© Linda Myers
"You're leaving again?"
"How did you know?"
"I can always tell, you get that look on your face.Where are you off to this time? Cairo?"
"No, I think it will be at least another fifty years before I set foot there again."
" Not Athens, I hope."
"That was not my fault."
"It never is, darling."
"I thought we agreed not to ping that up again, it's old news."
"It has taken me this long to undo the damage you did in Greece, not to mention what happened in New Orleans..."
"You'll never let me live it down, will you? I keep hoping that someday you'll learn, that this insatiable quest will end, and you'll stay here with me, where you belong."
"But I am learning, I'm learning every day, and what you call this insatiable quest of mine is what drew you to me in the first place, is it not?' And besides, I always do return to you, eventually."
"Yes, you do return, penniless and ragged after Istanbul, mourning your lost love in Mexico, shall I go on ?"
"You wound me. You know that I love you, and you will always be uppermost in my soul, but you also know that keeping me here against my will has never solved our problem, my problem,"
"Where are you going?"
"The States! Good god,have you lost your mind!"
"I've been asked, invited,actually, to observe the Kindred there."
"Asked by whom?"
"I don't know. I received an e-mail yesterday, sender unknown. It said ,"San Francisco awaits your arrival."
"The Internet, is it? I've raised you on Tolstoy, I've read you Tennyson, and you're wasting your time on the Internet?"
"It's the nineties, dear, and it's not like we don't have the time to waste, you and I ."
"Be careful, my child, from what I hear there is much trouble afoot in San Francisco. the clans are warring, and a new prince has enough to deal with, let alone having you in his city. I warn you, I will not rescue you this time."
"You speak as if I am seeking mayhem. That is the furthest thing from my mind, I assure you. I will simply observe, and report ,as usual."
"I had an ally many years ago,named Archon, seek him out. He will protect you while you remain there."
"Protect me from what?"
"Yourself. And, one more thing you must remember, we are not one of them, you and I, we are alike, but different. One , yet not the same."
"How can that be?"
"You will find out soon enough..."
"I do wish you'd change your mind about this. I'm quite uncomfortable with it all."
"Jeremy, love, you're uncomfortable every time I walk out the door, why should this be any different?"
"Because this is something you're unprepared for, rushing off to nowhere at the request of God knows who, or what. You're diving in feet first , just like you always do."
"I have survived all this time, dearest one, due to you, and my instincts. I can't exist without them both, but one does not overrule the other. I am going to San Francisco, whether you like it or not ."
"I do not like this, not one bit. You'll be on the other side of the world, among people you know very little about..."
"But that is just the reason I am going, to find out about them, study them. That is what you trained me to do,Observe. "I also taught you to avoid trouble at all costs. What happened, dear, selective memory?"
"I'm working on that Jeremy, I promise to try this time."
"Better try damn hard, your life may depend on it.And for your own good, please..."
"I 'm working on that too, it's just that sometimes..."
"Not this time, o.k.? I will not have another Lisbon on my head, do you hear me? They almost threw us both out to the street after that dalliance, do you remember?"
"I remember him well, Jeremy, and given the chance I'd probably do it again."
"Have you heard anything I 've just said?' sigh, "I've heard it all, a thousand times. Go. Look. Listern. Report . And be an obedient little vampire, to boot."
"About that last part?' The steward approached, bending over to whisper,"Your flight has been cleared, sir, we're ready as soon as the lady boards."
"Saved by the bell", she smiled. "Well then, I'm off. I promise to call when I've settled in, and I shall be sending you reports as I deem necessary."
"You will write or fax me daily, and if I do not hear from you within a forty eight hour span, I shall come looking for you, is that clear?"
"Yes,yes. By the way Jeremy, you do seem just a tad overwhelmed by this, even for you. Does this, could this have anything to with.."
"We've danced round this a million times, and I have no more intention of discussing it with you now than I did last time you pought it up to me. The subject is closed. Now, go get onto your plane before I realize wh I'm sending you off to, and change my mind."
"One day, dear, you promised to tell me."
"I promised you no such thing." "Wish me luck,Jeremy."
