Disclaimer: The following story is based on the world of "Kindred: The Embraced" created and owned by Spelling Entertainment and White Wolf and their corporate parts. Dark Angel Kahn the Destroyer, a Justicar of the Ventrue clan, stood watching the snow fall outside of his haven in Toronto. Behind him, the shadows stirred and danced. The wind which whipped around his still figure made sad sounds, like the moans of the dying. he thought to himself, . He looked down at the message one of his younger progeny had just brought him. ARCHON IS DEAD. THE MANZANITA BRUJAH ARE AVENGED. Archon. What had been the man's name, in that long ago time when Kahn had embraced him? It hadn't been so important then, to know it. Now it seemed so very, very important. He had warned him, hadn't he, that his hatred of the Brujah clan would be his undoing. And now, it seemed, his prophecy had come true. One of his progeny was dead. And behind that, now he was without a presence in this American city, a city that had seemed important enough to a young archon that he would be willing to break with his sire for the chance to become Prince. "You're lost in thought tonight, father." Behind him a young woman, wrapped in a long dark shawl, approached the still figure, her boots barely making an impression on the fallen snow. She took the message from his hand and read it. "Archon? A brother I never met?" "He was before your time, Isolde. Much before your time. Now his past actions have brought him to final death, and I must find a replacement for him." Isolde watched her sire's pale face as she formulated her response. "Send me, then. I weary of the compound and would relish the chance to act as your eyes and ears in the real world." "No, it will be one of your elder brothers. They have more experience than you." "My lord, I will never have any experience at all if you do not send me out to deal with the other Kindred. You are my sire and I love you but I must know for myself whether I can be anything more than I am. My brothers all have gone and imposed Kindred justice on our clan for you, let me now do the same." Kahn searched her face for a moment, remembering the first time he had set eyes on this woman, when she had been nothing more than a orphan child in the streets of London. Big dark eyes and long black hair and an aristocrat's soul. She was his favorite, his only girl child in a clan of relentless enforcers of Kindred justice. His dark angel on whose wings the souls of their clan could fly. To send her away to some foreign city to replace a man she had never known in a clan she had never met would have been hard, even for his sire. Yet... "Very well, I will send you on one condition. The Prince of the city is of our clan. I would not have him know that an member of a Justicar's clan is in his city, not until I know for certain that he is still upholding the traditions. You will present yourself as a member of his clan and give the name of another of the Ventrue as your sire, a Ventrue who owes me his life. He will vouch for you. You will watch and learn and report back to me if the Prince still follows our laws. If so, then you will return home. If not..." "Then I will truly become the Ventrue's Dark Angel," Isolde replied calmly "and see them set on the road to Final Death." Pt.1 Julian stood over the grave of his sire, his heart heavy. he thought. He didn't really expect an answer, not now. he asked himself. There was no answer for him here, only the silence of the grave. "Julian?" Cash hesitantly approached his Prince, not sure of his reception. "It's time to go. The sun will be up soon." He moved to stand behind the still figure, trying to find the right words. "Listen, maybe it's not my place..." "It's not." Julian replied, turning away from the grave. He entered the dark confines of his limousine and tried to loose himself in the mounds of paperwork involved in keeping the Kindred's interests in San Francisco profitable. Cash meant well, but right now he needed the cold anger which burned inside of him. It gave him the strength to face his conclave, and more importantly, to face his sire's murderer with control. Cameron may have had the letter of the law on his side this time, but one day he would slip, become too sure of himself. On that day, Archon would be avenged. The drive back to the city was quiet. The city skyline had a peaceful look to it, belying the dark passions which had been awakened in it's core. The mansion was dark, as it had been most of the last month since Archon's death. Lilly had taken to staying at her club rather than coming home. Julian had heard rumors of the frequent visits of the new Brujah primogen to the club but hadn't had the energy to pursue it with either of them. Sasha had also started staying away, preferring the company of some of the younger Brujah to the snide comments of Cash's fellow Gangrel. Caitlyn had called several times since their disastrous trip but he had not had the energy to respond. All of his time had become focused on his own kind. Julian entered and made his way to the study intent on his own thoughts, while his Gangrel bodyguards settled in for the day. He was so intent on his own thoughts he almost missed the blinking light on the answering machine. It's insistent light finally broke through his reverie. A light touch and the machine was rewound and playing for it's master. "Hello, Mr. Luna? My name is Isa Durant. I'm in town for a few days and would like to introduce myself to you. I believe we're related, in a distant sort of way. Please leave a message for me at the Seacove Inn and let me know when it would be convenient for us to meet. I don't have the number with me just now, but I believe they're in the book. Thank you for your time." The woman's voice sounded calm and self-assured, as though requesting an audience with the Prince of the city was an everyday occurrence. It had been ages since another Ventrue had visited San Francisco. And a visit coming so close to the death of his sire made Julian wonder what game he was about to begin. He thought about the sealed message he had found on Archon's desk, with a note to him to send it unopened to the address on the envelope. It had been a name and address he had not recognized, but then it was obvious there was much about his sire's life he had not known. Perhaps this woman could help him fill in the gaps. Pt. 2 Isolde put down the phone and looked down at the shell of the vessel which had provided her with her meal. She had chosen with care, waiting for just the right human to cross her path before feeding. Unlike her brothers, who were indiscriminate in their choice of prey, she had always had a taste for those who abused children. Her choice was a throwback her sire said to her own mortal life. Her mother, who had been a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth I, had lost her station at court and her place in her family by choosing to bed a commoner. She had been forced to become a common prostitute, taking any man who had the money to pay for her time. Isolde had been a pretty child and it was not long before the men had tried to bargain for her instead of her mother, a fate she still remembered with horror. Her sire had put an end to that, scooping her out of the dirt and misery of the streets and taking her to a clean and beautiful estate where she was taught to have the same accomplishments as any young man. When she compared her old life to her new one it had not been a difficult choice to accept the Embrace when she came of age. Kahn had never explained why he had taken such an extraordinary step in selecting her for the embrace. Probably he didn't know himself. But Isolde had proved to be an excellent choice, a dutiful if somewhat somber childe. Not even her brothers could touch her hunting skills, even if she was particular on her choice of prey. This man had been the perfect choice. She watched him from the comfort of the shadows as he slowed down to examine the many underage young boys offering themselves on the street for the price of a meal. She knew he wouldn't go far before he tried to make a move on the scrawny youth he had chosen for his pleasure. It hadn't taken much for her to dominate both minds and command the boy to forget he had ever seen this man. The abuser she drained enough to quench her thirst, then left him with the urge to confess his sins to the first uniformed officer he saw. Her sire had taught her to enjoy the hunt more than the kill. She had, over the years, developed a taste for watching her prey destroy themselves, with just a little push from her. It was just so much more satisfying and less messy, she thought, pausing briefly to brush a speck of soot off her fine woolen shawl. She walked for blocks, unseen by the rush of humans, soaking up the atmosphere of this strange city. Isolde had always been observant, even as a child, so it took only a few hours to notice the flow of Kindred and humans coming from the direction of one particular nightclub, she thought, examining the building's facade. < Must belong to a Toreador. This sort of place would be just their sort of establishment.> She watched the club's patrons enter and exit the building for a few moments, noting the mix of humans and Kindred, then turned to walk away. "Looking for someone?" a voice behind her called out. Turning she noticed a Gangrel on a motorcycle watching her intently. "Not particularly." She replied, drawing her shawl tighter around her shoulders. "I'm new in town and thought I would get the lay of the land, so to speak. You are...?" "Name's Donny. What's yours?" "Isa. Short for Isolde. But no one but my sire calls me that and even he only uses it when he's mad at me." She smiled her best innocent smile and sauntered over to where the young man was standing. This was a young Gangrel, too young to be wary of a strange Kindred. She held his gaze with her own as she talked, gently forcing her will on his till she was sure he would not fight her. "So, tell me about this place. Anyone here I should know? I wouldn't want to step on anyone's territory." Danny's eyes glazed slightly as he stared into the woman's hypnotic eyes. "The place is owned by Lilly Langtry. She's the Toreador primogen. You should introduce yourself to her. I'm sure she'd be pleased to meet you." "But I'm not a Toreador, Danny." Isolde laughed, gently moving him away from his motorcycle and into the shadows. "I'm Ventrue. But I'll keep that advice in mind. Now you just sit here and rest. You're so very tired, you need to close your eyes, don't you?" She helped him to sit in the darkened alley and passed her hand before his already closed eyes. "Now rest and forget you ever saw me." She spread her shawl out on her outstretched arms and shifted into mist, letting the gentle breeze sweep her up and away from the Toreador haven and back towards her temporary home. Pt.3 Once Isa had arrived at the Seacove Inn, a small establishment her sire had purchased especially for her stay, she began settling in to wait for the call she knew would be coming. Archon's messages back to her sire had been sketchy in their details about the Kindred in San Francisco in general and the childer he had sired in particular. Luckily, Kahn had never been one to rely on just one set of reports when evaluating an area. Kindred moving to Toronto from the area had found themselves summoned to the Justicar's compound to tell of the young Prince Julian and his sire, who they knew only as Archon, she had thought when she had first heard their stories Now she thought it had more to do with keen insight than presumption. No other clan would be anxious to risk the wrath of the Camarilla by lifting a hand to one of their representatives. She found it interesting to note, however, that he had never used the blood-soaked reputation of his ancient sire as a club to wield over his recalcitrant subjects. She settled back onto her sofa, closed her eyes and composed herself for the next step in her plan. She knew it would not be long before the Prince would learn of her present haven and the circumstances of its recent purchase. she thought She was soon comfortably asleep. It didn't take Julian's staff long to discover the location and phone number of the Seacove Inn. It took only a little longer to find that it had been recently purchased by an unknown, Middle-Eastern based conglomerate with an office in Canada. The connection to the Middle-East made Julian cautious, remembering his recent encounter with the Assamite assassin hired by the sire of the former Brujah primogen, Eddie Fiori. The woman's who had called had a British accent, but that meant nothing in the Kindred world. She may have spent her last hundred years as a paid killer in the British Isles, or she could be just what she said she was, a member of his clan on a visit to a strange city. Julian paced the Conclave's meeting room, weighing his options. He settled into his seat at the head of the long table, staring at his clasped hands. he thought. Sighing, he decided that the best course of action would be to bring her to his home. There he would have the advantage. He would be on his own territory, with his own people just a word away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shadow detach itself from the wall and form a familiar shape. "There was a time when you would not have been so cautious, my Prince." Daedalus said softly, standing quietly in front of his troubled lord. The Nosferatu primogen stood straight and tall, his eyes never leaving the object of his attention. The mark of the Beast, bestowed on the Nosferatu on their Embrace, was not as evident on him as it was others in his clan. He was not as cruelly changed physically, yet no one looking at him could mistake him for anything other than inhuman. "There was a time I could afford to be reckless. Now, taking those types of chances would serve to feed only Cameron's ambitions. How much do you know of what is going on?" "I know you await a member of your clan, a stranger to the city and to you. I know that her haven was bought by a company with ties perhaps leading to the Assamites, perhaps not. I know it is wise for you to be wary, especially after all that has occurred recently. And I know all of this caution does not sit well with you." Julian smiled ruefully. "Is there anything you don't know about?" "Very little." Daedalus replied, calmly taking his seat at the Conclave table. "Do you wish me to stay and see your visitor?" "Yes, but it would be best if she didn't see you. This may all be nothing, but if it is not, I want you to be in a position to take action." He rose and led the Nosferatu primogen to his office, where he dialed the number for the Inn. It rang only twice before it was answered. "I wish to speak to Ms. Isa Durant? I believe she is staying at this establishment?" "Yes sir, I'll see if she's in." the voice at the other end of the line gushed. The phone rang again as it was transferred to another number, only to be answered by that calm voice from the answering machine. "This is Ms. Durant. How may I help you?" "This is Julian Luna. I received your message and thought we might make arrangements to meet at my home in an hour, if that is convenient." "As you wish." The woman's voice faintly amused. "Did I say something funny?" Julian asked, raising one eyebrow at the man across from him. "Private joke, sorry. If you'll let me know the address I'll hail myself a cab." "No, I'll send my