My dearest Margrijt,
I wrote a memo to John Seward in case we do not meet again, but only to you who knows my deepest chasms can I write the truth.
We arrived at the castle today, and I encountered my nemesis. Still as beautiful and as mesmerizing as I remember her from all those years ago. How could I ever be conceited enough to think I would be master of my feelings towards her, to think I could study her at my leisure and destroy her when it suited me best?
Had I only known … Had I but realized the cunning they employ.
Even here in her sleep, after all she did to me, she nevertheless held me enthralled. If I became like her, would I still feel guilt and remorse? Unthinkable thoughts, and yet I thought them as I gazed upon her sleeping form. And was it not as unthinkable to mar that alabaster skin? I could feel her lure as I felt it all those years ago.
And yet it had never been me she wanted. It had always been Maarten. Strong, healthy, sixteen year old Maarten. The thought gave me just enough strength to tear myself out of the thrall she held me in.
You must be revolted by my thoughts. I know I am. The woman – the Thing – that turned our son into one of them, and still I hesitated. But no more. She had to be destroyed, for the peace of the world and her own. Just as Maarten had to be destroyed, back then. And had it not been even more unthinkable to mar his alabaster skin?
Lord help me. When I touched the wood to her breast her eyes flew open, and with the first blow a terrible, terrible scream tore from her lips. It was as if the anguish of her condemned soul had accumulated over the centuries to find release in that one piercing scream that echoed another – even more dreadful for the once dear voice that uttered it – of years ago. The sweat stung my eyes and was washed out in turn by my tears. Thus blinded and deaf with her shriek still ringing in my ears I felt her writhing beneath the stake, her contortions nearly ripping the wood from my hands as I struck the second blow, and a final, appalling third.
Ah, Margrijt, had you but seen the look of relief and peace that came into her eyes at her deliverance just before her body turned to dust. I shivered with exhaustion, both of the body and of the soul. But I might not rest yet. She was not alone. I would have to perform the awful ritual twice more. No one should have to do work like that, much less to their own flesh and blood. Cruel memory. When I felt the stake shudder in my hands, driving great splinters under my skin, my mind’s eye showed me the twisting, contorting body of Maarten in his coffin. I do not know how you can ever forgive me.
But as I saw final peace in their faces I also remembered the look of gratitude in Maarten’s eyes just before he truly died. A look that never reached you, for as I raised my eyes from his face, there was already nothing but madness in yours. Oh, dearest, what would I not give to know you had seen the quiet repose in his face after the intolerable anguish you witnessed.
Only now can I appraise what you went through. These were strangers. Maarten is – was … It would have been beyond a miracle had your mind not shied away from the deed. I need hardly tell you how many fruitless hours I spent wishing it had not come to pass. That I had been less infatuated and less vain. If only I had destroyed her before she could corrupt our son, or even, barring that, before he died. Hateful, vile creature of the night. And yet, now I have seen her face as it must have looked before, if ever so briefly, I find it in my heart to pity her. She would hardly have chosen to become what she was. I am less sure about the Count. In life he was a powerful man. Did that power corrupt him into seeking more power, eternal life? What a price to pay, and not the least by you, my dearest.