Nicolas de Lenfent is one of the most tragic characters of the book The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice. He was Lestat's best friend while the vampire was still human.
BEWARE! Here follow massive spoilers of the book The Vampire Lestat!
Nicolas was the son of a local draper in Auvergne, south of France, but he spent his early youth studying in Paris. He became sophisticated and learned the violin, but was brought back to Auvergne by his father, who wanted him to take over the family business.
Nicolas, however, had no intention of wasting his life working in something he thought was boring. His true passion was the violin, but he didn’t have the courage to stand up to his father. It was not considered suitable for a young man of fortune to be a musician. He was very rich and always dressed in fancy 18th century clothes, a burgeois emulating the nobility while despising its hypocrisy and falsehood at the same time.
While in Auvergne, very miserable and loneliness, Nicolas met Lestat de Lioncourt, son of the local lord. The villagers praised Lestat for killing eight wolves on his own and Nicolas was one of the bourgeois who handed gifts of thanks to the new town hero.
They became friends quickly, having similar desires and angst, even though Lestat was a nobleman. Both of them were frustrated with what life had given them and saw little hope of happiness. Despite being rich, Nicolas wanted more than being a merchant, he wanted art and beauty. And Lestat, despite being a (very poor) nobleman, yearned for the stage and theaters of Paris.
In 1779, Lestat talked Nicolas into running away with him to Paris, hiding from their families and doing things in their own way. They managed to flee the country town, in spite of Nicolas’ skepticism. Soon they were employed in Renaud's Theatre, a tiny little place on Boulevard du Temple. They were apparently happy for a few months, pretending to be simple people and enjoying life.
All this illusion was ruined when the vampire Magnus kidnapped Lestat and forced him to drink his blood, thus transforming him into a vampire. But Nicolas knew nothing of this at first: he only knew that Lestat disappeared in the middle of the night, mysteriously flying out of the window of the tall building in which they modestly lived.
Nicolas was heartbroken and confused, for Lestat was his best friend and only inspiration in life. While the blond nobleman glittered on stage with strength and happiness, Nicolas brooded over his own emptiness and lack of will. He thought himself talentless and useless, without hope, always expecting their good life to end and theirs parents to show up and make their days a living hell.
When Lestat overcame his first nights as a vampire, he wrote to Nicolas and his mother, telling an unlikely story about a rich man who adopted him and left him a fortune. Nicolas was not convinced and was terribly hurt by Lestat’s continued refusal to see him. He could not understand why Lestat had left and felt abandoned. Also, he got suspicious that Lestat had obtained a lot more than he was willing to say. So anger and resentment started to fill Nicolas’ heart.
Soon Lestat gave in and went to Renauld’s Theatre, which he bought and saved from destruction. Nicolas saw Lestat's change right away, even though other people didn't notice. Their relationship was forever ruined from then on and Nicolas found out by himself what Lestat had become. This brought neither fear nor comfort to Nicolas: he coveted the Dark Blood and immortal life. When Gabrielle, Lestat’s mother, came to Paris to say goodbye to her son (she was fatally ill) and was transformed by Lestat, Nicolas was enraged.
He fancied himself much more worthy of being a vampire than Gabrielle or even Lestat. Recognizing his sombre self, Nicolas believed he should have been chosen instead of Lestat and did not rest until he got transformed as well. All his jealousy surfaced at this point, all the years envying Lestat and his brightness, his good fortune and strength of will. Nicolas thought himself evil by nature and thus perfect vampire material.
Lestat, who always loved truly this beautiful bourgeois, gave in and made him a vampire. But, by drinking Nicolas’ blood he was able to see into his soul. And what he saw made him afraid for his friend. It was an empty beach with the never-ending sound of a seagull. There was emptiness and despair, sadness and lack of purpose. There was no hope.
The vampiric blood made Nicolas mad and he did not speak or move on his own for days. Then he had tantrums and trashed his room, making Lestat and Gabrielle seriously worried for him. At this time the Parisian vampire coven, lead by Armand, was hunting them down, enraged by their sweet life without religious beliefs.
Nicolas was eventually captured by Armand and his coven. During a long night of discussions, his hands are cut off, the hands so needed to play his violin, the only comfort in his immortal life. His resentment for Lestat became hate and, when Lestat left Paris, he decided to stay and run the theater, now called Theatre des Vampires.
That was the last time Nicolas saw Lestat and their parting was painful, but cold. A few years later, due to madness, Nicolas chose to die by jumping into the fire.
Lestat would later say that Nicolas’ looks (dark hair and green eyes) and sadness were the reason for his attraction to Louis, who was also a brunette with green eyes. Their physical similarity was striking, but their stories and character were quite different.