By Jenny Hagiwara
The sewer was long, narrow and dank, smelling of raw sewage and mold. The walls were coated with slime. Shaking her dying flashlight, Kimberly Kendall-Taylor wondered why on earth she had bothered to come down here. But she knew: to rescue the stray cat that she'd heard meowing pitifully that evening. Kimberly had a soft spot in her heart for animals - especially sick or hurt ones. She supposed it had a lot to do with the fact that she was Garou Kinfolk - Children of Gaia Tribe, as were her parents. In fact, her affinity for animals was why she was a vet student at Oregon State University.
She had gone there for undergrad too, double majoring in Zoology and Peace Studies. Her husband had already earned his veternary degree from OSU and was working at Portland Animal Clinic. Someday they wanted to have a veternary practice of their own. For the moment they were just content to be on summer vacation, visiting her family in San Francisco where Kimberly had grown up.
Kimberly paused a moment, nervously fingering the single porcelin rose that hung from a thin gold chain - a gift from her little sister last summer when she and Daryl had been married. (The chain had to be gold, of course, since her sister was a full-fledged Garou - silver was deadly to her.) Kimberly took a deep breath, and then immediately regretted it as the rank sewer air filled her lungs. She wondered if she should continue with her quest. She pushed back an auburn wisp of hair that had fallen out of the large barrette at the top of her head.
Then she heard it. A tiny mew. Kimberly smiled, the little thing couldn't be far now. And about time too, her flashlight was definitely running out. A few steps further and its failing light caught upon the reflected glow of green cat eyes against brown fur. Kimberly breathed a sigh of relief. She leaned down and talking softly, scooped the precious kitty in one hand. It was so small and cold and trembling. "Oh, you poor baby, you," Kimberly cooed, cradling the sorry creature close to her. "You poor thing. You can't be anymore than six months. Don't worry - it's going to be okay. I promise. You get to come home with me."
A low but not unkind male voice sounded from somewhere in the near darkness around her. "Sprinter seems to have taken a liking to you."
Kimberly froze, but not before her flashlight slipped her grip in surprise. Hitting the murky sewer floor it went out completely.
"I did not mean to alarm you," the man continued. "Sprinter is always running off and getting into trouble. I believe he finds living with me to be somewhat confining."
Kimberly unconsciously snuggled the bundle of wet fur under her chin. She was rewarded by a hearty purr.
"Ah..." the stranger said. "Perhaps he had better stay with you, then. I was faced with the fact that I'd have to Blood-Bond him to myself just to keep him from wandering off. As skilled my Clan is with animals, I regret that this one just doesn't seem to... to like me."
"Er..." Blood-Bond? Did this man actually say *Blood Bond*? And Clan? Kimberly swallowed nervously and felt her pulse rate jump a mile a minute. She was dealing with a vampire and given her whereabouts, probably a Nosferatu at that. Purring prize now in hand, Kimberly was distinctly aware that coming after it into the sewers might not have been such a keen idea after all. She prayed he wouldn't bite her. She would positively freak if he did.
But the voice, when it sounded next, seemed kind. "You have nothing to fear from me. You won't even have any memories of the sewers except of rescuing this poor stray animal."
"Um, fine... sure." Kimberly holding the stray even closer to herself, quickly knelt down to locate the dead flashlight. She wanted to get out of there and fast.
She got the fright of her life when the robes of a tall man brushed up from behind her. "Please, allow me to be your escort. I am called Daedalus. Where did you enter the sewer system?"
"Well..." Kimberly hedged, softly stroking the bedraggled fur of her newly acquired kitten at the same time, causing it to renew its purrs with louder vigor than before.
Daedalus, who she couldn't even see because of the darkness, chuckled. "Yes, Sprinter belongs with you. I've never heard him sound so content. You seem to have a natural instinct for animals. That is admirable." He paused. "Is your intention to keep this cat?"
Kimberly didn't answer right away and when she did her voice was sad. "Jakey died a month ago. Feline diabetes. We had to have him put to sleep. I'd had him for fifteen years - he even went to college with me. I lived off-campus and my roommates didn't mind. They all thought he was cute. And He really was, too--" Kimberly broke off. She realized that she was being to ramble. She pet Sprinter some more, listening to his little motor sound. Holding him close to her chest and stroking him seemed to make the ache in her heart for Jakey lessen.
