New Haven: Blood Feuds

Chapter 3 Extension: Shovock

This is just a single scene (short one too) . Since my player decided that the format of playing over google docs does not fit him, I’m starting to look for another player. So if you’re interested, drop me a message. I can either offer you to continue with the story as Shovock, or making your own character to play (definitely meeting Shovock then)

anyways, here it goes:

Scene – Monsters

He opened his eyes. The taste of ash was still in his mouth. The ground trembled a little and he could hear as the huge wall is parting.

Shovock lifted his head, he could see his brother and Sarah struggling with the chains a bit. Then foul stench hit his nose. Strangely he could still feel Ellenore. He wondered what diablerie truly entailed, considering his options.

At least the way forward was free once more. For a while there, he’d feared Ellenore’s foolishness would have gotten them both stuck; luckily, that did not appear to be the case. The Goddess had accepted his sacrifice. It proved she had not been worthy. But he was. He looked at the two chained up, then proceeded. With some luck, they could be spared; he really wanted to look into their condition more. What were they, exactly? The puzzle already excited him.

Something inside of him became at ease with his decision. Did he care more than he told himself? Preposterous. Especially for the girl, Sarah. Why would he care about her? He glanced over his shoulder. Why indeed?

Shovock stepped forwards, towards the source of the smell. When he was behind the arc, which opened up, he stepped several steps down to find himself next to a pool of blood. In the pool he could make out corpses and piles of decaying corpses to the sides. The stench came from the corpses, but the pool itself, the pool smelled sweet, it smelled like fresh blood and Shovock felt his beast urging him to drink.

In the middle of the scene he saw an altar, further behind another wall. But this wall was different. He still felt strange from the diablerie he committed, his hand was still tingling in pain.

He looked at the pool, sorely tempted. Yet he meant no disrespect, and so approached first the altar, to see if another message was awaiting him there.

He stepped into the blood. It felt warm. Walking forward was harder than he anticipated. He approached the altar. It had symbols and runes carved into it. The images. He lifted his head, now he could see the wall much clearer. In all its might the big picture could be discerned now. He could see vampires fighting. Mother of Monster giving birth to new ones. Powerful gods fighting between themselves and as ones fell new ones would be born from the blood and screams of the fallen ones. All of the images had runes upon them, strange runes which had no meaning.

But Shovock could understand them, the whole glory, the awe of the sight. He could see and understand it all, he could feel the power at his fingertips, he was chosen by the Goddess, he knew that he’s at the right place and that to get here – no price is too much.

And it was not written, but he also knew “My price is Creation”.

Shovock laughed, his sides shaking with mirth. Price? This was no price to him. He could feel strange knowledge rushing through his mind. It was invigorating. He looked back at the pool of red. That was his building material, he could see it now. He knelt beside it and leaned in to drink, to see if it tasted as good as it smelled.

The taste was as good as the smell. It was fresh blood. The best blood he has ever tasted.

He knew that he can create something glorious and pass this test. He also knew that with this power he can probably put some sense into the chained ones. At best they’ll be proper vampires now, at worst it will win some more time for him to find out what to do with them.

Feeling his new power, he started casting his ritual…

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Chapter 3 - The Trial

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Scene 1 – The Initiation of Acolytes

Ellenore was told to go to a very precise hut, next to a forest, not far away from New Haven. There, she would be met by Hadley, her sire, and introduced into the Covenant. Now that she’s finally a true member of their society this celebration is hers as any other believers. At the same time, this is her first real opportunity to meet others of the Circle of the Crone.

She was quite excited, despite still feeling strangely worn out from her earlier daytime adventure. She went to the hut slightly early, eager to get started. Would she finally catch a glimpse of the wonders beneath the everyday drudgery that had so far only been hinted at?

The hut seemed abandoned, the path to it rarely tread at all. But now, there were dimmed lights in the windows. Not enough to create any sort of actual illumination within the hut, but it’s bright enough so that anyone approaching would know – someone is inside.

She continued on up to the hut, unsure what to do for a moment before knocking on the door.
Not a single sound escaped the hut, so after another moment’s hesitation she pushed open the door and stepped inside.

She noticed a small candle burning, and a man standing in the corner. The rest of the hut was completely dark. For a mortal, he would have been completely indiscernible from the background. At least sometimes her new found capabilities gave her benefits.

She saw a vampire, with eyes black as coal, with black veins stretching around his face, in a cloak, standing there. Watching her.

She felt a bit uncomfortable. “Umm… hey. I was told to come here? By Hadley. She’s my sire?”

“Hello. Well, that makes two of us,” he answered, his voice was a lot more pleasant than Ellenore anticipated. It was normal, compared to the rest of his looks.

“Oh, umm… hey. I’m Ellenore. Pleased to meet you. What happened to-” She swallowed back the question. It was probably not very polite. “Eh, hello, yes.”

“You can call meShovock. To my what? My face?” he said taking a step forward, into the slightly lighter spot. Ellenore could see that those black veins are slowly twisting on his face.

“Oh, well, I didn’t mean to imply anything by it. It’s just a bit… unusual.” She smiled sheepishly.

He smiled as well, his smile looked a lot more honest than Ellenore’s. “You haven’t met a lot of us, have you? You should see my sire. Or the butcher. Those faces are pretty fucked up”

“Wait, you’re Nosferatu, aren’t you? I haven’t met much Kindred at all outside of my family.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re called. Nosferatu… You start to wonder how did this name get into the name of the vampire movie in 30s, don’t you? Some elders had to go around busting heads for that one.”

Ellenore blinked for a moment, then laughed. There was something about the guy that made it easier to overcome the initial shock of his face. “Ooo, I can just imagine the scene now. Some people just watching a movie when in the back an Elder starts kicking his neonate’s ass, and nobody has any idea what the hell they’re doing… Hehe…”

“Yeah, the Invictus had to go crazy. And then, it all turns around, and no one bats an eye out of the movie… And then they realise that the so called Masquerade Breach was nothing more than some entertainment to our grandparents. Anyways, what about you?”

“Me? I’m Duchagne.” She felt a small stab of pride at the words. Despite her doubts about some of the family’s rougher sides, she rather liked being part of a lineage that could get anything, from anyone. She didn’t like liking it.

“Duchagne? And who’s that? Ventrue? Daeva?” he asked, before stepping a step back, the darkness hid some of the ugliness of his face.

“Daeva. I had assumed our parties would be legendary across the city.”

“Sorry, never heard the name. I didn’t get to talk with many other vampires myself, so you’ll have to excuse me for not knowing stuff.”

“Hehe, that’s good. We can both feel less unsure knowing the other is also mostly clueless.” She sits down upon a chair. “So, what did you do at your Grand Masque? Or are you still a protege?”

“A what?”

Ellenore frowned. “You know… the party you get to throw when they decide you are qualified to move from protege to neonate status. Grand Masque.”

“Ha… A party? How about getting your eyes burned out, being dropped into the deepest cavern under the city… and they go a long way down… much longer than the officials would dare to admit and then having to climb back out. I’ve been told that pretty much only one in ten get back up. Others get eaten by the things down there, go insane or worse. Anyways, let’s better talk about your pleasant party. So what did you do at your Grand Masque?”

“I uhh… did acrobatics with a burning hoop. It’s not quite as impressive as your ordeal I guess…”

“But I bet it was much more pleasant experience for everyone involved. You’ll have to show me some acrobatics one day. Mind if I join you by the table?” he motioned towards a chair on the other side of the table.

“Oh yes, for all the non-kine involved. And by all means.” She smiled at him.

He left the shadow and sat on the chair. This was the closest he got to Ellenore. She could see him in great detail now.

It didn’t bother her as much as it had at first glance. She started to tick her fingernails against the table blade. “They sure like making us wait.”

He checked his clock out. “Um, we still got 5 minutes until the time is up. We’re both early.”

“Now I remember why I’m normally fashionably late. I hate waiting.”

“Well, be glad that you’ve picked this side. Heard they really care about bureaucracy over there. So, anyways, why exactly this side of the party? After all, an Aaeva, and as you said, a party hostess, is such a natural fit in the Invictus, no? Heard there ain’t too many of Daeva’s in the Circle.”

“I tried Invictus once, got stabbed in the back for it.” She shrugged. “Besides, what more can the Invictus offer me? There’s only material delights there. One of our elders is Invictus, yet when she wants a bit of fine wine she calls the Circle. I want to see what else lies hidden in the depths.”

“You wanna see what lies hidden in the depths? I can show you some of that. Places where without Lygos guidance one should never go”

“Where the blood curdles and hairs go white?”

“That’s a poetic way to say it. But yeah, if you want to see some hidden stuff, there’s no better place then the underbelly of this city.”

Ellenore nodded. “I might take you up on that sometime… could be fun.” And if it wasn’t, that’d be fine, too. She deserved a little of that at times.

“Sure, we can arrange this sometime after tonight. Anyways, what do you think is waiting for us exactly?”

“Fire. Blood. Naked dancing in the moonlight.”

“Yeah, but it’s our initiation. It can’t be that simple, can it?”

Ellenore grinned. “Naked dancing outside always sounds simpler than it ends up being, trust me. I’ve tried.”

With those words they heard steps approaching the cabin.

“Seems that we’re done waiting.”

Ellenore nodded, getting up from her seat.

A few moments later someone knocked at the door. Ellenore stepped forward, opening it. “Hello?”

“Good evening,” said the man behind the door. “I’m Henry. And today, I’ll be showing you the path to the summit location.” He looked pretty average. A bit strange too, with hair falling over half of his face.

“Sounds great. My name’s Ellenore, pleased to meet you.” She stepped to the side a bit to allow for Shovock to make his introductions.

“And I’m Shovock. So what’s waiting for us?”

“So eager? Good. The gods will judge if you’re fit soon enough.”

Ellenore remained silent. There had been one ‘Goddess’ judging her at the Duchagne party. She was expecting more of the same.

Henry led them out of the cabin and they started walking deeper into the forest. It was silent, strangely so. You’d expect a vampire celebration to be at least somewhat audible. Only an owl’s screech disturbed the night..

Ellenore didn’t feel much inclined to talk either. She rubbed one of her arms. There were no goosebumps, of course, but there would have been. Her heart was still, rather than racing in her chest. She missed those little signs a little bit.

After a while they approached a huge stone. Going around it, they found a small entrance into a cave. Henry turned towards them.
“Looks like we’re here,” he said before climbing down the hole.

Shovock looked at Ellenore “Told you it won’t be that simple.“ He stepped towards the cave as well.

“Hey, we could still naked-dance inside the cave. Maybe…” She shrugged as she followed him in. “Prooobably not, though.”

“On the plus side,” she heard Shovock’s voice a few steps down, “seeing me naked is probably not the most pleasant of sights, so you save that for yourself.”

“Oh well, the Duchagne are master of the pleasant and disturbing both. Some more than others.”

After saying this she felt a cold wind pass her, it didn’t look like there should be any wind here.

She frowned for a moment, thinking someone was testing her. She didn’t remark upon it as they slipped down into the cave.

After a while there was only darkness. But in the end of a tunnel she could make out a door. It was a dirty, old door, with a chain and a lock, which looked over a century old. Upon coming to the door, Henry looked at them.

“Last chance to go home.”

Shovock was quick to answer. “Are you joking?”

“We’re already quite at home, aren’t we Shovock?”

“Yeah, what’s behind the door?”

“So eager. So be it. Perhaps we’ll meet. Perhaps we won’t.” He leaned towards the lock and whispered something, then pulled on the handle of the door, and it opened. The chain itself opened its links to allow passage. “Go ahead, and meet your destiny”. Shovock immediatly stepped inside, and was swallowed by the mist.

Ellenore followed right behind him, glancing at the mist curiously.

Just after she entered the mist she felt the door being closed behind her. Curiously, from this side, the door looked even older than before, and had some strange glyphs upon it.

Ellenore stopped to observe the glyphs for a moment, before turning back towards Shovock. “I feel like I’m in a movie.”

“And which movie is this? Or perhaps, what type? A comedy? A tragedy? Funny thing ‘bout those two, they’re usually identical… except in one you’re laughing from the events in another one you’re supposed to cry. Or so they say.”

“What about tragi-comedy?”

