The tale of three vampires, a changeling, and some demon-worshipers in the city of Seattle. It's summer, 1997, and this is the World of Darkness.
The original .doc files for some episodes can be found here.
Part II of Seattle by Lava Lamp, if you want to skip ahead.
Episode I | Episode II | Episode III | Episode IV | Episode V | Episode VI | Episode VII | Episode VIII | Episode IX
Seattle by Lava Lamp (Episode 1) Seattle, mid-August, 1997 Roderick woke with a start - he usually did, given the images with which his dreams were filled on a daily basis. The reassuring sights and sounds of his home hammered through the fog of a groggy mind, though, as he recognized his dresser across the room, the posters of the bed that had come with this house, the open doors of the wardrobe that held his better clothes. He sought out the clock by his bedside, read it (8:45 pm), and put his feet to the floor with a stretch and an audible series of pops that ran the length of his spine. Two minutes later he was under the lukewarm water of his shower, singing a Mama Cass number. "Sir," Cedric intoned with his usual, measured lifelessness. "Did you rest well?" "Eh." Roderick finished pulling the brown sweater over his head and over his torso, shoving arms into sleeves and taking a second to smooth the whole thing over before checking his reflection in the oven door to fix his hair. It was being its usual uncooperative self, and fell into something resembling its place, draped over his shoulders. "Is Bashir awake?" "Madam is awake, yes. I heard madam's shower running shortly before sunset. I believe she has not left her workroom." "Yeah, she said something about a big project." His hair was good enough. Roderick turned, shifting his heel to adjust his boot for a second, made a face of discomfort and grunted. "Any messages while we were asleep?" "Rebecca phoned on behalf of Emily. She said you should expect an invitation to the next reading." Roderick's brow wrinkled. A Toreador poetry reading, hosted by Emily? And he was invited? That merited some attention. If it was half as good as the last Toreador party he went to, it was definitely worth attending - although something made him doubt he'd get away with spiking another punch bowl in Seattle anytime this decade. "Well, shit. I'd better get some of the better duds ready. Maybe that big purple job with the cape and that hat." Cedric shifted his weight precisely a centimeter to the left. His regnant recognized the closest Cedric ever came to questioning Roderick. "What, the purple job with the big cape isn't a good idea? I should leave off the hat?" "Sir," Cedric began, choosing his words with care, "It is entirely your decision." Roderick just gave Cedric a look. "Okay, fine, I'll wear a suit. With a tie and everything." Another moment of silence. "You know, Cedric, what you're not getting here is that these people think I'm crazy. I mean, they call me a 'kook' behind my back, and they think I can't hear them. They're a bunch of tight-asses. If I'm going to show up for the party and have any fun, I'm going to have to distract them by playing to the stereotype. I'm of half a mind to show up with a teddy bear and a hatchet, only I'd throttle myself in a fit of self-loathing." Cedric merely nodded. "Of course, sir." "The suit. I know. The suit." "Leave it in the foyer as usual, sir, and I shall see it off to the cleaners tomorrow." "Thanks, Cedric," Roderick replied as he propelled himself from the kitchen counter where he'd leaned his weight, towards the front room. "Now it's time to go say a hearty good morning to 'madam.'" The pressing of a few quick fingers, in a pattern Roderick still found himself having to think about before remembering, caused a panel to swing open in the side of the staircase that led to Cedric and Jorge's quarters upstairs. The lights in the basement were still on, and Roderick began the descent to where he and Bashir made their separate havens. Bashir was not lady of the house, although Cedric was far too proper to call her anything but "the madam." Bashir was very probably Roderick's worst enemy. They'd tried to kill each other, complete with elaborate plots foiled in the end, at least four times in the last six months. She had nearly gotten him at the street festival, he had nearly gotten her with the frame-up for murder. Now they slept across the basement hall from one another. You keep your friends close and your enemies closer, the saying goes. They both wanted to keep their worst enemy of all very, very close. And, no doubt, the Regent wanted to keep an eye on Roderick. Roderick may not have been an expert on Tremere, but he was pretty sure the Regent had to have a darned good reason for allowing Bashir to live outside the Chantry. This was something he would, no doubt, be forced to uncover messily before too long. All this, however, he pushed from his mind as he reached the door to Bashir's "workroom." "Knock knock knockity knock," he said aloud as he rapped on the wood. "I'm doing the secret Tremere knock. Wooba wooba, the elk flies at midnight, the blood tastes like raspberry soda, et cetera." There was a muffled reply from the other side. "I see London, I see France, I see the Regent's underpants?" It was worth a shot. The reply was slightly less muffled, and slightly more annoyed. "Avon calling? You're double-parked?" Roderick raised his voice slightly. "I'm just a dolphin, m'am!" There was a loud clanging of metal as it sounded like several locks turned themselves in rapid succession, and the knob turned. Creaking open, the door swung wide, although Bashir herself stood a good fifteen feet away, hunched over a microscope with some very odd symbols scrawled on it. She was quite sure Roderick would never understand their significance. She was right. "And a fine good morning to you, too," he said. "Hey, look, two things: I'm gonna go walk Bob, and Emily invited us to her poetry reading." "That's nice." "I'm gonna wear a suit." "That's probably wise." The silence darted into the pause that hung there, and started to grow. It stretched out, long and languid, enjoying its moment in the spotlight, interrupted only here and there as Bashir shifted to adjust her microscope or mutter something under her breath. "Right, so, um, have a fun night." Roderick reached for the knob, to close the door again, but Bashir turned. She had the hood on her favorite robe (her only robe, Roderick guessed) down, the sleeves pushed up and tied off to free her arms for movement. She had a pretty face, Roderick thought to himself. "When will you return." It didn't sound like a question - it sounded like she'd ordered a pizza and Roderick had just shown up an hour late with someone else's pizza instead. "Well, Bob and I'll be gone for an hour? Then I'm gonna go out, get a snack, maybe drop by Trevor's." "When you return, we will speak." Roderick's brow wrinkled a second time. "Okay, whatever I did, I'm sorry. Leave a detailed note with precisely what I did to annoy you this time, and I'll screw the cap back on the toothpaste more tightly next time. Honest." Bashir's lack of retort only made Roderick's brow wrinkle more deeply. "We will speak of a matter of importance to us both." "I'm going to assume this isn't just another attempt to kill me in some over-complicated way, since I think we both learned our lesson there. Besides, you're not in the will." Bashir drew a slow, calming breath. "We will speak of the former Regent." The former Regent: Mr. White; this was not the Regent who had allowed Bashir to take up residence outside the Chantry, with another vampire, of another clan. This was the old Regent. The one who had killed the old Prince. The Regent who had disappeared shortly after. "Okay." "Enjoy your walk." With that, Bashir turned back around, returned to her microscope, and the door closed. Roderick loved walking Bob. Bob was his name for the dog, an antiquated St. Bernard who'd had the blood of the old Prince (coincidentally named Horus, and thoroughly unrelated to his better-known namesake) poured over his Alpo every night for a couple of centuries by the time he came into Roderick's possession. That had been a lucky acquisition - the old place was really starting to fall apart within two weeks of the Prince's death, and Vito hadn't been able to figure out where his predecessor's private haven had been. With a bribe and a late-night phone call to a city attorney, Roderick had cleared the red tape that stood between him and the home of a Prince whom Roderick had actually called a friend. The dog had been hiding in the basement, dangerously close to catching up to his real age. Two centuries in dog years, in the span of five minutes (once the blood ran out) wasn't an exciting prospect. Now Bob was as loyal to Roderick as he'd been to Horus. Aside from playing a mean game of fetch, though, Bob had the added attraction of a thick coat of fur. Roderick's preferred food these nights were the kids dancing the night away in warehouses downtown, taking lots of mediocre drugs and wearing pretty, shiny pants. With Bob, feeding without overdosing was easy: take the big, furry dog inside. Watch the kids on XTC run over and start petting it maniacally. Watch to see what kids smirk to themselves self-righteously, and don't get involved - they were the kids whose systems were clean. Make out with a couple of the more handsome ones while the others were staring at the spectacle of a St. Bernard that came up to their elbows. Raver boys were easy. With a warm belly and a dog who'd had all the massaging he'd need for next, well, five minutes, Roderick packed Bob back into the car and got in on the other side. Moments later, they were pulling up in front of a townhouse in a yuppie neighborhood. The press of a button brought a familiar voice. "Hello?" "Rod here, Trevor. Just wanted to drop by and say hello." "Come on in." The front door unlocked, and Roderick and the St. Bernard of Doom entered. "Let yourself in," came a quiet voice from the other side of 23B. Roderick tried the knob, and cracked the door open. The lights were low, but he could see Trevor with another person's head on his lap. A beckoning hand welcomed Roderick inside; another put a finger to Trevor's lips to indicate quiet. "Hey," Roderick whispered. "Who's that?" "One of my guys," Trevor whispered in reply. Trevor was not a Changeling of any fantastic wealth. If anyone was the cash cow of Roderick's current social circle, it was Roderick himself. There had been advantages to having an absent and guilt-ridden widower father. They were mainly to be found in his last will and testament. Roderick allowed his pupils to dilate further than naturally able, and the room came into sharp focus. A young man dressed too much like a beatnik was asleep on Trevor's lap. Trevor merely sat there, looking down at him. "He's alive." "Well, yeah," Trevor replied, a bit startled by the thought the artist reclined atop him might be dead. "He's sleeping." "Oh." "He's having a lovely dream." Roderick paused a bit longer. "Oh." Trevor pulled his eyes away after a moment, and smiled a bit drunkenly. As he opened his mouth to whisper again, Bob finished sniffing lightly at the mortal among them, and started to lick Trevor's hand for attention. "So what brings you over?" "Just wanted to stop in. Hadn't seen you for a few days. I tried to call. You really ought to get a machine." "Ansaphones," Trevor replied with a smirk, "Are for people with real jobs. I've got better things to do than listen to old phone calls." "Well, anyway, I got invited to this minor shindig. Thought I'd ask if you wanted to go. I'm pretty sure it'll say 'and Guest' on the bottom." "What's it going to be?" "Poetry reading." Trevor rolled his eyes. "You're going to make trouble, aren't you?" "Now, that's not fair. I might be going to expand my literary horizons." Trevor didn't bother to respond, instead absently stroking the fur around Bob's neck and looking down as the painter on his lap stirred for a moment. "Well, drop me some email about it. I'll check that before I'll answer the phone anytime soon." "If that's the best answer I can get for now?" "It is." Trevor smiled, not unkindly, and looked down again as the artist stirred more purposefully. Roderick started to pick up the smell of stale port, sticky sweet but sour, too. It smelled like something that would make you throw up all over your date's shoes. At least the painter hadn't gotten to that point. Yet. As Roderick's thoughts covered the painter, the young man himself started to awaken, eyes fluttering open and narrowing again as he squinted across the dark at the strange face watching him. "Hi," Roderick said. "Hi," the artist replied before easing into a stretch and looking up to see Trevor smiling back at him. "Oh, shit. Did I go to sleep?" "Don't worry about it. Rod's a friend who dropped by." Trevor looked up again. "Rod, this is Chris." Chris realized his situation rather abruptly - he'd never intended to fall asleep on Trevor, much less on Trevor's lap. A blush turned his face near-purple for a second as he sat up groggily and mumbled an apology. Gazing around, he caught sight of Bob, sitting on his haunches at the end of the couch, sniffing the air more expectantly now. "That's a fucking huge dog," he mumbled. The gravel of the circular drive crunched satisfyingly under the car. Roderick turned the key, the engine died nobly, its chin up, and master and dog sauntered towards the front step. Double doors opened, and Roderick strode into the foyer of his home to find Bashir sitting in the living room, visible through the wide arch. She was tucked into a ball on a wing-backed chair covered in stuffed leather, lighting a cigarette from the flame carried on her palm. "You'll never get tired of that trick, will you?" "You'll never stop being jealous of it, so no." Their eyes met for a moment, before Bashir looked back to her book and Roderick flopped down on a loveseat. "Yes, I had a lovely walk, and Trevor's doing just fine. So why do we need to talk about the old Regent?" "I have secured this room against magickal surveillance." Roderick shrugged. "You did ask me to tell you anytime I 'go witching around the place,' I believe." "Thank you." "You're welcome. As for Mr. White, we need to speak of him because I have reason to believe he is back in Seattle." "Great. Call up the clan. Have them set him on fire from way off. Make a barbecue of it. I'll bring plates and cups." "Your levity is noted. I suspect it will drain away rather abruptly and embarrassingly, now that I'm going to tell you that I believe he is watching this house through some means." Roderick's levity drained away rather abruptly. He tried not to look embarrassed, though. "Great. Do you have sensors that pick up on stuff like this?" Bashir lifted her eyes from the book and said, in a long puff of blue cigarette smoke, "As you would say, 'Well, duh.'" Roderick didn't bother with a comeback. He crossed his legs and started to play with the hem of his bell-bottom jeans. "So what do we do about it?" "We do not let him know that we realize this. We wait for him to make the next move. He is on the run; it is possible he is taxed to the point of showing his hand early in a fit of paranoia, stress, or overconfidence derived from a driving desire for some measure of success given his defeats of recent memory." Roderick frowned. He hated letting other people make the first move. He'd won every chess game of his life by knocking the board over as his first move, and then daring his opponent to say that wasn't legal. "Great. I'll just go have tea with Cedric on the back porch, then." "Enjoy your tea." "I will," Roderick said in his most childish Cartman impression as he left the room.
Episode I | Episode II | Episode
III | Episode IV | Episode V |
Episode VI | Episode VII | Episode VIII | Episode IX
Episode I | Episode II | Episode
III | Episode IV | Episode V | Episode VI | Episode VII | Episode VIII | Episode IX
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Seattle by Lava Lamp (Episode 2)
Seattle, mid-August plus two nights, 1997
"And a good evening to you, as well, Emily," Roderick intoned,
dropping his shoulders in a half-bow of overdone good manners. "What a
lovely haven. Is it yours?"
"Too rich," Bashir intoned, without lifting her eyes from the
book. "You've got a lot to learn about 'high society,' as you call
it. Emily will be insulted the minute you whip out your 'Oh, I'm a bigger
bourgeoisie git than you' dick."
