All the characters in the following story are owned by Spelling Television Inc. [A
subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group Inc.]. Vampire: The Masquerade is owned
by Mark Rein*Hagan/White Wolf Publishing. My use is in no way a challenge to their
copyrights.Sixth Tradition by Kelly Schweighauser
The story and events are mine.
"San Francisco," the Lasombra said. "What will you do about the Ventrue Prince that
destroyed your Childe?"
Cyrus wiped the sweat from his palms and looked nervously out of the window. He
didn't want to look at Lillith, have her see the worry in his eyes. The damned witch was
practically a mind-reader already, there was no need to make things easier for her.
"It was the Toreador, Langtry," Cyrus reminded her. "Not Julian."
"*His* lover," Lillith said. "Do you think he had nothing to do with it?" When he
didn't answer she added "It wasn't even an honorable duel," as if she were talking to
herself. "And the Brujah of the city did nothing...."
He stiffened. She never talked to herself; Lillith wanted him to overhear. And
Eddie's death hadn't been honorable at all. The Toreador whore had cut his Eddie down
from behind, practically, right in front of Cyrus. And the Brujah of San Francisco
groveled and licked Julian Luna's hand like the cowardly curs they were. None of them,
not even their new Primogen, Cameron, had raised a single objection to the way his
Childe had been slaughtered.
Cameron, he snorted. Cyrus had known Cameron's Sire, Sorrel, a mangy excuse for a
Brujah if there ever was one. Crawling off to exist in the country, away from the city,
thinking he could be free of Ventrue control in the pastoral air of Manzanita. A pity
Julian hadn't succeeded in wiping them all out - he would have done the Brujah a favor to
weed out such a unreliable bloodline. How had Cameron managed to take control of the
Brujah in San Francisco?
"Careful, my Lord," Lillith cooed, resting her hand delicately on his shoulder. "I did
not mean my intemperate words to anger you."
Cyrus whirled to face her, his arm lashing out to grab the Lasombra by the throat. He
hadn't heard her move. One night she would have a dagger in her hand.... He was
growling, he realized. Had been, even when he'd been thinking of Eddie's destruction.
Lillith hung in his grip, apparently unafraid. Nothing ever disturbed her composure.
Cyrus forced his fingers apart, gave her a little shove to keep her away from him. Sabbat
bitch, he vowed he'd get rid of her soon enough. As soon as he had San Francisco....
Lillith stepped back and bowed to him, her eyes lowering humbly as she murmured an
apology. She adjusted her black robes about her as she straightened. Cyrus sneered, she
was an attractive woman, beautiful even, but she hid herself under layers of cloth like a
nun or a Muslim. Only the pale oval of her face and slim hands peeked out of her crow's
weeds. Cyrus didn't even know what color hair the Lasombra woman had.
"What will you do, my Prince?" Lillith prodded. "If the Brujah of the city will not
avenge Eddie's destruction...."
"There are no Brujah in San Francisco!" Cyrus shouted, grateful to see her cringe.
"Those leeches are unworthy to call themselves Childer of Brujah." He paced away from
the window, no longer able to remain still. "Weak, sniveling, cowardly...." he growled.
How frustrating that those sniveling, cowardly weaklings had destroyed almost all of
Eddie's progeny. Between the Ventrue under Julian Luna and the Brujah that licked his
boots, Cyrus' blood had been practically erased from San Francisco.
"This is true my Prince," Lillith murmured. "But I was too fearful of your anger to
bring this to your attention. The Brujah in San Francisco have grown weak. They must
undergo an Ordeal to make them strong again."
"What kind of an Ordeal?" Cyrus demanded.
"One that will pit one against another until only the strongest survive," Lillith's smile
was as white and cold as moonlight. "And when we have weeded out the weakest of
their number, you shall bring them peace. The peace that can only be the gift of the
"You'll do Luna's work for him," Cyrus objected. "If you connive to set the San
Francisco Brujah at each other's throats."
"Not just the Brujah," Lillith explained. "All of the Clans of that city. Gangrel
against Nosferatu. Toreador against Ventrue. Brujah against all. Sire shall slaughter
Childer before we are done."
"Can you do such a thing?" Cyrus asked, intrigued despite of himself.
Lillith simply smiled. "We *will* do it - if you order us to, Noble Prince. And those
who survive will be strengthened by the testing, and eager to welcome a strong Prince
who brings them order."
Cyrus found himself nodding, agreeing with her before she had even finished, and
flushed with anger. "There is one Brujah in the city who must be protected from the
testing," he ordered gruffly. He would show her that she didn't control him completely.
"The one Eddie's Childe Martin embraced - Sasha Luna. She is the last of my blood in
San Francisco and too young to be tested."
Lillith's eyes weighed him carefully. "I have heard that she has been practically
adopted by the Gangrel since her Sire was destroyed. Are you certain...?"
"Yes," he practically shouted. "She is my Blood. You will protect her. Or I will
expel you and every member of your damned Sabbat pack out of my city!"
"As you command, great Prince," Lillith bowed, but he caught a glint of something in
her eyes before she hid them behind her lashes. He hoped that it was caution or fear and
not amusement. As she backed out of his office, her eyes still lowered, Cyrus cursed the
night he had first listened to the Lasombra's whispered promises. She had given him Los
Angeles, just as she said she would, but he was just beginning to realize the price he had
paid to become Prince. Lillith promised him San Francisco, and eventually the entire
state of California. What price would she exact for those two prizes? How many more
strings could she tie to his soul before he was more slave than Prince?
He turned back to the window with a growl. She'd take him down one night, but he
didn't care. She'd give him Julian Luna first - and any price at all was worth that prize.
------------------------------------THE SIXTH TRADITION----------------------------------
--------------------------------------by Kelly Schweighauser------------------------------------
Thou art forbidden to destroy another of thy kind. Only the Eldest among thee shall call
the Blood Hunt. - The Sixth Tradition
Lillie was looking for Jeffrey, to ask him to bring her car around, but found Sasha and
Nicholas in the foyer instead. She watched from the top of the stairs as Sasha made her
usual production of kissing Julian good night, asking for money and favors and flirting
for all she was worth. Julian, obviously enjoying his descendant's attention, gave her the
money and kisses she demanded and watched her fondly as she ran out the door towards
"I want you back before morning," Julian called after her.
"Yes, Uncle Julian," the young Brujah stopped on the long set of stairs that descended
to the driveway and smiled up at him. Even a mortal could have read the intentions on
her face, Lillie sighed. The girl couldn't keep a secret if her existence depended on it.
"Nicky, I'm making you responsible," Julian confirmed. "If she's not back before
dawn, I will have to tell Cameron how disappointed I'll be with you both."
"Oh, Uncle Julian!" Sasha protested. "When are you going to stop treating me like a
"When you stop being a Childe," Julian stepped back from the doorway. "Have a
good evening - and don't get arrested!" He closed the door before Sasha could reply and
walked back to his study.
That Childe has you wrapped around her little fingers, Lillie thought with a chuckle,
and you don't even care. She shook her head ruefully. If Sasha had even the smallest
amount of guile, she could make herself a formidable opponent. Luckily she was like an
innocent puppy, too caught up in puppy-games to try to manipulate the world around her.
She nearly jumped when Cash slammed open the door, loathing written across his
young face. He slammed the door shut again and started to stalk his way across the foyer
to the back of the house. "Why do you spy on them if it makes you so angry?" Lillie
asked, stopping him in his tracks.
"How did you...?" Cash sputtered, looking up at her. "I wasn't spying!"
Lillie laughed and descended the stairs towards him. "Whatever you want to call it,
then," she teased. "Why do you do it?"
Cash blushed and looked away. He wasn't bad-looking, Lillie realized. And he was
fairly powerful for a mere Ancilla; his whole Clan supported him whole-heartedly. She
let her smile widen a bit further. It never hurt to have allies.
"She really broke your heart, didn't she?" Lillie sympathized, resting one hand lightly
on Cash's shoulder. "I thought the whole Brujah/Gangrel-thing would have driven you
apart months ago. I under-estimated your love, Cash. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have."
Cash looked at her carefully, but she made sure that all he saw on her face was honest
concern. "I'll... I'll get over it," he told her. "It's no big deal."
"Don't lie to yourself," she murmured, moving in closer to him. He took a step back
to maintain the distance between them, and Lillie had to crush the impulse to laugh. "It's
affecting your work, I can see that. You been so distracted lately, and I know how
intolerant Julian can be of mistakes.... You don't need all that stress on top of the
troubles you already have."
"Lillie," he stammered, brushing her hand away from his arm, and taking another step
back. "It's not that I'm not flattered...."
"I'm not flattering you, Cash," she laughed lightly. "And I'm not trying to seduce you
either. But if you are willing to listen to what I have to say there might be hope for you
and Sasha yet."
"What do you mean," Cash demanded. "What hope?"
"You know what the Brujah are *really* like," Lillie lowered her voice carefully. She
did not want to be overheard. Cash reluctantly leaned closer to hear. "Sasha's just a
neonate, she doesn't know anything. If she weren't an orphan she'd be at her Sire's knee
learning how the world truly works. What little she does know you've taught her.
Perhaps it is time you taught her about the Brujah as well."
"How can I?" Cash demanded. "She won't even talk to me now! I walk into a room
and she runs out. It's driving me crazy!"
"Keep your voice down!" Lillie snapped. She looked around to see if Cash's outburst
had attracted any attention, but saw no one in the foyer or long hall. She hooked her arm
in Cash's and started towards the garage. "Then you just have to get the information to
her in some other way."
"How?" Cash looked thoroughly confused. "What do I tell her?"
"I'm going to tell you something Cash," Lillie confided. "But you must never, ever
tell anyone where you got the information. Swear to it."
"What are you going to tell me, Lillie?" Cash demanded. "I can't swear anything
"I'll tell you how to get Sasha back," Lillie responded. "But only if you swear by your
Blood and Clan not to tell anyone - especially Julian."
She watched Cash debate for a few seconds, indecision clear on his face. But the
possibility of regaining Sasha outweighed any doubts he may have had. He nodded
jerkily. "I swear, by my Blood and Clan, that I'll keep your secret, Lillie - now tell
"Eleven, Twenty-three, Fifty," Lillie whispered. "It's the day Julian was married
when he was Warm. It's also the combination to the safe in Julian's room."
"What good is that going to do me?"
Lillie sighed at how dense Gangrel could be. Even a Brujah would have been able to
figure it out. "There are diaries in the safe," she explained. "Read them and you'll find
several things that Sasha should know about the Brujah. Things that will tear her away
from them and put her firmly back in your arms."
"I don't get it," Cash's confusion showed plainly on his face. "Why would Julian keep
secret information in a safe, if you know the combination?"
"He doesn't know I know the combination," Lillie growled. Why had she bothered to
help this foolish pup? "That's why you have to keep it a secret! I swear, if Julian finds
out that I told you about the combination, I'll have your heart on a stake."
"Oh," Cash said.
What a brilliant riposte, Lillie thought to herself. "I'm sure that you will find what
you need, Cash," she forced herself to smile. "And I am also sure that you will be
suitably grateful in the future?" She waited until he nodded. "Wonderful!" She leaned
forward to kiss his cheek lightly. He started to blush again. "I'm sure that by this time
tomorrow night you and Sasha will be reunited forever. Will you get my car for me?"
The sudden change in subject threw him even further off balance, but he nodded and
disappeared into the garage for her Jaguar. Lillie allowed herself a sigh. He was young,
she reminded herself. And the young were often foolish. He was also Gangrel and
Primogen; he would keep her secret, she was certain.
And once he had Sasha back, Cash would be eager to repay her for her service. The
friendship of a Gangrel, known for their fierceness and loyalty, was certainly worth
sharing Julian's 'secret' combination. It wasn't the most important of Julian's secrets that
she knew, after all.
Sasha and Nicholas arrived with the dessert course. Cash saw his former lover and
her new flame long before Julian did. From Sasha's expression she was coming to extort
more money from her uncle. Cash considered alerting Julian, but the Prince was
absorbed by his mortal lover, Caitlin Byrne. He sighed and looked away, ignoring
Sasha, as if she were just another Kindred and meant nothing to him at all.
"Uncle Julian, can I have five hundred dollars?" Sasha planted herself in front of the
table while Nicholas hung back a bit further.
"I gave you money before you went out," Julian blinked up at her, looking startled.
That human woman was going to get him extinguished if he wasn't more careful, Cash
thought with disgust. He turned his back on them, giving them the illusion of privacy
while watching everything in the mirror over the bar.
"I need five hundred more," Sasha thrust her hand out expectantly.
Julian reached for his wallet, but Caitlin interrupted. "You're just going to give it to
her? Aren't you going to ask what it's for?"
"I am certain that I don't want to know," Julian replied drily. "And Nicholas is a
responsible young man, who wouldn't let my niece get into any trouble or come to any
harm - aren't you, Nicholas?"
"I try to be," Nicholas replied uncomfortably. "Cameron told me that I... that *we*
had to behave ourselves."
"And damn boring it is, too," Sasha retorted. "C'mon, pay up."
"What is that on your tongue?" Caitlin asked Nicky.
"I had it pierced," Nicholas stuck out his tongue so that she could see the metal stud
"Why would anyone do that to themselves?" The mortal woman exclaimed, shrinking
back and putting her hands protectively over her breasts. Cash grinned, Brujah had that
effect on women.
"Better oral sex," Nicky replied. "It drives Sasha wild."
"Oral sex," Caitlin repeated, her mouth dropping open.
"Yeah, it's unbelievable. You should try it," Sasha agreed. "I mean it's just...
indescribable, amazing, fantastic. I get off like that," she snapped her fingers quickly,
three times in succession. Cash grimaced. That had to have been for his benefit. As if
he had ever cared who she shared her body with.
"Really, Uncle Julian, try it," Sasha continued. "I'm sure Caitlin would love it as
much as I do."
"I'll take it under advisement, Sasha," Julian replied, holding out the money. "This is
all I have on me, I'm afraid."
Sasha took the money and counted it quickly. "This'll do," she grinned. She favored
Julian with a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks!" With Nicholas in tow she practically ran for
"Dawn, Sasha!" Julian called after her.
"Yeah, yeah," Sasha didn't even bother to turn around.
"You'll take it under advisement?" Caitlin chuckled.
"Oh yes," Julian replied seriously. "I'm sure I will think about it a great deal. I have
this vivid picture of attending the bank's next board meeting with a gold ring through my
tongue, and I just can't seem to wipe it from my mind."
"Oh, God," Caitlin laughed. "Now I won't be able to stop thinking about it either!"
"So, tell me," the Prince continued deadpan. "Is it something I should consider
seriously? I admit, I'm a bit old fashioned. I've never liked using appliances to enhance
the sexual experience, but if you are unsatisfied...."
Tears rolled down Caitlin's cheeks, and she had both hands clasped over her mouth to
stop up her laughter. The other customers were beginning to stare. "My dad used to
say... 'there's always room for improvement'...." she gasped.
"I am wounded," Julian teased. "You were supposed to enhance my ego by assuring
me that my skill at making love was beyond compare. Get the car, Cash, I'm leaving. I
can tell when I am not appreciated."
"Your ego is the last thing I want to 'enhance'!" Caitlin seized his sleeve to hold him
in their booth. "But as for your skill.... Well, I have never actually tried to quantify it.
I'm willing to, if it means that much to you..."
"Oh, it does," Julian said wryly. "Perhaps you could perform an evaluation tonight?"
At her house, Cash prayed. Spend the night at her place, Julian. Ever since Lillie had
told him about the safe he had been itching to look at it's contents. This might be his
"I think that could be arranged," Caitlin slid a little closer and Julian put his arm
Her place, Julian, Cash thought desperately. Go to her place.
"Your place or mine?" Julian asked.
"Why don't you come over to my place?" Caitlin smiled.
"What about Lion the attack cat?"
"I'll put him in his cage," Caitlin assured him. "I can't figure out why he hates you so
much, Julian. He's really sweet, except when you're around."
"I think he's jealous of me," Julian smiled.
"There's that ego again," Caitlin chuckled.
Cash's shoulders relaxed as Julian helped Caitlin into her coat and paid the bill.
While the mortal woman and Julian stood at the restaurant's door, Cash called Lorraina
on the limousine's phone and had her drive around to the front. Julian waived off Cash
and helped Caitlin into the car, before climbing in next to her. "Marin," Cash told his
Brood-sister, and Lorraina maneuvered the long car into the stream of traffic heading for
Because of Lion and his hostility to Julian, Caitlin entered her house alone. Cash
approached the Prince as he waited on Caitlin's doorstep. "I have business back at the
house, Julian," he said. "Clan business. Are you going to be all right with just
"I'll be fine, Cash," Julian assured him with a soft smile. "Have Lorraina drive you
"Oh, no," Cash shook his head nervously. "I'll fly. I want Lorraina to stay near you -
in case you need anything."
Julian chuckled. "You sound just like your Sire sometimes, Cash. I'll be fine. You
fly on back to the compound and take care of your business."
Caitlin swung the door open and leaned out. "It's safe," she grinned. "Lion is in his
cage with a bowl full of treats. You can come in now."
"As long as I don't need my bodyguard to protect me from that so-called pet of
yours...." Julian patted Cash on the shoulder and disappeared into the house.
Lorraina was not so easy to deal with, she knew that Cash had no 'Clan Business'
waiting for him, but he managed to put her off without pulling rank. He was in the air
within five minutes, and back in the Mansion in fifteen. He headed right for Julian's
The door was closed but not locked. Julian was fairly trusting that way. He rarely
even locked his door during the day. Archon's door, Cash recalled, had rarely been
Once inside, Cash shrugged out of his leather jacket and tossed it on the bed. He
approached the safe with trepidation and used the combination Lillie had given him. He
had mixed feelings as the safe swung open. He wanted to find information to help him
get Sasha back, but didn't want to rile Julian. Ever since Stevie Ray had been destroyed,
Julian had taken him under his wing. In many ways, Julian was almost a Sire to him, and
any hint of disloyalty seemed petty and wrong.
Lillie had told him to find the book that contained the information on 1985. That was
at the height of the Clan War, and Cash wasn't surprised that the Brujah had committed
some atrocity that Julian had agreed to keep secret to ensure peace. How that could
effect Sasha he couldn't guess. He dug through the heavy leather volumes until he found
the right one, then sat on the floor to read it, his back propped up against Julian's bed.
He found what he was looking for half-way through the year, and had to re-read the
passage three times before the truth sank in. Cash gave a low whistle. Lillie had
certainly delivered on her promise - as soon as he showed it to Sasha she'd never even
talk to another Brujah.
Cash looked out the window, it was still hours before dawn. He couldn't resist
reading the rest of the book, to see what other secrets it held. He settled down again and
scanned each page, feasting on the nuggets of information. There was so much there -
how the Clan War had ended and why Julian had tolerated Eddie Fiori for so long, why
Goth was banished and Daedalus was chosen Primogen in his place, the answer to every
question in the city, it looked like.
It wasn't until he reached the second to last page that Cash's world shattered. He
re-read the passage again and again, not wanting it to be true, willing the words to take
on some new meaning. Try as he might he could find no way around the awful truth in
those few brief sentences.
Julian Luna, who was almost a Sire to him, had known who had killed Cash's Sire.
He'd known who had driven a stake through Stevie Ray's heart and left him to burn in the
cruel light of the sun. He'd known all along and he'd let the murderer go unpunished.
The attacker struck as Julian opened the door to his bedroom and stepped inside.
Julian had been so eager to go to his day's rest that he had started to remove his jacket
and so found his arms entangled when he was knocked to the floor. He continued to roll
in the same direction, hoping to throw the assailant off of him, and tried to shout for
His foe struck him in the throat before a syllable emerged from his mouth. He
shredded the jacket to free his arms. Kicking away from his enemy, he prepared to take
whoever dared attack him on alone.
Julian's eyes widened and he hesitated a single, vital second when he realized that the
Kindred attacking him was his young bodyguard. The Gangrel took advantage of his
hesitation and sprang on him again, long claws ripping through Julian's shirt and flesh.
This was no mock-fight, Julian realized. Cash was trying to kill him.
Julian feigned and Cash dodged right into a kick to the knee. The bone snapped
audibly, but Cash barely seemed to notice. The Gangrel seized Julian's wrist and Julian
allowed himself to be thrown only to pull Cash down on top of him. He used momentum
to roll himself on top of the smaller Kindred, then anchored himself so that Cash couldn't
easily get away.
Cash made the mistake of reaching for his throat, and Julian was able to grab his
hands. He pulled the Gangrel's arms straight up, then ducked his head to rip out the
elbow tendons of Cash's right arm with his teeth, silently thanking Caine that the boy
wasn't wearing his leather jacket.
"Do you want to tell me what is going on, or do I dislocate your shoulder, Gangrel?"
Julian demanded. He twisted the boy's left arm threateningly.
"Traitor!" Cash snarled, trying to writhe free. "Bastard!"
"I'm a traitor?" Julian gasped. "You attack me...."
"You knew who destroyed my Sire!" Cash sobbed. "You knew, and you did
Julian looked around his bedroom. Cash's jacket lay across his bed. His safe was
open, it's contents piled on his desk.... Julian grabbed Cash by his hair and smashed the
boy's head back against the floor as hard as he could. "You idiot," he cursed, standing.
He started to straighten his clothing before realizing that his shirt was torn beyond repair.
A moment's concentration and the wounds on his chest healed. "You stupid, stupid boy!"
"The Gangrel have always been loyal," Cash moaned. "*Stevie* was always loyal. He
loved you, Julian, and you let the slime that slaughtered him walk free!"
"Shut up!" Julian snarled.
Jeffrey was at the door. "Julian, I heard fighting," he said. The tall Ventrue's eyes
widened when he took in Cash laying on the floor cradling his mangled arm and the
slashes in Julian's shirt. "Are you all right, my Prince?"
"Fine, Jeffrey," Julian knew he was practically growling and didn't care. "Nothing I
can't handle. Close the door on your way out, will you?"
Jeffrey hesitated only a moment before bowing and withdrawing. Cash struggled to
get up, and Julian kicked him hard in the small of the back. "Stay on the floor," he
ordered. The young Gangrel collapsed back onto the carpet. "I can not believe you
would betray me like this."
"I betrayed *you*?" Cash repeated, disbelieving. "You...."
"You read Archon's diary, Cash," Julian snatched the book from his desk and held it
out to the young Gangrel on the floor. "Archon's, not mine. I don't keep my diary in that
safe." He threw the book on the floor by Cash's head. "Tell me, do you make a habit of
pawing through my things, or was tonight a special occasion of some kind?"
Cash had the grace to look embarrassed. "That still doesn't change that you knew
who killed Stevie...."
"No," Julian snapped. "I didn't. Archon never told me. I found out the way you did,
Cash. By reading his diary after Cameron destroyed him. At that point it seemed a little
late to take action."
"Sonny was there!" Cash cried. "Your Childe...."
"As Prince, I am some times hindered by the fact that people do not always tell me
everything they know," Julian paced to the window and back. "Sonny wanted to tell me,
but Archon convinced him to wait. My Sire had other plans, and the existence of one
Gangrel meant less than peace in the city." Julian turned away from Cash. "To him, at
least." He stooped to pick up his discarded jacket. It was in worse shape than his shirt.
"This was from London," he grimaced.
"Take it out of my salary," Cash frowned, rubbing his healing elbow. He sat up and
straightened his knee with his hands so that it, too, could heal properly. "Do you mean
it? They didn't tell you? You really didn't know who killed Stevie...?"
"Salary? What salary?" Julian asked, whirling around to gape at Cash. "You don't
work for me anymore. You're fired."
Cash looked genuinely surprised, and Julian had to suppress another wave of fury.
"You can't honestly expect to remain in my employ, as my *bodyguard*," Julian
sneered. "After trying to kill me? Surely, you aren't that stupid?"
"I... I lost my head, Julian," Cash swallowed. "I'm sorry. It's just that when I saw who
"I've overlooked a lot of your recent failings, Cash. I know the strain you've been
under, and I owed it to your Sire's memory, if not to you. But I can't overlook this. I
want you out of the compound by dawn the day after tomorrow." Julian shook his head.
"How did you get into my safe?"
"I... found the combination."
"You are a very bad liar," Julian observed.
"I swore by my Blood and Clan that I wouldn't tell who gave it to me," Cash cried. "I
thought there might me something in there to help me get Sasha back."
"Did you find it?"
Cash looked up at him. "Why haven't you told her that Brujah killed her parents?
Why do you let her think it was just a car accident?"
"If I told her, would she stop being Brujah?" Julian demanded. "Doesn't she have
enough to deal with? I am glad she is finding a home in her Clan, Cash. Better that then
she become a Caitiff, a clanless outcast." He pulled his chair away from his desk and sat
down. "You will swear not to tell her, of course."
"No!" The young Gangrel struggled to his feet. "I *will* tell her. She has a right to
"I am willing to let this little incident pass," Julian replied stonily. "But only if you
cooperate with me. I don't want to dishonor your Sire's memory by reporting to the
Primogens that you attempted to assassinate the Prince."
Cash paled. "That's blackmail, Julian."
"Call it what you like," Julian shrugged. "I prefer to think that I am doing you a
favor. You did attack me without warning or witnesses. I'm willing to ignore that if you
swear an oath never to repeat anything you have learned from the books you took from
He looked the young man over. "I think I'm letting you off easy Cash. Don't you?"
"Why, Cash?" Lorraina demanded. "I thought you liked it here in San Francisco."
"I'm not leaving the city," Cash replied gruffly. "Just the compound. And I won't be
Julian's bodyguard anymore. I will stay on as Primogen, though."
He felt his Brood-sister look him over from head to foot, saw her shaking her head
from the corner of his eye. Cash finished packing his few belongings into his duffle. He
glanced around the room to see if he had missed anything. He hadn't.
"This is about Sasha, isn't it?" Lorraina put her hands on her hips and blocked his
way to the door.
"No," Cash sighed. "Yes. I don't know. It started out about Sasha, but now it's about
me. Julian's right, I can't stay here anymore. I'd drive myself crazy."
He looked Lorraina in the eyes, saw that bright red tears were forming in their
corners. Her lower lip was trembling. She looked so hurt and confused that it broke his
heart. "Hey," he said, reaching one hand out to her.
"I'll go with you, Cash," Lorraina asserted. "I don't need this stinking job...."
"I want you to stay," Cash replied gently. "I want you to ask Julian if you can be his
bodyguard." He hung his head and sighed. The job he so spectacularly failed at. For the
first time in a year Cash was glad that Stevie Ray was gone, and hadn't seen his
humiliation. "He's the Prince - and the Gangrel have always guarded the Prince of San
Francisco. I don't want that tradition to stop because of me."
Comprehension dawned on Lorraina's face. "Cash," she whispered. "Did he fire
He couldn't talk past the sudden lump in his throat. He nodded his head.
"Why that arrogant, Ventrue... " Lorraina sputtered. "He can't do that!"
"Yes, he can," Cash confided. "I deserved it, okay? *I* would have fired me. I
messed up big time. I acted without thinking things through, as if *I* were a Brujah.
Stevie would have beaten me into Torpor, if he were around. Can we talk about
Lorraina wrapped her arms around him in a hug. "Okay," she agreed. "But if you
ever decide to blow this city, just say the word and I'm out of here with you."
"Thanks, Lorrie," Cash smiled, hugging her back.
"What else are Brood-mates for?"
"Speaking of that," Cash tried to smile. "When Julian gives you my job, ask for a big
raise. Tell him you have two Childer and a recently unemployed brother to support."
"I will," Lorraina stepped back, looking uncomfortable. "Where can I find you?"
"I'll find a cemetery," Cash answered. "Somewhere old and inside the city. I'll let you
know as soon as I settle in."
"You'd better," Lorraina replied. She trailed Cash out of the gate house and watched
him fasten his pack to his motorcycle.
"I'll be seeing you," Cash said, giving her another hug.
"Take care, Cash," Lorraina whispered in his ear.
Lorraina released him from her embrace and strode towards the house. Cash watched
her go, feeling miserable and homesick already. They weren't the kind of feelings he was
used to. He'd been pretty footloose since his Embrace. Caine, he'd been a wanderer even
*before* he'd met Stevie Ray. He certainly never missed his mortal family. Why did he
feel so torn when he wasn't even being cut off from his Clan?
It was Julian he was missing, Cash answered himself. Julian Luna was nothing like
Stevie in any way, shape or form, and yet the two had been the closest of friends. And
Julian was the only real link to Stevie that Cash had. All of his Brood-mates were even
younger than he was. They all knew the same things about Stevie, all saw him as their
Sire and nothing more. Julian had know Stevie as a man. That was what Cash was going
And he missed the stupid, Spartan gate house, too. If only because Stevie had made
his Haven there for decades. Gangrel weren't supposed to get attached to material things,
but suddenly Cash understood the temptation. He never realized how comforting it was
to go to his day's rest every dawn in the same spot his Sire had. Now he'd never again
rise at dusk and watch the sunset paint the courtyard in purple and blue. How often had
Stevie leaned in the door frame and watched the same colors chase each other across the
fancy stone driveway?
Cash closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He'd always have his memories, they
would have to be enough. His pack was strapped across the back of his motorcycle.
There was no reason to linger any longer.
There was a movement in one of the windows, and Cash glanced up to see what it
was. Sasha was peeking out at him from behind her curtain. Cash felt his lips compress
into a thin line. Julian had warned him away from Sasha even when she was Warm. He
wished he had taken the Prince's advice.
He pulled his eyes away and mounted his bike. Sasha was just one of the mistakes
he'd made. He'd be more careful in the future. He'd have to be. His whole Clan was
depending on him.
Lillith sighed and tapped one claw against her front teeth. The pack had been in San
Francisco for five nights now, and they still hadn't been able to make contact with the
Ahrimane agent that had been placed in the city. Worse, they had found faults with the
information the Priscus had supplied. Hunting grounds that were subtly off, minor
details, nothing anyone else in the pack considered important.
But Lillith knew that the minor details were often the most important. It is the small
things that get tripped over.
She had finally allowed Harlow and Gabrielle to pick up two of the enemy for
questioning. They had been careful and come back with Fledglings so young it surprised
her that they were allowed to Hunt on their own. The Camarilla liked to keep their
Childer soft and dependent on their Sires. It was one reason why they were so weak.
Even better, one of the Childer was a Toreador. She claimed her Sire was the Toreador
Primogen, Lillie Langtry, but her blood seemed too pale and weak for that tale to be true.
The other Childe, the Gangrel boy, had stronger blood. But the girl, like most Toreador,
knew a great deal of the city's gossip and revealed everything she could once she was
properly motivated to speak.
It had only taken Harlow an hour to convince the boy to tell everything that he knew
as well. The boy had been made of stronger stuff than Grace, the Toreador girl, but
nothing was strong enough to resist Harlow's means of persuasion. He considered torture
an art form, and practiced it with the dedication of a true Toreador. Grace hadn't been
able to understand how one of her own Clan could cause her such pain. Lillith smiled
grimly; the poor girl had never even heard of Anti-Tribu or the Sabbat.
Harlow would want to finish them once he had satisfied Lillith's hunger for
information. Already he was talking about the Tableaux he had planned. Aaron was
after her to induct them into the pack. Neither male was going to get what he wanted.
Lillith was both the pack's leader and it's priest. And she knew that the pack did not have
the time to induct new members, nor the resources to waste even these poor specimens of
The pack was below fighting strength. The last Creation Rite had been a disaster.
Four bodies went into the earth, and only one Fledgling had emerged. Even worse, Alex
had been barely strong enough to dig himself out of his grave and feed on the human the
pack had provided.
Lillith compressed her lips at the memory. No, she would use both of the captured
'Kindred' to strengthen the pack by giving their blood to the pack's weakest members.
The Toreador girl for young Alex, and the Gangrel boy for Gabrielle. With luck the pair
would be gain strength when they took the prisoner's souls through Diabolarie. Strength
that the pack desperately needed.
"Tell me more about the Gangrel Primogen," she demanded, sliding closer to Harlow
and his victims.
"We've told you," Grace sobbed. "We've told you everything three times now."
"Tell me again," Lillith insisted. "Tell me as if it were the first time...."
"All I know is that Sasha is with Nicholas now, not Cash," the Toreador whimpered.
"Both the Brujah and the Gangrel were against one of their own having a lover from
another Clan. Maybe they couldn't take the pressure. I don't know...."
"And you have nothing to add, little one?" Harlow tugged playfully at the Gangrel's
"Go suck yourself," the boy snarled.
"You think that if you provoke my temper I'll destroy you?" Harlow hissed. "Oh, no,
Childe, the True Death won't come so easily for you...."
"Harlow," Lillith snapped. "Away. Now." The Toreador gave her a wounded look
and slunk over to where Gabrielle was sitting. "You both know you will never see
another moon-rise," she told the prisoners gently. "I can do nothing to stop that. But I
can make your destruction painless and swift. Tell me of your Primogen and your pain
She tilted the Gangrel's head until he met her gaze. From there it was easy. As hurt
as he was, he couldn't resist the weight of her will. He tried, but she smiled and
whispered soft enticements and he began to talk as if he wasn't even aware he was
"Cash wanted to Embrace Sasha, but she was the Prince's descendant. I think Julian
wanted to keep her all to himself. But she wanted Cash too, so the Prince gave his
permission. Only the Brujah got to her first. Her Sire was Martin, Eddie Fiori's
Childe; he was destroyed the very next night, and Sasha stayed with the Gangrel. But we
couldn't stand the smell of her Brujah blood, and I think she felt the same way about us."
She smiled and brushed her hand against his cheek. It was a pity that the Pack didn't
have the time to induct him. He was very young, and had lived less than twenty years as
a mortal besides, but he was a survivor. Once committed fully to the Sabbat he would
have made a noble warrior. Lillith wouldn't mind if such a one took her place as pack
"I guess that was why Cash never adopted her," the boy continued dreamily. "She
hung around her own Clan, but there was trouble there too, from what I heard. She had a
mean temper, even for a Brujah, and got into a lot of scrapes. And no one dared cross
her 'cause the Prince treated her like his own get."
"Anyway, she got real jealous when Cash Embraced a Childe, and tried to extinguish
the Fledgling. Cash stopped her, but she started with Nicky the next night. I didn't think
it would last, but it's been going on for months now. And now Cash don't work for the
Prince no more and everybody says that Sasha had a hand in that."
"Has this Cash taken another lover?" Lillith prodded.
"Do you think Sasha stills cares for him and is only with Nicholas to make your
"I dunno," he shrugged. "Could be. Sometimes I've seen her looking at him, when he
don't know she's watching. Sometimes Cash still looks at Sasha, too."
"Good boy," Lillith smiled, stoking his hair absently. "Aaron, I think we have what
we were looking for."
The Tzimisce looked at her and smiled. "Just tell me what to look like."
Cash realized he was being followed as he entered the gates of St. Mary's small
cemetery. Someone had obviously seen him with Lorraina, and decided that he'd make a
good target once he completely alone. Cash knew that there was plenty of speculation
about why he no longer worked as Julian's bodyguard. The one thing that everyone
agreed on was that Julian wouldn't protect him any more.
This wasn't the first time that Cash had sensed some other Kindred nearby. This one
was Brujah from the faint whiff of scent he caught. Suspicious of a trap, he entered the
empty cemetery by the street entrance, and then ducked as quickly as he could behind a
large monument. He wanted to get a good look at whoever was stalking him before he
took them out. If any Brujah thought he'd be easy meat because he was on his own, they
had a surprise coming....
The Brujah following him stepped nervously into the cemetery, and it was Cash who
was surprised. The Brujah was Sasha. She walked down the middle of the gravel drive,
peering nervously into the shadows and jumping at every strange noise. "Cash?" She
called softly. "Where are you? Cash?"
Cash circled her twice, but there was no one else in the abandoned cemetery, living or
un-dead. So it wasn't a trap, but it still felt as if the hairs on the nape of his neck were
crawling over the surface of his skin. He sniffed at the air, and caught only Sasha's scent.
It reeked of nervousness and fear, and something even less pleasant that Cash couldn't
put a name to. He waited until she had walked past him before stepping out onto the
gravel behind her.
"What do you want, Brujah?"
She didn't jump, the way he had expected her to. Her shoulders slumped a fraction of
an inch and he could hear her swallow. She turned towards him slowly, her head
hanging down like a guilty child. "Everybody says that it's my fault that you stopped
working for Uncle Julian," she said.
"What's it to you?" Cash demanded bitterly. "I'm surprised you even know about it. I
figured that you would be too busy having awesome, spectacular sex with Nicky to even
listen to Kindred gossip. Or maybe you were - did Cameron tell you about me? Is he the
one who sent you here?"
"Nobody sent me here," Sasha insisted. "Cameron doesn't know I'm here. Nobody
knows I'm here."
"If Cameron didn't send you, why are you here?"
"I wanted to know if you're mad at me," Sasha responded. "I want to know if you
blame me for.... I... I wanted to know if you hate me."
She bit her lip and looked away quickly, but she couldn't disguise the single tear in
the corner of her eye or the way her chin trembled. Cash felt his heart turn over in his
chest and suppressed the feeling ruthlessly. He wasn't going to make *that* mistake
"Go away, Sasha," he said gruffly. He did his best to look fierce and antagonistic,
trying to imagine Cameron or Nicholas or any other Brujah standing in Sasha's place.
"Go back to your own kind."
"You can't mean that!" Sasha cried. "You can't want me to go back to them. You
"Why not?" Cash sneered. "You're Brujah. Brujah and Gangrel Clan have been
enemies for hundreds of years. I thought that I could deal with that. I thought that I
could keep you from becoming like them. But I couldn't. You're Brujah, Sasha. You're
just another thieving, violent thug, like Nicky and Martin and Eddie. You can't help it -
it's in your *blood*."
"I'm *not* like them Cash," she husked, her hands making little pleading gestures.
"I'm *not*. You're the only one that knows that. You're the only one who understands
me. You can't mean to say that I'm like them. You know I'm not." The tear trickled
down her pale cheek, and she brushed away angrily.
Cash felt his resolve weakening. She looked so hurt and helpless, confused by the
pain the world had given her. Just like the way she had looked the morning after her
Embrace. "Don't do this, Sasha. Don't even try, because I'm not going to change my
mind. You spent the last two months trying to prove what a good Brujah you are to
everyone, I'm not going to let you tell me it was all an act...."
"It was just an act!"
"I'm not going to listen to you. You want Nicky, you got him..."
"I don't want Nicky!" Sasha sobbed. "I want you!"
Cash just looked at her. "You had me Sasha," he said gently. "You had me and you
threw me away."
"You threw me away first," she cried. "I was supposed to be your Childe. I thought
what we had was special. But you went and Embraced somebody else! It was supposed
to be me, Cash! It was supposed to be me!"
She sank down onto the gravel and buried her head in her arms, sobbing as though her
heart would break. Cash felt his resolve evaporate like morning dew. "Don't," he said,
crouching next to her awkwardly. "Don't cry, Sasha. Please don't cry."
"You don't know what it's been like for me," she cried pulling away from his
comforting hand. "Who else could I go to when you weren't there? I tried to fit in with
my Clan, but they don't care about me. They know I'm Eddie's blood and they treat me
"That's not true," Cash objected. "Cameron has practically adopted you. Nicky and
Kenny always act tough when I'm near you, like they're trying to protect...."
"That's not what it feels like," Sasha interrupted. "They act nice, but I can tell they
don't like me. None of them like me. Not the way you like me."
"The way you *used* to like me," she corrected, before he could interrupt. "I know
you don't feel like that anymore, but I couldn't take it if you hated me...."
"I don't hate you, Sasha," Cash soothed, feeling like the biggest jerk in the world. "I
could never hate you...."
"Really?" She asked, her eyes focusing intently on his. Somehow he was kneeling in
the middle of the driveway with his arms around her. He wasn't sure how that happened.
The dappled moonlight fell over her pale, perfect face and the street noise faded into a
soft symphony as they knelt amongst the shifting shadows. "Really truly?"
"Really," he whispered. Then they were kissing, and words didn't matter any more.
Sasha rode her bike into the abandoned warehouse that served as the Brujah's meeting
place for this week. Most of the Clan stood around a small fire burning in what used to
be an oil barrel. Sasha frowned and consciously stopped breathing. Most of the Clan
weren't too picky about emptying the barrels of whatever toxic waste they had contained
before lighting a fire in them. The last time she inhaled the smoke she had gotten
deliriously stoned and had hallucinated so badly that the police found her wandering in
the wastelands at three in the afternoon. It was a miracle that the sun hadn't destroyed
She parked her bike next to Nicky's and crossed to her Clan-mates, careful to stay
up-wind of the fire. "Any luck?" Cameron asked her dispiritedly. Sasha just shook her
head 'no'. "Where in Hell's name can the Toreador twit have gotten herself?" Cameron
"I checked everywhere," Sasha sighed. "Grace is not at her dad's place, she's not at
her grandparent's, she's not in the cemetery where her mom is buried."
"Maybe she left the city," Kenny offered with a shrug. "She's just a Neonate, and not
a very smart one. She wouldn't know how dangerous it is for Kindred to travel."
"Why is it dangerous for us to leave the city?" Joseph asked. Joe was Cameron's
newest Childe. As far as Sasha was concerned, Cameron was so doting it was
nauseating, but at least his attention wasn't on her or Nicky.
"There are other creatures of the night that thrive in open country," Cameron
explained to his Fledgling. "Creatures that hunt *us*. In the city we are protected by the
sea of humanity. In the country we stand out like beacons and they can sense us miles
away. If Grace left the city she's surely been extinguished by now."
Sasha shrugged. "I can't imagine Grace going anywhere. Ever since Zane was put
down she's been sticking close to Summer and Lillie. And they don't think she's left
Cameron sighed. "Well, she certainly isn't in the city now. We've looked
everywhere, and so have the Toreador. It would have been good if we had found her, but
if we can't, we can't."
"Still determined to impress Lillie?" Sasha asked. "Why, Cameron? She despises
"I'd like to have her owe me something," Cameron admitted. "If the Brujah had found
her missing Neonate, she'd have to do something in return for us. Right now I'd settle for
her cutting me some slack at the Conclave."
"We have to get out of this pit Eddie left us in," Cameron continued. "The other
Kindred of the city treat us with nothing but contempt. They think we are all like him:
greedy, stupid, cowardly oathbreakers. If we are ever going to control the city they must
realize that Eddie Fiori was an aberration. We are not greedy - the Ventrue are. We are
not stupid like the decadent Toreador. The Brujah fight. And we stand by our word,
even if our former Primogen did not."
There were murmurs of ascent from the rest of the Clan. Kenny was nodding, his
face grim. Beside him Joe Brozka watched Cameron with undisguised adoration. Sasha
sighed with frustration.
"Nice speech," she sneered. "You should go into politics. It will take decades for the
other Clans to see us for what we are. In the mean time they will always believe the
worst of us."
Angry shouts from the others drowned her out. Cameron put two fingers in his mouth
and whistled sharply. The Brujah fell silent. "Let her talk," he ordered.
"Maybe it's a good thing that we didn't find Grace," Sasha continued. "Sure, Lillie
would have made a public fuss about how relieved she was, but as soon as you turned
your back, Cameron, she would start whispering that the reason you found her was
because you had kidnaped her in the first place."
"But that's not true!" Joe cried.
"Of course it isn't," Sasha agreed. "But everyone would believe it. We can't openly
curry favor, don't you see? They'll just think it's some scheme and distrust us even more.
Or worse, they'll see us as beggars, and instead of distrusting us they'll just hold us in
"You're saying that we can't work openly," Cameron said. "We have to be sneaky -
like the Ventrue."
Sasha sighed. "The Ventrue are *subtle*," she corrected. "And very perceptive. All
I'm saying is we should act like Brujah. If we act as if we need them, they'll have
control. But if we act like the warriors we are, the other Clans will see how much they
need *us*. And then we will have control."
