London by Night

Welcome to YOUR Adventure Log!

Okay guys, this is YOUR adventure log. This is where YOU get to write about how YOUR character feels about what’s going on around them. It doesn’t need to be a long, full-on piece of text, it can be a list of bullet points, a poem, a drawing, a string of AKJDNMWEDIJFEJKS. Whatever it is that your character is feeling, I, and the rest of the group, would really like to see it.

As an ST, it lets me know how your characters are coping with the storyline – are they set on what they’re doing and therefore happy to ignore sideplot for its sake? Or are they struggling under the pressure of being “Alpha Male/Female”? Are they feeling like they’re on a one-man crusade, or part of a team that just “gets” them? Whatever it is, it will help me run this to fit your characters better, as only you know what your character thinks and feels.

As for the other players, well…it’s always interesting to see how other characters see the situation, and how they’re coping. While all of these posts will be OOC-only knowledge, it is interesting to get an insight into another character’s head.

Please, use this space. It would be awesome to see it grow into a week-by-week summary of the journey your characters are on.

Most of all…have fun using it!

Josée

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Twelve Nights of Grime (Night #1)
Christmas Czaka Canon!

(10th October 2010 – Rusted Tractor Pub, East London)

“Gerardo, please. Tell me that Dahli doesn’t belong to impressionism one more time and this place might kick us out.”

Gerardo tutted profusely, making Czaka grin inwardly. He and Angela had been arguing this point for the past ten minutes, on what was supposedly their day off from all the arty stuff. They were all obsessed – Czaka had blagged her way through the janitor interview on this premise – but they all got sick of it eventually. Well, everyone except Gerardo. He was the National Gallery’s assistant cataloguer. If you heard it from him he was only the assistant because the head cataloguer was a stuck-up tosser who paid his way in and got the foreigner to do all the work for him. Czaka guessed Gerardo was spot on.

“Just telling you what the list says, Angie!” Gerardo replied strenuously. He wasn’t the best at conversation as such, but he put up a damn good fight. The musketeers, as they were coined in this particular spit’n’sawdust hangout, had nearly been kicked out before, after a drunkard had taken badly to Gerardo slandering their knowledge of Picasso’s Guernica. Angela and Czaka had convinced him his nicotine-crippled knuckles wouldn’t do well for cracking the poor lad’s jaw, and apologised to the barmaid. She asked them if they fancied coming to an Open Mic as a Panto act.
“Rest it, Gerardo,” Czaka interjected. “You’re getting this round.”
Gerardo mumbled and shunted his chair from beneath him.
“He misses his job the minute he walks out the door,” Angela sighed.
Czaka grinned. “As you’ve told me many times we’ve been here before.”
“Well what else is there to say about the poor bugger? Until he get pissed enough that the Cuban anecdotes come out. I’ve nearly lost a lung from one of those, you’ll remember.”
“I remember not agreeing to put the lung back in,” Czaka said, wiping her mouth.
“Ah yeah, sorry. That,” Angela nodded at the gesture Czaka now used for hypochondria. “That’s something I’ll get used to by next week, don’t mind me.”
“You said that last week!”
“…damn, you really don’t forget anything, do you?”
“No,” Czaka replied airily, peering beyond her, “and that’s the youngster who was staring at your bum two weeks ago.”
“He seemed a little cute until you pointed that out.”
“Would you prefer not to have known?”
With a wink, Angela leant in and whispered, “I’d rather’ve known when I could leave him at the side of the road with no wallet.”

Czaka suppressed a sigh in a smirk. She was consistently made aware of how little their group fitted into this place, but had sunk into twenty years of not caring. Looking at each of the regulars who had stared at them at some point or other, she thought of the cycles of people who had despised the musketeers, and for how many reasons. The three were all relatively antisocial, varying degrees of foreign, too far east, west or north, too short, too butch, not feminine or complicit enough. Many times it had been a relief not to be a part of society. But being antisocial meant Angela often slipped into a carefree craving for petty theft. Czaka was professional in her criminality. She knew that was partly to blame for Angela’s admiration of DIY thriftiness, but Angela’s crime record was shaky boarding on disturbing. If Czaka could trust her enough to help out with selling off paintings, she would, but Angela would take far too long to train. Gerardo was either clueless to the undercurrent schemes of either of them, or had been screwing with the Catalogue to cover Czaka’s earlier mistakes; under her husband’s advice she had never bothered to ask.
“You’re doing that vacant thing again,” Angela said, snapping her fingers at Czaka’s eyes.
“Sorry. Sorry, long way away.”
“Your English slows when you’re vacant, too. Makes me feel better.”
“Your English is too fast. Or not needed at all.”
Angela threw back her head and laughed. “Good, good! I found that funny. This stuff is going to my head proper now,” as she spoke she waved her glass, spilling half the contents.
“Doesn’t take much, does it?” Milosz, Czaka’s husband, had been able to down double what it took Angela to stagger. If she held her nose Czaka could do triple.
“Of you, my dear?” Angela tittered at her, getting up. “Not much at all.”