“So if we die, let’s die laughing? That will be a fitting sacrifice to the gods. What do you think about this mist?” he said waving his arms around a little bit “It doesn’t feel substantial. Like… yeah, It’s a mist, it’s supposed to be that… but I mean even less.”

“I hope it’s a hallucinogen. That’ll be fun.” She laughed softly. After which she noticed some footprints on the floor, and a passage deeper in the mist.

“Ha… He could have at least mention what we’re supposed to do down here.“

“I think I got it, follow me.” She began following the footprints down the passage.

They started going down the path. Ellenore felt her foot hit something small. When she picked it up she realised it was a wallet. She started leafing through its contents. “That’s strange, who would leave a wallet in here?”

The wallet belonged to someone called Timothy Sabo. Shovock was inspecting the wall. “Perhaps the last person to go through here?”

She passed the wallet onto him to have a look before they continued. “How sloppy of him to leave it here.”

“What the hell… It’s… Impossible… how…”

She raised an eyebrow as she looked at him over her shoulder.

“Uh… we should probably move on,” he said before starting to walk the path again, still looking at the wallet.

“Someone you know?”

“It’s my brother’s… “

“Maybe we are hallucinating after all.”

“Hope so… “

At which they reached what looked like a wall. Upon further examination they noticed there’s a hole in it, with what seems like a plate inside.

“Hmm, what do we have here?” Ellenore stooped to observe the plate. It looked like the plate itself is fixed in it’s placed. After checking it out a little bit more and carefully touching the plate Ellenore realised that it’s some sort of weighing plate. She pressed down upon it gently. However nothing happened, there was no click, nothing. She realized there was a pretty big layer of dust on the bowl. After carefully cleaning it off, she found words etched into it. Pain is my price.

“Ooo… pain is my price… how wonderfully melodramatic.”

“Tribulation and all that. Well, this one ain’t too hard then, is it?”

She smiled, putting a hand against his chest. “Hurt me.”

“I can take this one, don’t worry.”

She pouted. “You think I can’t take a little pain?”

“Aren’t you a party lady of the Duchagne? Besides that, how do you think we’re going to weigh your pain? Catch it in the air and place it on the plate?”

“We could take off a hand! Would have to gnaw through the wrist, I suppose! An eye would be easier, but it’d really suck if it was too light!” Normally, she might have felt slightly abashed at her excitement. She always thought herself deserving of pain, but she usually didn’t quite admit to herself that she wanted some of it. In the dark, misty depths of the cave, honesty came easier.

“Well, I guess we won’t come to an agreement, besides that, we should both sacrifice, shouldn’t we? Two hands cut at the wrist should please the gods. If not, there’s always more.”

“You take off mine, I’ll take off yours? Just keep the blood away. I have enough addictions as it is.”

“Afraid to fall in love with a freak? Ha… How do you suggest to take them off? Got any knife strapped under your cloths by any chance?”

Ellenore grinned at him, tapping a finger against one of her fangs.

“And how do you suggest to keep the blood away if we’re biting at each other?”

“Fair point! Guess we just bite ourselves then, for lack of a better plan.”

“Sounds, as good as anything. Care to do it one after another one?”

Ellenore shrugged. “I suppose I shouldn’t discourage chivalry. By all means.”

Shovock looked at her “Sometimes showing our ugly side is relieving, ain’t it?” before growling his fangs extending and eyes filling with anger. Ellenore realised that this is no longer Shovock, but his own beast, directed against his hand, he bit with great ferocity and within moments his hand fell to the floor, with him clenching his wound in the other one.

He was on his knees, his pain was obvious.

“You sure know how to commit.”

“The gods will accept no less.”

Ellenore nodded towards the weighing plate. “Let’s measure their acceptance then.”

Still on the ground, Shovock crawled towards the plate and placed his hand onto the plate. Nothing happened.

“Guess they know there’s two of us! Allow me.” She bared her fangs, before burrowing them into her wrist just under her hand. She gasped with shock for a moment, but then started to rip away, gnawing her way through, leaning against the cavern wall with her other hand, forgetting the rest for a moment, just sinking into the pain until she’s all the way through.

Her legs trembled by the time she put her severed hand on top of Shovock’s. “Aww, look, our hands are holding hands…” She licked her fangs. Who knew this would taste so damn good? That was the danger of it, though. She had to be careful.

The plate pushed itself down, and the whole wall started moving. It was rotating, after spinning for 90 degrees it stopped. Ellenore saw that the passage continues.

“Ladies first, right?”

“Now you’re calling for my chivalry? We can just go together. It’s not like they want us dead or something… Probably heavily mutilated will be sufficient. Or the gods might decide to eat us whole. We’ll see,” he said starting to move towards the darkness, still holding his arm.

“Sounds like bundles of fun,” she replied as she walked in with him.

They could see a wall, similar to the one they had before. However, this room was not empty. There were two creatures growling in the darkness. One to the left, one to the right. They looked humanoid, and within moments, the one to the left charged forward.

A chain rattled, there was a snap, the man, who had a collar around his neck fell to the ground. His feet were in the front. It didn’t seem that he even realized what stopped his charge. Ellenore could feel a weak beast within him. His eyes full of anger, he was growling and hissing at them.

“What’s… this? It’s not entirely Kindred, or if it is, it feels weak to me…” She took a step forward again after having recoiled backwards.

There was no answer. Ellenore glanced at Shovock. He seemed frozen and shocked. Ellenore heard a quiet growl from the right, where she could sense the second weakling.

Ellenore sighed deeply. “This one is your brother, and when I glance to the right I’m going to find one belonging to me, aren’t I?”

Shovock looked at her. “In for a penny, in for a pound. Are you?” his voice was trembling a bit.

She took a look at what she supposed was her own hostage before answering. She saw the eyes first. Those beautiful blue eyes. Long black hair. Torn dress. Ellenore never saw Sarah’s face so full of hatred. “How the fuck did they even get her, of all people! In the last months we spoke once at the phone, and had one meeting… but that was today, during the day!”

“Why are they here?” asked Shovock.

“I intend to find out,” she said as she crouched down, looking at Sarah’s face. “Sarah? Can you understand what I’m saying?”

Sarah lunged towards, trying to slash Ellenore, however similarly to Shovock’s brother she was stopped by the chain. It looked like she didn’t even realise what was holding her back.

“I guess you can’t…” she bit her lip. “This is fucked up. What do we do?”

“Maybe there’s something on the wall,” he said, before turning and going for the wall. It seemed that there was a small path unreachable by the chained ones.

Ellenore crossed her arms, waiting for him to determine if that was the case. She glanced at both of the captives with pity. Sarah was still growling at her, trying to get at Ellenore. If it wasn’t for the looks, she could swear that it’s just an animal chained to a wall.

Shivock inspected the wall. With the back of his arm he removed a ton of dust on the middle. Ellenore could see that something is written there, but it was too far away to make out.

“My price.. is your blackened soul,” said Shovock

Ellenore gritted her teeth for a moment, before throwing up her hands in frustration “What’s that even supposed to mean? Does nobody speak English in this place?”

Shovock turned around and started walking towards Ellenore. “Blackened soul. Well, from moral standpoint, one could call a murderers soul dirty, or blackened. Do they expect us to kill them? But no… that’s not the way the Gods would see all of this. Simple murder is not it…”

“I’m not murdering anyone, for any reason, in any case!”

Shovock looked at her and continued in his train of thought. “Blackened soul… I could swear I heard it before. I’ve heard it before… but where”

Ellenore crossed her arms. “Diablerie.”

“You’re right” He looked at her. “I’ve heard one Mekhet speak of it. As if he could see the darkened souls of others. That’s how he described it.” He looked completely phased, as not to comprehend what this entails “Some say, that when you do it, you’re actually merging their souls into yours. Heard that Ordo Dracul people are using it to preserve their knowledge,” his eyes were still glass-like.

She looked at the wall in disgust. “That better not be it. Murder is murder.”

“They’re already dead, one could say. They’re just animals now, another could. They might be better off within us, third one could say. But all I can see is my beloved brother. Already suffering for my fate."

Ellenore sank to her knees. “J-just… animals? What do you mean? What did they do?”

“Look at them. Do you see your friend behind those angry eyes? Someone embraced them. Well failed to embrace them properly that is. And now they’re beasts. There’s quite a few of those below this city. Some monstrous elders even use such creatures as dogs.” He looked at his brother. “I’ll find whoever has killed you. He might have done so for the Gods, but that will not save him of my anger.”

Ellenore stood up, grabbing Shovock by the shirt. “You’ve seen this before! Is there a cure? Surely there must be something!”

“Is there a cure for death? My brother is already dead… However,” he said after a small pause." I’ve heard rumors. No, legends, that these creatures can be made into proper vampires."

“How?” she asked, feeling slightly choked. “And do it without calling Sarah a creature.”

“Would I call it a legend if I knew? It’s easier to call them as such. "

“‘They’ would fucking do just as well, and it’s shorter to boot!” She turned away, pressing her one hand up against her face, pressing softly against her eyes. “The legends could have held more specific instructions. Like they do for vampires in the movies. I had to ask.”

“Yeah. You did," he said before taking a step to stand by her side.

“I need to take her with me,” Ellenore said in a small voice, barely a whisper.

“We need to open the door, if we are to proceed.”

Ellenore shook her head. “You go if you want, I can’t…” She covered her lips as she began to cry bloody tears, her voice muffled. “I was always a b-bad person. I… wanted to change. Sarah was… is… the best of us. I can’t… walk on over her corpse… I won’t…”

Shovock looked at her, then at her brother, not daring to look back, at his own. “You haven’t been listening to what Acolytes believe, have you? Besides that… the previous wall could perfectly measure when we made our sacrifice. This one doesn’t even have scales.“

“How the fuck was I supposed to know this was what they put behind all that vague Goddess bullshit!” she beat her fist against the floor. “If they’re really so great, they’ll… they’ll have measures in place in case only one candidate proves suitable.” She put her arms around herself, the stump sticking out awkwardly. “Maybe it’s already detected that I’ve lost the resolve… and is just waiting to see what you will do.”

“Maybe. Or maybe not,” he looked around. “I wish I could help you, somehow.”

She wiped away some blood from her face. “I don’t deserve help… Sarah does.”

“I can’t help her. Perhaps I can help you,” he sat down on the floor.

She took out her Colt M191, stroking the handgun against her cheek. “I should have helped myself with this… long ago. Before I…” She paused for a moment. “I tried once, after. It hurt, but it didn’t work… it doesn’t work anymore…”

“What the hell. What are you thinking? No, actually not. Do it. Shoot yourself. Make sure that Sarah’s death is as meaningless as possible by killing yourself. That will help. Making her death completely meaningless and killing yourself in the process.”

Ellenore laughed softly, desperately, pressing her hand against one eye and her stump against her stomach, as if she wasn’t feeling well. She tossed the gun aside. “You’re right. It won’t help. Not like that.” She glanced at Sarah again, her eye wide. The Beast was in her, but weak. “Too weak. She’s too weak.”

“They are here, to become our part. To strengthen us. With their strength, we could find out who dragged them here. And we could sacrifice them to the Gods they so love.”

“Yes… yes. Strengthen…” Ellenore stood up unsteadily, pulling at her collar with her one hand, ripping the fabric to expose more of her neck. “One plus a half is one and a half… but half plus one is, too. She’s too weak. But she can be strengthened…” She walks towards Sarah, smiling in relief. “Two souls must be paid. But I can choose which one…”

Shovock stood up. “Do you think Sarah is strong enough to take revenge against those who dragged her here? They are within the Circle, those who set up these trials. Do you think Sarah will get in there to do it?”

“It’s alright. Revenge is… empty. She will exist. That’s enough. She will exist.” She glanced over her shoulder. “If you can… take care of her… for me. She will be lonely…”

“Sarah has already passed. And you want to drag her back to this world. To our existence. To be dragged down to the depths of this city, where Lygos belong? I wouldn’t wish this life to the worst of your enemies if I were you. And you want to throw that to your beloved friend? or sister… Just because you are too weak to handle this? To make sure that her death is not in vain?”

Ellenore smiled at him. “Some say, that when you do it, you’re actually merging their souls into yours,” she repeated in his voice. “I’m dragging her into it either way… but she deserves the chance to be the one in control. She’ll do better than I ever could… than I ever did…” She took another step forward.

Sarah was growling at her, trying to reach Ellenore.