Roderick stopped kissing the hand of empty air before him, and
laid backwards over the arm-rest of the couch.
"God, Bashir, you almost sound like you have some faith in
humankind. Haven't you ever watched Dynasty? Everybody's all
all frickin' night long." Easing back into a sitting position, he flicked
her a glance that spoke of reams more experience in the ways of the
well-to-do. Bashir still failed utterly to look away from her book.
"It's like this," she said after another drag on a
cigarette. "There are the nouveau riche who like to be like that because
they think it's so fucking clever. Then there's the middling-old-money
types who think they're better than that and it won't hurt them to shut up
and be nice to somebody once in a while. Then there's the
old-money-but-the-glory-is-gone types who need to inject themselves with a
little self-importance, and revert back to being a bunch of catty bastards
in tuxedoes. Emily is neither the first nor the last. She fits in the
middle, from everything I've seen. Just shut your damn mouth, and try not
to get thrown out. I really don't see why you're so keen on going,
Roderick's indignance nearly got the best of him, but he merely
said, "Because I got invited, and you're the one who said we needed to
keep a higher profile after everything earlier this summer. You said it
would make it harder for someone to quietly do away with me. Or
"Yes," Bashir agreed, stubbing out her cigarette and then, as she
continued, rising to adjust the flow of her skirt and the black blouse
that covered the rest of her. "Not tucking ourselves away where a quiet
mail-bomb can kill us both is a good idea. Slapping a target on our
collective ass and waving it in the air to moon the Prince and the
Toreador Primogen is not. Try striking a balance for once in your
life. And go get the car ready."
"Well, lah-tee-dah," Roderick said, arching an eyebrow. This was
about the most reaction he'd managed to get out of Bashir in a
while. Maybe she was actually worried by something; not that the return
of Mr. White wasn't reason enough to be a little on edge. He stood up as
well, though, and did a quick adjusting of the tie he'd selected for the
evening before saying, "I'll jes' go get that cah, Miss Daisy."
Bashir simply rolled her eyes.
"Roderick? Roderick Surrett? It's a pleasure to really meet
you; I've seen you at Assemblies, but I don't think we've been
Bashir's predictions had pegged Emily to a tee; she was beautiful,
in an altogether-too-skinny sort of way, and obviously fairly well-to-do,
but she hadn't adopted quite all the airs of the rest of Seattle's
Toreador population. She was wearing a sort of business suit, but it
didn't scream Chanel; it was actually pretty subdued - cream, almost
beige. Roderick was forced to feel slightly over-dressed, looking down
for a second at his own slacks, white button-up shirt, and black silk
tie. Of course he wasn't dressed as neatly as Emily - that was the
important thing here, that although what she wore was simple, it was
neat. You wouldn't find more symmetry in a textbook diagram of a
butterfly. The goal, however, had been to be dressed down just enough to
miff a few of the hoitiest of the toities.
"Hi," he replied. "Nice place." A smile tugged at his mouth, and
turned into a half-hearted grin. It really was a nice place; again, a
strong emphasis on neatness and simplicity. He'd half-expected something
grotesquely, religiously baroque on every wall.
"Bashir Choseldei," Bashir said in her quietest voice, peeking up
at Emily from behind dyed-black bangs. What a cheesemonster, Roderick
thought to himself.
"Bashir, lovely to meet you. Please, help yourself to
refreshments. We'll be starting the reading in about twenty minutes."
With that, Emily - long, sort of stringy blonde hair and slightly
sunken jaws and all - glided away, parting the crowd to shake hands with
"Damn, she is one skinny woman," Roderick finally said, watching
after her. "Christ, she should eat something."
"Typhoid or malaria survivor, would be my first guess," Bashir
supplied from halfway to his elbow. "Obviously not quite recovered when
Embraced. Her sire was probably afraid he would lose her. Pathetically
"Man, Bashir, you really know how to crank out the party vibe."
"I'm a walking celebration of life, yes. Now, she mentioned
refreshments. I suggest that unless you feel like being bloodbound to an
up-and-coming Toreador, you accompany me to what appears to be a punch
bowl over there, and we find out what sort of blood she's feeding us."
"Oh, she wouldn't do that. We'd be able to tell the difference."
"How much vampire blood do you drink on a regular basis?" Bashir
asked in reply. "Would you be able to tell the difference?"
"Well…" Roderick thought about it for a second. The last time
he'd drunk a vampire's blood, he'd been mortal - for a few more seconds,
anyway. "You make an excellent point. Let's hit the bar."
Two minutes later, a servant of some sort was handing them crystal
cups with dark red liquid running around in them, sticking to the
edges. Bashir indelicately placed the tip of her index finger in the
blood and closed her eyes; the ghoul was better-mannered than to pay
attention, although one fellow party-goer did look sidelong at Bashir and
arch an eyebrow at the gauche behavior.
"That's very rude, Miss Choseldei," the socialite said just loud
enough to be heard. "I'm sure we can trust Emily to feed us nothing
Roderick just smiled and lifted a hand to wave. Bashir, on the
other hand, opened her eyes, looked at the woman for a moment, and spoke
"You are correct; she is not feeding us anything dangerous. It
appears to be perfectly normal blood. However, you did not know that
until I determined it for you. You still do not, in fact, know that. You
were merely being snide before, and now you will have to assume. I like
to be sure of my choices. Is reckless behavior one of your favored
The Toreador stared for a moment, then turned on a heel and walked
the other direction.
"Wow, and you think I've got problems with my social skills?"
"Drink," Bashir said, handing him the glass. "Don't talk."
"Yes'm," he said, taking a sip. "Oh, my God, it's cold."
"Yes. Probably a personal taste."
"Gross. And where the hell is Trevor? I told him we'd be here
ten minutes ago."
"What the fuck are you doing, bringing a kine to a Toreador
party?" she hissed. "You are begging to get hauled in on breaking the
"Oh, hush. He's harmless. He doesn't know a thing."
"Have you blood bound him?" the Tremere demanded, voice a hoarse,
breathy imitation of a shout meant for one person alone. A few heads had
turned at their sudden, fierce whispering at one another.
"I am not lying!"
"I can see it in your aura, you fucking maniac! Do you want to
get us all killed?" Bashir was looking the angriest Roderick had ever
seen her. Well, almost.
"Okay, fine, so I'm lying! I'm going to blood bind him. I've
just not figured out a chance to slip it in his drink, okay? What do you
want me to do, cut my wrist open and shove it in his face?"
"If necessary," Bashir growled, before downing the contents of her
cup and shoving it at the servant. "Another, if you please."
"Look, shut up. This whole house is probably loaded down with
more Spidey Senses than we can count," Roderick growled back. By now, he
and Bashir had worked their way into a far corner, practically behind the
maid who was serving the drinks.
"We will discuss this later."
"Great," Roderick replied, looking around. Now that they weren't
whispering like choir members anymore, they'd ceased to garner much
attention, and the sound of conversation was just lifting to the point
where tuning in on them with extra-aural abilities would probably
hurt. "No problem. Put it on our agenda. For now, that's Trevor coming
through the door."
If Roderick had his say, the matter of Trevor and letting a
"kine" come to a vampiric function would be put off as long as
possible. He didn't feel like sharing with Bashir that Trevor already
claimed to be a vampire, and didn't want to present himself to "a fat-ass
bastard like Vito" for "reasons of his own."
Tangled webs, Roderick told himself. Tangled webs. Must remember
"Emily," Rebecca murmured in her regnant's ear as she
approached. "Live one at the door. Says he's with a Mr. Surrett."
Emily politely excused herself from conversation, and nodded at
"Thank you. I'll meet him personally."
The ghoul nodded; this wasn't a party with blood dolls. You
didn't allow ghouls to work concessions at a party with blood dolls. This
could be serious fun.
Trevor stood just inside the door, shirt-sleeves rolled up, an
undone bow-tie around his neck, hands in his pockets. There was a ratty
scrapbook under his left arm, and he was scanning the crowd for someone
he'd recognize. The plague-victim gliding up to him in a suit didn't look
like anyone he knew, but it certainly appeared that was about to change.
"Emily," the woman breathed, holding out a hand. "Welcome to my
"Trevor," the man replied, smiling politely. "I'm with
Roderick?" It was a question of whether Roderick had actually managed to
show, more than anything. Roderick had warned him to play it cool, act
like his foremost concern was getting wherever Roderick was. Games within
games; this was the stuff Trevor enjoyed about playing
ghoul-of-the-hour. It made for great stories to write down later.
"Yes. I believe he's in the dining room, with Miss
Choseldei. I'll see you to them personally, if you don't mind."
Trevor just smiled, nodded, tried to look mildly relieved. "So
when's the reading starting?"
"Oh, any minute now. I see you've got a book with you - brought a
work of your own to share?" The smile was prettier than ever, Trevor
"Well, maybe. I'll listen first, see if my stuff will go over
"I'm very open to new work, Trevor. I'm glad Roderick thought to
invite you - I'm sure anything you read will be well-received. Please, as
a favor to me, feel free to take a few moments before the group."
Trevor smiled and nodded again - and this time the nervousness was
for real. Something was weird about this leech; she just seemed downright
pleasant. What on earth was Roderick doing hanging out with her, much
Emily and Trevor finally came to a halt a few feet from where
Bashir and Roderick stood, people-watching from their corner. Their
conversation was long over; now they were brooding over crystal punch cups
full of blood. Roderick had already started to wonder whether he'd have
to fling any attitude to liven the shindig up; at this rate, it was
shaping up to be fairly surreal all its own. The last Toreador party he'd
been to had involved a few neonates trying to waltz to a string quartet
obviously Presence'd out of their gourds while their mommies and daddies
had disappeared upstairs to have the equivalent of a blood orgy with a
bunch of "street artists" brought in for their last showing. This party
was….not a party. Everyone here was toned down somehow. They were
serving blood from punch bowls. Everyone had a little crystal cup. And
it looked like someone might actually read poetry.
"Roderick, Bashir," Emily smiled as she approached. "I found
Trevor here hanging around just inside the door. I believe you know one
"Hey, Trev," Roderick grinned, reaching out to put a hand on
Trevor's elbow. "Emily, meet Trevor. He's a…friend."
Emily merely gave a knowing nod and a slight smile, then looked to
Bashir. "Everything okay? Anything I can do to make you more
Bashir blinked once, shook her head to either side, and said,
The four of them stood there, looking at one another for a long
moment, and then Emily abruptly clapped her hands together over her head.
"The time has come! We're going to ruin our shoes if we stand
around like this much longer. I, for one, came for some poetry!"
As the crowd looked around as though to make sure they'd really
heard their hostess say that, and slowly filtered towards the chairs
arranged on a glassed-in back deck (a Florida Room, Roderick reminded
himself, that's what they called one in the '60s), Bashir tugged once on
his sleeve and stood on tip-toes to whisper towards his ear, "This is
certainly a unique experience, in the context of Toreador gatherings."
Roderick shrugged once, finished his cup of blood, and replied,
"First time for everything. Let's go hear some angst."
From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Feb 20 16:22:56 2000
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 05:23:33 -0500 (EST)
From: Classic Tornado Victim
From email@example.com Sun Feb 20 16:32:19 2000
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 02:18:19 -0500 (EST)
From: Amish in Space
Roderick's shower the next night was cold - dangerously so. He
stood underneath it, unshivering since his mammalian instincts to stay
warm had died thirty years before, letting himself get colder by the
second. Twenty minutes in, he had to push some blood around to warm
himself; not too much, lest he defeat his own purpose with this extended
bath in water that felt like it could come out of the showerhead in cubes
Colder, he told himself. Another five minutes, and he had to push
more blood around - more than before, comparatively. Feeling returned to
his forearms and palms, but his fingers remained a distant memory,
unmoving, pressed to his flesh. An ache of freezing came and went again,
and finally he turned off the water only when a persistent, polite series
of rappings at the door to his bedroom let him know that someone wanted
his time very badly.
A little more blood pushed through his body, and he started to
feel his fingers again. It hurt, so he pushed more. It brought feeling
back more quickly, but it brought him through the pain of reawakening
nerves all the more sharply. Finally, a towel around his waist, he padded
over to the door and looked out the peephole.
A peephole in my own bedroom door, he thought. The paranoia gets
Bashir stood on the other side, dressed in her usual black
dress/robe/whatever, like an evil wizardess come to visit from strange
lands. Then again, her laboratory right across the hall was a pretty
damned strange land.
"What? I'm in the shower."
"I noticed. You've been in the shower for forty-five minutes. I
believe I left out a note for you last night; that it's gone from the door
means you've read it. It indicated that I wished to speak with you, and
you're running late."
A peephole in my own bedroom door, and intra-office memos in my
own house, he sighed quietly to himself.
"Let me get some clothes. I'll be upstairs in a few."
"Meet me in the library."
Emily double-checked her hand-written notes from the driver's seat
of her car. It was a vanity car, there was no denying it; car enthusiasts
in parking lots inevitably complimented her on such a beautiful
reproduction of a '36 Bentley (4.25l roadster edition), and she thanked
them politely, of course, but it was 100% original from stem to stern, one
owner. And, unfortunately, it stuck out like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
of sore thumbs in this neighborhood. Not that she was in a bad part of
town, so much as the starving artists stacked like 2 x 4's in the loft
apartments over ragged little mom & pop stores would probably slash her
tires in protest of the bourgeois encroachment on their territory. Oh
well, that's why you have insurance.
Locking the car behind her, she got out and walked up the step to
a steel door that opened when she tugged on it. Inside, she found another
door just far enough from the first to allow one person - or two, if they
were overly friendly - to stand. A quick scan of the buzzers showed 23-C
to be under the name "T. Simpson." Crossing her fingers, she pushed the
buzzer and waited.
"Trevor's Heavy Words and Cumbersome Phrases," came a crisp
voice. She'd picked the right one.
