[OOC NOTE: For those people who were not around for the games on the 24th and 26th January, this will all seem very odd and strange and “who the hell is Zangor?!” All will be answered in the “Characters” and “Wiki” sections of the wiki. Also, the songs listed below were the ones I listened to most while writing this piece. It’s irrelevant but is a good indicator of the character’s mindset and kind of emotions that run through the piece. Also yes, I love the Piano Guys, deal with it!! This IS canon, but all knowledge gleaned from it is STRICTLY OOC]
(Songs: May It Be – Enya, Arwen’s Vigil – The Piano Guys, Moonlight – The Piano Guys, Begin Again – The Piano Guys (feat. Megan Cole and Alex Goot), Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Simple Gifts – The Piano Guys)
The past week has been so filled with chaos and uncertainty that it is somewhat strange to sit and contemplate the repercussions I will soon have to face. I suppose I should begin somewhere close to what may seem like a beginning.
As you know, I have…had…a ghoul by the name of Zangor, who has been with me for so long now it seems like an eternity. He has never let me down or caused me trouble, and I am truly blessed to have found someone so trustworthy to support me through this…mess…of an unlife.
When the saga began, Zangor was my most trusted ghoul and I was still central to the organisation of the Rose family. Pah…that name poisons me, but we will reach that explanation in due course.
Eleanor was surprised…well, as were we all…by her ghoul’s sudden show of ability. She refused to believe he was capable of such feats of cunning and finesse. She was certain that he was working with others, and wanted to give him “the ultimate test”; completely impossible with the tools at his disposal and doomed to fail from the start. She told him to call upon an old associate who had proved herself useful in nearly all circumstances previously, and asked if I was willing to offer a “spy in the camp”. Now, while I may have been a part of that family for the past half-century, I still had limits on my opportunities to deny the wishes of the family…so with sadness that I had to place him in an unwinnable situation, I offered her the aid of Zangor.
I know you should not get attached to your ghouls (Tristan did horrendous things to his, proving just how vicious some people think they are allowed to be…) but Zangor was different. I couldn’t betray his trust when he had devoted his completely to me. I knew that that may just have been the vinculum’s effect (I know now that that was not the case) but it still seemed like a wicked thing to do to him. Still, I gave him his orders and; without a pause, he accepted the terms completely. Seeing him head off to join the wayward group made my stomach drop. He didn’t know that they were meant to be doomed to fail…he didn’t know he was meant to have no choice but to betray them.
The next thing I heard was from Zangor in the sewers, of all places! There had been some horrendous miscalculation and someone had jumped in too quickly without thinking. I couldn’t leave him there, so using the tracker I had placed on his phone, I sent a driver to collect him. I made sure my private bathroom was available for him (he didn’t deserve the goading or mocking that would have occurred should Tristan or Maria met him in the corridors) and met him after I had got some of the lesser ghouls to treat him in a way befitting of a…Rose. I suppose if anyone had spotted me sat upon my bed talking with him, they may have wondered my intentions (and his, I suppose…) and may have realised the inevitable events due to befall us a few days later.
His comments on the team made me realise just how much of a failure this job would be, and opened my eyes to the very real possibility that he may end up in custody (which wouldn’t have been too much of an issue, after all, Eleanor and Tristan together essentially run the police force in this city…) or worse, dead. Sadly, death is not a condition anyone could rescue him from should it befall him. Apparently this realisation sparked something in me that has not sparked in many decades; terror. True, honest, terror. The thought of losing him…actually…hurt. I know it sounds infantile and human, but the thought of losing my one loyal, honest, trustworthy and trusting companion truly terrified me. Eleanor had a folder of information she intended to wave at her ghoul after the mission failed as a form of one-upmanship, I think, and I decided that I should level the playing field. If Tristan or Maria or Eleanor or Peter found out, I knew I would face a fate worse than death. Being honest now, I don’t think it would have made any hint of a difference.
I gave Zangor the folder. I told him just how secret that act had to be, and he hid it well after reading; almost imperceptible in the slightest crack in the plaster of my wall. He disappeared after that to contact the others, and for two or three days he was dipping in and out of the house, grabbing tools and equipment and then leaving, only to return a day or so after. In fact, they made the decision to go ahead on the night, so Eleanor had almost no time to find a safehouse for the goods (not that she believed there would be any.)