Ellenore stretched her hands out towards her, making soothing noises as she tried to entwine their fingers, advancing slowly. “Sshh… shh… it’s okay… I’m letting you…”

Sarah’s growl went a little bit more silent. However, her eyes still betrayed ferocity.

Ellenore stepped within her reach, stroking the girl’s hair. “I’m so sorry…”

As soon as she was completely within reach Sarah pounced upon Ellenore. Biting down her neck. The other girl cringed, groaning and panting as the fangs rip into her; if only this could come with the pleasure allowed to mortals… she kept stroking the other girl’s hair as she felt herself being bitten over and over. She probably wasn’t going to make a very pretty corpse by the end…

She felt her blood being drained bit by bit, bite by bite. Soon enough, she also felt an animal inside of her. One which didn’t want to give away her blood. One which wanted to fight back, but she resisted. She fought back against it, digging her heels into the soil. If there had ever been anything she had been sure about, it was this moment, now. She’d wanted to do some good, but all she’d managed to do was keep from being the biggest bad. She’d let people die in front of her because she was scared to talk back. She’d gotten people addicted because she didn’t want to offend. She got Sarah killed, because she hadn’t got the guts to end it all herself.

This was the least she could do. The last she would. The pain and the struggle flowed together. It became a blur. There was nothing else.

Suddenly she felt somebody’s hands, dragging her back.

She clung to Sarah. “Let go… no… I’ve got to do this… I will… I’ve made… my choice…”

“For fucks sake, Ellenore! Snap out of it! She wouldn’t do it. She let you go and started pummeling your face. All your little act would have achieved is your own death,” she heard Shovock’s raised voice.

“You need to be torpid for diablerie… idiot…”

“What? Have you been smoking? You need to drink after you’re done drinking the blood. What she was doing was murdering you. You would have simply died, if I hadn’t dragged you out.”

“Had to get me there first… somehow.”

“Have you ever seen how it’s done?”

“No… and I don’ wanna…”

“As I said. You drink, and then you drink the soul out. You don’t stop to smash his head first.”

Ellenore panted while resting against him. “Just like… my brother… always so much smarter than me…”

“Uh… Sorry… I don’t wanna lecture you. I just don’t want you to die pointlessly.”

She laughed hoarsely, her throat partially torn out. “No… I meant you are smarter… not that you try to be… I’m a freaking dumbass… I knew it wasn’t working…” She coughs, trying to clear her throat from blockages that aren’t there. “I just… didn’t care anymore. I just…” She grabbed onto him with her hand, her words choked off as she started to cry.

Shovock took Ellenore in his arms. “Yeah, we’ve all been there. And now you’ve got to be stronger. If not for yourself, then for her. To make sure that those who did this to her – get your thanks. If that doesn’t interest you, to make sure, that Sarah doesn’t – didn’t – die pointlessly.”

“But I still… won’t do it… I won’t lessen myself… as they want me to…”

“So you’ll let her death be in vain? Or will you let her stay in this miserable form?”

“If there is one cure, there might be… others.” The pain speaking caused was immense, causing her to wheeze slightly. “I can’t… give up on it.”

“Like a cure to vampirism? She’s even in a worse condition then we are. Haven’t heard ways to cure us. Ellenore, you weakened yourself. If you don’t pull your shit together you will die. So will Sarah. You can always do what I did with my arm. Tell your beast to do it. Some things are easier to do when they’re left to the beast in our hearts.”

“More like a cure TO vampirism…” She coughed. “Some things… shouldn’t be easy… we shouldn’t let them be easy…”

“You’re right. It’s ironic, how you’re saying one of the main principles of the Circle now. Looks like you’re in the right place, after all.”

She growled, or at least tried to. The sound that actually came out was like the grave. “Don’t… fuck with me… I’m not like… whoever did this.”

“Or you are. Look at yourself now, beaten, hungry, by the looks of it. What’s next?”

Ellenore shrugged. “Tell me.”

“You’ll either get stronger and do what you have to do, or you’ll die.”

“Yeah? And who… says… this is what I’ve got to do?”

“I do. I won’t drag you out of here, so you only got two choices here. Turn over and die, or stand up and start doing something about this.”

She sat down onto the ground. “Just… kill us right now then. If this is the kind of world it is…” She coughed. “Then Sarah and I may as well leave right now…”

“No, I won’t. You can sit here and cry like a baby. And then your Beast will make the choice for you.”

She sighed, before croaking: “Then leave… me be. I put… everything I had… in that. I’m not… gonna do… the opposite now…”

“If you won’t – I will,” he only muttered. Traces of desperation could be heard in his voice.

“Shovock,” she said with that croaking voice of hers, hoarse like a sixty year old chain smoker, “I thought… you liked me? Don’t… you?” She put an alluring emphasise into the words. As she knelt against the wall. It was hard to concentrate, but she could try that much.

“Yeah, Ellenore. I like you a lot. But we can’t stop here. And I don’t want you to die.”

She coughed. “Help me… make Sarah live… please… anything else, I don’t care…”

Shovock looked at Ellenore. “It’s sad to see someone like you surrendering so easily. Let’s see if the Gods will hold you a sufficient sacrifice.” Ellenore felt Shovocks arms holding her in place. She couldn’t move. She saw how his fangs extended, moments before she felt them in her neck. At first, it wasn’t so bad. Then, she felt pain. It was almost worse than the thought of leaving Sarah there. She felt her soul itself leaving her body, sucked into Shovock’s hungry mouth.

She glanced at Sarah one last time as she felt her body go numb, resistance fading. “Thank you…” she whispered, “save…” And then, she was gone.

View
Chapter 2 - The Mortals
Meeting the ones, who are cursed to know Ellenore

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Scene 1 – Back at home

Ellenore woke up in this evening. Memories of yesterday’s success were still rolling over her mind. But here she was, back in her house. Queen of her game in the party, and an ordinary landlord here. She felt exhausted and hungry.

Ellenore heard some commotion downstairs, and decided to check it out right away. Normally she was the one being a bit too noisy at such a late hour, so that was unexpected.

Once she got down she realized that Everett was arguing with Jasper. Ellenore heard Jasper shout:
“I don’t want that shit in our home!”

She strode in, putting her hands in her side. “What the hell is going on here?”

Jasper looked at Ellenore:
“Everett is smoking god-damn weed in our yard!”

Ellenore raised an eyebrow. To someone with her history, weed was quite an innocent pastime. She didn’t grasp onto the situation right away. “Alright, so… what’s the ruckus about?”

“What’s the ruckus? What’s the goddamn ruckus? For fucks sake, he’s doing drugs in our backyard,” continued Jasper

Everett quickly responded:
“Oh c’mon, it’s just weed. It’s not like I’m doing anything bad”

“You’re breaking the law!”

“I think shouting at night is counted as disturbing the peace. Look, if he’s not hurting anyone but himself, fine, I guess. Just don’t smoke inside, and no sudden plantations in the yard, ok?” Ellenore shrugged. “Besides that I really don’t care. Surely you two can just stay out of each other’s hair?”

“What? Bah…” Jasper stormed out of the room.

Everett said:
“Don’t worry, Ellenore. I’m just smoking some. Umm.. Now what he’s not around, would you like some? We could go sit in the yard and relax a bit,” he said with a calm smile.

“There was someone I had to call, but… I guess I can take a moment to relax, yeah.” She grinned, walking out into the yard ahead of him.

Everett followed Ellenore into the yard. There he sat on the chair next to the table and started spinning the joint.

Ellenore watched him with keen interest; this was all somewhat nostalgic to her. “Where do you get your stuff?”

“Um… one dude at work. He used to walk around with red eyes all the time. I asked him once if he’s smoking he said no. After a couple more times I came up to him and said ‘I know you’re smoking’ after that confrontation he said yes… and now he sells it to me. Tho, he sat in jail for this so he’s very careful now… doesn’t even buy papers himself and rolls into ordinary paper…” he said while carefully looking at the paper

“Cops have nothing better to do than crack down on some harmless fun these days.”

“Yeah… He was a small time dealer back then. Wouldn’t even get into anything more serious than weed. Is quite reluctant right now too, only gives a call to some of his contacts from the old times who I go to meet.”
He was finishing up the joint.

“I’ve still got a few contacts as well… from my wilder days. Well, I guess it wasn’t wilder, just another kind of wild.” She throws her hair back over her shoulder, getting ready to avert her gaze for a bit if he gets out a lighter.

He pulls out a lighter. “Um.. Wanna start?” he asks extending the joint and the lighter towards Ellenore.

“Oh, nah, host goes first, light ‘em up, bad boy,” she nods at him encouragingly.

He lights it up, takes a few deep hits and hands the joint over to Ellenore.

Ellenore accepts it with a smile, drawing in herself, before slowly blowing out a cloud of smoke. It didn’t do anything for her, but she knew it wouldn’t. She’d take care of that. There were other ways. She handed the joint back to him. “I didn’t know Jasper cared so much about this stuff.”

“Seems he does,” he said before smoking some more. After a few more rounds the joint was done. Everett was sitting in his chair, calmly looking into the house nearby.

Ellenore let her seductive charm reach out towards him, smiling brightly as she touched the back of her fingers to his neck, stroking gently, letting her own inner desire crawl from her and underneath his skin.

Once he was sufficiently wrapped around her finger, she leaned in as if to kiss him, her fangs finding his neck. She let some of his warm blood run down her throat, and along with that the intoxication she could no longer achieve through ordinary ways. Drawing back, she gently licked the wound shut, closing her eyes to enjoy the dual buzz of blood and drugs for a moment.

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Scene 2 – Calling Sarah

After leaving Everett to his own buzzed-out sleep, she picked up her phone and rang up Sarah’s old number, emboldened by her own high. She paced around impatiently as the phone rang.

“Um.. hello?” said a sleepy voice from behind the line.

“Sarah! Hey! It’s Ellenore! Where’ve you been? Hello!” she said, way too enthusiastic.

“Ellenore? What time is it? Are you drunk?”

Ellenore giggled into the phone. “What? Drunk? Me? Pff, I don’t drink, silly! Not anymore. Not like, alcohol. I drink some stuff, need to drink to stay alive, you know? Haha, yeah. I don’t know the time. My phone is my watch, and I can’t find it! I thought it was in my pocket…”

“What? Ellenore, why are you calling me?” she said with a slightly irritated voice.

“Cuz I miss you, you know?” She lets out a little sob. “I wanna see you again…”

“After what you’ve done, you want to see me? While drunk?”

“‘m not drunk,” she said sulkily. “‘m just… bit high… only a bit. And ‘m sorry, I was stupid!”

“Yes, you were. Perhaps they say the truth.. drunk people say what they actually think. Whatever the case. If you want to apologise to me, then do it while being sober. Good night.” she said before hanging up.

Ellenore lowered the cellphone away from her ear, sobbing for a little bit, her eyes streaked with a few bloody tears, until she spotted the cellphone in her hand. “Oh… that’s where it is! Should I call her to say I found it? Maybe not…”

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Scene 3 – Meeting the Ghoul

The Pulse was completely empty tonight. Well, at least the VIP part of it. Ellenore was sitting alone waiting for the man she ghouled yesterday. The man, who fought for his own life and won. She just now realised that she didn’t even know his name.

She was tapping her foot to the rhythm of the beat, seemingly feeling pretty good about everything just about then, not even caring about sitting there all by herself. She was pretty good at keeping herself occupied within the confines of her own mind when she was coursing off on her latest high.

After a couple minutes a man was led her by the Pulse’s waitress. “Here you go, Ellenore is waiting for you here.” She pointed at your table, bowed her head a little. “Would you like anything?” She asked Ellenore.

“Oh yeah, I’d like to send an invite, but not yet, yeah? I’ll call you.” She jovially tapped the table with the flat of her hand. “Sit down, sit down… guy! What’s your name? I can’t call you guy.”

“Um.. I’m Darius.” It was obvious that he’s kind lost and worried.

“Darius! Wow! Sit down, relax!” she laughed at him for a moment. “We didn’t meet in the best of circumstances, did we? I’m Ellenore, hello!” She held out a hand for him to shake.