driver for you. His name is Cash. I'll see you in an hour, then." "In an hour." She gently hung up the phone and looked back at the material her father had given her on her predecessor. "So, your childe is quite the gentleman. Like father like son, though I suspect you shouldn't have invited a stranger into your haven quite so quickly. This will be an interesting meeting." She rose and started to prepare for the next act in her self- imposed drama. Pt.4 Cash watched the scenery fly by as he and Lorraine drove to escort Julian's guest to the compound. Normally, he would have sent one of his Gangrels on this errand while he stayed at Julian's side. But lately, the Ventrue Prince had made it clear he wanted to be left alone by everyone, including his bodyguards. His attitude was frustrating for Cash, especially in light of the events at the cabin in Manzanita. But there was no getting around the high, cold barrier Julian had decided to build around himself. No one, not even Sasha, was willing to take the risk to scale those walls. "There it is, Seacove Inn." Lorraine exclaimed, breaking in on his gloomy thoughts. "About time, too. We'll just barely be making it back to town before sunrise." "Hell of a place." Cash mused. The inn looked out open rocky, desolate sea coast. Whoever had owned the inn before had not believed in keeping up the grounds, so that the main building was surrounded by weeds and unkempt shrubs. The house itself bore a slight resemblance to the mansion in Psycho and Cash would not have been surprised to see Anthony Perkins come out of the building, a knife in his hand. "Kind of spooky if you ask me." Lorraine replied, edging the limousine into the only remaining open parking spot not covered with weeds. A little red sports car, parked in the other clean spot, was the only vehicle in sight. Cash exited the vehicle and sauntered up the mansion, leaving Lorraine to watch the limo. His eyes darted over the open ground, looking for signs of trouble. There seemed to be nothing moving anywhere not even in the house. Suddenly the front door opened and a young woman stepped out to meet him. She was tall, almost as tall as Dadaelus, with alabaster skin and a slender figure. Her long black hair hung loosely down to her waist. Her light blue eyes shone through the darkness with an eerie light. "You Isa Durant?" he asked cautiously. "Yes and you, I take it, have come from Mr. Luna." She looked carefully at the scruffy young man in front of her, taking note of the weapon he did not try to conceal beneath his leather jacket. she thought < The Prince's man walks about too obviously armed. This is something I will have to investigate.> She carefully closed the door behind her and gathered her shawl around her shoulders. Looking down at the parking lot, she caught sight of another Kindred waiting by a long, dark car. "He employs Gangrels as his drivers and not others of his own clan?" she asked, looking past him to the other member of his clan. "Yeah. Got a problem with that?" Cash replied defensively. "Not much of one. The Prince may do as he pleases in his own city. It's just rare that Gangrel give allegiance to anyone outside of their own clan, much less become trusted members of a Ventrue Prince's household. How interesting." She moved past him quickly, making for the reassuring darkness of the car's interior. < He didn't like that.> she mused, settling into the car's plush interior. Cash followed behind, trying to control his sudden irritation with this Ventrue's snobbish attitude. Climbing into the front seat of the limousine he regretted volunteering for this assignment. From the silence emanating from the back seat, he could tell it was going to be a long, aggravating trip. Pt.5 Grace looked up at the house on the hill with longing, wishing for the courage to walk up the drive and knock on the door. It seemed a lifetime ago when the young man on the motorcycle had brought her here, shaking with cold and fear. A lifetime since she had discovered what Zane had done to her the night she had left the Haven with him. One stupid mistake and now she was forever dammed. Julian, the dark-haired man who owned the house had tried to explain to her just what had happened but it had taken days before the reality had set in. By then, Zane was dead and Grace had felt abandoned again. She had left the mansion a few days later, more terrified of this new existence than of facing her old life. But, of course, running home hadn't worked either. The craving for blood had simply been too much. Now she was back, and was too afraid to walk the few hundred yards to the door for help. She had been sitting her, under the trees all night, working up her courage. In the distance, she could hear the soft purr of a well-tended engine. She spotted the limousine making its way up the road and bolted for the meager shadows provided by the trees. Isa spotted the ragged figure as it hugged the sparse cover near the foot of the road. "Stop the car, Gangrel!" she ordered, allowing her power to dominate to creep into her voice. Lorraine stopped the car without hesitation. "Hey! My orders are to get you to Julian!" Cash exclaimed, shooting his fellow Kindred a concerned look. "Your orders are not mine. Someone sits hidden in the shadows. Stay and wait for me here." Isa was out of the car before either of her two escorts could move, disappearing into the small grove of trees that lined the bottom of the hill. Isa soon saw that her intended victim was a young woman, another member of the Kindred. She stalked the ragged young girl quietly, using the shadows to her best advantage. Isa thought, slowly advancing on her prey, She slipped behind the girl silently and took hold of her tangled blond hair, yanking her off her feet. "Looking for someone?" Grace cried out, startled, and tried to run for the road, but Isa's grasp on her hair was firm. "Let me go! Please, I haven't done anything!" "I never said you had." Isa replied calmly. "I just wondered why you were looking up at that particular house." She tilted the woman's head back so that she could look into her eyes. The girl's face was streaked with dirt and tears but under all the grime, Isa could see a genuinely pleasing face. "What is your name?" "Grace." she replied, her free will captured by the light in Isa's shimmering blue eyes. "Hey, what's going on?" yelled Cash, starting after his Prince's guest. "Stay by the car, Gangrel. I'll be done in a moment." Isa replied, making the words an order to be obeyed. To his own astonishment, Cash found himself unable to think of a reason not to do as he was told, he thought, leaning wearily against the car. Isolde heard the young man return to the car, then dismissed him from her thoughts. She turned her attention back to the young woman at her feet. "So, your name is Grace, is it? That's a pretty name for such a pretty girl. I'm Isolde, but you may call me Isa. And I think that we both should have a little talk with the man in the compound. I'm sure he'll be able to help you make things right. That is why you are here, isn't it? To find help to make your life right again?" She released the girl's hair, grimacing at the dirt that stuck to her perfectly manicured fingers. "What clan are you, by the way?" "I think they told me but I don't remember. It's all been like a nightmare." Grace began to tremble, the hunger rising in her belly. Isa saw the signs of starvation in the girl's eyes and sighed. "Someone has not done well by you, child. Come, let us talk to Mr. Julian Luna and see if we can make some sense of this." She hauled the girl to her feet and set her back on the road up to the compound. Cash and Lorraine, who had been watching from the road, followed with the car at a discrete distance, worriedly watching this strange development. Pt.6 Daedalus watched from the darkness of Julian's study as the odd procession of young Kindred made their way up the drive. He was especially intrigued by the woman in the lead, the one who was obviously Julian's expected guest. There was an aura about her, an air of command that he had seen before in older Ventrue .Her mannerisms reminded him of Archon, the late primogen of the Ventrue clan and Julian's sire. he thought to himself. "What do you think?" Julian asked, looking over his councilor's shoulder. He caught sight of the young Toreador who had run away from his house only a while ago. She was being propelled along by a brunette dressed in a long dark dress and shawl. He frowned, annoyed by this added complication. "I think you have more guests than you were expecting." Daedalus replied, melting back into the shadows. Julian turned and seated himself at his desk, mentally reviewing the options open to him. Of paramount importance was dealing with this victim of Zane, Lillie's wayward child. Grace had never adapted to life as a Kindred, at least not life in his house, a fact which saddened him. He had hoped that having someone her own age to assist in adjusting to the Kindred life would have helped Sasha in her own adjustments. But Grace had proved too unstable, too frightened of her own shadow. Sasha had found her constant weeping nerve wracking and had finally given up on her in disgust. The girl had disappeared the next night. Now she was back and this strange Ventrue was leading her in. Julian thought, looking down at his hands. Then he wondered why he cared what a strange Kindred thought of anything that was done in his city. There was a soft knock on the door and Cash walked in, looking to his Prince for a sign of approval. "Julian, may I present..." was all he managed to say before the dark-haired girl he had escorted to the house swept by him. "Prince of the city, I present myself to you. I am Isolde Durant of the Clan Ventrue, Childe of Marcus Durant. My home and my sire are in the city of Montreal. I present to you a lost soul which I found on your doorstep who is in desperate need of your bounty. This is Grace who was, I think, forcibly embraced by someone in your city. May I beg refuge for her in your house?" Julian looked up into the brunette's grave blue eyes and for a moment felt himself become disoriented, as though his mind had been sent spinning out of control. The feeling lasted only a moment and then was gone. He turned and looked gravely at the frightened blonde clutching at Isa's arm. "Grace, we've been worried about you. Where did you run off to?" "So you know this child?" Isa asked, patiently prying the girls fingers loose from her silk blouse. "Yes. She will be cared for. Cash, have Grace taken upstairs and cleaned up. I'm sure she'll feel much better after that." Julian smiled at the frightened girl, trying to look reassuring. "Feeding her might be better." Isa commented, looking back at the two Gangrels. "Go along with them, child. I am sure everything will be fine. I will check on you before I leave." She gently shoved the younger Kindred in the direction of her two escorts. "We'll take care of her." Lorraine replied, taking Grace's arm. "Come on, honey. It'll be all right. We'll get you what you need." She gently led the woman out of the room. "What a sad creature." Isa commented, turning back to the desk. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a slight shift in the patterns of the shadows on the study wall. "I hope this is not an everyday occurrence in the San Francisco." "No, it was an unfortunate incident which has been dealt with. Tell me, Ms. Durant, what are you doing in my city?" Julian leaned back in his chair, looking at his guest with detachment. "Just visiting. My sire has suggested that I might learn much of our world from seeing how other Kindred in other cities keep the Masquerade. I fear I have been overly protected from the cruelties of life among the humans. So I chose a city far enough away that I would not have my brethren watching over me every minute yet close enough that I might reach home quickly if I so desired. Rather childish reasons, don't you think?" She smiled sweetly at the young Prince, using every wile she had been taught to disarm his suspicions. Julian returned her smile, relaxing slightly in his seat. "Where are my manners? Please, have a seat. Can I pour you a drink?" "Thank you, but I must leave. I have a friend in the city whom I have not seen in many years. If your driver can take me into the city, he'll house me while the sun is up." "Who is your friend?" Julian asked, curiously. "His name is Mangus. I believe he has a rare coin shop near a place called the Haven." Isa reached her hand across the desk and clasped the Prince's fingers in her own slender ones. "Perhaps I will see you again while I am here?" Julian looked into her light blue eyes and smiled. "Perhaps. San Francisco is not so big a city as some might tell you it is. Maybe at the Haven"" "Maybe." She agreed, hesitantly pulling back her hand. Then in an instant she was gone, with Cash trailing behind her, trying to keep her in sight. Julian looked over at the shadows where he had last seen the Nosferatu primogen. "Well?" Daedalus moved forward into the light, his eyes never leaving the door. "Beware my prince. This one is not what she seems. Let me find out more about her before you meet with her again." "What makes you think I will see her again?" Julian asked, a slight smile on his handsome face. "Because she wishes you to, my Prince." Daedalus responded cryptically. "And I fear that one always gets what she wants." Pt. 7 Mangus Ethridge puttered around his darkened shop, making sure his precious wares were displayed to their finest. Few Ventrue bothered to openly participate in the commercial life of the cities in which they resided, but Mangus found he enjoyed the interaction with the humans. It was not as though he needed the money. Like many Ventrue, he held more wealth than could be used in several lifetimes. But the constant ebb and flow of humans, with their endless petty problems and joys, kept the years from becoming boring. He carefully moved a small box containing a golden coin into a more favorable light. Behind him, a figure moved quietly out of the shadows. "You know, it really did look better where it was," a voice behind him commented. He whirled, to see a figure move out of the shadows. "Lady, I did not know you were in town or I would have come to pay my respects." Mangus stuttered, taken aback by her sudden presence in his shop. That a Kindred had walked in off the streets and caught him unawares was bad enough, but that it was the girl child of the most feared Justicar in Kindred history made the situation even worse. "It's been a long time since you were in service to my sire, Mangus. You seemed to have done well." The dark-haired woman wandered about the shop, taking note of the varied items the old man had for sale. "I do well enough." He replied, glancing furtively at the door. Isa took no notice of his nervousness. "My father sends you greetings and his thanks for sending him notice of the former Archon's death. He has sent me to look into the matter and see if it will be necessary to assign another Archon permanently to the city. Tell me what you know of the goings on under the present Prince, Julian Luna." Mangus smiled nerviously. "My Lady, why would I know anymore about the Prince of the City than any other Kindred?" "Because," Isa replied, looking deep into his frightened eyes, "you have always been the conduit by which my father gained his information, his spy in the midst of the Kindred. You were his ghoul