Zangor did me proud. The heist, while messy, was a success and Eleanor had to eat her words. I’m sure she suspected something, but she said and did nothing.
Zangor returned, tired and damaged. Once again I offered him my bathroom, feeling that he deserved a few creature comforts (alongside the fact I was just glad to have him back safely with me.) I don’t know what they used to break the installation down, but it was certainly military grade, eating through all the skin and muscle on the affected area of his hand, taking two of his fingers! There was little I could do to help, aside from stitch the skin from each side together to limit the risk of infection or damage. I tried to be as gentle as I could, but a needle through skin is a needle through skin. He did so well not to flinch; barely a flicker passed over his face as I tried to patch him up. I then had to do something I always hoped I’d never have to do to him; rifle through his memories and alter them. I couldn’t risk Eleanor getting hold of the knowledge that I’d given him the folder. He was once again the trusting man I had always seen and it only hurt more because of that. Kindred abilities can seem like lifesavers at points, but can also leave you feeling like a true monster at others.
I don’t really know why I did what I did after that. I’m not conceited enough to call it love, nor self-indulgent enough to call it lust. I can only claim it was relief at his return, coupled with his constant, unwavering loyalty, trust and faithfulness and the fear of losing him or seeing him harmed that drove me to embrace him. The moment I held him and sank my teeth into his arm I felt my heart leap and my stomach drop both at once. The embrace is pleasurable to both parties, but the dread of the repercussions of my actions was present from that moment forth.
I couldn’t move Zangor from my room – partly due to the size differential, and partly due to the feeling of responsibility I felt hanging from my shoulders. I couldn’t send him back to his quarters after such an event. While he has lived amongst kindred for many years, he has never been in our positions. He was, despite his proximity, a bystander to our requiems. Because of this, I stayed with him overnight. I dared not risk Eleanor or Tristan or any of the others finding him there without me; I didn’t know what they might do to him if they realised the situation I had just placed him into.
I woke early; Zangor still sleeping soundly. Knowing the trials he had faced…and what was to come…I decided to leave him to sleep, getting changed and showering as quietly as physically possible. Tiptoeing lightly out of the room (my kine career coming to my aid) I decided to continue as usual, meeting the rest of the “family” in the grand hall as I usually would. I had already decided to make my indiscretion known to them before Zangor awoke, as their wrath would then focus on me, not him.
I did not go into the room blind. I know as well as any other that the punishment for breaching the first tradition is death. I only wished that I had had the foresight to ask permission first. Prince Michael and the family always got on famously, so I know without a shadow of a doubt that he would have permitted the embrace. The family would never have accepted it – Tristan always chided and jibed about how close Zangor and I were, and I knew he wouldn’t let me forget “he was right”.
When I sat with them, they knew something was up. Seeing their expectant faces I steeled myself and tried, as calmly as I could, to explain what had happened and that I was aware of the consequences of such an action. I have no doubt they saw through my paper-thin veil of courage. IN fact, I know that Tristan did, for he instantly strode straight up to me, grabbing my chin roughly to make sure I looked him in the eye. He snarled at me about how I had “besmirched the Rose Family’s name” and then asked contemptuously whether “it was worth it”. He and Eleanor both reminded me of their positions within the Prince’s Inner Circle (as if I could forget) and told me to follow them. I could hardly say no, could I?
They walked me to the ballroom, where I was pelted with sneers and hardly-veiled threats. I tried to keep my composure, but the onslaught was too much to bear. Tristan had never laid a hand on me until that heated argument. I decided to defend myself, perhaps saying flippant but true statements that hit him beneath his own chinked armour, and after one such comment, I felt myself thrown to the ground by a slap to the face. Tristan stood over me, throwing verbal daggers with pinpoint accuracy. Zangor walked in at this point. I had hoped he would stay out of the way, but that doesn’t seem to be his way, which I would later grow to be thankful for.
I pulled myself to my feet, and asked him to leave, but Eleanor and Tristan seemed to have other ideas. Words were exchanged (I can’t remember too clearly what exactly was said) but I remember Tristan and Eleanor leaving, and Zangor pulling me into a hug. It felt bittersweet. I knew (or at least I thought I knew) that he would be alone in a matter of days.