"Trevor, this is Emily. Roderick's friend? You were at my place
last night, and I was wondering if I could interest you in an evening
The pause on the other end was long. Emily had gotten this
address without consulting Roderick, Bashir or Trevor. Her appearance was
meant to be a surprise, and a startling one, by which she would gauge
something of Trevor's mettle. If he was your average kine or a terrified
new-made ghoul, he'd be indignant and scared. If he took it coolly, and
in a night or two responded in kind, he'd be something more: a
particularly willful mortal, perhaps, or maybe one of these mind-vampires
as Roderick had claimed. So it was that she waited, listening to his slow
breath on the other end of the intercom.
"Emily, great to hear from you. Why don't you come on up and tell
me what you have in mind?"
Cool as a cucumber, Emily decided. Definitely worth her time.
"Great. I've got a pair of passes to the best gallery opening of
the season. I think you're going to be interested."
Roderick appeared in the library fifteen minutes later. His hair
was still wet and stringy, pulled back into a ponytail while it
dried. His clothes were the more familiar fare: an old pair of parachute
pants from the early '80s, a t-shirt that read "Hotlanta River Ride
'89" in white letters on hot pink fabric. Bashir sat in one of the huge
leather chairs, feet tucked underneath her, reading through one of
Roderick's ratty old New Age tomes of crap. The title read _Faeries,
Elves and How to Gain Their Favor_.
Bashir looked up at Roderick's entrance, glancing from his clothes
back to the walls around her and the chair in which she sat. It would
never cease to surprise her that someone like Roderick could end up owning
a house like this.
"You wanted to talk?" he asked her as he settled slowly onto a
couch and stretched out, flat. Something suggested he wasn't in a mood to
pick a fight; Bashir took advantage of it and jumped straight to business.
"Certain tests I have performed around the city indicate that
Mr. White is very definitely here. He has been observed in the vicinity
of my clan's chantry. It also appears he has been attempting to verify
that nothing of the city's main points of vampiric influence has changed
in the months since he was here last. It would seem he is gathering
"Information he'll use to try and seek revenge," Roderick finished
for her, having seen all this in a hundred spy flicks before. "He's
making sure the weak spots he might have known about before are still
weak, and the same goes for the strong spots."
"Yes," Bashir replied. "He's also been near this house. Across
the street, to be precise. Twice in the last week. Once was last night."
That got Roderick's attention. He shot up to sit on the edge of
the couch, turning to face Bashir, eyes going very hard very quickly.
"He's been here? Watching my house? And I didn't notice
it?" His voice was strained, his jaw trembled. Bashir made a mental note
of such strong territoriality, and moved on.
"Yes, and no. Was he physically over there, across the street,
hiding in the Morgandorfer's bushes? No. Appealing as it might be to me
to think of him in such a humorously silly position, he was not there
physically. It appears to me that he was astrally projected, from
somewhere else in the city."
Roderick knew what astral projection was, in that he'd heard about
it. Mr. Greene - Principal Greene - had told him about it. He had, in
fact, offered to teach it to him. Roderick hadn't quite made up his mind
about Principal Greene, though, so he'd claimed he already knew how, and
turned down the offer.
"How the fuck did you manage that?"
Bashir produced a black cigarette from somewhere in the folds of
her dress and lit it off her palm, then tossed the pack to Roderick's side
before going on. "I'm a Tremere. I believe you are aware that we enjoy
very specific powers unique to our clan, particularly given your tendency
to refer to us by less savory nicknames for wizards or warlocks. I did it
by magic, which is utterly unimportant. The point here is this: I can
recognize where he's been, not least of which is because he still carries
a demonic taint. It is, as a matter of fact, more pronounced now, which
is a bad thing. And he is definitely here, and definitely gathering
information so that he might plan something. It is undoubtedly
revenge. We must act, and we must do so soon if we wish to defend
"Okay," Roderick agreed, using an infinitely more mundane method
of lighting the cigarette he took from Bashir's tossed pack: a Bic
disposable. "So what do we know? He's a Tremere, and a powerful
one. He's started worshiping demons. He's got more of this demonic taint
stuff, so that means he's probably auctioned off a little more of his
"I assure you," Bashir stated calmly, "'This demonic taint stuff,'
as you put it, is for real."
"I believe you," Roderick admitted after a second. "I didn't
believe in demons until all this Mr. White shit started happening in the
first place, but after you've seen one all up close and personal, there's
no real getting around it."
Bashir nodded her head. "Well said; we certainly had an
educational encounter with the topic those few short months ago. However,
you are unfamiliar with exactly how demons work, yes?"
Roderick shrugged and took a drag of the cigarette.
"I figured as much; few people are familiar with their
methods. And before you ask, yes, I was taught a pittance about them as
part of my training. We are brought up to rely on ourselves and the clan,
not outside sources of power which are ultimately self-destructive."
They exchanged a loaded glance; Roderick was about as certain that
Clan Tremere was free of demonic influences, now that he knew demons
really existed, as he was certain that monkeys would fly out of his ass on
demand. Bashir, in turn, was fully aware of these thoughts, written
plainly in Roderick's eyes and his cocky little smirk. It didn't help
that Mr. White was Exhibit A for the prosecution. After another moment,
she went on.
"As I was saying, you must understand how demons work. Demons do
not make you sign a little slip of paper saying, 'Yes, I will give my soul
over to Hell at death.' Demons certainly collect souls, but not all at
Roderick's brow wrinkled now that they were getting back to
business; here was something he wasn't sure he understood.
"They say, instead, that they will give you something - a magical
ability or power, a sum of money, a promotion at work, whatever the target
desires, although generally they're things of a supernatural nature, since
their subjects are generally occult-oriented." With this, Bashir set
aside the book she'd been reading, with the spine turned out so they could
both read the title at a glance. Exhibit B, for the defense.
"Right," Roderick said. "So they just wander up every now and
then and give Mr. White something nifty and new? I am totally unaware of
where you're going with this. You make demons sound like some pretty cool
guys, to be honest."
"I am not finished," Bashir corrected him. "They will give you
something, in return for something else. There isn't so much a system of
currency, in which one soul is worth X thing in return. It's more like a
system of barter; a favor performed for the demon here and now will be
done in return for a gift from the demon later. This gift can be, as I
said, pretty much anything, although it generally revolves around power as
a central theme: money, supernatural abilities, etc. The victim of the
demon's corruption will gleefully perform small evils in return for
seemingly sizeable rewards and instant gratification of the powerlust they
feel. Then, in time, they'll grow bored with their gift, and desire
something bigger and newer. Conveniently, the demon reappears shortly
thereafter and offers it to them - in return for some larger evil. This
becomes a cycle, through which the demon addicts its victim by giving them
'fixes,' if you will, of power and abilities in return for larger and
larger evils they must perpetrate. In time, they will do anything; at
this point, the demon will demand they promise their soul in return for
limitless power. They readily agree. The demon takes their soul."
"And they never get the limitless power, just the little fixes
along the way. Once they sign on with the demons, that's it, no more
favors," Roderick said, nodding his head.
"Precisely," Bashir nodded her head. "Now, we know that as of
January, when we first" She groped for an appropriate
phrase. "Encountered first-hand the evidence of his corruption, Mr. White
was not fantastically more powerful than before, but he had powerful
"He had a fucking huge demon running around the front yard of the
house he'd taken over," Roderick said, tapping ash into an ashtray and
looking at Bashir like she'd just taken off her nose and put it back
"Yes. He had a demonic protector or servant. Likely the being
was not a true demon, so much as an automatonic supernatural manifestation
lent to Mr. White by the demon with whom he'd engaged in his
contract. And, although he was, as you say, 'fucking huge,' he was
dispatched with concentrated effort and a small amount of luck."
"We tricked him into taking on a solid form and I unloaded a
Gattling gun into his back at point-blank range."
"Yes, this is true. Regardless, he was able to be defeated, with
effort. Now, however, Mr. White's demonic residue left behind by his
spiritual presence is stronger. It is safe to assume he will have more
powerful tricks up his sleeve of a demonic nature. This shows he has been
willing to barter further. He has begun the downward spiral, and will
grow worse in time. In fact, the chaos spawned by his act or acts of
revenge against the vampires of Seattle may even be what his demonic
influence asks in return for greater power."
"Okay, so Mr. White's a bigger bad-ass this time around, and will
only get worse unless he's stopped. And odds are, the Prince isn't going
to be in any more of a mood to believe us about this than he was last
"Exactly." Bashir turned after speaking her one-word agreement,
and glanced at the spine of the book she'd been reading. "I wish to speak
of Trevor now."
"Only if you give me another smoke," Roderick replied.
"A fair trade." The pack sailed through the air twice more. "You
say he's a vampire who feeds on dreams, but that he identifies himself as
a fairy or the like."
"Right," Roderick sighed. Last night hadn't gone well at
Emily's. Not well at all. But now he'd burned off a bunch of steam, with
Principal Greene's help. He could handle talking more rationally. "He
feeds on people's dreams. I've watched him. I mean, not that I could see
dreams coming out of their ears or anything, butwell, you know what I
mean. I could feel it. Especially once I flipped on the Spidey Senses."
"Yes, I know what you mean, in a general sense," Bashir
agreed. She lit another cigarette of her own and said, "Roderick, there
is an important point which I would like to make, but before I do so, I'd
like to say that I do not mean this as an accusation. I have no desire to
offend you intentionally. I have no desire for anything other than
cooperation between us, given the current circumstances. Picking fights
is only going to serve to make revenge all the easier for Mr. White to
attain. That said, as I mentioned, there's a point I feel I must make
which may be of no small importance."
"Spit it out," he said, trying not to make it sound as bitchy as
Bashir took a drag from her cigarette, exhaled, and nodded at the
book - the title still declared _Faeries, Elves and How to Gain Their
Favor_ for all the world to see.
"Would you agree that dreams are a part of the soul?"
Roderick's eyes followed Bashir's to the spine of the book, and
his jaw swung open like a rusty old gate on a hinge.
Emily and Trevor sat at a table with a tiny lamp, more lampshade
than light, just enough to illuminate the ashtray into which Trevor was
tapping his cigarette. The gallery itself had been almost completely
dark; the only sources of light were more tiny lamps such as this one, at
other tables scattered in corners around the lobby. In each room of the
showing, individual wall-lamps shed light over each piece of art (mainly
oils on canvas, with the occasional sculpture - nothing special, as it
turned out). Her conversation with Trevor had been polite and breezy,
discussions here and there of one work or another. Both she and he were
writers, not visual artists, but they had an appreciation for that sort of
thing. From everything she could tell, Trevor was a perfectly nice guy,
but something still nagged at her about him - definitely his aura was
messed up somehow. Her own was pale, she knew; most people's were just
normal, sort of calm. His was unbelievably radiant and wild, almost like
a psychopath, or a lupine. His conversation, though, was careful,
guarded, intelligent. She was starting to wonder whether this had been
worth an evening of her time after all, considering how very little she
was actually getting him to talk about himself.
A sudden tingle ran up the back of her spine, and she perked up in
her seat. Trevor, who had been deconstructing the fashion crime being
carried out by some portly patron of the local artistic scene standing in
another corner, noticed, and looked over at her. "Is it something I
"No," she muttered, as she quickly glanced around. Something was
wrong. Something was -very- wrong. Every nerve ending in her body was
telling her that something very dangerous was very close-by. She scooted
her seat a little closer to Trevor's, getting her back more into the
corner, and looking around again.
Still, she couldn't see what it was that was bothering
her. Nothing. No one else seemed to notice that anything might be
wrong. A few measured, calming breaths, and although the feeling
remained, she was beginning to doubt its validity.
"Who's that guy?" Trevor asked, nodding very faintly in the
direction of another table in the room. At it, a lone figure sat, only
his right hand visible in the lamplight as he flicked a cigarette of his
Emily's danger sense kicked into overdrive.
"That's Mr. White."
"We have to leave," Emily blurted out, pulling her eyes from
Mr. White, on the other end of the gallery. Trevor met her gaze a second
later, and she realized he had been watching Mr. White as well.
"Call this a hunch," he said, "But you know that man, too." Emily
waited a moment to respond, then nodded. "So do I," Trevor
continued. "I've seen him before."
"At a friend's replace." Again, Emily waited a beat before
"We are going to leave calmly, right now. Then we are going to
drive around while you convince me that Mr. White is not a friend of
yours, as well."
Trevor's eyes widened a millimeter as Emily started to gather up
her purse. His own fingers flew to shove the gallery schedule and show
program in his pockets as he stood. "No, he's not my friend, no. He was
at a party. Last October. It was at a friend's place, but that guy
wasn't invited. Somebody else brought him along as a sort of
"A gate-crasher someone else brought to this party?" Emily
refrained from adding the 'gee, sounds familiar.' "Your friends need a
better class of gate-crasher. Why was he there? What did he do?"
Trevor wrinkled his brow as they stepped out of the doors to the
gallery, not even checking to see if Mr. White might be following
them. "Hey, this isn't an interrogation. My turn to ask a question."
"My time, my car, my enemy." Emily drew keys from her purse to
jangle by her side as they crossed the parking lot. "My questions. What
did Mr. White do at the party? What was his purpose in being there?"
"You heard me. And no evading questions with other
questions. You seem like a nice guy, Trevor, and I have no desire to be
harsh with you, but you are already on thin ice for various reasons. Do
yourself a favor and win my trust right this instant."
Trevor paused - the door to the gallery opened and they both
snapped their heads around only to spy a doddering old man hobbling out on
two canes, with a nurse fussing over him. Trevor looked back quickly at
Emily, over the top of her Bentley.
"I don't know why he was there. Like I said, someone else brought
him. But they pulled...my boss out of the party for some little
conference, and when they came back, Felipe - my boss - he was pissed as
all he-heck. Fired the guy who brought Mr. White on the spot, and had
them both hauled off the property. That's all I know. Honest."
"It was a work party?"
"Sort of," Trevor replied, glancing back at the little old
man. "Can we just go?"
"You have a smart boss," Emily muttered, unlocking her door and
climbing in to unlock his. "Get in."
"Happily, considering what just came out of the gallery."
Emily glanced back and gestured. "The old sack of bones and his
piece of nursely ass?"
She did, and saw what Trevor meant: the old man and his nurse
were there still, but they were something else as well. Where the
doddering old man stepped, there was also Mr. White in his place, sort of
overlapping him (underlapping, she thought, if that's a word - he's
underneath the old man somehow). Sharing the nurse's space was no nurse,
but a hulking mass of ash-gray flesh, seared to the bone, with the
skeletal outline of a set of wings on its back. Emily could only think of
one word for it, "demon."