"And how do you suggest that we 'act like Brujah'?" Cameron demanded.
"You tell me, Cameron," Sasha challenged. "You're the one with all the dreams.
You told me that the Brujah weren't always called the Rabble. You told Nicky all those
stories about how the Brujah stood up to the Inquisition in Spain. How *does* a Brujah
Cameron started to smile. "I'll tell you...."
It was nearly an hour later that Sasha walked up the rusty stairs to the haven she
sometimes shared with Nicholas. Dawn was a bright band on the horizon, and she could
feel the day's lethargy creep over her bones.
She swung open the door and started to step inside before she realized that someone
else was in the small, dim room. Her gun leapt into her hand. "Get up," she
commanded, gesturing with her gun at the man lounging on the floor. She stepped to the
side, so that she was no longer silhouetted in the doorway.
The light from the door fell across Cash, and Sasha relaxed a little. She let the gun
drop to her side and took a step forward. "What are you doing here? If the other Brujah
catch you, they'll tear you apart...."
Cash just looked at her, not moving, his expression blank, his eyes golden. He was
laying on a pile of Nicky's dirty clothes. Sasha got a whiff of his scent and shuddered. It
was like the scent of Frenzy, or old sickness, nauseating and frightening at the same time.
"Cash?" Sasha repeated, feeling the hairs prick on the back of her neck. "What are
you doing?" Something was very wrong. "Where is Nicky?" Cash's lips were red, as if
he'd just fed, but his skin was as pale as ivory. Sasha detected no warmth from him. The
eerie feeling got stronger.
Cash pushed himself up onto all fours, slowly, carefully, as if he didn't want to
frighten her with a quick move. Sasha watched him as he gathered himself, as if he was
going to pounce on her...
She wrenched her eyes away with a little gasp. Cash was trying to mesmerize her!
She brought the gun up again and looked carefully back at where her former lover was
standing. She looked at his belt buckle, at his boots, anywhere but his face. She looked
at the pile of dirty clothes he had been lying on....
....and started to scream.
Julian looked around at the small room in dismay. What had once been a small office
in an ordinary warehouse was now barely recognizable as being of human construction.
There were claw marks and gouges on the dirty brick walls. The door had been ripped
from it's hinges. One interior wall actually had holes in it where bricks had been
dislodged. The area around the missing bricks had blood on it. Pieces of torn cloth,
which had probably been clothing the night before, were strewn over the floor. The
boards and blankets that had been fixed over the two small windows were torn and
damaged so that dingy sunlight fell through frames empty of glass to illuminate the sad
Sasha was huddled in a corner, still crying. From where he was standing in the
doorway it was impossible to tell if she was hurt. Cameron knelt in the middle of the
room, holding what was left of Nicholas' body in his arms and rocking gently. He eyed
Julian warily, his eyes nearly silver with pain. Julian wasn't about to step into that room
while Cameron so close to Frenzy.
"How much of this was done in the struggle and how much did you do, Cameron,
when you found Nicky had been murdered?" He asked, not really knowing if Cameron
had enough control to answer.
"All of it," the Brujah Primogen snarled, hugging his Childe tighter. "I did it all.
That Gangrel pet of yours struck after dawn. My Nicky never had a chance to waken, let
alone fight. Gangrel coward! Nicky would have eaten his foul heart...."
"Cameron," Julian interrupted. "What proof do you have that it was Cash?"
"Proof?" Cameron screamed, dropping Nicholas and bounding to his feet. "Proof!
What more do you need than my Fledgling's body and the word of your own
"Cameron," Julian interrupted soothingly. He could sense Sasha trying to make
herself smaller in the corner. She was frightened. Julian supposed she had a right to be,
and wished that he could take the time to comfort her.
"You want proof, you come and touch my Childe and feel what that Gangrel bastard
did to him," Cameron cried. "You feel his last moments. You feel how that
Outland-scum sucked the soul out of my baby. You feel how he took his blood, took his
strength, took his memories...." Cameron's voice cracked under the strain, and he looked,
for one brief second, as if he was going to cry.
The second was quickly gone. "This is your fault," Cameron snarled, his eyes fixing
on Julian's. "You favored that Diabolist. You gave him honor, gave him shelter...."
"I need proof," Julian replied softly.
"Call the Blood Hunt!" Cameron screamed. "I demand you call the Blood Hunt on
the Gangrel bastard that Diabolarized my Childe!"
"Not without proof, Cameron," Julian repeated.
Cameron threw himself across Nicholas' remains to seize Julian by the throat. Jeffrey
and Sonny drew their guns, but Julian held up his hands to forestall them. Cameron's
Brujah also drew theirs, but didn't point them at anyone - yet.
Julian hadn't tried to avoid the Brujah Primogen's attack. He knew from Cameron's
scent, from the scent of every Brujah in the building, how close he was to Frenzy. Julian
didn't want any of them to lose control of their tempers for fear that all the rest would
follow. He couldn't contain that sort of confrontation, so he'd take Cameron on alone, if
that was what it took to avoid a new Clan War.
Cameron lifted him from the floor by his lapels, and Julian forced himself to remain
calm in the maddened Brujah's grip. "Call. The. Blood Hunt." Cameron growled.
"He is a Primogen, Cameron," Julian explained softly. He stared directly into
Cameron's eyes and willed the Brujah to listen to him. "If I call a Blood Hunt without
concrete evidence against Cash today, what is to prevent me from calling one against
you, with no proof, tomorrow?"
Cameron's face crumpled in misery. "Lies," he gasped. "Ventrue lies. You're still
protecting that Gangrel. Why should you care if my Childe is extinguished? You want
the end of the Brujah in San Francisco. You probably ordered Cash to...."
"No, Cameron," Julian interrupted smoothly. It was hard to speak with Cameron's
hands about his throat, but at least he could look down at the man. "I need the Brujah, I
can't allow them to leave the city. Who would care for Sasha?"
Cameron's arms began to tremble, and he abruptly dropped Julian so that he could
turn back to Nicholas' corpse. "So you do nothing," he said bitterly, dropping to his
knees by the withered body. "You let Cash get away with murder because it was only a
Brujah he destroyed and you favor Gangrel so highly."
"I will call a Hunt," Julian said simply. Cameron twisted around to eye him
"Let it be known among all the Kindred of the city that Cash, Primogen of the
Gangrel Clan, is to be Hunted," Julian declared. "But let it also be known that if he is
caught anywhere in my Domain, I want him brought to me. If any Kindred extinguishes
him before I have a chance to question him about Nicholas' murder, I will call a Blood
Hunt on *them*. Make sure your Clan is especially aware of that, Cameron. No one
takes revenge in my city."
Cameron nodded. "And if it can be proven that he was the one who destroyed my
"Then Cash will be extinguished in accordance with the Traditions," Julian replied. "I
will suffer no Diabolist in my domain."
"Good," Cameron breathed giving an almost imperceptible nod of his head. Julian
waited, but Cameron didn't say anything more. He glanced at Sonny and Jeffrey and
they replaced their weapons in their holsters. The Brujah waited another moment, and
holstered their guns as well, looking slightly sheepish.
Julian crouched down next to Cameron. The Brujah had begun rocking again. He
held one of Nicholas' shriveled hands in both his own. "Cameron," Julian said
cautiously. He didn't want to intrude too far on the other man's grief. "This haven is no
longer safe." Cameron kept rocking. "I would be honored if you would take your day's
rest in my home. You have my word that you and your Childer will be completely safe
there. I swear it as Prince of the City."
Cameron looked at him. "Sasha is not my Childe," he said flatly.
"I meant Joseph and Nicholas," Julian replied. "I know you need to be with him for a
while. I have lost Childer too. I promise that you will be safe in my home - and that
justice will be done to the one who destroyed him."
Cameron hesitated for a moment, then nodded jerkily. "I want to be there, when you
question the Gangrel."
Julian put a hand on Cameron's shoulder. "You will be, I promise." He looked at
Sonny and made a motion with his head. Sonny nodded and left, two of the Brujah
following him suspiciously. Julian sighed to himself. Perhaps Sonny could convince
them to help carry the sheets up from the trunk of the car.
Being practically immortal, Kindred had no rituals to perform when death took one of
their number. When he had been Archon's Enforcer Julian had tried to concoct
something to show respect to the Kindred he had Extinguished. His first clumsy attempts
had slowly evolved into something even Archon respected.
Sonny returned with the sheets and Julian helped him lay the first one out next to
Nicholas' body. The white satin shimmered where the sun managed to sneak through the
windows. Julian held his hand out to Cameron, waiting for him to place his Childe's
remains on the burial shroud.
Cameron kissed Nicholas' forehead and lifted his Childe's skeletal frame onto the
cloth. Sasha came over to help. As they lifted the body Nicholas' left hand came free
and fell against the floor with a rapping sound, like a single knock on a door. Julian
frowned, not sure if he heard something odd. He lifted the corpse's hand in his and pried
the fingers apart.
A pendant slipped out of Nicholas' hand, it's chain making a little a slithering sound as
it slipped towards the floor. Julian tried to catch it before it hit but the memories it held
were so strong and so painful that he jerked his hand back with a sudden hiss of pain.
The pendant landed on the white satin, it's chain caught around Nicholas' dead fingers
sparkling in the pale light of the sun. Julian stared at it in dismay. The room was
suddenly very quiet.
"That," Sasha stumbled over the words. "That was Cash's."
"That was Stevie's," Julian corrected. "I gave it to Cash when his Sire was
Cameron looked Julian straight in the eye. "Do you still need proof, my Prince?"
Lorraina turned around and snarled "Stop following me!" at Sasha. Sasha paused for
all of two seconds before continuing to stride forward. They were less than a block away
from the churchyard gate, and Lorraina hadn't been able to shake the Brujah Fledgling
since she'd left the mansion.
"I know you know where Cash is, Lorraina," Sasha shouted back.
"I swear, Sasha, one of these nights I'm going to take you over my knee...."
"Yeah, right, I'm shaking," the young Brujah retaliated. "I want to talk to him,
Lorraina. *Before* you try to get him out of the city!"
"That's it," Lorraina growled, pushing up the sleeves of her jacket. "I hope you're
wearing underwear for a change, Brujah, 'cause I am going to tan your behind."
"Tan this," Sasha retorted, punching the Gangrel woman in the face. Lorraina
shrugged the blow off and seized Sasha's wrist. A single viscous twist doubled Sasha
over and threatened to dislocate her shoulder.
"Bitch!" Sasha cried, stamping her foot on the toes of Lorraina's shoes. Startled,
Lorraina lost the hold and Sasha pulled away. Sasha tried a clumsy pivot kick, so
Lorraina grabbed her ankle and twisted - hard. They both fell to the concrete sidewalk.
What Sasha lacked in fighting skill she made up in shear energy. It made Lorraina
begin to rethink her decision to hold back a bit. She would prefer humiliating the Brujah
Fledgling rather than hurting her, but if Sasha started to Frenzy, Lorraina might not have
Sasha grabbed a handful of Lorraina's hair and pulled. It *hurt*. Lorraina punched
her in the throat, and Sasha doubled over, just like a mortal. Stupid girl had been dead
for nearly a year, and she still acted as if she had to breathe. Lorraina tried for a head
lock, but Sasha managed to keep one arm free. Instead of breaking the hold like a
trained fighter, Sasha just slapped at Lorraina and screamed obscenities.
"I hope you ladies aren't fighting over me," Cash laughed from behind them. The two
women sprang apart.
"Cash!" They chorused, almost together.
"Stereo," Cash grinned down at them. He was sitting on top of the cemetery wall.
"Cash, we have to talk," Sasha blurted. "If you tell me what happened, I'm sure I
could explain to Uncle Julian!"
"Thank Caine I reached you first, Cash," Lorraina spoke over Sasha. "Get your stuff,
we don't have much time to get out of the city."
"Hold it," Cash held up his hands. "One at a time, please. What's with all the panic?"
"There's no time to talk," Lorraina insisted. "Everyone is looking for you. Julian's
called a Hunt."
"You don't have to go," Sasha insisted. "You should stay and...."
"And get extinguished for no good reason?" Lorraina sneered. "Gee, what a brilliant
"Wait a minute," Cash interrupted, jumping down from his perch. "Julian's called a
Blood Hunt against me? Why?"
"For killing Nicky," Sasha said grabbing his arm. "If we go back now there is still
time to explain..."
"How is he going to explain Diabolarie?" Lorraina scoffed. She had hold of Cash's
other arm and tugged him towards the cemetery entrance. "Cameron's calling for your
head, Cash, and Julian's going to give it to him. If we start now we could get out of the
city before sunrise. Let's go before somebody sees you."
"Nicky's dead?" Cash asked. "What are you two talking about? Why does Julian
think I killed Nicky? Not that I didn't want to...."
"I saw you," Sasha wept. "I thought you were going to attack me! You must have
Frenzied, Cash. Nobody can be held responsible for what they do when they Frenzy. I
know you didn't mean to kill him."
"You saw me kill Nicky?" Cash looked befuddled. "When?"
"Last night," Sasha replied. "Don't you remember it at all?"
"Sasha," Cash shrugged off Lorraina's hand and grabbed his former lover by her upper
arms. "I was with you last night. All night. You came here. You wanted to talk about
why I didn't work for Julian any more - but we didn't do much talking."
"I was out all last night," Sasha retorted. "Looking for Grace with the rest of my
Clan. How could I come here when I didn't even know you were here?"
Cash turned to Lorraina, his face slack with shock. "What in Hell's name is going on?
Do you really think I'd kill Nicky?"
Uncertainty showed on Lorraina's face. "Nicky had Stevie's pendant clutched in his
hand, Cash," she whispered finally. "You haven't taken that off since he was destroyed."
Cash released Sasha and clutched as his throat. The pendant wasn't there, hadn't been
there since he'd risen.
"Cash," Sasha protested. "You were in our haven at dawn, laying on poor Nicky.
You must have just finished... just finished..."
"Finished what?" Cash demanded.
"Diabolarizing him," Lorraina completed Sasha's sentence for her. She couldn't meet
"Julian thinks I..." Cash sputtered. "Julian thinks *I* committed Diabolarie?
Lorraina, how could anyone believe that?"
"There's too much proof," she admitted regretfully. "I've heard that Diabolarie can
drive a person crazy, Cash. Maybe it *was* an accident. And maybe you blocked it out
of your mind. But Julian won't care. He'll *have* to destroy you - or it's war with the
Brujah. But if you get out of the city now...."
"But I was with Sasha...." Sasha just shook her head. Cash looked at her, trying to
figure out what exactly was going on. "Sasha, why are you doing this?"
"Please, Cash," she reached for him, looking concerned and innocent and worried.
"If you run it'll still mean a Clan War. I'm sure Uncle Julian will protect you if you just
He stepped back out of her reach. He couldn't believe she would do something like
this. Not to him. It didn't make any sense.
"Cash!" Sasha cried, stepping after him. He caught a whiff of her scent; the clean
smell of polished leather and soap and motor exhaust. And Brujah blood.
Julian wouldn't protect him, not from a charge of Diabolarie, not with the Brujah
Clan threatening war if he didn't pay for his 'crime'. And Sasha had ensured that he'd
have no alibi, no way to account for his time from dusk to dawn. Even worse, he'd fallen
for it, hook, line and sinker. She'd boxed him in perfectly. If only he could figure out
There was a screech of a car's brakes in the street. Sonny and another Ventrue jumped
out of the car, phosphorous guns in hand.
Cash turned and ran.
Sasha rubbed furiously at her face as she walked home. It wasn't long after dark, and
there were still plenty of mortals on the street who would be startled to see a girl with
blood on her cheeks. Why did she have to cry so much anyway?
Lorraina and Sonny and that other Ventrue cop with the Irish name had all run after
Cash, leaving Sasha by the cemetery as if she didn't even exist. She might as well not
exist as far as the older Kindred were concerned. That was a good thing, wasn't it?
Wasn't she lucky not to have her Sire, creepy Martin, looking over her shoulder, telling
her what she could and couldn't do? So what if she was an orphan? She was used to it.
She done the orphan gig all her life.
But she'd had her Grandpa then, she remembered with a fresh spate of tears. Grandpa
hadn't been anything like her friend's parents, he was always so calm, laid back and
easy-going, but he'd get that mischievous sparkle in his eyes that said underneath it all he
was a rebel just like her. He was the one who had showed her how to ride a motorcycle.
He'd even bought Sasha her first Harley.
Now Grandpa was gone and she had nobody. Uncle Julian didn't count - he was too
busy being Prince, and besides, he was Ventrue and couldn't understand how being
Brujah felt. She'd almost had Cash...
Sasha stood close to a empty shop-front and scrubbed her face with the front of her
tee-shirt. It was red, maybe the blood-stains wouldn't stand out too much. She had to
stop being such a stupid cry-baby! It wasn't like the world was ending, or anything.
So Julian would probably let Cameron kill Cash, why should that upset her? He was
Gangrel, and he'd killed Nicky. Nicky had been her lover. Any normal Brujah should
want revenge on the Gangrel that took one of their own. Cash deserved extinction, didn't
If only she hadn't screamed when she saw Nicholas' body that first time. Kenny said
that it had probably saved her life - he'd heard her and come running in time to see Cash
knock her down in his rush to get away. Kenny said that Cash would have killed her
next if she hadn't screamed; that she was too young and inexperienced to have been able
to fight him off alone. Kenny had said a lot of things, but none of them made her feel
"Miss?" Sasha twirled around, suddenly realizing that there was a man behind her.
"Are you all right?" Sasha just stared, she hadn't heard him come up to her, but she
could hear his heart beat just fine, now. Thirst gnawed at her, but she did her best to
He was a older man in a good wool coat, carrying a briefcase. A middle
management-type, nearing retirement, on his way home from the office. "It looked like
you were crying," he said gently. "Is there anything I can do for you?" Sasha felt her
brows contract. Why did he want to help her? Didn't he realize she was dangerous?
"I'm okay," Sasha muttered, trying to push past him. "Leave me alone."
"There's blood on your face!" The man exclaimed, grabbing her arm. Sasha could
feel the heat of his blood through her jacket. It made her start to salivate. When had she
fed last? Not tonight, she'd been too busy chasing Lorraina; not last night, not the night
"I had a nose bleed," Sasha looked into the stranger's eyes and willed him to believe
it. "But it's stopped now."
"Oh, that's good," he replied, still holding on to her arm. "Let me drive you home at
least. My car is parked in that garage over there." He pointed, and Sasha fought the urge
to accept. Once they were alone, in his car, she'd have no trouble....
"No!" Sasha blurted, pulling away. "Leave me alone!" The mortal opened his mouth
to protest and Sasha thought as fast as she could. "I... I don't take rides from strange men.
If you don't leave me alone, I'll scream, I swear I will."
That surprised him, he hadn't expected to be suspected of being a criminal or
potential rapist. He tried to frame an apology as he backed away, but was too flustered.
Sasha didn't wait, the sound of his heart, the smell of his warm breath was far too
tempting. She practically ran in the opposite direction.
She turned into an empty alley and collapsed against the graffiti covered wall, panting
as if she'd run a marathon. That had been close. She looked around for a garbage
dumpster and it's attendant rats. Two or three would tide her over until she got back to
the Mansion, then she'd ask Uncle Julian to help her Hunt. She spotted a rodent as it
darted under the dumpster, Sasha got down on her knees and peered into the narrow
space between the trash containers wheels, glad she was wearing jeans as her knees sank
into the mushy cardboard littering the alley floor. "C'mere ratty," Sasha crooned. "Come
to Sasha...." The rat, compelled by her will, dragged itself reluctantly towards her
"Need any help?" Cash's voice said behind her, just as Sasha had managed to grab
hold of her dinner. She screamed and jumped to her feet, dropping the surprised rodent
in her panic.
"Hey, I didn't mean to scare you like that," the Gangrel apologized. "I'm sorry." He
held his empty hands out on front of him awkwardly, almost as if he expected her to
"*What* are you doing here?" Sasha gasped. "I thought that you and Lorraina would
be halfway out of the city by now."
"She drew those Ventrue off of my trail," Cash explained. "I guess that I *should* be
high-tailing it out of the Domain, but I got to thinking: What's the use, Sasha? I'd never
be welcome in any city ruled by a Ventrue or a Brujah, and that rules out just about
He lowered his head and sighed, looking more worn out and tired than she'd ever seen
him. "I thought about what you said, and I was wondering if... if your offer to plead my
case before the Prince was still available."
"He might order you destroyed," Sasha reminded him, gently.
"Sasha, I'll tell you the truth: I don't remember anything about last night. I remember
rising at dusk and deciding to look for you, and that's it. Until I rose again tonight with
your smell all over my hands." Cash shook his head, looking perplexed. "You tell me
that I extinguished Nicky and I can believe that, but Diabolarie? No way, I can't believe
that I'd do such a thing."
"You did it," Sasha grimaced.
Cash didn't say anything for nearly a minute, he just stood and rubbed the back of his
neck. "If you want to get out of here," Sasha offered tentatively. "I won't tell anyone
that I saw you tonight."
Cash smiled at her gratefully. "I'd love to get out of here. I wish I could take you
with me. But you were right about a Clan War. I can't let that happen. I... I couldn't
bear leaving you in a war zone. You're so young, Sasha. If the Brujah went to war you
could be hurt or even Extinguished...."
"If you turn yourself in to Uncle Julian, *you* could be extinguished!" Sasha
protested, reaching for him.
"I'll take my chances," Cash insisted. "Especially if you agree to speak in my favor.
If I turn myself in and taking responsibility for my actions, I'm sure Julian will go as easy
as he can on me...."
"Oh, Cash," Sasha whispered. She turned her back on him. If she looked at him any
more she just knew she'd start to cry again.
Cash put one hand on her shoulder. "Sasha?" He asked tentatively. "Do you... do you
still care for me? Even a little? You don't have to answer but..."
"I love you Cash," Sasha whispered wretchedly. "I've always loved you...."
"Could I kiss you?" he asked. "Just one last kiss?"
Sasha twirled around and threw herself in Cash's arms. "Don't do it," she begged.
"Cameron will insist that Uncle Julian destroy you, I know he will. I couldn't bear it,
Cash. I couldn't exist...."
"We'll be all right, Sasha," Cash insisted. "I promise. We'll be together always...."
His mouth fastened on hers.
Cash kissed her lips, her cheeks, her eyes. Sasha ran her fingers through his hair,
holding him close, trying to push him back to her mouth again. But Cash resisted, he
dipped his head lower, kissing her throat, his left hand caressing and cradling her face.
Sasha nibbled at his fingers and rubbed her body against his. It felt so good to have
Cash's arms around her again. It felt *right*. She couldn't lose him, not now, not again.
He pushed aside the scarf around Sasha's throat, the scarf she almost always wore. She
made a sound of protest; Cash knew she didn't like it when anyone touched her there. It
reminded her too much of her Embrace.
Then Cash's teeth sank into her Jugular. She tried to cry out, but somehow his hand
was clamped over her mouth. Overwhelming bliss wracked Sasha's body, making her
legs tremble, giving her goose bumps over every inch of skin. It felt so good, yet she
couldn't help trying to push Cash away. Why hadn't he asked first? Usually he was so
Suddenly the Communion sprang up between them and Sasha's struggles became
even more desperate. Cash's soul wasn't the wild, untamed thing she remembered; it was
a bloated pustule as black as cancer, dripping with corruption and malice. The slender
thread of the Communion was like a pipeline pulling her into the avulsion as Cash
literally devoured her essence. Her screams were muffled, Sasha knew they'd barely
reach the mouth of the alleyway.
Sasha tried to fight him off, but Cash's grip was like iron around her waist. He had
her pressed against the alley's filthy wall. She could feel herself weakening as he pulled
her Vitae from her.
It was the nightmare of her Embrace all over again, and Cash blended into to Martin
as she felt herself fall into a Frenzy of sheer terror. Sasha clawed at him, kicked,
struggled as hard as she could to get away. Her heart slowed, black dots filled her vision,
her arms were too heavy to lift. She could feel her life slipping away. She was helpless,
Once again she felt her life stolen away as she descended in to Death's black realm.
Cash ran as fast as he could, sticking to the lighted, populated streets. That meant
dodging around humans and occasionally pushing them aside, but it kept Sonny and
O'Neal from using their phosphorus guns. There was a third set of feet running after
him. Cash prayed it was Lorraina and not another Ventrue. Surrounded by humans, he
A mortal man tried to grab him and managed to get a piece of his jacket in his large
fist. Cash twirled and punched the man in the stomach. It was like punching a wall, the
guy's abs were so developed that the punch actually hurt Cash's hand, but the human
doubled over anyway, and released Cash. Cash started running again. That
confrontation with the mortal had cost him a few precious seconds and Caine only knew
how much of his head-start.
Cash knew he could run all damn night without getting tired or even breathing hard,
unfortunately so could the Kindred chasing him. If he were them he'd be trying to get his
quarry either in a dead-end alley or herded into an ambush. Or get anywhere away from
the mortals. Cash desperately wanted to get away from the humans, too. For just a few
seconds - just long enough to turn into wolf-form, but he couldn't think of a way that he
could prevent Sonny and O'Neal from doing the same thing. Of course, if they did
change shape, they couldn't take the phosphorus guns with them....
There was a surprised shout behind him; Cash could hear Lorraina's raised voice. He
threw himself off the sidewalk and out into the street. There was more room to really
open up and run out there, despite the late rush hour traffic. Car horns blared and tires
screeched as the cars swerved to avoid him. Drivers leaned out their windows and cursed
at him, but Cash had other things to worry about.
He crossed the street at an intersection, vaulting over a compact car making a turn.
There was only one set of footsteps behind him now, and that took some of the pressure
off. Cash didn't know for sure who it was, but both Sonny and O'Neal were on the police
force - if they called for back-up, Cash was screwed. There was no way he could fight
for his freedom and avoid breaking the Masquerade at the same time. And then Julian
would have another reason to have him killed.
In his worst nightmares Cash had never dreamed he'd be the object of a Blood Hunt.
He had always supported the Traditions with all his being. He was Gangrel and Gangrel
were loyal. How the Hell had he gotten in this situation and who had set him up?
Suddenly he realized he was in Union Square, so he made a 90 degree turn and
headed up Powell Street to the top of Nob Hill. The tourists would be mostly gone this
time of night, crowding onto Broadway or Divisidero, but the area wouldn't be
completely empty. And gunshots would attract all kinds of attention. But if he could get
into one of the yards, he might be able to change his shape. And if he made a lot of noise
just before he did it, whichever Ventrue that was chasing him wouldn't get the same
As he raced up the steep hill Cash wondered who had gone to the trouble of framing
him. It couldn't have been Sasha - that didn't make any sense. If she wanted to prove that
she was over her relationship with him to the rest of her Clan, she would have tried to
shoot him, that's the way Brujah were. The whole set-up was too elaborate for her or her
Besides, if she had been the one who started this, that would have meant that Sasha
killed Nicholas, and that didn't work either. Sasha didn't like to feed from humans
because she was afraid she might hurt them - she couldn't kill anyone she knew in cold
blood. She might Frenzy and attack in the heat of anger, but that wasn't how Nicky died,
Would any of the Brujah have done that to one of their own? They might have if
Eddie Fiori were still Primogen, nothing was too low for Eddie to try. But now the
Brujah were all loyal to Cameron. And Cameron adored Nicky. Had adored Nicky.
Traffic grew lighter the further Cash ran up the hill. The whole area was residential
with only a few of the big mansions turned into businesses or charitable institutions. He
had to get off the street so there wasn't a clear line of fire. It was time to start running
across the backyards. He swerved to his left and vaulted a low hedge easily. Inside the
house a dog started barking hysterically.
The fence at the other end of the yard was eight-feet tall. Cash scaled it and flipped
himself over. As he did he got a glimpse of Sonny, his eyes pale with anger. Cash
dropped behind the fence before Sonny could bring up the phosphorus gun and started
Sonny, he thought, anger growing in his chest. Sonny had let the Brujah slaughter
Stevie and had done nothing. Sonny had kept it secret, even from his own Sire. Sonny
had kept Cash from getting the justice Stevie Ray had deserved.
He listened to the sounds coming from behind him. Sonny wasn't so fast over broken
ground; Cash grinned as he heard the Ventrue trample through one flower bed after
another. Cash was developing quite a lead. If he kept on running, he could get away
from the Ventrue cop with little trouble. He could get out the city, survive the Blood
Cash slowed until he was barely walking. If he kept on running, Sonny would have
gotten away with betraying Stevie. Cash couldn't let that happen. Some things were
worth dying for, and if Cash was going to be extinguished, he was damn sure going to
take Sonny Toussaint with him.
Cash resumed trotting, but he wasn't running for his life anymore. He began looking
for a place to lay a trap.
Lillie searched through her closet for half an hour before selecting a dress that was
suitably bright and festive enough to wear for the evening. She slipped it on and
modeled in front of her mirror for a long minute. The top was cut dangerously low and
the skirt, although it barely reached to the middle of her thighs, was slit almost up to the
waist band. Even worse was the pattern, an Op-Art geometric in crimson and gold.
Julian had absolutely hated it when she first worn it five years ago. There was simply no
way he would allow her at Nicholas' memorial looking like *this*.
As if she actually had anything kind to say about Cameron's Childe. Or any Brujah
for that matter. She'd rather be staked out in the sun for a full day than associate with
that Clan. Not after Cameron had the temerity to keep her a prisoner in her own club
while his Sire tried to murder Julian. He could try to work his charm on her until it
snowed in Hell; Lillie would never treat Cameron as anything other than the street thug
She hummed the love theme from 'Sweeney Todd' to herself as she applied a brighter
shade of lipstick and plenty of rouge. Fishing around in her cosmetic drawer she found
an emerald green eyeliner she had forgotten about. She pencilled it on thickly, then
added a trace gold dust to her lids. "Mrs. Langtry, you look as lovely as ever," she
laughed at the mirror. Her reflection winked back at her.
Julian didn't say anything when she sashayed down the stairs, he just compressed his
lips into a thin line and radiated disapproval. His eyes were fixed on the slit of her skirt,
evidently he'd noticed that she had once again neglected to wear panties. He caught a
passing servant by the arm and directed them to bring her car around. The Fledgling
scampered off. "You'll be going out Hunting tonight," Julian made it sound like an
order. Lillie smiled flirtatiously and brushed up against his arm.
"If you're good maybe I'll bring something back to share with you," she smiled. But
her smile faded immediately when a brief look of distaste crossed his handsome face.
No one else would have noticed it; Julian probably thought he had hidden his feelings.
"That won't be necessary," Julian informed her stiffly. "Perhaps you could spend the
day in one of your other havens. I have invited Cameron to stay here until Nicholas'
murderer has been caught. And I realize that you won't be comfortable under the same
roof with him."
"Perhaps I will," Lillie retorted. "It's been a while since I spent the day with Frank."
Julian's face got a little bit tighter, an impossible measure colder.
"Tomorrow evening, then," he said, removing her hand from his arm. "Let me walk
you to your car."
"I can find my own way," she snapped, turning on her heel and practically running out
of the house. How dare he? How dare he treat her that way? Lillie remembered a time
when Julian had been a virtual nobody, just one of the Prince's dozen Childer. And not a
particularly favored one at that. She had been Primogen of the Toreador even then, and
she had never slighted him. Not once.
How dare he treat her as if he didn't love her any more?
She pulled her Jaguar out on to Fillmore without even looking for oncoming traffic
and pushed the accelerator to the floor. The engine's animal roar blocked out the
memory of Julian's voice. She couldn't visit Frank Kohanek, she realized. She was much
too angry. Frank could be too much like Julian at times; and that might be dangerous for
him tonight. She should take Julian's suggestion and go Hunting. Long drafts of hot
blood might calm her pounding heart.
Lillie looked around to see where she was, realizing a little belatedly that she was
driving both aimlessly and aggressively. She was on Hays Street and had just crossed
Van Ness. That meant she'd have to turn around and go back if she wanted to Hunt in
her own territory around Divisidero. It would serve Julian right if she poached in
someone else's hunting grounds tonight. He might own the city, but he didn't own her.
Considering poaching gave her another idea. A specific target to enjoy for the night.
Just because she didn't want to bother poor Frank didn't mean she couldn't pay a call on
someone else. And a visit to dear, sweet Caitlin Byrne, her *very* best girlfriend, would
certainly calm her raging emotions. Caitlin was so innocent, so trusting, so *refreshing*;
just thinking of her made Lillie smile.
She turned left onto Market, meaning to swing over to Route 101 and follow it across
the bridge. It was a roundabout path, but it would give her time to come up with a story
to tell the pretty newspaper editor. It always paid to be careful when dealing with
Of course Market was congested with tourists headed towards the Embarcadero, and
Lillie grew impatient. She turned onto a side street to get away from the traffic and
almost immediately got lost downtown. She hated the business district. It wasn't long
before she started fuming again, hunched over the wheel and glaring through the
windshield, trying to find a sign directing her towards the bridge. No wonder Julian had
So when she saw Cash standing in an alley, Lillie was so surprised that she nearly
drove right past him. Her foot found the brake after what seemed an endless eternity [but
was probably less than a second], and her car screeched to a stop so suddenly that the car
behind her slid into her bumper. Cash turned and Lillie saw the girl in his arms, sagging
heavily as if she had fainted from terror... or blood loss.
She was out of the car before she realized what she was doing; striding across the
street unmindful of the beeping traffic, no weapon to defend herself but her own teeth
and claws. Cash snarled at her, and Lillie hesitated. "I'm not going to hurt you, Cash,"
she informed him. "Unless you make me." The Gangrel considered and suddenly
withdrew, dropping his unconscious prey like so much trash.
Lillie would have followed, she *wanted* to follow, but the girl's head rolled to face
the street and Lillie realized with a start that it was Sasha. She stopped dead in her
tracks, then threw herself on to her knees by the Fledgling's body. "Sasha! Oh, no!
The young Brujah didn't respond. She was virtually weightless in Lillie's arms; her
limbs felt like bundles of twigs. Sasha's skin was practically translucent, the wound on
her throat gaped bloodlessly. There was no heartbeat, of course, no trace of breath.
Even her hair, normally full of curls, seemed limp, thin, brittle, almost lifeless. Lillie
wondered if she had surprised Cash in the act of Diabolarizing Sasha. Had she stopped
him in time?
"Hey!" A man's voice cried behind her. It was the driver who had rear-ended her.
"You can't just leave the scene of a... Oh, my God, it's that little girl with the nose
Lillie simply glanced up at him and the middle aged man was snared. "Come here,"
she ordered. And when he did she yanked him down and slit open his throat with her
claws. He moaned as the blood pattered over Sasha's face and neck and tried to get his
hands up to stop the crimson flow. Lillie ignored him, staring instead at Sasha's pale
flesh. The blood soiled it, stained it with maroon blotches, which faded slowly to
nothing as they were absorbed.
The Toreador Primogen grabbed the mortal man and forced him to his knees.
Holding his hands behind his back, she leaned him over until most of the blood rained on
to Sasha's parted lips. He made some noise in protest, but his mind was too clouded to
think of screaming for help. Lillie had done this before, ages ago, when one of her
Brood-brothers had fallen into Torpor. It had taken a while for Vincente to fully waken,
but she didn't know if that was normal or not.
She didn't have to wait long. Sasha's mouth gaped open, her fangs appearing
obscenely long against the pale gums. A moment later her eyes opened revealing irises
the color of pewter. And then the Brujah wrenched the prey out of Lillie's hands and
sank her teeth into his throat.
"That's it, Precious," Lillie cooed. "Drink it down. Drink it all down. That's my
girl...." She had gotten to Sasha in time, she thought gratefully. At least in time to save
the Childe's immortal flesh. Has she managed to keep Cash from destroying her mind
and soul as well?
Sasha threw the mortal away from her with a strangled cry. "No," she wailed. "Not
again.... I didn't.... I sent him away!" Lillie picked her up and dragged her to the Jaguar.
She wanted to get away before the police, attracted by the minor accident, arrived.
They'd find the man's bleeding body, maybe even get him to a hospital before he died.
But that would just have to be Julian's problem. Lillie knew she didn't have the ability to
deal with the police and an hysterical Sasha at the same time. She slammed the Jaguar
back into gear and floored it all the way back to the mansion.
Sonny jogged through the dark and empty rear yards as fast as he dared. There was
only a sliver of the moon to light his way, and the collections of fences, flower beds,
patios and lawn furniture made following Cash's trail an obstacle course. Not that the
Gangrel left much of a trail to follow. The only sounds he could hear were traffic noises
from the streets and the quiet conversations of families in their homes. The cool summer
air smelled of auto exhaust, swimming pools and blooming plants.
He had to admire Cash's ingenuity, even if it made his job more difficult. It was hard
to believe that the Gangrel Primogen had been Embraced only eleven years before.
When Sonny was eleven he hadn't even been able to Hunt on his own, let alone evade
determined Kindred hunters. But Gangrel obviously grew up fast.
Cash had stayed in lighted places filled with plenty of human witnesses until the rush
hour traffic had thinned. Now that Lorraina had managed to knock O'Neal out of the
chase, the young Gangrel had switched to residential backyards, the closest thing to open
countryside within the city proper. Sonny was falling behind. It was more than possible
that he could lose his prey and Cash would be able to escape the city - and the Blood
He scrambled over yet another fence and cast around for the Gangrel's trail. Cash had
the advantage amongst the soft grass, flower beds and trees of the small city yards. His
senses were much sharper than Sonny's; it was said that Gangrel heard better wolves, saw
better in the dark than cats and had a finer sense of smell than a bloodhound. Sonny
knew he couldn't possibly match that.
It bothered Sonny that Cash had decided to stay in the city in the first place. Any
sane Kindred who had committed Diabolarie would leave the area as soon as possible.
Murder could be tolerated, if the Prince gave his favor, but Diabolarie was cannibalism,
and *always* punished by the Blood Hunt.
Cash knew that Sasha and Kenny had both seen him leave Nicholas' haven. Why had
he remained in the city? He didn't seem to take Julian's favor for granted, and while he
had reason to be jealous of Sasha's new lover, he didn't seem the type to just snap and
commit, well.... he didn't seem the type to do what he had done.
Another wrinkle: Sonny had checked over Nicholas' haven completely after Julian
and Cameron had removed the body. While it was true that Cameron had trashed the
place pretty thoroughly, Sonny should have been able to find some evidence to convict
Cash. But he hadn't. Not a button, not a thread, not a single hair had been left behind
that didn't belong to the Brujah. Sonny had never seen a murder scene so completely
devoid of evidence. It wasn't natural.
Sonny realized that he'd lost Cash's trail and had to back-track. He saw where he'd
gone wrong almost immediately - Cash hadn't moved in a straight line. He'd slipped
through a back gate and into another row of manicured gardens. Sonny increased his
speed as much as he dared, trying to narrow the distance between him and his prey.
Trying to make up the time he'd lost. But over the uneven surfaces, in the dark, he didn't
trust himself to move any faster than a trot.
The whole situation didn't make sense. He could almost believe that the Brujah had
framed Cash - except for Sasha. Despite all her posturing, his Sire's descendant wouldn't
hurt a fly if she could help it. Sasha was already trying to work up a defense for the
Gangrel Primogen. And she had been seen about the city, conspicuously alone, on the
night that Cash had claimed to be with her. No alibi there.
Sonny stepped in a pile of dog droppings and cursed as he nearly slipped and fell on
his ass. The stink wafted up and surrounded him, blocking his ability to smell anything
else. He danced away from it and tried to wipe his shoe clean on the grass. He might as
well just give up chasing the Gangrel. There was no way is was going to be able to track
him down now....
Something landed on him from above, knocking Sonny backwards. The backs of his
knees hit a low bench and he tumbled over it, his legs tangled. The phosphorous gun
flew out of his hands, sailing over his head to strike the back fence with a clatter. Inside
the house a pair of small dogs began to bark.
Cash went for his eyes. Sonny had less than a second to glimpse the Gangrel's face,
his fangs extended, before the Primogen's long claws filled his vision. He grabbed at
Cash's wrists instinctively, holding them hard enough to feel the small bones grind
together. But Cash continued to push his hands forward.
Sonny had the breath knocked out of him when he'd fallen. Not that it mattered, he
could still fight. But he couldn't draw in another breath with Cash's weight on top of
him, couldn't shout for help or cry out a warning to the man inside the house screaming
at the two dogs to shut up. Upstairs, Sonny could hear a baby start crying. Cash didn't
make a sound.
Sonny managed to kick the bench away, freeing his legs. Cash's claws touched his
cheekbones. If Cash blinded him the fight was over - and he was as good as destroyed.
He brought his knee up as hard as he could, striking Cash between the shoulder blades.
At the same time he pulled Cash's arms toward him. The Gangrel, caught off guard,
tumbled forward. Sonny scrambled to his feet.
Cash was on his feet an instant later, swiping his claws in an arc that caught Sonny's
left arm. His jacket and shirt shredded, but Sonny was able to close the shallow wounds
as soon as they were made. Sonny fell back a few steps. Cash darted forward,
interposing himself between Sonny and the gun.
"Honey, put the dogs outside if they won't stop barking," a woman's voice cried inside
the house. "They're frightening Timmy."
They feinted for a few seconds, while Sonny tried to move Cash away from the
phosphorous gun. The Gangrel didn't make a move for it, though; he just guarded it to
keep the gun out of Sonny hands. Sonny thought desperately. He didn't want to use his
weapon when there were human's so close. Even though he was a cop there was too
much chance of breaking the Masquerade....
Cash struck while he was thinking and Sonny was nearly knocked off his feet a
second time. He twisted as the Gangrel grabbed him, so that his left hip was in Cash's
stomach. His left arm was trapped between their bodies, but that was okay, it kept Cash
from his throat. Sonny sank the claws of his right hand as deep as he could into Cash's
thigh, tearing at the muscle. When Cash tried to pull away, Sonny had the benefit of
balance and pushed Cash to the ground.
A light when on next to the door. Inside the man called and cursed at the dogs. Cash
didn't even try to get Sonny's weight off of him, he struck directly for Sonny's throat with
his fangs. Sonny barely managed to move back in time, the twin nicks let a single drop
of Vitae fall onto Cash's face. Sonny clawed at Cash's hair, trying to pull his head back,
expose the Gangrel's throat....
The back door swung open but the two dogs hesitated on the threshold, sniffing at the
air and shivering. "Well," the man's voice was loud and irate. "What are you waiting
for? Go outside!"
Sonny's claws were slick with Cash's blood, making it even harder to hold the
Gangrel's short hair. Cash tried to sink his teeth into Sonny's shoulder, but was stopped
by the strap of Sonny's shoulder-holster and only managed to get a mouthful of the suit
"Outside," the home-owner insisted, pushing one of the small animals out the door
with his foot. The dog gave a terrified cry and rushed back into the house, hiding behind
it's owner and quivering with terror. The other dog backed away from the door warily
and whined. "What the Hell....?"
Cash elbowed Sonny in the solar plexus and they broke apart, snarling silently.
Sonny rubbed his neck where Cash's fangs had nicked him. He could prevent the
wounds from bleeding, but knew it would be a night or two before they healed. He
glanced at the house, hoping against hope that the man wouldn't investigate his rear yard.
Cash must have seen his eyes flicker towards the human because he charged. Sonny
kicked the bench he had fallen over towards the Gangrel, and Cash tripped, landing
among the flower pots. The home-owner started at the noise. "Who's there?" He called
nervously. The remaining dog backed further into the house, growling.
Cash was climbing to his feet, murder written on his face. Sonny decided to take his
chances with the Masquerade - he was a cop, he had his badge, he could explain - and
grabbed for his pistol. Cash pivoted - Sonny thought he was ducking for cover - and
grabbed one of the broken flower pots lining the patio. He lifted it and twisted back as
Sonny thumbed the safety off and tried to aim. Before Sonny could fire, the pot smashed
into his arm, knocking the gun out of his fingers. It bounced on the flagstones and
discharged into the fence.