"You're going to need it,my child."
She settled in as the plane began to level off, There was certainly something to be said for travelling via private aircraft, but then her life, this life as she knew it, seemed to be filled with things most people could only imagine. The steward approached, "Ma'am, if you please, may we offer you something?"
"No", she replied, "I 'd like to be left alone , for awhile."
"As you wish." She needed time to think this thing through. Twenty four hours ago she received this note, and here she was, flying off into who knows what. Another adventure, or just another reason to escape Jeremy for awhile. She still had not forgiven him for the last great row they had before she went to pazil. "Why will you not answer me,Jeremy? After all this time, after all I've done for you , why can you not speak the truth to me?"
"What good will it do you? I've told you for nearly two centuries, I do not know how you came to me! I only know that I saved you, and you have not an ounce of gratitude for that fact."
"Saved me from what? That is all I am asking, begging you for an answer , yet every time I approach this subject, you become a pillar of denial. I've known you too long and too well, dearest Jeremy. You know who I am, yet you lie through your ancient teeth and accuse me of ingratitude. You are impossible, yet you are my only link to the past. Please, Jeremy, let go of whatever holds you to your stubbornness, and tell me once and for all!" He had turned his back and walked out on her, and they had not spoken again for nearly two years. Sweet Jeremy, why does this always come between us?, she thought. She tried to clear her mind, at least for now, and concentrate on the task ahead. He was right, she hadn't fully prepared for San Francisco, and that was unlike her. Her attention to detail was fanatical, her work so precise that even The Superiors had allowed her to pick and choose her assignments. But she needed help. And who would know more about a clan of San Francisco Kindred than.... "Steward", she called out, "We need to change course. Immediately."
"But ma'am, we were told to..."
"I know what you were told, but I need to go to Louisiana. Now."
"New Orleans, here I come again,"she laughed out loud. She grabbed her lap top and sent off the message: "Hello,cher. I'll be in your neck of the woods in eight hours. Meet me at the usual place. Love, MOI P>S> Please come alone" One of them at a time was all she could handle right now.
The message was terse. "She will arrive before the quarter moon." With a flick of the wrist, it was tossed into the fireplace. He stood and stared at the flames, trying to comprehend that which Jeremy feared to put on paper. He knew it had begun.
He didn't even bother to look up, he knew she was there. The jolt hit all at once, travelling through him in an instant. "Well,well,well. Fancy meeting you here.And on time, for once in your life." He opened his mouth to answer, but when he met her eyes, he could only smile. He shook his head, slowly, appraising her and the situation at the same time. "Didn't expect to see you quite this soon,chere. I thought after your last escapade here, you'd at least have the decency to wait until the millenium before returning."
"That escapade you so blithely refer to was Your doing, not mine. And you're lucky I let you live, let alone tolerate you reminding me of it." She was smiling, not chastising him, she had learned long ago that it did no good with him. "Let's see, last I heard you were fleeing Cairo with my mother."
"And you were contemplating playing Icarus. Tell me, released any new albums lately? I expect to turn on the television and finding you hawking your "Greatest Hits". They both dissolved into laughter. They were the same in mind and spirit, and that forged the bond that held them together, and kept them apart. "So, sweetheart, what is it this time? Business or pleasure? Or, knowing you, a little of one and a lot of the latter?"
"Business, pure and simple, love. I'm on an observation, and I need your help." She told him of the note, and her decision to follow its lure. "San Francisco?" He laughed so hard he started to cough, "Oh Lord, you have no idea what you're getting into!"
"Now just what is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm imagining, dear heart, you swooping down on those poor, helpless Kindred. They'll be running for cover within days of your arrival."
"First of all, I gave up swooping ages ago. And if you are implying that I am about to do anything more than my job, which is to observe and not interfere.."
"That'll be the day." "Look, I need background info on this crew. Now, let's cut to the chase.Can you help me out or not?" "Yes, I can. I know them all, from the Prince to the players. Spend the night, and I'll tell you all that you need to know."
"Spend the night?" "It's been a while, chere. Do you remember Istanbul?"