She strode over to Gerardo to mock flirt with him, who turned and pouted in shock. Czaka was impressed at Gerardo’s English when she first met him; his Cuban heritage gave him small smatterings of phrases while he preferred to speak Spanish. His Spanish would spout out of him at the speed water vapour flies from a kettle. But where his grasp of the London dialect settled to a steady pace, Czakas had accelerated through the tension of her underground work. It had made her discipline her personality in a way she had never encountered in Poland. She had had to discipline in Poland anyway, traversing between there, the GDR and USSR in what must’ve been the Eighties now… shit. Still too soon to be history. But back then the enemy was detectable. No, the enemy were enemies. Here, the enemy is anyone you happen to displease in this dagger-and-cloak business. Here there was no sense of collective survival that she depended on in the oppressed; being out for one’s own skin had made certain people in this free city unrestrained carnivores. But she had learned to leave the right warnings, look like the right skunk, to make gnashing teeth curl in and turn tail.

The thickness of the alcohol-sponging sawdust around the feet was beginning to bring up a little retch in the back of Czaka’s throat. Her own drink wasn’t having the glorious effect that Angela’s was having. Drunkenness usually brought a quiet numbness – vacant, as Angela put it – to Czaka’s personality, which fit her wonderfully. Except for that time Angela had urged her to try Whisky, but Czaka had let the poor lady bathe in her national pride and simply tilted her head absently at the taste. If she ever came across another Russian she had to try it on them, see what they came out with.

As Angela returned to the table with Gerardo’s round, Czaka’s phone began vibrating. Sliding it out of her trouser pocket, she clocked Milosz’ number, then the time it would’ve been in Poland. Late. Very late. She looked up at Angela and made a withering look, one she usually made regarding the ‘rats’ of her criminal world. She stepped up, closing her eyes as she tiptoed over the soggier sawdust, and carefully slid through the pub door. Really, it was only for the other two she let herself put up with this shithole.

As soon as she was out in the autumn night, Czaka let the panic overtake her. She put the phone up to her ear and silently begged that Milosz was safe.

Czaka Snedgo

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Newspaper Report #1 - CARNAGE AT NATIONAL GALLERY
Published 26th January 2014

Carnage at National Gallery
Security Guards Murdered as £2m Plth Installation Stolen
Written by Maya Pirillet

Early this morning, Miles Richardson, curator of the National Gallery, was met by a scene of total devastation as he went to open up to the public. The newly unveiled installation by renowned architect Gio Plth (currently the bookies’ favourite to win the acclaimed “Architect of the Year” award) was missing in its entirety, with the building in disarray. We contacted Mr. Plth for comment but received no response.

Police were first alerted when Mr. Richardson spotted a body in foyer. According to sources, all nightwatchmen on duty were killed during the heist. Police have yet to name the guards in question, and have refused to comment on the causes of death. One inspector simply commented “it was barbaric”.

The heist follows a suspected break-in at the Gallery a week ago, but due to no sign of forced entry and no damage or loss to the Gallery, original investigations concluded that the alarm system was faulty. However, since the heist, speculation has grown to question these original reports.

The Gallery will be closed for the foreseeable future while police and forensic teams investigate. The families of the deceased are due to be notified later this afternoon. The police ask that anyone who saw anything suspicious in the Trafalgar Square area either on Friday night between 10pm and 11pm, or yesterday night, call their incident team on [number] and anyone who has information that may help create a “timeline of events” or aid the formation of the “bigger picture” contact Crimestoppers on [number].

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Daria's Diary
An NPC's perspective of the games in late January

[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…

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.

Daria Avery

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Lucy's Diary
A Father-Daughter Story...kind of.

(OOC: This is following the game on Valentine’s Day when Merris was reunited with his estranged wife and daughter and Masquerade breaches ensued. I really enjoyed writing this as getting into the brainspace of a slightly-damaged 14-year-old girl is quite good fun. Also, I found it quite sweet how lovingly she thinks of her father despite the time they’ve spent apart.)

(Songs for inspiration: Arwen’s Vigil, Without You & Beethoven’s 5 Secrets by The Piano Guys)

I think I’ve found him. In fact, I’m almost 99.9% sure I’ve found him. He’s been difficult to trace and I’ve had more than my fair share of fights to get this close, but I’m ALMOST there. After all of mum’s focus on “vampires” for the past million-and-one years, it’ll be nice to get to finally meet my dad properly. I bet he’s smart and cool and fun and interesting. Mum says all kinds of horrible stuff about him but that’s just ‘cos he left her…right? He’s living, according to some guys I bumped into, in a pub not far from where we’ve ended up. How weird!! I can’t let mum know I’m trying to meet him, ‘cos she’ll go mad, but that doesn’t mean I can’t meet him at all.

