloved of Maven, Descendant of Myron, Father of Many Children, Third Amongst Vampires, and Prince of the Damned."
Little than an hour after Maven's proposal, she and Marcel exchanged their vows in the warm glow of the burning log fire.
With the ritual completed, Maven took Marcel by the hand, and eagerly lead him upstairs to her chamber... and the large ebony coffin in which she slept. As Marcel examined it, intrigued, Maven realised she was trembling - a blush forming on her ghostly pale cheeks.
"What's wrong, dear?" Marcel asked.
"Forgive me," Maven replied. "I am simply nervous because... I have never before laid with a man."
Laughing, Marcel leaped into the open coffin, and positioned himself into a alluring pose.
"Well, wife of mine - you are in luck... because as many women in this town will tell you, you're about to lay with the best."
Maven's brow furrowed.
"I'll drive a stake through your heart myself if you ever mention them again."
Laughing, Maven clambered into the coffin. Together, the newlyweds proved that, although they were the living dead, they were still very much livewires.
How the Miskin children had come to dread gathering in the living-room.
The man before them claimed to be Marcel's solicitor, but they couldn't help but feel uneasy around him. It was as if he had some sinister aura. Nevertheless, the twins welcomed him, and invited him inside... where he asked them to sit down, and explained that he had come as the bearer of bad news.
They had seen the story in the paper. A car swerving off the road and hitting an innocent pedestrian, before erupting into a vast fireball. It was only with the arrival of the strange Mr. Renfield that they would learn the heartbreaking truth. That pedestrian had been their father.
(In reality, no-one had died. Under instructions from his monarch, Renfield had set fire to an old abandoned vehicle. It was all a cover story to stop Marcel's children from trying to track him down.)
All three of the Miskin children were unable to hold back their tears.
"Dad... Dad's dead?" choked Mitch.
"Yes. I am truly sorry," Mr. Reinfeld replied. "If it is of any comfort to you, we are fairly certain that your father did not suffer, But, I must digress... I now need to carry out my duties as defined in Mr. Miskin's will. As you gentlemen are both 18, and legal adults, you shall receive your inheritance immediately. Mitch - you now own the Miskin home, inherit the family legacy, and are to be caretaker to young Minerva. Your other young siblings will remain in the custody of their various mothers, and their inheritances shall be placed in trust funds until they come of age, as shall Minerva's."
Reaching into his pocket, he fished out a small silver key.
"Further," he added, "I have been instructed to give you this. Prior to his death, your father purchased a small retail store on the edge of town. It was his wish that you convert it into a cafe, in order to begin your career."
He handed the key over to Mitch... who clasped it in his hand, and placed it over his heart.
"Thank you, Dad," he whispered.
"I shall see myself out, gentlemen," Mr. Renfield said, rising from the sofa. "I have taken the liberty of arranging a funeral tomorrow for your father's mortal remains. I shall now give you space and time to grieve... but please... contact me if you need to."
As the front door closed, all three siblings clutched each other tightly, bursting into anguished weeping. When Marcel was buried in the family graveyard the following morning, their grief only grew greater.
Solemnly, Mitch knelt at his father's grave, and made him a promise. Having only been named as his heir less than a week ago, he vowed to always make him proud, and to become a worthy successor to the Miskin Legacy.
A month or so later, the Brown Sugar Cafe opened for business.
Mitch loved his work, and enjoyed serving the customers.
Yet, his hands still trembled with an excited longing whenever they hovered over the open till...
THUS ENDS GENERATION SIX