"Jesus Christ!" The man exclaimed, taking a step back into his house. The dogs
yipped and fled for safety. Upstairs the woman cried out over the baby's screams,
A second pot slammed into Sonny's knees and he staggered. In a flash Cash was on
him, his claws gouging into Sonny's chest and face. Sonny got one hand under the
Primogen's chin and tried to force him backwards; all the while groping for his pistol. It
lay in the grass a bare inch from his fingers. Cash realized what he was doing and rolled
in the other direction, pulling Sonny with him.
"Call the police," the woman begged. "Please, Richard, don't go out there!"
"You call the police," the man replied. "Just let me get my flashlight and I'll ...."
Sonny couldn't stop the roll while he was on top. He tried but Cash had the
advantage of momentum. Before he knew it, he was pinned beneath the Gangrel again.
"No! Don't! I'm sure that was a gun!"
Cash sank his claws into Sonny's throat. Sonny could feel his Carotid and Jugular
sever. He had barely seconds, he thought desperately. Only seconds before he became
Cash's next victim. He groped with his free hand for a weapon - a paving stone, a flower
pot, *anything*. In the house he could hear the woman talking into the phone,
stammering as she gave the address to the human police. They would arrive too late to
help him ....
"This is for Stevie Ray, you traitor," Cash hissed. Sonny's fingers touched something
then, something cold and metallic. He wrapped his hand around the barrel of the
phosphorus gun, pulled it close, lifted it and smashed it as best he could into the side of
Cash's head. Cash fell one way, Sonny rolled the other.
It took everything Sonny had to force himself to get to his feet; everything he had left
to lift the rifle like a club. He had no blood left in his veins, he was a dry as the desert
breeze, and felt just as weak. Cash bounded up to a wary crouch, and Sonny swung as
hard as he could. He was a child again, imitating Satchel Paige and Josh Gibbon, hitting
a home run....
The stock of the gun connected with Cash's shoulder and the Gangrel was knocked
over. Sonny staggered and collected himself, lifting the gun by the barrel for another
blow. Cash tried to dodge and the gun hit his upraised arm with a report like a rifle shot.
The Gangrel howled in pain, a cry like an angry wolf, and there was a sudden silence
from inside the house.
Sonny lifted the gun and brought it down, lifted it and brought it down. The gun
stock broke. He lifted it again, anyway. His arms were shaking with exhaustion. He
slammed the gun down as hard as he could, tried to lift it, and couldn't.
Cash was unconscious, Sonny realized dully. He dropped the broken gun and
collapsed to his knees. He was beyond Thirst. He was drier than dust. The wounds on
his chest wouldn't heal. He needed blood. He couldn't stop shaking.
At first he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. Then the rotating shadows
sprang into focus. The lights from a patrol car, red and blue, danced out on the street.
Their reflections painted the garden alternately hellish red and icy blue. The police had
arrived. Sonny pulled himself to his feet.
Another glance at his wounds convinced him that he couldn't maintain the
Masquerade. He'd have to get away, hide somewhere, take Cash with him. He reeled
over to his gun and replaced it in his shoulder holster. Then he rolled Cash onto his face
and cuffed the Gangrel's hands behind his back. Using the remains of the phosphorus
gun as a crutch he dragged the unconscious Cash back the way they had come, through
the gate and across another backyard. It would have been better if he could carry the
Gangrel, but he just didn't have the strength.
There was a sewer grating on the next street. Sonny pushed Cash through, then
wiggled in himself. Rats lived in the sewers. As much as that made his stomach churn,
they would have to do.
Cash stumbled into the Mansion's basement, and Sonny was on him immediately, the
barrel of the phosphorus gun jammed behind the Gangrel's ear.
"I tripped," Cash said bitterly. "It's not easy to keep your balance with your hands
cuffed behind your back."
"My heart bleeds for you," Sonny sneered. "Get up slowly."
Cash struggled until he was on his knees, then levered himself to his feet. "You
should try this some time, Sonny," he invited. "Trying to walk around with your hands
bound; somebody sticking a gun in your ear. Nothing like a little summary justice..."
"Shut up," Sonny growled. "You'll get a hearing before the Prince."
"How nice," Cash snorted. "To be followed immediately by my dismemberment.
Not that anyone will care that I'm innocent!"
"You were with Sasha," Sonny scoffed. The Gangrel Primogen had to realize the cost
of surrendering to the Beast. If all Kindred just did what their blood told them to do,
society would fall apart and no one would ever be safe. It was a pity that Cash had given
in to his instincts, but now that he had he must be punished. If an example wasn't made
of him, if all the Clans didn't learn that no one was above the law, chaos would ensue.
"Yes," Cash said intently. "We were in the cemetery of St. Mary's, all damn night."
"Think up a better lie for Julian, Cash," Sonny suggested. "O'Neal saw Sasha in Marin
County that night. She said she was looking for a friend but that isn't Brujah territory.
So he followed her for an hour, until she crossed the bridge and drove her bike back into
the Wastelands. Or have you suddenly *remembered* that she left you for a couple of
Cash shook his head, looking confused. "She was with me..."
"Turn around, Gangrel. You know where the prison is."
Cash turned obediently and walked slowly towards the Prison of Light. Some of the
Kindred referred to it euphemistically as Julian's 'sun room'. It was a small cell, with
concrete walls which were five feet thick and painted a bright white. Four tanning beds
had been disassembled to make the doorway. No Kindred could escape; just being in the
prison with the sun lamps turned on sapped their strength like full daylight, yet none
dared go to their rest for fear they'd ignite. It was more than a place to be incarcerated, it
was a punishment all it's own.
Sonny shoved him through the door with the butt of his rifle and switched the power
on. The lamps flickered to life, forcing the Ventrue to step back defensively. Cash
pressed himself into a corner.
"What about the cuffs?" Cash called.
"You won't be in there that long," Sonny assured him. "Enjoy it while you can."
Leaving the Gangrel, Sonny searched out some rags to wipe the worst of the sewer
muck off of his shoes, then proceeded upstairs. There was no hope for the rest of his
clothes, they were so soiled he would have to destroy them. Julian would be pleased that
Cash had been apprehended so quickly, and proud that it had been his Childe that had
caught the Diabolist. Hopefully he wouldn't care that Sonny looked so disgracefully
Sonny grinned to himself, he would be well rewarded. Possibly enough to make up
for the trouble Cash had made for him tonight. But proving that he was worthy of
Julian's favor would be the best reward of all.
There was pandemonium in the downstairs hall, Brujah and Ventrue servants
scrambled around each other. Sonny grabbed one of them as they passed. "Where is the
Prince?" He demanded. "What is going on?"
"Sasha was attacked," The young Ventrue replied; Sonny thought her name was
Katherine or Kathleen, something like that. "The Prince is with her now - in the parlor."
Sonny let her go and trotted down the hall. Julian set such a store by his great-great-
granddaughter, even if she was just a Brujah. If anything had happened to her....
"When I was in Monte Carlo," Lillie's voice came out of the parlor doorway sounding
coolly serene. That end of the hall was blocked by a group of on-lookers. Sonny
couldn't push past the crowd of Kindred to get to the door. "The Prince captured a
Diabolist once. He had her skinned and then staked out in the shade of this large oak tree
in the middle of his garden. Every night the whole court would gather in a lovely gazebo
that overlooked the spot...."
"Why in the shade?" Cameron demanded.
"It took longer," Lillie snapped, evidently angry at being interrupted. "In fact, it took
three days - and would have taken even more time if it hadn't gotten windy."
"I like it," the Brujah Primogen's voice had a savage edge to it. "How fitting. But
won't we have to put something under him to keep Cash from hiding in the earth?"
"Not with a stake through his heart," Julian responded. "If he's caught alive, you can
have him executed anyway you see fit, Cameron. But I don't care if he is brought to me
whole or in pieces. I call a Blood Hunt for Cash, former Primogen of the Gangrel Clan.
Let anyone who can take him down have him - I want only his cursed head!"
Sonny shrank back, he hadn't ever heard his Sire so angry. What else had Cash done
"No, Uncle Julian, please!" Sasha cried, her voice trembling and weak. "He's
sick. I could smell it all over him...."
"Sasha," Julian's tone brooked no argument. "Cash must be destroyed. He
Diabolarized Nicky and he tried to do the same thing to you. If I see him, I'll destroy
him myself! No one attacks my family like this without suffering for it!"
"Not by torture!" The young Brujah sobbed. "He's sick. He's all rotting inside. It's
like it wasn't even him...."
"Sasha," Lillie soothed. "It's necessary, darling. We don't have to *enjoy* it...."
"When did this happen?" Sonny demanded, grabbing one of the Brujah by his collar.
"When did Cash attack Sasha?"
"Less than an hour ago," the Brujah bared his fangs. "When we catch that little
"Sasha's lucky that Lillie saw him," a Toreador servant added. "If she hadn't
frightened Cash off, Sasha wouldn't have survived...." Sonny didn't listen for more, he
started backing away from the parlor doorway, fighting his way out of the crowd.
"The Brujah will reward anyone who can bring in Cash in one piece," Cameron
proclaimed. "We want that bastard to suffer for what he has done."
"Tell the Gangrel that anyone who aids him to escape will be Hunted as well," Julian
added. "I will call my Brood-sister, Maria, the Prince of Sacramento, and the other
Princes in the area to spread the word. I want the head of the Gangrel, Cash. He will not
Sonny made it back to the basement's doorway and looked both ways before opening
it and heading down the stairs. He didn't want anyone to see him, to report his odd
behavior to the Prince. Trying to still the thunderous beating of his heart, he switched
off the power to the sun lamps and rushed into the prison's tiny cell.
"That was fast," Cash commented bitterly.
"Shut up," Sonny whispered, unlocking the handcuffs and freeing Cash's wrists.
"Whatever you do - keep quiet."
"Why?" The Gangrel demanded. "What's happened?"
"Sasha was attacked and nearly Diabolarized - and everyone says that it was you,"
Sonny explained. "I have to get you out of here. They're ready to lynch you up there."
"You realized that I didn't do it," Cash said suspiciously.
"The attack was about an hour ago," Sonny admitted. What Sasha had said about it
not being Cash, echoed in his brain. But she'd been close enough to smell him, and Lillie
had seen Cash as well....
"That's great! I was with you - that proves I didn't destroy anyone!"
"Not when Lillie and Sasha are both eyewitnesses," Sonny grabbed the Gangrel's arm
to prevent him from going up the stairs. "And you still have no alibi for when Nicky was
extinguished. Do you think that Julian will believe me when Lillie and Sasha both insist
that it was you? Even if he did, nothing could protect you from the Brujah. They'd tear
you apart before you said a word."
"So we're just going to run away?"
"We're going to find out who attacked Sasha tonight," Sonny said. "*That's* what we
are going to do."
Cash nodded to himself, apparently turning over his options in his mind. "Okay, let's
get out of here."
"You'd better pray that we're lucky, Gangrel," Sonny warned, heading back towards
the entrance to the sewers. "Julian's beefed up the security since Zane escaped."
"You were lucky when you caught me," Cash said confidently. "We'll get out."
But they didn't, of course. A Nosferatu was standing in the sewer's round opening,
apparently having overheard every word.
"I suggest you stop pointing that rifle at me, Sonny," Hestia said. Her pointed teeth
and oversized fangs glinted in the dim light. "Unless you want the Brujah upstairs to
come to investigate the disturbance, should it go off."
"Camilla...." Sonny started.
"You should know better, Ventrue," The Nosferatu woman spat.
"I'm sorry," Sonny could feel himself blush. His heart was still pounding. Hestia
could probably hear his nervousness. "It just slipped out...."
She cackled, a most unpleasant sound. "Is that your excuse for helping Cash escape
as well? 'He just slipped out'?" She eyed the Gangrel curiously. "It's nice to know who
your friends are, isn't it? You think that Sonny is an enemy, and yet he is honorable
enough to try to save your hide. While Lillie, who is always so eager to 'help' you, is
upstairs plotting with the Brujah on how to make your exit from this world as painful as
"What is it to you?" Cash challenged, moving away from Sonny. Dividing the
Nosferatu's attention. Another smart move, Sonny thought. If it came to a fight, she'd
have trouble handling both of them, and Cash could possibly slip away.
"I've been listening to you two blunder through the sewers," Camilla grinned. "You
are lucky that most of the other Nosferatu don't like the smell of the Prince's house."
"Don't attack her, Gangrel," Sonny warned, trying to watch both Cash and Hestia at
the same time.
"She'll tell everyone," Cash protested.
"I'm warning you...."
"I *can* be bought," Camilla offered. "Like most Nosferatu. Our cherished
neutrality allows us to aid anyone - as long as they have the right price."
"What do you want?" Cash demanded, his shoulders relaxing a little. "I don't have any
"What would I do with money?" Hestia sneered. "Buy cosmetics to make myself
even more ravishing than I am?"
"He didn't mean to insult you," Sonny soothed. "The Nosferatu deal in information,"
he told Cash. "So the proper question is what do you want to know?"
"What do you want to know?" Cash repeated when Hestia didn't move. "I don't know
"That, honored Primogen, is painfully obvious," Hestia replied. "But Gangrel do have
abilities to go places that Nosferatu can't. And you have more access than most...."
"I'm not Julian's bodyguard anymore," Cash informed her.
"And even if he were," Sonny added. "I wouldn't allow him to spy on the Prince for
"You can't blame me for trying," Hestia shrugged. "Perhaps we could discuss my
price further in the 'comfort' of my haven."
"Why are you willing to help, Hestia?" Sonny asked quietly. "Turn Cash over to the
Brujah and they will reward you handsomely."
"Gee, thanks," Cash muttered.
"Cameron would be so grateful he'd even offer to have sex with me, I'm sure," Hestia
grimaced. "Strange things have been happening in San Francisco, and I am not the only
Nosferatu to notice. Many have told me that they have sensed Kindred when none were
nearby. And suddenly there are two Primogen of the Gangrel in the city: one who
commits Diabolarie, and one who spend his nights with a lover who isn't there. It makes
me suspect things. There is evil in the air - and I need you to find the source of it."
"So you know I'm innocent, too," Cash asked eagerly.
"I know nothing," Hestia replied quickly. "But I suspect a great deal. I believe that
the Brujah and the Gangrel, and even the Prince, are being manipulated without their
knowledge. If that is true, then no one is safe."
There was a noise at the top of the stairs, and even Hestia looked alarmed. "Come
with me," she hissed, disappearing back into the sewer tunnel. Sonny didn't even
hesitate, he pushed Cash ahead of him and followed.
Hestia led them out of familiar territory almost immediately. First they squeezed past
a rusted gate, then crawled over what Sonny had always thought was a pile of debris
blocking the sewer. When Cash tried to say something Hestia hushed him furiously.
Hestia produced a small flashlight and switched it on - for his benefit, Sonny thought.
The dim amber light barely illuminated five feet ahead, but it would keep him from
She led them through concrete sewers large enough that they could walk in three
abreast and narrow brick mines no wider than Hestia's shoulders. Some of the passages
were obviously of Nosferatu construction; earthen walls shored up with whatever
material was handy, trash, metal, a whole tunnel lined with thousands of glass bottles.
The air stank of wet rot and mold. The walls often dripped moisture.
Hestia scouted ahead, gesturing them to stay still and often seemed to change her
route. Sonny was certain that they crossed and re-crossed their own trail more than once.
They weren't allowed to speak, although Hestia occasionally grumbled about the noise
the two men made. All in all it took well over an hour before they reached Hestia's
haven. Sonny could feel dawn coming, even though he was deeper under the earth than
he'd ever been before.
"My Haven," the Nosferatu announced, gesturing to a new tunnel. It was a metal
pipe, tall enough to walk in, but tilted at a sharp angle. "Watch your step."
"I am honored by your hospitality," Cash said formally, stepping carefully into the
pipe. Evidently it was as slippery as it looked. Sonny was a little surprised that Cash
actually had manners. Stevie, he recalled, used act as polished as Julian when the
occasion called for it.
"I, too, am honored," Sonny echoed. He waited for Cash to clear the pipe before
descending himself. Hestia followed behind him.
Cash was looking around opened-mouthed in the darkness. Sonny couldn't see a
damn thing, but knew from the echo that the space was larger than he had expected. The
floor under foot was slightly canted, but dry. It felt as if it were covered by a carpet.
And the sewer smell of mold and wet and human waste was gone, replaced by beeswax
and herbs and a dozen other scents that Sonny couldn't put a name to.
Hestia moved past him and lit a candle, then another and another, and Sonny saw
what Cash had been gaping at. He wanted to let his mouth drop open, too.
The candles were part of a crystal chandelier, lowered from the ornate ceiling to hang
just above the lushly carpeted floor. Gilded furniture stood in small conversational
groups. The walls appeared to be polished mahogany, but were covered with drawings
and astrological charts. The room wasn't that large, perhaps the size his own living
room, but it was as fine as any room in the Prince's Mansion.
"It was Goth's haven," Hestia explained, a trace of bitterness in her soft voice. "A gift
from Prince Archon when the Nosferatu were still honored in San Francisco."
The rooms proportions suddenly made sense. "This was a ship?" Sonny asked.
"A yacht," Hestia confirmed. "Owned by some foolish human who came to find the
California gold and become richer than he already was. Archon had it dragged into the
swamp and covered up."
"So we're under Cow Hollow," Sonny murmured. "Amazing."
"Won't all the other Nosferatu know about this place?" Cash demanded. "Are we...
am I... safe here?"
"They know," the Nosferatu shrugged. "But none come here. They do not like it. If
you will make yourselves comfortable..."
She disappeared through a small door and returned a moment later with a bowl of
clear water and some towels. "You may rest on the couches, they are quite comfortable.
But I don't like dirt...."
"Of course," Cash actually blushed and began cleaning off his boots. Sonny helped
himself to the wash basin gratefully. It was good to wash the old blood off.
Hestia perched on one of the chairs and pulled a basket towards her. Pulling out a
needle and thread she began to work placidly on a man's white shirt. "Now that we are
both comfortable and safe," she said. "Let's discuss how Cash appears to be in two places
at one time."
Sonny finished buttoning up the shirt, admiring Hestia's handiwork. It had been
Goth's, but it fit Sonny better than the shirts he had tailor- made in Chinatown. He just
might have found a new seamstress. He'd have to ask Hestia if she'd be willing to make
him a dozen more when she got back from Hunting for them. Of course there was the
troublesome matter of payment to consider.
"Thank you," Cash said abruptly. Sonny looked up, startled. He and Cash were alone
in Hestia's guesting room, but Cash had conspicuously not spoken to him for the last
hour. "For not keeping me in the prison," Cash continued. "For helping me prove my
innocence." The young Gangrel didn't sound grateful, at least not to Sonny's ears. He
sounded as if his words were being dragged out with pliers.
"I'm not helping you," Sonny replied.
"Then why in Hell's name are you doing it?" Cash practically shouted. "We're not
exactly friends, Sonny."
"I'm doing it for Julian. If he had you killed and found out you were innocent
after...." Sonny pulled his jacket on over the new shirt. Hestia had sponged out the
worst of the stains, and it was actually wearable again. "I didn't think we were enemies
"Bullshit," Cash muttered and resumed pacing.
It was like being in a cage with an angry tiger, Sonny reflected. Well, Cash was
under a lot of pressure, with the Blood Hunt and all. But, still....
"Why did you say 'this is for Stevie'," he asked aloud. Cash gave him a withering
glance and paced in the other direction.
"When you attacked me," Sonny prompted. "You said 'this is for Stevie Ray'." Cash
didn't answer. "Why am I a traitor, Cash?"
"Because you killed him, Ventrue!" Cash erupted. "Did you think I'd never find out?
Did you think you'd get away with what you did? I swear I'll make you pay for every
drop of his blood..."
"What are you talking about? I didn't kill Stevie Ray!"
Cash stalked swiftly across the room to snarl in Sonny's face. Sonny took an
involuntary step back. The Gangrel's eyes were golden, his fangs and claws in plain
sight. He thought that Cash might fall into Frenzy right there in the guesting room. "I
read Archon's diary, Sonny. Are you saying Archon lied?"
"I swear, on the honor of my blood, I didn't kill your Sire," Sonny replied stiffly. "I
was there, I saw him destroyed, but I didn't kill him."
"You were there," Cash cried out. "You could have tried to save him. You could
have *tried* to stop the Brujah-pigs that slaughtered him. You could have told *Julian*,
and had them brought to justice. But you did *nothing*! *NOTHING*!"
"You're as guilty has they are," Cash sneered, turning his back disdainfully. "I'm
surprised you didn't leave me back in the prison - get rid of me the way you got rid of my
"If we weren't in a neutral haven, I'd knock your head off for that," Sonny retorted.
"But I wouldn't want to get your blood on Hestia's carpets."
"No," Cash corrected. "You'd rather have someone else do it. Ventrue coward."
"I'm beginning to regret *not* leaving you back in the prison," Sonny snapped.
"Why didn't you?" Cash challenged. "You had no trouble leaving Stevie Ray to the
"Because of Julian!" Sonny shouted back.
"Why not just not tell him? The way you just didn't tell him that Eddie Fiori had...."
"*Because* I didn't tell him that Eddie Fiori was the one who drove a stake through
Stevie Ray's heart!" Sonny threw his hands up in the air and turned his back on Cash.
He didn't want to see the Gangrel anymore. "Why am I trying to explain it to you?" He
asked the air. "You can't possibly understand. You're Gangrel."
"Try me," Cash insisted. "I think I have a right to know."
"I remember the time when you and Lorraina got into Daedalus' alchemy chest and
tested all the bottles to see if he had any 'good stuff' in there," Sonny said softly. "Stevie
Ray beat you both black and blue. Poor Lorraina couldn't walk for a week."
"What has that got to do with anything?"
"Whenever I did anything wrong, Julian would just look at me, and I hated seeing the
disappointment in his eyes. At least between you and Stevie it was quick and then it was
over. He knew you'd learned your lesson and you'd never go into anyone else's things
again. You'd been punished and he could just forget about it. It's not like that with
Ventrue. Julian doesn't forget; at least not until I've proven that I've learned to do things
differently. I sometimes wish that he'd just hit me or something...."
"I guess he was really disappointed with you about Stevie Ray," Cash said. Sonny
could hear him take a seat on the other side of the chandelier.
"You could say that," Sonny allowed. "I was hoping, you know, that if I brought you
in, he'd forgive me. But if he found out that you hadn't done it...." He sighed and
twisted his hands. "I can't even go to him and say that you have an alibi, because he'll
ask me where you are."
"And you'd tell him."
Sonny nodded. "I'd have to. I never could lie to him, and if I kept another secret...."
He tried to laugh. "I can't even protect my partner. Frank's a pretty good guy but I've
been smearing his name and spreading rumors that he's crazy because Julian wants me to
protect the Masquerade. Now I'm trying to protect you...."
"So I shouldn't expect much, huh?"
Sonny shook his head. "Maybe not." He looked back at where Cash was stretched
out on one of the sofas. "I'll try to help you prove you didn't do it. Because I don't want
Julian to be disappointed in me again."
"Are you going to tell me how Stevie died?" Cash asked.
Sonny turned all the way around and looked Cash straight in the eye. "Like a
warrior," he said. "Stevie died fighting. Like the warrior he was."
"'Tell my Prince I told them nothing'," Sonny repeated Stevie Ray's last words with a
shiver. He might be five or six times Cash's age, but Stevie had been the first Kindred
he'd seen destroyed by the light of the sun. Remembering that morning made him feel
very cold inside.
"But you didn't," Cash challenged. "The last thing he asked you to do, and you didn't
even relay his message to Julian,"
"He wasn't talking about Julian," Sonny snapped, instantly regretting it. "Stevie didn't
want Julian to become Prince of the city," he explained. "When Julian went ahead,
Stevie told him he'd never call him 'Prince'. And as far as I know he never did. Stevie
meant for me to get the message to Archon - and I did."
"I don't get it," Cash complained, then there was a noise, no louder than a rat's scuttle,
just outside of Hestia's haven. Sonny picked his phosphorus gun, knowing it would be
useless in the enclosed space as Cash moved to the other side of the opening of the metal
pipe. They hadn't even gotten into position when a small Nosferatu poked her naked
head through the opening.
Sonny sighed and collapsed against the wall. "Anna Mae, you scared us half to
Cash pounced and dragged her through the opening. "How did she find us?"
"Hey! Don't hurt her," Sonny protested, even though Anna had gone limp and offered
no resistance. Her rat-like face had a resigned look to it, as if she expected no better
"We can't let her leave," Cash grimaced. "She'll tell everyone where we are."
Anna shook her head vehemently in the negative. "No, she won't," Sonny assured
Cash. He held out his hand, and Cash reluctantly let the little Nosferatu go. Anna
immediately crossed to take Sonny's hand and laid it against her cheek.
"You can't tell anyone that Cash and I are here," Sonny told her. Anna nodded and
smiled, exposing twin rows of yellowing fangs. "I guess it's no use asking how you
Anna pointed to her eyes, then cupped her hands behind her pointed ears, grinning
wildly. "You see things and hear things," Sonny sighed. "I didn't expect you would tell
me." Anna nodded and curled up next to him in the large gilt armchair, wrapping his
arm around her bony frame. Cash just glared at her disapprovingly.
"She's probably already told half the city where I am," he grumbled.
"Leave her alone," Sonny retorted. "What don't you understand?"
"What?" At least Cash stopped eyeing Anna Mae to give Sonny a puzzled look.
"About what Stevie said," Sonny prompted. "You said that you didn't get it."
"Oh, yeah," Cash shook his head a little. "Why would Stevie still call Archon the
Prince? I didn't think that they liked each other too much. And are you *sure* we can
talk in front of her?"
"She's harmless," Sonny assured the young Gangrel. He felt a tug and looked down to
see that Anna Mae had removed his pistol from his shoulder holster. "Let me take the
bullets out of that, Honey. It'll make too much noise if it goes off by accident."
"Not to mention that the ricochets will put holes in all of us," Cash muttered.
"Stevie and Archon didn't have much use for each other," Sonny confirmed, taking
the clip out of his automatic. He handed the pistol to Anna but she just laid it to the side
and began taking the bullets out of the clip, her tongue stuck out of the side of her mouth
in concentration. "At least until Eddie started getting really obnoxious. Even then I
think they allied with each other because it was convenient, not because they liked each
Anna tugged on his hand, and when he looked at her, placed a dirty ribbon across his
palm. "Not now, Anna," Sonny said. "I'm talking to Cash." Anna pointed to the ribbon
with one of the bullets.
"Yeah," Cash nodded. "Stevie really hated Fiori. I mean, I hate Brujah, but Stevie
Ray really had it in for Eddie. He would have dealt with Satan himself if it meant
sending Eddie Fiori to Hell."
"Precisely," Sonny said. "Stevie knew that Archon had only given the city to Julian to
get around Eddie's conditions for peace. And neither he nor Archon really wanted an end
to the Clan War...." He felt another tug on his hand. "Not *now*, Anna!" She had laid
another strip of cloth and two mismatched buttons in his hand.
"Maybe she wants to trade," Cash laughed. "Some ribbons and rags for your gun."
Anna shook her head, her lower lip trying to protrude in a pout but being blocked by
her fangs. She fished in the pockets of her filthy overalls and produced a scrap of leather
and a metal buckle which she tried to hand to Cash. "Nothing doing," Cash held his
hands up. "You keep it. I've got all the material things I'll ever need."
"Come here and sit down, Anna," Sonny patted the cushions next to him. "We'll look
at your treasures in a minute." Anna held out the leather scrap to him, looking uncertain.
"In a minute," he repeated.
She sat in his lap and looked for his watch. "Don't be so literal," he scolded, lifting
her and depositing her on the floor next to him. She wouldn't let go of his wrist until he
let her have his Rolex, so he took it off and let her play with it. "Anyway," he continued.
"Archon and Stevie agreed that the Brujah had to go, and their 'alliance' was all built on
that. I don't know what terms they came to, it was all set up before Archon ever
Anna Mae waived the watch in his face, insistently. "Let me finish, Anna. I'll look at
your stuff later!" Sonny snapped. Anna crossed her arms across her sunken chest and
glared at him. "Sit down!" Sonny ordered, and she did, still looking defiant. "Where
"Archon approached you," Cash prompted.
"Right," Sonny tried to collect himself. "Archon only approached me after they'd
gone to Julian with their plan. It didn't violate the word of the treaty, but it certainly
violated the spirit... *Now* what, Anna?" The little Nosferatu had wrapped her arms
around his waist and was smiling up at him in what he assumed was meant to be a
charming way. "I'm not angry at you," he assured her, and she smiled harder.
"Okay," Sonny continued determined to ignore her until he'd finished his explanation
to Cash. "The plan violated the spirit of the treaty of that Julian had signed with the
Brujah, so Julian wouldn't have any of it. I know that everyone assumed that Julian was
just going to be Archon's puppet...."
"Which is why Stevie didn't want him to take the job, right?" Cash interrupted.
"Right," Stevie nodded. "But once Julian was Prince he didn't allow Archon to pull
his strings. You should have heard *that* argument. I thought that they were going to
go for each other's throats. Archon shouted 'I am your Sire and you will do what I say',
and Julian said 'I am your Prince and you will never take that tone with me again', his
voice all icy, the way it gets when he's really angry."
"Wow," Cash raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah," Sonny agreed. "It was *very* quiet for about a week after that. Everyone
just crept around and tried to stay out of their way, including the Brujah. And then
Archon apologized to Julian and came to see me. He said he needed my help to help
"And you fell for it," Cash finished.
"Well, it was a little more complicated than that, but yeah," Sonny explained. "I fell
for it. Anyway, the deal was that Stevie would...."
He didn't get to finish. Anna Mae lifted his hand to her mouth and bit him, her long
incisors cutting clean through the flesh at the base of his thumb. "Little *BITCH*!"
Sonny exclaimed, but Anna scrambled out of Camilla's small haven before Cash could
lay a hand on her.
"Go after her!" Sonny cried, pushing Cash out after the Nosferatu. "She's got my gun,
"I warned you not to trust her," Cash retorted scrambling up the pipe into the sewers.
"She's getting away," Sonny rejoined.
It wasn't hard to follow Anna, she made a great deal of noise. Even in the dark
unknown maze of the sewers it wasn't hard to track her, at least for a while. But no
matter how fast they pursued, Anna Mae not only remained ahead, she managed to widen
her lead. And the sewers were dangerous - Cash barely managed to avoid several sudden
drops. When they finally stopped at one of a countless junctions, the Gangrel paused for
a long time.
"Which way did she go?" Sonny whispered.
"I'm not sure," Cash confessed. "I can't hear her any more. I think she got away.
Let's go back."
"I don't think we can," Sonny admitted reluctantly.
"What are you talking about?"
"Do you remember the way?" Sonny asked. "I know I don't."
Cash looked back at the way they came, and pounded his fist against the sewer wall.
"No wonder Caine cursed the Nosferatu! Stinking, crawling, filthy...." he sputtered.
"Keep your voice down," Sonny hissed. "Do you want the rest of the Nosferatu to
"SEWER RATS!" Cash shouted defiantly.
"That is really going to help," Sonny sneered.
"You're the one that had to follow her," Cash taunted. "Your gun, your *watch*, oh
dear me, they might get *dirty*...."
"Watch your mouth, Gangrel," Sonny growled. "I'm the only thing standing between
you and a Blood Hunt. I could take your head now, and Julian would thank me for..."
"You could *try*," Cash corrected.
There was a small cough from their right; Anna Mae was standing one of the pipes
leading out of the junction, glaring at them. She carefully placed Sonny's gun down and
turned away, retreating past a turn in the pipe.
Sonny pushed past the Gangrel Primogen and retrieved his weapon. "She still has the
clip and the bullets," he grumbled. "Are you coming?"
"What for? She's probably leading us into a trap." Cash folded his arms across his
chest as if he intended to stay where he was.
"She's leading us somewhere," Sonny growled in agreement. "But since we can't go
back to where we were, and the Nosferatu will definitely find anyone who enters their
tunnels without permission, I don't see what other choice we have." He turned and
followed after Anna Mae.
After a minute he could hear Cash scrambling after them and shook his head. They
were in a real pretty mess now.
"Your Sire's Sire values you three greatly," Lillith said to Eddie's remaining Childer.
"Or in your case, David, your Grandsire's Sire." She smiled, her mouth feeling stiff after
Aaron's ministrations. The Tzimisce had changed her face again so that she could meet
with Cyrus' blood-descendants. Lillith wasn't eager to undergo another change in
appearance again soon. Aaron's shapecraft *hurt*. At least she was decently covered in
her own clothing again.
"He wants us to come to Los Angeles?" Steven asked uncertainly.
"No, no, Childe," Lillith laid a maternal hand lightly on his arm. "He wishes to restore
you - all three of you - to your inheritance. His Childe Eddie was practically Prince of this
city, everyone knew that. Even Luna, who may have borne the title, didn't dare cross his
power. If Eddie Fiori didn't rule the city in all but name, would he have been able to take
the Ventrue's descendant as his own?"
"That's not how I remember it," Russell retorted. "Luna demanded Martin's head -
and got it."
"Typical Ventrue treachery," Lillith explained, spreading her hands as if it were
obvious. "Eddie Embraced the girl to cement peace with his rival. He joined them
together for eternity, in a pact that couldn't be broken as long as she existed. Luna's seed
and Eddie's Brujah Blood, together, elevating the youngling from a mere Vessel to one of
us, a Kindred, a ruler of humans. And what does Julian Luna do? He spurns this
offering of peace publicly, threatens a man both stronger and wiser than he, while
secretly agreeing to keep Sasha - and the peace she represents." The three Brujah were
nodding in agreement.
"Then why isn't Sasha here?" Steven demanded. "If Cyrus acknowledges her as his
Lillith let her shoulders slump and her new face look sad. "Alas, since Luna arranged
for Eddie's destruction, the peace pact that young Sasha embodies has been violated. He
has no choice but to order her extinguished."
She touched Steven's cheek lightly, meeting his eyes. "And besides, she is too weak
to be true Brujah. Educated in inequity by her so-called 'uncle' and seduced by Gangrel
animals. Sasha has polluted herself beyond all redemption."
"It is a heavy burden I ask of you I know, Russell, Steven," she captured Russell's
eyes as easily as she had Dominated his Brood-brother. "To destroy the Neonate of
your beloved Brood-mate, Martin...."
"She's gotten in tight with Cameron lately," David noted.
"Another reason to see her extinguished," Russell replied grimly. "She's forgotten her
blood. Cameron murdered too many of our Brood when he became Primogen."
"Justice has been too long delayed," Steven agreed rising to his feet, evidently to put
Sasha in her grave before sunrise.
"Wait!" Lillith insisted, clutching his arm. Sometimes even she was surprised by
how successful her arguments could be. She forced herself to smile ingratiatingly; the
last thing she wanted was for these three fools to take matters into their own hands.
"Luna has grown fat on Brujah labor since Eddie's destruction. You dare not.... I mean, I
fear to work openly against him. He looks for any excuse to repress the Childer of
Brujah. I beg you not to give him an excuse to destroy you."
"Your Grandsire, the Prince, has developed a most excellent plan," Lillith replied
modestly. "To alienate Julian Luna from those who dare to ally with him. Then you
three can lead a revolution against his corrupt reign - and become the rulers of San
The three Brujah settled back into their places, grinning like wolves, and Lillith knew
that she controlled them completely.
"You tell the Brujah that young Sasha must be extinguished," Aaron noted after
Steven, Russell and David had received their instructions and gone to carry them out.
"And yet I remember that you told me that Cyrus said that she was not to be touched."
Lillith removed her outer wrap regretfully, revealing the leather jeans and low cut
blouse that she had worn underneath. Even worse was taking off her head-scarf and
freeing the curly brown locks that Aaron's Vicissitude had cursed her with. "It is time
that Cyrus began to feel his chains," she informed the Tzimisce. "Sasha Luna dies
simply because he wishes her not to." She frowned to herself as she folded the wrap and
put it away. Gabrielle had nearly destroyed everything by trying to Diabolarize the girl.
Pure luck that she had been interrupted before little Sasha was extinguished. Lillith had
plans for Sasha Luna. Plans that the Prince of Los Angelos would find highly
Aaron grinned at her. "Don't get caught up in your own web, beloved. I wouldn't
want those Brujah fools taking your pretty head simply because it wore her face."
Lillith smiled and favored Aaron with a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Do you really
think that any of those 'Kindred'," she managed to place a great deal of contempt into that
single word. "Could defeat *me*?"
"Not even all three together," Aaron acknowledged, raising his hands to her face.
"Close your eyes now. And try not to scream." Lillith ignored his warning. She never
screamed, no matter how bad the pain was. She was Sabbat, and the Sabbat were strong.
"Please, Uncle Julian," Sasha whimpered. "I'll do anything. Please don't hurt Cash."
"Sasha, it's out of my hands," Julian snapped. Lillie gave the wounded Fledgling a
reassuring squeeze to make up for Julian's gruff reply.
"But you're the Prince,"Sasha croaked. She was nestled with Lillie in the Primogen's
bed. The poor Childe hadn't even the strength to walk up the stairs despite the fact that
she had Fed twice since Lillie had rescued her. Lillie had never seen another Kindred so
close to death. Sasha was too injured to even cry, or certainly those alabaster cheeks
would have been covered with blood-tears.
"Lillie, you tell him," Sasha begged when Julian made no reply. "You tell him to let
"I don't have your forgiving heart," Lillie told her gently. "And Julian can't just
forgive - because he is the Prince he has to be above mercy."
"It's the law, darling," Lillie kissed the top of Sasha's head. "You'll understand one
night. But I hope that night - the night you lose your forgiving heart, is a long, long way
off. Why don't you come to my club tomorrow? I'll get you out of this stuffy Ventrue
house and Hunt for you.... I know just who, too. I know this absolutely *gorgeous*
male model. Straight, surprisingly, with blood that's so rich and sweet..."
"Will she be safe?" Julian demanded after Sasha had closed her eyes for the day. "I
don't want her in danger again, Lillie."
"I'll assign a dozen of my Toreador to watch her and keep her entertained," Lillie
assured him. "She can't stay here, Julian. She freed Zane, she'd certainly try to help
"You're right, of course," Julian nodded. "I want to thank you, for everything. When
I think of how I almost lost her...."
"How *we* almost lost her," Lillie corrected. "I love her too, Julian. Don't worry, I'll
protect her, I swear. With my life, if it comes to that." When she put her arm around
him, he didn't stiffen or try to shrug her off. Instead he put his arm around her, and
together they walked back to the conclave.
"Lorrie?" Morgan stuck his head into the gate house and found his elder Brood-Sister
sitting in a corner. The rest of the room was empty and it already had an abandoned feel
to it. Lorraina had something shiny in her hands, but it was too dark for even Gangrel
eyes to see what it was. "Lor? Everybody's wondering about the watch schedule. Are
you going to come out soon?"
"Tell them to figure it out among themselves," Lorraina answered curtly.
"Lorraina," Morgan sighed. "The Clan needs to talk to you. You're Primogen
"I'm not Primogen!" Lorraina erupted to her feet angrily and Morgan crouched
reflexively to take her charge. But she didn't attack him, her anger and energy fled as
quickly as they had appeared. "I'm not Primogen," she repeated softly, almost to herself.
Morgan looked at her; she was the eldest now, to see her in such despair was
terrifying. Without effective organization, without a strong leader, the Brujah would
wipe them out. Morgan didn't want to be extinguished - he'd only been Embraced six
years ago. He had plans of existing for a hundred times that and becoming a real
bother to his Childer's Childer. "Lorraina," he said helplessly. "You... You're all we've
That roused her, she hated to see any of the younger whelps upset. Lorraina tried to
smile, and even though it only brought up one corner of her mouth, Morgan felt a little
better. "He gave me this," she held out the shiny thing she had been playing with and
Morgan recognized the medallion. "What do you think?"
No need to ask who 'he' was - Lorraina had to mean the Prince. Morgan took the
chain from her fingers and turned the medallion over in his palm. "How did he get it?"
They had used to play a game with Stevie Ray - to try to steal this medallion. Only Cash
had ever managed to do it.
"It was left with Nicholas' corpse," Lorraina said. "I'm thinking of throwing it away -
it's gotten unlucky."
"Don't," Morgan shook his head. He examined the medal for another few seconds, he
had to look close to be able to see the wolf in the complex design, then looped the chain
over Lorraina's head. "Maybe Stevie's ghost will watch over you."
"I hope he's looking out for Cash," Lorraina said, her hand closing over the medallion.
"That damned Brujah bitch.... if I had just gotten to him first, he'd be safe and out of the
city by now."
"You can't blame Sasha," Morgan protested.
"Caine's Name, Lorraina, you can't!" Morgan protested. "She didn't make him
extinguish Nicky, and she sure as hell didn't make him try to Diabolarize her...."
"She drove him to it!" Lorraina retorted. "She's just like all the rest of those Brujah
sluts. When I think about how she flaunted herself with Nicky...."
"You were very happy she was with Nicky at the time," Morgan protested. "Better
that she should stick to her own kind than be making time with our brother!"
"She never stopped trying to seduce him," Lorraina yelled. "That's what drove him
over the edge!"
"Why are you so jealous of her?" Morgan demanded.
"I am not jealous!" Her eyes were wide and shocked. "How could you accuse me of
being jealous of a Brujah?"
"You never liked her, Lor," Morgan said softly. "Even when she was Warm. You
didn't want Cash to Embrace her. I thought that it was because you didn't like to share.
You and Cash are - um - *were* pretty close. But I think it goes deeper than that."
"That's bullshit," Lorraina's chin had that stubborn set to it. Morgan shrugged his
shoulders and turned away.
"Yeah, fine, whatever. You blame who you like. Are you going to set the watches or
"What's it to you if I blame her?" Lorraina grabbed him by the arm and turned him
back to face her.
"It's nothing to me," Morgan explained. "But I think it's everything to Julian. He sets
an awful store on her, Lorrie. You make her an enemy and you make an enemy of the
Prince. And that could mean everything to the Clan."
Lorraina's shoulders slumped. "Caine, I hadn't thought of that. And the Brujah will
be after us more than ever. I don't dare get us in worse with Julian. We are really over a
"'Exploit every weakness'," Morgan quoted.
"Stevie sure knew a lot about fighting Brujah," Lorraina sighed. "What do you think
"Make friends with Sasha," Morgan said promptly. "I know you hate her, Lor, but
she's really not that bad. Once you get past her scent, I mean."
Lorraina mimed hanging herself and Morgan laughed. "It's your decision."
"Okay," she agreed. "I guess it won't kill me. Stevie sat across from Eddie Fiori in
the Conclave. If he could look at that ugly face every night I guess I can make nice with
the Prince's pet Brujah."
"That's the spirit," Morgan grinned following her out into the yard. "You're gonna be
"Hey!" She shouted at the Gangrel clustered around the gate. "What's the matter with
you? Get to work!" But the rest of the Clan didn't rise to her baiting.
"We're thinking of leaving," Sammy explained. "We could make Oregon if we drove
"Nobody's leaving," Lorraina stated flatly. "Or are you assholes really going to walk
out on me now that I need you?"
"It was your idea," Trish protested.
"That was before," Lorraina said. "Is that where the rest of the Clan is - on the road to
Oregon? Where are Tigger, Micky, Rosebud?"
"Micky & Rose just left to go hunting," Sammy replied. "They said they'd be back by
midnight. No one has left - yet. But it's beginning to look bad around here, Lorrie.
Stevie didn't raise us to be stupid...."
"You managed anyway," Lorraina teased, punching him on the arm. "Look, we're
Gangrel. Our Sire helped found this city. I'm *not* going to let a bunch of upstart
Brujah drive us out. That's final."