Mr. White-the-old-man looked back at her and smiled, lifting a few
fingers to wave, then kept walking away.
"Trevor is not a demon," Roderick replied in a steady voice.
"Your opinion is your own, of course," Bashir replied with a mild
shrug. "Give yourself time to consider my suggestion, in light of the
fact you believe he feeds from people's minds or dreams or somesuch. In
the meantime, Mr. White and his return are our immediate concern, since we
know him to be an agent of demonic forces. I should return to the chantry
and warn them. The Regent will want to inform the Prince and obtain
permission for a formal bloodhunt."
Roderick blinked once or twice. "What? Are you crazy? The
Regent and the Prince have got to be the very last people we should tell."
Bashir arched an eyebrow, inviting further explanation.
"Come on. -Are- you crazy after all? Bashir, we have not been
the best of buddies. You and me trying to kill each other off and on for
six months has not gone unnoticed. Horus told me so before he died -
there were people afraid we would end up breaking the Masquerade. If you
toddle on in there to warn the Regent or Vito, they're either going to
think we're lying for some reason and kill us, or they'll believe us,
panic and start some crazy witch-hunt purge. Do you want to rock the boat
right now? Or give Vito an excuse to show his strength as the new Prince
by taking care of a couple of trouble-making neonates? Same goes for the
Regent, since he's had the distinct pleasure of taking over from
Mr. White's term in office. We have to have proof, or do this on our
"And you would rather do this on your own, I take it?"
"If it saves my skin and gives us the chance to look like old
enemies who made peace and got rid of a threat like Mr. White? Fuck yes."
"And if we fail?"
"Good as dead either way, whether we give ourselves over to
starting a panic no one will soon forget, or whether we die trying to kill
Mr. White. At least we might stand a chance with White."
Bashir considered this for long seconds, then a minute, then a
minute more. Roderick fidgeted while she did so, impatient to get down to
business. Bashir ultimately considered herself first in all things; she
needed a reputation boost in the clan. You don't get assigned to leave
the chantry and live with a kook to keep an eye on him by winning any
popularity contests. The new Regent was shaky, unsure of his new
position. If this were played right, she might end up replacing him in
"Agreed," she finally said. "But I know nothing of demons beyond
what little I've said so far. Suggestions, given that I cannot gain
access to clan materials on demonology with no reason to supply?"
Roderick took his turn at silent pondering, before getting
abruptly out of his chair and nodding.
"Horus wasn't a Tremere, but he was Prince for over a hundred
years. I'll bet there's something in his journals. If demons are real,
maybe he saw one sometime."
"You have a former Prince's diary?" Bashir tried hard not to look
as shocked as she felt.
Roderick shrugged. "Nobody went through the house before I bought
it. Rumor has it his ghouls all burst into flame when he died."
Bashir stopped, halfway out of her own seat. "That is not a
common end for a ghoul."
"Nope, sure isn't," Roderick nodded as he walked towards the doors
out of the library. "Just another something to figure out, after we take
care of Mr. White. C'mon, Horus' journals are down in my room."
Emily could not help noticing that Trevor was growing more and
more nervous as they drove. The more questions she asked, and the more
answers he gave, the more he tensed various muscles. By the time they'd
made it halfway across town, Trevor was a bunched-up wad of rigid muscle,
fingers knotted together in his lap and both feet pressed into the
floorboard like he wished he could push himself up and out of the car
Who had brought Mr. White to speak with Trevor's boss in
October? A guy named Benedict. What business did they all work
for? Nothing she would have heard of. What line of work, then, what
industry? A lot of things. Elaboration? Property management, art
holdings and psychology. (Emily didn't believe that grab-bag answer for a
minute, but let it slide.) What did Benedict handle for
them? Acquisitions. Had he acted differently before introducing
Mr. White to their boss, Felipe? He'd always been a bastard, but he was
more of one before that, for a little while. Just generally nastier than
usual. Did Felipe act differently after meeting Mr. White at that
party? A little more paranoid, more careful than before, extra security
and the like. (Mafia, Emily decided.) Finally, she'd had enough of
watching him approach freak-out levels.
"Look, Trevor, is something wrong? Besides what we saw in the
parking lot, something even more immediate?" Her voice was cross,
snappish. Trevor, for his part, broke completely.
"Christ! How can you drive this thing, are you blind? What the
fuck do you mean, is something wrong? Look around you!"
Emily looked hurriedly over both shoulders for signs of Mr. White,
half expecting to see him clinging to a door handle and cackling like a
phantom from a children's story, but she saw nothing, only other cars,
other drivers, city streets still fairly crowded. She shrugged, but
Trevor's eyes remained darting around outside the car, then once at the
hood, before cutting back to his own hands as he whispered, "It's not
real. Waking nightmares. I know what it is. It's not real."
Emily lifted her eyes from Trevor and his whispered mantra to look
again, and she saw it all now. Other cars were still there, but drivers
were missing or mangled beyond recognition. The vehicles themselves were
alive, monsters of metal prowling the streets in search of prey,
chrome-plated maws snapping sometimes at one another, other times at
her. Smoke wafted from each hood, where a B-movie pentagram straight out
of a Chick tract burned atop them. With sudden fright, Emily realized the
outline of the very same mark had begun to glow red-hot on her own car's
hood. All she could do was gasp and make a hesitant move for the brake.
"No," Trevor wheezed, eyes clamped shut. How he knew she was
about to bring the car to a screeching halt remained beyond her knowledge,
but she held her foot back. "Just drive. Ignore it, none of it's
real. I know what it is. He's making us hallucinate. I know how at
least part of this works."
Emily nodded barely, and kept driving.
"We're going to talk to Roderick and Bashir."
The Tremere and the Malkavian sat on opposite ends of the king
size bed in Roderick's room, across the basement hall from Bashir's room
and laboratory. Piles of old books sat between them, and the flip of a
page was all that disturbed their silence, until Roderick leaned forward
and poked Bashir on the knee.
"Here. I think I found something. Horus keeps talking about a
Gangrel who's caused him problems. Says he runs around at night with
'great, black man-beasts, ferocious in tooth and claw, with arched,
leathered wings. When I hear their howls - distinct from all this town's
nightly cacophony of man and beast - I have no difficulty believing that
these beasts of the wild, and Joseph of the outlanders, roam this jungle
in search of blood and souls.' He says they keep getting closer to the
civilized areas..." A few more pages turned rapidly. "And...yeah, here
he says he's challenging this Joseph guy to a duel. He thinks Joseph is
worshipping demons and has to be put down."
Bashir set aside her own selection from the stack, listening for
"Next night, waiting for Joseph to show up at midnight, blah blah
blah - here we go. The handwriting is all shaky." He cleared his
"'Joseph has met his end, although I am not left unscathed.
A hundred men will not slake my thirst, but I am alive to
recover in time. All that is of note, besides Joseph's demise,
is that his body did not go to ash despite his great age. Once
my stake found its mark and I severed his head, a light remained
in his eyes. I have buried him in the back gardens, very deep,
and will watch his grave closely in nights to come.'
That's it. He never mentions it again in the next two or three months."
"In later entries," Bashir gestured to less worn texts by her
side, "He makes no mention of this episode."
"Horus does say he's certain Joseph was into demons,
though," Roderick nodded after the Tremere. "He says Joseph cried out for
help, shouting some weird name over and over and calling it 'master.'"
"This is good indication of his enslavement to someone or
something else, yes," Bashir agreed. "What did he do with the corpse,
bury it? Odd that he didn't burn it. Well, where was the garden? And
where in it was the Gangrel buried?"
Roderick scanned the text for a minute and nodded. "Six paces
southwest of the tallest oak. Cedric told me when we moved in that the
back yard used to be a formal garden - stone paths of flagstones were
hiding under the grass back there. And there's one massive oak in the
middle of the yard." He looked up. "We'd better start digging if we want
to check out a Gangrel that withstood a stake and decapitation but didn't
die. It was ninety years ago, but it's something."
"Allow me to change clothes," Bashir said, and together they rose
from their perches to gather tools for an exhumation.
"Just keep telling yourself it isn't real," Trevor kept whispering
to Emily, as she tried to drive and maintain some semblance of calm. If
she looked - really paid attention - she could see that it wasn't
real. But it sure as shit seems real, she told herself. A couple of
traffic lights blurred as they shot past, growing bat wings and catching
themselves on their own supports to hang in mid-air, screeching
wildly. Rather abruptly, her vision clouded for a moment as a wash of
something filled the car - another gasp and she managed to keep back her
emotions to get a grip on things despite the Beast deep down starting to
lunge for the surface of her thoughts.
The car was filling with soap bubbles.
A sideways glance revealed Trevor sitting there, blowing
frantically into a little, plastic ring he was dipping into a container of
soap stuff she'd seen in stores. They were made for children. Her
thoughts cleared just long enough for her to wonder whether he'd gone
completely insane, regressed somehow to hide from the hallucinations they
were having (had Mr. White hexed them with a wave, she wondered?), when
her vision also cleared.
"There," Trevor panted, closing up the bottle of bubble mix and
tucking it into his backpack. "That should keep the visions away."
Emily looked out at the perfectly normal street down which she was
driving, and gaped. "What did you just do?"
"A trick I know. I told you I knew what he was doing. Although
search me for how he knew how to do that. My kind's the only ones that
know how to make dreams come alive."
Silence laid heavy on the two of them as Trevor suddenly caught
himself, realizing his slip, and they came to an easy stop at a red light.
"Your kind?" Emily asked calmly. "Roderick says that you are some
sort of mind-vampire, that you feed on dreams. I am assuming that he has
told you what he and Bashir and I are, as well. Is this true? Is this
thing you've just done some manifestation of the dreams on which you
feed?" Her voice was quiet; she didn't like talking this way in front of
someone who wasn't a vampire, but enough was enough.
"He said I'm a what?" Trevor couldn't restrain something that
sounded like a strangled chuckle.
"A mind-vampire. Ridiculous, I know."
"I'm not any kind of vampire. But I know that you are, yeah."
Emily nodded, putting a hand to her temple as the light turned
green and they started to pull away, making a right to head towards
Roderick's neighborhood. "Then what are you?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Young man, I have been on this world longer than I care to tell
you or remember myself. I have seen my fair share. You cannot surprise
"I'm a fairy."
Emily growled in frustration. "I don't give a good goddamn about
whether you like boys or girls, child. I have been dead from the waist
down for more than a century. Now stop playing games."
Trevor couldn't help laughing, which added to Emily's ire.
"No, you don't get it. I'm a fairy. I'm an elf. I'm a
changeling. You know, brownies and pixies and people stealing mortal
babies to replace them with look-alikes that grow up to be abusers and
thieves? That's me. But none of the books you've read are very
accurate. And yes, I know fairy magic, and yes, I feed on dreams. That
sounds so fucking dumb when I say it out loud."
"That is absurd," she murmured in reply.
"So's drinking blood and throwing parties and being alive
forever." He shrugged.
"Prove it, then," Emily smirked at her challenge. Whatever random
Malkavian this friend of Roderick's was, she would not be fooled by his
"I know that you dream every day. I know you dream of a house on
a moor in Scotland, because that's where you came from. You don't use
your American accent when you dream, you speak like you did when you were
alive. And you dream about a man you knew then, who's still with you now
although he hasn't been alive since shortly after you met someone you call
your sire. I know that when you have these dreams, he comes to see you in
them, because it's something a ghost can do, and it's the only time you
can talk. When you wake up, if you let him hang around following you, all
he does is beg and plead and scream at you, and make you feel guilty for
being alive when he will always be dead."
Once again, silence laid heavy on the car's interior as Emily
drove in stunned silence.
"There now," Trevor said after a few seconds. "You know what I
said is true. There's your proof. I even answered all your questions
about when Benedict brought Mr. White to visit Felipe, my boss. Can we
stop playing little games like this now? And no, I have no intention of
telling that stuff to Roderick, or Bashir, or anyone. Dreams are
sacred. I watch them because I have to do it to survive. I don't share
what I see there with other people." Another pause. "Roderick's house is
three more driveways down this street. Didn't even realize you were going
the right way, did you? That's something else about me."
Emily hit her turn signal. "Okay. I believe you." She couldn't
think of any other reply.
Roderick's Back Yard
Bashir and Roderick were both covered in mud up to their waists, a
spade in each pair of hands. Bob, shaggy fur turned brown up to his neck,
was helping as best he could, excited by both his owners playing in the
yard together. Metal and claws had separated the earth into chunks and
piles slowly at first, but determination had won out. Five feet down, a
clang of spade against bone rang out, and they all froze, Bob sniffing the
air wildly before letting out an abrupt whine. Roderick cursed under his
"Finally," he muttered, bending to brush some dirt away from
whatever he'd hit with one hand. Underneath the remaining muck and mud
and rubble was something white and narrow. Further brushing away revealed
what was a collarbone. Moving up the form, he confirmed that the spine
ended abruptly, and there was no head. "Okay, let's clear the rest of it
Bashir produced two large paintbrushes from her pockets, and
handed one to Roderick. "This might help." Together they went to work on
opposite ends, while Bob cleared out of their path by scrabbling up the
slanting sides of the hole they'd dug in the earth. From above, they
could hear him growl a little more loudly with each inch of skeleton they
"Got a stub of what might be the stake here," Roderick said,
pointing it out.
"And I've found the skull, near his feet," Bashir replied. A few
more minutes of careful brushing had the thing almost entirely
unearthed. "Odd that he would leave behind a skeleton. It's like a
mortal corpse more than a vampire's."
Roderick shrugged, fingering the two or three inches of black,
slimy wood which protruded from the rib cage. "Should I yank it out? I
mean, it's not like he's still alive."
Bashir pondered for a moment. "I agree. He has no flesh left to
hold vitae. Perhaps it's more of an environmental anomaly that his
skeleton remains. His corpse would have been protected from sunlight, but
worms and other scavenging creatures in the ground may have taken his
Roderick yanked for a second, gesturing for Bashir to assist with
the slick artifact of a stake, before they pulled it free and fell
backwards onto the pelvic area of the skeleton, shattering bone underneath
"Oh, holy fucking shit," Roderick cried, as they both scrambled to
get out of the hole, and Bob's growling turned into a rapid-fire
succession of barks.