"Please accept Sprinter as a gift from myself," spoke Daedalus formally. "When I first discovered him, he had been abandoned by his mother. He was nearly dead. I only wanted to provide him with a good home. However, you can do that as well as I, perhaps better. The lifestyle I lead is somewhat... cloistered."
I'll bet it is, thought Kimberly. Nosferatu didn't get out much.
Daedalus spoke, "I think it is best now that I escort you out the direction in which you entered."
Kimberly Kendall-Taylor agreed whole-heartedly with that. The problem was, she had entered the San Francisco sewage system so intent on following the cries of the tiny kitten that she had lost track of where that entrance way had been. And she had been counting on the soft glow of her flashlight to provide *some* help in finding her way out. Kimberly gritted her teeth. What should she do? Scream for help? Who would come? Probably another Nosferatu. Scratch that idea.
Daedalus cleared his throat. "Perhaps it would be best if you just told me what entrance you came in through? I know these sewers very well."
Kimberly just shook her head and waited for Daedalus to speak again. "I have been following you since entered the passages near my haven. You were coming from the north."
North... yes, that would be about right. ""I entered through a large tunnel near a construction site. My parents are having a custom home built for them - solar power and everything. Then I heard this poor critter crying. I followed the sounds to investigate and it led me here.
"Then I shall lead you out," said Daedalus as though the matter were settled.
Very gentlly he laid a hand on Kimberly's shoulder and turned her about, then urged her forward. Walking with the Nosferatu, Kimberly felt strange trusting her fate to this strange vampire who she knew absolutely nothing about. All her life she had been raised to distrust vampires - and her tribe was the most tolerant among the Garou! But Daedalus treated her with great courtesey, even steering her clear of the muckiest areas of the sewer floor. He also seemed to like the fact that the still purring Sprinter liked her, so Kimberly supposed that that was good.
Just when Kimberly was finally wondering if she'd ever get out, they turned a corner and the full open circle of the sewer tunnel opening loomed into full view. Night had fallen. Kimberly turned to thank the unique guide she had found in Daedalus but had to stifle a cry of alarm. His large bald head and chalky pale face was like nothing she'd ever encountered before - but then, she'd never seen a Nosferatu either. Eternity must be a horrible curse, his appearance forever marred like that.
Searching for something polite to say to mask her poor manners, she met Daedalus' eyes and was unexpectedly captivated by their deep redness. "You followed the cat into the sewers," he was saying, somehow causing the words to drone into her very thoughts, her memory. "You dropped your light, but found the kitten anyway. We never met. Instead you instinctively were able to find your way back out..."
"...find my way back out," Kimberly repeated dumbly. Having said what he needed to, Daedalus then faded in the background and watched. It took a few moments for Kimberly to shake free from his domination and once she had, she acted her perfect self. "See, Sweetie, I knew I'd be able to find our way back out even with that old flashlight." Kimberly walked out of the sewer, unaware that Daedalus cautiously followed, keeping to the shadows.
"There's my car," Kimberly explained. "You're going for a car ride, little guy. I get to take you home and feed you some nice kitten food - and get you nice and dry. Won't my parents be surprised? But Ashley will love playing with you." She paused a few feet from the opening and held up the cat in the moonlight. "Hm, you need a name, don't you? For some reason, Sprinter comes to mind, but no... I think you need a more dignified name to go with that dignified purr of yours. Let's see... it also looks like you're definitely a boy, so how about... Daedalus? In memory of the sewer maze I had to walk through just to find you."
Although Kimberly would never know it, Daedalus was so surprised he felt his ancient heart issue a few beats.
"Yes, 'Daedalus' it is. Well, c'mon, my little soggy friend, let me take you home. I think you're going to like living with Daryl and me - we'll take you back to Oregon with us next week." Saying that she cuddled the kitten against her chest and walked upward to where a battered blue Volvo with the Benny Beaver bumper sticker awaited her under a streetlight at the top of the steep field embankment. (While her parents were quite well off, she and Daryl still had to struggle with tuition payments and federal loans.)
Kimberly drove off quickly, glad to be out of the sewers. She couldn't quite shake the feeling that someone else had been down there with her the whole time, watching her. The whole time she was down there looking for her lost kitten, it had seemed surreal, like some sort of dream trance had been superimposed on the real world - in a word, creepy. Her eyes were firmly rooted on the road before her, but had she bothered to check her review mirror, Kimberly would have seen the receding figure of a mysterious man in a long dark robe - the real Daedalus - wishing her a fond farewell.