The others nodded a little uncertainly. "Look, I want double watches for a while,"
Lorraina continued briskly. "One to watch outside the walls and one to keep an eye on
the Brujah. Chances are they're up to something. Everyone is to take less than an hour a
night to Hunt, okay? And Hunt in pairs, I don't want anybody on their own, not outside,
not in here. Got it?" Morgan nodded quickly along with the rest of the Clan.
"Morgan and I are going to go out for a while," she patted Morgan on the shoulder
and he beamed at her. "We'll be at The Haven, if anyone asks."
"What about the watch schedule?" Trish asked.
"Figure it out yourselves," Lorraina retorted. "You're not babies and I'm not your
mother. Okay? Anybody have any problems?" Even Trish shook her head 'no'. "Good.
And if anyone sees my brat, tell him he'd better get his ass back here or I will give him a
"We'll make sure Tig knows you want him, Lorrie," Sammy grinned. "You gonna tell
Julian that you're our Primogen now?"
Lorraina shook her head. "No. We wait until after Cash has escaped from the city. I
know Julian said we weren't supposed to help him, but - Well, I don't have to spell it out
for you, do I? Officially, we are not taking part in the Blood Hunt, right?"
"Right," the others chorused, nodding.
"Keep your ears open," Lorraina suggested. "We are going to get through this.
Sammy, you're in charge until I get back."
"I feel like Hansel and Gretel," Cash complained, leaning over to retrieve a bullet
from the muck. "Here, you missed one."
"Thanks," Sonny murmured, taking it and putting it in his handkerchief with the
others. Cash grimaced; heaven forbid Sonny should put them it in his pocket. He'd
probably clean each one with a toothbrush before loading them back into his clip.
Ventrue could be so damned prissy sometimes.
They came to another junction. "I think she turned right this time," Sonny said. He
investigated a little way and found one of his credit cards. He lifted it with a look of
disgust and carefully broke it into two pieces. They were using them as a back-trail it in
case Anna Mae led them into a dead end. Cash held out his hand, and Sonny put half of
the credit card in his palm, then wiped his fingertips on the edge of his handkerchief.
Cash wiped the card against his pant leg and stashed it in his pocket. He'd drop it a little
later, it in place of something that Sonny wanted to keep - like the bullets.
Less than a hundred yards later Sonny stopped at a smaller pipe flowing into the
sewer. A thin trickle of water spilled out of it, and the Ventrue managed to keep his
shoes out of it without even looking.
"What makes you think she went that way?" Cash asked.
"Because we've been going steadily up at every turn," Sonny replied. He reached it in
the pipe and produced his badge. "We must be getting close. I think we're near the
Cash sniffed the air and nodded. "Yeah, I can smell the fresh air. We're close to the
Golden Gate from the scent. Do you want to give me that?" Sonny had been staring at
his badge as if he didn't know what to do with it.
"No, thank you," Sonny smiled. "It's ruined any way." He unpinned the badge from
it's leather case and tucked it in his shirt pocket. "As all my clothing will be once we
crawl through this pipe. Oh, well, some things can't be helped."
He dropped the leather case and then pulled himself into the smaller pipe. It's
diameter was so narrow that Sonny couldn't even crawl. "You know, I am probably
going to strangle Anna Mae when we catch up to her," he called back conversationally.
"Oh, no," Cash corrected, crawling it in after the Ventrue. "I get first crack. I wanted
to do it before you did."
The pipe was blessedly short. It let out it in a sewer inlet box, and the top grate was
already ajar. Sonny pushed it the rest of the way off and climbed up on to the narrow
road. "The Wastelands," he informed Cash unnecessarily. Empty buildings of faded
concrete block surrounded them on all sides.
"And there is our little tour guide," Cash said, pointing. Anna was standing by a pile
of trash, staring at them. "She has your wallet."
"Anna," Sonny said severely, striding towards the Nosferatu girl. "You got my
attention. Now give me back the rest of my things." Anna climbed to the top of the junk
pile and cowered, cradling Sonny's leather billfold to her chest protectively. She shook
her head 'no' emphatically.
"Anna," Sonny warned, holding out his hand. "Give it here." Cash grinned, feeling
like laughing. If she didn't hand it over, he'd pounce on the little rat and take it away
from her - why bother to bargain?
Anna pointed at something it in the trash, and cowered back another few inches.
"No," Sonny said authoritatively. "No more games...." his voice trailed off to nothing.
"What the Hell?" The Ventrue pushed aside some of the trash.
"What is it now?" Cash asked, crossing over to the Ventrue. It wasn't exactly like
Sonny to find anything interesting in garbage.
"Get over here."
Cash looked over Sonny's shoulder and saw a pair of dirty sneakers and a human hand
exposed it in the trash pile. He helped Sonny to dig the corpse out.
Corpses, there were two of them, and not human. "Oh, no," Cash moaned, when he
saw the boy's face. "Caine's Brood." He looked at Sonny, unmindful the blood-tears that
had started to fall down his cheeks. "It's Tig. It's Tigger, Lorraina's eldest. First Jamie
and now Tigger. Oh, Sweet Caine, she's lost everything."
"And Grace, too," Sonny confirmed. "She disappeared a couple of days ago. Lillie's
been frantic; she thought Grace had gone home to her father or something. Threatened
the Masquerade. I'm sure she never imagined this."
"Diabolarized," Cash grated. "When I find the Hell-Spawn that did this...."
"Anna!" Sonny exclaimed. "You found the bodies?" Anna nodded, and jumped off
the trash pile. She acted out finding the bodies out in the open, dragging them into the
shade and covering them with debris. At the end she mimed exhaustion, as if her labor
had drained her.
"Did you see who did it?" Sonny demanded. Cash's head snapped up. It hadn't
occurred to him, but everyone said that Anna Mae saw everything....
Anna nodded. "Did you see their face?" Anna nodded once again. "Can you tell us
what they looked like?" She turned and started rooting through the trash pile, producing
a shiny chrome hubcap. She walked over to where Cash was crouching by Tigger's
shriveled corpse, and held it up so that he was reflected it in it's surface.
Then she pointed to the reflection.
"Are you saying I did this, you little...." Cash roared, grabbing at her. She danced
back, looking terrified and shaking her head. Pointing at the hubcap, which reflected
only the quarter moon.
"Calm down, Gangrel," Sonny snapped. "Anna, are you saying it was someone who
looked like Cash?" Anna Mae nodded and smiled, pointing at Sonny and then pointing
back at the hubcap. She angled it so that Cash was reflected it in it's surface, his face
"Someone who looked just like Cash?" Sonny asked. "Someone with Cash's face?"
Anna Mae nodded triumphantly. "But not Cash?" She jumped up and down it in
jubilation, dancing with the hubcap held over her head like a trophy. In her joy she
dropped Sonny's wallet into a mud puddle. The Ventrue didn't even seem to notice.
Cash looked at Sonny with complete comprehension.
"A shape shifter," they said together.
"An Assamite?" Cash asked. He'd heard that that Clan preferred to feed on the blood
of other Kindred, but supposedly they never killed without a contract.
"I doubt it," Sonny shook his head. "There are other Clans that can wear anyone's
face. Even some of the Nosferatu are said to have that ability, though they do not use it."
Anna Mae was looking studiously innocent and pretending to whistle. "Anna do you
know where the Diabolist makes his lair?"
Anna shook her head and gestured with her hands to stay where they were. When
Sonny nodded, she turned and ran into one of the buildings. "What's this all about?"
Cash asked, even though the Ventrue looked as puzzled as he was.
"Maybe she made a map," Sonny said uncertainly.
"What are we going to do about Tigger and Grace?"
"Put them back where we found them," Sonny replied. "If anyone finds them before
we can produce the Diabolist, they'll think you did it. Once we've cleared you, we'll tell
Lorraina and Lillie about their Childer."
"That scrap of leather and the buckle Anna tried to give me," Cash ran his hand
through his hair. "She took them off of Tig's body - she was try to tell me it was him."
"I didn't realize that the ribbon and buttons belonged to Grace," Sonny replied. "Poor
Lillie; she was so happy when Julian let her adopt Zane's Childe. She'll be heartbroken -
it will be like losing Zane all over again."
Anna Mae emerged with a blanket-wrapped bundle clutched in her arms. She
carefully deposited it on the ground and extracted some of the junk it contained. She set
up five beer bottles in a half-circle, then stuck a broken piece of mirror in each one. She
lifted one and held it towards Cash, carefully adjusting the glass so that he was reflected
in it. Then she stepped back expectantly.
"I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to tell us," Cash said after a moment's
silence. Anna sighed and seemed to consider. She pointed to herself and held up one
"Anna," Sonny guessed. "Nosferatu. One." Anna nodded enthusiastically. "One,"
Sonny repeated. Anna pointed to herself and then to Sonny and held up two fingers.
"Two," Cash said. Anna nodded; pointed to herself again, then to Sonny, then Cash.
Three fingers. "Three," Cash said. "Okay, we can count...."
Anna pointed to the semi-circle of bottles, then held up all the fingers on one hand.
"Five," Sonny said, uncertainly. "Five bottles." Cash couldn't guess what Anna was try
to tell them, he just shook his head in confusion.
She picked up the bottle again and held it up to catch Cash's reflection. "The
shape-shifter," Cash nodded. Anna put the bottle back and pointed to each one in turn.
Then she held up five fingers again. Cash shook his head helplessly. "I don't...."
"Five?" Sonny sounded aghast. "Five, Anna? Are you sure? *Five* shape-shifters?"
"No," Cash objected. "There couldn't be...." But Anna was nodding again. Nodding
and looking very grim.
Anna didn't lead them back to Hestia's haven, even though Cash repeatedly asked her
to. After a while he just shut up and took Sonny's advice to just trust her - after all, she
had helped them so far. Finally their torturous trip through the sewers and tunnels beneath
the city ended in a basement. Anna led them up the stairs and into the sacristy of an old
A deformed giant moved in front of the altar and Anna ran into his arms with a
squeaking cry. "Welcome to my unworthy abode," Anselm rumbled. "May the Primogen
of the Gangrel and the favored Childe of the Prince find rest and comfort here." He
picked Anna up and held her in arms like tree trunks.
"Thank you for allowing us sanctuary in your haven, Anselm," Sonny bowed formally
towards the gigantic Nosferatu.
"Yeah," Cash tried to match the Ventrue's movements, but felt clumsy and off balance.
"I, uh, thank you on behalf of my Clan as well as myself. The Gangrel will repay the
generosity of the Nosferatu." He fumbled to a halt, certain that he'd forgotten something.
Stevie Ray would have thumped his head for forgetting his manners. This Prestation stuff
was harder than he'd realized.
"I hope that I haven't presumed too far," the Nosferatu continued. "But I have invited
Hestia and Daedalus here - to discuss your plight, Cash. I promise you that you will be
safe in my haven."
Cash realized that he'd tensed and forced his shoulders to relax. It was hard to know
who to trust. Five shape-shifters, and all with the ability to fool every sense, were in the
city. They could be masquerading as anyone. He'd held the false Sasha in his arms,
actually made love to her. The thought made his skin crawl.
"I just remembered something," Cash said. "When I was with Sasha in the cemetery -
not the real Sasha," he amended. "The other Sasha, the shape-shifter; she smelled funny.
I mean it wasn't exactly a smell - it was like a feeling. She made my hair stand on end."
"Your pardon, Cash," Anselm said. "But I don't underst...." Anna leaned in close and
started whispering in his ear. He nodded a few times and put her down. "Perhaps if you
would start at the beginning...."
Cash looked at Sonny and then back at Anselm. "The beginning," he repeated.
Anselm nodded encouragingly and gestured towards one of the few remaining pews.
"I think I'd like to hear the whole story, too, Cash," Sonny said, taking a seat.
"Well, I guess I have to start the night after I moved out of the Mansion," Cash began.
Hard to believe that it had only been four nights ago. He started to pace as he recalled
how Sasha had come to his new haven and how she had seduced him. Sonny filled in
about how the real Sasha had been seen on the other side of the Golden Gate and about
how she had found Nicky Diabolarized.
"He deliberately waited until someone arrived," Daedalus said from the back of the
church. "It bothered me that there were witnesses - Diabolarie is not often done publicly.
I came as soon as I could, Anselm."
"Daedalus," Cash exclaimed. "Thank you for coming. Have there been any new
"Sasha was attacked two evenings ago," Daedalus replied gravely. "Both she and Lillie
say it was by you."
"He was with me," Sonny said. "I chased him through the city for hours - and didn't
lose sight of him for more than a minute at any time. He didn't attack Sasha."
"I couldn't imagine that you would have," Daedalus smiled. As he moved forward
another shape coalesced behind him. Hestia. At least she wouldn't think that he and
Sonny had abandoned her hospitality for no reason.
"Anna showed us two more Kindred who have been Diabolarized," Sonny reported.
"Lillie's adopted Childe, Grace, and Tigger, Cash's Brood-sister's eldest. She said that she
saw who had done it, too. *Five* shape-shifters, one of them with Cash's face."
"Anna...." Anselm rumbled, and suddenly the little Nosferatu was trying to crawl into
Sonny's lap for protection. Cash rolled his eyes. No way was Sonny going to be able to
save her from her Sire.
"You could have been hurt, Childe!" Daedalus exclaimed. Anna shook her head, her
arms moving quickly as she tried to explain herself.
"You take too many risks," Anselm plucked her from Sonny's lap. With his huge hands
wrapped around her tiny frame she couldn't make her usual gesticulations, so she glared
"Five of them," Sonny repeated. "And if their appearance is so convincing that they
can fool a lover, what is to prevent them from taking Julian's place? Or any of the other
Primogens? If they wore Cameron's face or Lillie's, or even yours, Daedalus, and broke
the Masquerade it would throw the city into chaos."
"I doubt if all five can shape-shift," Daedalus assured him. "And so far they have
avoided being seen by more than a few Kindred at a time. They may not be able to
pretend to be someone else, convincingly, for too long."
"I was with the other Sasha all night," Cash objected.
"Making love," Anselm nodded. "No offense, Gangrel, but isn't it easier to have sex
than to talk? All women are alike in the dark." Anna looked up at him in shock. "Or so I
remember from my Warm days."
Cash had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing at the way Anna rolled her eyes at
that. Her expression clearly implied that Anselm's experience had been limited.
"You may have a point," he conceded. "We didn't do much talking. And while it was
definitely Sasha's body and voice...." he shrugged. "Actually, I feel kind of stupid for
falling for it. She *didn't* act like Sasha. She was too.... too...." he searched for a way to
describe it. "Too *nice*. If Sasha thought I had been mistreating her she would have
taken my head off and handed it to me, not come crying for comfort."
"You said that there was something wrong with her scent," Sonny prompted.
"Yeah," Cash nodded. "It's hard to explain. She smelled like she'd just been in Frenzy
or something. Or like she was sick."
"Sasha has been claiming that the Cash who attacked her was sick - and therefore
should be forgiven his crimes," Daedalus informed them.
"Really," Cash asked, aware that he was grinning like a fool. "She's taking my side?"
"It's making some friction among the Brujah," Daedalus confirmed sourly. "But, yes,
she defends you to anyone who will listen."
"We're all glad your love-life is looking up, Cash," Sonny frowned. "But how are we
going to stop these imposters? One Assamite in the city nearly killed the Prince. She
managed to slaughter my Brood- brother without any trouble. These imposters have
killed three times that we know of, and Caine knows how many times that we don't."
"There is no need to panic," Daedalus replied. "As I said, I doubt if all five are true
shape-shifters." Anna grunted in protest and Daedalus nodded in her direction. "If only
one is Tzimisce Clan, he could change the appearance of the other's with Vicissitude."
"What's Vicis-" Cash stumbled over the new word. "Visic... What is that? I thought
Tzimisce Clan were monsters."
"Vicissitude is the ability to mold flesh and bone like clay," Daedalus explained. "A
Kindred with that ability can change his own appearance or that of any other by touch.
Such flesh-craft is said to be painful, though. I doubt if any would be willing to undergo
such a transformation frequently."
"But if one of these shape-shifters was a Tzimisce," Sonny said, alarmed. "That would
mean that the rest of them were...."
"That would mean that the rest of them were Sabbat," Daedalus nodded. Suddenly
Cash understood why Sonny's heart had started beating. How could the Nosferatu
Primogen seem so calm? "That would mean that the city had been infiltrated, and
attacked, by a Sabbat pack."
"I will need some proof," Daedalus continued after a long silence. "Julian must be
informed, but he'll want evidence that the Sabbat is in his city before he calls off the Blood
Hunt against you, Cash. I must be able to give him hard evidence, not mere speculation."
"Proof," Sonny repeated. "The Sabbat does not leave proof of their existence behind."
"Evidence can be gathered," Hestia said suddenly. Cash nearly jumped; he had
forgotten that she was there. "If you know where to look for it."
"Detective Kohanek wishes to speak to you, Julian," Jeffrey said. "He says it is
Julian sighed. Frank had a way of appearing at the most inopportune moments. He
picked up the phone on his desk. "Yes, Frank," he said tiredly.
"Where's Sonny?" Frank demanded.
Julian blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"Look, Julian, I *know*. I've known for a while. You don't have to play any Kindred
games. Just tell me where he is."
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Frank," Julian repeated.
"This is no time to be coy!" Frank practically shouted. "I'm on a pay phone, there is
no one here. I can keep a secret, okay? I know Sonny is one of yours; literally one of
yours. You Embraced him. Now, where is he?"
"Frank," Julian soothed. "Start from the beginning. Why are you looking for Sonny?"
"He didn't show up for work tonight," Frank's voice sounded strained. "There was no
answer when I called, so I swung by his condo. He didn't answer when I knocked, so I
showed the maintenance manager my badge and had him open it up. It's empty, Julian. No
Sonny. Just a couple of days of mail laying on the floor."
Julian looked at the phone in disbelief. He wanted to ask Frank if he was sure, but the
mortal cop wouldn't have called him if he wasn't absolutely certain.
"I have to know, Julian," Frank continued, his voice coming small and tinny from the
phone. "If you've got him doing some Kindred stuff, fine- I'll tell Kwan he's got a fever
and forgot to call in. No problem. I won't even ask for details...."
"Where are you, Frank?" Julian was surprised that his voice could remain so steady.
"A phone booth near the garage entrance," Frank replied. "Julian? Sonny's okay,
right? You'd tell me if....
"Stay there, Frank," Julian ordered. "Stay right there. I'll have some of my people
meet you." He hung up the phone. Not Sonny, he thought. Sweet Caine, not Sonny too.
His Brood-brother rushed back into the room. "Julian, what...?"
"Take two of the guards and drive over to Sonny's condo," Julian ordered. "Frank
Kohanek will be near the garage entrance. I'll meet you there."
"What...?" Jeffrey stammered. "How...?"
"I'll fly," Julian snapped. "Sonny is missing. Ask the guards when was the last time
anyone saw him. I'll contact Daedalus and Lillie and meet you over there."
"Go!" Julian roared.
Lillie understood immediately, of course, but Daedalus wasn't in his lair. He couldn't
waste time looking for the Nosferatu, even though Daedalus knew almost everything that
happened in the city. Finding Sonny would be harder without Daedalus' help, Julian knew,
but perhaps he'd manage to contact him before dawn. He threw himself into the air and
raced for Sonny's condo overlooking the harbor.
He landed on the balcony just as Jeffrey and Frank entered. Jeffrey opened the sliding
glass door for him. "Search," Julian commanded the guards. "Tell me what is missing."
Michael and John nodded and disappeared into separate rooms. Julian was grateful that
Jeffrey had chosen those two. Michael was another of Julian's Childer and admired Sonny
for his Brood-mate's devotion to duty. And John, like his Sire Jeffrey, was exceptionally
"Will you please tell me what is going on?" Frank demanded.
Julian looked at the human. He was upset, but trying to hide it. As if he could disguise
his racing heart from Kindred. "I don't know where Sonny is," Julian said gently. "But he
may be in grave danger. One of my people has gone rogue, Frank. He's been killing
Kindred. I've called a Blood Hunt, but so far no one has been able to stop him."
"You think this rogue may have gotten Sonny," Frank stated.
"I certainly hope not," Julian replied. "But it is possible. Or perhaps Sonny is on the
rogue's trail and can't call in his location. Or perhaps he is injured, or in Torpor, and
helpless. I don't know. But I do fear the worst."
"Oh, shit," Frank moaned, closing his eyes. "Oh, Christ."
"His Phosphorus Gun isn't here, Sire," Michael said, stepping out of Sonny's bedroom.
"But his bullet-proof vest is."
"Who is this rogue Kindred?" Frank demanded.
"Frank," Julian took the young mortal by his shoulders. "You can't hunt him down.
You'll be hurt - or worse. And I promised Alexandra I'd take care of you."
"There is a killer on the loose..." Frank started. Julian gave him an exasperated shake.
Frank was being very careful not to look into Julian's eyes. At any other time Frank's
unwillingness to be controlled would have been amusing. But not tonight.
"Be reasonable," Julian argued. "He's extinguished only one Kindred that I know of,
but Sonny isn't the only one of us missing. Each time he destroys a Kindred he grows
stronger - you can't handle him alone, Frank. And I won't permit you to bring any other
police into this."
"How does destroying Kindred make him stronger?" Frank demanded.
"He's a Diabolist," Julian explained. "By drinking the Vitae of another Kindred as if it
were human blood he gains the strength, the power, the life force of that Kindred. Some
of that strength will wear off with time, but by drinking all of his victim's Vitae he ensures
that a great deal of the stolen essence will remain with him."
"And I assume that's a no-no under Kindred law," Frank replied.
Julian had to smile. "To say the least. The act of Diabolarie becomes a kind of
addiction. The Diabolist craves more and more powerful Vitae. Many are driven insane.
You know what Kindred are. Do you think that you could capture a man with twice the
strength and speed of a 'normal' Kindred as easily as you captured Zane? Zane was a
Neonate, Frank, young and weak. And you know how lucky you were to subdue him.
This Kindred would tear you apart."
"I can't just sit on my hands and do nothing!" Frank protested.
"That is exactly what you'll do," Julian retorted. "If I have to sit on you to make you
do it!" He gave Frank another shake. The damned man wouldn't look at his face. Julian
forced himself to release Frank's shoulders. Stubborn, Julian thought; Frank was the most
imprudent, obstinate, stubborn human that Julian ever had the misfortune of knowing.
Which was probably why he liked Frank so much, of course. He shook his head and
"If I try to keep you out of this," Julian said finally. "You will just try hunting the rogue
Kindred on your own, won't you?"
"That's my plan," Frank admitted. "Don't see how you can stop me, Julian, without
endangering your precious Masquerade."
"All right," Julian sighed. "You can help."
"Help," Frank repeated disbelievingly.
"Yes," Julian repeated, beginning to lose patience. "You can help. First, you tell
Kwan that Sonny had to leave the city to care for a sick relative. Can you arrange a
warrant to bring someone in without accusing them of a crime?"
"I can claim they are a material witness to a crime," Frank offered. "Get a subpoena..."
"Do it," Julian nodded decisively.
"I'll need a name or a description," Frank replied, pulling a notepad out of his back
pocket. Julian marveled at how much the human had calmed in a few short minutes. Give
him a purpose, a direction to move in, and Frank lost all his fear. Julian remembered a
time when things had been that simple for him. Now that he was Prince nothing was
simple, and there was always something to fear.
"A description?" Frank prodded. "You do want me to look for this guy, don't you?
You'd better not be sending me on some wild goose chase...."
"You know what he looks like," Julian said. "Have the police look for the young man
who used to be my bodyguard."
"Cash?" Frank's jaw dropped.
"Yes," Julian replied stonily. "Cash."
"Brujah at nine o'clock," Morgan muttered as he and Lorraina parked their 'bikes in the
lot near Lillie's. Lorraina didn't even look over her shoulder.
"Ignore them," she ordered, her lips not moving and her voice so low that a human
wouldn't have heard her if one had been standing between them. Morgan gave an
imperceptible nod and followed her towards the club.
A line of waiting patrons snaked out of The Haven's front door and curved along the
sidewalk almost to the corner or the building. Most of the line was made up of humans,
but Micky and Rose where talking to a group of three Toreador waiting for their turn to
enter. Micky waived to Lorraina and she joined the group.
"Good crowd tonight," she grinned at Opal.
"White Chocolate," Opal answered. She was nearly shouting to be heard over the loud
buzz of the crowd. That wasn't necessary for the Gangrel to hear her, of course. "I love
them. I wish I hadn't had 'other business' earlier; I'd be inside already."
"How is the 'other business' going?" Lorraina tried to sound casual, but it was hard
when she was talking about Cash. She and Cash had been Embraced within weeks of each
other and for five months they'd been Stevie Ray's only Childer. Now that Cash was being
Hunted it felt as if a piece of her heart was dying.
"Slow," Opal replied. "All's quiet on the western front. You guys hear anything?"
Lorraina shook her head. "We're out of the competition."
"That's understandable," Leo nodded. "I can see where it would be a conflict of
"From what we hear," Rose added. "No one has heard anything since the night before
last. If you guys hear different would you let us know?"
"I don't know, Rosie," Leo's voice was bantering, but his eyes were hard. "It'll cost
you.... how about some Kisses? Or even a tumble?"
"In your dreams," Rose grimaced. Lorraina sighed with frustration. She didn't know
much about Prestation, Gangrel didn't play those kind of petty power games, but the Clan
was in trouble if a low-status Toreador could ask for so much just to answer a simple
"Do I have to stand in line just to see Lillie?" Lorraina asked. "We're not really here to
see the show."
"Try the stage entrance," Opal advised. She laid a tiny, perfectly manicured hand on
the scuffed sleeve of Lorraina's leather jacket. "But be careful - Sasha's staying in Lillie's
apartment and her 'friends' use that door to come and visit."
"Thanks, Opal," Lorraina nodded and eased out of the crowd.
"You guys go back to the compound," she instructed Rose and Micky. "Morgan and I
will be back in a couple of hours. Micky, if Julian changes his mind about staying home
tonight I want you to see that he's accompanied by at least two of us at all times, okay?"
"No sweat," Micky smacked her palm with his and strode off with Rosebud in tow.
Lorraina sighed and straightened her jacket a little self-consciously. "Time to face the
lions," she muttered, half to herself.
"Just think calm thoughts," Morgan advised. "You're doing this for the good of the
"Yeah, right, whatever," Lorraina smiled crookedly. "I'd rather have my fangs pulled,
but... here goes nothing."
The walked down the alley towards the back entrance, but heard voices even before
they came to the turn. Brujah voices. They were talking over the thump of the music
inside the club, but not as loudly as humans would. Lorraina held her hand up to signal
Morgan to slow down and stuck her head around the corner. Morgan cautiously did the
Five Brujah were clustered around the back landing to The Haven. They had propped
the door open and were sitting casually on the steps, smoking cigarettes while the music
washed out into the alley. Sasha stood in the doorway, swathed in her long cape, a
cigarette dangling between her lips. "I wish you guys wouldn't be so protective," the
Neonate was saying. "I'm surrounded by Toreador and couldn't be safer. Cash isn't stupid
enough to attack me while I'm here. Besides, he keeps the *Traditions*." Lorraina
twitched at the contempt in the young Brujah's voice. "'No fighting in the Elysium,
Kindred,'" she mimicked a mother instructing young children.
At her feet Russell laughed appreciatively. "Better safe than sorry, Sasha," he informed
her. "He obviously is on to us."
"Wouldn't you rather be out there hunting him down?" Sasha asked.
"Gangrel," David nudged Russell on the shoulder. "Ix-nay on the alk-tay."
Sasha looked directly at Lorraina, then disposed of her cigarette. "They can't hear us,"
she said, crushing the butt beneath her boot. "And so what if they could? Everything is
going exactly according to the plan. There won't be a Gangrel left in this city by the end
of the week. All I have to do is whisper a few more words in my dear Uncle's ear and he'll
widen the Blood Hunt to cover all of the animals."
"And then we take over," Russell grinned.
"Still," Steven protested. "What if they find out the truth: That you lied about the
"Oh, sure," Sasha laughed. "Like Julian would believe *them*." She rolled her eyes in
an exaggerated simper. "He knows how much I 'love' Cash - why I'll just die if anything
happens to him. I'll never even *talk* to Julian again if he hurts my poor innocent
Morgan gasped and stiffened. Lorraina couldn't blame him. Did the Brujah really
mean that they'd framed Cash? And gotten away with it? Surely that wasn't possible.
"Caine, you're cold," Steven observed.
"I'm Brujah," Sasha corrected. "I've been waiting a long time for this. I pray they
bring that bastard in alive. Every time he was heaving away on top of me the only thing I
thought about was how I was going to enjoy watching him be extinguished."
"We're all proud of you Sasha," Russell said standing. "You go back inside before
Lillie misses you. We'll run these animals off...."
Lorraina made an abrupt about face and nearly got tangled up with Morgan. He
managed to get out of her way. She stalked back down the alley, letting her younger
Brood-mate trail behind. Morgan glanced back over his shoulder uncertainly at the Brujah
before following her. He had to walk fast to keep up.
"Lorrie," he said uncertainly. "What do you think they meant...?"
Lorraina shoved her way through the line towards The Haven's front door. A bouncer
tried to get in her way and she shoved him aside with a muttered curse about Toreador.
Morgan kept looking around, evidently embarrassed. So what if this wasn't how Gangrel
acted? The humans were quite loud in their objections, but Lorraina ignored them. It was
harder to ignore the expressions on the faces of the Kindred. Opal's mouth was slack with
shock and the contempt on Leo's face.... Morgan slipped in the door behind Lorraina and
caught at her sleeve.
"You don't," he stuttered, his voice thick with concern. "You don't really believe
those Brujah, do you?" Lorraina didn't stop to comfort him. He hurried after her as she
pushed through the crowd. "Lorraina, it was just Brujah bragging, don't you think? I
mean - Brujah? They're not that intelligent. They couldn't have really.... you know."
Lorraina's face was perfectly calm when she finally turned around to look at him. It
wasn't hard to keep it that way. She knew exactly what she was going to do. "I don't
know what to believe," she informed Morgan. "But I *am* going to get some answers.
And I'm going to have them right now."
The band was packing up, their set over. The backstage area of The Haven was in
chaos. Lorraina pushed her way through, looking for Sasha, looking for Lillie, looking for
answers. Had Sasha just been bragging? Or could she be part of a plot to bring down the
Gangrel Clan in San Francisco? If there was even a slim chance that Cash could be
innocent of Diabolarie....
She and Cash had been lovers once. Ages ago, a lifetime ago, before their Embrace.
Now they were closer than lovers could ever be; Brood-mates. Twins, in the common
parlance; Childer made within weeks of each other by the same Sire. Lorraina couldn't
imagine an existence without Cash. If he were extinguished it would be as if she'd lost a
part of herself. She would continue, but as a cripple, less than half of what she had been
It wasn't just jealousy that made her suspicious of Sasha Luna, no matter what Morgan
said. Sure, she had discouraged Cash from pursuing Sasha when she was Warm: Sasha
had belonged to the Prince and Ventrue could be possessive. No one had been more
surprised - or more pleased - when Julian had given Cash permission to Embrace Sasha.
Hadn't Lorraina agreed to guard the house, and the Prince, while Cash was absent? But
the Brujah had gotten to Sasha first.
Lorraina couldn't figure out why Cash still wanted Sasha now that she was Brujah
Clan. He'd tried to explain the attraction but it came out all muddled. Why didn't he just
mourn his loss and get over it the way she'd gotten over Jamie's death? It was practically
the same situation; the only difference was that she'd Embraced Jamie before the Brujah
had got him, and Cash hadn't Embraced Sasha. Couldn't he see that everything he'd loved
about her had been spoiled by her Brujah blood?
Sasha was never going to stop being Brujah, and every Gangrel knew that Brujah
couldn't be trusted. It was just like them to create this elaborate ruse to bring Cash down.
And it didn't surprise Lorraina that Sasha would be in the middle of it despite her claims of
loving Cash. Brujah were liars. It was as much a part of their blood as violence, or hatred
Suddenly Lorraina realized she'd gotten separated from Morgan somehow. She turned
around, silently cursing Toreador and their crowded labyrinth home. She tried retracing
her steps, but the way back was blocked by electronic equipment in heavy cases. She
turned down another corridor, looking for a way around.
That corridor made a turn, then intersected another. Lorraina tried to get oriented,
turning towards the stage, or where she thought the stage should be. She kept
encountering groups of noisy humans, but no Kindred. The Haven wasn't that big, how
the Hell could she have gotten lost?
She stepped through a doorway and into sudden darkness. What a great time for a
light bulb to blow, she thought to herself, groping along the wall. Even her Gangrel eyes
couldn't pierce the gloom. The darkness felt weird, thick, like she was walking into jelly.
It pressed against her, making her skin crawl. She walked faster, feeling the wall with one
hand and swinging the other in front of her like a blind person. More than anything she
wanted to get out of the dark, back into the club....
There were whispers in the dark. Lorraina choked back a cry, then realized the only
sound was the pounding of her heart. It's just something Lillie did, Lorraina comforted
herself. I've stumbled into some private area and she's had it protected to keep other
Kindred out. It's not going to do anything more than scare me and I'll be out of it really
soon.... The darkness was settling over her like a shroud, seeping into her. She thought
briefly about turning around and retracing her steps, but discarded the thought
immediately. She couldn't go back. She was too scared to go back. The darkness was
becoming a part of her. If she turned back now she'd become a part of the darkness.
She'd never get out....
Abruptly she was in the light again. She spun around, but there wasn't anything
unusual about the hall behind her. It was dark and gloomy, of course, but she could see.
Still that awful sense of menace lingered in the air. Lorraina found herself backing away,
unwilling to trust her back to the evil she'd sensed. Then she heard a noise above her and
realized she was under the stairs to Lillie's office.
She slipped to the side and looked up. Lillie and Sasha were coming down.
"Watch your step," Lillie warned. She was helping Sasha Luna down the steep flight
of stairs from her office because the Brujah Fledgling had insisted that being out among
the humans would make her feel better. Lillie privately hoped that Sasha would see
someone she wanted and could be tempted into Feeding again. The Brujah Fledgling still
appeared alarmingly frail.
Sasha opened her mouth to protest - she'd wanted to walk down the stairs unassisted,
but had nearly fallen when she'd first stood. But she never had a chance to complain.
Lorraina was standing at the bottom of the stairs, blocking them, looking ready to tear
Sasha limb from limb. "Cut the act, Sasha," the Gangrel snarled. "We're not buying your
"Lorraina!" Lillie cried, shocked at the Gangrel's bad manners. "I'll thank you to keep
a civil tongue in your mouth while you are in The Haven."
"She's playing you for a fool, Lillie," Lorraina insisted. "Sasha wasn't so weak when I
saw her out in the alley, bragging to her Brujah pals about how she'd done in my brother."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sasha gasped. "I haven't 'done in' anybod-"
"You didn't think I could hear you, did you, bitch?" Lorraina hissed, her eyes
narrowing. "I'm going to hear a lot more. I'm going to hear your explanation on exactly
what you meant when you said 'Everything was going according to plan'. What plan,
Lillie descended a step and put her body between the two younger Kindred. "You
haven't taken the Primogen's chair yet, Lorraina," she warned. "I know you're upset about
what's happening to Cash, but that doesn't mean I'll excuse this kind of behavior...."
"She told the Brujah she lied about Cash attacking Nicky," Lorraina insisted, lunging
up to the third step. "And claimed to have manipulated Julian into calling the Blood
"You lying Gangrel bitch!" Sasha exclaimed. She tried to get past Lillie, but the
Toreador Primogen blocked her.
"Did you Diabolarize Nicky too?" Lorraina demanded. "Or was it another one of you
"Summer!" Lillie cried as Sasha slipped into Frenzy. Lillie turned and caught the
young Brujah's wrists easily. Sasha *had* recovered from Cash's attack, Lillie discovered.
It took most of Lillie's strength to push the young Brujah back up the stairs. Her struggles
were so severe that Lillie's hair came loose from it's chignon and fell into her eyes.
"You didn't think I'd figure it out, did you, Brujah?" Lorraina taunted, advancing up a few
steps. "Let her go, Lillie; it's about time I taught this baby a lesson."
"Summer," Lillie panted as her Childe appeared on the steps behind Sasha. "Grab her.
Careful, she's in Frenzy!" Sasha managed to free her left hand. The swipe she'd aimed at
Lorraina opened Lillie's cheek. Lillie tried to dodge back and stumbled into Lorraina. The
Gangrel tried to shove her aside to get at Sasha.
Lillie considered just stepping aside and allowing the two to claw out their differences.
But she was the Guardian of the Elysium and trusted to keep peace between the Kindred
in The Haven. She'd fought hard for that privilege, she couldn't just abandon it when it
suited her. Besides, Lorraina would make mincemeat of Sasha.
Lorraina had pushed herself almost up to the top of the stairs. Summer had Sasha in
the doorway of the office. Sasha held onto the door jam, fighting to remain on the steps.
Trying to stay in the fight with her rival.
With feline grace, Lorraina lunged at Sasha again, almost getting past Lillie. The
Toreador managed to elbow Lorraina back, but the Gangrel, in a blind fury, tangled her
claws in Lillie's chestnut hair. Lillie struck out reflexively, knocking Lorraina off balance.
She teetered backwards, loosing her footing, her claws trying to find any purchase.
They found Lillie's outstretched arm. For a second both women balanced precariously at
the top of the stairs, fighting gravity as well as each other. Gravity won.
Lorraina and Lillie toppled down the stairs, rolling over each other and spilling out
onto the crowded dance floor in the middle of the club.
"How *dare* you?" Julian demanded, his voice trembling with barely repressed anger.
"How dare you, Lorraina? How dare you attack my niece? How dare you violate the
peace of the Elysium? When humans were present, no less? How dare you endanger the
"She," Lorraina pointed at Sasha. Like the young Brujah, the Gangrel was surrounded
by Ventrue and Toreador guards. "*She*," Lorraina repeated venomously. "Framed my
brother. She falsely accused him of Diabolarie!"
Brujah shouts almost drowned her out and Julian gestured for quiet in vain. It was
Cameron who finally silenced the outraged cries by putting his fingers in his mouth and
giving a piecing whistle.
"The Prince speaks!" He reprimanded his Clan, and the Brujah fell into a grumbling
"Troubling accusations, Lorraina," Julian said. "What proof can you bring to the
"Morgan and I overheard Sasha bragging to her Brujah friends," Lorraina stated.
"I didn't!" Sasha cried. "Uncle Julian, you know I'd never...."
"Hearsay," Julian laid a hand on Sasha's shoulder to quiet her. "I need more evidence
"Hearsay?" Lorraina repeated incredulously. "Is that all you can say? It's obviously no
use to expect justice when your sweet little Sasha is involved! I never thought that a
Ventrue Prince could be pussy-whipped by a Brujah slut. You learn something new every
Julian's eyes turned golden with rage and the rest of the Kindred shrank back. All but
Lorraina. A shudder went through her frame in the face of the Prince's fury, but she stood
her ground. "I will accept your apology," Julian said quietly. "Now."
"I don't apologize for the truth," Lorraina snarled, not looking away from Julian's eyes.
"Primogen of the Gangrel or not," Julian swore. "You will not be welcome in my
conclave until you do."
"We don't need your conclave!" Lorraina shouted. "Your conclave called a Blood
Hunt on an innocent man!" The Brujah's grumbles turned into shouts again. "Cash is
innocent!" Lorraina cried above the noise. Another sharp whistle from Cameron cut
through the air.
"Cash is a Diabolist," Julian stated. "And he will suffer and be destroyed for it. And
you, Lorraina of Gangrel Clan, are no longer welcome in my city. You have two dawns to
either apologize for violating the peace of The Haven or leave my domain - or I will call
the Blood Hunt against you."
"It's obvious that the Brujah rule this city," Lorraina hissed. "And this *Prince*. Don't
worry, Gangrel don't stay in Brujah territory. I'm taking my Clan, and my Brood-brother
if I can find him, out of San Francisco. We'll leave before tomorrow dawns."
Steven and Russell hooted and high-fived each other as they left The Haven by the
back entrance. "That was awesome!" Russell's happy shout echoed from the alley's brick
"That was perfect!"
"We were great!"
"No more Gangrel! All *Right*!"
Lillith stepped out of the shadows directly in front of them, still looking like Sasha
Luna. She wasn't smiling. "We can not let them leave," she said flatly.
"What?" Russell protested. "Didn't you see that? Julian threw the whole Clan out of
the city. We won!"
"You've won nothing," Lillith replied. "Not if the Gangrel escape. They can't be driven
out - they have to be *destroyed*. All of them. Or they will remain a threat." She smiled
frostily. "Or do you want them to come back and strike at you just when it seems victory
"How can we destroy the whole Clan?" Russell demanded. "There are only three of
us - four if you get involved. And Gangrel aren't easy hunting...."
"I won't be involved," Lillith said frostily. "Not yet. Obviously the three of you can't
extinguish over a dozen Gangrel in one night. Not unless you are willing to destroy
yourselves doing it. No, the answer isn't to destroy them before they leave. It's prevent
them from leaving in the first place."
The Brujah's smiles faded into uncertainty. "But..." Steven looked at his
Brood-brother and then back to Lillith. "But the Prince exiled them...."
"Lorraina said that they'd be out of the city by dawn," Russell added, shifting his
weight from foot to foot. "How can we convince them to stay? They'll never listen to
"Give them a reason to stay," Lillith said. "And they will stay. What thing in the city
do you think they most want?"
Russell looked at Steven and Steven looked at Russell. Both had identically blank
expressions on their faces. "They're animals," Russell finally whined. "Who knows what
"Let me put it another way," Lillith sighed impatiently. "What does their new
Primogen want? What was Lorraina prevented from doing before she was exiled?"
Comprehension dawned on Russell's face. "Kill Sasha!"
"Exactly," Lillith purred. "And if Lorraina felt she could destroy Sasha Luna....?"
"She'd stay," Steven nodded. "Nothing could drag her away."
"And when Sasha is extinguished," Lillith continued. "The Brujah won't have to
destroy the Gangrel, will they?"
"The hell we won't," Russell protested. "We'll hunt down every single one of the
animals that extinguished our little Brood-sister. Won't we, Steven?"
Steven's grin was predatory. "Eye for an eye," he agreed.
"Excellent," Lillith took each of the brother's hands in one of her own. "You two fetch
Sasha. I will find the best place for her and Lorraina to... meet."
"Julian took Sasha home. Back to his compound where his Ventrue can protect her.
But we can pry her out, I'm sure," Russell grinned. "How will you let us know...."
"Join up with David in the Wastelands," Lillith instructed. "He will know where the
Gangrel will be."
"Don't let them see you," Steven said. "Not while you look like that."
"I'll be careful," Lillith assured them as they left. Once they were out of sight, she
stepped back into the shadows. A moment's concentration and she was a shadow herself.
Lillith slipped back into the club through the keyhole. She floated through the
backstage area, past the corridor where she'd tormented Lorraina. That brought a smile,
the Gangrel had proven most suggestible. Lillith flowed up the stairs to Lillie's chambers.
Hidden by the darkness she watched the Primogen of the Toreador soothe her Ventrue
Prince. She smiled to herself; she had found her next target.
She couldn't watch them for long. Their love-play turned her stomach, so she drifted
out of the club and attached herself to one of the patron's cars heading up-town. When
the vehicle approached Fillmore Street, Lillith slid off and let the wind blow her up the hill
to the Prince's mansion.
The Gangrel were in a predictable uproar, but Clan loyalty prevented them from
questioning Lorraina's decision to withdraw from the Conclave and leave the city. They
would travel to Oregon, and decide where to go from there. Perhaps the Nosferatu Prince
of Seattle would accept them. Or they could go east and cross the desert. Lorraina
stopped the speculation.
"Stay in groups," she ordered. "The Brujah are feeling frisky and might try anything.
Gather up your stuff, say good-bye to anyone you need to and gather in Glen Canyon Park
an hour before dawn."