Mum’s obsession has been growing rapidly over the past few months. She’s got in touch with some weirdos who say they’re “The Union”, whatever that is…

She’s been piling up all kinds of stuff, flashbang grenades, torches (both electric and not), candles, stakes…she’s seriously lost it. Vampires are those things you see in story books and you have to study at school and bad writers have fun with. Vampires aren’t real, or we’d know. Like aliens and God and footballers who don’t cheat. Ever since I was little she’s been going on about them, but she’s got so ferocious about it all now that it’s scary. REALLY scary.
-
Yes, I found him. He’s not as cool or fun as I thought, but he is interesting and REALLY good with guns (apparently). He didn’t even mind that I had a knife!! It was kind of weird at first; he didn’t know what to do and neither did I. But once we’d had a chat and a hug everything seemed to fall into place. It was awesome. But he wouldn’t let me stay with him. In fact, when I mentioned mum’s obsession he said he wanted to go home and talk to her. He wouldn’t listen when I said she’d go ape. So we’re on our way. Wish me luck.
-
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

There’s a woman who doesn’t bleed living in the same building as Dad; and she SHOT him! He showed me the scars earlier. When she got all bitchy I got her back – after all, no-one messes with MY dad. I was useless with my knife to begin with (I think it was the nerves of showing dad my skills) but when I threw it at her, it hit her square in the back. She made a big scene, like “Oh, wow, look at the blood” and stuff…but there WASN’T ANY. NONE. AT. ALL. Like, how can that even happen?! Is she…one of…them?
-
Oh my God. OH. MY. GOD.

Dad…he’s…one of them. They exist. OH MY GOD THEY EXIST. Mum’s not mental. She’s ushered me out of the room. I can hear them, though. She’s threatening to kill him. She can’t! She CAN’T! I’ve only just found him and now she’s going to kill him! I can’t let her take him away like this…I’ve only just found him after all this time and if he dies it’ll be because of me! He only came here because of me. If he dies, it’s all my fault. I can’t live with that. He doesn’t deserve to die! He’s my DAD. Okay he’s not been around, but that doesn’t change the fact that HE’S. MY. DAD. He’s been nothing but amazing to me so far and I know that doesn’t mean anything but at the same time it doesn’t mean nothing.

Oh shit. I heard something being lit! I CAN’T LET THIS HAPPEN.
-
I…

I…just…

Oh God, what have I done…?
-
He’s safe. Somehow, just…SOMEHOW…he survived. He changed into a bird (I know, right…?) and flew off just as mum was trying to stab him with one of her stakes.

I can see the fire on the crappy TV in here. The fire and rescue crews have found mum. I…didn’t…have…a choice. I never wanted to end up like this. After dad left, I was so angry with what mum had done (and the burn on my stomach and neck were the best reminders of what that was, exactly) that I couldn’t let her carry on her tirade. She was already bleeding heavily from the claws (again, just let it slide, it’s easier than trying to explain) so one slash with a kitchen knife was all it took to end it. To be fair, she was coming at me with a stake, ranting and raving about how I had “made a deal with the devil” and how “all her years of protecting me were wasted” on an “ungrateful fraterniser”. I set the house on fire as…well…the police were already on their way, and the marks all over mum’s body were far too vicious to have ALL been knives. Using my knowledge from the survival camps she sent me on as a kid, I started a small fire on the stove and then used newspaper to spread it through the house. It wasn’t long, with the flashbangs and paraffin and stuff, before the house was sparking and exploding like a fireworks show gone wrong. I ran back to dad’s place before the police and fire crews could get in. I had no other option, really. I’m too young to work and no doubt the police would be hunting for me when they found out the house’s ownership – after all, I’m mum’s only living relative and am her child. I wouldn’t be surprised if missing person ads turned up soon. I can only hope maybe they’ll think I was in the fire too.

When I got to dad’s, he opened the door and I have never been so glad to see ANYONE in my life. I gave him a HUGE hug and just…apologised. I just…kept…apologising. He wasn’t mad or upset or anything. He just gave me a hug and let me cry. It makes me wonder why he ran away; he’s so lovely to me. I wish he’d been around to give me hugs when I was little.
He picked me up, like I was little and ran me a bath in the little bathroom upstairs. He put me in – clothes and everything!! It REALLY hurt. Like catching-your-finger-when-playing-with-flick-knives hurt. But with more fingers and more flick-knives.

He stayed with me the whole time, guarding the door. I can hardly believe he’s…a…thing. A vampire. He’s too nice and warm-hearted and loving to be a vampire. Vampires are meant to be cruel and cold and stand-offish. But dad isn’t. He’s the opposite. And I love him for that.

From now on, it’s me and my dad against the world. We can take on anything.

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Merris' Contemplation
A contemplative thought after being shot for the second time.

