October 30, 2009

The Santore family Vault

We took one of the cars and headed to the library. Nadi drove, I was way too edgy to risk it. We drove in brooding silence. I was really the only one brooding, but I was doing it enough for the both of us. I was trying not to be completely panicked. I didn't even know why it mattered that the family knew, Giuseppe never would tell me, I just knew that it did.

When we got to the library, Volkas wasn't there. I cursed. Profusely. Of course he wouldn't be, he was dealing with his niece. I'd been so agitated I'd overlooked that.

Nadi and I sat in the car and debated our next course of action. I tried calling Tommy, our other resident spirit expert, and got no answer. Between the two of us the only other person we could think of to ask was Mac. I called Gio first.

"What." He sounded annoyed. I didn't really care..
"Volkas isn't here. How likely do you think Mac would be to give us any information?"
"Not likely. He'll probably go 'Huh, that's weird.' and 'Good luck with that.' and stop talking."

Goddamit. The one night I need werewolves and I can't find any that will talk to me.

I fought the urge to slam my fist into the dash in sheer frustration. "Fucking useless."
"Hey, that's Mac for you, he's just not a big talker..."
"I wasn't talking about Mac." and I hung up on him.

That might have been a bit unfair, but I didn't give a shit. I was in a royally terrible mood and had currently had no patience left to spare on anything.

I sunk lower into my seat, arms crossed. "What about the guys at the hair of the dog? They owe us."

Nadi gave me a look. "You really want to waste a favor on information that could wait another night?"

I scowled. "No. Fuck. Unless you can think of anything, lets get back."

We drove back, and to me, the silence was even heavier. I texted Mona on the way.

From: H
To: M
There is a really pissed off Italian spirit-talker who figured out how he and I are related. How worried should I be?

From: M
To: H
Don't go out if you don't have too.

Fantastic. More and more reasons to stay secluded in the underground away from scary fuckers who might or might not want to kill me. And more and more reasons why I can't do it. I started ticking off the groups after me in my head.. it didn't improve my mood much.

Thankfully, I didn't have to worry about Nadi trying to engage me in unwanted conversation.

We arrived back shortly after Giovanni returned from talking to his uncle, the Bishop. The night was still young, it was only about 10pm. We like to start brushes with death early in the evening, in order to fit as many into the night as possible. We're pretty damn good at it.

As Nadi and I walked in I heard Gio scream from inside Nobody's room.

"MEDIC!!" See what I mean?

My reaction was immediate and reflexive, I was in the room practically before he finished the word. Nobody was convulsing. He was bucking and pulling against his restraints, faces were flowing over the skin of his own in rapid succession. Male, female, sometimes nothing at all, just blank, smooth skin. I couldn't even get something in his mouth to keep him from biting off his tongue, because the mouth kept disappearing. Fucking mirror skin changelings.

There wasn't a lot I could do. I realized pretty quickly the seizure wasn't natural. I stood back from the bed and shook my head at Gio.

"Nothing I can do.. its not being caused by his injuries... its not physical."

We watched in a slightly sickened fascination as he bucked and shook. I watched his sutures as they strained to hold his wounds closed. The skin on his face flowing almost like water. He gasped once, then uttered something that none of us understood, but all of us understood. It was in a language that we'd never heard before, but the meaning resonated inside of all of us.

"The call has gone out. They are coming."

Then he fell still. We looked at each other and I motioned them out of the room. I took a few minutes to check all of his vitals, then left silently to find the others in Gio's lab.

"Well that was downright creepy wasn't it?"
I nodded. "Yeah. And I swear to God, If he's bringing more shit down on us I'm going to get him healed, then kick his ass."
Gio agreed. "If it's his fault, I'll help you."
Nadi frowned at us. "You really think its productive to kill the messenger?"
Gio and I responded simultaneously, and with similar annoyance. "Yes."
"It's not like it will keep 'them' from coming, whoever they are."
Gio shrugged. "But it will make us feel better. Besides, if its not his fault he has nothing to worry about."
Nadi just rolled her eyes at us as I changed the subject.

"What did your uncle have to say?"
"Well, he said that Sansome has a very specific reason to be pissed about Giuseppe, and therefore you, but he couldn't tell me why.. confidentiality of confession and all that."
I glowered and crossed my arms.
"However... I think the fact that Bella has yet to come smashing down our door means that he hasn't told her. And if he hasn't told her by now, I doubt he's going to."
I felt some of the tension in my chest release. Maybe I would actually catch a break tonight.
"Thank God for small mercies."
"If you could call it that. That's all Uncle would say."
"Fuck.. so he didn't leave you with any other leads?"
Gio started laughing and pulled out a pair of keys. "Oh he gave me somewhere to start."
I raised a brow, "And what are those? And to preempt your smart ass comment..besides keys, I mean."
"Keys to the vault."

Nadi and I fell into a stunned silence.
Nadi recovered first. "Why did he give you those if he can't tell you anything?"
I smirked. "Because he still thinks its important for us to know."
Gio nodded. "The problem is now, our resident sneaky, shape-changing fucker is comatose. I have to have someone turn the other key at the same time. And there's no way that they'll let a non family member into the vault with me."

Well shit. We discussed our options and just became increasingly frustrated. I thought we could dose the guards with something, but then Gio pointed out that the guards may not have normal metabolisms. Fucking werewolves. All my problems seemed werewolf related tonight.

After about a half hour of everyone pitching ideas and getting them shot down for one reason or another, we were all still determined, but discouraged. No one wanted to wait until Nobody was able to participate. We had no idea what may come up in that time to keep us from doing this. I had a small breakthrough.

"Hey..what about Antonio? Do you think he'd help?"

Gio considered that for a moment and took out his cell. "Lets find out."

"Hey Antonio, how you doin'?"
"Hey Gio! Doin' good, doin' good. What can I do's for ya?"
"I have a question for you... lets say, hypothetically, I had a key to the family vault, and I needed to get in...and well, I can't reach both locks at the same time."
"Well, hypothetically, you'd need both keys."
"Lets say, hypothetically, that I had both of them, and just needed someone in the family to turn the other..."
"Well I would say that you quite lucky to have found such a ting... hypothetically what would you be offering for dis favor?"
Gio hesitated. "What would you want."
"C'mon Gio, you know how dis works. You makin' the request, you gotta offa me somethin'."
"Hold on."
Gio put down the phone and we discussed it. We knew that making deals with changelings was risky business, but we also trusted Antonio. However, changeling bargains are always to be handled carefully. He was the Knight of the Summer Court after all. We had a quick hushed conversation on what we could offer him that he might like to have. Gio had to go back to the phone two or three times to let Antonio know he was still there. We argued a bit, made suggestions, and finally Gio settled on something.
"I have a nice statue of a dog, a bulldog even, upstairs in the shop that you might be interested in, and I'll take you and the pooches out for steaks."
"Really! Dis statue..how big is it?"
"About the size of a bulldog."
"Nice! Is it solid? or real fragile like?"
"Naw, its wood, so its really solid."
"Wood! nice! Okay, yeah. Dat sounds great."

I made an impatient gesture at him and he frowned at me and mouthed, 'I'm getting to it.'

"One more thing, Antonio.. I need to bring someone else in with me. The subject I'm researching, it involves her."
"Oh yeah, what subject?"
"One we aren't really supposed to talk about..."
"You know for sure she ain't gonna do anyting to hurt da family?"
I gave Gio my innocent look. It's not very convincing. He just rolled his eyes at me.
"Positive. On my word." then he muttered to himself, "If she does, I'll drag her out into the sunlight myself." Which earned him a rather withering glare from me and I was much better at those.
"Okay, but I gotta make an amendment, we talk about it over da steaks, okay?"
"Sounds good."
"When you need dis to go down?"
"Sooner than later."
"Okay. Meet me there in a hour."

He hung up. "You can keep yourself hidden?"
I grimaced. "I can try."

(PLAYERS NOTE: Amusing fact: Harper has a stealth score of 0 at this point. Mehket FAIL)

He sighed, "I guess that will have to be good enough. I need your voodoo in there."
I nodded. "You'd be hard pressed to keep me out, Gio."
I went and changed into clothing more appropriate for staying out of sight and spent the rest of the time pacing in the library trying not to let my nerves get the better of me. I was going into the Santore family estate and breaking into their vault to get info on a forbidden subject. Any one of those could get me killed. Hell, if Sansome saw me, I'd be dead before got through the gate. I wasn't as confident in my stealth abilities as I should have been for this.

Gio walked into the library, watched me pace for a minute. I stopped and looked up at him. "You know this is probably a terrible idea right?"
He modded. "Of course. But that's never stopped us before."
I smiled slightly and nodded. It really wasn't different than any other life threatening situation we'd been in recently, except the pay off was potentially bigger."Lets go."

So we went. I hid in the backseat. Gio stopped at the gate and bullshitted with the guards for a few minutes that felt like hours. I knew it was necessary to divert suspicion, but still, I was just about to jump in his head and tell him to get moving when he pulled forward.

He parked and hobbled out, leaving the door open long enough for me to slip out behind him. I lingered in the shadows of the house, the trees, anything that would give me some sort of cover. We approached the front door, there was a guard leaning casually against the wall. No mafioso here, just some guy chilling on the front steps who just happens to be packing a Mac 10.

"Hey Gio! What brings you here tonight?"

Gio limped up the stairs and the guard opened the door, but Gio paused to talk to him. I didn't bother to pay attention to what he was saying, it didn't matter. It was a distraction for my benefit. I focused that attention on the shadows stretching out from the porch. I felt the blood move, and willed the shadows to do the same. I made it slow, watching the shadows lengthen gradually until they cut across the entry and into the house.

I smirked to myself. I had just recently discovered I could manipulate shadows like that, and it intensely satisfying. I had done it accidentally one night. I had been meditating in my room and Becca had walked in and flicked on the light out of habit. I flinched away from it and reflexively threw my shadow over the source. It had surprised us both.

I used that darkness to slide into the house. Thankfully, it wasn't well lit on the inside. I lurked in the shadow of a bookcase until Gio closed the door behind him. Antonio was sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs reading the paper. He looked relaxed. I was wound so tight it was ridiculous.

He greeted Gio enthusiastically and didn't so much as glance in my direction. But I saw his nostrils flare briefly. He knew I was there.
"You ready?" Antonio asked.
"Lets do this."

We took the stairs down to the lower level. Harder for Gio, but safer for me. We had to pass a few mores guards before we even got down there. Thank God for shadows and unobservant Italian men. We got to the room with no incident. Two more armed guards stood outside an unassuming oak door. Same deal, distraction and slipping through shadows. As I slipped past them one of them frowned and inhaled deeply. I flattened myself against the wall and froze.

"Huh.. weird."
"I smelled something..off.."
Gio called back over his shoulder, "Sorry guys! That was me!"
"Ugh.. Jesus Gio.."

Antonio closed the oak door behind us and I gave Gio a look that was something like grateful annoyance. "Good to know my scent can be passed off as your gas, Gio." He just smirked at me and tossed a key to Antonio. Once the steel door was opened, Antonio set a chair against the oak door we entered through. "I'll give yous guys your privacy. Gio, got a smoke?"
"Sure thing." He handed him a cigarette and lit it for him. Antonio slowly exhaled, and as the smoke traveled across the threshold of the vault, a series of red lasers flickered into view spanning the entrance.
"Make sure anything dat crosses dat is more than 96 degrees. Whatever you gotta do to warm up, do it now."

Well holy shit. It's a good thing we had him here. I coaxed blood into my face, felt my body warm up, a natural flush of life spread across my features. I nodded to Gio, and we entered the vault. I had a moment of mild panic as I crossed those lasers, paranoia that the blush of life wouldn't be enough, but no alarm sounded, no guards ran in.. I let myself relax (a little). I had made it. I was in the vault. I felt a surge of defiant excitement. It was an accomplishment I didn't take lightly. We started our search.