before you were embraced and his creature afterwards. And now, Mangus, he has given you over to me. you are my creature, to do with as I please, to praise as merited or to punish. Now tell me what I must know about the city and its Prince or I shall have to take steps to discipline you for your insubordination. That wouldn't be pleasant, now would it?" Mangus shuddered, remembering the discipline Kahn had handed out to his ghouls and progeny. Kahn had always been a strict disciplinarian, harsh when crossed but generous when obeyed. Yet all had feared his anger and the punishments he had meted out when he was so inclined. And always in the shadows, there had been his only daughter, his "Dark Angel", watching and learning from her sire. He had no reason to believe that she would be any gentler in her punishment than her sire had been. Wearily, he motioned towards his office and began his recitation of the events of the last year in the city. Pt. 8 Daedalus walked slowly down the maze of sewer tunnels, listening carefully for others of his clan. The Nosferatu had always been a solitary group, not mixing much even with their own kind. Since Goth's death, however, he had noticed that they were even more reluctant than ever to approach him. Many genuinely regretted their defection to Goth's cause. Some were afraid to face Daedalus, fearing his continued anger at their turning away from all he had tried to build. A small minority were still bitter that their leader Goth had lost his life to the Ventrue Prince that Daedalus called friend. Whatever their reasons, only a few of the Nosferatu still actively sought out the company of their Primogen. It was one of those few that he sought now. He stopped in front of a boarded up section of tunnels, and knocked lightly. "Enter," called a gruff voice from behind the boards. Daedalus pressed one board back, releasing the spring on the lock which kept the hidden door closed and stepped through into his friend's haven. Karn looked up at his primogen from the computer desk he had set up in a corner of the chamber. The room was alive with noisy activity, none of it coming from living beings. A television in one corner was set to CNN while the radio was set to a dial-in talk show. Another television and VCR combination was playing something that looked suspiciously like a vampire movie. The computer screen in front of Karn displayed the home page for the Internet search engine ALTAVISTA. "Welcome to my world, old friend. How may I be of service?" Karn motioned to Daedalus to take a seat beside him. Daedalus gravely declined and moved to stand closer to the desk. "I need information on a woman, a Ventrue named Isolde Durant, from Montreal. She has presented herself to the Prince as a clan member traveling through his city." "But you have suspicions about her true motives." Karn stated, looking closely at his primogen. "I know that the Ventrue are always plotting among themselves, but why would this particular Kindred arouse such interest in you?" "I am not sure." Daedalus confessed, pacing the small chamber. "There is something about her, something dangerous and at the same time alluring. I fear for my Prince, especially now. Julian mourns his sire more and more each day." "Do we not all mourn our sires when they pass on to final death?" Karn asked. "I know I did." "I did not." The statement was calmly made, yet in its depths Karn could still feel the horror of his friend's memory of his embrace. He turned back to his computer, frowning. "Isolde. That's a very unusual name. Yet I know I've heard it mentioned before in connection with the Kindred. Now where was it?" He began to access his files, looking for the program he had used to store all the Kindred genealogical information that he had acquired. Running a quick search through the extensive lineages he had complied, he soon came up with the name he had requested. "Isolde Durant, embraced in 1590 by...Oh dear, this is interesting." Karn read the file again, verifying the data he had before him. "It seems you have reason to be concerned, my friend." "Why?" Daedalus asked, feeling a chill run down his spine. "Because her sire is Kahn the Destroyer, Justicar of the Ventrue clan and one of the most ruthless enforcers of Kindred law in the history of our kind. This woman is his only girl progeny in all the recorded years of his existence as a Kindred. That makes her one of a kind...and worthy of watching." "I wonder," Daedalus mused, "whether she was his pet or his protégé." "Either way, I would be wary of letting your Prince become too friendly with her. It is said that Kahn is a jealous sire, not prone to willingly share his progeny's affections with others. He might not approve of his creation and our handsome Prince becoming too well acquainted. And he most decidedly would not approve of a Nosferatu showing interest in her either, for any reason. I understand he has a particular dislike of our clan." Karn looked sharply at his friend. Daedalus's face revealed nothing of his thoughts. "I will be careful, old friend. There is one other thing you can do for me. She mentioned a friend, Mangus, who ran a coin shop near the Haven. What can you tell me about this?" "Oh, I know Mangus well." Karn replied, smiling his ghastly smile. "He is a Ventrue who is quite friendly to all the Kindred, even the Nosferatu. I believe this is something of a rarity among their clan. He has not been in the city long, and I know little about his past. But he has the appearance of being a good man. His shop is not far from here. Go back out to the tunnels and walk for a mile then take a left and walk again for another half mile. You will be directly under his shop." "Search for what you can on his background. It is important. And my thanks for what you have given me. Now, I have an idea of what Julian must beware of." Daedalus stepped out of the hidden door, locking it in place behind him. He looked down the dark length of the tunnel grimly. he thought to himself as he began the walk to the Ventrue's shop. The only answer to his questions was the soft splash of the water as he walked towards his destination. Pt. 9 Daedalus made his way quickly to the underground entrance to the coin shop, stopping only long enough to take note of the condition of the tunnels which ran under it. They were cleaner here than they had been for most of their previous length and showed signs of being well traveled. Secret symbols, some written by his clan and some by the Gangrels, gave directions to the shop's hidden entrance. Karn had said the Ventrue was a friendly soul and it was obvious from the attempts to make the passage accessible to all, he had enjoyed the company of more than just his own clan. Daedalus carefully opened the trap door which lead into the storeroom and lifted himself up into it. The Nosferatu stopped suddenly, hearing the sound of a voice in the next room. He moved cautiously to investigate. From the relative safety of the shadows near the connecting doorway, he could distinguish the form of an older Kindred seated on a stool in front of a large sofa, like a child seated before its teacher during a lesson. The woman who had visited Julian was seated on the divan, seemingly oblivious to the information being presented to her. With growing dismay, Daedalus realized that the old man was telling this strange woman all of the difficulties that had befallen his Prince, from the death of his former lover Alexandra to the present. He watched to see what her reaction would be. Isolde sat on the old sofa in Mangu's office, her feet tucked under her like a cat. She listened in silence, her eyes closed, as the older Ventrue explained the problems of the past six months to her, problems that had culminated in the death of Archon Raine. He had just finished telling her about the death of the Brujah primogen Eddie Fiori and had begun to tell her of Goth's attack on the Masquerade when he noticed that she was no longer listening to him. She shifted slightly in her seat, then opened her eyes to stare piercingly behind her father's servant. "Sounds like this Eddie person wasn't much of a loss." Isolde commented, looking into the shadows where she could feel a presence had entered the room. She could just barely see the indistinct form of a man in the doorway, standing as still as a stone. she thought, intrigued. Her sire had warned her about the dangerous ability of the Nosferatu to find out information no matter how deeply it had been buried. It had been simple enough to tell the Prince enough of the truth without mentioning the rest of her mission. After all, her sire had, on several occasions, mentioned he had wanted her to know more of the world. That part had not been a lie. Not totally, anyway. She had deliberately not created an elaborate deception to explain her presence in the city, reasoning that such clever intelligence gatherers would find her out no matter what she had said. "They are a dangerous clan, my Lady." Mangus protested, steeling himself for whatever attack was to come. He had seen that look in his Master's eyes too often, usually right before he had snatched up and drained some Kindred hunter or staked some hapless Caitiff who had made the mistake of wandering in where they were not wanted. "Some are. Some are not. I suppose it depends on the bloodline. Not having met many Brujah, it would be hard for me to say for certain. They have their own Justicar to deal with their transgressions. I deal only with the problems of the Ventrue. And this Ventrue Prince appears to have a few more problems than most. He has a Human girlfriend? And a reporter, no less. Is that not a danger to the Masquerade? What can he be thinking of ? And why do I have the feeling that the portion of his anatomy that made that choice did not reside in his head?" She smiled slightly, waiting for the Nosferatu in the shadows to correct her. Daedalus walked out of the shadows, aware from her gaze that his hiding place had been revealed. "Prince Julian keeps the peace, a peace that was forged in blood by his Sire Archon. I believe that his problems will in no way change his devotion to upholding the Masquerade." He looked down on her, steeling himself against her hypnotic gaze. "Why has your sire sent you?" "You know my sire's name? So much the better. I am here to observe, nothing more. With the death of my elder brother, there is a loss of connection here between the Ventrue and their Justicar. I am here to see if that can be corrected." "Your elder brother?" Daedalus asked, stunned. "Then Archon was...?" "The child of Kahn the Destroyer, as am I. Be thankful, Nosferatu, that my sire did not choose to avenge his child's death himself, no matter how justified it might have been. I doubt that your Prince's shaky peace would have survived Kahn's wrath for long." She gazed up at this Primogen of a tortured clan, a Kindred who was monstrous and handsome at the same time. "Father told me much of your clan, but never the reason for his dislike of it. I have often wondered what your clan could have done to earn his enmity." "I know nothing of his dislike of my clan. He is only a name to me, one used to frighten fledgling Ventrue into obeying the commandments of the Masquerade." He clasped his hands behind his back and took up a stance close to the couch. "I ask you again, why has your sire sent you?" Isa stood up to face him, looking him in the eye. "What will you tell your Prince about me?" "The truth," he replied. "All that I know I will give to him." "No you will not. You will keep my secret until I am ready to reveal it myself." Daedalus looked at her aghast. "Why would you believe I would lie to my Prince for you?" "Because if you don't, Nosferatu, I will be forced to make my final judgment to my sire on what little evidence I have heard. It will be a judgment made from the tales told to me by this creature he has planted in your midst." She waved a hand in Mangus direction then laid them both on the front of Daedalus's black coat. "My judgment from what I have heard would doom your Prince. I know my sire's mind better than most. He will hear my tale and decide that Julian Luna and his relationship with the reporter Caitlin Burns endangers the Masquerade. If you know anything of my sire, you know that he is ruthless in his protection of his clan. How long do you think your young Prince would survive against a Kindred who has destroyed empires?" "Have you no feeling for this desperate hunger which drives Julian to love a human?" he asked, coldly. "I gave away my feelings when I gave up my humanity. I do not love. I never have and I never will." She replied, turning away. "Tell him of me and you condemn him. Let me finish my investigation and he may yet survive. The choice is yours." She walked to the door leading to store and turned back. The Nosferatu was gone. Mangus watched the war of words with dread, wondering if he would be allowed to escape before the battle began. He had expected bloodshed, knowing the training his sire had given the Archons he had prepared to unleash on his clan. But looking at the pale, cold face of his master's child, he was struck by a sight he had never thought he would live to see. One single blood tear, flowing silently down the face of the Ventrue clan's Dark Angel. Pt. 10 The night air in San Francisco sang with the sounds of human-kind moving about in the course of their lives. Around the Haven, people had begun to converge for a night of food and entertainment, oblivious to the other creatures who walked with them. Kindred of different clans also moved about the street, some simply enjoying the night, some actively hunting their prey. It was a night like any other in this beautiful city by the bay. Inside the club, Lillie Langtry looked out over the crowd which moved about her establishment with disinterest. From her private rooms at the top of the stairs, she could watch the crowd of Kindred and humans interact with each other, each lost in their own little worlds. Not that much of anything interested her anymore, not since her attempt to eliminate her human rival had failed. Julian had known immediately that Lillie had somehow been involved in putting Caitlin in danger, sending the human reporter to seek out Goth's lair while under the influence of a hypnotic drug. He hadn't said anything to her then, but the silence had spoken volumes. After Archon's death, Julian had simply ceased to acknowledge her presence in the house at all, choosing instead to lock himself in his study to grieve alone, she thought, watching the band begin to play. She leaned her forehead against the dark glass, willing the pain in her heart to cease before it reached her head. Then she saw him, Julian, her Prince and former lover, enter her Haven. For a moment she allowed a hope to live that he might be here for her. Then she saw Caitlin enter behind him and the darkness descended again on her Toreador's heart. "Lillie?" a voice behind her spoke, hesitantly. Sasha moved out of the shadows to stand beside her friend. "What's wrong?" She looked down to see her uncle with his companion and felt her hands clench with rage. Anger was a thing the Brujah knew well and used frequently against their opponents. Sasha, however, had not yet learned to master her own rage. "Damn him! Bringing her here, to your haven! Why do they do it, Lillie? Why do they cut up our hearts and then act surprised when we object?" Lillie looked at the younger Kindred with