(OOC: Ryan sent this to me some time ago and I kept it hidden in my ST-Only area. After the events of the Valentine’s Day game, I asked if I could share this with you all. Thanks for sending it to me, Ryan! Once again, anything you find out from this is ALL OOC knowledge and cannot be brought into the game.)

Every time someone threatens me, I can’t help but laugh a bit inside. What are you going to do, kill me? It won’t be much of a bother to me, or anyone else for that matter. I don’t have a friend in the world, and even my fake ones won’t return my calls anymore. I am not asking people to come and kill me, I do enjoy breathing. It is just difficult to take someone seriously when I have already lost everything. And I don’t mean my boat.

I never had much of an education, or a life for that matter. Being raised on the sea, by a single father who’s daily objective was not to get killed by his targets or his employers, was always going to be detrimental to my well being. But I was able to forget all of that by the time I was eighteen. I got married. And by my nineteenth year I was a father to be. Everything was perfect, I had taken over my father’s role, and was making enough money to keep us all happy, and everyone was safe.

Then my luck started to change. I was in the south of France, procuring some old earrings, it was a special request. And it was the first bullet I ever took, straight to the lower part of my left leg. I got the earnings, making it back to my boat before any of the security guards caught wind of what had happened. The lady who used to own the earrings really liked them, I can look back now and say after meeting the high ups of London, that I should of expected jewelry to be worth more than my life. I am just glad she was not that great of a shot.
I was selfish to bring that kind of trouble home. My home-phone never stopped ringing, and it was always for me. Not only did my pregnant wife have to patch me up, but she had to deal with my new found infamy. I could see what it was doing to her, to us. And even worse what it was going to do to our daughter.

This was my life, but it was not theirs. I could not get away from my “work” I knew that, but I could save them. So that’s what I did. I had to distance myself. I made sure that any love she felt for me withered away, she had to hate me, and never want to see me again, then they would be safe. It was the worst thing I ever had to do. I hated drinking, but it helped ruin us. Coming home covered in cuts, bruises, and nursing broken bones .Then finally taking on more work was, what ended it I think.

I made sure to get a photo of my daughter before my plan was fruitful, but it did not help when I came home to an empty house. I never really readied myself for the day, so when it came I just waited for them to come home. If I did not know where they were, then no one out for my blood would find them. My ultimate show of love, will only ever be seen as hate, and I carry that. I threw myself in to work for the Rose family; I saw every corner of the world, felt more adrenaline than most people can imagine, and could afford anything I wanted. For all the good that’s done me, I can’t even remember my family anymore, I had to blot them out, its only in these rare moments that I even remember, the photo in my wallet. And the ring in my pocket. Its best this way, its better for them if I am just a nobody, if there is no value then there can be no loss. It’s best if we are nothing to each other.

I use to see them in dreams, but that was some years ago. I also used to think I was most human person I knew. By tomorrow I won’t remember this thought, or my own daughter.

Songs listened to:
• Jonathan Coulton- Nobody loves you like me
• Bruce Springsteen- The River
• Warren Zevon- Keep Me in your Heart
• AC/DC- Ride On
• The Killers- Miss Atomic Bomb
• Joe Bonamassa- The Hard Way

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Merris' Letter to Lucy
As heard in the impromptu game on the 23rd Feb.

Lucy.

If you are reading this, then I am glad you are awake, and hope that you feel a little bit better. Right now I must look like a corpse, please don’t scream, and don’t worry I only look this while I sleep. It’s like energy saving mode for, well you know, people like me. I am sorry if you get bored, this place was never really meant for kids. But I promise I will go shopping tonight and get you some stuff.

I never meant for any of this, I left to keep you and your mother safe from danger, but was not there to protect either of you when needed me. I promise you that I had no idea about what was following you. But I will find them.

I don’t want to mention last night, but I think I have to. I was never going to fight your mother. Seeing how much she hated me, made me give up on everything. If you had not of been there, I would have lit the grenade myself. You saved me in more than one way. I don’t deserve this second chance, and you deserve more than I can give, but I am going to make it work, for your sake. I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. Things are not going to be easy, but I am sure we can figure things out. I don’t want to stop writing, but I can’t stay awake much longer.

If there is anything specific you need from the shop, write it on the back of the letter and I will see what I can do.

See you in the evening.

Love from Dad.

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Newspaper Report #2 - LOCAL WOMAN FOUND MURDERED, DAUGHTER MISSING
Published 15th February 2014

Local Woman Found Murdered, Daughter Missing
Written by Maya Pirillet

Yesterday night, a scene of chaos and destruction unfolded in Adomar Road, Barking, as fire crews battled to control twelve foot flames. Police evacuated the surrounding streets and neighbouring houses. Locals were shocked at the ferocity and speed the flames had spread. “I smelled burning and looked out the window,” recalls Winnie Lopers, who owns the house opposite. “And there were wisps of smoke coming from inside. Next thing I knew; bang!”