Lillith detached herself from the outer wall and let the wind blow her away. Glen
Canyon Park, she had a general idea where that was. No doubt David could provide an
exact location. And while the Gangrel eliminated Sasha Luna, Lillith would work on
creating some tension between the Prince and his Toreador slut.
"Micky," Lorraina continued behind her. "Take Morgan and Rose and find everyone
who is out Hunting. We don't leave any of our people behind...."
Lorraina made an excellent pawn, Lillith mused. Floating slowly on the evening breeze
she wondered if she should protect the Gangrel woman from the Prince's inevitable wrath.
She might find a further use for such an impulsive Gangrel. Lillith mulled the possibilities
as Lorraina's voice faded into the distance.
Everything was going according to her plan. By dawn she'd have every Clan in the city
making war on the Gangrel. Tomorrow she'd turn the Ventrue and the Toreador on one
another. And then could she concentrate on bringing the Nosferatu into the fray.
Yes, everything was coming together nicely. Or perhaps, she thought sardonically,
'coming apart' would be a better choice of words.
"What in Hell's name is going on here, Lillie?" Julian asked, pacing the length of the
Toreador's opulent office. "Has every Gangrel in the city gone mad? Is it the phase of the
moon? The strain of being near Brujah? What?"
"I don't know Julian," Lillie sighed, perching on the edge of her desk. Sasha had been
sent to gather her things - Julian would keep her in his mansion after all. She was in
Lillie's bedroom guarded by Cameron and half of the Brujah. "Perhaps it's just that they
are all so young - you remember what it was like to be new-made, don't you? So hard to
fight the Beast, so hard to fight the Thirst....."
"Maybe you're right," Julian shoulders sagged in defeat. "I wish that I could have been
gentler with Lorraina; Stevie set such a store on her. I feel.... I feel I've let him down
"You couldn't have done anything else," Lillie responded. "I know how responsible
you feel for Stevie Ray's Childer, Julian. All the Primogen do...."
"Not Cameron," Julian interrupted with a half smile.
Lillie dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "He relied on you. Stevie would have
wanted you to care for them after his destruction. He never understood that you had
assumed other responsibilities...." Julian blew his breath out in exasperation, but Lillie
wouldn't let him speak. "Gangrel are very... informal.... It's in their Blood. I think you've
done wonderfully well, caring for Stevie's Childer while still maintaining your neutrality as
Prince. Of course Cash behaved very responsibly for his age...." she trailed off as she
remembered that Cash had tried to Diabolarize Sasha.
"Until Nicky," Julian grimaced. He gripped the edge of her spy-hole and stared out at
the empty club. "Perhaps I shouldn't have recognized Cash as Primogen. It's just that
Stevie had worked so hard to earn a place at Archon's table. And as you said, Cash
*seemed* to understand his responsibilities...."
"Julian," Lillie stepped up behind the Prince and laid her hands on his shoulders.
"Perhaps it's best that they leave the city. Gangrel are wanderers, they'll survive out in the
wilderness. Perhaps they'll find some older Gangrel who will watch over them for a
while." She laid her cheek against his back. "It might be best if they left the nest."
"Stevie taught me so much," Julian sighed.
"You were inseparable," Lillie agreed. "I remember how frustrating it was when I was
Warm: you and I would be alone together and he wouldn't even knock. I couldn't
understand how you tolerated him. Then when I came back after my Embrace and I
wondered how I could have missed seeing the obvious. He was like a brother to you,
Julian laid his hand over hers, where it rested on his shoulder. "He thought you were
an awful priss," he remembered with a smile.
"I was," Lillie laughed. "I am. I like my carpets - and my men - clean. Not covered
with dirt and blood and Caine knows what else. He was a lot of fun. I actually miss him
Julian kissed Lillie's fingers and turned, keeping her close. "Thank you," he said,
wrapping one arm around her waist. "Are you coming home, tonight?"
"I think that would be a good idea," Lillie leaned against him. "I'd feel safer back at the
Mansion. And I should keep an eye on Sasha."
"I'd appreciate that," Julian smiled, but it faded quickly. "Lillie, tell me; do you think
that Cash was ill, like Sasha said? We're not entirely immune to human disease, and some
can affect us oddly. If Cash did what he did because he was infected with something...."
"It wouldn't change anything," Lillie said, looking up at him, her eyes serious. "You
know that. I know how much this hurts you. Sometimes I think you value Cash higher
than Sonny. It must tear your heart to have called the Blood Hunt. But you know the city
can not shelter a feral Kindred. Once the Beast controls us we are lost."
Julian nodded reluctantly, looking sad and weary beyond his years. "Sometimes I wish
I had never agreed to become Prince," he said, stepping out of Lillie's arms.
"I know," Lillie let him go, even if she didn't want to. "Remember that you brought
peace to the city. Even Archon couldn't do that. You're strong Julian. Stronger than any
man I've ever known. And gentler, too. You've done only what you had to, to Cash and
to the Gangrel. The Primogen's see that, and the Clans support you."
There was a cough at the door, Cameron had entered with Sasha. "We didn't mean to
interrupt," Cameron apologized. "Sasha's all packed. And I've had Kenny pick a driver
for you, since the Gangrel quit. It's just for tonight."
"Thank you, Cameron," Julian said. He and Lillie moved apart a little self-consciously.
Cameron pushed Sasha back towards the rest of the Brujah. "Kenny, take Sasha
outside and put her in the limo. I need to talk to the Prince for a second." He wasn't
looking at anyone while he spoke.
When the hall was cleared, Cameron looked up from his boots. He cleared his throat
twice and Lillie wondered if she was supposed to leave. She smoothed her skirt and sat
instead, to let the Brujah Primogen know she wasn't going anywhere.
"I don't understand about Cash," Cameron said. "I don't understand how you, how
anyone, could favor someone who is not only not their Childe, but isn't even of their Clan.
It doesn't seem natural."
"I know that it doesn't matter what I understand or don't understand," Cameron
continued, looking more confused than belligerent. "You are the Prince, and you will do
what you please. But he murdered my Childe, Julian, and I want.... I want...."
"You'll have justice for Nicholas," Julian assured him.
"I don't want justice!" Cameron shouted. "I don't care about what is just or what is
fair. I want revenge, Julian. I want that murdering scum to suffer for what he did. You
give me that, and I'll give you ANYTHING. Anything, Julian. My loyalty to the end to
time, if that's what it takes. But don't give me justice. I want... I need more than that."
Julian open his mouth to speak, but hesitated for a long moment. Cameron's
expression hardened. "You won't," he hissed. "I should have known better than to even
ask. Everyone knows that the Prince of San Francisco favors Gangrel above even his own
Clan. You destroyed my family Julian - my Sire, my Brood-mates, my Childe. Did you
know that I'd Embraced a Childe at Manzanita, Julian? I loved her.... I heard how you
mowed down the Childer like a farmer cutting wheat. Absolutely no expression on your
face. You didn't care. They were in your way, so you... you..."
"Cameron," Julian said sharply, cutting off the Brujah. "I regret that in my anger I said
that I would turn Cash over to you, should he be captured. But I gave my word before
the assembled Kindred - I won't go back on it. If whoever finds him does not destroy him,
you may have him. Just remember that I care about justice."
"And Sasha cares about Cash," Lillie added, significantly. "I'm sure you wouldn't want
the destruction of a Diabolist to lead to dissention in your Clan."
"Don't worry about the Brujah," Cameron snarled. "We'll be fine once that Diabolist is
burning in Hell."
"That....that...damned man!" Lillie exploded, once Cameron had been convinced to
check on Sasha. She slammed the door of her office behind the Brujah Primogen and
turned to Julian. "He has more gall.... How dare he demand things from you? After all
"I slaughtered his Brood," Julian reminded her gently. "His Childe.... I wonder which
one she was."
"He murdered Archon!" Lillie exclaimed. "Julian, if you ever want that man's head....
and I'm using the term 'man' liberally." She flounced into her office chair. "Ooh, how I
despise Brujah. Cameron may be better looking than Eddie Fiori, but he's every bit as
"Calm yourself," Julian smiled half-heartedly. "Ignore him. He's unimportant and he
knows it. That is why he struts the way he does."
"He's strutting because the Gangrel are leaving the city," Lillie snapped. "And
suddenly his clan isn't in fifth place anymore - it's in fourth." She looked at him
speculatively. "You're serious about letting him have Cash, aren't you?"
"I said I would," Julian sighed. "I spoke in anger - but I also spoke as the Prince of the
city. I don't have to like it."
"I hate it when you're honorable," Lillie frowned. "It's so pedestrian."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," Julian's smile had a little more warmth in it. "There is no
use in delaying the inevitable - shall we go?"
"With a Brujah driver?" Lillie arched her eyebrows. "Darling... I can't stop you, can I?
Well, I have just remembered something important that I must do immediately."
"Please, don't feel you have to perform the whole act for my benefit," Julian said,
holding his hand up to stop her from continuing. "I know how you feel about Brujah
Clan. I'll see you tonight?"
"Of course you will," Lillie smiled, taking his arm. "Let me walk you down."
"My bodyguard?" Julian teased.
"You're damn right," Lillie smiled brightly. "You think I'd trust Brujah to do it?"
Julian laughed as he open the door for her. "I wish you would come with me."
"No, no," Lillie insisted. "If I finish what I have to do, I'll drive myself. Don't you
worry about me."
"I don't," Julian gave her a peck on the cheek. He opened the door and his limousine
was waiting for him, a Brujah in the driver's seat. Sasha was sprawled out in the back,
looking argumentative. Two Ventrue were lingering by The Haven's exit, looking
unhappy. "Don't come out," he said to Lillie. "It's starting to rain."
"You look tired," Lillie leaned out far enough to stroke his cheek briefly. "Try to
relax. Don't wait up - I may be late."
"Julian...." one of the Ventrue started.
"Jonathan," Julian smiled. "I'm in a bit of a rush. Would you mind coming back to the
Mansion with me and we can discuss your problem there?"
"Of course, my Prince. I'd be honored," Jonathan bowed. "It involves Peter as
Lillie watched the three men climb into the back of the car with Sasha. She waited in
the doorway until the long limousine had pulled out of the alley, keeping her smile fixed,
feigning a light, care-free mood. She even waved good-bye knowing that Julian wouldn't
see it. The Brujah would - and that was what was important. Only when they were gone
did she lean against the door frame, feeling tired and half defeated.
"The Prince takes no chances with the Brujah, even know," Summer said softly from
behind her. "Are you all right, Sire?"
"A few bruises," Lillie assured the dusky-skinned woman. "Nothing that won't heal
when I Feed. I was afraid that Julian might ride alone - I should have known better. He
handled the Brujah skillfully. They'll think they are in his favor and never even notice that
he won't turn his back on one."
"If you didn't want him to ride alone, why not ride with him?"
"He told Cameron that the Brujah could deal with Cash anyway they like if he should
be captured," Lillie confessed. "He said it in anger, right after Sasha was attacked, and I
can see that he regrets it. I want to pass the word that Cash should be destroyed on sight,
so that the Brujah can't torture him. But I don't want it to get back to the Brujah."
"Cash is a Diabolist," Summer reminded her Sire. "Doesn't he deserve torture?"
"I'm not doing it for Cash," Lillie smiled sadly. "Although I rather liked him. It's for
Julian. He can be.... not soft.... tender, easily hurt. It bothers him that he's agreed to hand
Stevie Ray's Childe over to the Clan-mates of Stevie's murderers. I'd like to spare Julian
the consequences of his angry words."
She let the exit door swing shut and turned back towards the public areas of her club.
"Let's go and spread some rumors shall we? Tell people that I want Cash killed on sight
because of his attack on Sasha. Let them think he threatened me. And say I'd be willing
to 'reward' whoever destroys him. But it has to be on sight, Summer; make sure everyone
knows that I don't want him drawing another breath."
"Everyone in the city will know by dawn," Summer assured her.
David stepped from behind the dumpster and rubbed his hands together gleefully. So
Lillie didn't want the Brujah to know about her little scheme. He'd go to Cameron and tell
him what he'd overheard. Cameron might not lead the Clan much longer, but it wouldn't
hurt to keep his favor while he was still Primogen.
And Cameron would be glad to know that Lillie still schemed against him - and that the
Prince was being as two-faced as always. David congratulated himself; his reward would
probably be significant. He was wondering what he should ask for when Lillith stepped
out of the shadows directly in front of him.
"How do you do that?" David demanded feeling startled and not a little frightened.
Surely that shadow was too small for her to hide in....
"Are you familiar with Glen Canyon Park?" Lillith demanded.
"Yeah, sure," he stammered, intimidated as always. Lillith might look like Sasha Luna,
but the Brujah Neonate would never have the Lasombra's aura of authority. "Why?"
"Do not ask questions," Lillith snapped and David shrank back a step. "Meet Russell
and Steven in the Wastelands. They will have Sasha Luna with them. Take her to Glen
Canyon Park. Abandon her there. Be careful not to get caught."
"Is that where the Gangrel are?" David asked automatically. He didn't wait for Lillith's
response. "I'm sorry - I forgot. I'll, um, do what you said. Meet Steve and Russ and take
them to the park."
"One more thing," Lillith's voice stopped him in his tracks. "Where is the Toreador
"Inside the club," David gestured with his head towards The Haven's rear exit. "She's,
"Tell me," Lillith's voice was so cold that David half-expected to see her breath fog in
the warm summer air.
"The Prince said that the Brujah could have Cash if he was captured," David blurted.
"Lillie wants him killed on sight. She's spreading the word now."
"Excellent," Lillith purred. "How unexpectedly helpfully of her."
"I don't understand," the young Brujah complained. "Why is that a help? I was going
to warn Cameron so he could...."
"You'll warn no one," Lillith commanded.''It is best for everyone if the Gangrel dies
quickly. Now go. Sasha shouldn't have to wait for you to take her to her final fate."
David didn't hesitate. He didn't like being in the Lasombra's company anyway. He
walked until he was at the end of the alley. Then, once he was out of her sight, he ran
back to his car. The more space between the Lasombra and himself, the better.
Back in the alley, Lillith grinned when she heard the Brujah's footsteps quicken to a
run. He tried to hide his fear, and that was always amusing. She turned and strolled in the
"Aaron," she began, and a large pile of trash shifted and transformed itself into the
Tzimisce. Young Alex, the newest member of the pack, had hidden beneath Aaron's
transmuted shape. "Tell Harlow it's time."
She smiled and held out her hands to Alex who took them eagerly. "Young one," she
asked. "Are you ready to work on your own?"
"Yes," Alex hissed, his eyes bright and eager. "Who's the prey?"
"Lillie Langtry," Lillith stroked his cheek tenderly. "Primogen of the Toreador Clan in
"I am ashamed to bring my guests bad news, but I have just heard something that you
should know," Anselm said. For the most part he had left Cash and Sonny alone in the
basement of the abandoned church that served as his primary haven. Now he loomed in
the doorway, bent over so that he didn't strike his head on the seven-foot ceiling.
Cash straightened abruptly from his slouch on an old pew. "What bad news? Has
someone else been Diabolarized?"
"Worse," Anselm shook his shaggy head. "I am sorry, truly sorry, to be the one to tell
you this, Cash, but the entire Gangrel Clan has been expelled from the city."
"How is that possible?" Sonny exclaimed. "Julian wouldn't condemn the whole Clan
for no reason...."
"He had reason," Anselm confirmed. "There was a fight in The Haven between the
Lorraina and just about everyone else. In front of humans, even. Apparently Lorraina
believes that Sasha was to blame for your disappearance. She claimed that the Brujah
framed you and tried to take Sasha's head. When the Prince reprimanded her for fighting
in the Elysium, she withdrew from the Conclave. And Julian expelled your whole Clan
from the city rather than have them openly hunting Brujah on the streets. They must be
gone from Julian's Domain by dawn."
"No shit?" Cash felt dazed. Just when he thought things were looking up....
"It sounds like our shape-changing friends are manipulating the Gangrel, too," Sonny
observed. "Cash *was* set-up, by one of our enemies wearing Sasha's face. If Lorrie
blames the real Sasha, the way everyone has blamed Cash for Diabolarizing Nicholas...."
"She'll destroy Sasha!" Cash exclaimed. "Sonny, we have to find Lorrie before she
"Patience," Anselm rumbled. "The Prince has locked Sasha in her room, from what I
have heard. She is protected by an army of Ventrue and Brujah guards. You must go to
your Clan, Cash, and tell them the truth. We must stop fighting each other or we will do
our enemy's work for them."
"Anselm is right," Sonny took Cash by the arm. "We can't wait for Daedalus to come
back with Julian. I'm sure there are Brujah out looking for stray Gangrel right now. They
wouldn't bother for the dawn deadline. We've got to keep things from getting worse."
Cash nodded. "Okay. I have a good idea where the Clan will be. There is a field in
Glen Canyon Park where Stevie used to take us. If we ever got into trouble he told us to
Sonny nodded and retrieved his battered phosphorus gun. He'd managed to repair it
just enough that he trusted it not to explode. Cash wasn't as certain that it would actually
fire. "I think you should have this," Sonny said, handing his pistol to the Gangrel. "At
least until we can get you your own weapons back."
Cash grinned, touched despite himself. Sonny had taken the pistol apart and cleaned it
with cotton swabs before he'd worked on the rifle. It had taken him a whole night before
he'd been satisfied that all the grime had been removed. "Thanks, Sonny. I'll try not to let
it get it dirty." He turned to the gigantic Nosferatu. "Anselm, can you get us out of the
city? I'm not asking you to show us the tunnels.... I'm sure you know other ways...."
Anselm's chuckle sounded like rocks grating together. "The tunnels are safest. Do
not worry, Primogen of the Gangrel, you will never remember all the turnings. You could
draw a map and still get lost without a Nosferatu to guide you."
"Yeah," Cash stammered, repressing the urge to brag about his tracking skills. It
wouldn't be wise. And besides, he had a sneaking suspicion that Anselm was right. He
knew he wouldn't be able to find his way back to Hestia's haven.
"If you are both ready?" Anselm asked. Cash and Sonny nodded simultaneously. They
were traveling light these nights. Anselm led them into the sewers.
There was nothing left in her room to break, Sasha realized morosely. Not a single
stick of furniture that she hadn't broken a dozen times before. Julian had finally given up
replacing the antiques. She wish he would realize that antiques and lace and girly stuff
didn't suit her. Maybe it had - when she was twelve. But she wasn't twelve any more -
she was eighteen.
And she was going to stay eighteen for the rest of forever. Major bummer. She shook
her head and laughed, laying back on her mattress, her feet propped on the headboard.
Wouldn't all her aunts be shocked that she rested her boots on the bed?
Society acted as if being a teenager was the greatest thing. Everywhere there were
pictures of emaciated young models advertising jeans, perfume, soda-pop. Being a
teenager sucked. Being one forever sucked worse. And being a teenage Brujah, trapped
forever with raging emotions and hungers she couldn't control, sucked the whole universe.
It was useless to complain about her fate, she told herself sharply. There wasn't
anything she could do about being Brujah. And it wasn't like she didn't have more
immediate problems. She was locked in her room for one thing. It was totally unfair.
She hadn't even done anything wrong! Well, not much, and Lorraina had started it. If
only Lillie hadn't gotten between them on the stairs.... Sasha punched the air, then kicked
straight up. Pow! Right into Lorraina's disgustingly flat stomach.
All she remembered was Lorraina's taunting, then going into Frenzy. One minute she
was at the top of the stairs, inside Lillie's office, really, listening to that stupid Gangrel
sow, and the next she was on The Haven's dance floor trying to pull Lorraina and Lillie [!]
apart so she could tear out the Gangrel's throat. Only somehow the rest of the Toreador
had stopped her.
Sasha realized that she was gnawing on the edge of the night table, and forced herself
to stop. Stupid Lorriana was leaving the city and now she'd never have a chance to pay
the Gangrel back for all the cruel tricks she'd pulled. All she wanted was five minutes -
just five measly minutes - alone with Lorraina to pay her back. That was all. It wasn't like
she was asking for the world.
Outside her door the guard changed. Sasha grunted and rolled off the bed. It was
going to be a long night. She might as well clean the splinters out of her teeth. Then
maybe she'd redecorate. Anything to pass the time.
She had finished cleaning her teeth and was considering a new location for her bed
when there was a soft knock on the door. "C'mon in, Uncle Julian," she called. It wasn't
like she could *open* the door. He'd locked it from the outside.
"Sasha, it's us," a low voice called through the door.
She recognized it as Brujah, but couldn't put a name to the voice. "Who's us?" She
called back, crossing to the closed door.
"Russell," the voice answered.
"Steven," a second voice added. She remembered them. They were in Martin's
coterie, a group she didn't hang with much - just that robbery of the Game Parlor.
"What do you what?"
"There is a Clan gathering," Russell answered. "About the Gangrel. You want to go?"
The Clan was meeting about the Gangrel? Probably about whether they could get
away with extinguishing them the second the were out of the city. She'd get her chance at
Lorraina.... No, she couldn't! They were Cash's people, they'd very nearly been *her*
"Sasha, you in there?"
"I can't go," she answered cautiously. "Julian has the key." Cameron wouldn't let
things get that out of hand, would he? Could he stop the Clan, if things did get out of
hand? Would he want to? Cameron hated Gangrel as much as any Brujah did.
"We can take the door off it's hinges," Steven explained. "Are you in?"
She couldn't stop it if she stayed, she realized. That's why she had to go. Not because
she wanted a piece of Lorraina's hide. That wasn't the reason at all. If she went to the
Clan gathering she could prevent a massacre.
"Hurry up then," she husked. "Let's get there already."
The last of the Nosferatu slipped out of Daedalus' guesting room, eager to get back to
their own havens before dawn. A dawn which would be coming in less than an hour.
Daedalus knew he couldn't put off speaking to Julian any longer. He'd simply have to go
to the Prince with no proof.
The whole Clan had scoured the city and found nothing to report. Each of the
Nosferatu had agreed with him, they had all felt an oddness in the air, it could be that the
Sabbat had entered San Francisco. But if they had, they left to sign of themselves.
They wouldn't have, Daedalus knew, if they each had adopted a new identity - as a
Kindred who already existed in the city. Cash and Sasha had their imitators, who was
next? Would they copy one of the two Childer they had Diabolarized? Another of the
Primogen? The Prince himself?
That the Sabbat had targeted Cash so early, and so effectively, was very worrying. The
Gangrel's animal senses might be sharp enough to tell the Sabbat's target from a Sabbat
imitation. But Cash had to be kept hidden for his own safety - at least until Daedalus
convinced the Prince that Cash was innocent.
Cash was innocent, Daedalus told himself firmly. The Sabbat had done well - even
now the idea of the Gangrel Primogen Diabolarizing his romantic rival was almost
believable. Almost. If only Daedalus had hard evidence....
"Nothing?" Hestia stood in the entrance to his modest haven looking as tired and
defeated as Daedalus felt.
"Nothing," Daedalus sighed. He motioned towards his chair, inviting her to sit.
"I couldn't find Miriam anywhere," Hestia sighed, moving towards the proffered chair.
"Her house is closed up tight, as if she hasn't been there in weeks." She hesitated,
gripping the back of the chair just a bit too tightly. "I'm not certain, but I think that
someone had been there before me."
"It's possible," Hestia sighed. "I don't know. We were always careful to leave no trace
"Do you think Miriam could be aiding this pack against the city?" Daedalus asked
"No," Hestia replied firmly. That she wasn't angry or defensive was a good sign,
Daedalus thought to himself. The thought of Miriam betraying their trust had occurred to
Hestia and she'd thought it out. She knew the Ahrimane better than he did.
"No," Hestia repeated. "I think that she either knew or suspected that they were
coming and went away to avoid becoming entangled."
"She could have warned us," Daedalus said bitterly.
"No," Hestia laid her hand on his arm. "Her Rite-Mother is still with the Sabbat, and
Miriam will never turn her back on her. If anyone questions why she didn't aid the pack,
Miriam has a truthful answer - she was out of the city. The Priscus will accept that -
Ahrimanes get wanderlust like any Gangrel. But if the pack met resistance because she
had warned us...."
"It would have been her death," Daedalus nodded. "Of course. I should have
realized.... that she wouldn't betray either side."
"We'll have to find proof that the Sabbat are in the city without her help," Hestia said.
"We can't wait for proof," Daedalus shook his head. "Every night, every hour brings
more danger. Cash could be found by the Brujah, or even someone determined to earn the
Prince's favor, and slain. The Sabbat pack could commit another Diabolarie, or worse,
cause chaos in the city by appearing as one of the Primogen, or even the Prince."
"I hadn't thought of that," Hestia gasped. "Why, if one of the Primogen appeared in
the day and broke the Masquerade, how could they prove that they had actually been at
their rest? That would be the kind of tactic a Lasombra would suggest."
"I must warn Julian," Daedalus said. "Even without proof, he may listen to me."
"He will listen to you," Hestia assured her Primogen. "He holds you in high regard."
"I feel like a Childe for asking," Daedalus almost blushed. "But would you come with
me? Two voices are more believable than one."
"Of course, I'll go," Hestia agreed. "But do you intend to see him now? The sun is
almost in the sky."
"He often remains awake for hours after dawn," Daedalus said. "So that he may
control his corporations. I want to catch him before his rest. I feel disaster creeping
closer with each passing minute."
"I'm home," Lillie said softly as she walked into Julian's office.
Julian looked up from his desk, surprised. "It's after dawn. I thought you would take
your rest at the club. You never stay up past first light if you can help it."
"I finished what I had to do and wanted to spend the day in my own bed," Lillie
explained. "I'll go to my rest in a minute."
"You mean that wasn't just an excuse to avoid Cameron?" Julian's eyebrows rose.
"Not just an excuse to avoid Cameron," Lillie smiled.
Julian leaned back in his chair, feeling drained. "I want to thank you for all of your
"You're welcome," Lillie eyed him critically. "You are still upset about the Gangrel,
"Is it that obvious?" Julian tried to smile.
"To me," she walked around behind him and started to massage his shoulders. "I hate
to see you like this. You care too much. Archon cared too little, and you take it to the
"I know," Julian sighed, closing his eyes. Lillie gave the best massages. "But the
whole situation bothers me. It's not any one thing, it's everything."
"Tell me," Lillie said, her fingers digging deeper.
"I can barely believe that Cash would commit Diabolarie," Julian said. "It doesn't seem
like him, and yet... The circumstances all seem right. He hated Nicky, hated Brujah,
wanted Sasha back.... I can believe that one thing led to another and he destroyed
Nicholas, but only just barely. Does that make any sense?"
"That's how everyone feels," Lillie replied.
"I know," Julian nodded. "And I can believe that Lorraina would blame Sasha. But I
have difficulty believing that Lorraina would endanger the Masquerade and flout the
commandments by trying to attack Sasha in The Haven. Like Cash committing
Diabolarie, it's just barely believable enough."
"I agree," Lillie said. "You know, I could do this better if you'd lay down on the sofa."
Julian stood and took off his suit jacket and tie. "There are other things too. Less
important things but just as.... odd isn't the word I'm looking for. Like your Grace
disappearing. I can believe that she'd take off to see her family no matter how many times
we've warned her how dangerous it could be. But staying away for so long?"
"She chafes at all the restrictions," Lillie shrugged. "She doesn't want to be treated like
a Childe and yet she's too young to be released. It's adolescent rebellion, she's trying to
prove she can make it on her own. I'm just worried because she doesn't know how
dangerous the world is to a young Kindred."
"Yes," he agreed, sitting on the office sofa. "It's believable - just. Like Cash. Like
Lorraina. There are too many *almost* believable things happening in too short a time."
"You think that there is a Mage involved?" Lillie's brow contracted. She sat down
beside him and took his hand.
"I don't know what to think," Julian confessed. "I just don't like the whole situation.
Maybe I'm grasping at straws."
"I don't know," Lillie rested her head against his shoulder. "Maybe you're right. I feel
like I've been pushed through Alice's looking glass - everything looks the same, but
nothing is right."
"I don't know what to do, Lillie," Julian sighed. "I want to do something - I want to
stop the downward spiral, prevent things from getting worse. But I'm fighting shadows. I
don't... I just don't know what to do."
Lillie gave him a soft kiss on his cheek. "Go to bed," she suggested. "That's what I'm
going to do. A good rest and," she caressed his cheek. "You haven't fed recently. Go
Hunting tomorrow night. It'll clear your mind. Then maybe you'll know what to do."
"You give the best advice," Julian smiled, returning her kiss.
"Do you want to rest in my bed?" Lillie asked. "To tell you the truth, I'm too tired for
sex. But I'd like the companionship."
"Actually, I think that would be...." He suddenly remembered his schedule and
smacked himself on the forehead. "Caitlin!" He cursed.
"What?" Lillie pulled back, her eyes suddenly wary and jealous.
"I have a meeting with the editorial board in," he checked his watch. "Thirty minutes."
"Julian," Lillie protested. "You can't go!"
"I have no intention of going," Julian reached for the phone on the end table and dialed
Caitlin's home number from memory. "Not with everything else that's going on. I'll tell
Caitlin I can't make it and then we'll...."
Caitlin answered her phone with a puzzled "Hello?"
"Caitlin, it's Julian. I won't be able to make this morning's meeting, something's come
up." Lillie snuggled close and started to rub his back again. "Tell the board that I'll
reschedule in a few days."
"Oh, that's too bad," Caitlin said. "So you won't be picking me up this morning?"
"I'm afraid I can't," Julian apologized. "You can still take your car, right?"
"That's not the problem," he could hear the smile in Caitlin's voice. "Lillie will be so
disappointed. She stopped by, and when I mentioned you'd be coming, she said wanted to
talk to you."
"Lillie what?" Julian twisted around to look at the woman sharing the sofa with him.
Lillie pointed to herself and mouthed 'what did I do now?'
"Lillie's here," Caitlin repeated. "She'll be so disappointed that you aren't going to stop
by this morning. She said she has an important message for you."
"Where is everyone?" Sasha demanded. Only a single Brujah waited in the factory
doorway. Sasha recognized him as David, another one of the Coterie her Sire, Martin,
had hung with.
"They must have gone on without us," Russell said. "Did the Clan meeting break up all
ready, David? Did they go after the Gangrel?"
"Yeah," David nodded. "They all went to Glen Canyon Park."
"At this time of night?" Sasha said disbelievingly. "It's almost morning!"
"There's a good hour until dawn, Sasha," Russell corrected her. "But you're right, we
should hurry if we don't want to miss out on all the fun."
Sasha hesitated, chewing her lip. If the whole Clan was descending on the Gangrel she
might not be able to stop them. Trying to stop the whole Brujah Clan when they were on
a rampage would take an army - and that meant Uncle Julian. Maybe if she went home.....
"What's the matter, now?" Russell demanded impatiently. "Aren't you coming?"
"I don't know," Sasha stalled. "It's been a while since I Fed, I probably should avoid
"Don't be such a baby," Steven grimaced. "If the sun comes up we'll Feed you, okay?"
"I don't think that's the problem," Russell sneered. "I think our little girl is still soft on
Gangrel. A real animal-lover, right, Sasha?"
"Suck off, Russ," Sasha snapped.
"Back off, Russell," Steven said. "Sasha's not like that - not anymore. I'm sure she
wants to pay that snot Lorraina back for what she did at The Haven. But you'd be
reluctant, too, if you were looking to get in a fight without a belly full of blood."
"So what are we gonna do? Wait around while she Hunts down some rats?" Russell
threw his arms in the air and rolled his eyes in annoyance. "We did you a favor, inviting
you along, Sasha. By the time we get there, there won't be any Gangrel left."
"Okay, okay," Sasha said. "Let's go." Russell was right, there wasn't time to fetch
Uncle Julian. She'd just have to figure something out when she got there.
Russell gunned his bike, glaring at her angrily, before peeling off into the night. David
hopped onto the back of Steven's Harley, and they followed, Sasha bringing up the rear.
As they drove south out of the Wastelands, Sasha looked nervously at the sky. Dawn
was close, and she didn't know if that was a good thing or not. The sun could stop the
fighting; wounded Kindred tended to ignite in the sun's pure light. On the other hand,
what if the Gangrel were too wounded to escape? The sun might catch them before they
could hide in the earth. That was probably what the Brujah were counting on - the sun
would destroy the Gangrel's bodies - and the evidence that they had been slaughtered.
The cool wind blew through her hair, occasionally blowing her curls into her eyes. She
didn't ride with a helmet anymore - why should she bother? The only way she could die in
a bike accident was if it happened during the day. She looked up at the sky again. Russell
was wrong - dawn was half an hour away, forty minutes, tops.
The stars had set by the time they arrived in the park. The sky was a uniform black and
birds had already begun to herald the dawn. Sasha knew that she didn't have much time.
"Steve," Russell ordered. "You and David go that way; I'll take this path. Sasha you
stick to the road. If anyone finds the Clan - or the Gangrel - give a holler."
Sasha opened her mouth automatically to object. She hated it when people just bossed
her around. And she had a good argument for going home, too - dawn was fifteen
minutes away at most. But she snapped her jaw shut without saying anything. If she went
scouting about on her own she might just find the Gangrel first. Then she'd be able to
warn them of the Brujah's intentions.
Russell was glaring at her again. Sasha forced herself to smile. "Good plan," she
insisted insincerely. Russell just snarled and peeled off, the front wheel of his motorcycle
rising a few inches off the pavement in his haste to get away from her.
"Good hunting, Sasha," Steven wished her before driving his Harley up the dirt trail.
David clung to his back, craning his neck around to stare at her until some vegetation got
in between them.
She drove down the road slowly, trying to remember what Cash had taught her about
Gangrel. Her mind was racing like a hamster in an exercise wheel - and got just about as
far. Cash must have said something that would lead her to where the Gangrel were hiding.
She just couldn't think of it.
Sasha stopped her bike and shut off the motor. She had hoped to be able to hear
something in the pre-dawn stillness, even if it was the sound of battle, but all she heard
were hundreds of birds shrilling their greetings to the sun. Uncle Julian had told her once
that after God had cursed Caine, the first Kindred, he had relented and felt mercy. That's
why birds sang so loudly just before dawn - to warn the Childer of Caine that the sun
would soon be in the sky and that Kindred should retreat to some safe, dark place.
She shook her head in annoyance. She was supposed to be searching for the Gangrel,
not mooning over dubious Grand-Sire's tales. But the noise the birds made did waken
something primal inside of her - the Beast in her soul was whispering to find a nice dark
grave to hide in, but she purposefully ignored it.
She wasn't going to find anything standing by the edge of the road. "God Damn you
Lorraina," she swore, striking her bike in frustration. "Why can't you be easy to find?"
Something hard touched the back of her head. She heard the click of an automatic
being cocked. "All you had to do is ask, Brujah-girl," a voice snarled from behind her.
Sasha let her hands go up in surrender, a sickly smile on her face. She'd found the
Gangrel after all.
"Let me speak to Lillie," Julian said to Caitlin on the other end of the phone. He kept
his eyes fixed on the Lillie sitting next to him - the woman he thought was Lillie. She
looked surprised and confused.
"Julian," Lillie's voice purred through the phone. His Lillie widened her eyes at the
sound of her own voice coming from the telephone receiver. "I was hoping to catch you."
"I was hoping to catch you," Julian replied neutrally. He pointed to the phone on his
desk, gestured for Lillie - she had to be the real Lillie - to call the police. "I've been
looking for you all night. I wanted to continue the conversation we started at the club."
"About Cash?" It certainly sounded like Lillie over the phone. "Or about Cameron?
I'm not sure that I'm exactly free...."
His Lillie fumbled for his address book, found the number for the Ventrue contact
within the Marin County police, and began to dial the number. "Just why are you at
Caitlin's?" Julian asked. "I thought that you were going to try to come home after you'd
attended to your 'business'."
"Well, my business took me here," she laughed. Julian examined the Lillie in his office
again minutely. Surely no imposter could imitate Lillie Langtry's voice and intonation so
perfectly. Even the Assamite had made mistakes....
"Caitlin Byrne," the Lillie standing behind his desk whispered. "Yes, that's the address.
There is an Assamite assassin inside...."
"I need to see you," Julian stalled. "I had hoped we could finish this discussion this
"So you aren't going to pick Caitlin up for your meeting?"
"No, the meeting has been canceled," Julian informed her. He still couldn't decide if
she was the fake or not. His Lillie - he couldn't help but think of her as 'his Lillie' -
repeated Caitlin's address into his other phone, her voice a strained whisper.
"Oh," she sounded disconcerted. "It's awfully late. I was just going to finish up here
and then head back to The Haven."
He watched Lillie hang up the phone. "They're on their way," she whispered. "Let's
go." She strode towards the door.
"Fine," he said. "I'll see you tonight, then," and dropped his phone back into it's cradle.
"Lillie, wait!" He called to the woman running down the hall towards the back of the
house. She ignored him, casting off her human shape as she threw the back door wide.
He followed her, catapulting himself aloft even as he transformed, the bright dawnlight
shredding him with agony as he changed.
"He wants to talk to you, Lillie," Caitlin smiled, holding out the phone. "Could you
make it quick? I'm going to have to hustle if I want to be on time." It was just as well
that Julian wasn't picking her up, she thought. She didn't need to be the subject of more
There was a knock on her door, so she left Lillie talking with Julian on the phone and
crossed her little living room to answer it. She certainly was popular this morning.
It was one of the Robinson boys, holding Lion, her cat. Lion was purring and looking
extremely pleased with himself. "He got into our yard again, Miss Byrne," the boy said
"But how...." She glanced at the window over the sink. Lion had pushed the screen
out again. "Lion," she scolded, taking the cat in her arms. "You are a very bad boy!"
"You're Bobby, right?" She asked the Robinson boy. "Can I offer you a muffin?"
"I'm Mike," the boy grinned. "Bobby's my brother. I'll take the muffin though."
She closed the window over the sink and picked up the basket of apple muffins she'd
baked that morning. "Thank you for bringing Lion back, Mike. Why don't you take a
muffin for your brother, too?"
"Thanks, Miss Byrne," William grinned, seizing a muffin in each hand. "You're a good
She closed the door after him with a smile. Lillie was just hanging up the phone. "Can
I offer you a muffin before you leave, Lillie?" Caitlin asked.
Lillie turned for the phone table slowly. "No, thank you, Caitlin," she smiled. "I'm just
a little disappointed that he won't be able to come over - it pushes my plans back, that's
"Plans?" Caitlin asked, and then Lion seemed to go crazy. Suddenly he was struggling
like a mad thing to get out of her arms, hissing and spitting, his rear claws snagging her
dress. Caitlin struggled to keep from dropping him and only managed to send the muffins
flying. Lion landed at her feet, back arched, every hair on end. He was staring at Lillie
and baring his teeth.
"That's funny," Caitlin said. "He does that around Julian, too..."
"Forget the cat, Caitlin," Lillie ordered and Caitlin looked up involuntarily, right into
Lillie's eyes. Her eyes were golden, her pupil's mere pinpoints. Had Lillie's eyes always
been that color?
"I have a secret for you," Lillie purred, stepping close. Far away, Lion screamed in
rage and retreated. Caitlin didn't care - she was lost in the endless depths of Lillie's
beautiful yellow eyes. She took a breath and the overpowering sweetness of Lillie's
perfume almost broke the spell. She'd noticed how much perfume Lillie was wearing
earlier, and thought it odd. Now she knew why; beneath the perfume there was the faint
smell of something else, something old and unpleasant and rotted. Caitlin wanted to step
back and couldn't. Lillie was standing right in front of her, Lillie's jacket was brushing her
breast as she leaned forward to whisper in Caitlin's ear. She felt Lillie brush her hair back,
felt her cold breath near her ear. She was listening intently for the secret Lillie had to tell
Behind her something smashed into the glass of the picture window, throwing her
forward into Lillie, knocking them both down as the glass sprayed around them. Caitlin
felt as if she had been dunked into cold water. Lillie was struggling to get out from
beneath her. Caitlin rolled to the side, looking at the picture window, trying to figure out
just what had happened.
Lillie stood framed by the shattered window, pale-faced and furious. Her eyes burned
with anger, and Caitlin shrank back instinctively. But Lillie wasn't looking at her, she was
glaring down at the figure next to her. Before she could blink Lillie picked her up with
one hand and shoved her back onto the sofa so hard that it tipped over, dumping Caitlin
onto the floor again.
"How dare you, you Assamite whore!" Lillie roared. There was an answering sound
like a tiger's roar, inhuman in it's fury. Caitlin cowered and covered her head.
Julian circled the house, even in the sunlight he would be able to find any other Kindred
hidden on Caitlin's property. Seeing none, he dropped onto the rear patio, assuming his
human shape amongst the shadows. He forced the French Door to Caitlin's bedroom and
stepped cautiously inside. Lillie had entered through the front window and he prayed that
she was the real one, his Lillie, and not the imposter. He could hear furniture being
smashed from the front of the house, the angry sounds of two dueling Kindred.
He checked the back of the house swiftly. There was no one there. He hurried down
the short hall towards the living area. Lion ran towards him, realized who he was and
turned back. Julian ignored the cat.
Two Lillies, in nearly identical black suits, warily circling one another in the center of
Caitlin's living room. One had the fireplace poker, the other a ritual knife, it's wicked
blade shining in the sunlight. Caitlin's coffee table had been smashed to pieces, her
furniture knocked aside.
"LILLIE!" Julian bellowed. Both women looked at him. They were identical. He
couldn't tell them apart.
"Help me, Julian," the one with the knife gasped before the other swung at her with the
poker. The ritual knife went flying. It's owner made a grab for it and the other struck at
her legs with the fireplace poker, dropping her adversary to the floor. The knife skidded
across the floor to stop by Caitlin.
The human woman picked up the weapon and stared at it, her face slack. "Oh, my
God," she whispered. She looked up and saw Julian, turned and saw both Lillies
struggling by the fireplace. Julian saw the recognition in her eyes. "Oh. My. God."
She let them pat her down. She them take her bike and walk her towards the Gangrel's
main encampment. But when they took her gun, Sasha decided that she'd had enough.
"Give that back!" She cried, breaking away from her captors and lunging at Mickey,
who'd casually shoved her gun into his belt. Gangrel hands caught at her. Gangrel guns
knocked against her arms, her back, her head. Sasha ignored them, grabbing Mickey's belt
and trying desperately to reach her pistol.
Mickey lost his balance and sat down hard, pulling free of Sasha's fingers. A dozen
pairs of hands pulled her back from him. She landed on her knees, her head craned back
so far that she was staring at the dawn-lit sky, Lorraina's pistol jammed under her chin.
"Watch yourself, Brujah," Lorraina warned.
"That's *my* gun," Sasha hissed. "And you dare call Brujah thieves!"
"Watch your mouth!" Mickey growled. "Your uncle isn't here to save your candy
Lorraina pursed her lips and gestured for him to be quiet. "Give me the gun," she said,
finally. Mickey handed it to her, looking puzzled and a little hurt. Lorraina walked over
to Sasha's bike, lifted the saddle and tossed the gun into the storage compartment.
"Satisfied?" She sneered.
"That was a nice gun," Mickey protested.
"Bet your ass it's a nice gun," Sasha muttered. "It's a custom-made Linebaugh. You
could bring down an elephant with that pistol. Uncle Julian gave it to me for my
"You still celebrate your birthday, Sasha?" Lorraina sneered. "When are you going to
grow up? You're dead!"
"Go suck yourself, Lorraina," Sasha retorted. "I came here to do you a favor, to warn
you about what the Brujah had planned, and you've got a stick rammed so far up your ass
that it's scrambled your brains."
"You've got an awfully smart mouth Sasha," Lorraina retorted. "It's about time
someone closed it - permanently."
"I'm SO scared," Sasha spat. "While you're getting your rocks off insulting me, the
rest of the Brujah are gathering...."
"I didn't find any Brujah," Morgan reported.
"I found some Brujah scent," Rose added. "But it's probably just her."
"There aren't any Brujah within a mile," Lorraina grinned. "There isn't any ambush."