"Like it was yesterday, but I also remember you running out on me in Morocco, and leaving me with the hotel bill."
"Trifles, lady, mere details." That bell was going off inside her head, but she really needed this information, and she did remember glowing for quite some time after Istanbul.
"So why are we still sitting here?", she asked.
He handed the workbook and a wrapped box to the hotel manager. "Please see that these are delivered to Suite 301." He walked through the doors to the street, chuckling softly as he made his way home. Now, he really should call and warn them about her. But, on the other hand, he still wasn't entirely sure where Julian had pulled that fourth ace from that night, and he had hated losing the Benz to him,( it was a classic after all) but even he knew better than to call a Ventrue Prince a cheat. This would settle the score between them , and the smug bastard deserved it . "Oh Julian," he laughed, "You'll never even see it coming ."
She awoke alone, which was entirely acceptable. She'd enjoyed the evening immensely, but there was work to be done. She looked for her laptop, but found instead a note: "Missing me yet, chere? Or cursing me to Hell because I've taken your precious lifeline? Check with the concierge before you go, he has what you'll need. Please do call when you leave SF, I can't wait to hear about this one. I'll be at the South Beach house if you need me."
"That'll be the day", she snarled. She should have known him better. But why the hell had he taken her workbook? He couldn't even screw in a light bulb without a manual, let alone operate a computer! If she was missing even one file, she'd search him into the netherworld with all the fury she could muster, and he knew what her temper could do, even to a vampire as powerful as he. The concierge confirmed that yes, her laptop was safe, and that Monsieur had left a present for her as well. "Have it sent up immediately", she growled into the receiver. Slowly, slowly, the beast subsided.
Stopped off to do some research, got a bit waylaid. Will arrive final destination within 4 hours.
This would keep him off her back for a day or so. She wanted space on this one, and she'd be damned if she let him rule her life now, she'd never allowed it in the past.He was being unusually overprotective.She couldn't imagine why, but she was not about to dwell on it.
With a bit of luck, she'd convince this "Archon" to shed some light on Jeremy's past.He said they had been allies, but in what?
She reached down into her piefcase , and felt the box. The present! She'd forgotten all about it in her rush to leave New Orleans. She tore at the wrappings like a two year old at a birthday party.
The burgundy velvet box contained a stickpin, intricately carved, with a black pearl in its center.
"Interesting, but not my taste.", she thought.
The card read:
"Wear this to the Haven"
"Ok, I'll play along", she mused.
She turned on the laptop and began searching for the information he had promised. Time after time the searches came up empty.
"You jackal, I'll find you when this is through, so help me." She could not believe that he'd done this, she didn't want to believe it. She had actually trusted him this time.
She hated flying blindly into situations like this, but she knew she'd handle it, one way or another When this task was over, Florida was in for a tempest.
What is this, a gangrel convention? First the baggage handlers, now the limousine driver. Surprising,these guys are usually pujah. The hotel doorman extended his hand to her. Oh,no,not him too! "Welcome to Dodge City", she laughed. She was walking towards the door when the jolt happened. She spun around, narrowing her eyes, searching out the source. "Show yourself and be known to me", she ordered. The tall figure emerged from the alcove of the mail center across the street. "I mean you no Harm." It sent out,"You are welcome here." It surprised her, how powerful this Nosferatu message was. It was the strongest she'd ever felt, save Jeremy. "As if you could harm me", she shot back across the night sky. ____________________________________ "Jeremy." "It's about time. Where are you?' "Who other than you knows where I am?" Darling, we haven't yet defined ' 'where', have we?"
"I'm in the hotel. San Francisco. And,"
"Yessss?" "Jeremy, there's more to this than I thought." "You"ve decided this already? How,pray tell?"
"I was greeted, if you can call it that, outside the hotel by a Nosferatu. Who is he Jeremy?" "Nosferatu? Are you sure?"
"You doubt me? "No, but I don't understand how."
"Neither do I."
"The force was powerful?" "Powerful enough that I'm calling you."
"I see. I don't understand your concern, however. You know he cannot cross you."