“I don’t even know why I’m here… Well I figured that I’ll be killed if I don’t do what you say… so I don’t understand your friendliness…”

“Hey, hey, whoa! Killing isn’t my style; I’m a good girl, right? I don’t have a fucking clue about all this either, Dolores just sprung you on me, and I didn’t want to lose face, right?” She grinned at him as if she were telling something funny to an old friend. “So now you’re here so we can figure this thing out. Still standing? Lighten up!”

“Figure this out? You guys killed a dozen people. She… she did things to me… and now you’re just asking to lighten up?”

“Hey, I didn’t kill anybody. You can hardly expect me to jump in and stop it, right? I got killed the first time I ran into a Duchagne, you made it out alive!” She shrugged. “It’s not going to help being gloomy, is it? Damn, I should have taken some of that grass with me. Help you relax a bit.”

“As you say… so what do you want with me?”

“Tell me about Dolores. Where’d she find you?”

“In a boxing ring. Me and the others used to fight there…”

“Yeah, this is good, we’re talking! So how did she pull you into all of this stuff?”

“Told us she has a special job for us, which will pay well. Next thing I know, I got a choice either to do as she says, die or worse…”

Ellenore tapped her lips with a finger. “Sounds rough! No wonder you don’t like me. You don’t have to stay, you know. I don’t care. I’m not going to hunt you down or anything… I never wanted you in the first place! No offense, I’m sure you’re a great guy…”

“So I can just go? Alright then… I wish to forget this as just a bad dream. Except… one more thing… Umm… That stuff you gave me. Could you give me some more before I go? Last taste… well second… anyways…”

“Hah! That’s the trap, you know. That’s it, right there! You know drugs, first hit always free, right? It’s something like that. If I give you another sip, you’ll never be able to go, trust me!” She chuckled, shaking her head at this ignorance. “Hey, maybe Dolores will get pissed if she finds out you left. Please don’t be easy to find. I doubt she’ll keep an interest if it’s too much trouble.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve had drugs in my life. That’s the key, you never do them more than once or twice and you’re good. I’ll be fine, trust me. And Dolores won’t be able to find me, don’t worry.”

Ellenore put her arm around the guy, drawing him closer by a shoulder and poking him in the chest with a finger. “You. I like you, guy. Darias. Alright, if you want it, just a parting gift!” She looked around, then put a finger to her lips before whispering conspiratorially: “But just a little bit, okay?”

“Sure,” he said excitedly.

Ellenore glanced around again before biting her thumb, breaking the skin. She holds her thumb out to him, letting a little bit of vitae trickle out.

Darius starts to greedily drink’

Ellenore leaned her head back, pressing her free hand up against her forehead as she laughed. “You look like a toddler with a pacifier like that! And it tickles!” Approximately one vitae later she’ll withdraw her hand. “Ok, that’s quite enough. I’m supposed to be the bloodsucker here!”

“That was amazing… Well, thanks. I’ll be going now.”

“Bye!” she waved him off, her mind already half on what sort of of person she’d invite over for a little bite. “Don’t use ghoul superpowers unfairly in the ring! I’ll know!” After that she’ll wave the ghoul waitress over.

The waitress came up.
“How may I help you?”

“Hey, yeah, send an invitation! Broad shouldered, muscular… you know the type. Don’t bother testing for intelligence, it’s not a conversation I want him for anyway.”

“As you ask. I think, I just saw one of those trying to hook with a girl by the bar” she said walking towards the door.

A minute later she entered together with a bulky alpha male guy. “She invited you here”. The guy came up.

“Hey, I’m Ben.” he threw one of those overself confident smiles.

She fluttered her eyelashes, her allure reaching out to him like a flower calls a bee. “You may call me whatever you’d like, handsome. Come, sit with me. I saved a seat just for you. Look how soft these benches are… such potential.”

“Sure, Honey,” he said before sitting down, “you look great.”

“So do you… full of potential.” She flashed him a grin. She’d get some fun out of him, wind him up a bit more and in the end take a bite that would leave him feeling a bit hungover in the morning. He was a big boy, she was sure he could take it.

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Scene 4 – Calling Sarah while sober

Ellenore woke up this evening feeling great. The house was silent this evening, which suited her just fine. She picked up her phone and started texting Sarah. “Hey u stll up? Can I call?”. After a couple minutes she received a response “R u drunk again?”

“nah lol”

“right”

“is that yes go ahead?”

After a second Ellenore’s phone started ringing. Sarah was calling.

Ellenore smiled as she leaned back in her sofa, picking up the phone. “Hey! See, I’m not drunk.”

“Look, if you wanna talk” she was speaking quite fast, her voice betrayed annoyance “ just drop by my work tomorrow, during lunch. If you really want to apologise… I don’t got other time for this.. for your shit” she said before hanging up.

“What! Hey! I’m trying to be nice!” she shouted at the cell phone, even though it was quite clearly futile. “Well fuck.” She pondered her next move for a moment. Sarah had sounded quite sincere. But did she mean during the day? Bummer. She’d just have to dress for the occasion, she supposed.

She turned the cell around, and called Anna instead.

As the phone was ringing someone knocked at the door.
“Are you alright?” said Everett.

She cancelled the call for a moment. “Everett? You can come in.”

Everett entered the room, he had his guitar in hand.

“Sorry, I was coming to your room when I heard you shouting… Are you okay?” he smiled at Ellenore.

She motioned at him to sit down in one of her chairs. “Yeah, just… a little argument with a friend.” She frowned. “I guess I just shouted at the phone after they hung up, but still.”

“That totally happens. She’ll get around, don’t worry.”

“I’ll have to go meet her tomorrow during the day. I’ll be sooo tired.”

“Well, an energy drink or two and you’ll be fine. Some people stay up for whole days. Um anyways… yesterday inspired me, so today I wrote a song. For you,” his eyes looked a bit heavy

“Okay… ummm… thanks?”

He seemed excited “May I sing it to you?”

Ellenore didn’t look quite as excited, feeling a bit awkward about it. “Uh… yeah. Sure.”

“It’s kinda late… Mind going outside with me? Wouldn’t want to wake the others up…”

She shrugged. “Fine with me.” Grabbing her jacket from her bed, she followed him outside.

Outside he started playing his guitar and singing a song to Ellenore. It was clearly a song of affection towards her, but nothing too cheesy.

Ellenore couldn’t help but grin a bit, patting the guy on the back at the end. “That’s… really sweet of you, Everett. Umm… I don’t think anyone’s ever written a song for me, so… thanks.” She messed with her clothes for a second, unsure what to say. “It’s… late, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but you’re a night person, ain’t you?” he smiled at Ellenore, with a somewhat awkward smile.

“Ah, yeah… yeah. I guess… I am.” She coughed. “But you’re not and I wouldn’t wanna… keep you up.”

“Yeah… I’m pretty tired… I only slept a couple of hours last night… Anyways, I think you’re right.” he smiled, but his eyes betrayed sadness. “Good night”

Everett went for the door.

She sighed as he left. The only time she ever decided to go with her inner feelings, she ended up hurting someone. Every other time she repressed it, and people ended up getting hurt, too. She really was a miserable wretch at times. She fished her phone out of her pocket, and attempted to call Anna for the second time that night, inviting her over.

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Scene 5 – Ann comes over

A couple of hours passed andAnn came over. She knew that she shouldn’t make any sound when coming here – others are sleeping after all. As usual she looked very happy to see Ellenore.

Ellenore smiles at her, embraced her and kissed her on both cheeks. “You came right away! That’s what I like about you. So dependable.”

“Of course, I did, Ellenore. You can always trust me,” she smiled at Ellenore.

“Thank God there’s at least one of you walking around, Anne. Come with me to my room. You can leave your shoes in the shoe rack by the door, as usual.”

“Sure” she said, taking off her long shoes and leaving them there. Once the girls got into Ellenore’s room she said. “So what are we going to be doing tonight?”

“It’s not so much about what we’re doing tonight, but about what I need to do tomorrow. I really need to be somewhere at noon, but I’m liable to fall asleep by myself. I need you to make sure I don’t.” She grinned.

“Sure. That doesn’t feel like a problem. Anyways, we haven’t met in quite a while. How are you?”

“I’m… alright. I’ve been through a lot of stuff, but I think the worst is behind me right now. Now I’m just glueing some pieces together that I’ve lost on the way. Remember Sarah? I did some bitchy stuff to her, so that’s why I’m trying to make it up to her tomorrow.”

“You did bitchy stuff? She probably deserved it then…”

Ellenore laughed. “Ahh… sadly no, but you sure know how to cheer a girl up!”

Ann smiled. “Still quite a while until the morning. Would you like me to do something for you while we’re waiting?”

Ellenore shook loose her hair and held out a hairbrush to Ann as she sat herself down on a chair, her back turned towards the other girl. “I haven’t had my hair brushed by someone of your delicacy in a while. One or two hundred strokes should do.”

“Sure thing” she said before starting to brush Ellenore’s hair.

“What about you? How are the… things… you do?” Ellenore didn’t really have any idea of what Ann actually did to fill her time.

“Um. Me? You never ask about me”. It looked like Ann is surprised to hear the question.

“I must have asked… at some point, right? Maybe.” She shrugged to herself. She wasn’t sure what had prompted the question in the first place. Ann was Ann, nothing else had ever really seemed important about that.

“Well” she said as she was brushing Ellenore’s hair “I don’t sleep too much nowadays. It’s strange really, before this, I thought that even 40 hours each day wouldn’t be enough to do all the stuff I want done… now that I actually got more time, I don’t know where to spend it. Is that normal? Anyways, my dad is starting to get worried, wants me to go see the doctors… Why doesn’t he understand? I feel great. I am great.”

Ellenore nodded vaguely. “Uh huh. Yeah. Great. Ow, watch those knots…” She frowned as the brush caught on a clump of hair for a moment. “There’s a guy here who seems to have a crush on me. He’s an ok bloke, but not my type. How do I quietly dissuade him?”

“Quietly? Umm… Tell him so? Um.. Tell him you’re a lesbian? Tell him you have a boyfriend? Does he have any reason to think that you might be into him?”

“We smoked pot together. You think I’m a lesbian?”

“I don’t, but he doesn’t need to know that, does he?”

Ellenore frowned. “Hmm… that… actually might work. I’d need a girl to pretend to be my lover…”

“You’re so sweet. Not wanting to break his heart too much. Anyways, if you want, I’d gladly be your lover.”

“Are you a good kisser? It’s only going to look good if you’re a good kisser.”

“I think I am. You can teach me, if I’m not up to your standards.”

Ellenore nodded thoughtfully. “We’ve got some time before morning, perhaps I will.”

“Oh… also…” she said as she was brushing Ellenore’s hair. “I… I didn’t have a taste of you in quite a while. I miss the feeling.”

Ellenore turned around on the chair and stroked her cheek. “Very well. If you do this well enough for me, I’ll give you a taste. It’s not too hard for me to mix it up with a kiss, you know…”

Ann leaned towards Ellenore.

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Scene 6 – Meeting Sarah

Ellenore felt her skin burning up slowly as she walked towards the park. She knew that with a bit of her own life force, she’ll get away from this… at worst, she’ll say it’s a rash. But still, it feels wrong. Walking in the sun, and having her insides twist with the desire to run towards the closest door. In any case, she gulped down the feeling and pressed on. This was part of her penance, and she deserved every bit of pain it brought her.

Sarah was sitting on one of the benches in front of the monument, eating her sandwich. She didn’t see Ellenore just yet.

Ellenore walked over to her, flashing a little smile. “Is that seat taken?”

Sarah just smiled a little, it was obvious that she’s trying to hide that.

“I’ll take that as a no.” Ellenore sat herself down besides her, pulling her stylish headgear down a little bit. “I wouldn’t sit out here personally. Everyone could be watching you eat.”

“So? It’s a nice park. It’s calm in here. I find it easy to relax in here. And nobody died of being watched yet.”

“It just… creeps me out when people are watching.” She scraped her throat, looking everywhere but at Sarah. “So… been a while… huh?”

“You could certainly say so”. She glanced at Ellenore, after which she turned at her and started looking at her, surprised.

“What? Is there something on my face?” Ellenore tried wiping her cheeks.

“Your skin. What happened? You should probably go see a doctor or something”

Ellenore’s eyes went wide, suddenly realizing what she was on about. “Oh, umm… I did… it’s a rash… umm… doctor says it’s photoactive. It, like, gets worse in the sun.” She pulled the hat down a bit further to shade her face. “It clears up quite quickly in the shadow.”

