Please send all comments to Jane Vandermeer.


Disclaimer: The following story is based on the world of "Kindred: The

Embraced" created and owned by Spelling Entertainment and White Wolf.

No copyright infringement is intended, and as I'm making absolutely no

profit from this, I hope their lawyers will forgive me.





Problem Childe

Prologue

The house was quiet, the guards patrolling the perimeter in the pale light of the moon were alert, but not on edge. Julian's car was still parked on the forecourt, and Anton sighed with relief to see it there. Hurrying, he headed towards the rear of the house, hoping to get inside unseen to speak to Julian before he left. From the library, Archon saw him arrive and moved to the stairs to head him off. "Anton, come here," said Archon from halfway up the stairs. "Sire," said Anton, "Is Julian still here?" "He is. Why do you wish to see him?" "A small matter. Where is he?" "Anton," replied Archon, "Do not try to lie to me. You know I can always tell if you do." "Sire. You're sending him to Manzanita?" "Yes." "Why?" "To exact revenge on the Brujah there. They killed innocent members of our Clan, Anton." "We both know that's untrue." Archon brushed his forefinger across his upper lip, and stood considering for a moment. Then he moved down the stairs. Anton cowered back as Archon came towards him. "You spoilt Childe. What I ever saw in you to make me Embrace you I do not know. Julian is worth ten of you, Geoffrey too." Reaching out, he grabbed Anton by the collar, and dragged him to the basement where he imprisoned Anton in the Prison of Light. As Archon and Anton disappeared, Geoffrey slipped from the reception room to one side of the hall, and quietly headed to his own room. From the window, he watched as Julian started his car and pulled out the drive. "Be careful, my brother," he whispered.

Chapter One

Dear Anton, I regret not having written sooner, particularly given that my news is not happy. I am sorry to tell you that Archon has been killed by a survivor of Manzanita. An attack on Julian's life by other survivors failed. I know you will wonder whether Archon's killer lives, he does and has become Primogen of the Brujah. Archon had told Daedalus that his sending Julian to Manzanita was not justified, that no unarmed Ventrue had been killed. Daedalus in turn informed the Primogen's at their meeting following the assault on Julian's life, thus proving Archon's death was justified by our law. From what Daedalus has said to me, I believe that Archon had come to deeply regret having sent Julian to Manzanita, but could not face telling him so for fear that Julian could not live with himself should he know the truth. I know that Julian is finding it difficult both to accept Archon's lying to him and the import of this for his own actions. My brother, I have never told this to you, but the day that Julian went to Manzanita I overheard you and Archon arguing, and your claim that you both knew Archon's actions were not justified. I am sorry that I did not also stand up to him. Please write back soon. I believe that you should tell Julian what caused the breach between yourself and Archon, I know he would welcome you home should he know. Warm regards Geoffrey ***** Anton da Cruz stood a the wide window of his Manhatten apartment, and looked west where the very last of the day's light was slowly fading from pink to deepest indigo. And a single tear of blood ran down his cheek splashing onto the letter he held. ***** Frank had only just returned to work following his Embrace. Julian had arranged with the Captain, Martin Arnold, for him to be assigned to "special duties" for a few weeks, during which time Julian had taught him