The vault was huge. They had files on every member of the family spanning generations, not to mention valuables, artwork, keepsakes, the works. I looked around in silence for a few minutes. I was actually here. In the Santore family vault.. secrets and information lay everywhere. I smirked to myself. This.. was going to be fun.

We stopped walking when we came to the archived files from the 80s.
"Hold on a second.. there's something I want to look up." Giovanni said.
"My parents."
I tilted my head and regarded him as he dug through files and pulled out two birth certificates. He looked over them both hungrily.
"Isabella Santore... Salvador Santore..."
"Gio.. do you not know who your folks are?"
"Nope.. no one would ever talk about them..."
"I didn't know that about you."
He just nodded. The other birth certificate was Bella's.. the mother was the same, but the father's name was heavily redacted.

He held out Bella's birth certificate to me.
"Try not to bleed from the eyes."
I smirked. "I appreciate your concern." Usually the mundane stuff doesn't cause that. Usually.
I took it, and focused.

I was in a room. There was a very attractive women sharpening a very wicked looking combat knife. There was a familiar photograph on the wall. She sheathed the knife and winced, her face going pale. She put a hand on her pregnant stomach and grabbed the phone. The vision faded, and faintly I heard, "Vittorio, It's time!"

I looked up and handed the certificate back to Gio.
"Do you remember that first day we were in Mac's bomb shelter? There was a photo on the desk, I picked it up and stared at it for awhile..."
"Yeah.. it was Mac with a woman. What about it?"
"She was your mother. The photo was on the wall.. so.. evidence would lead you to an assumption concerning who Bella's father is, but remember, it's still just an assumption."
He nodded slowly, and I told him the rest of the details of what I saw. He handed me his own birth certificate and I repeated the process.

She was pregnant again, in a wheelchair this time, and she looked worn down. She had lost a great deal of the vitality and ferocity she had possessed in the last scene. A man in a doctor's coat came in, he looked shockingly similar to Giuseppe. "How are you feeling today?" He checked a few things, asked her to move certain appendages... "Good, that's good. You're making progress." He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him slowly.
"Salvador... what will we tell them?"
He paused, then squeezed her shoulder. "We'll tell them its mine."

I frowned and handed it back to Gio. I explained once again.
"Son of a bitch."
We returned the certificates and went over to Salvador's files. There was nothing interesting. He had died a couple years after Gio had been born. As had Isabella. When we went to her files we ran into a curious roadblock. Her files were locked away. The file box was behind lock and key. We discussed trying to pick the lock (damn Nobody not being here), but then noticed the gate was wired to an alarm system. Gio looked extremely frustrated.

"We can come back later, Gio. It will still be here."
"Yeah... lets keep going."
"Where? I don't even know where to start."
Gio thought a second then smacks his forehead. "Duh!" He pulls out an oddly shaped glass rosary from his coat pocket.

"Where did you get that?"
"It was the only thing in Giuseppe's box the last time I was here."
"Let me see it."
I gave him a look. "Why do you think, genius?"
He blinked. "Wow.. I completely forgot about that.. I've had this thing for awhile."
"Wow Gio...just...wow. It's not like I don't use that power on every damn thing we get our hands on.."
I held out my hand and he let the glass beads pool in my palm.

This vision was odd. Nothing was going on. There was just a piece of paper on a table in front of me. It was medical file from the 20s on Rosa Santore. There wasn't anything interesting about it. It was a normal file on an old woman. I came back to myself slightly confused. When I explained it to Gio he perked up and hobbled quickly over to the area that held her file. We dug out the medical file, but again, nothing unusual. The type setting was a bit off in some places, but it was consistent with a stuck key on an old type writer. Gio grabbed the paper out of my hands and laid it flat against the wall. He also took the rosary and put it against the page, looking through the glass.

Clever. Decoder rosary.

It was mildly frustrating, but not unexpected when the decoded chart gave us another name. Jessica Rachael Santore.

We found her box and pulled it out. Behind it was another file box. We pulled it out. Beside it was another one. We looked up, around... from what we could tell she had 12 boxes. I shook my head. "That sneaky mother fucker..."
"I was going to say slippery, but that works too."
"Either way. Lets make this as quick as we can."
We started going through boxes.
Jessica was a woman who lived a few decades ago. Apparently she was a singer. There was a copious amount of information on this woman. Buried near the bottom of the first box was a lone black and white photograph. A young Giuseppe, roughly 13, stood next to a priest. The priest had a hand on his shoulder and they looked at the camera with stony expressions. We took the photo and replaced the box. The next box held a letter from Giuseppe to Vittorio. It was heartfelt, telling Vittorio to be careful, telling him he hadn't thought Vittorio should enlist.. it didn't say anything particularly revealing, but it was apparent that Giuseppe and Vittorio were close. It was odd to know that Giuseppe was older than Vittorio. He still looked, and always would now, about 20. The only give away was the look in his eyes which most people never got a chance to see anyway.

The next box held a photo of 5 people, three of which were in US military uniforms. Davaro, Mac, Vittorio, Giuseppe, and Mona sat in a small cafe in what looked like Italy circa WWII.

When I concentrated on the photo, the scene came alive.
"I just don't think its a good idea." Vittorio looked upset.
Davaro scowled. "You DON'T challenge the leader of the pack during a time of war. You especially don't challenge the leader of a pack you aren't a part of!"
Mac looked between the two of them, then to Giuseppe. "Fuck what they say, I think you can do it."
Giuseppe stood and nodded to all of them, straightening his coat. "Gentlemen." And walked out with Mona.
Once I relayed that to Gio he grabbed for the next box. Inside this one was an envelope, the outside said "Benito" in Giuseppe's handwriting. Inside the envelope where three dessicated fingers.
"Uh..ick." Gio made a face.
"Yeah..." I pulled one out delicately and held it in my fingertips. It looked like it had been severed with a very sharp knife.
Now I was in a huge torchlit room with stone walls. I could see moonlight shining down from somewhere. I saw Giuseppe standing across from the biggest werewolf I'd ever fucking seen. He faced the raging beast calmly, knives in hand, as the monster roared, fangs dripping, claws extended fully.
I shuddered and let the finger drop back into the envelope. Holy fuck.

"A werewolf? Good God." Gio was as impressed as I was.

"You forgot one.." He handed me the photo of young Giuseppe and the priest.
That vision was simple. I saw the same scene depicted in the photo, only I noticed the priests hand squeeze the boy's shoulder, and the boys expression harden into an apathetic mask.
I set the photo down and felt sick to my stomach. I was reminded of the conversation I forced Giuseppe into on the way to Mexico about the priest, and how he'd reacted by forcing everyone in the car to answer extremely personal (in my case, secret) and uncomfortable questions because of my relentless probing. Gio looked at my expectantly.
I shook my head. "Don't worry about this one."
Gio frowned. "We'll talk about it later."
"No. We won't."

I grabbed the letter, hoping to avoid more conversation about the subject. Gio muttered under his breath and started digging in the next box. I didn't get anything from the letter that I couldn't have read from it. Except more mental drain. The next box held another letter, in Latin. Gio read it to me. It was a notice of Excommunication from the Catholic Church for forsaking the Holy Spirit and murdering another priest. Gio and I exchanged looks.
I saw a priest walking down the hall. I watched as a shadow crept up behind him, grabbed him by the hair and not only slit his throat, but used his strength to take the priests head clean off. I watched as a priest on the other side of the hall looked up and snarled at Giuseppe, baring fangs and lunging at him. They fought...Giuseppe staked him, and dragged him into the sun. Both bodies dissolved into ash.
"That's ironic." Gio mused.
"What, that he's a vampire now?"
I made a noise in my throat and went to the next box.

The next box didn't seem to have anything about Giuseppe in it, at first glance. We finally just dumped everything on the floor, and still could find nothing. As we were putting it all back Gio noticed the box wasn't as deep as it should have been. I pulled out my knife and used it to peel the fake bottom up. Inside was a black address book. Its pages were yellowed and cracked with age. We didn't recognize any of the names.

From the next box I pulled a lock of black hair.
I saw Giuseppe on top of a rapidly shrinking werewolf, pinning him down with one knife to his throat. Three fingers were missing on the werewolf's right hand. Giuseppe's back was torn to ribbons, blood coursing over the ruined skin in thick rivulets. But he did not waver.
"Yield, Benito."
The now human werewolf glared at him. Giuseppe applied more pressure, blood oozed out from beneath the blade.
Benito grunted, speaking in Italian, his voice coarse. I couldn't understand him.
Giuseppe withdrew the knife and stood. "However I need to." And walked away.
When I came back to reality, I repeated the Italian phrase as best I could to Gio to translate.
"'How will you lead your pack?' I think. Your pronunciation is terrible."

Next up, there was a small token, about the size of a silver dollar. It had something scratched in it in a language neither of us knew.
"You must do it because I cannot." Giuseppe said.
Vittorio threw his hands up in frustration. "But I'm a soldier. I don't want to lead anyone! I'm not a leader!"
Giuseppe tossed him the coin. "But you're clever."
The next box held a plain note card with a name scrawled on it in Giuseppe's handwriting. 'Thomas Mattheson'

When I concentrated again, I saw the man. He was attractive, with dark hair and a strong jawline. He had green flame in his eyes. What I noticed most was his arrogance. He knew he was attractive. He knew that he could get whatever woman he wanted, WHATEVER he wanted. I knew, without hearing him, that he would speak with a very slight lisp, nothing drastic, just elongating his 's' sounds a fraction of a second longer than normal. He looked oddly familiar, but I couldn't place from where. I knew I'd never met him.

Gio and I searched through the address book and located his entry when I came back to myself. When the entry was written, he was living in New York.

The next item was a necklace made of gold with semi precious stones. I held it in my palm, but I couldn't get much of a read off of it. I was mentally strained. Using my abilities like this didn't require the use of blood, but the mental focus was draining and demanding. All I could tell was that it was from a "Miss L" from Milan.

When I told this to Gio he took the necklace from me. "Miss L from Milan." He made a face when the necklace touched his skin, an expression I couldn't really describe. "The Lucifuge is from Milan." He tossed it back to me and I slide it into my coat pocket with the other items we had collected so far.

In the last two boxes we found a cassette tape, and a contract, signed by both Vittorio and Giuseppe. We pocketed them both. The cassette we would listen to later, and the contract was written in that weird language that made our heads hurt to look at, the language we knew Nadi could decipher.

I frowned. "I still don't completely understand why Sansome would be so upset that I'm Giuseppe's childe...think we have time to go look at his files?"
"Lets make it quick."

We made our way in that direction, scanning as we went. We both paused when we got to the early 50s. We had the same idea at the same time. It paid off. We looked through the files surrounding August of 1952, when we knew Giuseppe had been in Cook County Asylum. One notation stuck out to us. It was about a boy about 13 years old who had been admitted to cook county for paranoid schizophrenia, violent episodes, and homicidal tendencies. His name was Mathias.

"Holy shit.. that's why he went in. That's why he was working with Frost. They were trying to get Mathias out."
I nodded. "Seems that way. Can you imagine what the normal world would do to.. say.. Nobody? A guy who thought he could make himself look like anyone and had the job of killing waywards? They'd lock him up faster than you could say 'crazy'... not that that would hold him for too long.."
"Heh, not long at all. Well that explains a few things. We should go talk to Mathias once Nobody recovers."
I paused and regarded Gio for a moment. Something about how he was holding his head... "What?"
"You know, that Mattheson guy.. he looked familiar to me."
"Oh yeah? How so"
"The hair.. shape of the face.. jawline... he looked like you."
At this, Gio got notably pissed. He started going off about a forked tongue, green fire, and the prince of lies. I let him rant. It took him a few minutes to calm himself down.