Things went by in a blur after that. There was something about the heist going wrong, but I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to think on that, and a part of me thought it wasn’t my issue to deal with. After all, Tristan and Eleanor had taken it on themselves to personally sign my death warrant. I wasn’t there when they contacted Michael, but I was informed that I was to be put to death in front of the entirety of the fief of London, and they wanted me to inform Zangor of the gathering. I felt like a prisoner being led by the guards to her final rites. After telling him the news, I snapped at Tristan. “Happy now?” As if to reply, he slapped me once more across the face. If ever I felt worth no more than a ghoul, this was it.
Time crawled. I found myself locked in my room; I slept fitfully that day. I had never been kept cooped up in my room, and I had never been refused access to Zangor. When I was asleep I dreamed of the evening ahead and when I was awake I paced. I must have been through every negative emotion that day, ranging from fear to anger to sadness to self-pity to self-loathing…and finally…to resignation – I know every kindred hopes to be reminded that they are not emotionless monsters…but I did not want to be reminded in such a manner. Eventually I must have grown too tired to feel any more, as I was woken, roughly, by Tristan the following evening.
He seemed to enjoy exercising his power over me, something he had been unable to do since I was a neonate, so took every chance he had to act like an army sergeant screaming orders at the top of his lungs. He threw clothes that Eleanor had chosen for me onto the bed unceremoniously. It was clear they were clothes for an execution; all black and plain. He told me I had an hour before we would leave. I sat motionless for a time before my mind fully comprehended that the night was upon me. Doing what little I could to make myself presentable to the court, I dressed in the plain black gown and cardigan Eleanor had decided upon, and tried to neaten myself up. When the two of them arrived for me, Eleanor forced a black mourning veil on to my head, and we travelled once again as a trio to collect Zangor. As they lead us to the cars, they added insult to injury by forcing us to walk through a faux “guard of honour”, comprised of the family and their ghouls. It took all my focus to continue walking without reacting or welling up. I couldn’t let myself cry in front of them. I couldn’t give them that satisfaction.
I don’t remember the journey. I was so caught up in the maelstrom of my mind that there could have been a firebomb go off and I wouldn’t have flinched, let alone run. We were the first to arrive, and I barely had time to ask Zangor to remain calm before Tristan guided (forcibly steered) me towards the wings of the stage. Anger, humiliation and sorrow flooded my mind. Anger at the “family” so readily turning against me after all I had done through the years for them, humiliation at being treated like nothing more than a ghoul by people I had once earned so much respect from, and sorrow for dragging Zangor into this tumultuous situation; sorrow that I had made an error that was to leave him without guidance or allies.
The Prince arrived, and began the proceedings. Tristan and Eleanor lead me on stage and it was only then that I realised that Tristan would be the one to end my life. Worse than that, I knew he would enjoy every second. I dared not seek out Zangor in the crowd, knowing that one move could make things worse not for me but for him. As the moment drew nearer, someone cut in, prolonging the moment. I wanted to scream. Were it their life in the balance, would they want the moments beforehand drawn out even more than they already were? Would that ease their nerves? The Prince cut him off sharply and I steeled myself. I knew Tristan wouldn’t make it quick; neither he nor the Prince would feel that was “appropriate”. No, I knew he would draw it out as long as he could without irritating the Prince. Slow, precise incisions to the back of the neck with his machete knife; that was Tristan’s method. I had seen him use it (with relish) far too many times when the traditions were broken (even if the identity of the perpetrator was in question). It was “torture; glorious, delicious torture” he would say after such events, as he cleaned his blade, grinning like the cheshire cat of lore.
I refused to close my eyes as I heard his arm raise, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth. I refused to let him know just how much of a mess I was. In this moment, I heard Zangor shout, and my eyes darted upwards. He was running from the back of the room, forcing his way through the crowd. Part of me wanted to shout at him to stop; after all, I had broken the traditions and brought such punishment upon myself, but the other, far larger, part of me – the part that felt angered and betrayed by the Rose family; that hated Tristan’s guts and, above all, just wanted to survive won over. Almost without thought, I composed myself and turned to face Tristan. He gave me what I wanted, as he looked down at me with rage in his eyes. I smiled at him, winked, blew him a kiss…and focussed on forcing his will to bend to mine. I could feel the mental battle and I knew that if I lost…no. I couldn’t risk losing.