sympathy. Sasha's love life was as equally troubled as her own. "I'm not sure they even know or care." She replied, laying a hand gently on the girl's shoulder. "Sometimes you try so hard to hold on to what you thought you had that they begin to feel like they're strangling. Kindred feel everything so much more intensely than humans, including love. But we're no better at keeping it alive than they are." Lillie turned back to the window, her mouth hardening as she watched the couple take their seats. "Is it over between you, really over?" Sasha asked, tentatively. "He's had other lovers. So have I. They've always been temporary. But this time, he's gone too far. This time, he endangers us all with this dalliance. And I no longer care enough to protect him from his own folly." The two women turned away from the glass and started out of Lillie's living quarters, leaving behind them the scent of grief in the air. Outside of the club, Isa watched the crowd's movements solemnly. Mangus had sent one of his ghouls into the city to buy her something more appropriate to wear to the club. He had protested weakly that he couldn't make the journey himself because of a lack of transportation, an argument that she had found annoying. Luckily, the ghoul had excellent taste. She ran her hand down the skirt of the aqua dress which fell to her ankles. Her hair was braided in a long plait down her back, a style she knew had been a favorite with her sire. Around her neck she wore a simple silver chain with an ankh pendant, a gift from Davi, one of her older brothers. She had long ago decided that simple elegance was preferable to flashy beauty, a feeling her sire had encouraged. Yet tonight, not even the joy of knowing herself attractive to others could take her mind off the conversation with the Nosferatu, she asked herself She shook herself angrily and walked with determination into the club. Julian sat in the shadows, trying to listen to Caitlin's words about a story the series of reports on city corruption the paper was planning on printing. Coming to the Haven had not been his idea, yet he didn't know how to explain to Caitlin why this popular club had to be off-limits to them. He glanced up at the club's entrance as a vaguely familiar form moved through the crowd. "Cash," he whispered, motioning his bodyguard to closer, "Isn't that our guest from this morning?" "Yeah, that's her all right." Cash agreed They both watched the dark-haired woman as she disdainfully walked past a group of Brujahs, noticing that she almost imperceptibly moved to prevent her skirt from brushing against them. "Ask her to join us." Julian decided suddenly, his eyes locked on his fellow Ventrue. "Okay, if that's what you want." Cash responded doubtfully, looking back at a confused Caitlin. "But it looks like she's already on her way over here." He retired to his stool seat behind their booth. "Julian, how nice to see you again." Isa held her hands out to him and gently brushed her lips on either side of the Prince's face in the European style of greeting. "And this lovely lady is...?" "Caitlin Byrne, city editor of the newspaper. Caitlin, may I present Isolde Durant, the daughter of an old friend." Caitlin held her hand out to Isa, looking the woman over with a reporter's fascination tinged with jealousy. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Durant. I've met so few of Julian's old friends, I was beginning to think he didn't have any." "You never know who you'll meet in a club these days. I must admit, I was fascinated by this place the first time I walked past it. It seemed to be so popular that I decided to walk in and see what it was all about." Isa smiled conspiratorially at Caitlin. "And I must admit, I did hope I would run into Julian again." Caitlin reached for her handbag and moved to leave the booth. "Well, I should be returning to the city desk. I've got tons of work to do on that lead story we were talking about. Will I see you later, Julian?" Julian looked back at her blankly, trying to remember what story she was talking about. "I'll call you at home. Do whatever you think best on that story. I trust your judgment." He smiled at her, hoping she would not question him too much on this strange new woman in town. "I hope I'm not running you off." Isa murmured, locking eyes with the human. "No, not at all." Caitlin replied, breathlessly. she thought as she moved away towards the door, She was out of the club before she remembered she had arrived in Julian's car. Pt. 11 Isa watched the woman leave, a slight smile on her face. It would be interesting to see just how much Archon's childe had told this human about his life. From what Mangus had told her about Luna's recent excursion outside of the city with the reporter, Isa had a feeling that the woman knew more than she thought she did. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything important." "No. We were just discussing business." Julian replied, motioning to the waitress. "Can I get you a drink?" "No thank you. I've never developed a taste for liquor." She watched the crowed in front of her, interested in the unconcerned mixing of Kindred and Kine. Her brothers had told her that Kindred and Kine mixed freely in most cities, but she had never quite understood how the Humans could be so blind to the presence of predators in their midst. She had always known they were there, even as a child in the West End. There had never been a time that she could remember when the Kindred did not stand out in her eyes from the rest of the crowd. Other humans, it seemed, were not so discerning. "Are you enjoying your stay in the city?" Julian asked, his eyes fixed on her profile. "I haven't seen much of it." She confessed with a laugh. "I was always too fair skinned to spend much time in the sunlight, even before my Embrace. Even if I feed, the best I can do is walk around a little on a very, very foggy day. Needless to say, London is one of my most favorite places to visit." Julian smiled, his somber face lighting with humor. "I'll bet it is." "Have you ever been there?" Isa asked, leaning slightly closer to her unsuspecting quarry. "No, I've spent most of my life here in California." Julian looked down at the glasses on the table, noticing that one of them had a slight smear of Caitlin's lipstick on its rim. He wondered if she had found a cab and was safely on her way home. "How long since your embrace? Or do you mind my asking?" Isa questioned, already knowing the answer. "I was Embraced by my sire, Archon Raine, in the late 1880's. He was Prince of the City before me." Sadness crept into the Prince's voice as he remembered the man who had made him what he was. "He was recently killed." "I'm sorry. This is bringing up bad memories." She replied, gently. "If you would rather, we can talk about something else." "It doesn't matter. The past is the past. We can't dwell on it forever." "You would be surprised, Julian, how many of our kind live exclusively in the past. It's the only place they feel safe." She looked past their table, noticing a beautiful woman stalking towards them. "Oh dear! It looks like we're about to have company." "Well, Julian, what a surprise. What happened to your little reporter pet? Did she decide she was up past her bedtime?" Lillie's voice was brittle with suppressed anger, though her beautiful Toreador's face reflected nothing but amusement. "And who might this be? Another playmate to warm your bed while you chase after your unobtainable dream?" "Not now, Lillie." Julian replied, his voice low and menacing. "Lillie? Ah, you must be Lillie Langtry. A young Gangrel I met said I should look you up. I think he said his name was Billy. He thought we might get on well, though I can't exactly say why." Isa examined the angry woman with sympathy. She could see under all that anger was a heart that was still aching for what it had lost. Mangus had told her how the young Prince had thrown over his long-time Toreador lover for the human woman he desired. Isa could see, even if Julian could not, that Lillie was still in pain over his defection. Lillie would be a valuable source of information on the state of Kindred affairs in the city, one worth cultivating. That is, if she could keep the Toreador from cutting her heart out with her bare claws. "Lillie, this is Isolde Durant, a member of my clan from Montreal." Julian began, eyeing the woman warily. "My friends call me Isa." Isolde locked eyes with Lillie, projecting as much sympathy and understanding as she could in her gaze. Lillie found herself unable to look away from this strange Kindred. The woman's eyes seemed so understanding, as though she could read everything that was written on Lillie's soul, every line of pain etched there over the last few months. She had an almost overwhelming urge to let herself cry on this woman's shoulder, certain that she would find the comfort there that was lacking elsewhere in her life. "Perhaps I will have that drink after all." Isa mused, getting up from the table. "But not here. I think I'll look up some other old friends. Maybe we'll talk again later tonight, would that be all right with you Julian? I could meet you somewhere..." "Luna! I have to talk to you!" a voice boomed across the club, causing patrons to turn towards its source in alarm. A scruffy looking young man was storming across the room, pushing Kindred and Kine out of his way in his haste. "Who is that?" Isa asked, her Ventrue disdain for loud scenes evident in her voice. "That is Frank Kohanik." Lillie replied, stepping back away from the table with a slight smile. "He's a cop." "And a human." Julian added, warning both woman to be silent with his eyes. Pt.12 Isa watched appalled as the human barreled across the club's floor, his eyes locked on Prince. Mangus had warned her about rumors that a human cop named Kohanek knew about the Kindred, but she had never imagined him to be this loud and obnoxious. The only human law enforcement officials she had ever known had been her sire's ghouls, mostly well bred and educated men in high ranking positions, who had known the value of discretion. Kohanik was definitely not one of those types. The human's insistence on speaking to Julian was attracting all manner of attention, most of it from the other Kine in the room. It was not a good situation to be trapped in for any observer, and especially not for her. "Luna, we need to talk." Frank demanded, planting himself in front of the table. Cash moved to block his access to the Prince, but Julian waved his young bodyguard aside. "Now is not a good time, Frank. As you can see, I have a guest." Frank barely looked at the woman at Julian's side, his attention on the man in front of him. "Yeah, well she's just going to have to say goodbye to you for awhile, isn't she? We have to talk about Grace." "Who is Grace?" Julian asked, feigning innocence. "You know damn well who Grace is, Luna. One of your kind made her into a bloodsucker and now I'm having to cover up for your mistakes. Her father was at the station again today. He swears she came home long enough to kill her uncle then disappear again. One of the guys on the force says she's been seen near your home. So what's the deal? Do I take you in for harboring a fugitive or do you turn her over to me?" "I don't suppose you bothered to ask her father why she supposedly killed her uncle?" Isa asked, her voice cold and detached. "Or for that matter how he knows that she was the one responsible for this death? If all you have is his word for what has occurred, than I fear your public prosecutor will have a difficult time of making his case to the judiciary." Frank looked at the woman again, finally registering her presence as more than just a part of the landscape. "So what are you, her lawyer?" "I dare say I could be." Isa replied, gracefully rising from her seat. "But I am not terribly interested in doing battle with the monolith you call the Justice system. If I were you, detective, I'd look a little deeper into what actions this man had committed that led to his death. You might be surprised at what you find." She shrugged past the stunned human and started for the door. Behind her, Lillie and Cash did what they could to calm the angry human before he could make more of a scene. Their efforts left Julian free to consider the problem at hand. he thought, watching Lillie smile charmingly as she urged Kohanik out the door. He felt sorry for the young girl, knowing from Sasha's experience how devastating and confusing a forced Embrace could be. But Grace had been given the opportunity to learn the ways of the Kindred. If she had chosen to ignore the commandments, then she had no one but herself to blame for her punishment. He gathered his coat with a sigh and signaled Cash it was time to go. Pt. 13 Isolde embraced the cool nighttime air hungrily, glad to be out of that mass of humanity. She had never been a social butterfly, preferring to do her research in the quite solitude of dark archives and musty libraries. Her brothers had always chided her, saying she would never learn to be an effective Justicar if she never mixed with her own kind. But it wasn't easy to get past centuries of distaste for crowds, she thought, walking along the dark streets behind the club. Her luminous eyes caught a slight movement in the shadows behind her and she waited for the inevitable approach. "You look kind of lost." The stranger approached, a cigarette dangling from his hand. She could smell the reek of beer emanating from him at a hundred paces. "Looking for some action?" "Perhaps." She smiled and moved closer to the prey, thanking Caine that she didn't need to breath. The stench would have been overwhelming. As she circled her intended victim, she noticed another shadow in the alleyway and felt the presence of another Kindred close by. "Then again, maybe not." She lashed out with one hand, sending the man hurtling into the parked car behind him. He slumped to the pavement, unconscious. "Will you lower yourself to feed on this fool?" Daedalus remarked, stepping slightly out of the shadows. "I thought Ventrue were more discriminating in their choice of sustenance." "Have you been following me, Nosferatu?" she asked, nudging the still form at her feet with her toe. "Afraid I might lead your pretty young Prince to his death? I fear his actions of late may have already done that." "Then you've made your decision." He replied calmly. "No." She answered, surprised at her own statement. "There must be more to what I have seen than what meets the eye. No Kindred becomes Prince of the City by being as obviously foolish as Julian Luna has been. And I have never met a Nosferatu who had such a personal interest in the life of a Ventrue Prince. Your kind do not give their loyalty easily. I would know what this kinsman of mine has done to deserve yours." She stepped over the prostrate form and held out her hand to the man in the shadows. "Come, walk with me. Tell me why I should not judge your Prince harshly. Perhaps I will listen with favor to your words." "What about the human?" Daedalus asked, hesitantly taking her hand. "I'm not as hungry as I thought." She replied with a laugh. "And even if I was, I never have acquired the taste for alcohol with my meal. He'll wake soon enough, embarrassed to admit that a girl was able to render him unconscious. Perhaps he'll think twice the next time he approaches a stranger on the street. After all, you never know what might be lurking, even