We moved on. Unfortunately, Sansome's file gave us absolutely nothing. As we were replacing the sovereigns and keepsakes he had collected from his travels, we both looked up suddenly.

There was a whirl of an electric wheelchair, and the sound of someone breathing through an oxygen mask. I think we both just about shit ourselves. I backpedaled and tried to fade into the background. I knew before Vittorio rounded the corner in his wheelchair that it hadn't worked.

He rolled over and looked up at Giovanni. "Hello there Giovanni. How are you doing this evening?"
"Doing well, and yourself?"
"Very well. Thank you." Vittorio turned and looked up at me. "Giovanni, where are your manners? Young Lady, I don't think we have been properly introduced. Vittorio Santore." He offered me a hand that shook slightly and was marked with age spots, but when I shook it, his grip was firm and unwavering. He wasn't as weak as he pretended to be.
"Harper O'Shea. It's a pleasure to meet you." And I meant it. Though I might have to rescind that if he decided to tear my throat out in the next few seconds.
Gio cleared his throat. "In an attempt to not beat around the bush..."
Vittorio cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Manners Gio! Now if you will excuse me, I need to add something to my file. I would appreciate a little..privacy." He placed his oxygen mask over his face, turned his wheelchair, and started towards another area of the vault.

He didn't have to tell us twice. Giovanni and I made a beeline for the door. Antonio was standing there with a wide eyed look on his face. When he saw us he hid his face in his hands and exhaled loudly. "Oh thank you good God Almighty! You're alive! Dere wasn't anything I could do, I'm so sorry!"
"Don't worry about it Antonio, you couldn't do a damn thing."
He nodded. "Lets get the fuck outta here. Coffee.. wanna get coffee? Lets go to that Diner offa 4th, yeah? Yeah. Lets go."

He and Gio talked up the guards so well on the way out that I could have flashed them and they still wouldn't have seen me stalk out.

We made it out without incident, but none of us relaxed until we sat down at the diner.
I was so thankful to be out of there in one piece that I even ordered coffee. I was glad to see my hands weren't shaking anymore as I sipped it. I didn't drink much, but for some reason the taste was comforting, even if it wasn't as good as it used to be when I was alive. "I thought we were fucking dead. I swear, if it had been Bella? shit." I took a deep breath and let go of the rest of the tension on the exhale.
Antonio shook his head. "I dunno. Vittorio... Vittorio scares me more ya know? Bella I could handle, at least for a few minutes. But Vittorio? No way."
"I don't doubt that... but my point is, if it had been Bella, she would have been more likely to try and gut us then and there." I said.
Antonio shrugged acquiescence. "True, True."

We talked about nothing for a few more minutes, then Antonio excused himself and left. "I'll give you a call later about those steaks Gio. Yous guys take care."
Gio tossed a few bills on the table. "Lets get lower."
"Amen..." I muttered.

When we got back to base, Nadi was waiting for us. We handed her the contract. She looked over it and seemed pretty impressed.
"This is amazingly well written. The attention to detail.. no loopholes...basically its a contract between Giuseppe and Vittorio, stating that the leader of the family will be recognized by a token, but that the real leader, the one who won the leadership of the pack would never be mentioned, but always given respect. I mean, it goes into a lot more detail than that, but that's the basic premise. Giuseppe is really the leader, but in order to avoid appearing weak to other werewolf packs, that is never mentioned. From what I can tell, as far as most people would know, Vittorio is the rightful leader..."

I pulled out a stool in the lab and sat, taking the items we had gathered out of my coat and laying them out on the table. I had held them all in case someone felt inclined to pat Gio down on his way out.
"Well, now we know why Giuseppe is such a taboo subject. Why do you think he did it?" I gave Gio a measuring look.
He laughed. "Why? That's the easy part. Because he needed too. I'm sure he felt that, whatever he needed to do, he'd rather have the family at his disposal than not. I'm pretty sure at least half of what that man does is made up as he goes along, but its pretty obvious he'd be better off with that kind of power, regardless."
I smirked and nodded. "That's pretty much what I was thinking. Probably why Sansome is pissed too. The Santore's don't seem to like showing any sort of weakness. If Sansome was Vittorio's adviser like he is Bella's.. he's probably in the loop. And I'm the walking, talking reminder of his families weakness..."

Giuseppe, you conniving bastard... you're a fucking genius.

I took out the necklace again. I was still drained, but I was more curious. It was the only thing I hadn't been able to get a good read off of.
This time, I saw a woman. She was tall and statuesque, and gave me the creeps. She looked right at me. "Are you sure?...Very well." And she walked away.

I frowned, that was... kinda odd. Gio looked down at his cane and started talking to it. I forgot at times that he had a demon bound into it. His side of the conversation wasn't very informative. He looked up at me suddenly.
"You know, you have a bad habit of using glass objects to call dangerous people to us. You really need to stop that."
I was too fucking tired to even roll my eyes at him. "Well fuck. You'll excuse me if I don't shit myself. I used up all my 'give a shit' in the vault. I can only go around fearing for my continued existence for so many hours a night before it gets boring. It's only 2 am. I think I may have actually been disappointed if our list of problems stopped growing before 6." I tossed the necklace to him.

I got up to go check on Nobody after a few more minutes. We still wanted to listen to the tape, but decided to wait until he was at least conscious.. or until we ran out of patience. What I said to Gio was true. I didn't have the energy to care at this point. I had spent the last 8 hours alternating between nervous and terrified, and it wasn't doing anything but straining me. The wealth of information I'd learned made it worth it, and the night had certainly been interesting. Sometimes I had to be reminded of the philosophical training I'd had from the Ordo Dracul. If my options were unexpected events, death threats, and random complications.. or static routine.. I realized I'd take the death threats in a heartbe...in a second. It required me to stay alert, ready, and constantly planning.

I reminded myself again that I had chosen this path knowing full well shit like this would happen, knowing I'd be forced to deal with occurrences nearly impossible to foresee. But we'd figure it out. It was frustrating when answers only gave us more questions, but on the other hand, it meant we would always have more mysteries to unravel. Besides, if Giuseppe could face down a werewolf solo when he was only a ghoul, we could at least manage to take care of these problems with four of us.

With that train of thought, I had actually worked myself into a pretty good mood when I opened Nobody's door. He woke up as I walked into the room. I checked his vitals, his sutures, all that shit, explaining to him what we'd learned as I did so. Gio and Nadi wandered into the room and gave their two cents here and there. When I finished I took a step back and frowned at him.
"What did you dream earlier? You were talking in your sleep."
Obviously the dream came crashing back to him when I mentioned it, because he started screaming, bucking against his restraints, and having an all around fit. Only this time he was lucid. He startled babbling something about the freehold. We stared at him until he calmed down enough to be intelligible. Gio taking a step forward in preparation to smack him got him a little calmer.

"We have to go to the freehold. now. I don't care how hurt I am, I don't care. We have to go NOW. The Lady of the Lake called the TRUE FAE. The Royalty! They're coming. We have to go!"

Tonight continued to get more and more interesting.

October 29, 2009

The internet is full of predators.

A lot had happened before I woke up that night. When I opened the door to my room I nearly ran right into Nobody. He looked panicked, which is an emotion I've never actually seen him display openly, though I've caught it once or twice in his aura.

“The monkey has the sword!”

I nearly choked. Thankfully, my face was guarded. The only thing he saw was my perplexed expression before I shoved a hand into his chest, passed him and went to find Giovanni. I believed him for a moment, but as I made my way to the lab I came up with 18 different reasons why he was probably bullshitting me. When I stepped into the lab and saw Gio sitting calmly trying to force a very large needle and thread through werewolf hide my theory was confirmed. Gio didn’t look up from his work.

“What did he tell you this time? The monkey had the sword?”

I picked up the chalk board eraser and threw it at Nobody. He just grinned at me. I really can’t stand that guy.

“Don’t worry, we gave the sword to the Aegis Kai Doru.”
That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, either. “Why the fuck did you do that?”
Seriously, having to sleep while they don’t have too really is terrible. I have no way of keeping them from doing stupid shit.

“Look, They can probably protect it from that fucking monkey better than we can. Did you have any better ideas?”
I just scowled at him. I didn’t. But that didn’t mean I had to like it.

“The crystal has been dealt with too.”
“Please tell me you didn’t give THAT to them too.”
Gio sounded offended. “Of course not! I’m not stupid.”
I gave him a look that suggested I thought otherwise.

“Nadi’s brother Alexi came and made it go away. He like, folded it in on itself.. or something.. mage shit.”
I felt relieved. “Good. I don’t care to have that thing around. It fucked me up.” But that was only partially true. I was insanely curious about that thing. I knew it was better off this way, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed I hadn’t been able to figure out anything else about it. I guess I could still research the event. And the Harmonium. Both were probably less likely to kill me.
“Apparently it was some sort of ship, bigger on the inside than on the outside, you know?”
“Like Dr. Who..?”
“Well, yeah actually. Only more of a prison than a transport vessel. You watched Dr. Who?” I ignored the question. He didn't even look up.

“Hey boss!” Rebecca and Nadi walked in from the sitting room. Seemed like everyone had been waiting on me to wake up.

I pulled up a stool as they explained what had happened earlier in the day.

The had gone to see Sammy for breakfast and told him that Rowan was sniffing around and could possibly start digging into family business when she finds out that Louie was making deals with a rogue Santore. Apparently he hadn’t reacted well… which was understandable.

Which reminded me...I glanced at Nobody. “Did you tell Gio?”
“About what? The werewolves? Of course.”

Gio nodded affirmation and continued. They had then gone to talk to Bella about the problem with the Pure pack we had attacked. Sammy had gotten to her first. Gio had told her that we could prove that no one had the photos of Nico dealing with Louie until after we knew about Louie’s death. I hoped Martindale could come up with something, because I had no clue how to prove that. As far as I knew there hadn’t been any security cameras in the diner where Martindale had given them the photos. And I normally noticed shit like that.

Then Giovanni’s phone rang. Speak of the devil.

“Martindale.. I have a problem” Gio said quickly.
“I know.”
“Who have you been talking too?” Gio asked, surprised.
“I don’t need to talk to anyone to see that you have problems Giovanni.”
Gio laughed. “Yeah yeah...Anyway...there is a certain vampire that may start nosing around the family business. We need to prove that we got those photos from you after Louie had already died.”
“What like, certified mail or somethin’?”
“If you think that’s enough to convince this certain vampire, sure.”
“Tell you what. There’s a hot-dog stand at the corner of Monroe and Clark. Tell the guy that Chris said he has a package for you. He’ll say, ‘The red crow flies at midnight.’ In response, you need to say, ‘Just give me the fucking package.’ You’ll need to sign for it. And look, if this is the vampire I think it is, you’ll need to be absolutely convinced that this is true, that you really did get these photos after Louie was dead, when you give her the proof.”
“Well that shouldn’t be too hard, because it’s true.” Gio said.
“Right, but the proof will be a lie. So you gotta believe it completely, or else you’re fucked.”
“Hopefully only one of us will have to be dealing with her anyway, so only one of us will have to deal with that. Thanks.” And he hung up.
Gio gave me a significant look and I frowned at him. "What?" He said, "You're the vampire."
"And you're an ass. Why should I do it?"
"Hey, it's your family now too.. and I hate vampire politics." I just rolled my eyes and gave an annoyed look to his back as he left.

He went to go retrieve the package while the others stayed and filled me in on the rest of the evening. Bella had warned them to not go out alone, and not go near parks. And not to let the Architects of Steel know Gio was involved. Apparently they didn’t get along well with the Santores. They had sent a note to them. We had had a lot of practice in cryptic ass notes. We had received enough of them. The note read:

Little Red Riding Hood was going to bring newspapers to her sick uncle. She was late, and her uncle was worried.