to hunt and to survive the daylight. This didn't mean however that he enjoyed being out in it, and today was a beautifully sunny spring day. Frank hoped he'd get to spend the day working through his accumulated paperwork. Frank looked up as Sonny approached. "Hi buddy. So, are you going to tell all about your special assignment?" "Very funny," murmered Frank low enough so only Sonny could hear. "You can tell me on our way to Fishermans Wharf. I volunteered us to interview the shop owners and so forth there in case anybody remembers anything suspicious in the days before we dragged John Doe out of the water." "Great, a lovely walk in the sunlight." "Yeh. And afterwards, we'll join the uniform guys for lunch at one of the cafes. Should be a nice day for it." Frank just groaned and rolled his eyes. Sonny grinned, "Now you know what it's been like for me," he said softly. ***** Dawn was fast approaching as Geoffrey returned from hunting. He looked for Julian and found him ensconced in the library with an armagnac, reading that morning's paper. "Julian, I have something that I need to tell you." Julain looked up at Geoffrey and smiled. "Then pour yourself a drink and sit down." Geoffrey poured himself the drink, then sat across from Julian. When he had sat motionless staring down at the snifter in his hands for a few minutes Julian spoke. "I can't imagine you having anything to tell me that you would find so difficult." Geoffrey raised his head. "It's about Anton," he said. Julian bent his head and sipped, but Geoffrey had seen the way his brood brother's eyes had lit up at the mention of Anton's name. "Julian, I'm in contact with him, I have been the entire time that he's been banished." "Is he well?" asked Julian quietly. "He's fine. He has a good career, and has found welcome in New York since it was retaken from the Sabbat." "I knew from Alexandra's correspondence with friends that he had settled in New York. I never asked her for any details, it was always too difficult. Archon... Geoffrey, Archon must have lied to me about his reason for banishing Anton. It had to have been connected to Manzanita." "You should speak to Anton about what happened. I've written telling him of Archon's death, and that you're aware that Archon deceived you over Manzanita. I suggested he contact you." "He's been protecting me." "Don't do this to yourself. You acted in good faith, a dutiful Childe doing the will of his Sire and his Prince. You had no reason to doubt that what he'd told you was true, given that we were at war and that other assaults on unarmed Kindred had taken place." "I hope he contacts me. What he must think of me..." Geofrey stood and looked down at Julian. "Go to your rest my Prince. And don't feel responsible for decisions made by others. It's enough that you have to deal with the consequences." ***** As evening fell in New York, the man who'd waited outside the apartment building all day saw the woman he'd been following emerge. Briefly looking around her, she set off for the crowded areas further west. He followed, careful to keep his distance. She was, he thought, very beautiful. She drifted into the shopping district, window shopping past all the expensive jewellers. Her gaze caught mainly by displays of intricately detailed objects d'art, she was intent on her self appointed task, and oblivious to the man following her. He drifted closer, sensing her preoccupation. As the crowds increased, he risked brushing against her arm as he strode past her. She glanced his way, and he stepped into the portico of a shop selling ties. Watching her reflection disappear, he slipped out again into the crowd, again keeping his distance. Beautiful, but ice cold, he decided.

