All the characters in the following story are owned by Spelling, and the
Vampire: The Masquerade is owned by Mark Rein*Hagan and my use is in
no way a challenge to their copyrights but instead a tribute to their
creative efforts. The story and events are all mine though.

The Setting Sun

by Sean D. Francis

The iron gates of Julian's mansion slowly parted as the Prince of the City stepped from his secluded compound overlooking the bay. There was such peace in that bay. From this distance, the turbulence of the waters couldn't be seen, only the lights from the bridge that reflected from its surface. Cash pulled the black car around in front of Julian. Another scruffy man popped out of the passenger side and opened the door for Luna.

"Cash," Julian said as the door closed to his side. "As soon as we get to the Haven, I want you and your Gangrel to keep a close eye out for Brujah rabble. Without a primogen, their infighting could ead to a breach of the Masquerade. . . ."

The unspoken part of the message was very clear to Cash. It was something he felt also. If the fighting between the Brujah lasted much longer, Sasha may get hurt.. Sasha getting hurt was the last thing Cash wanted. But the Brujah fighting left the Gangrel with more room to breathe. The Brujah had been making deep in roads into Gangrel territory. Cash knew that the death of Eddie Fiori gave his clan a reprieve. But a short lived one. They would have to move fast to take advantage of the Brujah's lapse in power.

***

Daedalus stood by himself in the cellar of the mansion. He liked being alone. Being alone meant not having to deal with the politics of kindred society. He missed the company of people, sure. But he had been able to lock that part of himself away. But recently, his being alone translated into loneliness, something he had not felt for decades. It was Abel that made him think of his loneliness.

Yes, Julian was a trusted friend, and his clan understood him, but Abel had reached past the veils that are between Kindred. Daedalus's encounter with the young boy opened new doors for him. A whole world he had never considered before. The idea of teaching someone. Of embracing them and showing them the beauty of the kindred. Maybe, since Abel was so innocent, he would have been able to transcend the Beast.

But Julian refused to help. At least Abel would not die.

***

Archon walked down the stairs to the main room of the mansion. He was startled to see Sasha sitting in a chair at the conclave table. He knew Julian loved and trusted this woman deeply, but he had seen too many Brujah pull too many stunts to be completely trustworthy. One does not survive this long without a bit of paranoia.

"Sasha, what are you doing here?"

"I'm waiting...waiting for you, actually." Sasha looked very nervous. Her usual cool exterior had melted away revealing the scared child she actually was.

Archon calmly took a seat next to her. He could sense her heart thumping. She wasn't in frenzy, just scared. His eyes took her in and he felt fairly certain she was being honest with him. "Waiting for me? What can I do for you?"

"I know you are Julian's sire. And you were once Prince. " Her voice was staccato. "I love Julian, I don't want to hurt him, but I am Brujah. What if they use me...to ...."

Archon placed his hand on her arm gently. "...to harm Julian? No doubt they will, Sasha. But you have to be strong. You have to be able to see past the surface. Julian and I have already discussed the what might happen, I think you are underestimating Julian. He is Prince for a reason. "

Sasha didn't feel much better. Thinking she could be used against the two men she loved, Cash and Julian, was too much for her. If the thought of actual death wasn't so terrifying, she would end it all right now. No matter what, no matter what her blood was, or who people said she was, she could not harm these two men.

****

The Haven was filled with people. Not too surprising, seeing Lillie had booked one of the best live acts around. They were a group from L.A., Cyrus's recording company had put them on a local tour through some of the better clubs. Lillie had staged a small coup and negotiated to have them play over half their gigs at her clubs. That was one thing Julian always admired and, yes, feared about Lillie, she always seemed to get what she wanted.

His relationship with her had been straining over the past couple of weeks. Julian saw the warning signs but chose to ignore them. He loved Caitlin. The fact of the matter was, it was over between Lillie and him, but, she was too important. Too important in his personal life, and too important in keeping the clans together. If she took her clan and supported someone else as Prince, he would be on shaky ground. Lillie was not to be trifled with.

As Luna stepped into the club, his dark eyes fell upon Lillie sitting at the bar sipping a glass of wine. She was wearing one of her daring outfits, obviously to make an impression on the record producers and other advance people. Once again, Lillie was playing the game two moves ahead. She was trying to wrest control of the recording industry from the Brujah.

"Lillie," Julian said as he approached the bar.

"Julian, I'm surprised to see you here. Where is your new toy?"