She was being chased by not one, but three big bad wolves. They had come to finish the job.

Luckily, she was rescued by lumberjacks. Who delivered her safely home to her worried uncle.

But two of the big bad wolves got away, and are going back to get the rest of their big bad family.

I thought it appropriate. It gave the Architects an idea of the gravity of the situation, pointed them to Volkas for more details (and we knew Volkas wouldn’t sell us out) and kept our names out of it.

When Gio got back he had a receipt with him. A certified mail receipt. I took it from him and put it somewhere safe and really hoped that was enough to satisfy Rowan. It seemed ridiculous, but we didn’t have any better ideas.

Once we finished with catch-up, Gio pulled the black book Nadi had gotten from her weird metaphysical library out of the locked box it had been in and set it on the work table. He was the only one who could read it. He took a deep breath and opened the book, and we watched intently as he read through the pages.

He started to sweat, and began to wince in pain ever few seconds until finally he pulled back and slammed the book closed. His breathing was labored, and his breath smelled like brimstone. Creepy.

“That… that is a prison for someone’s soul. Someone is in their own personal hell. In that book. And it tried to eat me.”

Nadi responded, “A personal hell? Is that something someone besides a demon could do? Like a mage maybe?”

Gio looked at her incredulously. “I don’t know… you tell me. You’re the resident death mage.”
She looked thoughtful but didn’t respond.

Gio started muttering to himself, having a conversation that we could only hear half of. We all just assumed that he was talking to the demon he was making the homunculus for... one of the few times I actually gave someone the benefit of the doubt. I had no room to judge, sometimes I heard someone talking in my head in Latin. And that happened BEFORE we met Traveler.

Nadi had an idea. “Its possible there is something in the book we could understand. We haven’t gone through the whole thing yet.”

I agreed. “We can take turns going through the pages, switch off whenever the written gets too us too much.”

Nobody took a step back, “Don’t look at me. You guys do it. That shit is scary.”

I scowled at him. “Why doesn’t it surprise me that you would be afraid of books?”
“Fucking damn right I am!”
I just glared. “You’re such a fucking pussy.”

Nadi took the book and started scanning through pages. She got through about 15 before passing it off to me. I started where she left off. Nobody just watched, letting us do all the painful shit.

God it hurt. The words swirled and writhed in a way that just felt wrong. It resounded in my head with sickening thumps. I got through another 15 pages before the headache became too much and my vision started to darken. When I slid the book back to Nadi, she took one look at the page and winced, putting a hand to her forehead. She already looked like she'd taken a beating, and we'd just started. When I saw blood start dripping from her nose and I pulled the book back, steeled myself, and got through another 5 pages. In the mean time, I heard Nadi sigh, and noticed her nose had stopped bleeding and she no longer looked like hammered hell. I wasn’t so lucky.

We went through this back and forth until we got to page 50, when we finally found something interesting. Pages 50 and 51 were the very middle of the book and across these two pages was a symbol. It was the same symbol that Volkas had told us was on the walls in Ray’s house, beneath several layers of paint. The symbol for the magelin spirit.

Nadi and I finished going through the book, but there was nothing else of note. At the end she looked up at Nobody.

“My nose stopped bleeding..That was you?”
He nodded.
He smirked, more at me than at her. “No problem.”

Fucking Faery asshole.

Nadi took the book and walked into the computer room. She sat down at her laptop and started looking up things online. I leaned over her shoulder to watch. Everyone else stood behind us, except Rebecca, who had wandered of into the sitting room.

Eventually, after a good 1/2 hour of fruitless searching, Nadi got to a site that was nothing but a JPEG image of the symbol we found in the book. The web address was http://maastr.aac.org. It was an oddity.

“Let me try something.” I said, putting hand on the back of her seat. Nadi regarded me a moment, then let me have her chair. I ran an IP trace on the site, along with a few other tricks

“All I can tell is that its based out of Denmark… give me a sec to look at the site information..looks like it was updated yesterday, but as far as I can tell nothing was actually changed. It just updates itself daily...” Everyone looked at me oddly. Apparently it was a little surprising to them that I knew my way around computers…

I smirked. “Everyone has to have hobbies…”

I tried to bring up the code for the site but it was encrypted… rather impressively so. I worked for a few minutes on it; it had been awhile since I had tried to crack anything like this. I was a bit rusty. I had had other things on my plate recently. The group just watched intently as I made a several series of rapid keystrokes.

A few more keystrokes and I smirked again, “I just about…” as I spoke I hit the last key...

...And I was cut off mid-sentence as a taloned hand burst out through the laptop monitor, shattering it to pieces and grabbing me by the head. Unexpected, to say the least. I didn't even have time to react.

Gio lunged forward, wrapped his arms around my waist and yanked me backward. “Oh no you don’t!” The talons dug deep furrows in my scalp as Gio pulled me from the things grasp. I winced and untangled myself from Gio as fast as I could, giving him a quick nod of thanks.

But the thing seemed more concerned with crawling out then it did with pulling me in. Huge arms with three fingered hands crawled from the monitor. Each to finger ended in a cruel looking talon. It had small arms sprouting from bigger arms. One claw went for Nadi only seconds after it had grabbed me. It hit her invisible shield and stopped, then its talons extended themselves through the barrier and caught her on the shoulder.

Everyone reacted. Nobody’s spear was in his hand faster than anyone could track. He slashed at the thing, biting deep into one of the arms. The spirit didn’t so much as flinch.

Nadi immediately began playing cats cradle with her strings, like she always does when the shit hits the fan. Giovanni stood there and began to grow larger. I already had my combat knife in my hand, pumped blood through my muscles and slammed it into the creatures arm. The thing was TOUGH. It had taken all of my strength just to drive the knife home. Blood that was so red it was nearly purple welled up from the wound, coating my knife. All of us felt its revolting glee as the blooded blossomed up through its carapace. It was glad it was bleeding. That can’t ever be good…

A smaller arm erupted from right above the spot Nobody had slashed it and raked its claws across his chest, we heard him grunt in pain as he raised the spear for another blow. He slashed, and missed, and his eyes widened as he felt the spear slip from his grasp and fly towards Nadi.

Thank God for fast reflexes. She stood there, doing her weird hand motions and looked up just in time to see the wicked blade coming at her head. She threw herself to the side and the spear lodged itself deep in the stone wall, thrumming on impact. It had been so close that strands of her hair floated to the ground, severed by the passing blade.

Gio yelled at me (his voice deeper and more resonating now) and I threw myself to the left as his shotgun roared in my ears. We saw pieces of carapace fly off, but the creature kept coming. I went at it again with my knife, and screamed at it as the knife sank home. “What the FUCK do you want?!”

We heard its voice slide through our minds, full of a slithering and uncomfortable desire. “Everything..” Then an arm shot out and huge talons went right through Nobody's torso. Time seemed to freeze for a second. The creature yanked itself free in a wash of gore.

He fell to the ground in what seemed like slow motion. Nobody clutched his stomach, intestines trying to spill out all over the floor. He bled everywhere. The scent hit me like a sledgehammer, so I fought not to look at him. It’s not as hard as it sounds when there’s a big fucking monster coming for your through a laptop screen. Survival first, food second. It also helped that I could smell other things. The attack had probably perforated his intestines. I screamed for Rebecca to get the Collector. We desperately needed reinforcements. The thing was bleeding profusely, but not slowing down. Nobody managed not to lose consciousness, or die. He fumbled weakly at his pockets and pulling out a small fruit. He shoved it in his mouth and started scooting slowly to the exit, leaving a wide trail of blood in his wake.

We were fucked. This thing just seemed to get stronger the more we hurt it. It kept coming. We had blasted the shit out of it and it wouldn’t stop. It had been in the room for less than 3 minutes, and it had already nearly killed one of us. Maybe if it hadn't just skewered Nobody we'd feel like we had more of a chance. Its ugly head finally came through, after what seemed like miles of deadly claws, misshaped and disgusting. Its mouth was a circular maw with thousands of razor sharp teeth. The thing was ugly as sin, and HUGE.

Nadi looked at me as she did more of her hand motions, and I felt a familiar effect come over me. But it didn’t matter. Someone yelled something about the book, I don't know who it was.. it may have even been me. It was the only idea we had. Gio grabbed it and opened it to the middle pages, and shoved the symbol in its face. I think we were all ready to run if it didn’t work. The creature’s eyes widened and it froze. Those 2 seconds felt like a lifetime, the creature staring with eyes suddenly filled with surprise and rage..and a little bit of fear. It immediately retreated back into the ruined computer. It yanked its arms in so quickly it looked like it had been sucked back in by a vortex.

I stared at the screen, then turned to look at Gio. He was still in his demon form, larger than normal, black wings folded against his back. He was breathing heavily. There was someone standing behind him.

Joseph Traveler stood there, regarding first us, then the screen, then the book.

“You shouldn’t be involving yourself with that book. It is beyond your scope. It keeps screaming at me…” We looked at him, the question obvious. He smiled. “I did nothing. I believe your new friend left because of him.”

He pointed to the doorway, and there was Sammy. He was shirtless, and huge. His gray hair shaggy and falling down his back, his hands seemed more claw like, eyes yellow and wolfish. He had brands across his chest that made intricate patterns. He held a knife that was over two feet long and gleamed like silver. At his belt were five small crystals. Three of them were cracked down the middle. His rage was palpable.

His voice sounded more like a growl. “Out.”

Joseph and I went and lifted Nobody, who was barely conscious, and we all filed out of them room, the door closing heavily behind us.

Maury was standing outside. He did not look at all perturbed, more interested than anything else. He regarded Nobody. “Should I send for the chirurgeon?” I nodded. Maury turned to look at Gio. “It is not often that I allow the Lupines into my domain, but he claimed a right of blood. Is this true?”

Gio nodded. “Yes, he is my uncle.”

Maury nodded and walked out of the room, returning to his sealed library chambers.

I half expected him to kick us out, but then again, I suppose we make interesting house guests…

I went to Nobody and starting doing what I could. I had Rebecca retrieve my medical kit from my room, and went to work sewing him back together. I’m not sure what was more difficult, the surgery, or trying not to focus on all the blood… I had used a lot in that fight, even as short as it was.

I spoke to Joseph as I worked on Nobody. “What WAS that thing?”

He stood on the other side of the room watching us. “It wants many things, but it does not need anything. It wants, and wants.. and once it gets what it wants, it doesn’t want it anymore…” We thought about that a moment. Joseph watched us, then offered another piece of advice.

"Be careful. The internet is a dangerous place. It is full of predators." We stared dumbly at him a moment, and then erupted into peels of laughter. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. It was a release of all the nervous energy, fear, and anger caused by the unexpected encounter.
He had a serious expression on his face, but the glint of humor in his eyes was unmistakable. And with that he walked out, shutting the steel door behind him.

Fantastic. A wealth of information. That meant I got to talk to the pissed off werewolf once he was done. That sure is my idea of a good time.

Luciano showed up not long after and set to work on Nobody. I played nurse for him as he used my kit to make more progress on Nobody than I could’ve done. He made it seem easy. Of course, he didn’t have to pause every 30 seconds to focus on not licking blood off his fingers.

Gio retreated back into his lab. Nobody was thoroughly unconscious. Luciano left to retrieve more supplies. I was hooking up a bag a saline for him when Sammy came back out. He looked more normal now. A fit looking man in his 60s with close cropped hair and a lot of scars.

I turned and met his gaze, “What the fuck happened?” I asked, determing to get answers.
…and he stared at me. Hard.
Okay… no more questions then… He stared and stared, and I could see the rage in his eyes. I met his gaze. I allowed my eyes to drop for a moment, but only a moment, because the attack WAS my fault after all. He stared at me for a full 2 minutes, then reached down and unsheathed that giant knife and pointed it at my throat. His arm was shaking with barely contained fury.