"Brujah are too cowardly to fight in the sun," Mickey interrupted. "One little cut, they
feel their blood start to burn, and they're reduced to bawling babies."
"I'm telling you...." Sasha insisted.
"Try telling us the truth," Lorraina's eyes were hard, her grin gone. "Why are you
really here, Sasha?"
"There are at least three other Brujah, planning to attack you...."
"Stop with your Bullshit!" Lorraina shouted.
"Why won't you believe me?" Sasha cried. "Don't you see they don't have to be close?
Cameron's been making contacts with the military - he could have rocket launchers,
anti-tank missiles, Caine knows what else! It wouldn't take much - one attack and they
could sit back and let the sun have you. Julian wouldn't even have any evidence - he'd
think you'd left the city like you promised!"
There was a stir within the Gangrel as they looked at the surrounding hills and
nervously eyed each other. All the Gangrel except Lorraina.
"Bullshit," she said flatly. "I don't believe a word this lying Brujah bitch says. If she
claimed the sun shined in the daytime, I'd double- check." Lorraina looked around at her
Brood-mates. "What do think she'd suggest we do? Leave the city in small groups so that
the Brujah have an easier time taking us out? They'd only have to fight a few of us at a
"That's not why I'm...."
"I know why your here," Lorraina said savagely. "It's part of your 'plan', isn't it? The
plan that you used to frame Cash...."
"I don't know what in Hell you are talking about, Lorraina." Sasha protested.
"Don't try to play dumb," Lorraina growled. "I know you didn't think we could hear
you when you were smoking cigarettes on the back steps of The Haven..."
"Cigarettes?" Sasha repeated. "Hear me say what, Lorraina? I haven't been behind
The Haven in a month...."
"Give it up Sasha," Morgan said. "I was with Lorraina. I saw you. Even worse, I
heard you bragging about framing Cash."
"I wish I had framed Cash," Sasha tried to get to her feet, but the Gangrel forced her
back to her knees. "That would mean he was innocent!"
Lorraina's fist smashed into her jaw, snapping Sasha's head back and making her see
stars. "You filthy.... Brujah... Brujah...." Lorraina sputtered evidently unable to think of a
word bad enough to describe her feelings about Sasha.
Sasha shook her head to clear it and sucked on the blood leaking in her mouth. It felt
as if Lorraina had loosened some teeth. "Y'know, Cash always told me about how the
Gangrel were proud of their relation to animals," she said. "The noble stag, the regal
falcon, the warrior wolf. Obviously he forgot to mention the cow-like stupidity of
This time Gangrel restrained Lorraina before she could strike Sasha again. "She's
trying to get you to Frenzy," Morgan cried at his elder Brood-sister. "Calm down
Lorraina, you're better than she is."
"I don't THINK so," Sasha laughed derisively. "I don't need to prove how big I am by
slapping around someone who can't fight back!"
There was a second of stunned silence before Lorraina threw off the hands that
restrained her. "Let her go," she ordered. When the Gangrel hesitated, she shouted, "I
said, LET HER GO!"
"Lorrie," Rose whispered, but suddenly the Gangrel weren't holding Sasha down
anymore. She climbed to her feet.
"Are you challenging me?" Lorraina demanded. "Are you challenging me to a duel,
"Don't be stupid," Sasha replied. "For once in your life listen to me, Lorraina! I don't
know where the Brujah are, but...."
Lorraina hit both her shoulders, knocking back a step. "I asked you a question, you
lying, Brujah bitch! Are you challenging me to a duel?"
"No!" Sasha shouted back. "I'm trying to help you, Lorraina!"
"Trying to help me into my grave, you mean," Lorraina snarled. "If you're too much of
a coward to issue a challenge, then I'll do it. The rest of the Clan can witness that we had
a fair fight."
"I don't want to fight," Sasha protested. "You're wasting time..."
"If you're too scared to fight," Lorraina retorted. "All you have to do is admit you
Sasha stared at Lorraina in shock, realizing that she was serious. Lorraina really
wanted a duel. "You're crazy," she observed. "I didn't frame Cash."
"Then we fight," Lorraina grinned triumphantly. "I'll save your skull for your uncle."
"Lorraina...." Sasha said helplessly, but the rest of the Gangrel were forming a circle.
She was trapped in the center with Lorraina. And Lorraina was crazy.
Lorraina crouched, feet spread, knees bent, claws and fangs exposed. Ready to attack.
Sasha looked helplessly around the circle. There was no help there, the other Gangrel
were snickering at her. Sasha started to get mad.
"Try to do a good dead," she muttered to herself. She thought about taking off her
jacket, then decided she could use the extra layer of protection against the sun. She chose
her position and concentrated on her own natural weaponry. She'd seen duels among the
Brujah, but had never participated in one.
Lorraina issued a growling cry and Sasha answered her almost involuntarily. Then
suddenly Lorraina charged. Sasha fell backwards under her, just as she'd been taught,
grabbing Lorraina's arms and pulling her down with her, using her legs to keep Lorraina
moving. Lorraina landed flat on her back, but Sasha lost her hold and couldn't complete
the roll to land on top of her opponent.
At least the Gangrel stopped sneering, Sasha thought as she scrambled quickly to her
feet. Lorraina was up too, a bare second later, and considerably more wary. Sasha
realized that the Gangrel woman wouldn't underestimate her a second time.
They circled warily for a moment, before Lorraina feinted with a punch for her face.
Sasha swayed out of the way and into a smooth pivot kick to her knees. She dropped to
the turf and rolled away from Lorraina even as the Gangrel tried to stomp on her.
Lorraina followed her with a kick and Sasha managed to grab the Gangrel's boot even as it
smashed into her ribs. A savage twist and it was Lorraina who was on the ground while
Sasha climbed carefully to her feet.
Sasha felt at her side; it felt like Lorraina had broken a rib or two. With the sun up
Sasha didn't dare heal herself - healing took blood, and so did enduring the sun's light. It
looked as if Lorraina had decided the same thing - she limped a little on her twisted ankle.
"Lorraina," Sasha started, hoping the Gangrel would be satisfied, but Lorraina
screamed, "Shut UP!" and charged again. Sasha tried to dodge, but Lorraina caught a
handful of her jacket and pulled the young Brujah right into a punch. Sasha's head
snapped back, she lost her balance on the dew-covered grass and fell back onto the turf,
taking Lorraina with her. A few of the Gangrel cheered.
"Die, you Brujah-scum," Lorraina cried, striking for Sasha's abdomen with her claws.
Sasha lashed out with both of her feet, pushing Lorraina out of claw-range. She tried to
get to her feet, but Lorraina swept them out from under her. Sasha scrambled away,
trying to buy time, desperate for a plan to get her out of this mess.
The circle had moved, Sasha realized, away from the sheltering shade of the trees and
towards where the motorcycles were parked. If she could get to her bike.... Lorraina
landed on her back and tangled her hand in Sasha's curls. She jerked the Brujah's head
back savagely, ready to rip out Sasha's throat. Sasha dug her claws into Lorraina's left
knee, ripping at the muscles and tendons that held the joint together. Lorraina howled in
agony and pushed herself away.
Lorraina's blood burned where the sun touched it, but the Gangrel wiped it away with a
piece of her tee-shirt and healed the wound. The scrap of fabric flared in the full sunlight
and the bright flames consumed it utterly. When the Gangrel woman stood she was as
whole as she was before the duel had started.
"Get her, Lorrie!" One of the Gangrel called. Another added, "Destroy the bitch!"
Sasha watched Lorraina warily, trying to fight down her sudden fear. This wasn't going to
be an easy duel to settle Clan status or end a dispute. Lorraina really wanted to kill her.
Which meant that she, Sasha Luna, who didn't even feed from humans for fear she'd hurt
them, would have to kill Lorraina.
Better her than me, Sasha thought desperately, but she knew she was trying to
convince herself. She hated Lorraina, but she didn't want her dead. Cash would never
forgive her if she extinguished his Brood-sister. But then Cash probably wouldn't get a
chance to learn of it before he was destroyed by the Blood Hunt.
Lorraina feigned for her head again and delivered a blow into Sasha's broken ribs.
Sasha cried out in pain and held up her arms to protect herself. Lorraina tore at them with
her claws and Sasha stumbled backwards, knowing she had to fight back, but unable to
remember how. A pivot kick and Lorraina sent her into the arms of the other Gangrel and
out of the circle.
The duel should be over, now that the circle was broken but Lorraina delivered another
kick to Sasha's legs. The Gangrel were laughing and cheering Lorraina on. Sasha struck
out in a near panic at the hands holding her and backed another step away from Lorraina.
Away from Lorraina and towards the bikes.
Sasha feinted a break to her right, and switched to her left, jumping over the first bike
and sprinting towards her own. "Get her, Lorrie!" the Gangrel shouted behind her.
"Cowardly Brujah!" "Don't let her get away!"
Lorraina tackled her just as she reached her motorcycle and she fell forward onto it,
knocking it over. The saddle fell open and her gun fell out. Sasha kicked at Lorraina
desperately, her boot smashing into the Gangrel's face, bloodying her nose. Sasha grabbed
for her pistol just as Lorraina's claws shredded her jacket.
Sasha twisted around and Lorraina was on top of her, pinning her onto the overturned
Harley. Lorraina's knees squeezed Sasha's bruised chest, driving her broken ribs into her
lungs. Blood bubbled in Sasha's throat as she fumbled with the safety. Lorraina's claws
dug into her neck, squeezing and tearing. Sasha pushed the gun barrel against Lorraina's
chest, tearing at the Gangrel's grip with her other hand.
The sound of the gunshot echoed flatly over the sun-drenched glen. Lorraina's hands
slackened suddenly, her mouth a round 'O' of surprise.
Julian tried to reach Caitlin from the moment she picked up the ritual knife, but it felt
as if he were running through molasses. He knew it was just his perception; that his
Kindred senses had increased so that each second seemed stretched to a full minute's
length. Still, he couldn't reach her until she stood up and saw both of the women who
appeared to be Lillie Langtry.
One was a fake, and one was the true Toreador Primogen, Julian knew, but he couldn't
tell which was which. Besides, he was confident that the true Lillie could hold her own in
any fight, and he had Caitlin to worry about.
Julian grabbed her shoulder just as Caitlin stood and saw the battling women, and knew
from the expression on her face that the block he had built in her memory had crumbled.
He spun her away from the combat.
"Julian," she cried, holding the ritual knife up defensively. He hoped it was an
instinctive reaction, and that she didn't intend to kill him with it. The blade was designed
to be long enough to pierce the heart, thus rendering a Kindred paralyzed, and strong
enough to decapitate an opponent. "Julian," she repeated. "Lillie is... Lillie is... She's like
One Lillie disarmed the other just then. The fireplace poker flew across the living
room with enough force to embed itself three inches into the kitchen wall, barely missing
Caitlin. "Come with me," Julian ordered, dragging her towards her bedroom by the hand.
Unexpectedly Caitlin fought back. "No!" She insisted. "Not until you explain what's
happening! Not until you explain what you did to me in Manzanita!"
Julian didn't take the time to argue with her. Both Lillies were wrestling on the floor
amid the remains of Caitlin's coffee table. One was trying to force the other onto one of
the broken table legs - it's splintered length would work well as a stake. He jerked Caitlin
towards him, disarmed her and tossed her over his shoulder.
"Julian, help!" Lillie cried. It was the one being forced towards the improvised stake.
She clawed at the other's face, but that didn't stop her opponent's relentless pressure.
Julian nodded to himself, deciding which one of the pair had to be the real Lillie Langtry.
Then he turned to carry Caitlin towards her bedroom.
"Put me down!" Caitlin pounded on his back with her fists and kicked her legs in
frustration. "You have no right!"
He kicked her bedroom door open and dumped her on to her bed. Her cat, Lion, raced
out from his refuge under the mattress and back down the hall towards the living room.
Julian crushed an impulse to pity the poor terrified creature. Instead he grabbed Caitlin's
chin and forced her to look into his eyes.
"Don't do this, Julian," Caitlin whimpered, closing her eyes tight. "Please don't do this
to me again. It *hurts*. It hurts my mind."
"Don't fight me Caitlin," Julian pleaded. "I don't want to hurt you. I couldn't bear to
"You should help Lillie," Caitlin tried to push him away, tried to turn her face away. "I
won't tell anyone what you are. You have to know you can trust me."
Julian looked towards the hallway in indecision. He wished he could be out there,
defending Lillie. But if Lillie discovered that Caitlin knew about Kindred she'd bring the
matter before the Primogens. He couldn't let that happen, couldn't face an inquiry into
why he had two human pets. There would be questions and he would be forced to choose
between her and Frank Kohanek. He couldn't Embrace Caitlin any more than he could kill
her. And the Primogens would give him no other options.
"I do trust you Caitlin," Julian assured the human woman. "You have to trust me.
This is the only way we can be together. I can't Embrace you no matter how much I love
you. You'd end up like Alexandra, hating the living death I sentenced her to. Please,
Caitlin, open your eyes. Let me take away the things you were never meant to know."
Precious seconds passed, and Caitlin did nothing. Julian was ready to shake her in
frustration, ready to Mesmerize her and command her to open her eyes and forget what
she'd seen, even if that would bruise her personality, harm her very soul. But Caitlin's eyes
finally fluttered open, beautiful and filled with tears.
"I trust you, Julian," she wept. "If you think you have to do it...."
He did it. Julian snared her eyes, reached through them into her mind, catching and
shredding her memories of the last fifteen minutes, erecting blocks that would prevent her
from looking for the remains of those memories. He held her to his chest protectively.
"You'll remember that I love you, darling," he whispered. "You'll remember that there are
things you don't want to know." He kissed her hair and laid her gently back on her bed.
"Sleep now, my little brave one," he ordered and Caitlin's breathing changed obediently to
a soft snore.
He wished with all his heart that he didn't have to cheat her of her remembrance. It
was unfair to her; he was being cruel to her. He should give her up, stick to his own kind.
It would be easier to stop drinking Blood.
He forced himself to leave the bedroom. Lillie needed him. He scooped up the ritual
knife as he passed the couch. He knew which one of the two was the imposter, he was
certain of it. Lillie wouldn't ask for help unless the situation was truly desperate. So the
one who had called for him to help her, the one without the claw marks on her face, was
Somehow the counterfeit had managed to get away from Lillie and avoided being
impaled by the wooden table leg. Now the pair were in Caitlin's kitchen, circling around
the island. One was pulling open the drawers, searching for a weapon and throwing their
contents at the other when she didn't find anything suitable. She had claw marks on her
face. The other, the fake, had pulled the fireplace poker out of the wall and was swinging
with it at his Lillie, trying to drive her prey into an open area. Even now it was difficult to
tell which was which - the claw marks were his only clue. Knowing Lillie's vanity she
would probably heal them and leave him back where he started, unable to decide whom he
"Lillie!" He shouted. Both women looked at him with identically startled expressions.
He threw the ritual knife at the heart of the unmarked Lillie. She knocked it aside with a
sweep of the poker.
Even the real Lillie Langtry couldn't have moved that fast, and the Assamite imposter
knew he had realized it. She smiled at him, one of Lillie's most inviting 'come up and play'
smiles, and hefted the poker like a spear. Before she could impale him on it the real Lillie
rushed around the kitchen island to seize a handful of the imposter's jacket.
But her jacket was all that the Toreador Primogen caught, and the Assamite shrugged
out of it, the cloth ripping as Lillie pulled it off. Lillie threw the jacket at her opponent in
frustration, but her duplicate danced out of range. "You're making a mistake, Julian," she
said in Lillie's voice. "She's the one you want to destroy."
"Liar," Lillie screeched, jumping over the kitchen island and grabbing the Assamite's
legs. The imposter kicked her in the face with her high-heeled shoe, breaking Lillie's nose
and leaving an ugly gouge across her cheek. Lillie was knocked back against the island
while the assassin rolled smoothly over the fallen sofa and stood on the other side.
The Assamite reached down and grabbed the bottom edge of the couch. Realizing her
intent, Julian dodged as she lifted the sofa with one hand and tossed it at him. He threw
himself at her, but missed as she rolled towards the fallen ritual knife. He sank his claws
deep into her calf, and she screamed, an inhuman sound. But that didn't stop her from
grabbing the knife.
She sliced at his hands and Julian jerked them away with a hiss of pain. It was a minor
cut on the back of his hand, it didn't even reach the tendons, but he'd forgotten about the
sunlight. Even protected by the house from the sun's direct rays, his blood burned as it
welled from the wound. He healed the gash and wiped the tiny amount of his Vitae on his
Outside the broken picture window a pair of police cars pulled up. Julian allowed
himself a mirthless smile - it was about damn time. Lillie saw them too; she pulled herself
up, using the island for support, and stumbled to open the door.
"You're letting her get away, Julian," the Assamite imposter insisted.
"I don't think so," Julian replied, stepping forward. As he expected she backed away
from him, even though she had the knife. He took another step forward, forcing her
towards the window - and the sunlight.
"Julian," she protested, taking another step backwards, then another. The real Lillie
had pulled the front door open and was calling to the Ventrue and Brujah officers outside.
Julian continued to work the imposter towards the window. "Julian," she repeated.
"Don't do this. You have to realize that I'm Lillie...."
She stumbled against an over-turned table and took another quick step to keep her
balance. Lion emerged from hiding beneath the table with an angry hiss. He struck out at
the imposter's ankles, biting her deeply. She let out an angry snarl and tried to kick the cat
Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Julian rushed in and grabbed at the
ritual knife, hoping to disarm her. Her reflexes were excellent; she pulled her arm away so
fast that he barely grazed it. But she threw herself off balance, and started to stumble
backwards. Lion released her ankle and tried to escape, but she stepped on him and he
uttered a terrified cry, batted at her shoes with his de-clawed paws and raced back down
the hall towards the safety of Caitlin's bedroom.
Julian watched the Assamite reach out for support, and deliberately pulled away.
There wasn't a large shard of glass left in the shattered window's broken frame, but she
managed to impale herself on one of the small ones. The glass fragment tore through her
throat, and her body shook in a seizure of panic as she tried to free herself. Very
deliberately Julian stepped forward and pushed down on her torso with his full weight.
She fell apart like a mistreated doll.
"Call an ambulance," Lillie instructed one of the Kindred police at the door. "I think
that creature may have injured Miss Byrne."
"Are you injured, my Prince?" Another officer asked, rushing towards him.
"Not seriously," Julian shook his head. He pointed at the decapitated corpse. "But I
want you to bundle that up and take it...." His voice trailed off as he stared at the corpse.
He had been certain that she was the Assamite.
"Take it where?" The Ventrue asked gently.
Julian reached through the window and fished the head out from beneath the
shrubbery. It still had Lillie's face. He stared in shock at the other one, the one he had
assumed was the Toreador Primogen.
"My Prince?" The policeman was beginning to look concerned. Julian handed the head
"The mansion," he said, walking towards where Lillie was talking to a Ventrue in
plainclothes. The one he had been so certain was the real Lillie Langtry. The corpse
proved him wrong, it should had resumed it's own appearance within seconds of the True
He'd extinguished the wrong Lillie.
"Caine's Brood!" Russell exclaimed softly. "She shot Lorraina! I didn't think the little
whiner had it in her."
Steven pulled his arm away from his Brood-Brother; Russell had gotten so excited
watching Sasha and Lorraina's duel that Steven was certain that Russ had broken some of
his wrist bones while clutching at his arm. "Idiot!" he snarled, careful to keep his voice
low. "She isn't supposed to *win*!"
Russell sighed. "Too bad, I'd like to see that snotty Gangrel extinguished. Still, I'm
sure that once Sasha finishes Lorraina off, the other Gangrel'll tear her to pieces."
Sasha shoved Lorraina off of her with her foot and climbed unsteadily to her feet. She
kept her gun in the Gangrel woman's face the whole time. Russell was right, Steven
decided, all the Gangrel were growling and inching towards Sasha, getting ready to attack.
Sasha didn't have a chance.
A second gunshot echoed across the little glade, and for a second Steven thought
Sasha had thrown caution to the wind and shot Lorraina in the head. But the young
Brujah looked as surprised as the Gangrel. Everyone in the little glade pivoted quickly to
locate where the shot had come from. "Oh, shit," Steven moaned. "Where did *he* come
"Cash!" Sasha cried joyfully, abandoning Lorraina to stumble towards her Gangrel
lover. Two of the Gangrel intercepted her and kept her away from their disgraced
"Can't I leave you guys alone for a minute?" Cash demanded, grinning. "I am busy for
less than a week and you get the Clan expelled from the city and try to put the Prince's
favorite descendent into her grave. Next time I'll have to hire a baby-sitter."
"Cash," Lorraina cried. "She framed you! Morgan and I...."
"I did not!" Sasha retorted. "Let me go, you stupid Gangrel!"
"BE QUIET, BOTH OF YOU!" Cash shouted and the Gangrel stopped in their tracks.
Even Sasha gave up her struggles to stare at him.
"This is bad," Steven said. "This is very bad. No way will Cash let the others kill her."
"What are we going to do?" David fretted.
"Absolutely nothing," a deep voice behind them rumbled. Steven turned as a gigantic
Nosferatu seemed to simply appear out of the early morning shade. Before he could
move, Anselm picked up both David and himself by the scruff of their necks. David
started to struggle to get away, but the Nosferatu's arms were so long that the young
Brujah couldn't land a decent blow. "Stop that!" Anselm warned, shaking both of them
like kittens. Steven thought his teeth were going to rattle right out of his head. David
stopped fighting and looked frightened.
Russell had managed to roll into the underbrush while Anselm was occupied, and
Steven was extra careful not to watch his Brood-mate's escape. With any luck he'd be
able to get help from either Lillith or Cameron.
"Hold it, Russ!" Sonny, the Prince's own Childe, trotted from a stand of trees cradling
a Phosphorous Gun. Steven watched as Russell broke into a run, trying to get back to
their motorcycles. Sonny didn't hesitate; he brought the rifle up to his shoulder and fired it
in one smooth motion. Flame erupted from the barrel.
At first Steven thought that Russell would manage to get away - Sonny had missed
Russell's torso. Then he realized that Sonny had aimed for his Brood-mate's legs. Russell
collapsed with an angry roar, rolled to put out the flames. But the wound, slight as it was,
bled, and the phosphorus fire had burned a large hole Russell's pant leg. His blood ignited
as soon as the sun's light touched it, and Russell's screams rose in pitch and volume as he
David clapped his hands over his ears, even the Gangrel shrank away in horror. Sasha
collapsed to the turf, looking distressed and disgusted. It took a lot longer than Steven
ever expected for Russell to be destroyed. There was silence for a long while after his
"There is a maintenance shed behind that rise," Cash said, pointing. "Let's get out of
this sun. Then we'll talk about what's been happening in the city."
"Cash," Lorraina climbed to her feet cautiously. "Morgan and I overheard Sasha
bragging to her Brujah-pals about how she lied...."
"I did not!" Sasha retorted hotly.
"Let her finish, Sasha!" Cash interrupted, crossing to take the Brujah's hand. "Then
you get your turn. Caine, you're hot! Let's walk in the shade."
Sasha followed him in the shadow of the trees compliantly. Lorraina gave Cash a
confused look and followed them. "She was smoking cigarettes on The Haven's back step
and talking to her Clan-mates. We *heard* her tell them that she lied to Julian about the
attack on Nicholas. She admitted to framing you, Cash. She said it was all part of a
"Did she say anything else about this plan?" Cash asked. Sasha opened her mouth and
the Gangrel Primogen patted her shoulder reassuringly.
"No," Lorraina replied, looking more confused than ever. "Look, you said you didn't
do Nicky, and I didn't believe you - I'm sorry...."
"Hey," Cash smiled. "*Nobody* believed me. It was a good set-up."
"Cash!" Sasha protested.
"It's okay, Sasha," Cash insisted. "Lorrie, do you remember who she was talking to?"
"Yeah," Lorraina's brow furrowed in concentration. She turned towards where Steven
and David still hung in Anselm's grip. "It was those two."
"And Russell," Morgan added.
"Anybody else?" Sonny demanded. "Was anyone else there who isn't here?"
"No," Lorraina shook her head.
"But I wasn't there!" Sasha exclaimed. "Cash you have to believe me...."
"I do," Cash smiled. "I do believe you." He turned towards his Brood-sister before
she could protest. "I believe you too, Lorrie. There's a shape-changer in the city."
An excited buzz rose from the Gangrel, but Steven just swallowed. His mouth was
suddenly very dry. Neither Sonny nor Anselm seemed surprised by Cash's
"Actually, there is more than one," Cash gestured for the rest of his Clan to quiet
down. "So while I was with one of them, thinking *she* was Sasha, the real Sasha was
walking in on another one Diabolarizing Nicky and wearing my face."
"Two shape-changers?" Lorraina repeated. "That doesn't make any sense - who would
hire two Assamites to kill Nicky?"
"They're not Assamites," Cash corrected gently. "Actually I'm pretty certain they are
Sabbat - and that there are five of them." Steven closed his eyes in despair - somehow
Cash had found out everything. But how? He was just an Ancilla, and a Gangrel at that.
"Sabbat? Rosebud sputtered in disbelief. "Why not just call them Bogey-men? There
is no Sabbat!" The other Gangrel nodded in agreement.
"I believe these two will be able to change your minds on that matter," Anselm
rumbled. "If they are who they appear to be, they have joined the Sabbat's pack. And if
they aren't, they may be two of the shape-shifters."
"Their tongues will loosen after a day in the sun," Sonny agreed. "Our main problem
right now is that we have no proof to take to the Prince. Perhaps these gentlemen will be
able to supply that proof."
"That still doesn't answer why they would kill Nicky," Lorraina protested. "What did
"It got me out of the way," Cash answered gently. "And put the Gangrel and Brujah at
war with one another. But you're right. I don't know why the Sabbat are here, or what
they're after - besides turning us all against each other. I don't know why they recruited
Brujah allies, or how..."
"Brujah," Mickey cursed. "Is it any surprise that they would get mixed up with the
"I know why," Sasha said, staring intently at Steven. "Or at least I know how....."
Steven looked into Sasha's brown eyes, normally so soft and gentle, and saw only iron
determination behind them. She suddenly reminded him, in a very scary way, of Lillith.
"Russell and Steven and David," Sasha nodded slowly. "And *me*. Do you know
what we all have in common?"
"You're Brujah," Rose snorted.
"Eddie Fiori," Sonny exclaimed, his mouth dropping open in surprise. The Gangrel
looked confused, but Sasha nodded grimly. "The four of you are the last of Eddie's blood
in the city. The Sabbat have come, or been hired to come, to avenge Eddie's destruction."
"Lillie," Julian scolded, seizing her wrist. "Didn't it occur to you that I didn't know
who you were? You shouldn't have flown off the way you did. It's not that I'm ungrateful
- you saved Caitlin's life, and I appreciate that. But you should have waited and
established your identity first."
The Primogen of the Toreador looked genuinely confused. That was good, he
thought. Perhaps she didn't realize that he suspected that she was the imposter. Or maybe
she did and was just acting as if she didn't. She had all of Lillie's mannerisms down
perfectly. "What do you mean, you didn't know who I was?" Lillie demanded. "Did
someone hit you on the head?"
"No, I meant...." Julian sighed and closed his eyes. It was time to take a different tack.
Just in case she really was the real Lillie Langtry. It wouldn't do him any good to anger
the Toreador Clan. "As soon as Caitlin said that she was with you I knew there was a
shape-shifter in the city," his eyes strayed to the shrouded corpse the Ventrue police were
removing from Caitlin's living room. It was disconcerting that it hadn't reverted to it's true
form. Although he was almost certain that he held the real Lillie by her wrist, he couldn't
silence the nagging doubt that it was her body being carried out the door.
"And I realized that Cash might have been telling the truth about Nicholas," he
continued. Lillie nodded encouragingly. "So if the shape-shifter was good enough to pass
as Cash, even to Sasha, his lover, then I thought that it could pass for anyone. Even you."
"You thought *I* was...." Lillie looked offended.
"Of course," Julian soothed. "Who better to replace?"
The flattery soothed her as Julian guessed it would. Either this was the real Lillie
Langtry or the shape-shifter was a consummate actress. "I hadn't thought of that," Lillie
"I know," Julian guided her towards the door, one hand around her waist, the other
still holding her wrist. Just in case. "I was really worried during that fight. What if I hurt
the wrong one?"
"Well, obviously the other me was wearing too much perfume," Lillie retorted.
"It's so easy to become disoriented in a combat situation," Julian said, turning to the
waiting police officers. "Is everything taken care of?"
"We've taken Miss Byrne's statement, sir," he answered. "She doesn't remember
anything. The ambulance crew checked her out and said she'll be all right - just some
bruises. Unfortunately, the crewmen aren't ours, so we can't bury this."
"The neighbors have obviously noticed with all this commotion," Julian replied. "It
was a stalker or stalkers who were targeting Lillie. The attacker died, and Miss Byrne
saved Lillie's life, understand?"
"Yes, sir," the lieutenant nearly saluted, then remembered there were humans nearby.
"What should we do with the attacker?"
"Deliver her to the mansion immediately," Julian replied. "We'll perform the necropsy.
I'll take Miss Byrne there also. She'll be safe there, and I'll be able to prevent her from
learning anything she shouldn't."
The lieutenant's eyes went past him. "Are you finished with Miss Byrne, Joe?"
Lillie sagged in his arms, the picture of fearful femininity. "Oh, Julian, can we go home
now?" She whimpered, her voice choked with non-existent tears.
"If we're done, lieutenant?" Julian turned around. Caitlin was standing with another
Ventrue police officer, looking frightened and confused.
"Oh, Caitlin!" Lillie cried, reaching for the human woman with her free hand. "I'm so
sorry! That woman had been following me for weeks. I didn't know she'd come in here. I
had no *idea* she'd attack me! Your pretty house is ruined!"
"Woman?" Caitlin's brows furrowed. "I thought.... Was there a woman?"
"I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't defended me," Lillie continued
relentlessly. "You saved my life!"
"Julian?" Caitlin seemed to notice him for the first time. "When did you get here?
Weren't we just on the phone?" She gestured towards where her phone had sat on a small
table. Both phone and table were missing. Julian wasn't certain where in the chaotic
heaps of detritus they could be. The battle hadn't lasted long, but it had wrecked a great
deal of havoc.
"We were talking about the editorial meeting this morning," Julian reminded her gently.
"When that.... person... smashed through the window. I heard the breaking glass and
Lillie's screams and came as quickly as I could."
"Oh," Caitlin said, rubbing her temple. "I can't.... I can't seem to remember...."
"Perhaps one of the ambulance crew...." the cop by Caitlin's side started to say.
"It was all so sudden," Lillie interrupted. "Why, I'm not sure myself exactly what
happened. It's all jumbled together. Julian, Caitlin can't stay here. Make her come back
to the house with us."
"I think that would be a good idea," Julian nodded.
"But," Caitlin protested automatically. "The editorial meeting....."
"Neither of us needs to go to a meeting after all that's happened this morning," Julian
"Please, Caitlin," Lillie had managed to bring real human tears to her eyes. "Come
back to the house? I won't feel safe unless you do." She clutched at Caitlin's fore arm
managing to look as if she were clinging to a lifeline and Julian's restraining grip was her
only means of support.
"Well, okay," Caitlin wavered. "I suppose if you really need me.... I should get this
placed cleaned up." She looked around her with dismay.
Julian saw his limousine pull up through the living room's shattered front window.
Jeffrey jumped out of the driver's seat and rushed towards the door. Julian turned his
attention back to Caitlin. "I'd really appreciate if you would," he said. "In fact, why don't
you stay at the house for a few days and I'll send some of the servants over to clean up this
"Okay," Caitlin looked too dazed to put up a fight. That was the unfortunate
after-effect of having her memory erased. It would fade in a few hours. "I'll get some
clothes. And Lion. Where's Lion? Has anyone seen my cat?" She looked around
"I saw him go tearing off into your bedroom when I came in," Julian lied with a smile.
"Would you mind terribly if I asked you to board him for a while? I afraid he would -
"Kill you while you slept?" Caitlin smiled crookedly.
"Do his best to keep you and I apart," Julian grinned back. "And mark every single
one of my antiques as his territory."
"Oh, thank you, Caitlin," Lillie's smile was tremulous and her eyes still glinted with real
tears. Whoever she was, Julian had to admire her performance. "Could we.... Could we
go home now? I feel a little weak."
Caitlin exclaimed with concern and followed them towards Jeffery and the car. Just to
be safe, Julian never let go of his hold on Lillie. Just in case she wasn't Lillie at all.
The sun had shown his full face in the sky for an hour before the last of the Gangrel
slipped into the earth for their day's rest. Cash turned and walked back to the small
maintenance shed. Hidden by a clump of trees, and protected by it's roof, the inside was
cool and relatively dim. Sasha stood in a corner, hugging herself the way she did when
something had upset her. To Cash she looked like a little girl being punished for some
He took one step towards the Brujah Fledgling before Lorraina caught his arm. "Cash?
What about them?" Lorraina pointed at the Brujah prisoners Anselm had captured.
Steven and David sat against the shed's far wall. They were bound and gagged and
guarded by both Anselm and Sonny. Anselm, hunched over to fit beneath the shed's low
roof, turned his head curiously. But Sonny never took his eyes off of the two Brujah. "I
wish you'd left some of the Clan up to watch them," she continued. "I know they'll try to
"They're not going anywhere," Cash assured his Brood-mate. He reached for a
long-handled rake and started to disassemble it. "Drag them out here," he instructed after
a minute. "Steven first."
The center of the floor was empty, nothing more than packed earth. The shed had two
small windows, one of which let a small amount of sun-light through to touch the opposite
wall. Cash pointed to the earthen floor with the rake handle. "Stretch him out right
Sonny nodded and grabbed Steven's hands, Anselm took the Brujah's feet. Steven,
realizing what Cash intended, began to struggle but to no avail. Cash snapped the
rake-handle over his knee, handed one piece to Lorraina, then straddled Steven's body.
"This is for what you *Brujah* did to Stevie Ray," he knew his smile had turned to a
snarl and didn't care. Cash raised the stake over his head with both hands and then
brought it down with all his strength. It slid easily through Steven's chest, pinning him to
"Now David," Lorraina smirked. The younger Brujah had curled up into a defensive
ball against the wall and was trying to shield his face. Anselm and Sonny dragged him into
position and Cash ran the other stake through his heart.
"That'll keep them for a while," Cash sighed. "And in a few hours, they'll be in the light
of the sun. Lorrie, help me get the glass out of the windows. Sonny, take their gags off,
they might be ready to talk to us now."
"What about me?" Sasha demanded, turning around to face them. "Are you going to
pin me to the floor, too?"
"Of course not," Cash replied. "You tried to save our Clan. When all this is over I'll
see that you are honored before Prince and all the Clans for that."
Sasha glared at Lorraina, who just rolled her eyes and sighed. "I don't want your
'honor'," the Brujah Fledgling retorted. "That's not why I did it."
"There is...no honor...in betraying...your own...blood," Steven gasped. "You...are a...
traitor to...the Brujah. A...disgrace...to your... Sire... and Grand-Sire. Go...wander...the
wilderness...with your outland...animal...lover. Half-breed... bitch... "
Sasha looked stricken. Her skin so pale, her eyes so wide as she stared down at the
helpless Kindred at her feet. Cash reached for her, to comfort her, but she didn't even to
notice when he took her hand. "Martin...gave you...power," he continued. "Strength...the
freedom...of the night. And you...prove yourself...unworthy...night...after night...after
night. You...shame us. You...are not... Brujah. No Brujah...is as...cowardly...as weak
"Shut up!" Lorraina cried, kicking Steven in the head. "What do the Childer of Eddie
Fiori know about honor? Or bravery? Or strength? She's the only one of your filthy
Brood that understands that it's not bravery to bully the weak, and not cowardly to stand
up to injustice! Sasha would have been Gangrel if Martin hadn't stolen her away. She was
worthy... *is* worthy of a lot more than you Brujah could ever offer her!"
Sonny stuffed the gag back into Steven's mouth. "Nice try, Steve. But I'm not going to
let them extinguish you. At least not until after I am one hundred percent certain that I
know everything that you know about the Sabbat." He looked up at Cash, Sasha and
Lorraina with an evil grin. "But if they want to torture you.... well, I'm down with that."
"He'll lose his bluster long before dusk," Cash nodded. He gave Lorraina a thumbs up
and Sasha a little squeeze.
But Sasha pulled away from him. "I have to get home," she announced. "Uncle Julian
has probably already noticed I'm gone. I... I don't want him to get any angrier at me than
necessary." She tugged on the shreds of her leather jacket as if to straighten it. It just
made the holes gape a little wider.
"It would not be wise for you to travel alone," Anselm protested. "Especially with the
Sabbat in the city. Why, they may have already replaced you with your duplicate!"
Sonny jumped to his feet, looking alarmed, but Sasha just shook her head. "Then why
lure me out so Lorraina could extinguish me? That doesn't make sense. No, these
assholes were probably going to run back to Julian and say they saw the whole thing - but
couldn't save me in time. Then they'd lead Julian and Cameron out to find my bike, my
coat, my ashes. Uncle Julian would have widened the Blood Hunt to cover the whole
west coast. Hell, the whole west. He has Brood-mates in every major city this side of St.
Louis. The Gangrel wouldn't have lasted a week."
"I'd better go back and show him I'm okay," Sasha shrugged. "I don't think you want
him looking for me - and finding you, Cash."
"Then I will go with you," Anselm announced.
"No, Anselm," Cash interrupted. "I need you to stay here to deal with these two."
"I'll go back with Anna," Sasha suggested. "Where'd she get to, anyway?"
Anselm pointed at the wall behind Sasha. Anna Mae was curled up on one of the
shelves, at rest, and looking as if she were in danger of falling out of her nest. She wasn't,
Cash was certain. Neither Anselm nor Sonny would allow any harm to befall the little
Nosferatu. Even in her rest she looked like a little rat. An very ugly little rat.
"That's a good idea," Cash nodded. "Then Anna can go on to tell Daedalus that we
might have the proof he needs."
"What are you going to tell Julian, Sasha?" Lorraina asked. "He's going to ask why
you slipped out of your room."
"I'll tell him that I went out with the Brujah," Sasha replied uncertainly. "That's the
truth, isn't it?" She started to fidget when she realized they were all staring at her. "Well,
"He'll see right though that," Sonny sighed.
"Well, what else can I tell him?" Sasha demanded. "He's gonna know if I lie to him!"
Cash took her by the arms. "Tell him you went out with some Brujah and got into a
fight. Tell him it really upset you and you don't want to talk about it. If he asks any
questions, cry. You know he hates to see you cry...."
"I can't cry on demand," Sasha protested.
"I'd cry," Lorraina interjected. "If the Prince was questioning me - I would definitely
cry. I don't think I could stop myself." Sasha favored the Gangrel woman with a
withering glare and didn't reply.
"Anna will sneak you in via the sewers," Anselm added, reaching for his tiny Childe.
"In case some Sabbat spy is watching the Mansion. There are several hidden ways to enter
"Okay," Sasha agreed. "Okay. You guys be careful, too. I'll come back as soon as I
"I am here to see the Prince," Daedalus informed Julian's secretary, and Childe,
The blonde Ventrue smiled up at him. "The Prince is not home right now, Daedalus.
He was called away on urgent business. If you wish I'll tell him you called and he'll meet
with you after dusk."
"It's rather urgent, Cassandra," Daedalus explained reluctantly. Hestia took his hand
and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Is he expected to return? I am willing to wait."
"I can only assume he will be back before dusk," Cassandra shrugged. "He didn't tell
me. Please make yourself comfortable - may I bring you something?"
"No," Daedalus shook his head quickly. "No, thank you."
"Nothing for me either," Hestia added. "Perhaps we can wait in the parlor?"
"The house of the Prince is always open to the Primogen of the Nosferatu," Cassandra
assured them, standing. She came around her desk, hips swaying, and led them down the
hall. "Please, don't hesitate to call me," she said before she closed the parlor doors.
"Jeffrey isn't available, but I'd be honored to bring you whatever you desire."
"Just let us know when the Prince returns," Daedalus asked.
"Of course," she smiled and slid the doors firmly shut.
Hestia settled in one of the overstuffed armchairs and watched Daedalus pace for a few
moments. "You'll wear out his carpets if you keep doing that," she informed him.
He looked startled. "I was just going over in my mind what to say to Julian," he
explained. "I must make him believe me. I *must*. The safety of every Kindred in the
city depends on it."
"Why are you still holding on to me, Julian?" Daedalus heard Lillie's voice, but she was
clearly on the Mansion's upper floor. "I was only pretending to be upset, you know." She
wasn't keeping her voice down. The Toreador Primogen didn't care who heard her
Cassandra stuck her head through the parlor door. "The Prince has arrived, Daedalus,"
she smiled. "He's asked the Primogens to gather in the conclave room."
"Sasha was convinced that Cash attempted to Diabolarize her," Julian said. He was
walking down the Mansion's elegant front staircase practically carrying Lillie. The
Toreador was struggling to extricate herself from the Prince's firm grip.
"Well, Sasha is a baby," Lillie complained. "And maybe it *was* Cash...."
Daedalus and Hestia stepped into the hall. "Julian," the Nosferatu Primogen bowed. "I
must speak with you...."
"Come into the Conclave Room, Daedalus," Julian instructed, not pausing. "Stop
struggling Lillie, I'm not going to let you go."
"Julian thinks I'm not me," Lillie explained to Daedalus as Julian dragged her past
where the two Nosferatu were standing. "Just because there are shape-changers in the
city. Can you imagine anything more insulting?"
"How do you know there are shape-changers in the city?" Daedalus gasped. Hestia
was round-eyed in surprise.
"We killed one," Julian replied.
"You *killed* one," Daedalus repeated, trailing after them. "How did you know to kill
"I didn't," Julian replied. "I don't. Would you hold on to Lillie for a moment? In case
I made a mistake?"
"She's wearing too much perfume to be me," Lillie insisted, thin- lipped with anger. "I
can't believe that you'd think I'd go out smelling like I'd bathed in 'Opium'."
Daedalus took Lillie's arms. She gave up struggling, knowing she could never match
the Nosferatu's strength. The corpse was laid out on the large conclave table, looking so
much like the Toreador Primogen that Daedalus was forced to do a double take.
Cameron, who had been looking at the body, did the same thing to the Lillie standing next
"I bet she bought that tacky suit off the rack," Lillie said, looking over the body with
"I assumed that she would change back to her normal appearance," Julian explained.
"When she didn't...." he began to unbutton the corpse's blouse. "Cameron," Julian
instructed the Brujah Primogen. "Help me check this creature over. I want to know who
she was, where she came from, everything about her."
"You are assuming it's not Lillie," Cameron replied, reaching for the purse.
"I am fairly certain it isn't Lillie," Julian replied.
"If it *is* Lillie," Cameron teased. "Can I kill whoever *she* is?" He pointed his
finger at the woman in Daedalus' grip with a boyish grin.
Lillie glared venomously at the Brujah Primogen. "I'll remember that, Cameron, the
next time you try to sweet-talk me into supporting one of your hare-brained schemes."
"Stop playing, Cameron," Julian corrected absently, reading the label from the dead
Kindred's blouse. "DKNY."
"Told you," Lillie sniffed. "I bet the shoes and purse aren't even real leather."
"Actually," Daedalus began carefully. "I have heard of Clans who can alter the
appearance of others on a more or less permanent basis. This might be the result of such a
shape-crafter instead of an actual shape-shifter."
"Empty," Cameron announced, holding the purse upside-down to demonstrate.
"It that case, it wouldn't return to it's own shape when it was extinguished," Daedalus
"Have you ever seen this done?" Julian asked. Daedalus exchanged an uneasy glance
with Hestia. He had seen it done; he'd seen Miriam alter the face of lizard-eyed Camilla
into human-eyed Hestia. But to reveal that was to reveal that Miriam and Hestia had
connections to the Sabbat.