"Yes, but it seems odd that he specified 'no harm'."
"I agree. Get to Archon, as quickly as possible. Tell him all that you know."
"Yes, my lord."
There are rules of behavior to be followed when encountering vampires. Firstly, keep a reasonable distance. These creatures can exert great force when agitated. Second, maintain a calm demeanor.They can sense fear and will absorb strength from it. Third. Above all else, try to remain unnoticed for as long as possible. She sent out the first jolt as she walked into the Haven. Not full scale, just enough to let them know she was there. She did, however miscalculate how many Vampires were inside, so it actually came out just a wee bit stronger than she had hoped. More like a small earthquake. There must be fifty of them here. They weren't hard to spot,pale creatures dressed in the most somber tones they could find. And the black suits...was there a burial today, or were they all ex New Yorkers? She had chosen white, head to toe. See and be seen. She looked straight ahead as she crossed the room, knowing full well that all Kindred eyes were on the stranger. She took the seat at the bar offered by the young pujah, crossed her legs, and waited for the fun to begin.
Her action did not go unnoticed by the Primogens present at the Haven. Julian, sitting in his usual booth with Caitlin, stopped speaking midsentence. "What is it," She asked sweetly, "is something wrong?"
"No, I was just..distracted for a moment, that's all. I was recalling something I forgot to do today." He was trying to remain calm, in spite of the fact that a thunderbolt had just passed through him. He looked deep into Caitlin's eyes, drew her closer to him, and laced his fingers into hers."Now, where was I?" "You were saying that you'd consider another weekend away. We need it, Julian, we need to be alone...." Her voice trailed off in his mind as he saw the creature cross the floor. She was the color of warm cocoa, moving through the crowd with an animal-like gait not possessed by any mortal woman.But what was she? She was unlike any Kindred he had encountered. The force emanating from her was simply too powerful. He knew he needed to get Caitlin away from here, fast. Lillie, locked in an empace with Cameron, pulled away, reeling from the jolt. "What the hell was that?" Cameron asked her. "I don't know, but we'd better find out. Get dressed. I know it came from downstairs." Cash, gangrel primogen, was knocked against the wall. Jumping to his feet, he headed towards Julian, who was rising from the booth. "Get my car, now. We're leaving." Chapter 11 She scanned the room from the mirror behind the bar. There was the Ventrue with his mortal woman, the Gangrel contingent to the left, and not to be discounted, the pujah on the far right. Assorted Torreador lingered, as was their custom, anywhere there was a piece of artwork. She saw the Ventrue head towards the door, gangrel and blonde in tow. The Torreador woman and the pujah were coming down the stairs, a little too quickly. The pujah was still straightening his tie. "OOppss, sorry I interrupted.", she laughed. The Ventrue turned toward the Torreador, shot her a look, then glanced over at the bar. The woman nodded in silent agreement, then headed toward the stranger, leaving the pujah behind. She approached with caution. "Good evening. I'm Lillie, the owner. Welcome to the Haven." Then she saw the stickpin in the lapel of the white suit. She looked puzzled, though she tried her best to hide it. "What a lovely piece of jewelry, wherever did you get it?"
"It was a present from a friend. He suggested it wear it here."
"This friend, is he a...good friend?" She hated this type of game, but she was following suit."He has been a friend for a very long time, and the answer to your next question is yes, also."
"I see", said Lillie, "Did he tell you how he came to own this pin?" "No he did not." (BUT YOU WILL) Lillie was beginning to relax. He would not have handed that over to an enemy, not after what had passed between them. "I gave it to him just before he went onstage," she smiled as she recalled the incident. "If he told you to wear it, that meant he wanted you and I to meet." "And now we have." (C"MON LILLIE, INVITE ME UPSTAIRS) "Would you join me for a drink, upstairs in my salon?"
"I'd love to, thank you." Lillie heaved a sigh of relief as they climbed the stairs. She had feared the worst, but this woman, whoever she was, did seem quite interesting, and it would relieve the ennui she was suffering from lately. Besides, Julian would want to hear all about it, and if she could only have him next to her again...