I fought hard not to let the fear show. I was sure I was about to get torn to shreds. And I knew Sammy wouldn’t be as easy to dispatch as the Pure pack had been. I was fucked. But I damn sure wasn’t going to show it.

He spoke, and his voice was also shaking with suppressed fury. “Who are you.”

“Harper O’shea.”

I could hear his teeth grinding. The knife point got closer to my throat. I didn’t dare move. I was afraid it might set him off. I kept my face and posture as still and neutral as I could manage.

“Whose blood... runs through your veins.” He demanded.

If I had any blood in my face it would've all drained away. Fucking SHIT. Until that moment I thought he was pissed that I had inadvertently brought the spirit out. This was worse. Much, much worse.

I stared at him and said nothing, calculating my chance of getting out of there in one piece. I didn't like my odds.

“WHOSE BLOOD?!” He roared it at me as well as if he was in his war form. And it was just as intimidating.

“Ours.” Giovanni answered, he was standing in the doorway to his lab, watching us.

The two remaining stones on Sammy's belt cracked down the middle with audible pops. I thought it sounded like what Sammy was about to do to every bone in my body. I didn’t dare move. He finally tore his eyes away from me, which was a relief. I could only watch his imagination tear me apart in so many different ways before I started to wish I could still shit myself.

He was breathing hard. He could hardly squeeze the words out past all the 'pissed off'.“We... will discus this later. In the meantime, you should go confess.”

And he stormed out of the room. And I mean STORMED.

I grabbed the closest chair and sagged into it, holding my head in my hands (I could feel my scalp shift a little from the wounds). “This is bad. This is very very bad." I sat there for a few minutes cursing profusely to myself. I could feel Gio watching me.
"Giovanni, should I be expecting your family to be gunning for me now?” I said without looking up.
“My family is gunning for everyone.”
I glanced up and glared at him. I did not need his smart mouth right now. “You know what I mean.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic. Goddamn it.” I slammed my fist into the wall.

I had the majority of the vampires in Chicago ordered to kill me on site, a pack of Pure who wanted revenge, and now a huge pack of Forsaken werewolves who would probably love to tear into me. Sooner or later I’m not going to be able to set foot ANYwhere without getting my ass handed to me by one group or another. This was not shaping up to be a good trip. This was bad, and I was worried. I worked hard not to have a nervous breakdown.

“But apparently I need to go talk to my Uncle the bishop tomorrow. So, we’ll see how that goes.”
“Let me know what you find out.”
“Trust me, you probably won’t want to know.”
I stood and stalked over to him with no small amount of anger. Anger was better than fear. I got up in his face. “Gio, I just brought a major spirit into Maury’s place, got all of us injured, if not almost dead, right after getting my head wailed on by a demonic diary, then had my life rather seriously threatened by one of your family members who just so happens to be a very fucking scary werewolf. If I don’t get SOME sort of useful information about of any of this, I might just lose my shit. And I swear to GOD Giovanni, you will not like it.”

Gio was about to respond when Nadi interrupted.
“I’m going to go talk to Volkas. He may be able to help.”
That should have made me feel better, but it didn't. It was, however, better than sitting down here feeling sorry for myself. I had spent 23 years learning just how effective THAT was. “Can I tag along?”
She nodded.
I had to get answers. And more so, I needed to do something to keep my mind off the consequences of tonight, that may be just down the road.

I glanced over my shoulder at Gio on our way out. It wasn't really him I was pissed with. "Thanks, Gio." He responded with a derisive smirk. "Don't mention it." This is why I don't make it a habit to be polite to these people.

I texted Giuseppe from the car.


From: H
To: G

The Family knows.


He didn’t respond.
That worried me more than anything else that had happened tonight.

October 28, 2009

Rowan and the Treasure Hunters

November 29th, 2009

When I woke up that night, Maury let us all know that Rowan was going to be meeting us. He showed us where to meet with her, and we went through the heavy steel door and waited. There was a table and chairs in the small room.

It wasn't long before the door swung open again and Rowan's mages entered. They set about doing their normal warding crap. Rowan sat in one of the chairs. "Good evening."
We all nodded to her, Gio actually responded. "Evenin'"
She gave him that creepy smile. "And how is your family Giovanni?"
His expression became one of mild suspicion. "Well.."
"Please, give my regards to your uncle the next time you see him for breakfast." She said, maintaining that unsettling grim.

She turned to the rest of us. "The blood was not Louie's... where did you get it?"
We looked at each other, slightly confused.
"It was drawn directly from his body, where we found him dead. He had been injected with a shit-ton of morphine...Who's blood was it?" I hadn't been there, but everyone seemed to be waiting for me to be the one to communicate with her.
"Louie was not without his..faults. It was the blood of a rat. I believe someone is trying to send me a message.." Anger bubbled up in her rough voice. I swear it wounds like she talked through a throat full of wet leaves.
"What message is that." I asked.
"That he was not...to be trusted."
The rat blood resonated on a different note with me. It brought my thoughts back to the Beshilu.. one of the groups we suspected had a hand in those killings. But I said nothing about it. I frowned. "So we have nothing."
She shook her head. "No. I have other avenues to explore. I owe you a boon."

At this, one of her mages stepped forward. He started making motions, like Nadi did with her mage voodoo.. only different. From what I could tell each mage had their own rituals. Then he spoke, which almost startled me. It was the first time I'd heard any of them say a word.
"For the service you have provided, Rowan offers one piece of information for all of you, collectively. When fulfilling this bargain, you will chose one representative to approach her with your question. She will make her best effort to procure this information, without harm to herself, and will not seek to manipulate, influence or lie about this information. The more difficult the information is to procure, the more specific the question must be. If Rowan uses all of her resources and cannot find the information, that will still be considered a fulfillment of this bargain..."
He continued for a few more minutes, outlining all the details of a rather impressively worded verbal contract. It was thorough. Which was good, since we knew he was about to bind us to it. We got one question, she'd do her best to answer it without lying to us or misleading us. It was a bargain I had no intention of taking.

"Do we have an agreement?" He looked at each one of us in turn, everyone voiced agreement but me. When he met my gaze I shook my head slowly. I had much more than just one question that I wanted to ask Rowan. I had no intention of screwing the others out of a piece of vital intel if I didn't need to. I watched his aura flare as he closed the binding. Not for the first time I wondered what Nadi saw when others did magic...

"If you have no further business...?" Rowan asked.
"I have some private business I would like to discuss with you." The others looked at me like I was mildly crazy to request a private audience, but regardless, filed out of the room. I was left alone with Rowan and her three mages. I didn't want them here either, but I didn't dare insist on it.
She looked at me and smiled widely. It was unnerving. "You understand that you are completely alone now. Completely.. vulnerable."
"Yes. I do." and boy did I.
She watched me for a few moments, then motioned to her mages. "Leave us."
To my relief, they all stood and walked out. The heavy door clanged shut behind them. She looked at me expectantly...hungrily.
"I have been considering the offer that you posed... I have decided to accept it."
Something eager flashed in her milky eyes. She pulled out a goblet, and a rather ornate knife from the folds of her clothing.
"What then, are you offering?" The way she said it, and the tools, rang of ceremony. I wasn't exactly sure what kind, however. I thought a moment. I wanted to be sure I was protected in this. As I spoke, the words echoed in my head as heavy and important. It was a reminded that what I was about to do could be a death sentence.

"I am offering to teach you a basic knowledge and understanding of the Coils of the Dragon, that which will be useful to you, in exchange fo..."
She cut me off with a curt gesture with the dagger.
"There are rules that must be followed. I accept your offer, and in exchange I will teach you to use the blood magic Cruac and enough rituals to make it useful to you."
She took the knife and made a cut on her palm, letting blood flow into the goblet. She set the knife on the table and watched me.

I reached for the knife. It was heavy and looked deadly sharp. I mimicked her action, allowing my blood to flow into the cup as well. She then took the knife from me and used it to mix the two together. She lifted the cup to her lips and drank half of it, replacing it in the center of the table. I didn't allow myself to hesitate. Thoughts of Viniculums and other consequences swirled through my mind, betrayals, execution... but I ignored them all. I did not allow myself to be afraid. I had made my decision and I was bound and determined to see it through. I took the cup and drank. I felt the mixture move inside of me, but it did not create the bond I was fearing. I felt a connection, but no false emotions. Nothing like the Viniculum Giuseppe had made me endure, then broken me of. Her blood was in me now, and I knew, without having to be told, that it was a powerful and dangerous thing... for both of us. I was now a vulnerability for her. I knew that she would take great care to protect our new... relationship. Which meant protecting me.

She smiled widely. It was not a pleasant smile. We both stood. "I will return in four days."
I nodded. "Good night."
The door opened and she was gone.

I should have been worried, but I wasn't. I felt empowered. The anticipation of learning those secrets was better than any drug. And twice as addictive. I probably looked pretty damn pleased with myself when I walked back into the living area. I was too amped to even give a shit when Gio and Nobody started ribbing me.
"Aw, you're all grown up! I'm so proud."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
I gave them both the finger, mostly out of habit, and settled into one of the arm chairs, sitting sideways and throwing one leg over the overstuffed arm.

"What did I miss?"

"We were discussing how to deal with the Louie thing." Gio said.
"You mean who he was dealing with." I pointed out.
"Right. We're meeting with Sammy for breakfast tomorrow. We'll have to tell him."
I nodded. Martindale had given us photos of Louie dealing with Neco, one of the pit bosses in the Santore family. Neco had been...taken care of. We had had to give Luciano's a wide berth for a few days.
"Have fun with that." I muttered.

Gio wasn't happy about the possibility of Rowan snooping in the family business. Understandably so. We discussed it awhile, then Gio disappeared into his lab and I pulled Nobody into the internet room. "The fuck..what?" He protested
"You get to talk to Tommy with me."
"To tell him about the stupid shit you pulled."
I dialed Tommy's number.
"Hey Harper, whats up?"
"Tommy. You're on speaker. Nobody is with me. We have a problem and we need your opinion."
"Uh..okay.. whats going on?"
"Nobody attacked some Pure, we jumped in to help so he didn't get his ass flayed... two of them got away. How much shit are we in?"
"Why did you guys get into a fight with a pack of Pure?"
"I was trying to save Volkas' niece!" Nobody said, defensively.
"You didn't know it was his niece." I shot back.
"Well no, but I couldn't let her get beat up on!" Nobody insisted.
"Riight. Either way, its irrelevant. One is dead, though we didn't kill him, and the two others got away, after we attacked." I said, getting back on track.
Tommy paused to think a minute. "Well.. from the sounds of it, it wasn't a very strong pack. Or else you guys wouldn't have gotten out alive."
"We figured as much. Our question is how much shit are we in?"
"Well, more than likely they'll either recruit more members, or allow themselves to be absorbed into another pack, and its likely they'll come after you. Also..." Tommy paused.
"What?" I prodded.
"It's possible they may use it as an excuse to restart a war with the Forsaken."
I frowned. "How for the love of God?"
"There was a tenuous truce between the Pure and the Forsaken for the fight with Ophios.. that's happened before, but fighting always breaks out again soon after. They may lie and say that Forsaken attacked them, or at least allies of the Forsaken. It wouldn't be the first time."
Nobody broke in. "But they were attacking a Forsaken kin family! They started it!"
You could hear the shrug in Tommy's voice. "Doesn't matter. Not how they will use it."

We thought about that for a minute, Tommy broke the silence. "You might want to alert the local packs to whats going on, just to give them a heads up. The Architects of Steel are a large pack in town, they're the ones I got that wax statue from for the battle."
"Are the friendly?" I asked.
"They let me into their vault..."
"Not what I asked." I said sourly.
"Maybe you should send someone with diplomacy skills.. who isn't a vampire.." Tommy suggested.
I smirked. "We'll keep it in mind. Thanks."
"Keeps your heads down. Watch your backs.. excetera, excetera."
"Yeah, yeah.. we go it. Thanks for the help." I said and then disconnected the call.