"Lillie. This has to stop." His voice was calm but forceful. He had matched wits with Lillie far too many times to let her get to him.

Lillie sensed she was about to push him too far, but something in her pushed her to attack. "Oh, why, Julian? Is the pressure getting to you? She's a mortal. She can't love you the same way I can."

"Our relationship was over a long time ago, Lillie."

"If that is true, then what were you doing in my bed last week?" This was it. Lillie knew that he was backed into a corner, a position she didn't mean to put him in. He would have only one response and that would be to lash out. But sometimes, just getting emotion from someone, whether good or bad, is rewarding. She hated the coldness that was between them now, and she knows that it was as much her fault as his.

The anger flared in Luna's eyes. This confrontation was not what he wanted, but if Lillie was going to push it, then she had better be prepared for the consequences.

Cash approached Luna as the tension became apparent. "Julian, there doesn't seem to be any of Eddie's Brujah here at all."

Julian glanced at Cash and replied, "Alright then, station a couple men outside and keep an open eye. They are up to something." Luna turned back to Lillie. "Have you seen Sasha tonight?"

"No." Her reply was cold. He could expect nothing less. But Lillie was smart enough to know where personal business ended and where clan business began. Sasha represented a brutatlity the clans hadn't witnessed in a hundred and fifty years: open and outright defiance of the Prince.

Eddie paid the price, but Julian could feel the bonds of power weakening. He would have to take strong steps to regain the trust and respect of the clans. Some concessions would have to be made to the Brujah. And Luna knew he needed the Toreador; he needed Lillie.

"We'll talk later, Lillie." Julian moved away from Lillie to a reserved table near the back. ****

The body came crashing out of the second story window of the frame house. It was followed by flying shards of glass and an enraged woman. As soon as the man hit the ground, he rolled to the side avoiding the crushing blow from the other person.

On lookers poked their heads out of the window as Death Metal music raged from a distant stereo. Their cheers egged the two combatants on even more. The man crawled to his feet but not before the woman delivered a decisive kick to his stomach, forcing him to the ground once again. She reached down and grabbed his collar, pulling back her hand to deliver a coup de grace punch when a hand seized her wrist. The cheering suddenly stopped.

The woman turned and looked at the person who dared intervene in her fight.

The tall black haired man spoke with such certainty the woman couldn't help but respond. "Is this how you avenge the death of you Primogen? By killing each other? Tis is exactly what Julian wanted: a Brujah clan that could offer no resistence to his rule."

The woman let go of the man's collar, letting him flop back to the ground. "And who the hell are you?"

"I'm going to be the new Prince." His confidence was disturbing.

The on lookers from above and now from the porch broke out laughing. The woman smirked, "We just went through that. Julian has his toadies all lined up in a row. There is nothing Brujah can do against him without his Nosferatu, Toreador, and Gangrel pets all rushing to support him."

"Then we have to do something about that loyalty, don't we?"

"And who are you to stop this? You aren't even Brujah!"

The man smiled at the angry woman. "I may not be Brujah, but right now, I am your best friend. Call me Justin. I'm a Tremere."

***

Daedalus stared at the painting of Abel. He could hear the sounds of someone coming down the stairs. It couldn't be Julian, he would be out by now. From the heavy footfalls, Daedalus could only assume, with some astonishment, that it was Archon.

He stepped from the shadow, giving the former Prince an opportunity to see him before reaching the bottom. "Archon, I am honored."

Archon looked around the dank cellar. He never cared for it down here. Far too earthy. He was a man of culture and refinement. The musty smell was an assault to that refinement. "Daedalus, I've come to ask a favor."

Daedalus knew that Archon rarely asked anything from anybody. That game of boons and favors had ended for Archon after giving up the throne. Whatever was going to be asked of him, Archon must have considered it very important. "Anything , Archon."

"I want you to watch over Sasha."

This was a puzzling request. Sasha, a blood relation to the Prince, lover of the Gangrel Primogen, needing someone to watch over her? "I don't think I understand."

"I have just spoken with her. She is distraught, her emotions surge through her. She lacks the control and skill to cope with the Beast. She has no sire and no Primogen to guide her. Julian and Cash are both too emotional involved. Julian trusts you. You can make sure that she doesn't cause any harm to him, intentional or otherwise."

Daedalus turned and stared at his picture of Abel. "I don't think she would accept me as a mentor, to help her through this process. But, I will do what I can."

****