under the most innocent facades." The two creatures of the night melted in to the darkness of the alleyway with only the distant murmur of their voices to tell of their presence on the street. Pt.14 They walked for hours, blending effortlessly into the shadows until they reached the old paupers' graveyard which had been closed for decades. It had been the last resting place for untold numbers of destitute gold miners and immigrant Chinese laborers who had died with no money to procure a decent resting place. Daedalus was not sure why the young Ventrue would want to see such a dreary place, but Isolde insisted and so he followed her in, keeping a watch for unwary human intruders. "Tell me what I may call you, Nosferatu." Isolde asked, gravely examining the few remaining headstones. "We've never been formally introduced. You know my name yet I do not know yours. You have the advantage of me sir." "Daedalus." He replied, somberly. "Ah, inventor of the labyrinth and creator of wings to soar above the clouds. Your sire had a particularly cruel streak in his nature to name you that." "It was my own choosing." He replied, his eyes darkening at the remembrance of his Embrace. "It was my last act of defiance." "Was the Embrace not as incredible as you had hoped? Well, kindred sires do not always do the right thing by their progeny, despite their protestations to the contrary. Nor do human ones or so I am told. Some are cruel and some are foolishly overly kind. Yet it matters not for we love them and hate them, scheme against them and mourn for them when they pass. They are a part of us and we are a part of them." She stopped in the moonlight, listening to the subtle sound emanating from this place of the dead. "I have not nor will I ever mourn my sire's passing." Daedalus responded, moving to avoid the silvery moonlight which had fallen across his cold face. "My apologies. I spoke without thought for your feelings. We can speak of something else. I take it you heard that little dust-up Julian had with the Kine police officer." Isa softly replied, walking silently back down the row of pitifully cared-for graves. "Yes." He replied, wondering what was on her complicated Ventrue mind. "Tell me why he knows of our kind and still lives." She stopped and gracefully sat on the edge of the one remaining standing headstone in the row. "I am sure Mangus told you why he lives." Daedalus retorted. "But I want to hear it from you." "The Prince made a promise to his Childe, Alexandra, who was killed by his order. She asked that he protect her human lover after she was forced to her final death." "For betraying the Masquerade." Isolde looked up at the Nosferatu with a grim smile. "And now her sire is guilty of much the same crimes, is he not? What was this Alexandra's great crime? To love a human and wish for a brief instant to recapture her lost humanity in his arms. It is foolishly sentimental yet not uncommon among Kindred of a certain generation." "Julian does not risk the Masquerade." Daedalus insisted, clasping his hands behind his back in frustration. "But he does! After all, he also has a human lover, this newspaper reporter Caitlin Byrne. Does their relationship not endanger the community as much, if not more, than Alexandra's did with this policeman?" Isolde held out her hands, palms up, to the Nosferatu, willing him to come closer. Daedalus ignored her gesture and started to pace in front of her. "Alexandra told Kohanek about our kind. Julian would never risk the Masquerade in this fashion." "I think he has already risked it." She replied sadly. "Mangus told me of the attack on your Prince at Manzanita. How could such an attack have occurred and this woman not see anything? When I looked into her eyes in the club, I saw memories suppressed just under the surface of her consciousness. Memories that will not remain buried long. What will your Prince do then, when his lover remembers all that he has tried to make her forget?" The Nosferatu stopped suddenly in front of her, his eyes anguished. "I do not know." He carefully took her hands in his, kneeling at her feet to look into her eyes. "But I believe that the Prince I serve will do his utmost to protect the Clans, even at the expense of his own heart and soul. I must believe this or all I thought I knew of this man would be a lie." "I pray you are right, Daedalus. I truly do. Trust is a rare commodity in these turbulent times and I would hate to see yours trampled under the hooves of cruel reality." She clasped his hands gently in her lap and let herself stare deeply into his dark eyes. Behind them a night bird called hauntingly to its mate. And the night winds danced around the two still forms as they began to make their peace. Pt. 15 The phone was ringing as Isolde entered her haven, shielding her delicate skin from the first few rays of the sun with her shawl. The drive from San Francisco had been almost too long, with the first rays of the sun just peeking over the horizon as she ran from her "borrowed" car. The Gangrel who owned it would not remember why he had lent it to her, at least not for a while. The phone rang again, shrilly insisting on her attention. Its sound was jarring after the quiet of the cemetery. "Yes?" "I have been looking for you daughter." The voice at the other end of the line was cold and dangerous. "Where have you been?" "Doing what you told me to do. I've been researching the comings and goings of the Prince of San Francisco, your grandchilde. Is this not what I am suppose to do?" She stretched out on the chaise, settling the pillows precisely under her head at just the right angle to keep her face out of any possible sunlight. She hadn't had time to arrange for proper sun shades and the ghouls who watched over her during the day were too terrified of her sire to take the task upon themselves without her direction. She shifted the silent receiver to a more comfortable position on her ear and waited for the inevitable lecture. "A good Archon keeps their Justicar informed of their actions at all times, childe of my heart. In this way, the Justicar knows his will is being done by those he sends to administer Kindred law. Remember this the next time you thoughtlessly make me wait for a report on your actions. Have you made your assessment of the Prince?" "No, Father. I'm sorry, but there has been much to see in this city. Things are...complicated with this young Prince. I fear your elder Childe left out a few things when he reported the situation here. He did report to you, did he not, my Sire?" Isolde knew by the deadly silence at the other end of the receiver that what she had suspected was the truth. Archon Raine had not told his Sire all of what was occurring in the city. she thought bitterly. "You have two more nights, daughter, to make your assessment and return home. If you have not finished your work by then I will send your brothers to deal with the situation, permanently. Do I make myself clear?" Kahn's voice was icy, his anger cold and deadly. "Perfectly." she replied, her voice giving away none of her unease. A click on the line and her sire was gone. Isolde watched the shadows in her haven change as the hours passed, her mind reviewing all she had learned from the few other Kindred she had spoken to. Despite Daedalus assurance that his Prince would never endanger the Masquerade, Julian had risked it by keeping the Kine cop alive and by taking a human lover. He had the unquestioning support of the Nosferatu primogen and probably the Gangrel and Ventrue clans, but the Toreador and Brujah were questionable at best. It would take a man of great strength to keep the peace and she wasn't sure that Julian Luna was that man. She was sure, however, that her sire wouldn't give the young Prince a chance to try if he ever found out about Luna's involvement with the humans, she thought, her eyes closing finally in sleep. pt. 16 Daedalus stepped back from his canvas in frustration. he thought, eyeing the painting with a critical eye. He laid his pallet down with a sigh and sat down in the dim light of his haven to examine his latest work. Isolde's eyes stared back at him from the canvas, cold and mysterious, with no hint of emotion. She stood against a backdrop of moonlight and tombstones, looking out at the world through ancient eyes. He had painted her with her arms raised, her voluminous shawl spread behind her like a sail. Yet there was still something not right about it, something missing from his depiction of the young Archon. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on, yet he knew it wasn't there. "She doesn't look real." Grace's voice echoed in the chambers, reflecting her uncertainties back to the speaker. She wasn't sure why she had come down here. Everyone in Julian's house had warned her that the Nosferatu primogen allowed no one in his haven but Julian and occasionally Lillie, but she could not bear the silent and not so silent accusations they had had thrust on her since Kohanick's declaration of her crime. She stepped carefully into the chamber, ready to dart back up the stairs at the least sign of anger from this strangest of Kindred. Daedalus ignored her timidity, concentrating on the canvas in front of him. "She doesn't look alive." He mused, "A dead creature in the abode of the dead. Yet that's not the impression I had of her last night. She is more alive in her cursed state than many breathing humans will ever be. Why didn't I capture that?" "Maybe you can't. Maybe it's something that can't be put down on canvas. Maybe it's something you're not suppose to put down for the world to see. I don't know. But I hope I get to see her again. She was kind to me and not many people have been." "Julian has been kind." Daedalus remarked, never looking directly at the skittish girl. "Yes, but only because he feels responsible for me. Lillie hates me. She blames me for what happened to Zane. The others just think I'm a problem." Grace knew she was beginning to sound petulant, but it had been too long since anyone had just let her talk. Her father had lectured her for hours after she had returned, not seeing the rising hunger and desperation in her eyes. Her uncle had wanted to do something else entirely. "Did you kill him, this man they hunt you for?" the Nosferatu asked, finally looking up at his guest. "Yes! And I'd do it again!" She replied angrily, tears beginning to flow from her eyes. "He was a pig. He'd been trying to molest me for years. I guess he figured when I came back that no one would believe me if I told this time, since I'd been involved with Zane and that type of crowd. I'm glad he's dead." "Go back to the main house and tell Julian what you have told me. He will make things right for you." He rose and picked up his brush. With a quick movement he added a few brush strokes to his creation. He smiled at the result. One red tear flowed down the still cold face of the dark angel in the moonlight. Pt. 17 Isolde could feel the sun finally leaving the sky, could feel the cool fingers of Sister Moon reaching for her handmaiden in the darkness of her haven. She stretched like a cat, enjoying the feeling of the chaise's satin covering on her bare legs. The darkness folded around her like a blanket, cool and comforting to her sensitive skin. Her mind immediately started to consider possible plans for an evening meal. she mused, staring off into space. She smiled at the option that suddenly presented itself to her. An hour later she was on the road to San Francisco. Julian looked down at Grace in mild aggravation, wondering for the thousandth time what Zane had seen in this woebegone waif. He called her to his study to discuss her situation when suddenly he found himself dealing with Sasha as well. The two young women were never going to agree on anything except their mutual dislike and this night was no different. But tonight, Sasha had seemed more angry with him than with this stranger in the house. His niece had glared daggers at the orphaned Kindred, then ignored her completely. "I'm out of here. A couple of us younger Brujah are making a haven for ourselves down by Fisherman's Wharf. You can send my stuff as soon as I'm settled." Sasha glared daggers at her uncle, daring him to challenge her right to leave. "If that is what you wish. But I do think that this is a mistake." Julian replied mildly, trying to keep the conversation civil. "You do? Well, you should know all about making mistakes, shouldn't you uncle Julian? After all, you're making a hell of one right now." "I don't know what you are referring to Sasha, and I don't want to know. You're angry with me for some reason and I think it would be best if we closed this conversation before one of us says something we didn't mean." "Like I love you? Seems to be your favorite lie to tell." Sasha stormed out of the room, ignoring the hurt look on the Prince's face. Julian turned back to the other young Kindred, trying to collect himself before he spoke. "Grace, we must discuss your situation. You can not hide in this house forever." "Why not? It's not like I have anywhere else to go." The girl mumbled, staring up at the Ventrue Prince with uncertain eyes. "You are wanted for murder of one of the Kine. A policeman who knows about us is hunting you. You endanger the Masquerade." Julian could feel his patience slipping, replaced by a weariness he had come to know too well. "Then kill me. That's what happens to one of us when we endanger this thing, this Masquerade. Why don't you just end it for me?" "Because it's not your fault, Grace. You were not properly instructed in the ways of the Kindred. Perhaps if you had been, things would have been different. What you need is instruction from another Toreador in how to become a useful part of the Clan. Since Lillie seems unwilling..." "She hates me." Grace corrected, her lips trembling with emotion. "She's unwilling." Julian replied, ignoring her pleading look. "I've decided to find you a surrogate Sire, one who will have more time to instruct you in our ways." "Can I choose my own Sire?" Grace asked suddenly, her eyes taking on a new look. "I wasn't aware you knew any other Toreadors. Who did you have in mind?" "Isolde." Julian stared down at the girl in amazement. "Isolde is Ventrue, like I am. The two clans are very different in their outlook on life. It just isn't done that way." He knew that was probably a lie, but decided that she didn't need to know that. Besides, Grace just wasn't Ventrue material and he suspected that his strange Kindred clansman would probably make a meal out of the girl at the first temper tantrum. "You're the Prince. Tell her she has to take me on." "No, Grace. I have made arrangements for you to be fostered to the Toreador Primogen in Los Angeles. You leave within the week." The Prince turned away from the girl, ending the audience. Grace stared at his straight back for a few moments, wishing she had the strength to force him to look back at her. she thought, She jumped up from her seat and ran from the room, slamming the door behind her. Julian stared into the fire, wincing slightly at the sound of his study door banging back into place. he thought ruefully. Pt. 18 Isolde pulled into the driveway of the Luna mansion, just barely missing two Gangrel guards who weren't fast enough to jump out of her way. She exited the vehicle and, without looking, tossed the keys to the nearest man. "Gangrel, make sure your brother gets his car back with my thanks. I think he said his name