The fire, believed to have started around 2:45am this morning, was extinguished by fire crews at 4am. “This was a particularly challenging call,” said Watch Manager Harry Parkins. “Due to the presence of small explosive charges in the house, our firefighters worked tirelessly to put out the blaze before the fire or any of the items in the house could endanger the houses or lives of the public.” Police later confirmed the presence of flash-bang grenades (explosives that produce a large white “flash” effect, often used in pyrotechnic displays or theatre productions) within the house, and that the body of a woman in her mid-thirties was recovered from the scene.

The woman has been named locally as Ms. Anna Shaw, 32, an ex-police officer and single mother. While the police will confirm this in the coming days, the local community seem certain they already know the results. The presence of pyrotechnics in the house has left them shocked. “She seemed the quiet, reclusive type. She never went out anywhere or did any drama stuff. Her life seemed to revolve around her daughter, Lucy,” said one onlooker.

Prior to the fire, there were reports from neighbours of arguing and shouting from the house, prompting police to label the attack an “arson-murder”. They are appealing to the public for information regarding the events leading up to and directly after the crime. They are also appealing for Miss Shaw, 14, to come forward. “We believe Miss Shaw may have seen or heard something, and have information crucial to the case.” said DCI Robert Andrews, “We want Lucy to know we can find her somewhere safe to stay and we want to help. Lucy is likely to be in a very shaken state and at great risk alone on the streets of Dagenham.”

If you have any information regarding the events or the whereabouts of Lucy Shaw, please contact the police on [number] or Crimestoppers on [number].

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Torn Away
What happened to Lucy when she was dragged away?

[TRIGGER WARNINGS: MENTAL ABUSE/TORTURE
Songs: Arwen’s Vigil, Michael Meets Mozart, Can’t Help Falling in Love – The Piano Guys]

As the Hound and Sheriff bore down upon her, Lucy clung tightly to her father’s side. She had been warned that she was in danger while with him at this “Court” thing, but she had never thought this was going to be the sort of danger they were talking about. A strange woman, thin and waif-like, stood on stage, drawing everyone’s attention to the newspapers reporting the fire she had started and the finding of her mother’s body. She had tried to make herself small, but then she had been pointed out…and now things were going wrong. Very, very wrong.

The woman with half a face, who had once tried to be so nice to her, was bearing down more and more; her originally calm tones growing more and more dangerous with each passing moment. Lucy clung tighter, as her father tried to convince them to take him with her. Neither side seemed willing to back down, which Lucy was grateful for. Her father began to argue semantics and job roles and the discussion turned for a short time, before the woman on stage (a Prince?) got involved again.

She felt something sharp and painful in her head, pushing her to leave his side and she pushed whatever it was away forcefully.

She whimpered to her father. “They’re in my head. Dad, they’re in my head.”

Apparently changing tactic, she then felt something else, something fuzzier: softer, warmer take the place of the sharp sensation, telling her to go to the Prince’s side; that she wanted to go to the Prince.

Frightened, she tried to push it away once more, and as she finally managed to, she turned to her father and whimpered again “Please don’t let them take me. Please don’t let me go…”

Her father suddenly tensed, and Lucy saw the woman with half a face pulling a knife away from a bleeding cut in her arm. She heard her father telling the woman that she “didn’t need to do that” and found herself being pulled away by her. Lucy lashed out, both angry and frightened, hitting the woman across the face. In return, she was pushed forcefully, and landed on the cold wooden floor, her sore burns, only just beginning to heal, tearing open, and causing her to scream out in pain. As she was pulled upwards, once again by the woman with half a face, she caught a glimpse of her father, stood in the same position he had been in when she was pulled away, his eyes betraying a mix of pain, sorrow, anger, frustration and betrayal.

They took her up to the stage, and then beyond, to a small back room; no windows, lights or anything, just darkness and a chair. The woman pushed her again, and Lucy found herself back on the floor, the dust and dirt attaching itself firmly to her wounds, and she screamed again. She was left on the floor as more voices echoed from outside, and forcing herself not to cry; steeling her determination, she shakily pushed herself from the floor and saw two women step into the room, the door snapping shut behind them.

“Get up, girl.” A voice from the darkness commanded, its owner hidden.

Setting her jaw, obstinately, she obeyed their command. Pushing herself up, she grimaced as she rose, standing, shakily, in front of whoever stood in front of her.

A bony, cold hand reached towards her face and gripped her jaw cruelly. She knew she was being scrutinised, but how and why exactly was a mystery. Her eyes glared in the general direction of the hand, searching for any trace of an outline she could use to focus her gaze.

“Hm.” The voice murmured, dismissively. “Petulant. Dismissive. Uncouth. Ugh.” It continued, disdainfully. “The Prince will be disappointed.”

The door opened gently, and the figure of another woman, bathed in half-light, entered. Lucy caught the shadows of the two women in front of her and set her gaze. The door snapped shut again, and the Prince’s voice echoed around the room.