Emily and Trevor marched in silence from Emily's car, ringing the
doorbell. Emily had never been here, but she was impressed. Whatever
else Roderick might be, he was apparently wealthy enough to have a nicer
house than her own. Run-down looking, though.
The door opened, and Cedric nodded to Trevor. "Sir, madam, may I
be of assistance?"
"Yeah, we're here to see Rod and Bashir," he replied.
"They're in the back yard, doing some gardening. I would be happy
to prepare you a drink if you wish to wait."
"No thanks, we'll find them ourselves," Emily muttered, and the
two turned and were gone around the corner of the house before Cedric
could stop them.
However, they were just in time to see Roderick and Bashir, caked
in mud, clambering as fast as possible out of a deep hole, with the
oversized St. Bernard perched at the top of the hole, yapping its head off
at a thunderous volume.
"Perhaps that was not so wise," they heard Bashir say to Roderick,
as they approached.
"No shit," was Roderick's reply. "Fuck, it's growing skin! He
really was still alive! Do something!"
"Why should I do something?" Bashir demanded as they came to their
feet, then approached the hole tentatively, glancing in and then back at
one another quickly.
"You're the witch! Wizard! Warlockette, whatever you call
yourselves! Don't you have some holy water or something?"
Bashir stood there, eyes wide, hands searching through the pockets
on what looked like a shabby old outfit she might use to change the oil in
a car. "Rowan, cinnamon sticks - cinnamon sticks? Sugar, salt..." She
pulled out a shaker that might be found on a dining room table and started
throwing salt into the hole while her other hand still searched.
"What's going on?" Emily asked as she and Trevor jogged up to
"Got it," Bashir said as she produced a smallish glass jar with a
tight seal on it, about the size of a perfume bottle. Roderick stared at
her, and she shrugged. "I needed some for research a while back. Lucky
it's still in here. I just hope it doesn't lose potency."
The other three looked on while she loosened the top and then
threw the bottle into the hole - where Emily and Trevor could now see what
looked like a half-rotted corpse that was...growing flesh? The bottle
shattered, dispensing its contents in a fine spray, and a cloud of black
smoke and steam erupted from the hole while the corpse at the bottom
writhed wildly, headless, jaw on a disconnected skull working frantically
as it tried to scream.
"We're figuring out that demons are real," Roderick whispered,
voice shaking, to Emily and Trevor's shocked expressions. "Oh fuck, we
have to kill Mr. White. Fast."
In previous episodes, Roderick (Malkavian) and Bashir (Tremere) realized
an old enemy had returned to town (Mr. White, infernalist and former
Regent). The dead Prince's diaries revealed a similar instance in the
past, and an acquaintance and a friend, Emily (Toreador) and Trevor
(Eshu), found themselves forcibly drawn into the situation. Now:
Seattle by Lava Lamp, Episode 7 - The Hunters Haunted
Emily demands answers; Bashir supplies theories; information is gathered
through observation, and an unusual quest meets with success.
"We're figuring out that demons are real," Roderick whispered,
voice shaking. "Oh fuck, we have to kill Mr. White. Fast." The quiet
that rushed in around the four of them was near-complete, punctuated only
by the hiss of old bones dissolving in Bashir's holy water, a few feet
After a long few moments, Emily finally spoke. "What the hell is
going on? Why is Mr. White showing up at art shows I go to, and making me
hallucinate that other cars on the road have been possessed, and are going
to eat me?" Her hand reached out faster than the eye could see, to collar
Trevor and yank him off the ground. "And what the fuck is your
friend? Why the fuck does he blow bubbles and talk about fairy magic?"
Bashir turned surprised eyes towards Emily, and towards Trevor
(whose feet dangled in the air as he struggled to breathe), and she sighed
quietly. Roderick just worked his jaw up and down.
"Okay," he whispered, turning around to take a few steps from the
grave they'd unearthed. "Things are getting a little intense right
now. We should take things one step at a time."
Emily continued to hold Trevor aloft, waiting for answers.
"Mr. White made pacts with dark forces," Bashir said, standing
stock still. "He promised his soul and the souls of others in return for
power. Roderick and I discovered information about a similar incident in
this city's past, regarding a Gangrel the old Prince tried to kill. This
was his body. Through some infernal power, he was granted immunity from
standard methods of achieving Final Death. We were confirming the threat
of demonic influence. It also serves, possibly, to confirm a theory I
have read of before, regarding the tendency of a demon to latch onto one
specific area or region and make repeated attempts to corrupt it
Roderick nodded his head, back turned to all of them, running both
hands through his hair. "Yeah. Yeah, we were confirming that demons have
been here before. I don't know about demons liking to pick a home and set
up shop or anything like that, but the bit about the Gangrel, yeah, that's
what we were doing."
Trevor continued to dangle in Emily's grasp. His lips were
starting to turn a little blue.
"And your friend?"
"He's a changeling. He's one of the fae." Roderick wasn't
running his hands through his hair anymore, so much as he was massaging
his scalp. Or trying to crush his own skull, very slowly. "He's not a
vampire. He's sort of the other end of the spectrum. But he understands
what we do; he knows stories about us. He doesn't like to admit it, but
he's more like us than you'd imagine. But he dies easier." Roderick
started to bend his knees, squatting on the ground, hands wrapped around
his own head.
"I believe he is choking to death," Bashir added. Emily glanced
up at Trevor, whose eyes were starting to roll back in his head.
"Sorry," she mumbled, before dropping him. He collapsed like a
sack of potatoes. "One thing at a time. Right. Mr. White. Demons.
What do we do now? Are you telling me a demon has set up shop in Seattle,
and is corrupting vampires? Is he trying to corrupt us?"
"Unlikely," Bashir took a few steps forward to press her fingers
against Trevor's neck, confirming that he had a pulse still, before
straightening up and looking at Emily again. "It is more likely that he
has been here for some time. What do vampires do, Emily, throughout
history? Move with the people on whom they feed, claiming new territory
as their own, making a name for themselves among other vampires; demons,
some theories have it, are no different. By thoroughly corrupting a given
area - say, Seattle - one might gain prestige or power among its own
kind. I suspect this is what's occurring. Mr. White was likely the most
prestigious of this demon's marks; the demon would naturally wish revenge
"That doesn't explain why he'd come after me, though. We just met
formally a few nights ago, at my party. I never had anything to do with
running Mr. White out of town."
"Then perhaps the demon sees you, mistakenly, as a close ally, and
believes you had something to do with it after all. Or perhaps he merely
has chosen you as an innocent victim. It would fail to surprise me."
"It doesn't really matter, does it?" Roderick's voice was muffled
now, as he'd begun to press his forehead against the earth - cool, sweet,
solid earth. He was covered in mud from digging; he was bathed in
earth. He wanted more dirt on him, around him. He wanted to be in his
basement, with his books, to have everything just go away for a little
while. He wanted Mr. Greene to tell him what to do. "I mean, fuck, why
does it matter - the reasons for what he's doing? He's doing them. We
have to stop the demon, stop Mr. White, stop all of it. We have to just
stop it. We can figure out why later, right?"
Emily and Bashir exchanged a glance as each wondered what sort of
episode Roderick was about to have, or already having, and Trevor groaned
meaningfully as he awoke to consciousness again.
"There is a certain persuasive power to what he says," Bashir said
quietly, directed to Emily. "Mr. White and the demon or demons with which
he has trafficked must be thwarted. We need a plan to act quickly."
"Suggestions?" Emily looked weary. Midnight, and it had already
been a long night.
"Sweet Jesus," Trevor moaned from the ground, flat on his
back. "What hit me?"
A high-pitched laugh came from Roderick, as he rose to squat on
his knees, smearing a little mud between his fingers. "Sweet Jesus," he
echoed. "That's what we need. Holy water. Loads of it. A twenty gallon
drum if we can find it. And we need big-ass super soakers, the sort
of serious pump-action air-powered waterguns kids drool for. And we need
to go after Mr. White instead of sitting on our asses like this." Other
than his sudden fascination with wet dirt, he sounded remarkably lucid.
"That is so 'Bordello of Blood' it's not even funny," Trevor
replied, rubbing his throat.
Emily and Bashir shrugged at one another. Roderick rose to his
feet, and Trevor staggered up to do the same.
"Yeah, well, you know. I've always wished life could be even more
like a bad horror movie."
"Okay. Holy water. Is that going to be a problem for you
Emily and Bashir looked to one another again, before Bashir shook
her head. "Most 'holy water' is utterly ineffectual. The vast majority,
in fact. We were fortunate that I had a small sample of genuinely potent
sanctified water for experimental purposes. I doubt that plan will be
Roderick and Trevor took their turn exchanging a glance, and then
Roderick dusted himself off while speaking. "No, I'm pretty sure we can
find the real thing. I mean, the Chantry lab you got that stuff from had
to find it somewhere themselves, right? And I'm willing to bet they got
it locally. And part of Trevor's whole 'fairy magic' schtick is that he
can get us where we need to be, wherever that is. If anyone can get us
holy water in a hurry, it's Trevor."
Trevor shrugged at them. "Like I told Emily, I just sort of end
up in the right place. It's worth a shot."
"I'll take a shower, and you can drive." With that, Roderick
turned to walk inside.
"I suppose," Bashir muttered to Emily, "This leaves us in charge
of locating Mr. White himself."
"And we're hoping that means the demon, too, yes?"
Bashir nodded. Emily gave another heavy sigh.
Somewhere off Interstate 90
"Where in the fuck are we?" Roderick asked as Trevor's VW Vanogan
turned abruptly off the main road and onto a rutted, gravel, single-track
pass. Trees jumbled past as the van puttered through mud and scraped
branches on either side.
"Beats me, but when the wheel jumps in my hand, I have to follow
it. I can't really explain it."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ooh, lights ahead."
"Multi-colored lights. Just like a little country church you'd
see in a movie."
"Score," Roderick whispered, clenching his hands into fists in his
Somewhere near the docks, Seattle
"And this is going to lead us to Mr. White?" Emily's voice dripped
with disbelief. She didn't like Tremere to begin with, and now she was
driving down a city street, in a part of town she didn't like whatsoever,
past tiny takeout places for foreign delights and a bevy of cheap whores
who looked like they'd take a trick just to get out of the rain that had
started coming down about ten minutes before.
Bashir held a marble cup of some sort in her hands, staring into a
potion she'd mixed up before leaving. It reeked of blood and, for lack of
a more specific term Emily could use, guts; little pink wobbly bits
floated in it, sort of hypnotically drifting around in one direction, then
"Yes. I have attuned it to Mr. White's blood-signature. Hopefully,
it will lead us to him like a sort of homing device."
"You have some of Mr. White's blood?"
"I helped chase him out of town. It was not a non-violent
endeavor. I took the opportunity to gather a small sample at the time, in
case it would be useful later."
Emily decided not to ask about the uses; any number of unpleasant
ones sprang to mind.
"Turn left here," Bashir ordered, as the entrails in the bowl
bobbed and swirled suddenly.
"That takes us towards the waterfront. Just a bunch of warehouses
"Many of them unused," Bashir added. "Abandoned, rotting, but
with ceilings that probably keep out the sun. It sounds typically
unoriginal, as hiding places go."
Emily just nodded and turned the car down a side-street, to the
left. A bolt of lightning arced the sky ahead of them, and she shook her
head. Very 'Bordello of Blood.'
A quiet country church
Most of the church's lights were off, but there were clearly
candles burning inside. Roderick couldn't make out any specific
denominational affiliation, but it was just a little white church in the
middle of nowhere. The parking lot was just some worn tracks in front of
it. Very few people probably ventured out of the Pacific Northwest jungle
to make it to Sunday services.
That didn't seem to make a difference, though; to Roderick, the
place felt horribly, irrevocably wrong the minute he saw it clearly. In
fact, he'd bunched up in the passenger's seat of Trevor's van and started
to curl into a ball, one hand wrapped around the seatbelt and the other
clinging to the oh-shit handle on the ceiling of the van.
"Well, we're here. Might even be somebody home," Trevor said.
They opened their doors, and Roderick took a few wobbly steps
towards the place. He'd never felt like this before - everything in him
said to turn and get in the van and leave, and never ever ever come back
again. What's wrong with this place, he asked himself. Or is something
just wrong with me?
"You okay?" Trevor asked, voice dropping to a whisper. "You're
looking a little pale."
"Very funny," Roderick growled, but he did shoot a hand out to
steady himself on the Eshu next to him. "Let's get this over with. Me
and my good fucking ideas."
Trevor helped Roderick along, and together they mounted the
steps. Roderick found himself utterly unable to try the door, or knock,
"You're gonna have to do the talking. I think I'll just stagger
along for moral support."
"Right." Trevor reached out and took hold of the knob a little
gingerly, then opened the door just enough to gaze down the aisle of the
chapel. At the very front, kneeling on a communion pad, was a small man
with dark hair, dressed in a rumpled button-up shirt and slacks.
"I think somebody's praying."
"Fuck yes, they're praying," Roderick managed to whisper. "Jesus
Christ, you hit the mother lode." A spasm of something unpleasant shot
through his body when he took the messiah's name in vain, though, and he
The figure on the kneepad turned, and looked away from his candles
to the two figures outlined in the door. "May I help you?" He sounded a
"Father...or Reverend. My friend and I have a, uh, favor to ask."
"Come in, come in. Are you in need of help?" The man's voice,
and his question, said it all: he didn't care if they were here to rob
and murder him. He'd feed them a hot meal before they did it. "I'm
Reverend Lee. Please, come in. It's raining out." He lifted a candle,
and the light showed his face: bony, at least partly Asian in origin,
dark hair parted down the middle. The candle reflected in stereo from
lenses of his glasses, as he started to walk towards them. "Is your
"Uh, no, it's not for my friend. Roderick? Stop buckling your
knees like that." Trevor shoved Roderick so that he caught himself on the
end of a pew, just inside the door, and Roderick put one arm around his
own stomach for a moment while he regained his balance. "We need some
"Are you sure he's alright? And why do you need holy water?" The
preacherman came closer, and Roderick sagged onto the pew, waves of
revulsion washing over him with each step the man took towards
them. "Your friend looks very ill." His voice was all sincere
concern; he had no idea what was going on.