The copa and the mongoose begin the dance. "May I offer you something?" Lillie asked. She was intrigued by the woman, and wanted to know everything about her, now. "No, thank you, I'm fine."
"How it is that you are in San Francisco"
"You mean why, don't you, Lillie? You needn't beat around the bush with me. I don't take offense easily."
"Okay, then why are you here?" I can do this too, thought Lillie."Are you visiting? Or are you seeking something?"
"I am an observer. Are you familiar with the term?"
"No, please continue." "I am here as an outsider, if you will. I was sent here to report what is happening with the Kindred in San Francisco. I am not allowed, under my organization's rules, to interfere in any way with your lives. I simply report what I have seen."
"Like a private detective?"
"Not quite. I prefer to think of myself as a chronicler, not an eavesdropper. And I'd like to ask for your help."
"I need to present myself to the Prince. It is customary that I introduce myself, and state my intentions. I have found in the past it facilitates my work if the Prince agrees to my being here."
"And if he doesn't agree?"
"I'm hoping that will not happen. I was given a name, Archon.." Lillie's eyes widened. "Who gave you the name?"
"I'm not at liberty to say. Is this Archon?" Lillie cut her off, "Archon is dead. He will be of no use to you, I'm afraid. His sire, Julian Luna, is the Ventrue Prince of the city now. He was here this evening, you missed him."
"The man with the blonde mortal?" Lillie's teeth clenched. "Yes, that is his latest." (AHHH, we're hitting a nerve here) "Lillie,I've never known a Ventrue who didn't have a least one blonde in his bed, and another in his boardroom. Shall I assume from your reaction?" "That we were together? Yes, we were, for quite a long time. But I'm not at all concerned by her, if that's what you are thinking." She said this a little too forcefully, she knew, but when it came to Caitlin... The woman laughed, "Lillie, come on now! A ventrue Prince without an overactive libido? Unheard of! And besides, I caught you descending the stairs with the pujah, so it's not like you're sitting back and pining for him. Darling, she'll grow old, gravity will set in, and he'll be back under your Torie spell in no time. I'm sure you've been through this before with him. Why let it bother you now?" Lillie looked at the woman and pondered, then laughed. "Been through this yourself, have you?"
"No, if it were me I would have shot the bastard by now, but that's me, not you." "He is my Prince.." "Details,details." Lillie threw her head back and roared. "Now I know why "our friend" wanted us to meet. We're a lot alike, aren't we?" "Oh, I think we've both ridden the same horses at least once in our lives." They both loved the irony, and laughed in appreciation at the image.
Rules for meeting the Prince; Remain cogniscent that the man as well as the position he holds are deserving of nothing less than the utmost respect. A dignified manner is expected, no matter what the outcome of initial meeting may be. "The Prince will see you now." She followed the aide into the study. The man rose from behind the desk and extended his hand. "Julian Luna, Prince of San Francisco, I present to you Miss Soraya Bastian." (Ok, he wants me to kiss the ring) "Thank you, sir, for seeing me."
"You're welcome. Please have a seat." (Damn Ventrue. Polite as hell, but boring. Give me a Torreador Prince any day over these aristocrats) "How may I be of service to you, Miss Bastian?"
"I am here, sir.."(He's trying to read my thoughts? Get real, your highness) "And so I thought it best to start with you..."(Again? C'mon baby, you can do better than do that.Try harder.) "If it be your pleasure that..."(OK, pal, you asked for it. YOUR FLY IS OPEN) He looked down, out of habit, then looked up quickly as he realized what had happened. He glared across the desk at her. She dug her nails into her palms to keep from laughing out loud.(Your fault, not mine,darling) "Miss Bastian," He began slowly,"You may remain in this city, I will grant that. You will follow the laws of the Kindred while you are here. Am I understood?"
"Of course, sir."(Yes Daddy) He rose again from the mass of carved ebony and led her to the door. "It was my pleasure, Miss Bastian, to meet you. If I can be of any further assistance to you, please contact me." "Thank you, sir, and I 'm sure we'll see each other again." He watched her walk down the hall.("Great legs") he couldn't help but notice. ("Nice ass, Julian") she shot back in her mind.(I should know, I just kissed it.)