“Come, Lucy, we are not your enemies.” She said softly and melodically, her voice containing an almost songlike beauty. “We are friends; allies. We just want to help.” She continued. “Sit, you’re safe here.” She added, the hint of a command in her voice. Lucy shifted uncomfortably and sat.

“I want my father.” She replied, her voice wavering but persistent. “Let me see him.” The Prince chuckled gently. “Such determination in such a small child.” She responded, running a finger down Lucy’s cheek. Lucy shuddered and shifted herself away. “How sweet. You can see your father in a while. I promise. And princes never break their promises.” She said, with some force. Lucy looked at her uncertainly. She didn’t want to believe this person, no matter what she said, but she seemed so honest, so…truthful.

“But before you can see him,” the Prince continued, “I need you to help us. There are lots of questions about what happened yesterday; and we need to fix the damage. But only you can help us, as you’re the only one who knows exactly what happened at home.” She said, measuredly.

“And then I can go back?” Lucy asked, unwilling to trust this woman, but knowing she had almost no choice.

“Of course!” Replied the Prince, warmly. “That’s all we need from you.”

Lucy paused for a second, trying to figure out what her father would do in this situation, but she was uncertain. Would he tell her to tell them everything and get it out of the way? Or would he tell her to stay quiet as these people were untrustworthy? Thinking hard, she decided he would probably tell her to just say everything she could so that no harm befell her.

“Okay.” She said, after a time. “Okay. You want to know what happened…so…” she took a deep breath, not really wanting to think too much on how she had killed her mother. “…so I’ll tell you.” She sat, small and insignificant compared to the three vampires stood above her. She told them everything she could remember: finding her father, speaking to him (she kept her feelings of elation and happiness to herself) and then how things changed when vampires were mentioned; how he wanted to meet up with her mum, and how he persisted. She told them of Misty, of how she didn’t bleed and it freaked her out, how they came to be stood at the house, and then the fight. She recounted as much of the fight as she could, how her father tried to keep things calm while her mother flew into a rage, how she wanted to protect him from her mum and so put herself in danger, how her father had snapped as she was hurt and the claws that grew. And how he turned into a bird and flew off…leaving her…leaving her…

She broke down at this point. She had kept herself contained and measured throughout her tale, but…she couldn’t…she just couldn’t bring herself to continue.

“It’s okay.” Said the Prince, cupping Lucy’s face gently with her hands. “It’s okay. Come now, what happened?”

Lucy felt an overwhelming urge to tell her everything, to explain exactly what happened. She smiled, her tear-stained face brightening as the Prince spoke…but something felt strange. This wasn’t right. Her mind rebelled and forced whatever strange tricks she was using away. Lucy stood up and threw the chair across the room.

“NO!” She shouted, backing away. “NO! You CAN’T MAKE ME tell you.” Like a wounded, captured animal, she hunched herself up, her back against the wall. She was primed to fight if she needed to.

“Sit” a voice in her head commanded. She felt herself slide down the wall into a sitting position. She panicked; what was happening?!

“Now, that was unnecessary, wasn’t it?” she heard the Prince say. The bony woman lead her back to the chair the third woman had picked back up. She found herself struggling to fight back. The third woman bound her to the chair with rope. “We want to help, but I need to know what happened, Lucy. And if you can’t tell us, then I need to find a way of unlocking your ability to do so. We are your friends.” She continued.

“Friends…wouldn’t…do…this…” Lucy said, fighting the fuzziness in her head as she spoke.

“They would if it made things better.” The Prince gently retorted. “Now. Tell me what happened.”

There was someone else in her head. There was someone else watching her thoughts. She could feel it, yet she was powerless to fight it. In her mind’s eye she saw flickers of memories pass; her first day of school, nervously stood at the gates with her mother, holding her hand. Being bullied for being from “un famille monoparental” in the school playground by her classmates. Strange men and women stood at the door having arguments with her mother…The stream of consciousness paused for a second.

“Interesting.” She heard in her head. “We shall return to this one…”

The memories continued to flicker; moving to England in the very early morning, her mother rushing her from their home in Concarneau to the port and over to Dover. Starting school in England and feeling lost and alone with no-one to talk to. More strange men and women. Searching on the internet for “Lucan” secretly, in her room, and phone calls…so many phone calls. Finding a person who knew a person who knew a person who knew someone who might be her father. Meeting a strange woman who let her into “her father’s” room. Her father…so many recent memories of her father. And then the Prince found the one she was looking for. The fight.

The memory played almost exactly as Lucy had said: Her mother spouting off about vampires hunting them down for eight years, about keeping Lucy safe, almost wanting a reason to start attacking. Her father trying to explain and talk but being caught off-guard. Lucy taking the hit for her father as she screamed for the two of them to stop. Her father’s resolve snapping as he launched himself at her mother and made two giant gashes across her face, arms and upper torso, and then flying away as a robin.

“Stop there…please…stop.” Whispered Lucy out loud.