Nobody walked out muttering about saving innocent people and no one believing him. I ignored him. We walked into the lab where Gio was working on his homunculus and Nadi was reading and just stared. He'd finished the skeleton, and it was beautiful. He'd somehow taken the skeleton of an 8 year old and fashioned it into a creature that looked like a rather large house cat. Bones had been bent and fused, and overall, it looked like a fucking work of art. Nobody and I just hovered over it for a few minutes, examining it. Gio held a metal ruler he'd been using, waiting for us to try and touch it so he could whack us.
"Gio, that's fucking amazing." I said in a slightly awed voice.
He just smirked his arrogant ass smirk.

Movement in the doorway caught my attention and I looked up sharply. I expected to see Maury, and maybe even the Collector (doubtful..) but instead I saw an unfamiliar face. He looked to be in his late 60s, dressed in a long leather trench coat, tan in color. He held a pocket watch in one hand and moved like he was in a hurry. Gio spoke first. "Who are you?" I had my gun out and pointed at him, ready to shoot his ass if I didn't like his explanation.

He gave us a small half bow. When he spoke he had a heavy German accent. "My name iz Herr Klempt. I am a representative of ze Shield and Spear. It has come to our attention that you are in possession of two rather dangerous artifacts. Were these to fall into ze wrong hands, it could very well be disastrous."

I watched him, ready for any sign of aggression, but I also stretched out my senses to the rooms behind him. Surely Maury wouldn't let someone like this down here. A treasure hunter... but I couldn't hear anything else. It didn't seem like he'd brought friends. But it struck me as very odd. Because I heard absolutely NOTHING. No water flowing through pipes, no sigh of old furniture. I realized I couldn't' even hear the television Rebecca was watching anymore. No one else seemed to notice it. It made me edgy.

Gio raised a brow. "And what two artifacts does the Aegis Kai Doru think we have?"
He pulled out a small notepad and glanced at it, then around the lab, almost as though the pad was some sort of map. "One item iz a bronze sword. A sword that iz rumored to be able to kill gods. The other, a small geode. It does not belong in zis world. Ze longer it is here, the more turmoil and chaos it will cause."

"Why should we give these to you, even if we did have them?" Gio asked with a stubborn tone to his voice.
"They cannot be permitted to fall into ze hands of certain people...certain people who have taken an interest in you as of late." He looked directly at Gio. "Can you imagine ze consequences if an angry brother acquired a weapon that could kill ze unkillable...?"
Gio sat back on his stool and looked thoughtful. He muttered to himself.."Could end the world..."
Herr nodded. "We only wish to protect these artifacts. I am requesting that you turn zese things over to me, so zat they may be properly dealt with." He looked down at his watch for about the 10th time in the last minute.
"And the geode?" I asked.
It was his turn to lift an eyebrow. "Can you imagine what could happen if zat monkey got his paws on it?" We all traded glances and shuddered at the thought.
"We aren't particularly comfortable giving away shit to people we don't know." I said, perturbed.
"Do what you will. If you feel you can keep the artifacts safe from ze monkey, please, feel free to keep zem. We merely wish to ensure the security of ze items in question. We have a long history of securing such things."
"How do we know you aren't planning on using it yourselves?" Nobody accused.
"You do not. But I can assure you, we do not anymore wish zis world to end than you do."
We all traded looks. None of us liked this. He looked at the watch again.
"Consider my proposal. I must go." He handed Gio a business card, nodded to everyone, and quickly left.

About 15 seconds later all the sounds I had been listening for suddenly came back. Not gradually, but all at once, like someone had flipped the 'on' switch. I stepped out in the hallway, but he was gone and Becca was still watching VH1, oblivious.

I went back into the lab and sat across from Gio. "I don't like it."
"Neither do I."
Nadi and Nobody nodded agreement.
Gio looked thoughtfully at the drawer that held the sword. "And what's bugging me even more is, if that guy can get in here unannounced, whats stopping the monkey?"
We all thought about that in sullen silence.

We discussed it for awhile longer, but came to no conclusion. I didn't like it. No one did, but Gio seemed to be considering more than I was comfortable with. The conversation came to a dead end and I went back to my room. I had more meditation to do.

October 23, 2009

Later that Night- Blood and Bones

When we got back, Nobody headed straight to his room, then out again, muttering something about the freehold. Nadi was still in her weird magic coma thing. I went to check on Rebecca. She groaned and put a hand to her forehead when I sat on the foot of the bed. "What happened?"
"The flute." I said softly.
She groaned again and rolled over, falling into a real sleep, instead of lying there unconscious. I left silently.

Gio had holed himself up in his lab, and I was parched. I struck out looking for prey. I went topside, which probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but I figured the Pure wouldn't have gotten the word out quite yet, and I didn't feel like finding a shit ton of rats where one larger animal would do.

Finding a stray dog proved more difficult than I had anticipated. They tended to shy away from me. I couldn't really blame them. Predatory instinct and all that.
I finally found one near a park area that didn't bolt as soon as it saw me. I put the food I had brought on the ground about 3 feet in front of me and waited for it to come closer. It eventually crept close enough to cautiously eat the offered bait, but it watched me suspiciously, jumping back any time I made a move towards it and baring its teeth.

I was crouched there debating how to get it without using more blood or getting a finger bitten off when I heard a SCRAPE, THUMP, behind me. I was instantly standing with knife in hand.

There was a doe on the ground behind me, two legs badly broken, compound fractures. It's eyes were wide and panicked and it tried to push itself away from me. I turned in a slow circle, stretching out my senses, trying to find whoever had left it. Nothing. I stood that way for a good five minutes, trying to detect sign of anyone. I debated dragging the deer with me to a safer location, but it was struggling too much, and the smell of the blood oozing from the fracture wounds was fucking intoxicating.

I sheathed the knife and went to the deer, which had managed to scoot itself about 10 feet away at this point. I tried to remain alert as I drank from the creature, but I was hungry as fuck, and for a few minutes after that blood wet my mouth, that's all I could focus on. Slowly the deer stopped thrashing, until it lay completely still.

I closed the wound and stood, wiping the still warm blood from my chin. I was mildly surprised to see the stray dog still there. It eyes me, then the deer. I turned and walked away, letting the dog clean up after me. I didn't know who had provided the animal, but the thought nagged at me as I slipped back down into the tunnels. Someone was watching me, and it made me nervous. So far, they had helped, but that didn't give me any idea of their ultimate intentions. And I hadn't been able to sense the person at all.

My paranoia would become a full blown complex if it didn't stop being proven right on a nightly basis...

I'd grabbed a damp towel and was cleaning off as I made my way over to the lab. I paused in the doorway. Gio had a small portion of the blood we had collected and was examining it thoughtfully. He seemed to be working through a problem in his head. I noticed there was another sample that had been mixed with god knows what sitting on the work table. It smelled terrible. There were notes scattered in front of him. He spoke without looking at me.

"You got syringes in that kit of yours?"
My eyebrows rose, I gave him an incredulous look. "You want to inject that into yourself?"
"That's the plan. 'I have become the crucible.'" I figured he was quoting from the notes in front of him.
"Do you have any idea what injecting yourself with vampire blood is going to do?"
"Okay then..." I shook my head and grabbed my kit from my room. I debating telling him how vampire blood was enormously addictive, and all the dangers of it, but I'd seen him take in hazardous toxins before and only be slightly worse for wear.

I pulled out a syringe, needle, and tourniquet. He reached for the syringe and I drew it away from him. "You have experience injecting yourself with intravenous drugs you've been hiding from us?" I asked sarcastically.
"Well... no."
"Okay, then let the person with medical training do it. Out of the two of us, I'm the one who won't turn your arm into swiss cheese."
He offered his arm, I put on the tourniquet and started to feel for the vein and realized I didn't need to. I found that I knew exactly where the vein would be. I knew where all the major veins would be... it had become instinctual. An unexpected perk of vampirism was apparently an affinity for phlebotomy. Not really the way I expected to apply my vampiric abilities. Slipping the needle in without Gio feeling so much as a pinch, however, was a matter of experience and training.

I watched his face as I depressed the plunger. As the shit hit his system I saw his eyes widen, then clamp shut, and he broke out into a heavy sweat. "Oh holy fuck." As soon as I removed the needle he pushed me away and ripped off the tourniquet. He put a hand on either side of the work bench, clenching it so hard his knuckles turned white. I watched him, utterly fascinated. This wasn't a normal reaction, not by a long shot. I figured it had something to do with the interaction between his blood and the vampire blood. He wasn't, after all, a normal mortal.

He stood that way for a good 10 minutes, breathing heavy, eyes squeezed shut, obviously in massive pain. When he finally opened his eyes, they had changed subtly. They were colder. It made me wonder what he had seen when his eyes were pressed closed. About that moment Gio's cell rang. I picked it up off the table, seeing it was Nobody, and answered it, putting it on speaker. Gio's voice was strained and breathless.
"Whatsup Nobody?"
"Heading to Luciano's to see Antonio.. you guys game?"
"You bet. Meet you there." He managed to hold back the pain filled gasp until after I'd hung up the phone.

I drove. Gio was muttering to his cane the entire way there. "Fuck this burns.. shut up Ches.. We're going to get it out now. I'm doing this for you, you know. You could at least show a little fucking gratitude you arrogant asshole..." Pot calling kettle...

We got to Luciano's and went straight to the back. Nobody was already there, sitting at a table with Antonio and Luciano. "Hey! How yous guys doin'?" Antonio said with a big grin.
"Hey Antonio.. we've had better nights.. but I can't complain too much...Luciano, what happened with the pit boss, Neko?" Gio asked, loking around the tattoo parlor as though e might spot evidence of the traitor.
Luciano gave us a strange, rather disconcerting look. "He is in a better place."
Gio nodded, not phased. "Hey Luciano, can you..uh.. I need to get some blood out of me."
"Oh really?" And he stood up and started going through cabinets and taking out a few things. "Blood type?" He asked casually.
"O negative." Gio said absently, face still a mask of pain.
"Please, sit down." Luciano gestured to a chair that looked oddly like one of those chairs you see in either a dentists office, or the experiment wing in a hospital horror flick. When Gio sat, Luciano strapped him down, set up an IV, and put a large plastic contained under his arm. Definitely hospital horror flick..

He took out a very sharp knife and looked at me. "Have you fed recently?"
"Good." And he drew the knife down Gio's forearm, from elbow to wrist, and from the way the blood immediately began pouring down his arm and into the container I knew he'd cut directly into the large vein. The blood came out so quickly that it looked like a solid sheet flowing into the container. It even steamed. Even having fed under an hour ago, I couldn't help but stare. When I took two involuntary steps closer the others looked at me suspiciously. I clenched my fists and concentrated, walling off the beast from my rational self. The next steps I took were to examine Luciano's work, not to feast on my comrades blood.

He had cut straight into the vein all right, but amazingly, not through it. I watched as he grabbed a needle and thread and proceeded to stitch the vein itself closed with unnatural speed and efficiency. He then inserted the IV needle into Gio's other arm (Gio had long since fallen unconscious, most of his blood was in a bucket on the floor.) and squeezed the bag of o negative blood. If Gio had been awake, it would've hurt like hell. He used 6 bags of blood. He let the last one flow in normally.

He put a lid on the container of blood and proceeded to finish cleaning up Gio. He wiped down his arm and sutured the actual cut closed. Luciano seemed strained. When Gio came too, he groaned and looked like shit. Luciano grabbed him some snacks from the fridge. Now that the show was over, Nobody and Antonio started talking again.