was Johnny." "How do you know he was Gangrel?" the guard asked, trying desperately to remember if there was a "Johnny" among the clan who would drive this type of car. "He didn't look like an extra from a sequel to the Godfather, so he couldn't have been Brujah. He didn't dress well enough to be a Ventrue and certainly appeared to have no talent for any art form except body decoration, so he wasn't Toreador. That only leaves Gangrel and Nosferatu. And I seriously doubt that a Nosferatu would own a convertible, now would he? Speaking of Nosferatu's, where may I find Daedalus?" She stared into the eyes of one of the guards, capturing his will easily with her own. "You want to tell me where he is, don't you?" "Ugh, yeah, he's in the cellar. You can reach him through the main house." The entranced Gangrel waved off in the direction of the mansion. "There's an entrance to his haven inside, near the Prince's study." His partner stared at him in surprise. "Daedalus doesn't usually see anyone in his haven but the Prince." The second guard volunteered, edging around the fragile looking woman in front of him. Suddenly he leaped at her, trying to distract her long enough for his friend to break free of her spell. He didn't get far. Isolde looked like a harsh wind would break her in two, but her looks were deceptive. She backhanded the charging Gangrel, taking care not to put too much force into her blow. As it was, the man flew back into the side of the car with a resounding thump and slumped unconscious to the ground. His partner started to move to his defense but stopped at a look from the woman before him. "Take your friend inside. I will deal with you both later." Isolde turned away, dismissing the two from her mind. She strolled up to the manor with languid steps, taking her time yet moving with singular determination towards her goal. Once inside, Isolde was tempted as she passed the study to stop and speak to the young prince, to warn him of the problems he was about to bring upon himself if he didn't make some adjustments to his personal life. she mused, thinking what her own reaction would be to being deceived and then judged by a stranger of her own clan. She passed his study door like a ghost, not even leaving a trace of her presence in the hallway. It didn't take long to find the entrance the Gangrel had spoken of. The steps down to the Nosferatu's haven were dimly lit for human eyes, but for Kindred eyes the light was more than adequate. She stopped at the bottom of the steps and swept the cellar area with a curious eye. "Anyone home?" she whispered to herself. The room was empty except for the odd piece of furniture and the easel in the center of the room. Paintings littered the room, leaning against the walls and the chairs, sharing their space with various paints and other art supplies. A cloth covered canvas sat on the stand, drawing her like a magnet. She knew it was bad manners to handle the belongings of another Kindred without their permission but something about this canvas, sitting in the middle of the room, just called to her. She lifted the cloth back and gasped in amazement. Her own face looked back at her from the painting, her hands outstretched to the winds, the tears she couldn't make herself cry reflected in her painting's visage. "What do you think of my creation?" Daedalus asked, moving out of the deep shadows at the far end of the haven. "I don't know what I think." Isolde replied, letting the cloth slip from her fingers. "Is that what you see when you look at me?" "I see a woman striving to do what is right for all those who depend on her, and failing to do well for her self." "You see too much, Nosferatu." Isolde turned to go, only to find him in her path. "Let me go, Daedalus." "I am not stopping you." he replied, refusing to move from her path. "Please." She whispered, "I have only two more nights. Then I must make my judgment. Will you still see that sad, beautiful creature in me when my Sire turns against your young Prince because of my words?" "I will always see you this way, even when you no longer can." "That's very charming, Daedalus." A voice from behind them drawled. Julian slowly emerged from the shadows around the stairs, his steely gaze sweeping over the two Kindred in front of him. "Now, would someone like to tell me just who you really are, Ms. Durant, and why your Sire thinks he may judge a Prince of the City." Pt. 19 Isolde smiled grimly, taking in the young Prince's icy demeanor with interest. "Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any for our little chat, isn't it? Come along then, don't dawdle. We might as well get it over with." She shot the Nosferatu primogen a knowing glance then proceeded both men up the stairs and into the meeting room. Lillie and Cameron were already there as was Cash and the two Gangrel guards she had disciplined on her way into the mansion. "Did someone call a meeting and forget to invite me?" "Why would we invite a stranger?" Cameron asked smoothly, hiding his interest behind a businessman's smile. "This has nothing to do with you, Brujah. I suggest you find somewhere else to be for now. You'll be notified when you're needed." Isolde pulled out the chair at the head of the table and made herself at home, ignoring Lillie's angry glare. "Since when do you allow members of your clan to insult primogen, Julian?" Lillie hissed, a frozen smile on her beautiful face. "I need to speak to this woman alone. Please wait in the study." Julian replied standing calmly at the door, with Daedalus at his back. "She bounced some of my pack around like they were nothing, Julian." Cash protested. "I have a right..." "You have the rights the Prince allows you, boy." Isolde corrected, one hand falling almost negligently on the Gangrel primogen's arm, effectively pinning it to the table. "Now do as you are told, little boy or you shall be sent to bed without supper." She released him and watched as he sat back in his chair in astonishment. "Cash! Lillie! Everyone, out now! I don't want to have to repeat myself again." Julian moved up to the head of the table and stared down at his fellow Ventrue coolly, turning his back on the other Kindred. Cameron was the first to leave, smiling at the thought of the problems being visited on his hated rival. Lillie stared hard at her former lover for a moment, then rose without a word and stalked from the room. Cash slammed his chair back in frustration and, along with his fellow Gangrel, walked angrily from the room. Only Daedalus made no move to leave. "I said..." Julian began, taking in his councilor's presence. "Let him stay, Luna. He already knows what I have to say to you. You ask who I am and who my sire is that he seeks to judge you? There are questions you should have asked your own sire, for he knew the answers well. My sire is Kahn the Destroyer, Justicar of the Ventrue and sire to the Kindred you knew as Archon Raine. I am sent by our clan's Justicar to stand in judgment of a Ventrue Prince who has allowed the death of his own sire in his city. What I have found may well condemn you, Julian Luna, to loose your place as Prince and may well mean the loss of your life as well." Julian sank into Cash's abandoned chair, his emotions in turmoil. "How do I know any of what you say is true?" "Wait two days and you'll see the truth in my words for yourself. If I do not return a judgment to my sire by then, he and my other brothers will arrive to make the judgment for me. You may be powerful in this cadre of the dammed, Julian, but you won't stand a chance against a Kindred who has seen entire civilizations rise and fall." "Julian, my sources tell me she speaks the truth." Daedalus interjected, moving to lay a hand on the Prince's shoulder. "She is exactly who she says she is." "You knew who...what she is and didn't tell me?" Julian pulled away from the Nosferatu's hand, jumping up to pace the polished floor angrily. "Don't blame him." Isolde replied, warning Daedalus with her eyes to stay silent. "I told him I would judge you without hearing your side of the story if he spoke." "My side of the story?" "Julian, look at this situation as my Sire will see it. You endanger the Masquerade by allowing the Kine police officer to know of our existence without penalty. You have even taken a Kine lover. I have looked into her eyes, Julian. She knows the truth. It sits in the recesses of her mind, waiting for something to trigger the flood that will bring the knowledge roaring to the surface. Then we will all be discovered. And then there is the death of Archon Raine..." "The Brujah killed my sire." Julian choked, turning away so that she wouldn't see the blood tears that sprang to his eyes at the thought of his sire's death. "Yes, but where were you when it happened? I have been told by another of our clan that you were away from the city with your Kine enamorata when the Brujah came to settle their score. It is not the death that condemns you, Julian, but your negligence of the Prince's duties." "You've made your decision." The Prince straightened his back and turned to meet his judge's eyes. "I judge you willful and negligent, no more than that. But I must ask you, Julian Luna, who do you give your loyalty to? For if it is to the Kindred, then the two Kine must be put away where they can never threaten the Masquerade with their knowledge. The police officer may be spared, since he is of use to the Kindred and since his credibility is so nonexistent that he poses little risk to our continued existence. The same can not be said for Caitlin. Her credibility is, or so I am told, excellent. If she were to expose us, the Dark times would return and we would be forced from our Havens to final death." "Caitlin would never harm us." Julian protested, his heart sinking at Isolde's cold gaze. "She would not mean to. But in the end, she would be our deaths. You must make this choice, Julian, while you still can. Correct this unfortunate situation, or step aside and allow another to take your place. Someone who will eliminate the dangers to his clan if you can not." She rose and walked to the doors leading to the garden. "You have lived your life as Kindred with honor, always following the commandments and trying to ensure the continued safety of those who live under your rule. So your sire told his sire and so I have come to believe. Now you must choose whether you will continue on this path as Prince of the City or leave it forever. I will return in two nights for your answer. Do not make me regret that I have given you this time. It would pain me to know I am wrong in my estimation of you." She melted into the night without a sound, leaving nothing behind her but grief. Pt. 20 Julian looked at his councilor with sadness and anger. "How could you not warn me about this woman in my city?" Daedalus sat down beside him, his face calm. "How could I risk telling you, my Prince? She would have passed judgment on you then and there without hearing any defense of your actions. I had hoped she would see that there was no need for her or her sire's interference but ..." "But now I must chose between my life and my lover." Julian leaned against the table wearily, his shoulders sagging. "How can I condemn Caitlin to death in order to protect myself?" "Not yourself, My Prince but to protect the Masquerade. It is that which Isolde seeks to preserve. She does not wish your life. Only that you remember your obligation to the Clans." Julian shot a knowing glance at the Nosferatu primogen. "You seem to be on very good terms with my executioner, Daedalus." "Perhaps I understand her better than you because we are not of the same Clan. I do not have the same expectations of her that you do." "And because she is kind to you." Julian replied, watching his friend's reaction. Daedalus turned away, his Prince's words hitting close to home. "Perhaps it is enough that she does not look at me with the same distaste as the others." "I'm sorry, Daedalus. My words were uncalled for. " Julian reached out and laid his hand on the older Kindred's shoulder. "Come, walk with me in the garden. I need some peace and quiet to think this through." He led the Nosferatu primogen out into the silent garden, sharing without words the feeling of camaraderie they had built over the years. They walked the length of the garden, passing the fountain where Julian had found his sire's body after the Brujah had exacted their vengence. He stopped for a moment and sent up a thought for the man who had taught him all he knew about being Kindred. "I wish Archon had told me about his sire, Daedalus. I wonder why he never did." "I am told that Kahn is a believer in a strict interpretation of the commandments. Perhaps he feared that his sire would not understand what had to be done to keep the clans here from destroying one another." "Perhaps. I wonder if she is also so strict, or if she will accept any other solution to this problem." Julian turned away and started back for the mansion. "My Prince, I think perhaps I have an alternative solution that Isolde might accept." Daedalus stared at the moving water, working the details out in his head. "It will bring great pain to your soul but not so much as the alternatives she has left you. Are you willing to hear my plan?" "I don't appear to have too many options Daedalus. Speak. Let me hear what you have in mind." The two circled back to the manor as the night wind swept away their words. Pt. 21 Isolde landed softly in the springy grass that surrounded the mansion. In the distance behind her, she could just make out the primogens of the clans leaving Luna's mansion, their conclave disrupted by her confrontation with their Prince. Nothing in this assignment had gone as she had envisioned it. she thought sarcastically. She leaned wearily against a tree, taking care not to snag her silk blouse on its bark. With a sigh, she bowed her head and closed her eyes, not noticing the odd movements in the shadows next to her. The darkness near her shifted and moved and reformed itself into the figure of a young woman. Grace moved towards the tree hesitantly, not wishing to disturb the older Ventrue. She had been sitting aimlessly in the mansion's garden when she had heard Isolde's altercation with the Gangrel guards. The fledgling Toreador had watched as the other woman had made her way down to the Nosferatu's haven. It was only a few moments later that she had watched Julian make the same trek and return with both Daedalus and Isolde in tow. The Clan Primogens hadn't even noticed her sitting quietly in the shadows, so it had been simple to wait for them to leave and get close enough to the conference room door to hear what was said. What she had heard had frightened her and had excited her at the same time. she thought, her mind spinning with the possibilities. She had run outside, guessing that Isolde wouldn't chose to leave by the front door and have to face the Gangrels again. Her guess had been accurate and soon she was following the strange night bird that flew before her into the wooded area around the mansion. Now all Grace had to do was work up the courage to talk to this powerful member of the Prince's clan. "Are you going to stand there all night looking like a deer caught in the headlights or are you going to speak to me?" Isolde asked, opening her eyes and pinning the fledgling with her most hypnotic gaze. "I just wanted to ask you..." Grace stuttered, flustered by the other woman's scrutiny. "I mean I was