"The shoes are dirty," Cameron interrupted.
"Put them aside," Julian said. "We maybe able to determine where she's been."
"Are they leather or not?" Lillie demanded.
"How in Hell would I know?" Cameron snapped back at her.
"It's not a common ability," Daedalus answered, carefully side- stepping Julian's
question. He prayed that the Prince wouldn't notice his evasion. "It's most common
among the Tzimisce Clan."
"Sabbat Vampires," Cameron spat, pausing in the act of removing the corpse's skirt.
"Are you saying that if this bitch isn't Lillie, she belonged to the Sabbat?"
"Yes," Daedalus nodded. "And we must be careful. There will be at least one other -
the Tzimisce - and probably more in the city."
"How many more?" Julian demanded.
"The average Sabbat pack consists of five to seven individuals," Daedalus answered.
"There are actually two 'commanders', one is called a priest, the other the pack leader.
One or the other is usually a Lasombra."
"Wonderful," Julian muttered.
"It's possible that the Tzimisce shape-crafted members of the pack to resemble Kindred
in the city," Daedalus suggested carefully. "If they were willing to imitate Lillie...." He
swallowed nervously. It had to be said, and this was as good an opportunity as he would
get.... "Perhaps another imitated Cash."
"Are you trying to get me to believe that filthy, Gangrel dog-fucker is actually
innocent?" Cameron roared. Julian reached out and blocked Cameron from coming
around the table. "That bastard Diabolarized my Childe!"
"We don't know that," Daedalus retorted. Hestia clutched at his arm, apparently
frightened that Cameron would Frenzy. He removed her fingers and stepped in front of
her to take the force of Cameron's charge. Not that he thought that the Brujah Primogen,
in Frenzy or not, was stupid enough to take on a Nosferatu Elder one-on-one.
"There were witnesses!" The Brujah shouted, spittle flying from his lips.
"Cameron," Julian soothed, pushing the Brujah back gently. "We can't even tell which
one of these women is Lillie. Sasha and Kenny only saw Cash for a moment - they could
have been mistaken."
"It really does seem out of character for Cash to commit Diabolarie," Lillie opined.
"Out of character? He's a *Gangrel*," Cameron retorted. From his tone, Gangrel
were worse than anything that could be scrapped off of the floor of a Nosferatu's lair. "I
hope you don't intend to just declare him innocent and let my Childe's death go
unpunished. I lost one Childe without retribution....."
"I know you hate Gangrel," Julian answered. "But what do you really want? Cash's
head, or the chance to destroy the bastard that destroyed your Nicky? If Cash is guilty,
you can have him. But do you want him so much that you'd let the real murderer escape?
Could you bear it, night after night, if you took Cash's head without knowing the truth?
Never knowing if you'd punished Nicholas'....."
"All right!" Cameron shouted. "I want the one who killed Nicky. If that isn't your
precious Cash - so be it. But if it is...."
"You'll have the one who Diabolarized Nicholas," Julian assured the Brujah Primogen.
"No matter who it is." He patted Cameron's shoulder and led him back towards the
corpse on the table. "Now let's find out all we can about this Sabbat Vampire, shall we?"
"Let's find out if you extinguished the wrong Lillie, you mean," Cameron grimaced,
pulling away from the Prince.
"That's not me," Lillie protested. "I'm me."
"How can I know that?" Julian asked.
"I'm the one who gave Cash the combination to the safe in your bedroom," Lillie
blurted. "There, Cameron and Daedalus didn't even know about that little incident, did
they? That proves I am myself."
"You.... what...." Julian stumbled, looking nonplused. "How did you learn that
"It wasn't difficult," Lillie looked serenely smug. "I just went through every
combination I could think of: your birthday, the day you were Embraced, the date of death
on your tombstone.... I should have figured it would be your wedding day."
Julian looked thunderous, and Daedalus hurried to change the direction of the
conversation. "There seems to be at least five members of the Sabbat in the city. One to
imitate Cash, one to imitate Sasha, this one, the priest and the pack leader. One of which
is Tzimisce and the other who is probably a Lasombra. There may even be more."
Julian looked at him carefully. At least he was distracted from Lillie and whatever she had
done with Cash. "With the destruction of this member, the rest of the pack will be
disorganized," Daedalus continued. "If we can deduce from the body where they make
their lair, we may be able to take them by surprise."
"I know we have all heard tales of the Sabbat's strengths and their abilities," he
continued while everyone had their attention on him. "But like all such tales they are
exaggerated. A pack's strength comes from the union of all it's members in a kind of
Blood Bond. When one member is extinguished the pack will be weakened until it has
time to replace the missing member or otherwise recover from the loss. So we must find
their lair and strike quickly."
"Daedalus," Julian asked, softly puzzled. "How do you know so much about the
He'd blown it, Daedalus thought, his heart sinking. He'd shown that he knew too
much. He'd betrayed Hestia and Miriam.... The Sabbat were so hated that Kindred who
even associated with them were put to the Final Death....
"He's Primogen of the Nosferatu," Hestia's voice was firm and carried just a trace of a
sneer. "He's supposed to know everything. Do you think he became our Primogen on
warrior skills alone?"
"Oh," Julian nodded. "I sorry, Daedalus, I meant no insult..."
"No insult taken," Daedalus blushed, silently blessing Hestia for her quick thinking.
"He thought you were accusing him of being Sabbat," Lillie said speculatively. Damn
"I meant nothing of the kind!" Julian protested. "Daedalus, I *do* apologize. I would
never even imply...."
Behind them Cameron burst out laughing. The rest of the assembly turned as a unit to
"I always said you had balls, Lillie," the Brujah snickered. "But I *thought* I was
The nude corpse was plainly not that of a woman. Lillie looked at the bony breasts and
flaccid penis and shook her head. "Wonderful. Of all the transvestites in San Francisco, I
end up with the only one with cheap taste in clothes."
"I'm sorry," Daedalus sighed. "This dirt is just... dirt. It could come from any part of
the city. And many places outside the city, as well." He started to pack the vials back in
his alchemical case. Julian leaned back against the conclave table tiredly and rubbed his
eyes. Lillie, lounging in her chair, looked every bit as wilted as the Prince.
"Damnation!" Cameron cursed. The Brujah Primogen had been pacing all morning like
a tiger in a too small cage. He pointed to the naked corpse on the conclave table and the
pile of it's possessions next to it. "There has to be a way, some way we haven't tried, to
find out where this... this... *thing* made it's lair. Something we haven't thought of.
"There is nothing," Lillie sighed, rolling one of the earrings they had taken from the
dead vampire between her fingers. "His clothing, his jewelry, all they remember is his
"Nothing in the purse," Julian added. "Clothing labels that could have come from any
department store in the city. Or in any city, for that matter. Our last hope was the dirt on
the shoes. It probably came from Caitlin's lawn."
"Oh, no," Daedalus corrected. "This isn't soil, it's *dirt*. Maybe from an abandoned
lot or a construction site. Somewhere only weeds grow."
"That's very helpful," Cameron sneered. "Now we only have to search *half* the damn
"Don't mind Cameron, Daedalus," Lillie smiled. "He's just cranky because he's up past
"How can you sit there and make jokes!" Cameron erupted. "Haven't you been paying
attention? There are Sabbat in the city! They could be anyone! The Domain is crumbling
around us and... and... and..."
"Calm down, Cameron," Julian interrupted. "There isn't any need to panic - yet."
"How do I know that you aren't Sabbat?" Cameron demanded. He turned to Daedalus.
"Or you? Or... Oh, Hell, we know it's not you, Lillie..." He threw himself into his own
seat. "Unless.... All this was just an elaborate ruse so that we would think that she is the
"Oh, puh-leaze," the Toreador moaned.
"It seems highly unlikely that they'd sacrifice one pack member on the chance that we
would accept another," Daedalus gently pointed out.
"A rather high price to pay," Julian said. "Especially since we had no idea that there
were Sabbat in the city until this one slipped up."
"We know about them now," Cameron leaned forward intently. "And what good does
it do us? We don't know who they are. We don't know *where* they are. We don't
know what their plans are, or who they are going to attack next...."
"First they attacked Nicholas," Julian mused. "And made us think that Cash
Diabolarized him. I called a Blood Hunt, and that effectively neutralized the Gangrel."
"Do you think that they had something to do with Lorraina attacking Sasha?" Lillie
asked, straightening. "Could they have arranged that, so the Gangrel withdrew from the
conclave and were expelled from the city?"
"It's possible," Julian nodded. "The best use for Domination is the subtle push, not
blatant mind control. There have been times I've whispered paranoid suggestions in a
mortal's ear - everyone works to their disadvantage when they are sufficiently frightened."
"Maybe that wasn't Lorraina at all," Cameron countered.
"I think it was," Julian assured the Brujah Primogen. "At the time I thought I saw a hint
of Compulsion in her eyes, but it was so slight.... And, besides, I was paying closer
attention to her scent. She smelled angry but like herself."
"So?" Cameron demanded. "So what? That doesn't mean anything."
Julian leaned forward and sniffed at the naked corpse that occupied the center of the
table. "It's gone now, but there was a smell.... Like something rotten, diseased. I noticed
it when we were fighting."
"I smelled that too," Lillie nodded. "Like Frenzy, or someone who can't control the
Beast. Only it wasn't really a smell; it was more like a sensation." Julian nodded
encouragingly. "Sasha said that Cash smelled sick when he attacked her...."
"I think that's one way we can tell who they are," Julian confirmed.
Cameron looked affronted. "I can't wait to see the *Prince* sniff at every Caitiff and
Kindred in the city to see if they've 'gone bad'. Are you going to smell everyone in public,
Julian, or do you think that would endanger the Masquerade?"
"We'll use every tool we can, Cameron," Julian snapped. "I thought you wanted to
help at working out how we were going to hunt them down?"
"All you're doing is talking in circles," Cameron jumped to his feet. "We need to *do*
something - not just sit here!"
"If you are going to act like a petulant Childe," Julian snapped. "You can go to your
rest! We aren't just going to strike out randomly at nothing. We have an advantage over
the Sabbat - we know we are under attack. They don't realize that yet. The question is
how to put that knowledge to our best advantage."
"First they eliminate Cash, then they expel the entire Gangrel Clan from the city,"
Daedalus said softly. "Their next attack is on the Prince's favorite vessel - and they do it
in such a way that the Toreador will be blamed. They are trying to divide us along Clan
"So let's not do their work for them, shall we, Cameron?" Julian glared at the Brujah
and after a few moments Cameron looked sullenly away. "Good," Julian sat back in his
"They are splitting the Clans who trust each other the most, first," Lillie said. "First the
Gangrel from everyone, then the Ventrue and the Toreador."
"Not everyone trusted the Gangrel," Cameron muttered.
"It is no secret that San Francisco was torn by Clan War less than a decade ago,"
Daedalus agreed. "The Sabbat could be trying to rekindle the flames of that hatred."
"How are we going to *find* them?" Cameron demanded. "We have to know where
they are, and then we can take the battle to *them*."
"I don't think we are going to have that option," Julian sighed. "We may have to
pretend that their scheme to murder Caitlin worked.... I could have the newspapers print
"Julian? Miss Sasha is home," Jeffrey announced from the hall. "Would you care to
speak with her before she returns to her room?"
"Home?" Julian asked, swiveling to face his Brood-brother. "You mean she was out,
Jeffrey? Why wasn't I informed?"
"Because I was too busy running after you when you flew away this morning, sir,"
Jeffrey replied frostily. "I have sent John up to see how she escaped this time."
"That girl has more ways to escape than Harry Houdini," Julian muttered. He looked
up at Jeffrey and smiled apologetically. "Please tell Miss Sasha that I *would* like to
speak to her before she retires. Thank you, Jeffrey."
"Immediately, sir," Jeffrey inclined his head. "I am to assume that you do not intend to
"The Primogens and I will make that determination when we have concluded our
business," Julian nodded, turning back to Cameron. "I don't suppose you know anything
about Sasha being out this morning?"
The Brujah Primogen shrugged. "I'm not her Sire, Julian. You had him extinguished,
Julian's eyebrows rose. "I don't know how I manage to resist your charm, sometimes,"
he grimaced. "At least we can attempt to try out our theory - this may not be Sasha at all.
In the future see that everyone, and I do mean *everyone*, travels in groups. Even when
"Okay, Uncle Julian, give me the lecture," Sasha kept her eyes on the ceiling as she
came down the steps. The tilt of her head, the set of her lips - she was trying to look
nonchalant, and not quite carrying it off. Which was how she acted a great deal of the
time, Julian realized with a frown. "I was grounded, blah, blah, blah." She still wouldn't
look at him.
Behind her was the tiny figure of Anna Mae. The little Nosferatu squeaked "Ada luz"
and trotted over to her Primogen. At a nod from Julian, Daedalus lifted Anna into his lap.
"How did you get out of your room?" Julian asked, walking around Sasha. She
smelled like his descendent - no hint of the scent that had raised his hackles before.
"I asked some friends to take the door off the hinges," Sasha sighed.
Julian barely heard her. He was behind her, staring at the tears in her leather jacket.
He leaned in close, wrapped his arm around her. She stiffened. "You've been fighting?"
"I got into an argument with a couple of the Brujah, okay? No big deal." Why was
she so stiff? She couldn't be the imposter, Julian decided, the imposter would strive to act
naturally. And Sasha was obviously hiding something. He sniffed at her hair.
She smelled like Sasha. Like Brujah blood and his family, gasoline fumes and oiled
leather. She'd been in the sewers, not surprising considering it was day-time. He could
even smell the faintest hint of Anna Mae's scent. No hint of decay or evil. Just the vague,
almost nebulous scent of Gangrel.
Julian forced Sasha to turn and face him. He had to take her chin in his palm before
she'd look him in the eyes, but he was a gentle as he could possibly be. She was shaking.
He smiled encouragingly at her, hoping to ease her fear.
"Sasha," he asked gently. "Where is Cash?"
Sasha burst into tears.
"It seems unlikely that Daedalus will arrive before dusk, Cash," Anselm grated. The
Nosferatu seemed smaller in the daytime, his voice weaker. Not enough that he didn't
seem imposing - but enough to be noticeable. "What do you wish me to do until then?"
Cash started, realizing that he had somehow taken charge of the situation, and
uncertain when that had happened. Caine, he thought, he'd been ordering both Anselm
and Sonny around as if they were young members of his own Clan, not a respected
member of the Nosferatu and the Prince's favorite Childe. He felt the blood creep into his
cheeks despite the sunlight.
"I'm sorry, Anselm," he almost stuttered. "About before, I mean. I didn't mean to.... I
mean I want to thank you for all the help...."
Sonny touched his arm. "Cash, may I speak with you for a moment?" He pointed over
to where the Gangrel's motorcycles were parked in a stand of brush and trees. "I noticed
something over there."
Cash hesitated, wanting to continue his apology. But Sonny wouldn't have interrupted
if it wasn't important. "Um, yeah. Anselm...."
"I'm sure Anselm wouldn't mind standing guard over your prisoners," Sonny smiled.
He gestured for Cash to proceed him.
"No trouble at all," Anselm nodded. "The shed is nice and shady. Not like out here."
He squinted to look up at the sky. "I had forgotten the beauty of the day. The sun light is
wonderful, but painful to my kind. I will wait inside with the Brujah."
It felt weird, walking across the meadow with Sonny behind him. It was the position
he had always taken with Julian, just a little to the left. The perfect position for a guard -
or a lackey. Did the Prince ever feel as uncomfortable as he did now, Cash wondered.
Maybe Julian had gotten used to it after all the years he had with Stevie as his bodyguard.
"What?" Cash asked, stepping into the thicket. He looked around carefully, nothing
seemed out of place. "What did you notice?"
"That you were in need of a little advice," Sonny confessed with a crooked smile. "If
I've stepped over the line, just tell me, okay? But I'd recommend against apologizing to
"Because he's Nosferatu?" Cash turned toward the Ventrue feeling truly puzzled.
Julian treated Daedalus with respect, and Sonny seemed fond of Anna Mae. But Ventrue
could be snobbish, too.
"Because you have nothing to apologize for," Sonny touched Cash's shoulder. "You
are our leader - don't apologize to anyone for giving orders. It only makes your
subordinates question your authority."
"You and Anselm aren't my 'subordinates', Sonny," Cash protested. "You aren't in my
Clan. I am really grateful that you two are helping me out here - my head would be on a
pike now if it weren't for you. The last way I want to reward you is by bossing you
Sonny laughed and looked away. Like someone embarrassed, Cash realized. "Cash,"
the Ventrue said carefully. "Forgive me for being blunt...."
"Be as blunt as you want," Cash invited. "Give me all the advice you want. Caine
knows I need it!"
"You do need it," Sonny nodded. "I think you should know that when Stevie was
killed and Julian told me he was going to keep the Gangrel seat open for you, I objected.
I tried to talk him into changing his mind. You were just a whelp - I'm sorry, that was
rude. I didn't mean to put it that way."
"I am *still* a whelp," Cash admitted. "You think I don't know that? Hell, every time
I sit at the Conclave I can feel how wet I am behind my ears."
"It's only when you remember your age that you get in trouble," Sonny insisted. "You
were fine; you were in charge, giving orders and kicking ass, and then you suddenly
remembered that Anselm and I are older than you and you started backing down. When
that happens in the Conclave only you get hurt. Only the Gangrel Clan loses a little bit of
status. And it doesn't even cost you that much."
He looked Cash straight in the eyes. "But if you do it here, you might get yourself
killed - and us along with you. We're fighting the Sabbat - and the whole city is crawling
with Kindred who want to bring your head to the Prince. There isn't any room for
"That's why you should be in charge," Cash protested. "Or Anselm. You're both
older, more experienced. You've both lived through the Clan War - I was Embraced near
the end of it. You think I'm not scared of making a mistake? I'm terrified. Not just for
me, but what it will mean for the rest of the Gangrel."
"But you never even thought of that when you were telling us what to do with Steven
and David," Sonny insisted. "You think those two won't notice any signs of self-doubt
you have and clam up tight? We'll never get any information out of them then, Cash."
"Sonny," Cash moaned. "I was Embraced ten years ago. Ten!"
"I wouldn't have known that inside that shed around dawn," Sonny responded. "It's
not age that makes a leader. It's not even Blood, although most Ventrue would want me
extinguished for saying so. You've got what it takes, Cash, and that matters a lot more
than your blood or your age."
"I don't know," Cash sighed. What Sonny said was flattering, but....
"Daedalus is nearly four times Julian's age, and he kisses the Prince's hand in the
Conclave," Sonny said gently. "So did Archon, Julian's own Sire. I know that everyone
thinks that Julian is unique in the way that he 'inherited' the city - but there are numerous
cities were the Prince's Sire is among his loyal minions. And sometimes even one of his
"I am as honored to serve you as Daedalus is to serve the Prince," Sonny continued.
"My first loyalty is to my Sire, my Prince and my Clan, of course. But I serve them by
serving *you*, Cash. And I am certain that Anselm - and Anna Mae and Hestia, too - feel
the same way."
"Thanks," Cash sighed. "I guess I needed the vote of confidence."
Sonny laughed. "Are you kidding? You've done a great job so far. I bet that David
breaks before noon. It was brilliant staking the Brujah out where the sun will reach them."
"I am going to apologize, though," Cash said. "I'm going to apologize to you. I'm
sorry about what I said about you and Stevie Ray. I shouldn't have accused you. I
shouldn't have held you responsible for Stevie's destruction. That was Eddie and Nino,
not you. Never you."
"Cash," Sonny protested and then paused for a few moments. Overhead a bird
twittered uncertainly on a branch, then decided to fly away. "I should have told you what
happened. I shouldn't have agreed to keep it a secret. I owe you. I owe you big because
"You don't think that saving me from a Blood Hunt and clearing my name from a
charge of Diabolarie might balance the scales?" Cash teased.
"Maybe a little," Sonny's mouth twitched with a small smile. "It's not as if we've
actually succeeded - yet."
Cash rolled his eyes in mock exasperation and laughed. "Caine, save me from the
honor of the Ventrue." Sonny laughed with him.
"Shall we go back and try to worm something out of the Brujah?" Cash invited,
walking back to the shed. "Since you are giving me all this advice, why don't you suggest
how to get them to tell us where they contacted the Sabbat?"
"Well, the first piece of advice I'll give you is the first thing my Sire taught me about
advice," Sonny smiled. At least he was walking by his side like a friend instead of trailing
the Gangrel Primogen. That made Cash feel more at ease. "Take it in private, never in
public. Acknowledge it in private, too, so that if you should ever give praise in public it
means something. And remember that advice is just advice - you should pick and choose
among the pieces and only keep the choicest parts. *You're* the leader, Cash. The rest of
us are following along."
"The first thing *my* Sire taught me was to think about any advice I got from a
Ventrue," Cash responded. "It might look like a gem, but there's usually a hook in there
Sonny stopped in the middle of the sun-drenched field. "No hooks, Cash," he said
seriously. "Not from this Ventrue."
"I trust you, Sonny," Cash replied sincerely. "You didn't let me finish. I know I won't
have to look twice at anything you advise me to do."
"Then I'll work to deserve your trust," Sonny looked away, almost shyly. Caine, Cash
thought. I wasn't trying to embarrass him!
"I'm getting really hot," Cash jerked his thumb at the shed. "Do you mind if we go
somewhere out of the sun?"
"Of course," Sonny answered, starting to walk quickly. "I'm getting awfully hot too.
No need to tempt fate by standing in the sun...."
"About Steven and David?" Cash prodded.
"Of course," Sonny said. They were under the trees surrounding the maintenance shed
now, and the thin, bright shadows were a blessed relief. "I'd suggest working on Steven
as hard as we dare. I doubt if he'll talk, but David might crack just by watching. If we
worked on David, I bet that he'd try harder not to crack because Steven was watching."
"So we'd basically pull out Dave's moral support," Cash nodded.
"That's right," Sonny confirmed. "And give him a preview of what he is in for. Worse
case scenario is that Steven's extinguished before David cracks."
"So we need to inflict a lot of pain," Cash mused. "This may surprise you, but I have
absolutely no idea how to inflict torture. I don't really have any desire to learn, either."
"Me either," Sonny confessed. "If it were me, I'd leave it to Anselm. He's big and
scary as it is, and he might know a few things. It's said the Nosferatu were hit the worst
by the Inquisition, and that they swore they would never forget how the humans treated
them. I'm sure Anselm knows those stories and can offer a few suggestions that...."
Sonny's heart gave a single tremendous thud that Cash was certain could have been
heard by a human standing ten yards away, and his voice trailed off to nothing. He was
staring back at where the motorcycles had been stashed, back at the way they had just
come. Cash had never seen the dusky Ventrue look so pale. Sonny's skin had a greyish
cast to it that looked desperately unhealthy. Cash swiveled to see what had frightened the
His own heart contracted painfully, and his mouth was suddenly dry. Standing in the
shadows of the trees on the other side of the clearing, looking regal and cold was the
Prince of the City, Julian Luna, with almost a dozen of his guards.
Cash could make out other figures in the shadows; Lillie, maybe a dozen Ventrue
guards, and behind them, Sasha and Cameron. The Brujah Fledgling kept her eyes down,
refusing to look at the Gangrel. Lorraina, standing in the doorway to the tool shed,
looked to see what Cash and Sonny were staring at. "Caine curse that little Brujah witch!"
she swore passionately.
Julian didn't seem to hear her. He stepped out into the bright morning light and
crossed the clearing with as much composure as if it were midnight. His eyes, paler than
usual in the glare of the sun, never moved. Behind him the Ventrue took up positions to
surround the Gangrel and the miserable little shed. Cash swallowed - there would be no
escape this time. He stood proud, remembering he was Stevie Ray's Childe. He would
take whatever came with dignity - he wouldn't let Cameron see him flinch. Lorraina
stepped to his side in solidarity.
Julian walked right past him. Cash's jaw nearly dropped from surprise. The Prince
swept Sonny into his arms and the Gangrel had to look away quickly. He had seen how
Julian's arms trembled as he held his Childe and how Sonny looked close to crying. He
didn't need to see anymore.
"Childe," Julian breathed, and Cash wished his hearing wasn't quite so good. He felt
like an intruder. But Caine only knew what the Ventrue guards would do if he tried to
"I thought you had been extinguished," Julian whispered into Sonny's ear. "I was
certain that you'd been...." Diabolarized, Cash finished mentally. Julian didn't need to say
it. "Oh, Childe, if I had lost you...."
"I'm sorry, Sire," Sonny whispered back, clinging to Julian. "I'm sorry, Sire. I'm
Someone tugged at his shoulder, and Cash was grateful to see Daedalus when he
turned. "Did *you* bring them here?" He asked the Nosferatu, keeping his voice even
lower than Julian's.
"Sasha did," Daedalus murmured. "You won't believe how proof was found of the
Sabbat's invasion into the city...."
The Prince thrust a startled Sonny to arms length and began examining him from head
to foot. "These marks on your throat," he demanded. "Where did you get them?"
"Cash," Sonny answered, looking nervous. "We were wrestling and...."
"You have time to play with the Gangrel and none to send a message to your Sire?"
Julian erupted. "What were you thinking? Were you thinking at all?"
"I'm sorry, Sire," Sonny gasped.
"You should be sorry!" Julian scolded. The Prince stepped back from his Childe, his
hands were clenched as if he could barely keep from throttling poor Sonny. "How could
you fail me like this? Why haven't you reported to me? It's been nearly four nights since
anyone has seen you. Even Alexandra wouldn't have been so foolish to wander off while
there was a Diabolist lose in the city!"
Sonny was even paler than before, if such a thing were possible. Cash had heard about
Julian's famous tongue-lashings, but had been fortunate enough to never had witnessed
one. Julian began flaying Sonny up one side and down the other. Cash reconsidered
stepping away. Being present while Julian dressed Sonny down was making him
Cash cleared his throat, hoping to divert the Prince's attention, but Julian kept on
enumerating Sonny's faults, failings and character flaws in front of everyone. Even Lillie
and Cameron looked embarrassed. Cash cleared it again, as loudly as he could. Lorraina's
elbow caught him just beneath his rib so hard that he stumbled sideways. 'Are you nuts?'
He glared hard at his Brood-sister until she looked away. The Prince showed no sign
of stopping and Cash was grateful that he wasn't the target of all that anger. At least he
"Julian," he forced himself to say. Julian had begun to list the ways in which Sonny had
disappointed him. No wonder Sonny wished Julian would just hit him, Cash thought. The
beatings Stevie gave me hurt less that this! Still, he could understand Julian's side as well.
Sonny was his favorite. He must have been out of his mind with worry that Sonny had
been destroyed. Especially so soon after Alexandra's extinction.
"Julian," Cash repeated as the Prince's attention swung over to him. Lorraina took a
step back from him as if she didn't want to be in range of the Prince's wrath. "I asked
Sonny not to contact you. If anyone deserves the blame - it's me."
"Sonny was with me when Sasha was attacked," he hurried to add as Julian's brows
contracted. "He was my only alibi. But he couldn't vouch for me when Nicholas was
attacked so I convinced him to help me find the real Diabolist. I was afraid that if he went
back to you, word might get out of where I was hiding and the Bruj... And the Blood
Hunt would find me."
"And just how did you convince him to disdain his Sire and his Prince and obey you?"
"I appealed to his sense of honor and justice," Cash replied, praying that he sounded
confident. He certainly didn't feel that way. "Ventrue traits that Sonny has in abundance.
I convinced him that if I were destroyed by the Blood Hunt the city would be lulled into a
false sense of security and the true Diabolist would be free to strike again and again."
"And he believed that," Julian said incredulously.
"Not entirely," Cash hedged. "Not at first. But then we came across other evidence of
the Diabolist and..."
"What other evidence?" Julian demanded.
"Two other Diabolarized Kindred," Cash replied. He saw Cameron open his mouth to
object and rushed to continue. "And a witness to the act - a Kindred witness - Anna
Anna Mae appeared and rushed to Sonny's side. She mimed utter terror, pretended to
cower in hiding, and then indicated that Sonny had comforted her. Well, now I know
she's a good liar, Cash thought, suppressing a smile. They sure do like each other. Anna
had her scrawny arms around Sonny's leg and the Ventrue was patting her bald little head.
"She brought Sonny and Cash to me," Anselm added, lurking in the shadows of the
doorway. "And asked me, by the honor of my hospitality, not to reveal them to anyone. I
had to honor that - because he'd helped little Anna."
"I see," Julian inhaled deeply and blew out the breath. "And why was this not brought
to my attention?"
Cash realized his mouth was open and closed it with a snap. How in Hell did he
answer that? "I didn't dare try to get Cash to the mansion, Sire," Sonny answered
diffidently. "Because of the Blood Hunt and with all the excitement after the attack on
Sasha, I was afraid to leave him alone."
"You couldn't send me a message?" The anger was creeping back into Julian's voice
"There was no one to take it," Cash offered. "Anna Mae was too afraid to leave
Anselm's lair, and Anselm wouldn't leave her." Anna was clinging to Sonny's leg again,
appearing too frightened to let go. "Just a few hours ago Anselm decided to risk leaving
Anna with Sonny and I. But he heard there was going to be trouble between the Brujah
and the Gangrel and came back to tell us before he reached the mansion. That's how we
came to be here." And that is the first lie I have ever told you, Cash thought. Please don't
ask any more questions, he prayed. Sonny and Anselm and Daedalus and Hestia and even
little Anna Mae saved my hide and I don't want to pay them back with your displeasure....
"They saved me, Uncle Julian," Sasha blurted. "The bad guys had made Lorraina think
that I was the one who set Cash up. Then they sent the Brujah to break me out of my
room and bring me here. When Lorraina saw me...."
Caine, Cash winced. He wished Sasha hadn't said that. Lorraina took a step forward
and faced the Prince squarely. "When I saw her," Lorraina repeated. "I demanded a duel
to the death. I would have killed her, too, if Cash and Sonny hadn't intervened."
"No, you wouldn't have," Sasha objected. "I was just about to blow a hole in you the
size of a...."
"I get the picture," Julian interrupted.
"Are you claiming that Brujah are working with these Diabolists?" Cameron demanded.
"You dare accuse my Clan of cooperating with the Sabbat!"
"Just three of them," Cash said firmly. "And we think they did it to get back at you,
"They're Eddie's Blood," Sasha explained to her Primogen. "They said I was a traitor
to his Bloodline because I was in so tight with you and Julian."
Cameron looked as if he wanted to object again. "We captured two of them,
Cameron," Cash said. "Why don't you ask them?"
Alex ran though the bright morning shadows almost sobbing from frustration and fear.
It wasn't the sunlight that speeded his steps, it was fear of Lillith's wrath. But it never
even occurred to him not to report his pathetic failure to her. She was the leader of the
pack, and the pack had to stick together. Unity was their only defense from the 'Kindred'
of the degenerate Camarilla.
She had trusted him, despite his youth; trusted him with something important. And he
had failed. Lilith would be angry and disappointed. The whole pack would be
disappointed at his failure. The Sabbat demanded strength, in body and mind and
especially purpose. Alex knew that the others thought him weak. He had barely survived
his own creation - he wouldn't have even been able to finish clawing his way out of the
earth after the pack Embraced him if Gabrielle hadn't seized his upthrust hand and pulled
him out of his grave. If any other the others who had shared that grave with him had
managed to get further than he had he would have been left behind to rot. But Alex had
been the only one to even break the surface.
He had heard Aaron speak to Lilith in disgusted tones about how he had been barely
able to Feed from the first human the pack had provided. Lilith had defended him. Lilith
said that time would make Alex strong, that the pack would train him and raise him and
count him as one of their number despite his initial infirmity. He been so grateful to her.
He strove to prove himself worthy of the Vauldarie, worthy of the trust the pack placed in
And the first time it really mattered, the first time that Lilith had trusted him with
something really important - he'd failed. His heart ached with self-loathing.
It was almost a hour before noon before he made it back to the crypt. Alex threw
himself into the heavy darkness with relief. In another moment his flesh would have surely
ignited. His skin had begun to turn red even though he had stayed to the darkest shadows.
But the crypt was pleasantly cool and gloomy, a welcome balm from the scalding sunlight
above. He crept down the slick moss-covered steps with a feeling that was almost
serenity. He would report his failure to the pack, own up to his failings and mistakes and
take whatever punishment Lilith decreed like a True Sabbat. He would be as strong as
Gabrielle had been when Aaron had twisted her limbs and sealed her mouth.
Gabrielle stood on the top of Lilith's coffin, looking spider-like in the darkness. He
couldn't tell the Gangrel Anti-Tribu's head from her torso, her arms from her legs. She
was forced to balance on all four limbs, her weight resting on the single remaining digit at
the end of each extremity. Gabrielle turned herself with careful movements as Alex
entered the pack's tiny lair. Alex gestured for her to move aside so that he could open
Lilith's coffin and awaken the pack leader. She'd didn't budge.
"Gabrielle," he shouted in frustration. "Move! I must speak with Lilith!"
"I am here already," Lilith cooed from behind him. "But you should not be. I left you
with the Toreador Primogen, Lillie Langtry."
"I... I lost her," Alex admitted. "I thought she had gone to her rest - her club had
closed and all her Clan were slipping off to their havens, but when I circled The Haven to
make certain that everyone was in slumber, I saw her car was gone. I searched the club,
but she wasn't there! I don't know how she escaped me...."
Lilith struck him across the back of the head and he fell to his knees. "You are a fool,"
the Lasombra informed him. "I was waiting for Harlow to return. I was becoming
worried that he was so late. Now I know why - his ruse was detected. The 'Kindred'
know we are here. That is... unfortunate."
"I'm sorry, Lilith," Alex moaned, trying to clutch at her legs as she moved past him.
"As well you should be," she said shooing Gabrielle aside and flipping the great stone
lid of the sarcophagus aside as if it weighed nothing. "I only regret that there is no time to
punish you now. But we must conceal ourselves before the 'Kindred' discover our hiding
Aaron woke with a start, and nearly attacked Lilith before he was fully cognizant.
"Something is wrong," he observed.
"Alex bungled the task we entrusted him with, and Harlow has been either captured or
destroyed," Lilith informed the Tzimisce calmly. "Restore Gabrielle to her former
appearance; we must leave this place. We do not even have time for the sun to set. We
must be gone before dusk."
Steven and David remained unmoved by Daedalus' threats and Julian's anger. It wasn't
until after Cash told Lillie that one of the two Diabolarized Kindred he and Sonny had
found was her adopted Childe, Grace, that the two Brujah started to talk.
At first Cash wasn't even certain that Lillie had heard him. He had tried to prepare her
for the bad news, warning her that he had something unpleasant to tell her and asking her
to sit down. She wore a tolerant expression that seemed to say that she already knew
what he had to say and his information wasn't that bad. But when he told her what had
befallen young Grace that look disappeared completely.
Lillie sat stock still for a long moment. So long of a moment that Cash touched her
arm and called her name, not understanding what was wrong. Only then did the Toreador
Primogen squeeze her eyes shut and bury her head in her hands. From behind her
clenched teeth came a noise that was half grief-stricken wail and half roar of anger. When
she looked up, her fangs and claws had extended and her eyes were silver with the
madness of the Beast. Cash backed away from her and stumbled over his own feet.
She pushed him out of the way and crossed to stand over Steven. Julian and Daedalus
moved casually out of her way, imperturbable. "You *Sabbat-lovers* destroyed my little
Childe? You... you *Brujah* dared touch something of mine?"
"They are Anti-Tribu," Cameron announced. "Outcasts. I deny their Blood."
"As you wish, Primogen of the Brujah," Julian nodded. "I doubt if anyone will dispute
your order. Steven and David are no longer Kindred; they have no Clan, no Brood, no
Kindred Blood. Brujah Clan remains unstained by their crimes."
"The Nosferatu agree," Daedalus nodded. "Having willfully and knowingly plotted
with the Sabbat, Steven and David have no rights under Kindred law."
"The Gangrel agree," Cash added. He might as well, since the Ventrue, Brujah and
Nosferatu all were on one side. Even if Lillie disagreed they wouldn't carry the vote.
"Steven and David have no honor. Let them be destroyed."
Lillie stared at each of them, then smiled brightly down at the helpless Brujah. "Oh,
you poor things! You don't have any friends. Don't worry, *I'll* play with you." She
dropped to her knees, still straddling Steven's chest, and lifted his left hand in hers. He
tugged futilely, but was too weak to pull it from her grasp.
"This little piggy went to market," Lillie recited. Cash was confused, wasn't that toes?
Then he saw that she had drawn a line the length of Steven's thumb with one claw. The
line began to ooze bright blood. "And this little piggy stayed home." A second line ran
down Steven's forefinger. The Brujah gritted his teeth, the muscles at the base of his jaw
clenching, but he didn't utter a sound.
"This little piggy had roast beef," Lillie continued. "While this little piggy had none.
And *this* little piggy...."
Sasha clapped her hand over her mouth and ran out of the shed, bumping blindly into
Anselm on her way out. She didn't even seem to notice the gigantic Nosferatu; she pushed
past him and rushed out into the bright sunlight. Cash felt a little nauseous too, and
decided to follow her. To offer her comfort, of course. Not because watching Lillie was
making him squirm.
He found Sasha leaning against a tree and trying to vomit. "She... she..." Sasha
gasped. "She ripped his finger...."
"I saw it," Cash replied. "It's okay."
"No, it's not," she moaned.
"They tried to kill you, Sasha," Cash objected. "They conspired with the Sabbat who
are trying to re-ignite the Clan War in the city. Dozens, maybe hundreds of Kindred
would have died if they had succeeded. And Grace was Diabolarized - you know how
fond Lillie was of Zane's Childe."
"I know that," Sasha nodded. "But still...."
"They don't deserve your pity," Cash insisted. "They wouldn't have had any pity on
"I know that, too...."
Sonny strolled out of the shed and walked over to join them. "How is she doing?"
"What drove you out?" Cash asked.
"She's flaying the skin off of Steven," Sonny replied. "David is desperate to talk."
"I can't stay here," Sasha declared, looking ready to panic. "I have to go....."
"I'll take you home," Cash assured her. "You can ride on the back of my bike. Sonny,
go tell Julian that I'm taking Sasha back to the mansion."
"No way am I going back in there," Sonny retorted. "You tell Julian and I'll take Sasha
"I'll tell him," Cash agreed. "Then we'll *both* take Sasha back, okay? You two wait
here." He girded up his courage and walked back towards the shed's door. I only have to
be there for a minute. I don't have to look at what she's doing. Only a minute...
Julian stepped out of the shed. "We've got them. They are in the old cemetery behind
the Mission de Maria Dolores. Get everyone ready; we attack before dusk."
"Ride in the back with me, Sonny," Julian instructed when his limousine pulled around.
Everyone had returned to the mansion to equip for the coming battle with the Sabbat
invaders. Julian was determined to attack as quickly as possible. David and Steven had
been chained in the Prison of Light, just in case they had managed to lie about the enemy's
Sonny climbed obediently into the back of the long car, grateful that he'd had time for a
quick shower and a change of clothes. The suit he had worn wasn't fit for rags, and stank
of the sewers besides. He set his new phosphorus gun on the floor at his feet. The glass
was raised between the driver and the passenger's compartment.
Julian climbed into the car and allowed Lorraina to slam the door shut. Sonny
swallowed when he realized that they were alone. Here it comes, Sonny thought.
"Cash tells me I should be proud of you," Julian began. "He insists that the only reason
he survived the Blood Hunt was because you helped him."
"Yes, Sire," Sonny replied, because Julian seemed to expect him to say something.
What could he possibly say? He knew perfectly well the price of aiding the target of a
"I don't need a Gangrel to tell me how to feel about my own Childer," Julian's lips
compressed in distaste. "Especially how I should feel about you. I want you to realize
that what I'm about to say was not influenced by Cash's attempts to defend you." He
paused. "Well, not influenced by much."
"Yes, Sire," Sonny repeated.
"I *am* proud of you, Sonny," Julian stated flatly, as if it were obvious. "It took a
great deal of courage and initiative to circumvent my orders. That kind of independent
thinking will take you far; I should encourage it."
Sonny stared at Julian, stunned. He was pleased? Impossible. He managed a lame
"Thank you, Sire," before Julian continued.
"I understand why you didn't report to me," Julian said. "Or even sent a message. I
realize that the Brujah would have tried to trace any message back to your hiding place, if
I didn't beat them to it. Either way, Cash would have been destroyed. With the Sabbat in
the city you were wise to trust no one."
"That said, Sonny, I want you to understand something. If you ever disappear again,
you had better pray I don't find you. Or you will wish a tongue-lashing was your only
punishment. I was so certain that you had been destroyed or worse...." Julian paused to
moisten his lips. Sonny just stared. Had Julian's voice been *shaking*?
"Never!" Sonny hastened to assure his Prince. "I didn't want to have to hide."
"That is besides the point," Julian interrupted. "I think you are mature enough to
understand that I am grateful for what you have done, while deploring the method you
used to do it. You've done well, Sonny. You proved yourself more capable of handling
this crisis than I. I am quite pleased that you proved Cash's innocence, and I know the
Gangrel hold themselves in your debt."
Julian's hand rested on top of Sonny's. "That's why I am going to forgive you for
worrying me so. I am sorry I dressed you down in public. I'll make sure the Primogens
know that you remain my favorite Childe."
"Thank you, Sire," Sonny said, smiling back at Julian. "I'm glad I finally was able to do
something right. It seems that recently I've failed every time I've tried to serve you."
"Nonsense," Julian retorted. "When have you ever failed me? I couldn't wish for a
more responsible Childe."
"I failed you when Stevie Ray was extinguished," Sonny reminded him gently. "I failed
you with Alexandra."
Julian gave him one of those penetrating stares that Sonny found so uncomfortable.
He squeezed Sonny's hand tightly. "I don't blame you for Stevie Ray's destruction,
Sonny," Julian replied softly. "I know that Archon made you promise not to tell me, so I
don't blame you for that, either. I know how persuasive my Sire could be."
"Still, I should have done something...."
"Sonny," Julian replied. "I'm going to give you an order, and it is very important to me
that you obey."
"I always obey, Julian," Sonny said, stung that his Sire would say such a thing.
"I know you do," Julian smiled. "But you might find this a little more difficult than
anything I've ever asked you to do before. It's a simple order: You are not to blame
yourself for Stevie's destruction, or Alexandra's. Stevie was weakened from Embracing so
many Childer in the last decade - it was only a matter of time before Eddie cornered him
and brought him down. Alexandra was destroyed at my order; you did everything you
could to help her. I tried everything I could to prevent both of them from being
extinguished, and I know you did also. So stop feeling guilty, if only for my sake. We
may live forever, but will we never be more powerful than Fate."
"I will remember that," Sonny smiled, relieved. "And I will obey."
"Stay near me, Sonny," Julian continued seriously. "When we confront the Sabbat, I
want you at my side."
"I'm honored," Sonny replied, his heart soaring. To be permitted to defend the Prince's
back in battle was just about the highest honor there was. Julian *was* pleased with him
if he had been chosen over Daedalus or Cash.
They didn't have time to say anything more before the limousine glided to a stop.
Lorraina opened the car door and they stepped out into the evening twilight. The sun had
already started to hide his face behind San Francisco's hills, and the area around the old
Mission was considerably darker than the mansion's courtyard.
"I've deployed the Gangrel on this side and your Ventrue on the other," Cash reported,
pointing to the thick scrub and small, twisted trees that surround the small adobe church.
"We'll circle the graveyard and make sure that no one escapes - friend or foe."
"My people are ready to go in," Cameron interrupted, glaring at the Gangrel. "And
once we find this Sabbat pack, there won't *be* anyone left to escape. Just remember that
these Diabolists are *mine* - I won't be cheated out of revenge for Nicky."
"You won't be cheated of anything, Cameron," Julian assured the Brujah Primogen.