"No, look, he's fine. He's doing great. He got a little
carsick. Look, reverend, there isn't much I can do to explain. We're in
need of holy water, though. Lots of it. All you can make in twenty-four
The priest stopped as he reached them, looking at Roderick and
then back to Trevor. "That's an unusual request, young man. Might I ask
why?" Looking at Roderick again, he reached out to put a couple of
fingertips against his forehead, checking for a fever.
"Whoah, no way," Roderick gasped, scrabbling a few feet into the
pew, to get away. "No touching."
It hit Reverend Lee all at once: whatever this man was, he was
sick, but he wasn't sick like the preacher thought. There was something
wrong about him that made red flags go up the reverend didn't even know he
"Father above, protect me," he whispered as he stumbled back a few
paces as well, mirroring Roderick's feeble attempt at escape. "What sort
of demons have come to tempt me?"
"No, look, he's not a demon," Trevor said, throwing his hands
up. He was in way over his head, he realized. Maybe this wasn't so
smart. "But -- but there are demons. Well, one demon. And we're trying
to fight it. Father, Reverend, whatever, you've got to listen. We need
holy water. We need it tomorrow night. We need it fast. We'll make a
big donation. We'll build you the new Sunday school wing or whatever.
We've got to have holy water."
"You're trying to tempt me. You're demons...I'm a man of God. I
won't have you in a place of worship!" He was still whispering, still
backing away. His fingers were working the collar around his neck,
agitation growing greater.
Roderick sat still for a second, getting a grip on his
metaphorical balls, and focused on the matter at hand. "Father, I'm not
here to tempt you. I'm here to ask for your help. We need holy
water. You think I'm something bad, but trust me, I'm fighting something
worse. I need holy water in a bad way. If you'll just say yes, I'll
leave. Please, father." With another moment's thought, he maintained his
mental focus. "Someone is asking you for help. It's your job."
Trevor put a hand to his forehead. Great, now the vampire was
bossing around a priest. They were going to get the Presbyterian
Inquisition called on them or something.
The preacher surprised them, though. He stopped in his tracks,
and ceased fiddling with his collar. Instead, he watched Roderick for a
moment, and finally drew a breath.
"You're battling a demon inside you as well, child. You've got
the demon within and the demon without, don't you?"
Roderick and Trevor watched him in silence.
"You're a creature of the darkness. Yes, I can see that. But
there's a little light left in you, too. You battle greatly with sin,
don't you, son?" Still, neither replied. Things had just taken a turn
for the even weirder.
"I see the fight in your soul," the reverend went on. "The demon
in you is strong. But so is the child of God. I'm going to pray for you,
young man. You're fighting the battle we all fight, aren't you?"
Roderick looked at the priest for a second, glanced at Trevor, and
then replied, "Maybe."
Reverend Lee's smile did nothing to relax either of them, but he
nodded his head and let it hang there. "None of us are proud of the
temptations which we face, especially when we succumb to them. You're no
different from any of the Lord's children in that. There's no reason to
Roderick's mouth closed; Trevor started to fish in his pocket for
"I'll prepare the holy water you request. Return tomorrow night,
and I'll give you all I'm able to prepare. But I'll be praying for
you. Both of you."
Trevor and Roderick both nodded, mumbled a polite thanks, and
started for the door.
"Drive safely," the priest said to their backs, as they closed the
door and ran for the van.
Near a warehouse, Seattle
Bashir and Emily sat in Emily's car, down the street from an empty
warehouse. The pink stuff in the blood stew Bashir was cradling in her
hands had started to pulsate and fizz when they'd driven past it the first
time. Now they just sat and watched while the rain poured down and both
of them used the advantages of their sight to look through the rain at the
long, tall building that stood dark, unattended, a sign on the door
informing the world that this property had been condemned.
"I don't like this," Emily murmured.
"Patience is a virtue, Emily. We have eternity to wait for
them; complaining is pointless."
"Not waiting for them," Emily replied a little testily. "Not
sitting here waiting to see if Mr. White goes in or out. I don't like all
this that's going on. Great streaks of lightning in the sky, unearthed
graves in Roderick's yard, visions of Mr. White at my poetry reading, you
and your blood magic, Roderick and Trevor going to get holy water and
super soakers? Mr. White selling his soul to a demon?"
"It is an unpleasant topic."
"It also feels...weird. It feels like it's all going according to
a formula somehow."
"It sounds like a story, yes?"
"Yes." Emily shrugged. "That sounds dumb."
"No, it serves as evidence in support of another of my
theories," Bashir said, setting the bowl of blood and entrails on the
dashboard of the car.
"Lay it on me."
Bashir cut a glance at Emily's slang, and then nodded. "Consider
the work of a demon: it makes promises which are appealing to non-demons,
in return for their souls. But what is the soul? Is it the
electrochemical activity of the brain? Is it a person's belief in
religion, spirituality, the Divine, et cetera, or lack thereof? Or is the
soul something intangible and un-understandable, which we cannot
define? It would seem to me that, regardless, a person's beliefs, their
worldview, their experiences, would be a part of the soul. Now, by what
are beliefs shaped?"
There was a pause, and Emily waggled her head while answering.
"Education, upbringing, experience?"
"Yes. But Mr. White was old enough to no longer be very
influenced by his childhood, I would imagine. He has, however, had quite
a lot of education in the occult, and he has the experience of a couple of
centuries in Clan Tremere, reading others' documentation and collection of
incidents of the supernatural, probably including with demons. Plus,
Mr. White is not the only soul to interact with the demon. In a
tangential fashion, so have I and so has Roderick. So have all those
familiar with the current situation."
"My point here being, of course, that if demons traffic in souls,
then suppose that their method of operation, their various modi operandi,
are shaped by those souls? In essence, what if they behave as dictated by
the expectations of their targets and others involved in their deal-making
"You're saying that all these weird little ideas and things are
popping up - hallucinations of demonic possession of machines, Mr. White
going all creepy-obvious, visions during poetry readings, holy water
working - everything is that way because we believe it should be?"
"That's got to be wrong."
Emily searched for a response and then threw her hands up in the
air. "I don't know. It's just wrong. You're saying demons are
controlled by people's beliefs. Then why doesn't Mr. White just believe
that demons have to give him whatever he wants, for nothing in
return? Why don't we just decide to believe demons don't exist, and wish
this one out of existence?"
Bashir shook her head. "You fail to understand. I said belief,
education and experience, not imagination. My soul and your soul and the
soul of Mr. White are all shaped and reshaped over the years and decades
by what we see and believe. But what has been our largest instructor?
The topic of demons and how they behave does not come up in classrooms
across the world, or in many private family discussions of theology. For
the duration of the 20th century, at least, most of humankind - and
vampires who were paying attention - have received their education, which
has led to their belief, from what? What source of occult theories and
operations can you think of immediately?"
Emily thought a moment, and then shrugged again. "Horror movies?"
Emily laughed, and shook her head. "You're crazy if you think
horror movies make demons act any one way or another."
"No, Emily, I am saying demons act the way people expect them to,
so that they have an easier time gaining souls. Or because they consume
souls of people who believe a certain way, and those beliefs take root in
the demon, since he receives his power from those souls. I myself have
experienced the emotions of my prey, through their blood, when those
emotions were particularly strong. The same beliefs trapped in the souls
demons take in payment, I theorize, would become a part of that demon. It
would, in effect, have to obey the "laws" of those beliefs. And Mr. White
might say to himself, 'Aha, I will believe now that all demons must be my
servants,' but he doesn't really believe that. His decades of education
and experience enforce other beliefs at a root level he cannot overcome
through simple reassurance of self. The same is likely true for you and
Emily blinked once or twice and looked sideways at Bashir.
"Uh-huh. You've put a lot of thought into this demon business, haven't
you? At any rate, that still doesn't mean that horror movies affect how
demons act. I've hardly watched a thing that could qualify. The occult
was a widely explored subject when I was alive, but I have ignored the
20th century mythology of film which has descended from it."
Bashir lifted her right shoulder in a half-shrug. "It's my job to
think about the occult. I have no special love of demons. Infernalism is
forbidden within my clan. But yes, movies might not affect you or I, but
imagine the average human being. Remember how they outnumber us. Overall,
the souls of the world are mortal ones, with no idea what truly exists and
what doesn't. Their largest source of occult instruction and experience
would come from fiction, and on some level, if they believe in anything at
all - and I believe that genuine faith in the supernatural, if unfounded,
is more common among them than we might like to think - then those beliefs
would be shaped by horror movies."
Emily lifted both eyebrows and let out the rest of her breath,
looking back at the warehouse. "Hey, headlights." As she said it, a pair
of dim lights made themselves apparent, coming around the corner ahead of
them and turning towards the warehouse they watched.
The cup of blood began to pop and sizzle like a tea kettle, and
Bashir nodded. "Silver mini-van. Mr. White, perhaps others."
They watched, from safety, as Mr. White climbed out of the van
along with a handful of others, and walked inside.
"Those were vampires," Emily commented.
"Mostly vampires with marks of diablerie in their auras," Bashir
agreed. "It looks to me like Mr. White has, in his search for allies,
taken up with the Sabbat."
Roderick had regained his balance and a general sense of
well-being as soon as the church was out of sight. Now he and Trevor
stalked the aisles of a Wal-Mart toy department in search of weaponry.
First they'd hit the clothing department - cheap parkas that were bulky
enough to reach past their wrists and hoods that could be closed around
their faces, Roderick had explained, would be absolutely necessary. Next
up they bought rain gear - yellow slickers to go under the parkas, for
double protection, and dishwashing gloves (extra-large, to reach to their
elbows). Golashes were the next-to-last item. Bleary-eyed third-shift
employees waxed floors and tidied aisles lackadaisically as they made
their selections. Now Roderick and Trevor took turns pushing a cart
loaded with three sets of each item of clothing, walking between rows
of Pokemon and Rugrats merchandise.
"No, look, we need the big guns with, like, three chambers on
them. They hold over a gallon of water. I saw an ad for them the other
ni-" Roderick's instructions were halted abruptly when his phone rang.
"Roderick Surrett. Uh-huh. Oh, good. Uh-huh. Um...fuck." He
paused, listened for a while, as Trevor ignored him and started trying to
reach boxes on a top shelf. "Okay. We'll be there in a little while."
"Was that Bashir and Emily?" Trevor held up one of the boxes
after retrieving it, for Roderick's approval or condemnation.
"That was Bashir and Emily, yeah. They say we've got to get back
to my place to talk things over. They found Mr. White, but he's got
friends. Apparently we're going up against more than we bargained for."
"One elder and his demon buddy aren't enough?" Not a single
drowsy, Wal-Mart associated head turned in surprise. You hear all sorts
of whacked shit when you work graveyards. So to speak.
"Nope. The really nasty vampires are with them. We've got to
refine the plan."
They nodded at one another for a second, and then Roderick gave a
thumbs-up. "Good gun, by the way. We'll need a couple dozen."
"I'll get another cart."
TBC, as the lady says.
Michael Williams: "I think I would
ICQ: 38687895 be 'Iron Chef
firstname.lastname@example.org White Trash.'"
Plans are made when a conference is called; advice is sought from suspect
quarters; theories begin to take shape and an attack is prepared.
Roderick, Bashir, Trevor and Emily sat in Roderick's sitting room,
an over-arching Victorian affair that, frankly, clashed with Roderick's
personality. Tucked into gigantic, overstuffed chairs, two packs of
cigarettes on the coffee table between them and a cigarette in every hand,
the four of them spoke quietly about the matter at hand.
"Okay," Roderick started, "So the Sabbat is helping
Mr. White. How do we know that for sure?"
"Several of them had diablerie lines in their auras," Bashir
replied in a quiet voice.
"I can...tell a great deal by someone's aura." Emily spoke
slowly, knowing the sort of secret she was about to give away. "More than
the rest of you. I know they're Sabbat. Although Mr. White is not; he's
merely using them as cheap allies."
"Fodder," Trevor murmured.
"Exactly," Bashir replied. She and Emily had been filling Trevor
and Roderick in on their observations of Mr. White's warehouse. "They
appear to be sharing a single vehicle - silver mini-van, American make and
model, we've got their license plate. If nothing else, we could quietly
supply that information to the state from which it was doubtless stolen."
Roderick shrugged. "Not much more than an annoyance, but
annoyances are good in their own right, I guess."
The other three shrugged as well; somehow, reporting the Sabbat's
van as stolen lacked oomph. Silence started to settle in over them as
they considered the situation.
"Okay," Emily started, after a minute. "He's got Sabbat with
him. I've had almost no experience with them, but I do know this means
they're probably pretty young. He's also probably signing them on for
service to the demon, so they'll have some tricks up their
sleeves. Assuming they haven't been signed up already, since they're
Sabbat to begin with."
Roderick let out a breath, fluttering his lips in
frustration. All this sounded less and less pleasant. Trevor was quiet,
paying close attention. Bashir, however, let out a stream of blue smoke
as she spoke up.
"Actually, that is a misconception: that the Sabbat encourage
infernalism. They strongly discourage it."
"How do you know that?"
"It was a part of my training as a Tremere," Bashir shifted
towards Roderick as she replied, tapping ash in an ashtray. "It is useful
information, especially given our circumstances. If there are infernalist
Sabbat, then there will be other Sabbat not far behind, seeking to
exterminate their demon-worshiping compatriots."
All three blinked at once.
"More of them will be coming?" Emily sighed. "Great."
"That's something to worry about later," Bashir shrugged
again. "For now, we have one infernalist, his pack of trainees, and a
demon. Quite enough for my mind."
"But none of us have ever fought a demon, right?" Roderick was
ardently cleaning under his nails as he asked, cigarette dangling from his
lips, distracting himself. Silence was their chorused answer. "Right.