Chapter Two

Julian stood at the library window and gazed towards the Golden Gate. Cassandra had to speak his name several times before she attracted his attention. "Sorry, Cassandra. I'm somewhat preoccupied this evening." "You have no business meetings scheduled for tonight, although you are due to have breakfast with Miss Byrne tomorrow at 8.00am." "Thank you. Could you contact Sonny and Frank and ask them to see me here when they're free from work? I'd like you to stay as well." "Of course, Julian." ***** In New York, Anya returned home from shopping and called excitedly to Anton to come and see what it was she had bought. "What is it darling," he asked with an indulgent smile. "Look Anton, it's an enamelled and jewelled egg. See, it even opens. Isn't it beautiful?" "Yes it is. Does it have a stand so that you can display it?" "It's in my room. Do you want me to show you?" Anton gazed down at Anya's bowed head, and as she looked up he smiled at her. "Yes, why don't you show me, and then you should practise." As Anya settled before the keyboard and started to play scales, Anton wandered into his study and reached for the phone. Although he'd not dialed the number in over ten years, it was etched into his memory. "Luna residence," answered Cassandra. "Julian Luna, please," said Anton coolly. "Certainly sir," then she hesitated, "Could I say who's calling?" "It's Anton, Cassie." "Oh Anton, it's wonderful to hear from you. I'll put you through." "Julian Luna." "It's Anton, Julian. Has Jeffrey told you that..." "Yes he has. Anton, I'm sorry. I've only just found out that you tried to stop Archon from sending me to Manzanita." "My brother, you have nothing to be sorry for. I could have contacted you afterwards, or perhaps Daedalus or Stevie, but I didn't. I'm only sorry that you had to find out." "I'm not, not if it means that I have no reason to keep you from returning home. Is it home still, Anton?" "Oh yes, it is. I lived in San Francisco over 150 years before leaving, it will always be home." "Then come home Anton, please?" "Consider me packed and on my way. Will you tell any one?" "Jeffrey of course, and Cassandra and Sonny. Frank too, you've not met him, I Embraced him only a month ago." "Only a baby," laughed Anton. "I doubt he'd like to be described so. He is undoubtably one of the most stubborn people I've ever known!" ***** A little before dawn in San Francisco Julian met Jeffrey, Cassandra, Sonny and Frank in the library. "I have some news," Julian said, unaware of how happy he looked. "Anton is coming home." Then before Frank could say anything he added, "Frank, Anton is Jeffrey's and my brood brother." "Our older brood brother," added Jeffrey with a smile at Julian. "Oh," exclaimed Cassandra, "I've been hoping for this ever since he rang earlier tonight. When is he coming, Julian?" "He didn't say exactly, just that he was already packing." Sonny grinned and nudged Frank, "I think you and Anton will probably get on pretty well", he said. "Why?" Jeffrey interrupted, "I think you could be right Sonny," he said. Frank sighed as the others just laughed at him. ***** In New York, the evidence of packing sparked the attention of the watcher, and it was a matter of simplicity for him to check the destination marked on the packing crates: the removalist's depot in San Francisco, and a consignment number to facilitate later delivery! He returned home and booked plane flights for he and his companions. ***** Frank was working his way through records of interviews when Kwan called he and Sonny into his office. "Frank, the Captain's asked that I free up some of your time to work with the LAPD on this string of murders up and down the coast. With Harbourne gone we've got uneven numbers anyway, so Sonny I'd like you to team up with young Pianto, seems silly to have two of my most experienced officers working together anyway." "Sir, will this be long term?" asked Frank. "Probably, you'll wind up with whatever wet behind the ears detective they send us next." "Reassuring!" "Sorry guys, I know it's important to get to know your partner and how you work together, but that's life." Sonny and Frank wandered back to their desks. "I wonder how the hell this happened," mused Frank. "Are you kidding? Think of it as a vote of confidence. The Captain figures he can rely on you without me looking over your shoulder. Probably got Julian's approval too." "Yeh?" "Yeh." "Oh no! I bet LA will want me on days." "And I bet Pianto will want me on them. He's out of luck." ***** A few nights later, Cameron strode into The Haven, and sat at the Brujah's usual table. "The faces change," murmered Summer to a waiter. "But the overall picture remains the same," he continued for her. They exchanged a smile, then Evan went to take the Brujah's order. Lillie watched from her upstairs window. Julian arrived, and Summer indicated upstairs. He crossed to the stairs and a moment later knocked and then entered. Julian crossed to the window, and watched Cameron for a few moments, then he turned to Lillie. "Anton's coming home, Lillie." She smiled delightedly, "When do you expect him?" "Tomorrow night. I believe his girlfriend is accompanying him. She's Toreador, and a pianist." "Lovely, I shall introduce her to Roddy at the Symphony... You're very happy about this, aren't you?" "Yes. I seem to have lost so many people I care about, it's good to regain one for once." As they stood gazing down, Caitlyn entered The Haven. Julian turned to Lillie and said a quiet good evening, then slipped down to join her. Lillie gazed at them as he slid next to her in their booth. Her eyes flashed silver, then she gritted her teeth and went down to circulate among her customers. *****