"Lillie, are you certain you want to join us?"
"Don't be such a gentleman, Darling," Lillie hefted the phosphorus gun one of the
Ventrue had given her. "I have a score to settle as well."
"Daedalus, stay close to her," Julian ordered. He must have seen the annoyance flare
in Lillie's eyes. "I lost you once today, and I think that's enough." He smiled at her, and
the Toreador softened noticeably.
"Let's go, people," Julian said softly, and without another word the Kindred moved in
towards their prey.
"Don't tell me I'm supposed to be with the Brujah," Sasha whispered to Cash as they
circled around towards the back of the mission. "Because Uncle Julian wouldn't let me in
on the main fight."
"Will two be quiet?" Lorraina hissed from her position in front of them. "I could hear
you ten yards away. And so could the Sabbat!"
"You stay close to me, Sasha," Cash ordered. "Although I wish you had stayed back
at the house like Julian told you." Ahead, Lorraina signaled to him and Cash crouched,
pulling Sasha down with him. After a few seconds he could hear what had alerted his
Brood-sister - the quiet sounds of movement. Sounds so very quiet they could only have
been made by Kindred. None of their people had advanced so far, which meant that they
had found the Sabbat.
"Head back and pass the word that the Sabbat are dead ahead of us," Cash breathed
into Sasha's ear. "But be quiet! We don't want to alert them." Sasha nodded
imperceptibly and started to slip back towards the next group of Gangrel.
"Empty," Daedalus pronounced, climbing out of the small underground crypt. "And
not for very long, either. They left only a few hours ago, at most."
"During the daylight?" Julian said incredulously. "They would have never risked such a
thing unless they were warned."
"You mean that they were warned we'd be coming," Cameron protested. "Which
means there must be a traitor...."
"Shut up, Cameron," Lillie said, looking distracted. "Do you hear that, Daedalus? It
sounds like something electronic...."
Daedalus nodded. "An almost sub-audible hum," he replied. "Can you tell where it is
"I think," Lillie rested her gun against the side of the ruined mausoleum. "I think it's up
here. Give me a lift." Daedalus hefted her easily until she was standing on his shoulders.
"What is it?" Cameron demanded. "Some sort of security device?"
"Be careful," Julian started to say, but his words were cut off by a terrified scream from
the other side of the cemetery. There was no doubt whose throat issued that sound.
"Sasha!" Julian exclaimed, turning automatically to run towards his descendant's voice.
"Sire, wait!" Sonny called. "It might be a tra...." He didn't get to finish before the air
around him exploded. Fire rained everywhere, transforming the weeds into torches, the
dying tress into pillars of flame. Sonny staggered groggily back to his feet. "Sire?" he
Julian was nowhere in sight.
Sasha turned to alert the second group of Gangrel that the enemy was ahead of them,
just as Cash had instructed her. It was no use grumbling that she should be allowed to
fight, both Cash and Lorraina were better warriors than she was, no matter how much it
pained her to admit it. Besides, she'd impress Cash with what a good little soldier she
The weeds barely rustled as she slipped through them. Sasha kept to a crouch, her
head below the tops of the old headstones. She'd moved only ten yards before she
couldn't hear or see Cash & Lorraina any longer. The second group of Gangrel would be
only another few yards ahead.
Forty-five feet later, Sasha paused next to a stone crypt surrounded by an ornate iron
fence. She should have run into the Gangrel by now. She bit her lip, debating whether
she should stand up for a better view. Instead she drew her gun and crept forward a little
further, her senses alert for the feel of Kindred nearby.
A weak sound, like the cry of a kitten, caught her attention. It was off to her left. Her
senses told her that there was nothing living in that direction, but there were Kindred and
they were Gangrel. Certain that she'd returned by the exact same route she'd entered,
Sasha turned and took a step in that direction.
A second sound stop her in her tracks. It was the sound of an impact, but moister,
wetter. The sound that Lillie had made when she'd started to hurt Steven. Sasha threw
caution to the winds and stood up, her gun held out in front of her, ready to shoot.
Mickey was sprawled out in a trampled plot less than ten feet ahead of her. He had
been opened up from throat to groin, his insides staining the ground around him crimson.
His face still looked surprised, even though his eyes were blank and empty. Sasha had no
doubt that he'd been extinguished.
Rosebud was struggling with the thing that had killed Mickey. Sasha tried to aim her
gun, but she was shaking too badly to get a clean shot. She couldn't blot what had
happened to Mickey from her mind. I am warrior, she berated herself. A Brujah warrior
wasn't thrown by the destruction of a Gangrel. The thing - the enemy, the Sabbat soldier -
looked only vaguely like a woman. Each of her arms ended in a single cruel spike, her
fangs were over an inch long. She - it - drove one of those spikes into Rose's eye and
the female Gangrel fell limply to the ground.
Then it turned towards her, moving fast. Sasha tried to shoot it, but it already had one
of it's talons under her arms forcing the gun into the air. The other was striking straight
for her heart. She let go of the gun and turned, taking the blow on her shoulder. It
knocked off of her feet, it was so powerful, and her arm was suddenly limp, numb all the
way to her fingertips. The thing loomed over her, it's talon's poised to strike at her head.
Sasha screamed, all thought of how brave Brujah were supposed to be crowded out of
her head by sheer terror.
The almost sub-audible sound was definitely above her, Lillie realized. "I think," she
said, resting her gun against the side of the crumbling mausoleum. "I think it's up here.
Give me a lift." Daedalus made a step with his hands for her.
With the Nosferatu's help Lillie pulled herself up onto the mausoleum's pitched roof to
study the device fastened to the ridge-line. A small plastic-wrapped bundle was the source
of the low-pitched hum. Wires led from the packet to a small hole drilled through the tiles
into the crypt's attic space. Lillie stuck one claw into the hole and pulled back, enlarging
it. When she still couldn't see where the wires led, she hesitated only a moment before
peeling back more of the ancient roof. The tomb was classical revival style, probably one
of the earliest of it's type in the city - and she hadn't even known it existed. It was a shame
to damage it any further before she had a chance to really appreciate it's fine lines.
The roof tiles gave way and exposed a pile of clay-like bundles. Lillie recognized the
plastic explosives immediately. Almost instinctively she kicked the a hole in the floor
separating the attic space from the rest of the mausoleum. A second kick sent the pile of
explosives tumbling through the breach and down into the depths of the vault.
The explosion blew her off the roof. Lillie had a bare second to realize that her
clothing and hair had caught fire before she stuck something hard and was knocked
Cash and Lorraina shadowed the two Sabbat they had discovered in the hope that they
would lead them back to the rest of the pack. Both looked like men, their features
ordinary enough to be invisible in a crowd. The pair moved slowly out of the cemetery. It
bothered Cash that they walked as if they had all the time in the world.
He was just about to turn to Lorraina and ask her what could be taking the
reinforcements so long when they heard Sasha's terrified scream followed a few seconds
later by an explosion from the center of the cemetery. Cash didn't hesitate. He shifted
into wolf form and darted back towards Sasha.
He galloped through the overgrown weeds, jumping over the headstones. He had
barely a second to see Mickey and Rose slumped on the ground, unconscious or maybe
even extinguished, before he changed shape a second time, back to his human form, fangs
and claws extended. Sasha was standing over a second pair of wrestling Kindred, a look of
savage pleasure on her beautiful face, but at least she was okay.
"Why did you scream?" He demanded when what he really wanted to know was why
she wasn't helping destroy the Sabbat creature at her feet. Then he saw who the Sabbat
was wrestling with.
Sasha cried out again as the Sabbat sank it's fangs into her shoulder, her voice filled
with terror. His Sasha, the real Sasha, frightened and hurt. Cash sprang at the other
Sasha, the false one, furious that he'd been tricked by her a second time.
As fast as he was, she was somehow faster. She caught him in mid-air, her arms lifting
and swinging him to the side. He caught at her wrist to try to arrest her throw. He was
heading towards a stone crypt, knew it could knock him out or even leave him temporarily
paralyzed if he struck it head-first. But instead she slammed him down on the ornate
metal fence surrounding it, and he felt the decorative spikes pierce his chest. Suddenly he
could barely move. He lost his grip on the imposter as his limbs became lifeless.
Cash forced one numb hand to grab the fence post, tried to lift himself up and couldn't.
He was helpless. Behind him the false Sasha chuckled and patted his back. "Wait here,
lover. I'll be ready for you in a minute." She moved away from him. "Enough, Gabrielle.
Join Aaron in hunting down the others. I'll deal with Miss Luna."
She laughed then with Sasha's voice, wicked and amused. And all Cash could do was
As soon as Cameron saw Lillie frantically attack the device on the crypt's roof he knew
it was a bomb. He leapt forward and grabbed Daedalus by the shoulders, dragging the
startled Nosferatu to the ground. Above their heads the world exploded, pieces of
super-heated stone dropping all around like rain. The grass and weeds, scrubby in the
hard packed earth, caught fire quickly.
"Lillie," Daedalus grunted beneath him, and Cameron rolled to his knees with a curse.
The Toreador lay in a crumpled heap at the base of another small mausoleum. Her head
was bent at an unnatural angle, and one shapely leg was missing from just above the knee.
With half of her hair burnt off and blisters covering almost every inch of exposed skin, she
was anything but the beautiful temptress he admired.
Cameron crawled to her and straightened out her neck. He couldn't tell if she was
unconscious or extinguished. The way she was scarred, Cameron grimaced, Lillie would
probably prefer the later. Julian Luna had shown Sorrel how burns left permanent marks
on Kindred. It might be a mercy to let the fire take her before she learned her looks were
Savagely Cameron slashed his wrist and thrust the wound towards the Toreador's burnt
lips. He didn't have the standing to be merciful. He couldn't take the chance that Julian
would accuse him of murder after the battle was over. He had to do everything he could
to see that Lillie would survive. With his luck, she'd probably blame the Brujah for her
Unless she was already irretrievably destroyed....
His Vitae had barely touched Lillie's tongue before her eyes flew open and she fastened
to the wound on his arm like a leech. Pleasure and pain swept over Cameron as she pulled
the blood from his body. "Too fast," he protested. "Too much!"
Daedalus pried them apart, and thrust his forearm within the reach of the Toreador's
fangs. Lillie sank her teeth into his pale flesh, holding the Nosferatu's arm with charred
hands that had fingers missing. Cameron couldn't tell if her eyes were blind or merely
clouded with Frenzy.
There were other Kindred all around, most in Frenzy. The rest were beating frantically
at their fallen comrades or peering around nervously for the next attack. Half of those in
Frenzy were running away, driven by Kindred's primal fear of fire.
"No retreat," Cameron shouted to his Clan. "Find the Sabbat! Destroy them!" He
knew full well that less than half would hear him. Only half of those would obey.
"No!" Daedalus protested. "They are already gone from here, Cameron! We must
retreat and tend to our wounded."
"Daedalus is right," Julian said from behind them. "The enemy has already escaped.
Call your Clan to retreat, Cameron."
Cameron twisted around to confront the Prince. "Brujah do not retreat!"
"Fine," Julian sneered, starting to turn away. "Let them destroy themselves in the fire,
then." Cameron examined Julian's dusty coat, which the Prince made no move to clean.
He stared entranced by the knot of his silk tie. The Windsor knot was done wrong. The
faint smell of corruption came to Cameron's nose, over the stink of burning.
"I've wanted this for too long," Cameron snarled. Before Julian could turn back
towards him, he attacked.
She loomed over Sasha, her smile malicious. "You are a very lucky Childe," she
informed the young Brujah. "You are going to give the Sabbat everything we require to
destroy the Princes of the Camarilla and to claim the West Coast for our own." Sasha
tried to crawl back on her elbows, but the woman wearing her face reached down and
grabbed her by the front of her shirt.
"There is no escape for you, Childe," the other Sasha glowed with certainty. "Do not
try to fight and you will feel no pain. I need your thoughts, your memories - your entire
personality. Don't think of me as the destruction of your soul; through me you will exist
forever. You and your Gangrel lover, and as many more of you so-called 'Kindred' as I
can feed upon."
Sasha started to weep. The woman's voice was hypnotic, and no matter how she tried
she couldn't tear her eyes away from the enemy's gloating gaze. Everything that the
woman said was going to happen. She'd kill her, then Cash and eventually even Uncle
Julian. And Sasha couldn't even raise her hands to push her imposter away.
"Through my eyes you will see the eventual triumph of the Sabbat," the woman
continued. Her lips were at Sasha's throat now, her arms around her waist, Sasha's leather
jeans creaked and moaned where they rubbed against her attacker's. "And when we rule
there will be no Masquerade. Humankind will acknowledge our mastery over them...."
She didn't get to finish. Without warning a heavy weight crashed into them both,
knocking them to the ground. Sasha gasped as Lorraina rolled neatly away, throwing off
her wolf-shape as she tumbled. The Gangrel-woman was growling, her lips pulled back to
expose sharp teeth. For a single terrified second Sasha thought that Lorraina was going to
attack them both, or, unable to tell them apart, attack her by mistake. But Lorraina didn't
even pause to draw a weapon before throwing herself at the imposter.
Remembering how her duplicate had dealt with Cash so easily, Sasha kicked out with
both feet. Her boot heels caught the other woman in the ankles as she rose to defend
herself. Even distracted she managed to redirect the force of Lorraina's attack and send
the Gangrel sprawling. At least the imposter's spell had worn off and she could fight back
again, Sasha thought with relief.
The other monster had knocked her gun away and Sasha didn't want to take the time to
find it. She pulled the switchblade out of her boot and flipped it open. If Uncle Julian
knew she carried it, he'd probably have a stroke, which was why she had always been
reluctant to use it before. But desperate times called for desperate measures.... Sasha
swung her arm in an arc, slicing, not stabbing, and caught the bitch on the back of her calf.
The imposter screamed, and Lorraina managed to get past her guard, raking her claws
across the enemy's face. Sasha struck a second time, higher up, hoping to hamstring their
enemy so that Lorraina could bring her down. The imposter danced away and Sasha's
switchblade barely nicked the woman's knee. Lorraina snarled and struck, drawing blood
a second time.
Then something moved, low and dark and incredibly fast, behind Cash's Brood-mate.
Sasha screamed "Lorraina! Look out!", but it was already too late.
The half-human horror had returned and sliced one massive claw through Lorraina's
back, nearly severing the Gangrel's spine.
Daedalus crouched over Lillie's battered body debating whether to aid Julian or
Cameron. One was obviously a transformed member of the Sabbat, but which was it, the
Prince or the Brujah?
Sonny staggered around the corner of one of the cemetery's low crypts, stopping
abruptly when he saw Julian and Cameron snarling and wrestling together in the dirt. The
young Ventrue brought up his Phosphorus gun and Daedalus realized that he didn't have
time to make up his mind. He charged Sonny, desperate to prevent him from shooting
Cameron. He had just touched the gun's long barrel when it went off, burning his palm.
Daedalus ignored the pain and spun to see if Sonny had extinguished the Brujah Primogen.
He relaxed for a brief second when he realized that he'd deflected the barrel just
enough. The long gout of flame had missed Cameron's back, and just singed both of the
fighting Kindred. Cameron reeled back with a cry of pain, startled by the attack from
Julian's scream was one of pure rage. He reared up, his eyes flashing an unholy red.
And continued to go up, and up, until he towered over Cameron. The Brujah blinked as
Julian's jacket and shirt shredded, revealing oily grey-black flesh beneath. Bone-like spikes
poked through the trousers, and twin horns grew from it's temples.
"Sire?" Sonny moaned plaintively, craning his neck back to look at the thing's distorted
"I don't *think* so," Cameron snarled, striking at the creature's vitals. The Tzimisce
swept him aside with a casual swipe of it's seven-fingered hand.
Sasha rolled away from her Doppleganger, crawling through the scrubby weeds,
looking for help. She was seriously outclassed here. She apologized to Lorraina over and
over in her head, truly sorry that she had to abandon the Gangrel. But she'd last about
two seconds against that pair....
Cash still hung over the rusty fence, three of the sharp spikes at the top protruding
from his back. She looked around but couldn't see his Phosphorus gun. The fence was
tall, Sasha had to reach up to take the pistol from Cash's shoulder holster. She nearly
dropped it when he moaned her name.
"I though you were...." Sasha gasped, fighting back sudden tears. She stuck the gun
into her waistband and tried to push Cash off of the spikes. He gritted his teeth and tried
not to cry out.
"Find that little Brujah, Gabrielle," the imposter called. "I'll take care of these whelps."
Sasha ducked and looked under Cash's limp form. She had to peek around the crypt.
Several other Gangrel had joined Lorraina in combating the imposter. They weren't doing
any better than Sasha had, but there were enough of them to keep the fake Sasha busy.
But not enough to keep the other one, Gabrielle, occupied as well. It shrugged off the
two Gangrel on it's back and loped towards where Sasha was hiding. The young Brujah
couldn't think of that creature as a 'she'. It was bad enough that her senses told her it was
a Gangrel. Surely no Kindred could look so inhuman.
"Run," Cash gasped above her. "Get help."
"No," Sasha moaned. She couldn't leave him for the Sabbat. She knew his pistol and
her switchblade would be useless against the she-thing. If only she had a good weapon....
Her hands tightened spasmodically around the wrought iron uprights that impaled Cash.
The one in her right hand gave a metallic groan and came lose from it's bottom support.
Gabrielle immediately swung around, zeroing in on her location. Sasha shook the
upright with both hands, frantically fighting and twisting it free of the rest of the fence;
wrenching it down out of Cash's chest. He gave a cry - she was hurting him - and then it
was loose. She barely got it turned around in time before the enemy was on her.
To her utter amazement the Sabbat-creature didn't try to keep from impaling itself onto
Sasha's improvised pike. The force of it's charge drove the long iron stake though it's
stomach and almost out of Sasha's hands. Through it's stomach, Sasha realized with
dismay - not through it's heart. The Gangrel, in Frenzy now, swung at her with it's
hook-hands. Sasha stumbled back, almost losing her footing. The end of the pike buried
itself in the dirt.
Gabrielle grunted as it forced itself further along the metal spear. Sasha scrambled
backwards, nearly tripping over something hard. She looked down at it involuntarily and
the monster managed to rip one of it's claws across her thigh. She scrambled away,
grabbing the hard thing at the last moment when she realized what it was.
It was Cash's Phosphorus gun. She fumbled it around, nearly dropping the damned
thing in her haste to chamber one of the rounds. The creature was practically right on top
of her when she pulled the trigger. The gout of flame hit the Gangrel-thing and knocked it
backwards. The recoil and back-blast sent Sasha tumbling in the opposite direction.
Cameron allowed Frenzy to sweep him up in it's misty red grasp. He rolled loosely
along with the Julian-thing's blow, cushioned from the pain by a generous helping of
blood-lust. He knew it wasn't really Julian Luna, it was one of the Sabbat. But in his
dreams this was how Julian appeared - a tall death-dealing monster, the slaughterer
Cameron's Brood. Cameron hadn't been there that horrible night when Julian had burned
the Old Mission Winery and killed every Brujah that tried to escape the fire. But in his
dreams he was there to defend his Brood- mates and his Childe - in his dreams he fought
Daedalus was shouting something, making gestures for him to stay away from the huge
creature, but Cameron ignored him. With a bit of a running start he managed to leap up
onto the creature's shoulders, where the heavy spikes protruding from it's carapace made
useful hand-holds. It reached up to pull him off, but he threw himself across the creature's
back to avoid it's searching fingers. Laughing, he dragged his claws across the thing's
He stopped laughing when his claws didn't even make a mark on it's exoskeleton. It
reached for him again, and this time he wasn't so fast. It caught him by one shoulder and
pulled him up, forward and then down. The ground came smashing up awfully fast, and
before he could even move he saw the creature's great taloned foot poised over his head.
Sonny fired his Phosphorus gun and chambered another round. The monster teetered,
knocked off balance by the force of the discharge. The remains of it's clothing were
burning off, but that was about the extent of the damage, Cameron noted to himself. He
didn't care. He sprang to his feet and attacked it's leg, determined to make it fall.
And fall it did, onto the remains of the blasted crypt, the impact making the ground
tremble. Cameron had seen a chink in the creature's armor; the back of it's knee wasn't
covered in chitin, it was just the beast's monstrous hide. He found that his fangs were
more useful than his claws. He bit and tore at the back of the thing's knee, determined to
sever a hamstring.
It kicked him away almost casually and Cameron found himself smashed on the ground
next to Lillie. The monster was reaching for Sonny. The Ventrue didn't panic, he waited
for it to lean over, then fired twice into the creature's face, chambering the rounds as
smoothly as if he were merely taking target practice. It screamed in anger, covering it's
scorched face with one hand and crushing the Prince's Childe with the other.
Cameron shook off his disorientation and prepared for another attack. He'd bring that
damned monster down. He didn't care if it was Julian Luna or a Sabbat Bishop. He'd
bring it down for both of his slaughtered Childer.
Daedalus caught his shoulder before he could throw himself back at the monster.
"Keep it occupied," Daedalus instructed. "But try to stay out of the reach of it's hands."
Cameron snarled at the Nosferatu and tried to pull free of his grasp. Stay out of it's
reach - what kind of advice was that? Daedalus just shook him in frustration. "This is
important! There aren't enough of us to take it down any other way!" Cameron did his
best to nod, all he wanted to do was attack. "Just keep it busy!" Daedalus ordered
shoving him back into battle.
Cash gritted his teeth and tried to stifle a groan as he pushed himself off of the fence.
Sasha, bless her little Brujah heart, had pulled out the one post that had penetrated his
heart. Now he could feel the strength returning to his limbs. He could also hear Sasha
trying to defend herself against that creature she'd been fighting before. Weak as he was
he knew he had to defend her.
But too much of his Vitae stained the rusted wrought-iron fence. It made the posts
slippery and Cash's arms were trembling with weakness. He pushed once, almost made it,
and fell back, driving the two remaining posts back into his flesh. Good work, Gangrel, he
cursed himself. You almost got it through your heart again.... The Sabbat-creature
grunted behind him and he could hear Sasha's terrified panting. He pushed again, and this
time managed to get himself free.
He landed on the ground like a sack of potatoes. If he'd been human he would have
had the breath knocked out of him. As it was he could barely force himself to roll over.
There was the unmistakable sound of a Phosphorus gun behind fired, then Sasha's squeals.
He stumbled to his feet, determined to take the thing on....
The creature lay at Sasha's feet, nearly blown in half. The iron fence post was stuck
half-way through it and the ground around it was burning from the gun's discharge. Sasha
was on her knees, slapping the sparks out of her hair and clothing.
"You killed it," Cash gasped. She took one look at him and threw herself into his
arms. He was very glad he wasn't human and didn't have to breathe; her frantic kisses
nearly smothered him anyway.
"Are you all right?" Cash demanded finally.
"I was so worried about you," Sasha gasped almost at the same time. They grinned at
each other, happy just to be in each other's arms again. Almost ready to laugh at the
absurdity of finding themselves reunited in a battle for their lives.
"Help me, Uncle Julian!"
Both of their heads snapped in the direction of that call. It was Sasha's voice..... "That
damned phony bitch!" Sasha cursed, jumping to her feet. Cash tugged her back. "Don't
go charging off," he ordered. "Here, take off your jacket. I want to be able to tell the
two of you apart."
Sasha ripped her black leather jacket off, then tore the scarf from around her throat and
tied her hair into a pony tail. Cash concentrated on healing his wounds and picked up the
Phosphorus gun. He checked it as he moved carefully back around the crypt. There were
only three rounds left.
Sasha pulled another fence post down and grinned at him. "They make pretty good
stakes," she shrugged.
"Distract her," Cash ordered. "I'll get around behind her with this...." Sasha nodded
and stepped out of the shadow of the crypt. Cash snuck around in the other direction.
Julian was trying to stop the Gangrel from attacking the false Sasha, and the imposter
was trying to fight her way closer to the Prince. From the predatory gleam in her eye,
Cash guessed that she didn't intend to maintain the pretense of being Sasha for very much
"Get away from him you *COW*!" Sasha challenged, holding her spear out
threateningly. Every eye swiveled towards the young Brujah, and Cash made his break,
darting towards the Prince and the imposter, a phosphorus round chambered and ready to
Julian obviously realized he'd been tricked. He shoved the imposter away. Cash
brought up the gun in one smooth motion and fired. The gout of flame went right through
the imposter's chest.
Or where the imposter's chest should have been - Sasha's clothes were still there, a hole
burned through the center of the blouse, but they were empty. They hung in the air for a
second, then collapsed, still burning, to the ground.
"What the Hell...?" Sasha started to say, then one of the Gangrel gave a disgusted cry
and darted back from the site of the battle. Julian looked at where she had been standing,
and his eyes widened.
"Get back, everyone," he ordered, pushing the rest of the Gangrel behind him. "Stay
away from it."
Cash saw what everyone was staring at. It looked like a shadow, but glistened like oil
in the light from the brush fire. It seethed in on itself, sending out tendrils of darkness,
looking for something. How could he destroy a *shadow*, Cash wondered. How could
he harm something he couldn't even touch?
The shadow struck out suddenly, wrapping itself around Julian's legs. It flowed up the
length of the Prince's body with frightening speed. "Destroy it!" he ordered, before the
shadow covered his face. Then there was only the muffled sound of Julian screaming.
"Uncle Julian!" Sasha sprang forward.
"Don't touch him!" Cash shouted, and Lorraina caught her before she got too close to
the Prince's shrouded form.
"No!" Sasha's voice was filled with despair. "Do something! She's killing him!"
Cash chambered another round, praying he was making the right decision. The
Prince's existence, Julian's existence, depended on him doing the right thing. He aimed the
Phosphorus gun carefully and fired.
The flames that shot out of the barrel missed the Prince by inches. They licked at the
dried undergrowth and instantly ignited it. "Sasha," Cash ordered. "Knock him down!
Use the post and roll him into the fire!"
Lorraina let her go and ran to get an iron stake of her own. The Brujah Fledgling
hesitated only a second before sweeping her long iron pole behind Julian's knees. He
collapsed to the smoldering ground, still covered by darkness. Cash fired again, his last
round, and ignited the weeds on the other side of the Prince.
Please work, Cash prayed. The shadow, the enemy, the imposter, whatever that thing
truly was, seemed to recoil when it came too close to the flames. He hoped that he had
guessed correctly. He'd wondered how he could hurt a shadow? Maybe if he created a
Of course, if he was wrong, he no longer had a weapon.
Sasha pushed some burning weeds onto Julian's struggling form. They flared a hellish
blue as soon as they touched the shadow, and then went out. But Cash realized that he
could see Julian's jacket where they had contacted. "More fire," he called. "Burn it off!"
He uprooted something dead and bushy and thrust it into the flames. Maybe he could
sweep it over Julian's body....
Lorraina wedged her fence post under the struggling Prince and tried to turn him over
onto more of the burning vegetation. Sasha realized what Lorraina was trying and
imitated her, together they flipped Julian over. The shadow screamed and flowed away
from the flames. Suddenly they could see most of Julian again. The Prince was clawing at
the last of the shadow, inflicting terrible wounds on himself.
Cash thrust forward with his make-shift torch. The shadow flowed off of Julian and
seemed to hang in the air. Cash just kept swinging until the last traces of darkness were
When he couldn't see it any more Cash turned to find Sasha clinging to a weak and
wounded Julian. "You saved him," she smiled at him tremulously. "Thank you." She
hesitated for a moment, then looked at his Brood-sister. "Thank you, Lorraina."
"You're welcome," Lorraina replied gruffly.
"Just don't start thinking we're friends, or anything, okay?" Sasha said warily.
Lorraina grinned. "That won't be a problem."
Cameron dodged, feinted, struck, dodged again. He wasn't inflicting much damage on
his opponent, but he was learning more about how it fought with every passing second.
Caught up in the heat of Frenzy the battle seemed endless. He could have been locked in
this combat for centuries, but he didn't care.
It hadn't struck him a solid blow since Daedalus had shouted in his ear. He caught
glimpses of the Nosferatu from time to time, knew he was doing something, but it barely
mattered. Daedalus was just another obstacle on the battlefield, like the flames and
tombstones. An obstacle that moved and occasionally moved other obstacles. Something
to be avoided. Something to be used against his enemy, if possible. Nothing more.
The monster's great fist missed him by a hair, and Cameron slid in under it's guard to
rip at the unprotected flesh under it's arm. He was wearing it down, but slowly, too
slowly. He was getting tired too, and the flames were growing taller all around.
Ignore the flames, concentrate on the hated enemy. Hate was like a furnace in
Cameron's heart, allowing him to throw off the creature's blows, ignore his own
exhaustion. Hate was what kept him going, kept him fighting.
Another blow was aimed at his head, but he ducked and rolled under the punch.
Cameron wanted to laugh. Despite it's huge size the monster wasn't a very good fighter.
It obviously relied on fear and brute strength to overcome it's enemies. Cameron had
faced dozens of warriors more skilled in the ways of battle. And like all of those duels,
the Brujah was certain that this battle would end with his opponent's destruction.
He wasn't afraid of it. He didn't care about it's huge size or showy spines. All it had
was strength, while Cameron had confidence, agility, and best of all, trickiness. He
somersaulted out of the way of another blow. While he was on the ground he scooped up
a handful of pebbles and dirt.
Cameron saw the battleground clearly when he stood again, saw how that the combat
had entered an area where the footing was bad. Daedalus was busy throwing gravestones
behind the thing, making the footing even more treacherous for the creature. He felt his
lips pull back into a grin and issued a screaming challenge before leaping straight at the
enemy's face. It caught him easily, but had stepped back instinctively. Below, Daedalus
struck at the thing's leg. It stumbled, it's massive hands tightening around Cameron's chest
so hard that the ribs gave way. The Brujah screamed in pain and fury.
Cameron threw the fistful of dirt at the beast's eyes, desperate to make it let him go. It
flinched, took another startled step backwards and lost it's footing. It dropped the Brujah
Primogen in it's effort to arrest it's fall. Cameron landed by it's legs and immediately
jumped to get away from the thing, ready to attack again as soon as it stood up.
But it didn't stand up. It's arms and legs moved frantically, almost spasmodically. The
spines on it's back, Cameron realized. They where keeping it trapped on it's back, like an
overturned beetle. Screaming in victory, Cameron lifted one of the tombstones over his
head and smashed it over the monster's head.
Daedalus stopped him from eating it's heart, and Cameron nearly attacked the
Nosferatu for interfering. But his Frenzy was over, leaving the Brujah sore and shaking.
He sat on the thing's chest to wait for his sanity to return. The thing hadn't changed it's
shape when it was extinguished, he noted lethargically. That was good; he would take it's
head and mount it on a wall so all the Kindred in the city could admire his triumph.
The Nosferatu was still very busy at something, Cameron realized. He watched his
fellow Primogen catch handfuls of the monster's blood then carry it hurriedly over to the
shadow of one of the crypts. Lillie, Cameron remembered. The beautiful Primogen of the
Toreador wasn't going to be beautiful anymore. Suddenly his victory didn't seem quite so
"What are you doing?" he asked, making himself walk over to where Lillie lay.
Daedalus didn't answer, he just smeared more of the Tzimisce's Vitae on the Toreador's
And the skin healed. Cameron's jaw fell open. He reached down and touched Lillie's
face, one side was still an unrecognizable mass of charred flesh, the other, perfection. Her
complexion was flawless, her skin as soft as silk. "How is this possible?"
"Help me," Daedalus snapped. "We must apply the Tzimisce's blood to every inch of
her before it all flows into the ground." He rushed back to gather more of the thing's
Vitae in his cupped hands.
Cameron lifted Lillie's body and carried it to the creature's side. She moaned a little,
but that was all. He pulled off his torn jacket and spread beside the creature where some
of it's Vitae would drip on it. Then he used his shirt to wipe off the thing's carapace.
"What are you doing, Brujah?" Lillie moaned when he touched the bloody cloth to the
burnt side of her face. He could literally wipe the damage way.
"I'm wiping the dirt off of you," he lied, grinning down at her. "Lay still."
"Go to Hell," she grated, trying to sit up. Cameron caught her shoulders and gently
forced her flat again. Daedalus poured Vitae over her left hand and Cameron watched the
fingers grow back.
"You're grinning like the cat that got the canary," Lillie observed. "What are you up
"Up to?" Cameron laughed. "My darling Ms. Langtry, you are looking at the
champion who single-handedly destroyed our worst enemy." Daedalus was working on
her leg now, gently reshaping it back to it's original form. "I destroyed a Tzimisce warrior
of the Sabbat. That's no small achievement."
"I can see it now, Julian will give Brujah Clan the honor we deserve," he continued
grandly. "Young Brujah will come from all over just to hear me tell the tale. As a matter
of fact, I think that some of your Toreador should create something to commemorate the
battle." He kept on bragging until Lillie was as good as new. And all she did was roll her
eyes in annoyance; Cameron doubted if she even knew of the extent of her injuries. With
Caine's luck and a little more bragging, she never would.
Alex watched with stunned amazement as his pack-mates were slaughtered. Lillith had
told him to stay out of the fight, she hadn't wanted him getting in the way. He wanted to
rush out and help her when the Gangrel had attacked, but she seemed to be holding her
own. Then she'd lured the Prince in close....
The end had come so suddenly. Poor Lillith hadn't had a chance. And now Alex was
all alone. He'd have to report to the Priscus, he realized. He'd tell them everything, and
they would mount another assault on San Francisco. Alex would see his pack-mates
revenged, he knew he would.
He did his best to hide his tears as he slunk away.
Cyrus took the telegram out of his pocket again just as his limousine pulled past the
heavy steel gates of his mansion. He had read it at least twenty times already, but the
three short sentences made him smile with utter relief. 'Prince lives stop. All agents
extinguished stop. No one to blame stop.' Twelve words. Three sentences. Cyrus was
He folded up the paper again and replaced it in his pocket. A discrete phone call to
Sacramento verified that San Francisco had been attacked by members of the Sabbat.
There had been a few casualties - three Brujah Clan, one Toreador and one Gangrel - but
five of the Sabbat had also been extinguished, including a Lasombra.
Lillith was extinguished, Cyrus smiled smugly. He almost didn't care that Julian Luna
still existed. At least Luna had managed to destroy the Lasombra bitch that had
blackmailed and controlled Cyrus for the last five years. Now Cyrus was the master of his
own fate again. Now he could run Los Angeles the way he wanted, not the way that the
Lasombra directed. Now that he was free everything was going to work out. The Fates
smiled on him again.
Now that Lillith and her damned Sabbat pack were out of the picture, no one knew
that he'd had 'help' becoming Prince of the city, Cyrus realized suddenly. Well, there
might be others who suspected, but only because they too had succumbed to the
Lasombra's whispered promises. The thought made him want to dance with delight. He
touched the telegram in his pocket again, just to assure himself that this was all really
Morgan opened the door of the Limousine, and helped Cyrus out of the car. The huge
black car was not the most comfortable vehicle available, but it was the best protected.
Shatter-proof glass, armor plating and tires that wouldn't deflate when punctured were a
suitable trade-off for the little difficulty he had climbing in and out of the thing. Now that
Cyrus was Prince of Los Angeles, he wasn't going to give the city up easily, to anyone.
Three more of his Childer stood by the door, uzis in hand. Cyrus nodded to them as he
passed. The metal detector went off as he walked through it, just as it always did.
Morgan and Peter handed their pistols to the guard, then piled their switchblades, keys,
back-up pieces, spare ammo and coins on the small counter before walking through the
detector's arch. Peter even took off his belt and jewelry. Cyrus had standing orders that if
the metal detector's alarm sounded for anyone but him, the guards were to shoot first, and
ask questions later. No one, not even the city's Primogens or Cyrus' Childer were
exempted. There were no chances taken when it came to his safety, Cyrus made damn
sure of that.
Andrew met him at the bottom of the stairs with a glass of wine and the night's
messages. Cyrus scanned them disinterestedly until both Morgan and Peter had finished
dressing themselves, then waived his Toreador butler away. Andrew had served the last
Prince of the city, and was useful when it came to knowing the correct wines and other
such trivia. Otherwise he was a bit of a nuisance. The Toreador bowed as he withdrew,
and Cyrus followed Morgan and Peter up to his room.
Cyrus touched the telegram in his pocket again as he stood in the hall. His two Childer
searched his bedroom thoroughly every night. They had found a Toreador seductress one
night, a simple bomb made of plastic explosives another. Tonight they found nothing.
"Good rest, Sire," they nodded as they left. Cyrus didn't bother to respond. He simply
walked into his daytime haven and engaged the three locks that would keep him safe
through long hours of the day.
Finally protected by locks and guards and steel bars, Cyrus shrugged out of his jacket
and pulled out the telegram again. He read it one last time, wishing he could keep it,
before lighting it and letting burn in one of his ashtrays.
"Good-bye, Lillith," he whispered softly.
"It is kind of you to honor her memory," a man's voice said from behind him.
Cyrus spun around, his gun leaping into his hand and leveled at the stranger's heart. He
was a tall, thin man in black turtleneck and jeans. Continuing to sit at his ease in Cyrus'
chair, the stranger seemed to take no notice of the weapon. "Who the hell are *you*?"
Cyrus demanded. "And how did you get in here?"
"I beg your pardon, my lord," the stranger bowed his head. Cyrus saw that his long
white hair was fastened at the nape of his neck with a single black ribbon. Otherwise the
stranger was very ordinary looking. "But I did not wish to attract unwanted attention by
introducing myself where we might be seen." He straightened to look at Cyrus with eyes
that were startlingly dark. "You may call me Sejanus. I was the Sire of the woman you
knew as Lillith."
"What do you want?" Cyrus demanded, praying that he didn't sound shrill.
Sejanus raised one eyebrow quizzically. "What do *I* want?" He repeated. "Why,
nothing, my Prince. Only to serve you as my Childe did. To continue where she left off in
elevating you to your rightful position as ruler of all California. To succeed in eliminating
your enemies where she so miserably failed."
Cyrus felt his good mood evaporate like the dew. Freedom had never been so brief.
"I owe you an apology, Cash," Julian said. He had found the Gangrel Primogen out in
the garden just as Lorraina said he would. Cash was sitting on the lawn, looking up at
Orion the Hunter. That had been Stevie's favorite constellation too.
"It's okay, Julian," Cash smiled. "I'm just glad to be home."
"I insist," Julian replied. "You were falsely accused and I..."
"You did your duty as Prince of the City."
"No," Julian insisted, his brows drawing together. "I should have...."
Cash climbed to his feet. "Julian, forget it. This whole thing was as much my fault as
it was yours. I don't blame you for calling a Hunt against me. You did what you had to
do. I was the one who didn't do my duty. If anyone should be apologizing, it's me."
"Don't be ridiculous," the Prince objected. "You have nothing to apologize for. You
were the one who was wronged."
"You think so?" Cash grinned lopsidedly. "I'll tell you, Julian, I had lots of time to
think while Sonny and I were cooped up in hiding. And I realized that I've wronged
*you*. Not just with the Sabbat, but ever since Stevie died."
Julian opened his mouth to protest, but Cash didn't let him speak. "Let me finish.
When Stevie was extinguished, I felt pretty lost. I may be the oldest Gangrel in the city,
but I know I'm still barely an Ancilla. I knew I had to be Clan Primogen, but frankly I was
overwhelmed by the responsibility. Add with all the other stuff that's been going on -
Sasha, that Gangrel Starkweather and Goth and everything else - Well, I didn't know if I
was coming or going most of the time."
"None of us did," Julian said gently.
"I don't know how to say this, Julian," Cash continued looking the Prince in the eyes.
"But if it hadn't been for you I think I would have messed up a lot sooner, and a lot worse,
than I did. You've gone out of your way to help me, and I want you to know how much I
"It was no trouble," Julian protested.
"Yes, it was," Cash corrected with a crooked smile. The moon bleached his hair to
the color of old bone, while the gentle breeze played with it. "You may not want to admit
it, but it's true: you do prefer the Gangrel. You've pampered us and protected us a
thousand times in a thousand different ways. You've pampered and protected me
"I owed it to Stevie," Julian replied softly.
"Being in hiding made me realize just how much I've come to rely on you," Cash
kicked at the grass trying to hide the beginning of a blush. He wasn't looking at Julian
now. "You've been like a Sire to me, Julian. I mean that."
"Thank you," Julian knew he sounded startled. He certainly felt startled, and more
than a little pleased. "That's... that is quite a compliment."
Cash shook his head. "I'm glad you think so, I guess. You see, that's where I went
wrong. I shouldn't have thought of you like that. I shouldn't have relied on you so much
to teach me and guide me and protect me."
Cash looked into Julian's eyes again. Julian could see the young Gangrel strain as he
forced himself to keep his gaze steady. "You're not my Sire, Julian."
Julian couldn't hide his flinch, knew that the younger Gangrel could see the hurt in his
eyes. "I... see," he said finally. "Of course, I never expected to supplant Stevie in your
Cash laughed. "Caine's name, Julian! It isn't your fault; it's mine!" He squeezed
Julian's arm. "I should never have presumed so far! You aren't my Sire. You can't be.
But you'll always be my Prince."
Now it was Julian's turn to blush. Standing in the pale moonlight, Cash reminded him
so much of Stevie Ray that Julian thought his heart would break. He had never had a
chance to properly mourn Stevie. Archon had never really given him the chance to say
goodbye to his confidant, cohort and best friend. "Thank you," he said simply.
Cash laughed and kicked at the turf again. "If I had remembered that, I think a lot of
this mess could have been avoided. I shouldn't have presumed so much. I shouldn't have
taken your favor for granted. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten so angry when I thought
you had betrayed Stevie. I apologize. I hope you can forgive me someday. And I hope I
can regain your trust."
"Forgiven," Julian smiled. "And I can't think of another Kindred who I could trust
"Does that mean I get to be your bodyguard again?" Cash grinned.
"Thank you, Julian," Cash said, his young face shining with sincerity.
"Shall we go back to house?" Julian invited. Cash nodded and they began to meander
towards the mansion.
"Y'know, Julian," Cash broke the companionable silence. "I should warn you: I never
could stand up to my Sire, but I think I can stand up to my Prince." He nodded
affirmatively to himself. "I think that there are going to have to be some changes made
around here. Stevie never would have let you get away with half the shit you've pulled
since he was destroyed."
Julian stopped dead at the edge of the lawn. "What do you mean," he demanded.
"Going off on your own to challenge Goth," Cash smiled, nudging Julian in the ribs.
"Not taking anyone with you when you went off to Manzanita. Driving your own car.
That shit's gonna stop, Julian."
"I owned a car before your grandfather was born, Cash," Julian responded coldly. "I
*do* know how to drive."
"No, you don't," Cash laughed. "There is a reason that Stevie wouldn't let you get a
driver's licence. Even though you are the Prince of the city, you still have to obey those
little red signs that say 'stop' on them. And the rectangular signs with numbers on them
"I know what a speed limit is, Cash," Julian insisted primly. "And while my driving
skills are a little rusty...."
Cash burst out laughing. "A little rusty? *Lillie's* a better driver than you are, Julian,
and that's saying a lot."
"I think that we will have to discuss this over carefully," Julian replied.
"No," Cash contradicted. "No discussions. No negotiations. I'm your bodyguard, and
we're going to this *my* way."
"I wonder if it's too late to rehire Lorraina," Julian tried to hide his smile and failed.
"Sorry, Julian, you're stuck with me. I don't care if you were the Ventrue Enforcer for
a century, you're the Prince now, and I'm going to make sure you stay that way."
"It's good to have you back, Cash," Julian chuckled thinking how proud Stevie Ray
would be of his Childe right now.
"Flattery's not going to work, either," the young Gangrel laughed.
"Do you really think you are more stubborn than I am?"
"About this?" Cash grinned. "Oh yeah."
He just might be, Julian thought, and realized that he had already lost the battle.
"Things are certainly going to be interesting around here," he chuckled. Together, he and
Cash walked back into the mansion.