wondering ...would you take me as your student? Julian wants to send me away to some member of my own clan as far away from here as he can get me, but I don't want to go. You're smart and strong, strong enough to face down Julian. I want to be that way too. Will you take me with you when you go?" "No." Isolde replied calmly, looking the girl directly in the eyes. "Not because I don't want to teach you how to survive, but because what I teach you will not want to learn. You are a Toreador, one of a clan of artists. You won't see your world as I see mine. My life as a Ventrue revolves around the law, its creation, its preservation and its enforcement. It is a very ordered, very structured life. I would never have considered disturbing the pattern of my existence to follow some singer because his music called to me. That does not make logical sense to me. But it does to you because in your heart you are an artist, someone who appreciates music more for what it says than what it is. You will tend to follow your heart and I will follow the law. So you see, Julian is right to send you away. You will come to appreciate your clan much more with one of your own than with me." She hesitated briefly, seeing the disappointment in the younger woman's eyes. "But if you ever have need of me, then I will be there. Leave a message with Mangus, the antique store owner. He is one of my clan and will know how to reach me." Isolde reached out and gently stroked the girls cheek, feeling the woman's pain flow through her. She poured all her powers of persuasion into her eyes, making her voice low and soothing. "Let go of your mortal pain, little one. Time to move on and embrace your new life with joy. Go now and prepare to leave to meet your new teacher." She gently nudged the girl in the direction of the manor, then spreading her arms, took to the sky herself, headed for the bright lights of the city. Grace watched her leave with sadness tinged with hope. she thought, starting towards the mansion. She started to hum a tune, working out the harmonics in her head as she returned to the house. Pt. 22 Kahn examined his former ghoul's establishment with a jaundiced eye. Ventrue were famous for their financial acumen yet Mangus had always been more interested in money than most. This small, unassuming shop didn't look like the type of shop his former servant would have patronized much less owned. he thought, smiling grimly to himself. Beside him, his eldest male childe winced to see that smile. "Shall we go in, Sire?" Aleksandr asked, his Russian accent still evident even after nine hundred years in the service of his clan. "I will enter. You will stay here and wait for your sister. I expect she will be arriving shortly. You know how much she hates the sunlight." Kahn glanced up at the slowly brightening horizon, calculating just how long it would be before the sun had risen enough to be painful for his childe. Then with a gentle shove, he opened the shop door and proceeded inside. Mangus heard the front door opening and cursed his absent assistant for not locking it before she left. He hurried to the entrance then stopped, trembling in his tracks at the vision that stood before him. There were many legends in the Ventrue clan about the Justicar known only as Kahn the Destroyer. None came close to reality. The ancient vampire stood about medium height and was rail thin. His hair was cut short, almost military regulation length. But it was his face and most importantly his eyes that made him stand apart from others of his clan. In his culture he had been considered old though he had been embraced in his early forties. Yet his face showed every moment of those long years he had spent as a warrior for his tribe. The Germanic tribes he had fought beside and fought against had long since ceased to exist as a people yet he still remained, his face lined by the experiences he had undergone before his sire had embraced him. His eyes were the eyes of a chameleon, changing colors with his mood, sometimes gray sometimes blue and, when he let the beast show itself, sometimes blood red. Those eyes could steal the soul from a person's body or release it from sorrow, depending on his whim. Now, however, they were icy gray as they swept over his servant, pinning him to the wall without a sound. "What a fine greeting you have prepared for me, Mangus! The silence was so loud it almost deafened me. Tell me, did I not teach you the proper greeting for your sire and your Justicar?" "Sire, forgive me! I did not know you were expected. Please, come into my Haven and let me find some refreshment for you." Mangus knew he was babbling but those cold eyes had always unnerved him. "I did not come for refreshment, Mangus. I came to see my childe. Where is she?" "I don't know, Sire. Perhaps she is with our young Prince, Julian Luna. Or..." "Or what, Mangus? Is there something occurring in this city I should know of?" Kahn moved closer to the frightened Kindred, leaning close to his face. "Tell me about this city, Mangus. I know you shared your not inconsiderable knowledge of the situation here with my daughter. Now I would have you share it with me. Leave nothing out." He started to move away, then in a flash had pushed the man back against the door. Kahn's eyes shone like rubies in the dim light and his fangs gleamed in his lined face. "Remember, Mangus, I do not take kindly to disobedience." "Sire, I have obeyed you in all things." Mangus stuttered. "See to it that you continue to do so, lest I choose to make you into a midnight snack." Kahn tossed the trembling man aside contemptuously, leaving Mangus to scramble after him. Outside, Aleksandr watched the rising sun from the safety of his sire's limousine. This trip had been Kahn's idea from the start. Sasha, as he was known to his brood brothers, had not particularly wanted to check up on his only sister on her first judgment. He was fond of the silent, careful woman whom he had taught to ride a horse when she was still mortal. he thought to himself, settling comfortably into the car's leather seats. He reclined back in the seat and closed his eyes, not noticing the figure emerging from the mist beside the shop. Isa stood in the alleyway, watching the limousine which stood parked in front of Mangus's shop. It was not Julian's car nor that of any of the other Primogens she had seen at the mansion. Yet her intuition told her that this was not some random visitor to the Ventrue's shop, not this late in the evening. She cautiously backed up and made her way to the shop's rear entrance. The door was unlocked, a fact that made her nervous. No Kine had the strength to subdue the shop's Kindred owner yet he had always prudently locked his doors, to prevent any trouble. Only the entrance in the basement was left open, for those Kindred who chose to visit at odd hours. She entered slowly, her cat's eyes sweeping the distance ahead of her for trouble. A scent from the next room wafted her way, the smell of incense and cinnamon. It was a scent she knew well. She stepped over the room's threshold with a sigh. "Greetings my sire." "Greetings, daughter." Pt. 23 Isolde crossed the room silently and kissed her sire on the cheek, sweeping past Mangus with haughty disdain. Kahn's eyes were inscrutable, giving her no warning of his mood. She seated herself opposite the ancient Ventrue and waited for his interrogation to begin. "Mangus was about to tell me all of the goings on in this city, daughter. Perhaps you would like to do that for him?" Kahn watched his childe carefully, noting how she carefully kept her face neutral when she faced him. "There is not much to say, Sire. The Prince is young, barely in his second century, and as such has many unresolved internal conflicts he must deal with. I believe he can work through his personal problems and lead the Clans in peace for many years." She sat straight and still in her seat, waiting for her master's reaction. "Really? That is not what I have heard. Mangus is not my only source of information in this city, daughter. I have heard that this Prince keeps a Kine lover and has welcomed my childe's murderer into his Primogen council. And what of this Kine police officer who knows of our existence? Why has this fine, upstanding young Ventrue Prince done nothing about him? Or more importantly, daughter, why have you not passed sentence on this boy and replaced him with another of our clan?" Kahn's voice had never changed, his words spoken in the same soft, deep tones he would use to discuss an opera or fine play. But Isolde mentally flinched at the sting hidden in their depths. "The Brujah who killed your childe was within his rights, Sire. That can not be helped. Archon Raine ordered the murder of the Manzanita Brujah for no legal reason except their clan affiliation. As for his murderer being accepted into the Primogen council, the Prince has no choice in this matter. Not even a Ventrue Prince may force another clan to accept a Primogen not of their choosing." "Well spoken, daughter. But you have not mentioned the two Kine this Prince Julian keeps close to him." "The police officer has no credibility, even among his own kind. Should he ever speak of us to others, they will assume that his many personal tragedies have finally driven him over the edge. The Kindred on the force will encourage this belief. So long as he remains silent and is of use to the Prince, he is of little importance to the Kindred." Kahn leaned back in his chair, taking advantage of the shadows to hide his gleaming eyes. "And the woman? She is a newspaper editor, is she not?" "Yes, sire. She is a problem. But I believe I have a solution for that which does not include either her death or the death of the Prince." "Why, daughter, should I care if a Kine meets final death? Is that not the fate they will all meet eventually? Should I weep if this woman meets it sooner rather than later?" "Yes, sire, you should. For if this woman were to suddenly die, even if the Clans could make her death look natural, there are enough people who have seen her with the Prince who might raise questions that could not be answered. She could prove more dangerous dead than alive." Isolde could feel her sire's eyes on her, probing for weakness. She knew she was treading on dangerous ground. None of Kahn's childer had ever dared to argue with their sire, even when they knew he was wrong. she thought wearily, "What is your solution?" Kahn asked, suddenly leaning forward to take her hand. "Would you embrace the woman?" "No. I fear she would not make a good Kindred. She would not survive the Embrace with her mind intact. There are two possible scenarios which we can employ here. One would be that she be made a ghoul of the Prince. It would allow him to keep her close and yet she would be prevented from ever becoming a danger to the Kindred." "This is not a solution you approve of, is it daughter?" Kahn shot an amused look at his former ghoul, Mangus, who looked down submissively. "You've never approved of forcing Kine to become our slaves." "You know my heart on the matter of ghouls, sire. But if it must be then it must be." Isolde looked down at the strong hand holding hers, her long hair falling over her shoulder and obscuring her face. Kahn reached up gently and pushed the long locks back behind his daughter's ears. "You said two scenarios. What is the second?" "The Prince must break off his relationship with this Kine and send her away." "Will he do this, daughter?" "My Prince will do what he must to protect the clans." A deep voice from the shadows intoned. Daedalus stepped out of the darkness and bowed respectfully to the ancient Ventrue. "I come as a messenger from the Prince of the city to the Archon Isolde with a message. He invites you to return to his home at sunset and hear his solution to the problems you have so graciously informed him of. May I take back to him your agreement to this meeting?" "Tell your Prince that his clan's Justicar and his Archon have agreed to this meeting." Kahn replied, eyeing the Nosferatu before him with distaste. "Now go, leave us, scum. I and my childe would rest." He rose and moved off towards the front of the store, Mangus trailing behind him. Isolde turned to face the Julian's advisor, fatigue shining in her eyes. "You heard what I suggested?" "Yes. I had already made the same suggestions to my Prince." He reached out hesitantly and brushed a stray lock of her hair out of her eyes. "The second solution might be possible if your sire is willing to let you help Julian make it happen." She caught his hand before he could pull it away and squeezed it gently. "You are a true and loyal friend to your Prince. I hope he recognizes your worth." She touched his face with her free hand then leaned close to softly kiss his lips. "Isolde!" Kahn's voice called from the front door. "Do not keep me waiting, girl!" "I must go." She turned to go. Daedalus stopped her, his hand still linked with hers. "When this is over, will you return with your sire to his home?" "I am not sure. I have risked his wrath more today than any of my brothers has in centuries. We must see what will happen tonight." She reluctantly pulled her hand free from the Nosferatu's grip and ran off to join her sire. Daedalus watched her go in silence, the taste of her kiss still on his mouth. he thought, He turned and melted back into the shadows, taking with him to his haven the taste of beauty and ache of longing. Pt. 24 Julian leaned back in his chair with a sigh, pushing the newspaper away from himself with resignation. Caitlin had printed the story about the murder of Grace's uncle as he had known she would, weaving into it details from Grace's original disappearance. It was fortunate that he had managed to get the young Toreador on the first flight out of the city, before the story hit the newsstand. Frank hadn't been happy to hear from him that his suspect was gone for good. His sense of moral outrage at the thought of a Kindred meeting out vigilante justice had been too overwhelming. It was only after the man's stepdaughter had given a statement detailing his abuse of her and her brother, he had agreed to let the case sit on the back burner. Now Grace was on her way to Portland and a new life and Julian could get back to the business of running his city. If he could just find a way to deal with the Archon Isolde. "My Prince, I have returned." Daedalus walked into the study, taking up a stance in front of the Prince's desk. "Well, did she agree to meet with me?" Julian asked , looking up at his friend curiously. "Yes, but..." The Nosferatu hesitated, then walked around the desk to stand beside Julian's chair. "There is a further complication." "What might that be?" Julian looked into the fathomless eyes of the Nosferatu primogen and his heart sank. "Her Sire is here, isn't he? Kahn, the Ventrue Justicar, has arrived to ensure the sealing of my fate." "He was with her when I delivered your message. They will both be here at sundown." Julian suddenly felt the weight of his years pressing in on him like a blanket. "He knows all the gory little details, doesn't he? About Caitlin and Archon?" His eyes had a look of resignation, a feeling that crept into his soul at the thought of meeting his grand-sire. "Yes. His servants in the city had informed him of all that has occurred in the city." "And will he accept the solution we discussed?" "I do not know." Julian rose wearily, waving off his councilor's offer of assistance. "I