I felt myself slip away and within an instant I was seeing from a whole new perspective. I was staring at myself, crumpled, the veil fanning out across the floor. I felt the weight of the machete in my hand, and knew what I had to do. The Prince would realise soon enough what had just happened, but until then, I knew he would try to subdue Zangor; something I could not allow him to achieve. I slashed at the Prince, almost shocked when the blade passed across flesh. The Prince was clearly shocked and turned to face me. Glancing out at the audience, Zangor was making light work of the few who dared try to take on his seven-foot frame, while an unknown Kindred seemed to be settling his own scores down near stage left. He couldn’t have timed it better, as the fray near the stage was slowly dragging others in, making it difficult for anyone else to get to Zangor.
I could feel Tristan pushing against my hold over him, and flicked his consciousness away like an irritating fly. There was no way I was letting him regain control. He had wielded his power over me with glee for the past day or so; it was my turn to have some fun with him. He would bow to my every will, whether he liked it or not. It was my moment to take control of the situation, and that was not going to be relinquished any time soon.
I lashed out at the Prince again, and saw Zangor make it to the edge of the stage. The Prince seemed to realise what I had done as he made his way to my body, and I took the opportunity to carve a large gash in his back. I had no personal quarrel with the Prince, but, hell, if my childe was going to risk his life to save mine, I was going to give him all the help I could. We had always been a team, and that wasn’t going to change due to me. Zangor had placed all his trust in me, and it was my turn to trust him. We had to get out of this together or not at all. I wasn’t going to forsake him like my sire had done, no way. He scooped my comatose body from the floor, and I saw him rush out with fantastical speed. I wanted to return to my body there and then, but I knew I would be safe with him. I knew my duty was to slow down whoever was first to chase him through that door…and that was the Prince. I felt the Prince’s dagger slice across Tristan’s cheek, and parried with my own blow, straight to the stomach. Instantly, I knew what had happened, and I knew it would hold the hordes off long enough for Zangor and I (wherever we were) to make a getaway. Mentally bowing to Tristan, I stopped concentrating. Instantly his consciousness rebelled against mine and seized control again.
I can only describe the sensation of returning to my body as being what I imagine taking a first breath after your heart has stopped beating for a while feels like. It felt like a rush of cold air entering my whole body, and as my eyes flashed open; alert and panicked, I found myself in Zangor’s arms, in an alleyway. He didn’t seem to know what to do or where to go (I was surprised that he had been capable of thinking so far ahead as to get us so far away and in a place of relative safety to begin with, given the rage he had shown in court.) I knew of one person who would be willing to take me in…though returning to him would be something of an admittance. However, knowing time was short and the people who were once my strongest allies were now hunting me and, more importantly, my childe down, I swallowed the last scrap of pride I still had and made the call.
Master Avery was thankfully willing to provide us sanctuary, and Robert came to pick us up. Considering Zangor had been a ghoul of mine for 54 years, the time gap between seeing Master Avery and Robert last and the phone call must have been bordering on 60 years. Of course, neither had changed much at all, and while I was returning in less than perfect circumstances, I cannot deny it was wonderful to see them both. I think Zangor was somewhat perplexed to begin with by my mannerisms within the house, but, like the gentleman he is, he declined to comment on it. His curiosity did get the better of him at one point, which was more endearing than anything else. I had forgotten that I had not spoken much of my life before the Roses, and even now I have not commented on my kine life prior to Master Avery to him.
I think he was surprised that I was once a ghoul myself. I don’t know if it was the good or the bad sort of surprise, but he didn’t seem to change his attitude around me, though there was one lovely moment where he commented out loud (perhaps without realising) “we’re both the same!” I couldn’t help but laugh. I suppose it’s true; after all his time with me has been not dissimilar to mine with Master Avery, I would like to think. Master Avery was always fair and even-handed, though had a temper when I failed in my duties…but he never treated me badly, and always made sure I was safe. At the time, I was proud to be chosen to be one of the “grand Rose Family”. Now…I wish I had asked him to embrace me. I am certain (now more than ever) that he wanted to hear me ask that of him. After all, I was as good as a daughter to him. The mistakes and follies of youth always catch up with you in the end, I guess. I suppose that’s one way Zangor and I do differ…I was always viewed as a child; someone to be protected and shielded from the world. While I wish I could shield Zangor from the world, it has been proven time and time again that he is my shield, whether I like it or not. He isn’t a child in the kine meaning in my eyes. He is my best friend, my knight with his sword and shield, my…
We stayed there for a few days, Master Avery chiding about Tristan and the Rose Family whenever they were brought up, and aside from a slight scare about trackers on phones, everything was wonderful; truly wonderful.