“Oh… that must suck… no sun tanning? Or beaches?”

“Yeah… until further notice.” She scratched the back of her neck, slightly embarrassed. “Maybe I can pull off the pale Victorian look.”

“Well, sun tan always looked good on you.”

“But hey, tell me about you instead. I… kinda came out here for that, after all.”

“Yeah, we can talk about that as well. So what did you come here for?”

“Told you, didn’t I? I miss you, and I want us to be friends again.” She turned her head, smiling at her slightly from underneath the rim of her hat.

“Wow… You don’t change, do you?”

“Excuse me?”

“So you sobered up and you no longer have the guts to say it?”

Rolls her eyes. “That I’ve been a bitch? I guess I just didn’t realize how important it was for you to hear that multiple times. If you called me here just to watch me be self-deprecating then I think that is rather petty. You know how I feel about my past behaviour. I assumed that was the important part, not hearing me repeat myself yet again.” She shrugged. “If that’s what you need to hear I’m willing to do that, but saying I have no guts because I assumed that wasn’t your goal is a bit much.”

“Fuck you,” she said taking the last bite of her sandwich. She looked quite annoyed.

Ellenore suddenly had to laugh. That expression on her was much too familiar. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m making an effort here, though. Meet me halfway?”

“Wasn’t that hard, was it?”

“Heh, maybe not. Bit easier while high, though. Or was that the phone?”

“Probably… so I know a nice cafe nearby. Let’s go grab a cup there?”

Ellenore nodded. “You won’t be late for work?”

“I’ll be fine” she said with a slight smile on her face, standing up and turning towards one of the paths. “Besides, that way we’ll get you out of the sun”

“Which would be much appreciated. Alright, let’s go then.” She stands up, following her friend.

After a great talk with her old friend they said good bye to each other. Ellenore stood up from the table and started walking towards the door, where she stopped walking, realizing that the blazing sun is outside. Her beast wanted to run in the opposite direction, hide in the bathroom until the night hits.

“I can’t-!” she suddenly bolted in the opposite direction, away from the sun and into a bathroom stall. She locked it for good measure, huddling on top of the closed toilet, her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms around her legs to stop herself from shaking.

Within seconds Sarah face banging at the door.
“Ellenore, what happened? Are you alright?”

“No! I’m not leaving! It’ll burn me!” She huddles in her hiding place, shuddering at the prospect.

“Ellenore, what happened? Who’s going to burn you?”

“Outside! The sun!”

“The sun? Is this about your skin thing?”

“It hurts… I can’t go…”

“Uh… Don’t worry girl. Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine. Just come out and I’ll find something to cover you up with… Um… And I’ll lead you home.”

Ellenore put her hands against the side of her head. “B-but… I can’t…”

“Ellenore, please come out. Everything is fine.”

“But it’s there! It’s out there!”

“Sun can’t hurt you. Nothing will hurt you out there. Please” she said, looking around her shoulder. Everyone within the restaurant was watching the scene.

Ellenore opened the door slightly. “Promise?”

“Of course.” she said, looking around. She took of the flower from one of the tables and took the table cloth. She pulled some money out of her purse, clearly more than needed to cover that. After that she tried to wrap Ellenore around

“I’m sorry… I’m like… claustrophobic but with sunlight instead of walls…” she muttered as she let Sarah lead her along docily.

Sarah called taxi and led Ellenore back home. At Ellenore’s house she asked:
“Will you be alright? My boss will probably want to stage a little scene for me.”

“I’m… I’m fine… I’m sorry… I thought I could handle coming outside in the day…”

“What? You seemed so fine at first? Did you tell me everything about your condition?”

Ellenore shrugged. “I just get panic attacks. It’s not rational. I can’t predict them.”

“Uh uh… Well guess we’ll have to meet in the evening next time.”

“That would be… nice. Thank you for bringing me home. I feel much calmer now.”

View
Chapter 1 - The Party
Death and Blood

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Scene 1 – The Preparations

Ellenore found herself in one of the penthouses in downtown, to which she’d been sent by her sire to meet with Mrs Diamond Eilders, the Master of Elysium and one of the Duchagne elders. The penthouse was pristine and beautiful, with huge windows from which the entire city could easily be seen. Opposite them was a wine cellar behind panes of glass, showing off an impressive collection. The only other person there was a ghoul, dressed up rather formally as a butler of some description.

He looked away from his mistress’s guest, directing his attention at the wine cellar. “Mrs Eilders will be here in a minute. Would you like some wine or anything else?”

There was a certain melancholy in Ellenore’s steps as she trailed a hand across the leather furnishing of the couch, her gaze drifting back and forth between the various pieces of furniture and the outside view. “Nostalgic. I used to live in a place like this too, did you know?” She took a few more steps before looking back over her shoulder, her hair resting gently against one of her cheeks, covering an eye. “Wine. I’m not sure it’s worth the mess… afterwards.”

The ghoul was not to be so easily discouraged. “Of course, not ma’am. Perhaps some special wine then? You shouldn’t create any mess with that,” he said, picking up one of the bottles in question.

A few elegant steps took her from the window to where the ghoul was standing, her smile brightening all the while. With a finger she traced the line of his neck, murmuring softly. “And Mrs Eilders doesn’t mind her visitors touching the… special wine, does she?”

He looked at her worriedly, wondering if she were joking or if she had merely misunderstood. “Of course not, shall I pour you a glass?“

Ellenore pouted slightly for a moment as realization dawned on her face, then turned around suddenly and propped herself down in one of the seats. “Very well,” she said, hard undertones giving away her annoyance, “I’ll try it out… I guess.”

He bowed before her and poured her a glass, taking a step backwards to allow her to peruse it at her leisure.

Ellenore picked up the glass and swished it around a bit, like she’d seen her father do many times. She brought the glass up to her lips with extreme skepticism and sniffed carefully, remembering but all too well what the last thing she tried to drink had tasted like. Strangely, the drink in the glass didn’t smell of wine. It wasn’t even familiar.

She looked at the ghoul again over the edge of her glass, her frown becoming rather pensive. Slowly she tipped it up, allowing the not-quite-wine to touch her lips, before taking a tepid sip. It had a taste like iron, but not quite like blood. Nonetheless it was really good.

A female voice drifted in from another room upstairs: “Enjoying my wine, are we?”

Ellenore put the glass down, shifting in her seat, suddenly startled. She got up quickly, and curtsied in the classical style. “I was… skeptical when your servant suggested it, Mrs Eilders, but I must say, your taste is quite exquisite.” She glanced to the side, her head still bowed, observing the wine as it moved in the glass, still in motion due to being so suddenly put down. “I didn’t know it was possible for us…”

Mrs. Diamond Eilders started to step down the stairs. Each step felt a lot heavier than it actually was. Her black dress was perfect, the make up gorgeous.

“So your cronie friends have not told you about it? That’s where I’m buying it from, after all. Where’s my glass?” she said and glanced at the ghoul, who scurried off to fetch a glass for his mistress.

Ellenore felt her unbeating heart jump a bit at every step, as if the tremors ran through the floor and shook her where she stood. This was someone to be reckoned with, and that unmistakable mix of refined grace and confidence was unmistakable. “I’m afraid that I’m not that close to the ‘cronies’ yet, as you call them, my lady.”

“At least you know some manners. We’ll see,” she said, sitting down on the couch and taking a sip from the glass her ghoul just poured. “So, tell me, what are you planning to do with your Requiem?”

“At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I’m afraid my answer must be: Finding the answer to that question.” She folded her hands in her lap, standing for lack of permission to sit. “I’ve always thought there has to be more to life. I feel death has given me the opportunity to find it, ironic as that may seem.”

“So, enjoy your unife, like the rest of our family, until the end of time?” said Mrs. Diamond looking closely at Ellenore.

“Always struck me as a fairly sensible stance… milady.” She looked around the room for a short moment, before focusing back on her host. “I must profess to a certain… fascination with the supernatural and the occult. The pleasure of the material world I am familiar with, these others are… new.”

“Yes… yes… We can move on. Do you know why you’re here? Using my precious time?”

Ellenore mulled the question over in her head, but in truth she’d been wondering that herself for some time now, and so far she hadn’t come up with any plausible explanations. “I’m afraid I wasn’t told, milady.”

“Well, it seems that Hadley decided that you’re worthy enough to become a neonate. And as you know, induction into our family happens in a great party. One held by you. I have the honour of instructing such inductees into our tradition and offering guidance where needed.”

Ellenore offered her a small bow. “The honour is all mine to be instructed by one such as yourself, my lady.”

“As you probably remember from Russell’s induction, the party traditionally consists of three performances. The last being yours. I will provide a venue for the whole affair, choice of performers is up to you. I guess once the word gets out you’ll be approached by some of our family with requests. And of course, after your performance, the party will truly be started. Any questions, darling?”

“What’s considered appropriate for these performances, lady Eilders? I wouldn’t like to overstep the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable when planning them.”

“Boundaries? Ha… You know of our family’s particular qualities… I think you’ll have a much harder time actually making it interesting.”

Ellenore curtsied again, trying to hold back a frown. The assertion grated on her, even though she knew most of what she could possibly think of had already been done many times over. She tried not to have her annoyance show. “Of course, milady. I wasn’t thinking. I don’t have any more questions.” She’d show her. It was time to get interesting.

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Scene 2 – Home

Ellenore returned home, a house she shared with a few others who paid her rent, though it looked like everyone was already sleeping. Considering the hour, that was no surprise. She unlocked the door, entered the corridor and smelledAbigaile right away. The girl was in the kitchen, apparently making a sandwich. Earlier that evening she’d sworn, once again, that she’d quit eating at night.

Ellenore came in, dropping the door behind her perhaps a little bit louder than was fair to her sleeping housemates. She couldn’t help but be in a bad mate as she left the penthouse, and brooding over it on the way home had only made her mood worse. She hadn’t really expected anyone to be awake, and so she stared at Abigaile for a few moments before really realizing she was there. “You’re awake,” she noted unnecessarily. It was a dry statement, just a vocalisation of a fact.

“Um… yeah,” the other girl said, looking embarrassed, “want a sandwich?”

“No, I’ve got a rather delicate stomach, and I don’t hold sandwiches down too well at this hour.” Ellenore swept a finger across the table. “I seem to remember that it doesn’t always end too well for you, either.”

“You don’t have to say it… “ She took a bite out of her sandwich. “So what are you up to, so late?”

“Night is more interesting, wouldn’t you agree? Nothing particularly fun happens during the day.” She watched Abigail eat for a moment, then glanced away, slightly uncomfortable.

“Well, yeah, perhaps for you… For us, it’s work and study time,” she said, turning towards the door. “Um.. Good night. Need to wake up for work in the morning.”

“Yes… good luck, and all that,” Ellenore said with a quick nod as she slipped past her and down the hallway. If only she had taken along some of that wine from earlier. Perhaps then she wouldn’t have thought the entire food situation to be incredibly unfair. Once up in her own room she took out her phone, putting through a call to her sire, Hadley.

“Hello?” her sire’s voice came from the other side of the line.

Ellenore kicked her shoes off as she let herself fall back onto the bed, her hair flowing out around her head. “Hey, it’s me. I went to see Diamond. So I have to throw my own party. Invite some people to do performances.”

“How did she react? And I know you’ll do fine. So do you have a plan?”

“She basically said I probably couldn’t make it interesting! She is so frustrating. Dignified, but frustrating. How do I impress a bunch of people who’ve seen it all before?”

“That’s a very good question. And a worthy trial for you. As your sire, I have a responsibility to offer a performance.”

“Ooo, that I have to see. What kind of performance would that be? Magic?”

“If that’s what you’d like… However magic is not quick. If you think that our family’s patience will be sufficient…”

“Yeah, no, probably not. I think I might go ask around a bit, see what people liked in past protegees’ parties. How’s that sound for a plan?”

“If they liked something last time, it doesn’t mean that they will like it this time. Surprise us, if we see something we have never seen before, you might succeed.”

“Well, I can’t know what you’ve never seen before without asking, right? What did you do when you were in my place?” She curls an arm under her head, giving herself a bit more of a comfortable position.

“Me. Well that was quite a while ago. I had the Carnival perform for me. A traveling vampire circus.”