The scene continued. As the bird flew out, Lucy looked at her mother’s bleeding, battered body, and her face set into the one the Prince and her cronies had seen only recently. She pulled herself from the floor, the burns weeping and bleeding, every step causing a sharp inhalation of breath and tears to come to her eyes. She walked into the kitchen, slowly, in agony.

“St…op…” She pleaded to the room, feeling her eyes well with tears. “Please…”

Lucy opened a drawer and grabbed a steel. With too much finesse for a girl of her age, she opened her flick knife and sharpened it. Her mother’s ragged breaths were loud and clear, and her heart panged as she prepared herself for her next action.

“Stop!” She cried, her voice filled with pain and desperation. “No more, please, no more!”

Stepping back into the living room with the knife behind her back, her eyes met her mother’s, and she fought the knot of guilt and dread building in her stomach. She forced herself to remember how her mother had begun the fight, how she had caused the whole, terrible scenario she had found herself in.

“Lu…cy…” Whispered her mother, her eyes pleading with her. “Get…help…”

Lucy gulped, her thumb running along the cold, metal handle of the knife. She knelt down next to her mother and hugged her.

Lucy began to sob, her heart breaking once more. “Please…” she feebly asked, her voice soulless; empty.

She released her mother and looked down on her.

“I am help, mum.” She replied quietly; sorrowfully.

She pulled the knife across her mother’s face with speed and force, the scalpel sharpness of the blade feeling like it was cutting through butter rather than flesh and muscle.

In what seemed like slow-motion, her mother’s body fell to the floor, motionless; her eyes unseeing, her mouth half-open in shock.

Lucy sat there, staring at nothing in particular, until the sirens in the distance jolted her back to reality. She took some of the flashbangs and placed them around the house – near curtains, sofas, anything that had fabric or paper that might catch light. Using toilet and kitchen paper, she made fuses attached to the items so that if the flashbang itself didn’t set the items on fire, the paper would at least catch and smoulder. As she returned to the living room, she hesitated, and then placed four around her mother’s body. She then started in the bedrooms upstairs and went, room by room, setting the house alight, hoping it would hinder the police’s investigation. Only when she was sure all were lit or had gone off, she left the house by the back door, locked it and went from garden to garden, waving her way through the back alleys, searching her father’s home out, not daring to look back as the sirens converged.

The stream of consciousness ended, and Lucy was shaking, as the three women stood around her, the Prince staring into her eyes, or maybe her soul through them.

“You’ve got what you wanted…now stop…please…stop…” said Lucy, devoid of emotion, her face blotchy and tear-streaked; her forehead covered in sweat.

“Not quite” replied the Prince without moving her lips, her voice still echoing in her head. “What about those people at your door?”

Up flashed her memories again, and Lucy gritted her teeth. Out came the snippets of memory she had. None lasted long as her mother always locked her away when the people came. But there were snippets of conversation she had overheard. “Daughter”, “beneficial”, “could be so much more” and “kindred spirits” were words that kept cropping up, until one meeting in Concarneau. “Renée est une femme compréhensive, elle ne vous empêche pas de voir votre fille” said a woman to her mother. "Nous voulons ce qui est mieux pour Lucille aussi, et nous pouvons leur donnera l’occasion d’être grand avec la fondation de la rose. C’est un école magnifique.”

Suddenly, the fog and fuzz in her brain disappeared and the Prince stepped back. The darkness in the room seemed lesser, but Lucy presumed this was due to how long she had been in there.

“They found you, and they brought you to us…” She murmured. “How interesting.” She looked at the woman with bony hands. “Ma’am, I’d suggest contacting Renée. Let her know l’énfant rénegat has surfaced after her brief disappearance. But tell her nous soyons déçus. The child is not as we expected.” She turned to face Lucy with disgust and disdain. “The daughter of a filthy savage is not what we were promised. Nous avons été trahis par la France!” She cried, wrathfully. The woman with bony hands nodded, but then responded.

“France will not like this. Be prepared for backlash should you make such a rash move, Eleanor. I will do so, but only as you are Prince. Do not expect me to do your dirty work for you in future.” She said, curtly. As she turned to move away, Eleanor grabbed her arm, gently.

“Please don’t leave yet, Madam Rose. We still have business to attend to.” She replied, gesturing to Lucy.

Lucy looked at the third woman, a bystander for all intents and purposes, and she looked down. She seemed to be here purely as an observer…but Lucy wondered what for.

Eleanor looked down at Lucy and grinned, wide and cruel. “There will be more, there are always more to come hunting, and they will return to find you. I can promise you this. And as for us?” She asked rhetorically, looking at her accomplices. “We will break you. And we will make you into what you should be; what kindred society needs you to be. We will make you truly strong, child, and find what you have lost.”

As Lucy went to retort, struggling against her bonds, she felt that fuzziness again, and try as she may she could not fight it. Her energy, her strength of will, and her determination were drained. Eleanor forced her way through her weak mental protestations and went straight back to the memory of the fight.