But nothing good can ever last, and it was only a matter of time before the Roses decided to have a little “chat” with Master Avery, as my regnant. Tristan showed up, blustering and demanding as he always did. Zangor and I hid, as we had been told to when the door was opened. Sitting up in the room was the worst sensation I have ever felt. Hearing the demands and then the sound of flesh and bodies hitting the floor was unbearable. But when the bangs began, that’s when I knew I had to do something. Zangor and I had a massive almost-silent disagreement which I ultimately won (It shouldn’t have taken so long; I’m his sire and I need to remember that…) and I made my way downstairs. Robert was collapsed on the floor, bleeding profusely, while Master Avery was on the floor groaning in agony.
As I appeared, Tristan decided to pay me back for my little stunt in the Court, using his own abilities to draw Zangor out of his hiding place. It was only then that we realised, with horror, what the bangs had been.
He had flash grenades. The moment he struck the first one, I was paralysed with fear. Zangor was able to jump the staircase and (I presume) find a hiding place. The moment the grenade blew, I was in agony. I could feel the skin on my arms and face blistering instantaneously. In both fear and anger, I launched myself at Tristan, hoping that by knocking him down he would be unable to reach his belt of grenades. Zangor joined me at this point, and I did what was arguably both the best and most sadistic thing I have ever done in my life. I decided to light a flash grenade myself and, using my weight to pin him to the ground, “feed” Tristan it. Judging by his thrashing and screeching, I can only presume it worked. Zangor – also somewhat cruelly – brought his foot down, clean on Tristan’s face. He passed out almost immediately. Zangor looked like he was about to ask me something when I lit another grenade and repeated the motion I had done moments beforehand. Standing up, my blistered skin weeping and red, I heard him crumble to dust, and the pain seemed, almost sympathetically, to subside slightly.
Zangor went to check on Robert, while I ran across to Master Avery. He was even more blistered and damaged than I was, one of his eyes clearly cloudy and bloodshot. Zangor came across and confirmed that Robert was dead, presumably from some stab wound or another that Tristan had inflicted. Zangor carried Master Avery to the bathroom and filled the bathtub with cold water. I wanted to stay and look after him, but he, rightly, reminded me that the rest of the Roses would come looking for Tristan, and that it would only lead to more destruction if we were still around. He asked Zangor to leave the room and…
Oh, diary…he…he asked me to alter his memory. He…couldn’t have any recollection of my call or Zangor and I arriving…or…anything. He couldn’t risk Eleanor or any of the other Roses using their abilities to find out the truth if it was concealed. I…I had to fake memories from the previous days and…even fake how Robert died and how Master Avery himself had come to have such serious injuries. I had to change it enough that it was logical without giving away any information that might lead to the conclusion that we had been there. I…I hate that ability…and here I was…using it for the second time in a week on someone I cared for. I…I disgust myself.
We left quickly after that, only stopping to gather Tristan’s clothes and organise the scene so it looked like Robert had committed suicide, rather than being stabbed while defending Master Avery and Zangor and I. It was a disservice to his memory…and one day I will undo my horrible handiwork. Tristan, aren’t you so proud of the evils you have made me accomplish?
I write this as Zangor and I are on our way out of London. Refugees for the time being, we will find somewhere quiet and idyllic to call sanctuary. For now, we must keep moving forward, moving silently from one place to another each night, and I am trying to procure us documents and identification that can at least disguise our names, if not our appearances (unfortunately for us, there are not many seven-foot tall people, let alone vampires). I have had no time for grieving the loss of Robert, nor to grieve the loss of my Master’s memories, nor to celebrate the death of my sire. One day I shall have the time to stop and do all these things, but when that will be, I do not know. But there are some things of which I am sure:
One: Zangor and I are a force to be reckoned with, the likes of which the Rose Family have never seen before.
Two: The Rose Family will pay for what they have done to Master Avery and Robert.
Three: I am not a Rose. And I am proud of it.
While I am weary and my heart is slowly breaking as I recall what we have been through and what we have done, I am still here. I have survived. And I still have Zangor by my side – my saviour, my companion, my…oh, who knows… Few people would be proud of where we are, but I am. And so I toast: to true family, to tomorrow, and to company. I am truly blessed.