“I could do an act with fire. I bet nobody ever does an act with fire, for obvious reasons. But fear is just another thrill, you know?” She chuckled half-heartedly, not really serious.

“That sounds interesting. If you can also prepare precautions. We don’t want frenzied Kindred messing up all the fun.”

Suddenly she bolted up, sitting in an upright position. “Wait! I got it! Alright, so picture this,” she said as she started making gestures with her free hand, “I’m up there on stage, wearing an elegant dress or something like that… then I just tear it off, revealing a gymnast’s costume tailor made for the occasion. Something feisty! Meanwhile, some people have to set up some props so I can do my gymnastics routine… only at the end I do a flip through a hoop that is on fire!”

She pauses a moment, nodding to herself enthusiastically. “They’d probably get a spike of interest when I tear my dress off, then get a bit ‘Ah, gymnastics…’ when I start. But then when the flaming hoop comes down I’m sure to get their attention! Especially if I let the Beast’s scary side flare at that very moment, like you taught me. I can make the fire seem even more exotically frightening, and the sense of unease will help build the anticipation. Then right as I stick the landing I let it go, and hit them with a bright smile, perfect pose and charm offensive instead! Maybe no one emotion can get through to our family, but such a fast juxtaposition might. The tension makes the release at the end feel bigger, as it were.”

“The fire won’t be anywhere near anyone, so that should be alright. Then it’s just a matter of keeping my cool and at least waiting ‘till backstage until I start shivering and curl up into a ball. Which, honestly, is a risk. But it might be worth it. I can’t think of a better way to impress them, and I’d be showing off my biggest skill from mortal life and the family specialties right away. It’d be a perfect illustration of why you thought I was ready.”

“Well, seems like you got a great plan. If you survive. Now, the other two performances remain.”

They hung up a little later, and Ellenore sent a message to Anna, her ghoul retainer telling her to make some costume arrangements. Thinking about her act some more she bolted shut her door, before closing her eyes. It was almost time for sleep.

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Scene 3 – Meetings

The following night, after getting up from a day of uneasy slumber and making herself presentable, Ellenore went to Pulse Nightclub and Lounge, an unofficial elysium for the Duchagne. When the family wants to meet, they usually does so there.

After getting through the public part of the club, she entered the Purple Lounge, where only the Duchange and those who invited by them may go. Most of the customers in the other parts of the club have long believed it to be the most VIP place of the club, and they all hope to one day get invited there. For many, this invitation brings their wildest desires to fruition, for some it means death. Not seldomly both.

Ellenore looked around the room and saw Dolores Ahner, Acolyte ancillae, Rachel Ridenour, unaligned protegee and Russell Folks, Invictus neonate.

Her gaze took them in quickly, and she failed to repress a little smirk; one couldn’t have imagined a more varied slice of the family. She decided against approaching any of them directly with her questions, rather preferring to see if one or the other would make a move him- or herself, first.

She put herself down at one of the empty tables, flashing her most honest of smiles, observing Russel bite the girl he brought with him. “They say the later the hour the finer the folk, but I see the fine folk decided to come out early tonight.”

Rachel looked worried, distressed even, Russell was enjoying a girl’s neck and Dolores was watching two men arm wrestle. The ghoul waitress came up to Ellenore:

“Would you like me to get you a drink?” said the ghoul, implying that she could send an invitation to someone having a great time in the main lounge inviting them for something even greater. Of course, Diamond Eilders always heard about every such request.

Ellenore shook her head. “Not tonight, thanks,” she told the ghoul, shifting her attention to Rachel, leaving the other two to their chosen forms of entertainment for now. “I get the feeling something’s eating you rather than the other way around tonight, Rachel. What’s up?”

Rachel switched the seats to join Ellenore’s table. “Yeah.. Well.. I’ve heard you’re almost done with being protegee. Congratulations, really. You achieved that in such a short amount of time, while I’m still stuck.”

Ellenore treated the girl to a sympathetic smile. “That’s not the end of the world, right? We have eternity, there’s no reason to rush it.”

“Maybe you do, after all, you’ll hold your great ball… I think that if I don’t prove myself soon, I might never get the chance. If my sire’s patience runs out… I might see the sun.”

Ellenore nods, thoughtful for a moment. She didn’t often get a chance to do the right thing, and deep inside she loathed herself for always taking the easy way out. Maybe it was time to do things a little different for once. “Everyone has something they’re good at. You must too, right? Maybe if you managed to show your sire, everyone would see you’re ready too.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I think! And I think you could really save me, if you let me perform in your celebration. I’d owe you everything, I think. It’s my best chance”

So the girl had gotten what she was hinting at, but now Ellenore took a long moment to consider the implications. What message was she sending based upon her choices? Her sire was a safe bet, but anybody else was a very different story. Rachel was unaligned, so no problem there, but what would the girl actually do on stage? Ellenore considered it, and decided it didn’t matter. She could plan in the girl’s performance first, and then if she failed, it would be the low that made the rest of the night seem higher. Just another of the contrasts her own performance was based upon. And if she did well… then there’d be no problem, and she’d be indebted to her in either case. She realized she was being callous once again. It would catch up to her eventually, and when it did she’d deserve it, every little bit. “Alright. You’ve got the spot. Don’t let me down, I want to see you shine out there!”

Rachel almost jumped out of joy “Thank you, Ellenore. You won’t regret it. I’ll go to see what kind of plans I could make and I’ll get back to you in a day or two, okay?” she said while standing up, with a huge smile on her face.

“Well, I admire the enthusiasm. Here’s my number,” she said as she handed the girl one of the convenient name cards she’d kept around ever since her mortal days. “Don’t hesitate to call if you need a hand in some preparations, alright?” The girl’s excitement and gratefulness only made her feel more guilty. Even when she did the right thing she just couldn’t be honest about the reasons behind it.

“Sure, thanks!” Rachel said, running off.

Ellenore noticed one of Dolores’s brutes approach her table. He wore formal attire, but Ellenore clearly saw it wasn’t what he was used to wearing.

“Hey. Mrs Ahner would like a word,” he said, extending his arm towards Ellenore.

“Truly? As luck would have it, I’m not averse to speaking with her myself,” she said as she stood up, putting a hand on the man’s arm to allow him to escort her.“Shall we?”

The brute led Ellenore to Dolores’ table, who took her in with a glance, nodding in the direction the other protegee had taken off in. “Hey, Ellenore, looks like you made Rachel pretty happy.”

Dolores wasn’t the kind of person who’d applaud charity, but Ellenore didn’t quite want to give away her other thoughts, either. “When I was young my only source of affection was a three-legged puppy I found by the side of the road. aMy parents didn’t care enough to prohibit me from keeping it. Ever since then I haven’t quite been able to resist the kind of look she just gave me. They have the same eyes.” She brushed the hair out of her own eyes. She hoped the explanation would sound sufficiently derogatory to throw Dolores off. “May I sit down?”

“Of course. Have a heart for the weak? Not afraid that they might bring you down? I’d advise you to get the strong ones as your allies. Finding a scapegoat is much easier than finding someone who can stand by your side”

Ellenore slipped into her seat in a relaxed fashion. “That does sound like good advice. I suppose it’s good to remember that even one on the eve of becoming a neonate still has much to learn from those older and more accomplished than she is. Maybe this’ll be one of those little mistakes of childhood that I’ll look back to some decades from now, grinning about the innocence of youth.” She let her eye fall upon the brutes accompanying the ancillae. “Are these the strong ones you talk of, to stand by your side? Or were you referring to a different kind of allies?”

“They are here to ensure that no one unworthy bothers me. If someone gets past them, then we can listen to what the poor shmuck has to say. And after that we’d see if I let them walk away.” She smiled at Ellenore. “The thing about mistakes is that they teach us a lot. But if we’re dead no amount of knowledge can help us. So I’d try not to make too many mistakes. Or make sure that those who wronged me, or whom I wronged, know that they shouldn’t be messing with me.”

“Oh yes, I do see what you mean,” Ellenore replied, reading a certain hidden undertone in the things being said. Going along with it seemed like her safest bet. “At the very least making two mistakes in one night might be a bit much, even for me. I suppose I’ll have to be very carefully not to make another.”

“In any case, if you do make a mistake, don’t forget to kick them in the nuts as well. Just so they know that pointing out your mistakes might be a mistake in itself.“ She laughed a little bit at her own words.

“That’s very close to something my mother once said. I’ll make careful note of it. I’m a bit surprised that you invited me over to talk about these things, I thought my banale problems would surely bore you.”

“Ha, in any case, you probably already realised that I want to perform at your induction party.”

“I was feeling some waves in that direction, yeah. I didn’t know you were big on stage performances.”

“Well organising and making sure there’s a spectacle is not the same as performing. In any case, what do you say?”

“True, I guess I’m just a bit more eager to show off some of my personal skills.” She smiled at the other woman, thinking back to the things that were said just a few moments before. There was still one more person left, but there had been far too large an emphasis on bloody violence against those who slight you for her tastes. After her earlier problems with some of the Invictus, she had no desire to send a message of support through the inclusion of one of their ranks, either. And as for Dolores… did she really dare say no? “I’d been wondering what such a fierce member of the family could pull out of her sleeves for the occasion, so I believe I’ll take you up on the offer.”

“Great. I’ll meet you there,” she said, motioning to the waitress. “Please send an invite to someone. A brunette girl would be best.”

“As you wish,” the ghoul said, turning towards the door to the main lounge.

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said as she stood up, preparing to leave the club; however, she quickly redirected her movement as she saw Russell lift his eyes towards her. Deciding there wasn’t any sense in being rude either, so went over to him. “You seemed to be having fun, so I thought I wouldn’t disturb you.”

“Was just waiting for you, beauty.”

She grinned despite herself as she sat besides him. So that’s how he liked to play the game. “And here I am, my Prince Charming. I think I know what you wanted to talk to me about today, and I hope my answer won’t spoil the mood on this fine evening.”

“You didn’t even hear my offer yet. Already predetermined to decline your path to greatness?”

“The last Invictus to talk to me like that left me in a gutter with a dagger in my back. Figuratively, but about as close to literal as you can get. It has made me… wary of such claims.”

“Invictus… Just because I chose that side of the fence shouldn’t instantly drive a wedge between us. We’re family after all, and when all is said and done, family will be the one collecting the bodies. Not some pretendo-ass aristocrats or mother of monsters worshippers”

She nodded. It was an angle she hadn’t considered often, but not entirely without merit. Still, her predominant thought was that she could probably use his argument in her advantage. “I don’t necessarily disagree. Family should stick together. That’s why, as family, I felt that I should give Rachel the shot she needs. You know she’s in a bad spot, how could I turn my back on that? And Dolores’s rhetoric is much the same. How would I choose between a sister and a brother?”

“And yet, it seems that you’ve done so even before speaking with me. Not even giving me a chance. Nonetheless, I just want what’s best for you, Ellenore. And if that lies with Dolores and a very likely fail of Rachel’s… She’s stuck as she is for a reason, you know. I could at least guarantee a great performance, which would put you in a good light. Considering the alternative… if she fails, it’s going to reflect on you, since you allowed her to waste everyone’s time. I wouldn’t want that for you, my love.”

Something about the dramatic delivery grated on her. She was ready to pay back in kind. “Alas, the frailties of this heart, still too much alive despite having beat its last a good while ago. I couldn’t turn down the dear and I suppose I sought to put a painful and difficult choice behind me when I gave Dolores a quick answer. I hope you won’t mind too terribly. Should the worst come to pass, I will forgive you any rightly earned ‘I told you so’s you choose to level in my direction.”

“I understand.” He glanced at Dolores who was biting a girl probably thinking that tonight was her night. “How about a dance? Some dancing always lets me forget any troubles”

Ellenore stood up, offering him her hand. “It would be my pleasure.” If he was a good dancer, that might even be true. If he wasn’t… well she deserved someone treading all over her toes.

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Scene 4 – Rachel meets Ellenore

After a couple of nights, Rachel called Ellenore and they agreed to meet. Pulse Nightclub and Lounge was pretty packed. Seems that the twins were creating an impromptu party in the VIP Lounge.

Ellenore found Rachel sitting at the corner table, eyeing one of the twins undressing a man on a table.

She slipped in besides her, whispering: “Jealous? We could undress you on the table as well, if you’re looking to compete.” A bit of public indecency she’d never feel guilty about, and doing it to Rachel might be fun. Just to see her squirm.