None of us have ever fought a demon. Well, okay, Bashir and I sort of
did, when we went up against Mr. White the first time, a few months
back. But we're pretty sure this was more of a...like, a demonic
protector, or something, not a full-blown denizen of Hades and all. We've
got holy water coming in mass quantities. We've got protective gear and
super-soakers. But I somehow doubt it's going to be as easy as hosing
this thing off and watching it melt. We need to consult other resources."
"I don't know anyone who could assist us." Emily shook her head,
running down a quick list of allies.
"Neither do I," Bashir shrugged. "It's been established I can't
check out every tome on demonism in the Chantry library."
"I might have someone to ask," Trevor said, thinking. "If nothing
else, I can find out more information on Benedict, the guy from my side
who was helping Mr. White back then." A sigh. If only we'd known what
was going on in the court, he thought.
"I've got somebody I can talk to. Local Malk. Not much of an
elder, but he knows nastiness when he sees it." This pronouncement
brought a couple of raised eyebrows from Emily and Bashir, but Roderick
didn't offer anything further. "I've got to make a call and go see
A suburban home, Seattle, 3:43am
Principal Greene, Roderick knew, would be the person to ask about
demons. Even if Mr. Greene had never seen one, he would know about them,
and this was a gut feeling Roderick simply could not shake. So, he'd
called up the man - the man with whom he'd shared a handful of incredibly
brutal killings in the last year or so, his "instructor" in the
enlightenment one can find when they bring pain to another - and asked to
meet him for a chat.
He'd be happy to see Roderick, Principal Greene had said. He had
a new technique to show him anyway.
The thing was, Roderick knew, that Principal Greene was a sick
fuck. He liked to keep people alive while he did unbelievably painful
things to them. The drill bits and the trephination had seemed mildly
tame compared to some of the things Principal Greene told Roderick he'd
done before. If anybody was going to know about demons, it was a guy who
was a sick fuck.
"So what is the matter at hand?" Principal Greene had finally
said, when the evening's activities were finally done and Roderick, coated
in a fine sheen of red sweat and the thicker blood of a local fundie who'd
led a tiny campaign to have all fantasy novels removed from local school
libraries. The fundie himself was propped up in a corner. Well, stacked
might be a more appropriate term, given the number of pieces left.
"Well, I have a problem," Roderick started. Gods, but he felt
like he was eight years old when he talked to Principal Greene. Maybe it
was the name, the way he insisted on being called "principal." Roderick
had no idea when someone had chosen Mr. Greene to get the Big Flush and
brought him over, but the guy was obviously 20th century. And he loved to
sit behind big desks.
"Please, tell me what's wrong," he cooed from a leather chair in
their victim's home office. "You can tell me anything. I'm only here to
help." Like you helped this poor, book-burning schmuck? Roderick didn't
say it out loud, but it was there in his mind. He tried to keep it down,
"It's..." He tried to think better of saying what was going on,
but Roderick couldn't resist the urge to spill the beans. He'd just had
playtime. He was feeling relaxed. "Well, there /is/ this problem with my
email. It's all dated three years in the future, and apparently Phoenix
and New Jersey are at war with one anoth-nevermind. That's not what I'm
here about, anyway. Do you remember Mr. White? The Tremere Regent until
a few months ago?"
Principal Greene nodded his head solemnly.
"Well, he was into demons." Again, he nodded his head, and
Roderick picked up the pace. "He's back. And this time he brought a
/real/ demon with him, it looks like. And he's more powerful. And he's
got a bunch of Sabbat with him."
"Good heavens." Principal Greene murmured through his fingers,
watching Roderick intently. "Are you planning on informing the
Prince? He wouldn't be very likely to believe you. Or he'd panic and
start a civil war in the city."
"Yeah, my thinking exactly," Roderick sighed. He realized
abruptly that his shoulders were hunched, his feet were drawn in, one of
his boot toes was digging into the heel of the other. I'm acting like I'm
eight, too, he thought. "So the only option is to take him out, for
good. But things are complicated because this time he's a bigger
bad-ass. Now, I've got some funky stuff to throw at him, because I'm a
creative guy like that." He straightened up, fought to regain a little
parity with Principal Greene. "But I don't know anything about demons
themselves. I thought you might be able to help."
Principal Greene turn a little to one side in the chair,
steepling his fingers before his mouth, looking into the middle
distance. "Demons," he grumbled. "Yes, I know about demons."
Every time you look in the mirror, Roderick thought. How long
will it take for me to be the same way?
"I have never fought or faced a real demon myself, of
course," the man grumbled on. "But I know of those who have. They did
not come away unchanged. No, demons are fiercest in the ways we would
least like to imagine."
Roderick perked up. Now he was getting somewhere. "Like how?"
"Allow me to provide you with an analogy," Principal Greene said
slowly. "I like to take them from what my students are likely to know and
understand. I hope you'll allow me this quirk?" He smiled, and went
right ahead. "Are you familiar with this comic about a man called
Between the killing tonight and the overwhelming annoyance of
being reduced to regression by Principal Greene's attitude, Roderick lost
his patience. "Yeah, yeah, he has a demon inside in that somebody killed
his parents and blah blah blah. I've read it. This is a demon /outside/
Principal Greene furrowed his brow, and then chuckled. "No, you
misunderstand me. You jump to conclusions, and this is your greatest
fault, Roderick. Yes, Batman has demons inside him, but he uses them to
fuel and focus his actions and his mind. This is a good and proper use of
the demon inside, which I think also serves a valuable lesson, but you
didn't come to speak of the folly known as the Beast. I will excuse your
brash language, and go on."
Roderick sighed, waiting.
"The villains which Batman fights present him with a myriad of
challenges. But beyond their henchmen and intricate plots that never seem
to work and the like, they present Batman with an entire spectrum of other
paths he might have taken. The Penguin uses his wealth to create
cruelty. The Joker shows the Batman how it would be to accept his twisted
fate and give himself over to insanity. The Scarecrow is one of the most
interesting of all, because he shows Batman the power of fear, and fear is
so often Batman's own weapon. Perhaps most interesting are the Catwoman
and the other female villains who show Batman how careful he must be in
making sure his motives are good and just. The women of this particular
comic all have an otherwise worthy cause - the rights of animals, the
environment - but their actions in acting on those motives are wrong, and
thus the whole is flawed. The conflicts of this comic are not the point -
Batman wins every time, so this cannot be what is of value in them. No,
the point is that Batman's villains show him all the places he could fail,
and it is this unending discovery of how one might do wrong, go wrong,
lose, or even succeed at too high a price that makes it interesting."
Roderick shifted in his chair. "Okay."
"Roderick," Principal Greene went on, "If a true demon is what
awaits you, he is going to be far more powerful psychologically than
physically. They do not trade in guns and bombs, although they may
support the idea in principle. Demons trade in souls, and the spirit is
the demon's best battleground. You must constantly question your own
motives and actions, and remind yourself of how easily you might stray
from whatever you choose as your one true path in this matter. That is
how the acquaintances I have had who fought demons and lived to tell of it
found it to be. Your spirit is your greatest weapon, but your weakest
Roderick had heard enough of the wax-on, wax-off bullshit. There
were chunks of a dead guy in the corner, bleeding all over the place,
because Mr. Greene wanted to show Roderick a fun trick with power tools,
and this was what he had to say about demons? Questioning motives and
finding a one true path? He had been right: Mr. Greene was a sick
fuck. That Roderick had been here and had helped and had even enjoyed the
work at the time meant he was no less sick, of course.
But I always forget. I won't let myself remember. And I only do
it when I get the urge, anyway. That's not often. And I /make myself
forget/, for a little while, anyway. Mr. Greene remembers. He always
remembers it. And that's why, even if we're both sick, he's also a fuck.
It was a fine distinction, but an important one.
Roderick's house, the next night
Roderick, Trevor, Emily and Bashir sat in the same study again,
smoking more of the same cigarettes.
"Did you find out anything from your contact?" Bashir tried to
say it mildly, but it didn't work very well.
"Yeah, I guess," Roderick shrugged, looking at the other
two. "But, let's hear if Trevor found out anything else first." All eyes
turned to the non-vampire in their midst, and he smiled weakly.
"I went and talked to my boss. Um, see, we have a set-up that's
sort of like yours. I mean, we have a Duke. And, well, lots of titles
and stuff. Nevermind, though. I went and talked to some people. Word
has it that Benedict is back in town, and we've got some people looking
for him, but no luck so far. However, I did get some interesting
theories. If Benedict and Mr. White signed on to work for a demon,
together, part of the deal might have been that they get some of one
another's powers. Like, normally nobody else can do...fairy magic."
There was a quiet snicker from Bashir's vicinity, but she stopped
just as quickly.
"And, essentially, nobody else can do...vampire stuff. So maybe
they wanted the best of both worlds, and the demon snapped his fingers or
waved his pitchfork or whatever, and made it happen. If that's the case,
both of them are going to have unexpected surprises, and they're probably
still working together. We just haven't seen Benedict so far. That might
be why Mr. White was able to make Emily and myself hallucinate, but my
powers or whatever made them go away again."
The other three nodded, and fell silent before looking at Roderick
again after a moment.
"Okay," he said. "The long and short of it is that demons can
fuck with your mind. We might be seeing some weird shit even after
Benedict and Mr. White go down. I say we take our super-soakers-"
"Which Cedric filled this afternoon," Bashir interjected.
"Right, which are good to go, and we load up, we drive to that
warehouse, we kick in the door, bust some heads, and kill a demon. I'm
tired of this shit. It's time to get it over and done with."
"Strategy? Tactics?" Emily didn't look challenging; she just
didn't look to eager to go bust heads.
"Kill stuff that moves," Roderick replied. "Any questions?"
To Be Continued, of course.
Michael Williams: "I love taking something
ICQ: 38687895 evil, and making it
email@example.com even more evil."
Seattle by Lava Lamp - Episode 9 of 9
"Kill stuff that moves," Roderick had said. "Any questions?"
Emily was slap full of questions, for her part; filled to
brimming, in fact. But what would have been the point of asking them? At
the time they were all too scared to question. Roderick seemed to have
found some inner strength to lead the other three. And now...well, now it
was far too late to start questioning his plan. For one thing, he was on
the other side of the warehouse with two AK-47's, trying to pin down the
Sabbat who had him pinned behind some crates.
Thinking of the crates made her stop for a second as she pushed
bullets into one of her empty clips, hands working a blur while Trevor
pumped out shot after shot in slow-motion over her head. In truth, it was
something along the lines of a half-second in which she paused, but the
difference was negligible. The crates - those were the important thing in
this reflective moment. The crates had been full, full of dead
mortals. Some of them might have been new vampires, she imagined. Troops
stuck in torporous sleep, awaiting a bath of blood to wake them up. Some
of them were obviously simply dead, white as sheets, all the blood they'd
held pumping as vitae through the dead veins of the enemies around
them. Some were hardly recognizable as mortal or anything else, given the
state their bodies were in. She could only think of one word: sacrifice.
They'd been sacrificed to the demon. That much was obvious from what
handful of markings she'd recognized on the scored flesh that remained.
There had been more Sabbat than any of them had guessed, as
well. Thirty, maybe more. Drunk on a blood feast - the four of them had
been lucky to gain that element of surprise and have the advantage of
sobriety. Trevor had retched once or twice at the sights this fight had
offered, crates exploding in the spray and spilling forth their treasure
in one smelly, slick sloughing out of flesh. Still, despite having been
separated from the others, she and Trevor held their own, taking down a
few Sabbat with some lucky shots and not taking many of their own. Emily
had been hit once, but overall she was moving way too fast for the Sabbat
to see her, half the time, much less shoot her.
The holy water, though, had been the real key. She'd taken down
more than one Sabbat with a few pumps and a spray from her super-soaker,
but now she was struck with the realization that the water was gone. Her
super-soaker had come up empty a few seconds before, and she'd emptied two
clips of plain old bullets in a big hurry, buying time for this reload.
Toreador might be considered useless, she considered as she
slammed in the fifteenth bullet and slid the clip home, but we're fast. I
wonder if we get so good at it just so we can come out with those quick
insults we love? The thought amused her, so she was grinning when she
bolted into place over the stack of crates they'd made a refuge and
unloaded her two pistols into six vampires in the time it took Trevor to
hit but one.
In another corner of the warehouse, the action itself was mere
backdrop as Bashir stepped out of shadows and into view of an unharmed,
unfazed Mr. White, former Regent of the Tremere.
"Clanswoman," he said evenly, with a slight nod of the head.
"Clansman," Bashir replied. "It seems you've made a mess of
He smoothed an already wrinkle-free tie and smirked, "And you
have not changed your arrogant ways, childe. A vampire for what now, four
years? Five? So weak. Pitiful. And you dare to defy my orders when the
blood in you must surely sing out to join me instead? Or do you not feel
the loyalty our clan demands?"
Bashir reviewed her various options in the realm of retorts,
without moving or even looking at him. She could have pointed out he was
the one who'd jumped ship, gotten recruits, gone infernal, and come back
to retake the city, but really, it would simply dignify his pomposity -
despite the fact his jab really did dig in and stick in her craw.
"Ballsy piece of shit," she said in reply.
His smirk grew wider. "Yes still arrogant." A fluttering of his
lips as though bored, while one of his allies, or hers, screamed a death
wail at the hands of some enemy on the other side of all the smoke and
noise. "Is this where you, the brash Tremere neonate, has a face-off with
me, the foolish elder who made a quick grab for power?"
"Something like that." Bashir didn't like how he'd nailed that
on the head. Uh-oh, the doctor in her said. Yes, doctor - that's what
she'd been before. And the doctor in her knew when a diagnosis, whether
of a patient or a situation, was somehow wrong.
"Then this is where I tell you how foolish you are, in turn, for
imagining it was all so simple as a mere rebellious urge for
revenge. Yes, I summoned a demon. Yes, I recruited young Sabbat. Demons
want sacrifices. Vampires make nice ones - I think demons rather like the
taste of Beast when a vampire finally shuffles off the cliche of the
Bashir didn't say anything. The doctor in her was chanting uh-oh
over and over.