Chapter three

All Frank's fears about day shift proved correct. However, the work kept him mainly at his desk with a phone to his ear. The murders seemed to be moving up the Californian coast, with varying numbers at each of the major centres. LA had gotten involved when they'd had five murders, and now the next city was San Francisco. The murder's only common aspect was the theft of the victim's shoes! "How's it going?" asked Sonny. "Slowly. It's mostly just figuring out when we can expect this joker here and whether there's anything we can do about it." "Have you spoken to Julian about it?" "No. I've not seen him for a few days. Problems?" "Maybe. Frank, you do realise that you can't travel to Los Angeles, don't you? The Prince, Cyrus, was Eddie Fiori's Sire, and he'd just love to get a hold of you. Or me for that matter." Frank just stared at him. "Well?" "Sonny, I'm supposed to go down there next week. Oh great! I think I'd better have a word with the Captain." "You'd better. It's strange that he didn't consider it." "Maybe he hates me." "Paranoid." "And deluded, and just plain crazy. Thanks." Frank managed to arrange to see the Captain the following morning, and headed home to rest briefly before meeting Lillie at The Haven after the Conclave. ***** For Anya, the news that Anton wanted her to return with him to San Franciso had not been unexpected, nor unwelcome. Her studies at Juilliard complete, she was free to leave New York with Anton, and they had been together such a short time! With New York only recently retaken from the Sabbat, she had few close friends there and it had taken only a little time to farewell those she was closest too. Within a few days, she and Anton were booked on an evening flight to San Francisco. ***** The Haven was quiet when Frank arrived. Neither Lillie nor any of the other Primogens were in sight so Frank settled down with a beer to wait for her. He looked around, mainly Kindred there. A large group of Brujah at their usual centre table, he ignored them. Lorraina and Marissa were propping up one end of the bar chatting. A half dozen Toreador staff moved through the crowd and served behind the bar. Several groups of Ventrue talked in booths, but Frank didn't know any of them and didn't approach them. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a small group of Gangrels enter. Three men all with long flowing blond hair. Two were Cash's people, and they nodded slightly at Frank and headed towards the women, the third he didn't recognise. The stranger headed straight to the Brujah's table. "Get up," he said to the nearest Brujah. The Brujah got obediently to his feet and moved aside for the stranger to take his seet. "Such a good position from which to view the room, don't you think?" the stranger enquired generally of the table once he was settled. The stunned Brujah just sat dumbfounded for a moment, then one stood and gazed at him. "I don't think you were invited to sit down..." A companion grabbed his arm. "Sit down, Mikey. Let him be." Both Mikey and Frank wore identical puzzled expressions after that. Meanwhile, Summer slipped from behind the bar and over to take the new arrival's order. He stood as she approached and they hugged each other tightly. "Anton, welcome home!" she exclaimed. Frank laughed into his beer at that, and Anton caught his eye. "Who is that?" Anton asked Summer. "Frank Kohanek. Julian embraced him only a month ago." Anton smiled slightly at Frank, then turned again to Summer. "Where is Julian?" he asked, taking her arm and leading her back towards the bar. The displaced Brujah gratefully reclaimed his seat. "He's at a Primogen's meeting upstairs. They've been there for a while so I'd expect them out soon." "I guess I'll wait... Oh here's someone?" "Cameron, Brujah." The next figure on the stairs was Cash who just stood and stared, as Julian appeared, Cash glanced concernedly at him. "It's all right Cash, I'm expecting him," Julian said quietly. Cash grinned broadly and Lillie squeezed his shoulder as she and Candice descended the stairs behind Julian. Daedalus slipped out unseen. As Cameron joined the Brujah, the younger ones clamoured for his attention. But his eyes were fixed on the strange Ventrue, his attention was complete when Julian Luna, Ventrue Prince of the City strode straight towards him, extended his hand and said, "Welcome home Anton." Cameron stared. "Who the hell is that?" "The Gangrel...?" began Mikey. "The Ventrue you fool. Can't you feel him from here? He's old and he's powerful, whatever his appearance." "That's Anton da Cruz. Julian's elder brood brother," one of the older Brujah said quietly. By now, The Haven was closing for the night, the few humans left drifted out and soon there was left only an increasing circle of Kindred around Anton, and a circle of disgruntled Brujah sticking stubbornly to their table. Frank sat quietly at his original table, and Lillie glanced across at him before nudging Julian and pointing towards him. Julian smiled at Frank, and extended his has inviting him over. Frank wandered over and Julian placed a hand on his shoulder before speaking formally to Anton. "Anton, may I present my Childe Frank Kohanek. Frank, this is my brother, Anton da Cruz." Anton and Frank shook hands gravely. Somehow though Frank had the feeling that this wasn't Anton's usual style any more than it was his. "I'm pleased to meet you, Frank." A slight hush ensued, broken only by Sonny barreling in through the door and making a beeline for Anton. He hugged him then drew back. "Welcome home Anton. It's great to see you!" "And you too Sonny. Every one of you in fact. Even all of you," he added turning to the Brujah and gazing directly at Cameron. *****