“Is this what you are?” The voice in her head asked. “A beast that maims and kills, no finesse or strategy, just blind panic and fear? You could be so much more than this, and yet you choose to side with your father and his ilk; beasts and monsters? A girl as bright and powerful and strong as you, could be so much more than a mindless animal. Let us find your finesse, child, build you into someone strong and powerful without the need of such crass, cruel tools. Let us help you; let us show you your misguidances and misjudgements. Let us show you how to wield true power and strength.”

It seemed to make sense, it seemed to be logical…she wanted to…join…

And then the fight started again.

And again.

And again.

And then it stopped. Suddenly, like the power being cut halfway through a movie. The heavy fuzziness once again lifted, and…the scene in front of her was crazy. People fighting and wolves and…

Helena stood behind her, and a robin perched on her shoulder.

She smiled, emotionally distraught and exhausted.

Her father was here, and had brought Helena too.

And in that single moment, she was certain of her safety.

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Helena's Contemplation
A ghoul contemplates her future

[Songs: Without You, Just The Way You Are, Beethoven’s Five Secrets, Arwen’s Vigil, Begin Again – The Piano Guys]

Lying here, with this poor, abused, tortured young woman, and her not-quite-knight-in-shining-armour defender of a father could not be a further cry from where I have been with the vampires I’ve previously met in my short life. It’s sweet, in an odd, warped way; that a man cursed to roam the world for an eternity of nights should still be so wonderfully heroic and…human. It makes you wonder how such perfect humanity could ever be lost…and yet, in the nights I’ve spent socialising and working with such people…it seems to disappear so quickly and so easily.

When I was young, like many children do, we dreamt stories and scenarios up using whatever we had to hand, and vampires and zombies and witches were common ones – after all, what else do you dress up as for Hallowe’en? It’s strange to look back at those days, where vampires wore black and holy water and crosses could hurt them…it’s odd to see the line where misconception and fact blur. I suppose that’s the point of the Masquerade; to not outright deny the existence of vampires, but to make people question the validity of the facts they find, and give reason for doubt where there truly is none…

I know I shouldn’t, but I wish that times like this were more common. I wish that I could stay like this for the rest of my life. I know if my domitor knew where I was he’d be demanding boons for my time and recompense for whatever damage he considers me to have done to our, sorry, his, reputation. I dread returning. I know, for my insolence in leaving him without warning during the court, attending a patient of another clan (and most likely covenant) without his consent or payment, and playing a role in the coup that took out four high-ranking members of the Invictus, I will not escape punishment. For so many different disobediences I have a good idea of what I will face, and it is something I have tried to avoid ever since the early days of my ghouling. I doubt I will be allowed to attend another court, let alone see Merris and Lucy again.

I…didn’t expect such a thought to hurt so much.

I don’t know why this man and young woman have struck me as they have. I don’t know why I feel a want…no…a need to protect them both. He tries to make out he needs no-one and can manage on his own, but it’s clear he struggles when Lucy is injured or hurting. Lucy is such a strong young woman but she has no authority and she needs someone to watch out for her. I want to be there for them both; I want to fight with them, stand by them, laugh with them, cry with them. I want to be part of this coterie of kindness; this family of protection and connectedness.

Merris cares so deeply for his daughter that he forgets his own frailties in his vociferous determination to keep her safe. He is a remarkable man, but he is not as indestructible as I think he wishes he was. He hates admitting his weaknesses and his personal trials he faces. I am glad he chose to open up to me, and to allow me in to his small universe that was once his alone, and now houses his daughter, and I have been privy to it. I don’t want to leave his arms. I don’t want to part from him tomorrow knowing I am unlikely to ever see him again. He will end up getting himself killed if he doesn’t have someone to hold his hand or rebuke him when he tries to do things wholly alone. I don’t want that on my conscience; I don’t want to know I could have saved him from his own hard-headedness if it were not for my domitor. He admits he has done awful things (some of which I’ve seen the results of) but – unlike so many other kindred – he does not seem to revel in the atrocities he has partaken in. He may be a kindred…but he is the most human man I have ever met.

And Lucy…oh, Lucy. For such a young woman to have been through such awful things she has held herself together and carried herself with far more poise and dignity than I have ever seen before. She adores her father, and seems to see him almost as a comfort blanket. And again, she is letting me into that world of hers. I don’t want to leave her. I don’t want to leave her at risk of being hurt again. Merris will protect her until his death, of that I am certain…but she – from what Merris has said – has already proven she would do just the same for him.

I don’t want to leave. Let this morning last forever. Let me lie here forever, next to the strongest young woman I have set my eyes on, and the most wonderfully human vampire I have ever met.

I don’t want to sleep. I want to capture every second of this moment, every nuance of this feeling.

Forget Clive, forget duty, forget obligation and reputation. None of that matters.

Not now.

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