She was leaving the house when she felt the presence again. "Damn you, Nosferatu.Appear before me", she commanded. And he was there, slighty dazed by the speed at which he had been transported. "Who are you?", she growled. "Speak before I turn you to ash where you stand!"
"I am Daedalus", the creature replied. "Primogen of the Nosferatu. I wish only that you follow me."
"Why?", she demanded. "All will be made known in time. Come with me." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When they had reached his chamber, he began to speak again: "San Francisco awaits your arrival." "What? You? Forgive me, but you're not quite the sender I had pictured. Since when do Nosferatu surf the Net?"
"We do whatever it takes to accomplish our task. It was successful, you are here." "But why?" His voice was as calm as the night air. "You are here to serve my Prince." "You want to run that by me again? Serve your Prince? Like hell I will, I've never served..." "He is in need of direction, and you are the one to lead him back down the path."
"The path to what?"
"The events of recent months have left him with questions he is unable to answer, and his judgement has been clouded." He explained the circumstances surrounding Archon's death, Julian's continuing relationship with Caitlin, and the pujah uprising. "If this woman bothers you so much..."
"She does not bother us, she alarms us. Her presence in his life threatens the Masquerade."
"Then why not just kill her and be done with it? "It would be only a temporary solution to a larger problem."
"My Prince's internal struggle."
"And just how do you think I can be of help to him?"
"You are the oldest of your kind, you have seen struggles like this, and seen them resolved to fruition. I ask that you aide him in whatever way necessary to restore his faith in himself."
"Have you tried to do this? Why not just let the Primogens speak to him? Why not let Lillie.."
"We have attempted, but our voices fell on deaf ears. We fear for him, and for our clans. He must regain that which he once was, and settle the strife."
"No, I'm sorry, but I can't help you. First of all, a Ventrue Prince would no more take advice from me than..."
"The pujah are drawing together from the South. They are planning to kill him, and seat own of their own in his place. I fear this time they will succeed." He paused for a moment,and the pain was evident on his face. "He is a good Prince, and he is my friend."
"I'm sorry, but I cannot help you. Why not align yourself with him in this battle? "
"The Nosferatu wish him ousted, also." They sat staring at each other as the effect of his words sunk in. "Daedalus", she began softly, "I am not an avenging angel. I am not a savior. I'm sorry that your Prince is in trouble, but I am not the help you seek."
"He needs someone with your strength, your ways, to see him through this."
"Daedalus, I cannot interfere. Do you understand!" He sighed, rose from the chair, and turned his back to her. "I know where you began."
"Excuse me?" "I know all that Jamal will not reveal." The words struck her like daggers. She had not referred to Jeremy by that name for a thousand years. And how did he know of Jeremy? His words began to pick up pace. "Archon and Jamal were allies once. When Archon knew his death was imminent, he told me the story of the Methuselah. I was instructed to tell no one, but to send for you if I ever felt Julian was in trouble." "And you think I will believe you? You're only telling me this..." Her mind was racing, her heart pounding in her ears. He struck the final blow. "You are Sarayan, Fourth Generation, Clan Tzimisce." She sat, unable to move. No one on earth save Jeremy knew this. "What else do you know about me?" He could hear the fear in her voice, and he played to it. "All that you have sought, I can answer. The questions that haunt you in your sleep are in my power." She flew at him in a rage. "Tell me, Nosferatu, or I will tear you limb from limb and .." He remained as calm as he could. "If you kill me, you will never know." He had stopped her in her tracks. "And if you run to Jamal with this revelation, he will seek me, and kill me himself. Again, you will have no answers." She collapsed back into the chair. This was more than she could handle. He knelt at her feet, and took her hand in his. "Help my Prince, and I will tell you all that you wish to know. Give me your word, Sarayan." She had never been in this position before, and it seemed this Daedalus knew it. "Promise me you will help him." She was recovering, a bit at a time. "I need to consider this, Nosferatu. I need time. I will contact you by nightfall tomorrow." With those words, she was gone.