Chapter four

At the Luna house, a blonde haired woman was shown by one of the staff into the smaller downstairs sitting room while the staff member went to look for Jeffrey. Intrigued by the beautiful objetcs d'art she started to wander, passing through one set of doors, then another until she eventually found herself in a beautiful room in the middle of which sat a deep black concert Steinway grand piano. Like a magnet, it drew her to it and she ran her hands lovingly up and down the keys. Tentatively, she started to play, after a few moments sinking down onto the padded piano stool placed before it. Her confidence grew and as she played she became so totally engrossed in the music that she didn't notice the crowd of people she drew that clustered around her. Jeffrey edged past the other members of the household staff that stood listening, and went to stand next to Cassandra. "I suppose this must be Anton's Toreador companion," Jeffrey said drily to her. "I suppose it must be." As the movement reached its crescendo, Jeffrey moved closer to Anya's arm, and as her hands lifted from the keys for a brief pause, he spoke. "That was lovely." She started and glanced up at him before looking quickly around at the others. "Oh dear, I had no idea I was disturbing so many people!" "It does not matter, and they were all just returning to work any how." Jeffrey glanced around and the crowd began to disappear. He turned back to her. "I am Jeffrey, and this is Cassandra." "And I'm Anya. I feel as though I've already met you both, Anton has talked so much of you the last few days." "Anton has told Anya nothing to which either of you might have reason to object, however," said Anton as he burst into the music room . "Hello Cassandra," he said kissing her, "And hello Jeffrey," and both men embraced closely. "What have you done with Julian?" Jeffrey asked. "I hope he doesn't regret this already?" "I'm hurt that you could suggest such a thing dear brother," said Anton lightly. "Besides, he's following behind me in his own car. Anya my darling, you must have radar to have already found this room!" "I started to wander and stumbled upon it. It is a beautiful piano. Is it played regularly, because it is in perfect tune?" Cassandra bit her lower lip, and after a slight pause Jeffrey replied. "I have it tuned regularly," he said. ***** Julian Luna's car turned into his driveway, and a few minutes later a non-descript dark sedan drove past the gate and on up the hill. The two people inside it looked ordinary enough, but an inspection of the contents of their boot would have displled that image. They carried with them sharpened metal and wooden stakes and phosphorous guns. "What do you think?" said the man. "Definitely vampires, a house that big, that established, it could even be the Prince." "I should think most of the clientele at the club were vampires." "Quite possible. They forget themselves, forget to be careful." "We've neglected the west coast in favour of the east, all of us have." A little further up the road, they met up with the car that had earlier trailed Anya from the airport. The young man driving it got out and walked back to greet the other two. "What do you think," he asked, "How should we approach this?" The older man replied. "As always, we attack those that are weakest, and draw out the stronger ones. We need to spend some more time at the club. We could perhaps identify those whose business takes them out in the day quite often, they would be most vulnerable then. For now, we had all better get some sleep, we'll have along night ahead of us later today." With that, the group of three watchers got back into their cars and returned to their hotel. ***** The next morning Frank caught up with the Captain in his office. "Sir, were you aware that the LA team are assuming I'm coming down there next week?" The Captain looked up, startled. "No I wasn't, in fact I was specifically assured that you would not be required to travel to Los Angeles. I gather Julian has explained the situation there?" "Actually Sonny did when I mentioned it to him. Do you think the situation has changed legitimately or is someone trying to make my life difficult?" "I have no doubt but that there's LA Brujah involvement in this somewhere. They have people in the force there just as we have people in it here. Leave it to me to sort out, Frank. I doubt Julian would thank me if I allowed you to go down there!" "Thank you," Frank said, relieved. ***** A little south of San Francisco, in San Jose, a man pulled the shoes from his latest victim. "Only a small town, San Jose," he thought. "Not worth staying here much longer."