"So how do you like being a Summer Champion?"
"Its good, its good. A lot of responsibility, but dats okay." Antonio said.

We chitchatted with him until Gio was in a state to leave. We stood to go, the container wrapped discreetly. "I'll see you later Antonio, still got more work to do." Gio said, still breathless and pale.
Antonio nodded to Gio. "You be careful Giovanni. I'm prayin' for ya.. a lot of us are. Prayin' for your soul."
Giovanni turned to walk out the door. "I appreciate it, but my soul is already damned."
"Blood ain't everyting Gio. It's what you do that counts." Antonio called after him.

And we left.

We took the blood back to base and stored it. Nobody was in the lab with Gio for while, when I walked by they were just bullshitting, but Nobody's aura was swirling and I watched the color return to Giovanni's face, and his voice became normal, no longer strained and exhausted. Neat trick. I wondered how long until Gio's body said 'fuck you!' and forced him to sleep. "Okay.. so to the graveyard?" Gio said when he noticed me skulking in the doorway.

I frowned. "Really? Tonight? Don't you think you should take it easy?"
Gio shrugged and grabbed his coat and cane. "I'm fine, and I'd rather get it over with now. Besides, this is supposed to be the easy part. Though that being the case, I'm sure it will turn out to be hard as fuck."

We grabbed a couple shovels, a few garbage bags, and a canvas bag and headed out. Gio needed the bones of a child no older than 10 for his homonculous. Compared to the other supplies, this was the easiest to come up with. We went to one of the older cemeteries in town and spent awhile looking for the right grave. Nobody found one, but I vetoed it on the grounds that the kid had died only a few months ago. That meant we'd have to deal with de-fleshing the bones, and it was more likely visiting family would notice the disturbance. Eventually we found an older grave, one with no flowers. The kid had been 8, and died in the 70's.

I started digging. I enhanced my muscle strength to do it, and gave Nobody a fuckton of shit until he finally started helping me. It took awhile before we heard the 'thunk' of our shovels hitting wood. We cleared away the dirt and pried open the lid of the small casket. One of the times I was thankful for not needing to breath. Even a corpse over 30 years old still stinks. We were just finished double bagging the small body in the trash bags when Gio alerted us to the grounds keeper's presence. We closed the coffin and climbed up out of the grave.

He wasn't too far off and he hadn't said a word yet. He just walked slowly towards us. When I examined his aura, I saw something I'd never seen before. His aura was human, but overlayed on top of that aura was another that reached up above him and formed a face. Eyes stared balefully at me.

"What. The. Fuck." I explained to the others what I saw. "We should go.." I muttered.
Nobody had already went. Gio and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes collectively "Fucking faery bastard..." we said, collectively.

Gio started walking towards the guy.
"Gio, what the fuck, we need to get out of here."
He turned and looked at me. "But aren't you curious?"
I scowled and crossed my arms, glaring at him. "Fucking.. yes. Fuck." I stood my ground as Gio approached the guy, shovel still in hand, ready to come to the rescue if I needed too.

The man walked right past Gio. He approached me, picked up Nobody's shovel he had cast aside when he'd bolted, and started filling in the hole we had made. I watched him suspiciously for a moment, then helped him. We shoveled dirt into the hole in silence. When it was finished, he looked at me, then nodded to the shed a few yards away. I looked between him and Gio... "Yell if you need anything.." and took off to the shed, keeping one eye on them as I went. I heard the grounds keeper mutter something to Gio, but I was too far away for even my enhanced hearing to pick it up.

In the shed there was a pile of sod just inside the door. I grabbed enough to cover the grave, and a hose, and headed back. I helped him lay the sod, he watered it, and shifted shit around until it looked like it hadn't been disturbed. He handed me the shovel. Gio had put the trash bags into the canvas bag we had brought with us.

"Leave." The groundskeeper said in a low, but powerful, voice.

He didn't have to tell us twice. We left. Nobody appeared out of nowhere about 2/3rds of the way back to the car. "You're such a pussy." I scoffed at him.
He just shrugged and kept walking.
"Gio, what did he say to you?" I asked when we reached the vehicle.
Gio looked rather uncomfortable. "'He was more careful with you.'" He held up his bandaged arm. "That guy.. I never met him, before my time.. he's not supposed to be alive. He was turned over to Luciano after playing rat to some feds against the family..."
I set the bag in the trunk and closed the lid. "Holy shit... do they...?"
"I doubt they know. I'm sure as fuck not going to be the one to tell them. So who's up for another trip to Luciano's?" Gio said with a shaky smile.
I looked at him like he'd sprouted a second head.
"What? I need beetles to clean the remaining flesh off this body. I'll keep my mouth shut."
I coughed. He glared. "The subtle 'I don't believe you' cough is no longer subtle when you don't breath on a regular basis."
I shrugged and opened the driver's side door. "I never said I was trying to be subtle."

We drove over to Luciano's and got away without incident. Gio managed to keep his big mouth closed. I could actually see the physical strain it caused him. When we got back Nadi had finally come too. And..she was fine. Nick left, relieved. She didn't say too much about her vision, except that she was in a library filled with all the books people wanted to right and never did, and had found a book in Ray Fawkes' section that was written in a language she couldn't read, and that tried to eat her mind when she tried. The book was black, thin and felt oily to the touch, as well as uncomfortable to hold. Literally, mildly painful. Gio took it and locked it up.

"It can wait till tomorrow. I'm fucking exhausted. I've had a shitty night."
I was going to protest, but he was right. I let it go.

She explained that she'd been the leader of an army at one point, and mentioned having seen me on the field. I found it interesting I actually made it into her metaphysical magic world. Something to consider. She also now had two tattoos, a bird on each shoulder blade.

Gio wandered off to the lab afterwards, Nobody wandered off in the direction of the bedrooms. I helped Gio get the body hung where the beetles could take to it, and went to check on Becca.

Nobody was in her room when I stopped in. She was still asleep.
"What are you doing." I asked with quiet annoyance.
"Shes dreaming, and I need glamour."
I narrowed my eyes. "Don't feed on my ghoul."
He rolled his eyes at me. "It doesn't hurt her."
"Don't feed. on my ghoul."
"Fine." and he walked out. I didn't think for one second that he'd given up. I stood there and watched her. I concentrated and slipped into her thoughts. I wanted to make sure she was okay, and that Nobody wasn't fucking with her. Like I thought I would, I felt another presence. I couldn't see what she was dreaming, but I could hear was she was thinking about it. First there was fear, and embarrassment. Then hesitant gratitude. Then a surge of accomplishment. Then, for a moment, someone else was there. Another presence I didn't recognize and my connection was suddenly cut off.

Becca rolled over into a more restful sleep and she muttered, "Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be..." then fell silent.

I made a beeline for Nobody's room. I didn't bother knocking, I just opened the door. He was laying on the bed staring at the ceiling, hands behind his head. His aura was swirling with agitation, fear, resentment, confusion, and doubt. Outwardly though, he looked normal.

"What happened in her dream."
"I don't know what you're talking about. I was in here."
"I'm not stupid. I know you were in there. What did you see."
"I did like you asked."
"And you're full of shit. I'm not pissed about it, I'm worried about her. i felt someone else in her head. I want to be sure she's alright."
He sat up. His aura shifted into colors of smug satisfaction at my annoyance. He held out his hand. "Ill tell you if you swear you won't hurt me or her because of it. I like Rebecca, and I don't want you hurting her because you didn't like the content of her dream."
I frowned at him. The fuck? Why would I hurt her over a dream? This is coming from the same guy who accuses me of being too soft, not willing enough to get my hands dirty?
"Fine. But only tonight." And as soon as I shook his hand I saw intense satisfaction flare in his aura and I realized I'd been suckered. I hadn't put any stipulation that he had to tell me the truth. I watched the smug sanctification get brighter as he told me what he saw in the dream.

"Rebecca was dreaming about killing you. She hates you for taking away her dreams. She was standing over you with a stake in her hand. That's what I saw."

My eyes narrowed to slits and my voice became dangerously low. "You're lying."
"I'm not! Why wouldn't she feel that way? You dragged her here, she drinks your blood.. I mean, you guys have some safeguard against this sort of thing?"
Of course, the emotion the blood bond creates helps prevent this, but it could be overcome. I did not feel inclined to share this with Nobody. But I hadn't done anything to inspire such hatred. And I hadn't read hatred or anger in her thoughts at all.

"No. I know you're lying because I was in her head too. I could hear what she was thinking, and it doesn't line up with what you are telling me."
He shrugged. "Don't know what to tell you. That's what I saw." His aura became tinged with annoyance. I stood there a moment and watched his aura, made it obvious that I could see every emotion playing across his mind, even all that doubt he didn't want anyone to know he had. Annoyance grew to anger. He tried to put something in my face, block my line of sight. I stepped back and smirked at him, and walked out of the room humming 'Que Sera Sera', the song Rebecca had been singing in her sleep as I left. I glanced back to see his aura flare with intense colors of rage and fear, and felt like the conversation hadn't been a complete waste of my time.

I forcibly ignored the tiny voice that nagged in the back of my thoughts that maybe my ghoul really did resent me. I was nearly positive that I was right, and he had been lying to me. His aura was pretty easy to read. Over all it didn't matter as long as she remained loyal. At least, that's what I told myself as I went to bed for the day. Fucking faery..

October 16, 2009

Meeting the Traveler, werewolves, and living dead

November 28th, 2009

When I got up everyone was, of course, already awake.

I lingered in the doorway for a moment, watching them all, before calling any attention to myself. "I'm going to find Joseph. Any takers?"

Everyone but Gio agreed immediately. He whined for a few minutes about roaming through sewers with a gimp leg. We told him to stop being a pussy. That settled that.

Nobody grabbed his night vision goggles.
"Do you have flashlights, Gio?" Nadi was looking over his shoulder as he rummaged through the lab.
"Doesn't look like it. Have these though!" He straighten and pulled two positively ancient looking torches from a cabinet.
I made a disgruntled noise in my throat. "Torches. Of course."
Gio just smirked at me. It wouldn't surprise me if he really did have flashlights, and pulled those out just to get me back for calling him a pussy. Fucker.

I unlatched the steel door and it swung slowly open, groaning on its hinges.
"I'll take point."

We stepped into the dark and dank sewer tunnels and Gio lit a torch. I was prepared not to flinch, but it didn't burn. It glowed, like a gas Coleman lantern, constant, unflickering, and very far reaching.
"Well holy fuck. That's a nice surprise." I said once I recovered.
Gio laughed at me.
I let my pupils widen until my eyes were completely black. Gio's torch cast a lot of light, but I could see further with my sight active. I just had to remember not to turn around with it up or risk being blinded.

We really had no idea where we were going. Nadi said she could work up something to keep us from getting lost. Strings of fate and all that. We wandered the tunnels for roughly an hour before anything out of the ordinary happened. Then, the smell hit me hard and I stopped walking. Becca nearly ran into me. It was coppery, sweet, and fucking intoxicating.

"I smell blood. Fresh." My voice had a rough edge to it.

Gio sounded perplexed. "That's weird, because I smell Italian food. Like..my grandma's Italian food."
Nadi quietly mentioned something about old library books and white wine. Rebecca and Nobody piped up with other completely different smells.

"Okay then, weird shit, this direction." I muttered and began walking again. We turned down the tunnel that the smells were the strongest in.

We walked for about 15 more minutes, the smells becoming increasingly stronger, when Nadi came to a sudden stop.

"Uh, guys?"

We stopped, I fought the urge to glance behind me and get blinded. "Whats wrong?"

"The floor.. its not concrete anymore.. and I think there is something buried here. Anyone have anything to dig with?"

I looked down. Sure enough, the floor was hard pressed dirt, not concrete.

I heard Nadi kneel down and start digging, I think Rebecca handed her the tire iron.