“Um.. No.. I.. I’d rather get our business straight first. We can always find the time for undressing once everything is alright,” Rachel replied, trying to put on a smile.

Ellenore let out a chuckle. “Well, it’s good to know that undressing on the table is still on the table. So, what’s up?”

“Well… I was thinking about my performance. The thing is, what I do best, is dancing. And I’m trying to figure out how to make that more exciting, since I guess a simple dance will not get me where I need to go.”

“Yeah, probably not. I had a similar problem with gymnastics, actually. I’ve added a flaming hoop finish to the mix, and some Kindred flair. That end is either going to be a nice touch or a giant mess, but it’s what I figured would work.”

“Wow… you’ll really try a flaming hoop? You might die, you know…”

“Paper doesn’t burn if you throw it through a fire fast enough, I’m sure I won’t either, even if I intended to touch the burning edges. And I don’t. I’m not averse to taking some risks. If I was, I wouldn’t have asked you. I hope you don’t take that personal, but it is a risk for me.”

“I understand… I owe you a lot, just for giving me this chance. So do you have any suggestions what I could do to improve my performance? And your party…”

Ellenore leaned back against the wall behind her, hooking her arms behind her head. Now she had to come up with the girl’s routine, too? She hated having to think things through too much. Once had been bad enough. “Ugh… I’m pulling blanks here myself. I’ve been so focused on my own stuff, I’m not sure the thinking juices are flowing right now.”

“Hmm… Well, I guess, I could get a couple of ghouls to dance with me.. and then.. then…”

Ellenore pats her on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll figure something out. Take it as part of the challenge. The ghouls might be a good idea in any case. And then… hey, have them dance on glass or something? Might be amusing.” She laughed hollowly for a second, then shook her head. That kind of comment was probably what Duchagne would expect from each other but dammit, she always felt dirty doing it. And did it anyway. “Just lightening the mood, dear.”

“Sure… Once again, thanks”

“Whatever you want to do is fine. Our family can be a bit… weird at times. Maybe disturbing is sometimes the right answer.” She takes her hand, pulling her upright as she stands. “Now come on, put your mind off of it for a moment. Let’s party!”

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Scene 5 – The Grand Masque of the Duchagne

The room had several sofas, a small stage and a lavish bar, but there were no vampire guests present yet, just Ellenore, Rachel, Diamond and some ghouls, as well as a few kine. Some of them looked pretty spaced out, either from Majesty, Nightmare or drugs… mere playthings for the real guests of the party.

Diamond turned to the two younglings. “I hope you’re sure about her performance, no offense, darling, it’s just that tonight Ellenore should shine. In any case, I’ve prepared all else as you can see. This should be a good night.”

Ellenore curtsied elegantly. “I am truly grateful for your help, Mrs Eilders. I’m sure Rachel will give it her all.” She was sure of no such thing, yet she offered the other protegee an encouraging smile as she stood upright again. Were she still alive her heart would likely be pounding with nerves, but then being technically dead did have its advantages.

After a while Vincent, Alise and Alberta came in through the door, arriving early as befitted their status as fellow protegees. They didn’t want to lose any opportunity to be around their family.

Ellenore didn’t lose any time herself, welcoming them to the party with a charming smile and a few kisses on the cheek. “Welcome! I hope you’ll all enjoy yourselves today.” No doubt that enjoyment would come at the cost of some of the poor saps wandering about, but she didn’t pay that any heed. It wasn’t her responsibility.

After a few welcoming and suck up gestures (Seems like they want to get on Ellenore’s good side) Russell came in through the door, with the Twins mere moments behind, looking around with smirks on their faces.

Ellenore continued playing the excellent host, greeting everyone personally as they came in with small comments about their clothing, hairdress, and other such compliments to accompany their arrival.

Some ghouls of the family came in as well, though their masters weren’t present yet, followed by Hadley and Dolores Ahner. Dolores was accompanied by a whole retinue of bodyguards, at least six of them.

“Ah, Hadley. I hope tonight will convince you that you’ve made a good choice in me.” She smiled, giving a little nod. “I’m surprised you feel you need that many guards tonight, Dolores. Expecting things to get rowdy?”

“Not really, but I don’t expect to return home with all of them. Ready for your party?”

“Ready as I can be. Preparations are all completed, so no use in worrying. Just need to actually do it now.” Her gaze flips to Rachel for just a moment, looking at her out of the corner of her eyes, before immediately refocusing. “It’ll be memorable, I have no doubts.”

“Of course it will. I trust you won’t disappoint me. We wouldn’t want me to have performed in a loser’s party, now would we?” She smiled. Her smile reminded Ellenore of a wolf’s grin. With that she noticed Marvin and Alvaro enter the room, leaving only the oldest member of the family to wait for.

“Naturally, we wouldn’t,” Ellenore said just before turning towards the new arrival.

Alvaro immediately turned towards the group, carrying his usual box with him.

“Alvaro, thanks for coming,” she said as she shakes his free hand and such. “Do you want me to find a place for that box, or are you preferring to keep it close?”

“Oh my dear, you know that it’s always by my side. However finding a table for it would be great, if you’d fancy this old man a game of chess,” he smiled generously at Ellenore

“Well, I’m not sure I should accept a challenge from you. The way I play you’d soon grow bored, and boring my guests seems like a poor way to go about the evening. Perhaps someone present would be better able to hold their own?” She smiled. “Of course, I’m willing to try, but I fear I’ll end up humiliating myself.”

“Nonsense, you’ll do as good as anyone else here.” He took Ellenore’s hand quite swiftly and started leading her towards one of the tables. Before she could react he seated her opposite of himself, setting up the board in a record amount of time, along with a chess clock, set to one minute apiece..

“Ookay,” she said with a dubious glance at the clock. She was there on the spot now, she might as well give it a try. She was only vaguely aware of how speed chess was supposed to be played from watching a movie, that one time, once, but she thought she got the gist of it. She started the clock putting a peon forward on the board, before pausing her clock and passing the turn on. She’d just have to focus on beating the clock and make whatever short term gain move she could make, forgetting the long term. She could never make it in one minute if she thought more than half a move ahead. Not that she’d really know what to think of if she had had more time.

Within the blink of an eye Alvaro’s hand moved a knight. Ellenore didn’t even notice how he pressed the clock.

Ellenore was stunned for a second, not having expected to be the one moving quite this fast again. She quickly threw out the best move she could think of, only realising after the fact that was pretty much the same move he had just made. She must have been thinking about his move a bit too much there. She passed the turn, keeping her hands ready to go. She’d be sweating if she could.

Several moves later it was clear that Alvaro is gaining an advantage, and Ellenore has a very slim chance of victory. Including making the 1 minute timer before her loss.

Ellenore felt herself getting into it a bit despite her normal disdain for chess. Somehow, the crazy time limit made it just that much more thrilling, appealing more to her sense of immediacy. She moved another piece forward, pressing her time button with the other hand as soon as she slid it into place. “Go.”

“Finally you’re trying,” Alvaro said. Even his speech was fast, making it hard to comprehend, as soon as Ellenore figured it out she realised that her timer was already ticking. After several more moves Ellenore realised that her timer sat at a pathetic three seconds when she passed the turn.

In his normal voice Alvaro said: “Checkmate, dear. Thank you for allowing this old man an interesting game with a gorgeous young girl. How are you? Do you have your plans already, for what you’ll do once the blood and sweat of this party is cleaned?”

Ellenore had always hated losing. “Ah! For a moment there I thought I could come back, but then you took the knight… Oh, what? You mean what I want to do with my Requiem once this is all said and done?” She glanced over the board again, with a sad frown at her collection of captured pieces, much less impressive than its twin on the other side of the board.

“Why yes, of course. Life’s too short to linger on a simple game, isn’t it? Especially when you have such a grand game before you.”

She considered the question for a moment. “I want to find out if there’s something in the game that I’ve been overlooking. A glimpse at the hidden sections of the rule booklet.”

“Ha, perhaps. And I bet you’ll find your own ways to break the rules. For me, recently in fact, a great understanding came. And the more I think about it, the more I see it as truth.”

“Oh?” she leaned in a little closer. “A great understanding?”

“Yes, look at these chess pieces. Look at them, and describe them to me.”

Ellenore frowned a bit as she picked them up. “Well, they have different shapes, uumm… they have different functions on the board, movement rules change based upon which one you move… some are black, some are white?”

“No, no. You’re looking at them the wrong way. Look at them closer. What is their identity?”

“What? They’re just pieces on the board, they don’t have identities. All these peons look the same.”

“No, they don’t. They have seen many hands. They have seen many things. They’re probably as old as you are. So look at them again, look at them and tell me what are the differences between them.”

Ellenore looked at the pieces hard, squinting a bit, turning one around in front of her eyes. “Well, alright. When they were first made they were probably close to the same, but this one has a little nick in it. So I guess the difference is their personal histories?”

“Well you could say so. Not what I was leading you to, but that’s the point. Now imagine that you’re a pawn. A size of this pawn.” He took one of the pawns. “For him, the others have faces, marks and touches. For him everyone on this board is completely different with only superficial similarities. Do you understand?”

“It’s a matter of… perspective?”

“Exactly!” He said with a smile on his face. “You can see the whole board. You know that the white king is pretty much the same as the black one. But for the king, the other one is his mortal enemy and they have nothing in common. Do you realise where I’m going with this?”

“This is leading up to an Invictus-Crone comparison isn’t it?” Ellenore said, pushing her queen a bit with a finger until it just barely didn’t topple over. She didn’t really want to talk about all that again.

“Yes. The witches and the knights think they have nothing in common, that they are enemies. That’s because they can see the scratches on each other, because they know what the other has done. Because they rememberer things which don’t really matter in the big scheme of things. But when you look at the whole board, you can see that they’re the same.”

“Assuming they’re playing the same game. What if I replace one side with pieces from another game, like… go?”

“I’ve seen and heard enough to believe they are. Both sides have done great atrocities against everything. Most importantly against themselves. As for replacing one side, that sounds good. But can you really change one side? Without changing the other or destroying the game?”

Ellenore combed her hair back with a hand. This was getting a bit complicated for her, a bit too abstract. She tried not to let her annoyance with the concept show as she answered. “I guess not. At least I haven’t ever seen it done…”

“Exactly. Remember this, once you get drawn into one of the sides, that those you’ll be destroying will actually be just like you.“

“I’m not really thinking of destroying anyone just yet. I vote Republican, but I haven’t really shot any Democrats yet…” She bows her head at him. “I will keep it in mind if it does come up, though.”

“Soon enough you will. I guess I’ve been boring you for long enough, my dear.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say it was boring. Perhaps a bit above my reach at some points, but never boring. Thank you for the game, and for the advice.”

“Ha, ha. No. Thank you for spending this time with me.” He turned his head towards the door. “Seems that she is finally here.”

As he said so the door opened and the eldest of the Duchagne entered the room. Thalia Kattaura was as gorgeous as ever, and as usual a group of mortals was following in her wake, each trying to find an opportunity to impress her, each praying for even the slightest sign of affection from her. Soon everyone’s head turned towards the new arrival.

Ellenore got up quickly, moving over to pay her respects. She curtsied with great reverence. “Lady Kattaura, it is my great honour to welcome you to the party. I hope you shall find it pleasing.”

“Of course, it will break the routine. You look a lot more confident compared to the last time I saw you,“ she said as one of her followers kneeled by her side and started kissing her hand gently.

“I give my sire, Hadley, full credit for the degree of confidence I now possess. Without her guidance I would not be where I am today.” She glanced at the eager follower for a moment. Such overt displays of control often made her a little uncomfortable, even now. It wasn’t so much the act that made her queasy, but more the duality inside of herself. She didn’t quite approve, but she didn’t ever do a damn thing about it.

You’ve always been a coward, she thought to herself.

“Yes, she has taught you well. I’ve heard you’ve made some interesting choices in your performers,” she said, completely ignoring the man by her feet.

“Both of them were very keen, and I saw the value in having entertainers who were enthusiastic about their part in tonight’s festivities. I hope you will find them, and me, interesting to the end.” She curtsied again.

“Are you glancing at him?” she tilted her head slightly towards the slave. Upon hearing himself being mentioned he froze, his eyes and face filled with ecstasy.