suspect he won't. From what little I know of the man, he is rather rigid in his beliefs and unmoving in his judgments. If he has decided my fate, there is little we can do to change his mind." "Perhaps Isolde can do what we can not, my Prince. She risked much to defend you this morning, when he would dismiss you in my presence." "The lady has more courage than most." Julian commented, moving towards the door. "I hear he is not a man who enjoys being told he's wrong." He stopped at the study door and looked back at the solemn Nosferatu with a wry smile. "We'll see how much the courage counts for tonight, won't we? Rest now, my friend. I'll need you at your best tonight when I defend my reign and my life to my clan's Justicar." "It may be best if I am not present. Kahn appears to have a great dislike of my clan. It may prejudice his feelings towards you if I am at your side." "You are my councilor, a Primogen of the Nosferatu clan and most importantly, my friend. I want you here with me tonight. Kahn can either deal with it or he can take my city. I will not turn away from those who have been loyal to me." He exited, lost in thought. Daedalus returned to his haven below the house, his steps slow and tired. He sat before his painting of the beautiful Kindred who tonight might prove to be his Prince's executioner and examined it sadly. His proposed solution to Julian's problems had torn at his heart as much as it had Julian. Yet he had been willing to bear both his pain and that of his Prince if it would keep Archon Raine's son in his position as Prince of the City. Now, it might all be for naught. He had heard enough about the Ventrue's Justicar to know it would take a miracle to convince Kahn not to replace Julian as Prince with someone more dedicated to the letter of Kindred law. With a sigh, he picked up his paints and began a new work, trying desperately to think of nothing until tonight. Across town, Isolde was also thinking of the coming meeting and its implications for the city. she thought. The young Archon sat at her dressing table, brushing her long black hair. Her Sire had insisted on returning to the Seacove Inn, even though its location out of the city made for an uncomfortable drive from Mangus's shop. Both he and her brood brother were in other rooms resting in preparation for the coming confrontation with the Prince of San Francisco. But for Isolde, sleep was a comfort she found she was to be denied. She looked at the reflection in the mirror and searched for the coldness that had helped her survive her human years, the coldness that had set her apart from her siblings. The coldness that had attracted her Sire to her all those years before. She would need its anesthetic touch tonight, when she presented her solution to the problems at hand to both Julian and her Sire. Pt. 25 Kahn watched the scenery flash by as his eldest male childe drove to the Luna mansion. Isolde sat beside him, quietly contemplating the back of her brood brother's head. The silence in the car was deafening. "Why do you hate the Nosferatu so, Sire?" Isolde asked, never taking her eyes off her brother. "I once knew one of their kind. He was useful, as they are, in gathering information. But he became too close to one of my progeny, a boy named Artimus." "I don't know this brother." She replied, frowning. "He was before your time. This Nosferatu convinced my childe to turn against me, to attempt to Diabolize me to gain my power. But he was not quite clever enough and I was forced to mete out final death to him for his actions. The Nosferatu Justicar claimed that there was no proof that his clansman had ever done more than talk to the boy, yet I knew he was responsible for the attack. Artimus wasn't brave enough or smart enough to risk my anger without some outside influence. Since then, I have had little use for any of their kind." "Who was this Nosferatu, Sire?" she asked, quizzically. "His name was Goth." "Oh yes. Mangus told me that Prince Julian killed him for risking the Masquerade. A point in his favor, do you not think?" "We are here, sire." Aleksandr called out, pulling into the circular driveway. "Well, daughter, are you ready for your first judgment?" the elder Kindred inquired mildly. He had watched his daughter for most of the trip into town, trying to discover her thoughts. But he had taught her too well how to mask her mind and heart from all but the most intrusive questioning. "Let it be as you wish, Sire. I am here to serve." Isolde replied, holding out her hand for the Gangrel who opened her door. She shrugged off her brother's offer of an arm to lean on and strode up to the house, her back straight and her head held high. "So you say." Kahn mused, waving the boy off impatiently. "Alek, stay by the car. We won't be long." He followed her up the walk to the front door and into the house. Inside the house Julian Luna, Prince of the City, sat at the head of his conclave table, his Nosferatu councilor at his side. His handsome face was set in a mask of cold indifference and his eyes were dark and fathomless. "I welcome you, Justicar of my clan, to my city and my house. How may I serve you?" "I and my Archon have come to investigate your reign, Prince of San Francisco, and to see why it is that you have put the interests of the Kindred and those of your clan at risk." Kahn sat at the other end of the table, at the seat the Brujah primogen normally occupied. Isolde stood behind him and to one side, close to Daedalus's normal seat. "What crimes have I committed that you judge me?" Julian asked formally. "You have endangered the Masquerade on several occasions by allowing a Kine to know of our existence and live and by taking a Kine lover. You left your city unguarded and allowed a member of a rival clan to destroy your Sire. These are crimes any other Prince would be sentenced to final death for. Why should I not do so with you?" "My loyalties have always been with my kind. It is because of this loyalty that the police officer who knows of us still lives, for I gave my oath to one of our clan, my own childe that his life would be spared. He has proven valuable to us on a number of occasions, and so I have had little reason to regret my oath. My love for a Kine is a passing fancy, one many kindred have. And as for my Sire's death ..." He paused gripping the arms of the chair, "that was caused by his illegal actions against the Brujah. He would have passed on to final death whether I was here or not." "He speaks truthfully, Sire. Mangus has told me of the massacre at Manzanita. There was no legal reason for those Kindred to die except their clan affiliation. Archon Raine should have been judged by our clan for his actions as Prince. Instead, he has come to judgment at the hands of the clan he wronged. That matter is over." Isolde walked to the head of the table and stood beside Julian, her eyes cold. "The police officer, as you know, is of little importance, as his opinions are not validated by those around him. That leaves only the problem of the woman." "Yes, this Caitlin Byrne. An editor for the local newspaper. A person whose word would carry weight if she were to ever discover who and what you are. Or has she already discovered this, Prince Julian?" Kahn leaned across the table, his hands flat in front of him. "I have been told that she did know and that you have caused her to forget, if only for the time being. How long do you think you can keep her from re-discovering the memories and using them against us?" Julian looked up quickly at Isolde, who did not return his gaze. "May I ask who has told you this?" "My former ghoul has friends in many clans, including the Brujah. As do I. The recent events at Manzanita were not unknown to me when I sent my Archon to judge you." "Then you also knew of the crimes committed by your progeny." Isolde retorted angrily. "You said nothing to him because of your dislike for that clan, yet you would judge his childe for lapses in judgment no worse than any other's." "Silence, daughter. I have not finished with this boy." "I have not finished with you, Sire. This man has brought peace to the clans after years of war. War that could have lead to the discovery of the Kindred by the Hunters. He has made errors, yes, but he is young and may yet learn from his mistakes. I would give him the chance to do so." She glared across at her Sire, prepared for his anger. Kahn stared at his childe in silence for a moment, then fell back in his chair with a laugh. "My God, I would not have believed it! I knew that somewhere in that quiet exterior there lodged the soul of a tiger, but I truly never thought to live long enough to see it emerge." He chuckled to himself, amused by the surprised looks his two younger clan members were exchanging. "You are correct, of course. His errors are no worse than his Sire's were when he was this age. And all of our kind have at one time or another allowed themselves to be wooed by a pretty Kine. Even the eldest of us is prone to error. I should have spoken to your Sire before he sent you to Manzanita, Prince Julian. Perhaps if I had, none of this would have been necessary." He stood and moved gracefully to his daughter's side, ignoring the presence of the Nosferatu at her back. "But, there is still the problem of the woman. Can you assure me that she will never recover what she has lost?" "No, I can not. Not while she is in my presence day in and day out. Therefore, my lord Kahn, I offer you a bargain. I will send Caitlin away to protect the Masquerade. I will ensure she will have no desire to return to me, ever again." "How will you send the Kine woman away?" Kahn asked, his curiosity peaked. "I have bought another newspaper through holding companies in Portland. They will soon be sending her an offer for another position, the job of managing editor. She will take it. Once away from here, her memories of what happened that night will recede and become nothing but a bad dream." "How will you ensure she takes that offer?" "She knows I was once the lover of Lillie Langtry, the owner of the Haven nightclub and unknown to her, the Toreador Primogen. I will let it be know that we have become lovers again. Lillie will assist me in this endeavor. She owes me much for my lenience towards her and her clan. Once Caitlin hears these rumors, she will confront me with them and I will acknowledge their truth. I will tell her she was a momentary fling, nothing more. It will be painful for her and more so for me to speak these lies, but in the end it will be best for all concerned." "Do you think she will believe you?" Kahn questioned. "I will make her believe." "And what is my part of this bargain that you offer?" "You will leave me another Archon to act as my councilor, in my Sire's place. The position of Primogen to our clan here in San Francisco is vacant because of his death. I had thought to fill it with one of my childer, but I think it might be more prudent to have one of your choosing instead." Kahn smiled his most devilish smile, gently stroking his daughter's long hair as though she were a cat to be petted. "I have many childer, Prince Julian and I am loath to part with any of them just now. But, this little hellcat I've spawned needs some taming and I fear she will not get it in my compound. She is too much my pet to be disciplined properly. I leave her with you, to act in my name as Archon and Primogen of your clan. Perhaps you will teach her better manners than I." He nudged her none to gently towards the young prince's chair, watching the man's reaction to this unusual offer. "Sire, what are you doing?" Isolde asked, appalled. "I am honored, my lord, to take into my care your daughter." Julian reached out a hand to the woman, who shot him an icy glare. "Prince Julian, I have no need of any man to care for me." Isolde corrected sharply, shrugging free of her Sire's grip. "But if you have need of a Primogen for you clan and an Archon to council you, then I will oblige. Be warned, however, that I am no court flatterer. If I feel you're acting the ass, I intend to tell you so." She stood before the Prince as proudly as if she were the Royal and he the commoner. Julian acknowledged her with a nod. "Now I must be on my way. Take care my Dark Angel. You seem to have more patience as an Archon than I ever did. It is a good thing to know, as I may have need of your common sense again." Kahn kissed his childe hair and exited as quietly as he had come. Epilogue. Kahn stretched out in his limousine with a satisfied sigh. It had all worked out just as he had hoped. The young Prince was stronger than he had anticipated, but strength of mind could be as much of a weakness as an advantage. His childe was in place, ready for the time when this strong-willed man would finally back himself into a corner because of his desire to uphold his honor and peace between the clans and would have to be replaced. Then Kahn's childer would rule in San Francisco, and prepare the staging grounds for the return of Los Angeles to the Ventrue. he thought, grimly amused. There was silence in the room as the three remaining Kindred contemplated each other speculatively. Isolde sat at the chair normally reserved for the Ventrue Primogen and tapped her long nails on the table's dark surface, a frown on her normally calm face. "That was too easy." She commented grimly, looking back at Julian and Daedalus. "He never gives up without a fight. He has conceived some plan in that devious mind of his, and we are to the pawns he will use to make it come to fruition." "Does it matter?" Daedalus asked, returning to his traditional seat. "It does to me." Julian replied, leaning back in his chair. "And while we're on the subject, that plan of yours for dealing with Caitlin Byrne is not going to work." Isolde straightened in her chair, folding her hands in front of her primly. "It won't?" "Of course not. Really, Julian, haven't you learned anything from your dealings with Lillie? Ms. Byrne may not have the same blood thirsty tendencies that your former lover has but turning her away like that might just develop them. You must make this break slowly, and with some thought for her feelings. This will ensure she will have no reason to remember those dark memories you have so conveniently hidden for her." The new Ventrue Primogen gave her Prince a slight smile then reached out and patted him on the arm. "We'll think of something, you and I. After all, we are of the same blood line. Blood must look out for blood." "Why do I get the feeling I've not only gained an Archon but a baby-sitter as well?" Julian laughed and rose to leave. As he passed Daedalus, he gently laid his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Talk to the lady." He whispered, glancing back up the table. "At least one of us will have a chance for happiness." He left the two Kindred alone, closing the door behind him. Isolde rose from her seat and started after him. "I should see about moving into the city. If I am to be of any use to him ..." "Stay a moment." Daedalus asked, rising to block her way. She looked up at him and saw, not the monstrous image he saw in his mirror, but a beauty too great to be borne by human eyes. "They say your kind carry the beast on their faces." She murmured, reaching out to take his hand. "If this is its image, then it must be a wondrous creature." They stood and stared into each other's eyes for a moment longer, then broke apart and prepared themselves to face the Kindred world.