"So," Mr. White went on, straightening a cuff poking out from his
boring gray tweed jacket, "My demon is having the feast of its life. How
many vampiric souls will it feast on tonight? How much power do you think
it will gain? And yes, it is under my control - I brought it over to this
realm. I can send it back. And when this fight is said and done, no
matter who wins, I will be the controlling force behind a very strong, fat
and happy demon, indeed. One who will only be hungry for more,
though. Seattle will make a lovely second course."
Here Bashir's memory started arguing with the doctor, and some
relevant thoughts surfaced from the two of them.
"You honestly think you brought that demon here,
Mr. White?" Bashir laughed abruptly, a low growl of a chuckle, hoarse
from all her cloves and a little fear. "Fuck, you're stupid. That demons
been here at least a century and a half. Probably a lot longer. There've
been vampires trying to bind and control it for decades. Shit, even a
childe like me was able to figure that out." She laughed again, louder.
"Foolish gibber," Mr. White shrugged. "Your opinions, which are
worthless as always."
Bashir's shoulders started to shake from her laughter. "Oh, you
dumbfuck. When your demon decides it's had enough neonate souls and
they've lost their flavor, who do you think it'll turn on? You said your
damn self you can send it back. What if it doesn't want to go? Yeah, I'm
only four or five years a vampire. What about you? Do you think you'll
not have a tastier Beast for your decades of letting it out every now and
Mr. White was a little longer in replying. "I think I am weary
of your childish theories. You know nothing of demons. Besides, assume
you are correct - what then? If you kill me, it will be guaranteed to be
unable to return to the spirit world. You'll be stuck with a demon with
no master at all, which I'm sure you'd find even less pleasant."
"Maybe." Bashir took a couple of steps closer. "Maybe
not. We brought holy water."
"Which you are not carrying," Mr. White replied. Terribly
Hollywood of your friends. Foolish of you to assume you knew better,
though. Foolish of you to assume anything."
"I hope you enjoy talking this much before you die," Bashir said
quietly. The stake showed in her left hand, a sheen of blood-sweat at her
temples. She'd made herself stronger. She was prepared to end him now.
"Bashir, tsk, tsk." Mr. White took a step closer as well,
spreading his left palm to show a tiny flame dancing there. "Do you think
I am defenseless? Or yourself impervious? You foolish childe, you forget
our most basic weapon." With that, he stepped forward again, and pulled
her to him brusquely in an abrupt embrace, flame growing in his palm.
"You'd burn us both," she said evenly. "You'd die as well."
"The Sabbat," Mr. White replied, "Is not without unique tricks of
its own. Tonight, no flame will harm me, and I'll hold your corpse as you
die in flames."
The flame leapt from his palm and caught on her dress, spreading
like bright water...before going out abruptly.
"I am not without my own surprises," Bashir murmured into
Mr. White's chest - the breast of her former Regent - and his face went
stark white as he shuddered abruptly, pain spreading out from his own
"You called me an arrogant, rebellious childe," Bashir went on,
hair pressed into that tidy necktie he wore. "You taught us flame. I
taught myself ice. I hope you find it a unique application of reverse
engineering." She pulled free just as his arms turned bright blue, and
his face froze in surprise. Not an inch of him moved, caught as he was in
her instant deep-freeze. With her strengthened hand held high, she shook
her head once to either side and brought a balled fist down against his
throat. A thousand shards of Mr. White sprayed from where he stood, some
turning to ash before they'd even hit the floor.
That untidy bit of melodrama done, Bashir returned to shadows.
For his part, Roderick's contribution to the fight thus far had
been nothing so scripted. His basic plan had been to have four machine
guns and two super-soakers over his shoulders - another advantage of a
father who had been a weapons buff - and simply mow down anything that got
in his way until he could find the demon. It was that simple: let the
part of him that wanted to kill, kill. The rest of him could wait.
He hadn't been disappointed.
A dozen Sabbat had charged him at once, knocked back down again
by a spray of lead from the gun Russians had built to survive being
dropped in the Moscow River and still be operational. One clip, two,
seven, ten later, a dozen and half another were laying twisted on the
floor. Bullets popped out of the occasional opponent as they forced blood
into wounds that were keeping them from being mobile, but Roderick had
found that a quick shot to the knee or a few squirts of holy water to the
forehead put them back down for a while if not permanently. It had been
ugly, bloody - he pushed flesh to cover bullets that peppered his own body
as well, and yanked out one knife from somewhere near his useless kidneys,
but all in all, he'd come through it just fine.
Then something unusual had happened - all the Sabbat had cried
out at once, like having something ripped out of them. Bashir had told
them this, that if any of them were bloodbound to one another, and one
died, the others might freak out. Looked like the stories were true,
maybe. All of them at once had simply wailed for a moment or two, and
only a tiny minority of guns kept firing. In those seconds, the tide had
turned. A handful managed to get out a door and leap into the silver
mini-van they'd stolen, riddled with bullets as it was, to make their
escape. They'd been left to escape - no point chasing them down. They'd
be in California before sunrise.
So it was in those first moments of blessed silence, smoke
drifting across the floor, the sound of Emily and Trevor calling out to
him, to Bashir, the sight of something that was probably Bashir herself
slipping behind crates to slip towards those voices, that Roderick thought
he might not see the demon after all. He was simply standing there in the
middle of the warehouse floor, enjoying a few moments of rest, his Beast
starting to pace in its cage because it wanted more blood to cover those
But the smoke started to move.
The guns would be useless, he knew. The clips were spent
and his canisters of holy water would need refilling to get out
more than a few meaningless squirts. Utterly pointless to keep them, much
less reload. He tossed them aside, and turned to look at the human shape
forming from the gun smoke itself.
"Hello, Roderick," the smoke-thing rumbled. It was like the bass
in a good stereo, vibrating somewhere in Roderick's chest.
"Hello," Roderick said, nodding. "Mr. Greene, I presume?"
The familiar shape of the supposed fellow Malkavian began to form
in the gray mist, and a head vaguely nodded.
"Yessssssssss," it breathed. "Very good. You have always been a
"It was your speech last night that gave it away."
"I thought it might. But I felt you were too valuable a prospect
to risk telling too little. I meant every word that I said, Roderick. A
demon will show you all the ways one can go wrong."
Roderick nodded his head as he mulled that over, footsteps nearby
telling him Bashir, Emily and Trevor had started to take note of what was
"And Mr. Greene was one of the ways I could go wrong," Roderick
"Yes." The Mr. Greene-like thing of smoke smiled, a giant gap in
its wispy head. "Mr. Greene - a persona I have used with no small success
- is one of the ways you could be wasted. He is the personification of
frivolity when it comes to pain, destruction, suffering. You, on the
other hand, understand it as a science, an art."
"A necessary evil," Roderick finished the sentence. "A part of
us all that needs to be let out."
"Yessssssssssssss," it rumbled at him, longer and even lower this
time. Roderick's whole body resonated to the sound.
"Why?" Roderick asked, looking at the form a few yards away.
"Because," it replied.
"That's all you do? Show people their dark side?"
"It is a creature's meaning, when one is like myself." The demon
expanded a little, smoky wings unfurling from its back. "It is its own
reward. To darken the world a little here, a little there; it is my
"So people, vampires, fairies, whatever - so they can be nastier
to each other?" Roderick's voice was even, emotionless, the question mark
something a listener would have had to fish around to find.
"Yeeeeeesssssssssssssssssssssss." The voice was just a little
louder this time.
"Ignore it, Roderick," Bashir said from behind it, where she and
the other two had taken up guarded positions to view the conversation.
"Its master is dead."
"Not master," the rumble snapped, correcting. "Summoner. I
continue to exist in this realm. I continue to do my work."
"But you want another summoner," Roderick said, nodding again,
once. "And you picked me to replace Mr. White. For a little while, that
is, so that I could be a little more like a demon myself."
"I teach. I have said as much. Take or leave it as you
like. The choice is yours," the thing breathed, and its voice was a sweet
caress. "But you would miss a world of opportunities. Primogen, perhaps
Prince? Perhaps even Justicar. And all for simply realizing the stunted
potential of your own monstrosity."
Roderick laughed. He opened his mouth, and a laugh came out, and
he couldn't hold it back. "You want monstrosity," he said, amid giggles
that were growing stronger. "You want monstrosity?" What Roderick wanted
was to have never met Mr. Greene, to have never tried to understand what
it was that made him want to kill. He wanted blood, he wanted quiet, he
wanted to be in his living room playing video games and ignoring politics
and having none of this ever have happened.
"It is all possible, all you just envisioned," the demon went
on. "Merely ask."
"You want monstrosity," Roderick said, and his anger began to
grow. "You...want...monstrosity." He wanted not to be hungry so badly,
he wanted all the things his body wanted sometimes to just go away. A
switch in his head flipped on, and his body went away - or rather, he went
away from his body.
In the realm of the physical, Bashir and Emily and Trevor saw
Roderick pass out. He just fell over after repeating that phrase over and
over, and lay there. Emily and Trevor both dove for his body, as the
smoke-demon disappeared as well, and Bashir quickly dragged out the
unopened canister of her holy water and some chalk from the deep recesses
of her pockets.
"We must work quickly," she said to no one other than herself as
she saw to her craft.
In the realm of the spiritual, Roderick's astral self exploded
into being as he leapt free from the confines of his body. There, the
demon existed as well. It was something big, black, scaly, with gray
wings coated in rotted feathers and tattered flesh that might once, some
part of Roderick thought, have been a blinding white.
Not that he really cared much about angels at the moment.
Being free from his body did a lot to change his perspective
rather abruptly. Namely, there was nothing vying for his time besides his
own thoughts and the demon before him - a demon looking more surprised by
the second as Roderick's astral body started to search around for a shape
that reflected its truest nature most closely.
"YOU WANT MONSTROSITY?" Roderick screamed, voice shrill, as his
entire lower torso twisted and contorted, the Beast trying desperately to
have its moment in the spotlight. "YOU WANT SUFFERING? DESTRUCTION?
PAIN? You've come to the right place, fuckface. Billions served, and
you're next in line."
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, the demon's voice boomed in his
head. YOU WOULD STAND AGAINST ME?
"Sure, why not?" Roderick's spirit body continued to twist and
turn around itself, back in on its own natural shape, the Beast shrieking
and tearing madly at its leash somewhere deep inside. "I'm your best
student, aren't I? Your little Mr. Greene act taught me well, you
stinking son of a bitch. Mr. Greene showed me exactly what a monster
could be, and that it all sat just below the surface in me as well. Oh,
yeah, there's one I learned and good. I learned I'm a monster. I learned
we're all monsters. I learned the only difference is some people are
monsters with a chainsaw and some people are monsters with their
passive-aggressive bullshit in some suburban hell family and some people
are monsters with the petty power trip they get in some bureaucratic job
and some people are monsters with the ways they abuse themselves. I've
seen my monsters, seen every last one of them in the faces of the people
Mr. Greene showed me how to torture, kill slowly, let beg for their death
before I make it last just a little longer. In them, in me, in every
fucking thing on earth. You think you've got a surprise up your ass? I
doubt it." Roderick's spirit-body, growing bigger and bigger with rage,
started to step towards the demon.
The demon, milk-fed on fear and weakness, stood silent in the
face of misplaced courage.
In the realm of the physical, Trevor and Emily hustled the
Roderick body out to Trevor's van while Bashir walked in fast circles
around where the demon had stood, chanting something.
"Get Bashir," Emily ordered. "We have to get out of here. I
think Roderick's in torpor."
Trevor cast another glance at the warehouse, where Bashir
continued her circles and chanting.
"I think he's somewhere else entirely," Trevor replied. "Back in
a second." With that, before Emily could protest, Trevor tore a stretch
in the fabric of reality with his finger and stepped through to let it
slam shut behind him.
IDIOT, the demon's mind rang out as Roderick stalked towards it
on giant Beast-legs mismatched horribly against his naked stomach. YOU
ARE EVEN MORE MAD THAN YOUR BLOOD SHOULD MAKE YOU. I AM A DEMON. YOU
CANNOT HARM ME.
"No?" Roderick asked, grinning wide like he'd just had an
amusing thought at someone else's expense. "I dunno. See, I've thought
about this. You're a demon. And demons subsist on emotion, belief -
mental stuff. And wow, what'd'ya know, we're both mental stuff right
now. Astral. Spiritual. My body's somewhere back in the warehouse on
the other side of some dimensional gate or something, probably, but here I
am, soul and all, just a sack of walking beliefs and emotions, Beast and
all. And I'm hungry. Why should you get all the tasty morsels to
WHAT it thought stupidly, as Roderick walked right up to it,
towering over it with rage and hunger. WHAT YOU SAY IS MEANINGLESS.
"I think not," Roderick said, and his astral mouth split into a
giant maw, set to swallow a pickup truck, as he brought it down against
the demon's throat and he started to drink.
FOOL, IGNORANT AND UNGRATEFUL BAG OF MORTAL FEC-the demon managed
to think. And then, abruptly, it disappeared. Roderick's mouth slammed
shut again on thin air, and the Beast in him collapsed as well. He stood
there, on the plain ashen floor of a spiritual reflection of a warehouse,
A glimmer of light a few feet away blossomed and collapsed, and
Trevor stood with him, covered head to toe in some sort of gossamer robe,
strips of fabric rapped around his temple, a scimitar in each hand.
"Hi," he said.
Roderick looked to one side, then the other, before staring up at
"I guess I missed the fun?" Trevor seemed very relaxed.
"Yeah," Roderick said. His face was blank, his voice quiet,
"You got rid of the demon?"
"I think so." Roderick's shape shifted abruptly to one side,
like a television tube going on the fritz, and he said, "See you back on
the other side."
Moments later, as Bashir emerged from the warehouse, turning to
blow a waft of flame into it to encourage the destruction of evidence, and
Emily impatiently cranked the engine of Trevor's van, and Trevor
rematerialized next to the van itself from another rip in reality,
Roderick awoke in the back of the van.
Somewhere inside him was some touch of the demon into which he'd
sunk his spiritual fangs, a drop of the infernal that now flowed into his
psyche and through it. The Beast slept peacefully, but Roderick was faced
with the power of that single taste of Hell. For the first time he could
remember since being Embraced, he curled up in a little ball on the van
floor, and started to weep.
The End...For Now
©1999 White Wolf Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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