“I was… admiring the admiration of your subjects… my lady.”

“Would you like to share him with me? It would be the greatest gift to him. Isn’t that right, Raphael?” she turned her head to the man.

“I… I beg you,” he said while looking at Ellenore.

Was it really wrong if they asked? Even if, without a little emotional tampering, they might not have? Ellenore wasn’t sure of the answer, but she was quite sure there was at least one Kindred at the party she did not want to piss of that night. In the end, it was all one big rationalisation once more. The lies she came up with to keep living with herself. “I wouldn’t dream of turning down such a gracious gesture.”

“Come here, Raphael.” It looked like Raphael couldn’t believe what was actually happening. Thalia kissed him on the lips, then she turned him towards Ellenore, she she started to gently kiss his cheek, going down to his neck.

Ellenore wasn’t shy herself, once she got the moral qualms out of the way. She pressed herself against him and kissed him too, but that wasn’t enough anymore, now that she knew there to be a Kiss far sweeter. Her lips followed a trail down to his neck, the mirror image of the one Thalia was making. Her fangs sank into the man, delving into that font of warm, sweet blood below. She let it flow down her throat, shuddering against him as her hands roamed his body, for a few moments lost in the ecstasy that could rival (and perhaps overcome) all other sensations she had felt in life, or since. As his heartbeat—hammering keenly in her ears—began to slow down she blinked and stopped. Surely this was about what he could take, right? If she stopped here and Thalia continued, it wasn’t her fault. Not really. If only she believed it herself.

She looked at Thalia, but Thalia was completely lost in the Kiss. Within moments pale Raphael’s body fell to the ground.

“And you are now, within your Goddess,” Thalia whispered towards the body and other followers.

Ellenore kept silent for a moment. Something at the back of her mind told her that this was how it was supposed to be between Kindred and Kine, predator and prey, but the voice had no strength to add to its conviction. She wasn’t quite ready to see it that way yet, though it would ease her internal suffering to do so. Despite her personal doubts, the deviant excess was enough to make part of her sing, the part of her that wanted nothing but to throw itself into sinful pleasures some more. It made a shudder of longing run through her, but she repressed the urge for now.

“I will see you later,” said Thalia as she started walking towards one of the tables. Two of her other followers started dragging Raphael’s body along with them.

Ellenore made a quick bow towards her as she strode past. Hosting parties had been so much simpler during life. Make sure there’s booze, some music and snacks and away they go; here, she had the feeling everyone was constantly trying to test her. She looked around to see if the others were at least getting comfortable.

Ellenore noticed Russell walking away from Diamond. He looked like she just slapped him… using only words. Vincent was playing chess with Alvaro; Alvaro didn’t seem like was really interested in that particular game. Hadley was speaking with Alise, though she couldn’t tell what the conversation was about.

All in all, it seemed like the attending Kindred were not having too much fun.

Ellenore got over to Rachel. “I think it’s time we roll out the first of the entertainment, wouldn’t you say?”

Rachel shivered a little. “Sure, you’re right. Won’t you say some introductory talk or something? While I prepare.” She waved at the two ghouls she brought with her.

The socialite slapped her on the back. “You got it, I’ll get them ready for you, no worries. Don’t take too long though, alright?”

“Thanks,” she said before meeting up with the two ghouls.

Ellenore made her way over to the stage, climbing on and walking to the front centre. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?” she called out, waiting for the gathered Kindred and Kine to quiet down a bit. “I once again thank you all for coming out here tonight, to my Grand Masque. It is my great honour, pleasure and privilege to present the scheduled entertainment for tonight.”

She let her gaze go over the guests for a moment, smiling at each individually. The crowd looked back, though she barely held the attention of some of them.

Ellenore did her best to present the schedule in as good a light as she could, keeping an eye out for Rachel’s signal. Once she saw the girl wave, she announced her performance and left the stage to sit amongst the rest of the family.

Rachel stood upon the stage, the ghouls standing by her side. As the music started she started to slowly dance along with it, moving faster and faster with each pass of the music. Ellenore realised that quite quickly that she was using some of her powers to speed up her ritme, making the dance very energetic and very fast. In the end it was hard to see her movements at all. The music fell silent as she grabbed one of the ghouls, her face pale.

Ellenore was right next to Dolores, wanting to check if the other Kindred was all ready to go as the next performer, but it seemed like was just watching the stage, completely forgoing any sort of preparation. She glanced up at the stage, confused by the sudden pause, but sidled up besides her anyway. “Hey, Dolores. Do you have your act ready to go after this?”

She turned her head towards Ellenore. “Do you think I would have allowed you to announce my performance if I weren’t ready?”

“I’m just a bit nervous, that’s all. Can’t really blame me, right?” She smiled at the other girl apologetically.

“It’s not me you need to be worried about,” she said nodding towards Rachel as the music returned to the room.

Ellenore turned her head back to the stage right on cue, whispering: “With Rachel there’s nothing I can influence by worrying about it… Prep isn’t her problem.”

The music was getting faster again… Rachel had bitten the neck of the ghoul she grabbed. A moment later he collapsed.

“I doubt that’s going to help him dance,” she mused. A bit of a simplistic way to add a thrill, perhaps. She felt a shudder run along her spine, was it because of what she’d said jokingly? There was nothing to it but just grin and bear it right now, and if someone took a joke for actual advice that wasn’t really her fault, right? Maybe she just needed to refill to keep up the speed she’d had before…

The music was increasing in speed again, just like the first time, but now Rachel wasn’t moving to the rhythm; she lifted her head, turned around and pounced upon the other man, immediately grounding him as well.

“And the weakling couldn’t bear being hungry for a minute,” said Dolores, observing the situation.

“I think it’s planned, it just doesn’t mesh very well with the overall theme…”

“Planned? We both know that quite a few here wouldn’t consider this a good act when breaking the flow of the music so hard. You think she’d risk it? She’s too cowardly to try,” she said. At that moment the second man stopped moving.

“No. She’s scared enough to be desperate enough to… She’s not going to do the same with the second one, right?”

“I’d get her under control, if I were you. If she attacks someone who’s not hers…”

Ellenore stood up, clapping loudly in the sudden silence as she lets her own personal magnetism roll over the room, grabbing the attention of those on and off the scene alike. “And that was Rachel’s performance everybody!” she says as she climbs onto the stage. “Quite a lot of energy in such a small package, no?” she looks at Rachel over her shoulder. “Get a hold of yourself. You’re making a mess of things.”

As Ellenore spoke, Rachel lifted her head from the second body and leaped on one of the ghouls standing next to the stage. However, this one caught her in time, starting a struggle.

Cursing silently Ellenore rushed in to help the third ghoul out. Finally realizing what was going on, she tried to think of some other way to calm her other than just locking her in place, but she couldn’t think of any. Together they were able to restrain the girl… Barely. After some time, she finally calmed down.

Rachel mustered all her strength. “I’m… I’m so sorry.”

Ellenore struggled to keep herself calm, gritting her teeth for a moment. “We’ll… talk later. Just get this mess off the stage so I can try to salvage this.”

Rachel stood up and started going towards the corpses with her head down. Whispers went through the room. When she got close to the first corpse Dolores’s voice thundered through the room. “Get off my stage! You’re ruining the view. Those guys can serve as props for the grand tale I am about to tell, as well as reminders of your failure!”

If a high grade incendiary device had exploded in the room just then, Ellenore might not have minded particularly much. It wasn’t the first time the embrace of death had seemed tempting to her. She nodded at Rachel and motioned her off the stage. Part of her wanted to offer up some consoling gestures, but frankly she was more concerned with keeping the event together at that point. When it came down to it, she always did put herself first. “Duchagne’s own Dolores will take the stage for you next, ladies and gentlemen. Please give her a warm applause.” She bowed as she vacated the stage, hoping Dolores had something better in mind.

Dolores went a bit to the left of the stage, while her ghouls got on the stage, each wearing a different costume. She proceeded to tell a grand tale of the Blinded Queen and her travels, with the ghouls acting out the roles. Some other ghouls brought in tied up people, who were released upon the stage at appropriate times, to play the parts of those who would die.

“And so in the end, greatest champions fought for the chance to be by the Queen’s side. And so, we will see my ghouls fighting for this opportunity as well, to the death”. Four ghouls came upon the stage, naked with but a sword in hand.

Ellenore watched on in a silence that could very easily be mistaken for intense focus. Dolores had a good grasp of what their family found interesting, that was for sure. By now she was quite numbed to it all. She could only bring herself to care so much for other people’s suffering on one evening, and that was yet another part she hated about herself. Mumbling something about preparations, she went to make sure her own help and arrangements were ready to go.

The men started fighting, and it was obvious that they had had little to no training. The crowd watched them and picked sides. Some even had bets on the outcomes of each fight. One by one the men fell with only a lone victor remaining at the end. He had a stab wound in his side, which he was pressing a hand against to stop the blood. It didn’t seem too life threatening. The crowd cheered for him.

“And here is our victor, and my gift to Ellenore. I hope he serves you as well as his courage served him. Kneel before your new master, and be thankful, for your life is now in her hands”

The man fell on his knees looking up at Ellenore, fear clear in his eyes.

Ellenore put a smile on her lips, even though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. The things she had to put up with… “My champion… will you serve me well?”

“Yes…” he said, seeming a little lost.

“You should ghoul him. That will let his wound to heal, and will ensure obedience.”

“A fitting reward for his valour, I do agree.” She brought her wrist up to her lips and bit herself, belittling herself for not being able to hurt herself more with the bite; she deserved it for being part of this. Then again, weren’t vampires were probably all going to hell anyway? Or whatever equivalent to that human concept that was really out there. She held her wrist out to him, allowing a small trickle of her own blood to run out of the wound. “Partake of my essence and claim your prize.”

It was obvious that the man didn’t like the idea, but the alternative terrified him even more. As soon as he tasted precious Ellenore’s blood he couldn’t make himself stop. His wound closed, and he looked almost well-rested.

“Clean yourself up backstage,” she told him, “it won’t do for you to look so bedraggled. As for me, I’ve got to get ready too.” She gave a nod to Dolores, ‘thanking’ her for the ‘gift’ before she went to get ready.

Backstage she quickly got into the gymnast’s outfit Anna had procured for her, complete with phoenix motif. She hoped there wouldn’t literally be ashes to rise from tonight. All that was left was to repeat her instructions to the ones backstage. She didn’t need much, just for the lighting and the music to be controlled, and for her ring of fire to be put on stage at the right time. She glanced up at the hoop, yet unlit. There’d only be a small wreath of flame, but it would look bigger to her mind, she was quite sure. Yet instead of fear she felt… nothing at all, really. It puzzled her.

Giving out the last of her commands, she went back on stage, ready to perform.

The crowd was looking at her intensely. After Dolores’s performance she’d have to put up quite a show. The people who died during Dolores’s play were gone, but Rachel’s remained. It didn’t matter, she was agile enough to move around them.

Placing herself at the front of centre stage, she waited for the music to kick in. When it did she tore free of the flimsy dress that had been covering her outfit—designed exactly for that purpose—and started her routine. She wove flips and cartwheels seamlessly into each other, moving across the stage in an explosive fashion that very closely mirrored the beat of the music.

At the end, as she saltoed backwards to gain some distance, the hoop, now burning, was wheeled onto the stage. The crowd let a slight wail of fear and excitement out. She knew she only had one shot at it, as she let the ominous and frightful side of the Beast reign, making the fire look all the more dangerous and wild. She steeled herself, then ran, determined to make the flip clean through.

As she rushed headlong at the fire, she felt the Beast roar inside her, trying to pull her off her course. With a great effort of will she pushed it back; this was much too important. She skipped, flipped and then tumbled clean through, only registering heat for the barest fraction of a second before she landed. Inside she was still at turmoil, and she did another flip overhead to put some distance between herself and the fire, and to get closer to the front of the stage. Letting the frightful presence go, she drew in the adoration of the crowd and took on her ending pose. She fought back against the frightened Beast inside of herself a bit more and eventually shrugged off the feeling, pushing it back deep inside. She smiled at the crowd.

The crowd was applauding Ellenore. She could see them all, some with fear in their eyes, some with awe. Some of the mortals and ghouls couldn’t quite understand why it ws such a big feat, but they were impressed nonetheless.

It all worked out in the end.

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