"There are bones here and.. huh.." Nadi sounded surprised.

"What?" I asked, unable tot urn around to look.

"It's a... bone flute. I don't know if the bone is human or not though..."

"Pass it up." I held out my hand.

Becca handed it to me to examine. It was slightly yellowed, and caked in dirt, but overall in good condition. There were holes whittled in the top, and even a carved out mouthpiece in one end. And it was definitely human.

"Looks like a human femur..."

Everyone waited expectantly, they knew what I was about to do. I held the flute with both hands and focused my thoughts. Using Auspex like this got easier each time I did it. However, that didn't mean that I wasn't about to get a psychic kick in the head from whatever this thing was about to show me. Seemed like I never got to use this on mundane items.. no, just the shit that makes me bleed out the eyeballs.

I was suddenly in a dark room. I was chained. And it reeked. I was looking out through someone else's eyes. The room was made of rough hewn stone. It was dank, dark, and cold. I looked down at the chains on my wrists, my hands were dirty and the nails were jagged and long. There was a heavy wooden door with a small barred window. I heard people crying, screaming, laughing, babbling incoherently... and singing. The singing was coming closer.

I heard a grunt, and a thud, and a face appeared at the window, peering down at me. Joseph Traveler. He was covered in fresh blood. He was talking to me as he opened the door.
"That is how we will tell them. That is how we will make them see."
He crouched down to my level. "Music. That is how we will do it. What is your name?"
My throat was dry, my lips cracked and caked with dried blood. I had not spoken in a long time. It felt unfamiliar and alien. I forced the air out of my mouth. It took several tries before I could use it to form words. "P...Polesky."

He held a large iron ring with many keys. He reached over and unlocked my chains.
"We will have to make you an instrument." He turned and walked out. I followed, pausing at the doorway. The guard was laying against the wall, blood coursing from the gaping wound in his throat, pulsing out in tune to his heartbeat. His breathing was shallow and his eyes darted frantically. His leg was twisted at an odd angle. I reached down and wrapped my hands around the limb and pulled, harder and harder, ignoring his fading whimpers. I felt it slide towards me. The guards eyes went glassy and blank.

I stared down at the old bone flute. I handed it back to Rebecca. "Can you play this?"
"N..Not really, I mean, I can get a sound out of it, but I usually stuck to strings..."
"Better than most of us would be able to do. Give it a shot." I tried to make my voice encouraging, like I wasn't asking her to put her mouth on someones femur.

She took the flute from me. I felt her hesitate before putting her lips to the mouthpiece. I'm sure playing a flute made from a human bone was disconcerting, but she'd get over it.

She must have been being modest, because when she started playing, it was beautiful. The flute made gorgeous music. In seconds we were enthralled with its tunes. The music brought back memories of one of the most trying times in my life, shortly after my embrace.

I remembered being on the edge and about to snap. My combat training consisted of Mona beating the shit out of me every night, without fail. Giuseppe denied me blood to train me in the Coils, asking me what seemed like pointless and impossible riddles that I could never answer.. night after night after night. It was weeks of physically, mentally and emotionally draining routine and I felt like I was on the verge of mass homicide, when one night Giuseppe was firing questions at me and I snapped at him, throwing an answer in his face... and instead of shooting me down, or following it with another, MORE impossible question, he paused and nodded. "Good."
And the feeling of utter relief and accomplishment was completely overwhelming. Had I still be living I'm pretty sure I would have balled my eyes out in sheer release.

That was how the music made me feel. It was intense emotion. I don't know how long I stood there, completely lost in the music.

I only came back to my senses when the music stopped. Gio was watching us intently and Joseph Traveler had the flute in his hand and was lowering an unconscious Rebecca to the ground. I cursed internally and prayed she wasn't going to be all crazy now too.

Apparently Gio had been the only one not overwhelmed by the music. He'd continued on without us.. like a dipshit... and had found Joseph playing a piano accompaniment to the flute. They had returned to save us. Apparently, if Becca had been allowed to continue, would've played till we all died and she starved to death. Creepy.

Joseph was definitely a little off, but not how I thought he would be. Rather than being perceivable crazy, he was more... extremely vague and figurative. Nadi had a difficult time talking to him, being such a literally minded person.

He told us the flute was made to make people remember. That struck home with me. It reminded me about what Sundown had said about encoding memories in blood. We questioned him about the glass harmonium, but he didn't have any information about it he was willing to share. The only instruments he took care of were the flute, and the piano.

We tried to ask him about the one who created him, but he just spoke about someone who had no name.. because the person had eaten it... he was the Eater of Words... which sounded like a name to me, but apparently not. It wasn't very clear to me.

I wasn't very hospitable to him. He either didn't notice, or he didn't care. We asked him what he had done to us, why he'd infected us, and he told us it wasn't madness. Maxwell just misunderstood it. He had given us what we needed to face what was coming. He had given us change.

Like I said. Vague.

He insisted that he'd given us change to help when 'he' returned. He was messing with things 'he' shouldn't be.. we would need help defeating 'him'. From what we could tell, the 'he' was Stone, but Joseph never actually said Stone's name.

We walked away without many questions answered. I was frustrated. I carried Rebecca back. I was concerned, but her aura seemed normal. I put her in her bed once we arrived.

After I put Becca down I noticed my phone was flashing. Voicemail from Tommy, telling me to call him back when everyone was there. I told everyone to meet me in the internet room, and I dialed Tommy and set him on speaker phone.

"Tommy. Whats up?"
"Hey Harper, is everyone else there?"
"Yeah, you're on speaker. Whats so important?"
"We think Stone is trying to do a repeat of Chicago down here in Mexico." Tommy said slowly.
We stared at the phone in silence.
"You guys there?"
"Yeah, we're here. What the hell makes you think that?" I asked.
"Talked to some locals, apparently Stone has been buying up Aztec blood, usually used for rituals..." he hesitated. "Seems like he's already completed one ritual..."
"What ritual?" I asked suspiciously.
"You remember the temple you fought on in Mexico?"
I rolled my eyes. "No, not at all, its not like I died up there or anything significant like that."
Tommy ignored the sarcasm and continued. "There was a ritual set up on the temple top. One that could only have been completed with a large human sacrifice..."
"You have GOT to be fucking with me." I gawked at the phone.
"'Fraid not."
"That goddamn sonofaBITCH." I yelled and slammed my hand on the table, making the phone jump. I was seething. The others looked concerned, but not all that upset. Of course, they hadn't been there. None of them had contributed to the dozens of brainwashed teenager deaths that Tommy was referring too. None of them had drank any of those kids dry in the initial hunger frenzy following the embrace. "I'm really get tired of being used for these fuckers' games." I said in a voice that was more growl.
"Mmmhmm." Tommy agreed.
I rubbed my eyes and tried to calm down, stay focused. "You find out anything else? Have you seen the Nahuali?"
"Not yet. But I thought maybe you should know. The only other piece of information that I think you should know is that the god he seems to be after this time is Tezcatlipoca," He said it slowly to avoid tripping over the unfamiliar word. "the god of death, night, jaguars, ect. ect..."
I frowned. "God of night?" I looked at everyone else. From their expressions it seemed like they had come to the same conclusion I had. "Is anyone else detecting a pattern here?"
Gio shook his head in amazement. "He's trying to defeat the sun..."
"Do you need us down there?" I hoped he'd say no. We still had things to do.
"No, We're good for now. We're headed out to Mexico City tonight."
"Okay. Stay in touch, let us know if you need us down there."
"Will do. Adios."

He hung up.
I frowned, leaning back against the wall. "So how many times do you think he can do this? Is he just going to keep doing it until the one time we can't stop him?"
Gio shrugged. "Maybe. We need to get ahead of him."
Nobody spoke up for the first time. "That's hard to do when we can't find him."

Stone had been a thorn in our side for over a year in one way or another. I wondered if Giuseppe was having anymore luck than we were on the issue. He seemed to be in the loop on what was going on, or at least faked it really well...

I went to check on Becca again. Nadi said something about looking over the folios from the mage's house. Nobody wandered off to do whatever it is he did in his spare time. Gio mentioned wanting to go out later and track down the guy Maury had told them about, the homeless guy with the sign. Everyone agreed to go once showers had been had. Everyone smelled like sewer.

I showered and threw in some black hair dye. I wasn't going to be left out this time, but I wasn't going to go out without at least trying to disguise myself a bit. When I finished, I went to collect Nadi. She had a habit of losing track of time when she was researching something.

When I walked into the study, Nadi was staring off into space with the three folios spread out in front of her. her hands were open over two of them, hovering just above the pages. She wasn't responsive. I frowned and concentrated on her aura. Colors flashed across it, mostly fear, and it was curling up from the folios... as I watched, the color began to stretch out from her, slowly coming towards me. Very weird. I just watched, letting her aura snake towards me. It wrapped itself around me, gliding across my wrists, down my arms.. When it touched me I felt compelled to move closer to Nadi. It was weird, creepy, and seemed like a bad idea. But I was curious. This was something new and interesting.

When I took a step forward, the aura yanked me from my feet. My body started a slow crawl towards Nadi. I realized at once I wasn't in control of my limbs anymore. That was enough to make me abort my brilliant plan. But I didn't know how to do so. The only thing I could think of was to shut off my visual.

I was a little surprised when that actually worked. As soon as I couldn't see it anymore, the pulling sensation ceased. I guess there is something too hiding from the monster under the covers sometimes. I walked over and stood behind Nadi. I shook her. Nothing. I checked her pulse... it was normal. She seemed fine, except for being completely unresponsive. I touched the folio under her right hand. Nothing. I started to slide the folio out from under her fingers. As I did so, lightening arched out from her immobile fingertips and zapped me, dancing across my hand and all the way up my forearm.

I cursed and jumped back, cradling my arm. The flesh was blackened and peeling up from the muscle in a jagged pattern all the way up to my elbow. The stench was awful. Nadi still hadn't stirred. I'd never seen Nadi do anything like that before. As far as I knew her powers were Death and Fate related. Good Lord.

I exhaled slowly. I had one more option, but I didn't want to do it without someone else there. I could hear the shower still running in Gio's room, so I went and knocked on Nobody's door.

"What the hell is that smell?" He opened the door and grimaced. I held up my arm. The skin was slowly knitting itself back together and the scorch marks were fading, but it still looked terrible. "Nadi is zoned out over those folios. She shot lightning at me when I tried to move one of them."
"I didn't think Nadi could do that."
"Me either. I need to see whats going on in her head."
"Fuck that, I'm not jumping in there."
I frowned at him, my voice dripping with sarcasm. "You're so chivalrous. Don't worry. I'm going to do it. However, I'd rather not do it without someone there in case I get attacked."

We went back into the sitting room. Nothing had changed. I stood a few feet away from Nadi and concentrated, reaching into her mind, scanning her surface thoughts. I had a bad feeling about this.. but I was doing it anyway. That probably says something negative about my metal health.

Suddenly, I was standing in the middle of a large battlefield. I looked around the valley and saw two armies on either side of the field. One was vast and darkened the side of the valley, the other was sparse but seemed confident and better equipped. All where dressed in armor that hadn't been used in centuries. They reminded me of Vikings.

Atop one hill, a woman came out of her tent. She looked a bit like Nadi, only harsher and more weathered. Perhaps older, but it was hard to tell.

She looked at me and spoke. "You do not belong here." She raised a hand, and the small army charged. A larger part of the vast army charged to meet them, and I was caught in the middle. When they collided, everything went black.

Thankfully, I was only out for about an hour. When I came to, I was lying on the floor of the sitting room. My face was, once again, a mask of blood. Nobody had been a real help. Fucker didn't even catch me when I collapsed...

Nick was sitting in a chair across from Nadi, watching her intently. Nobody and Gio stood in the doorway. Gio tossed me a damp towel and I started to mop the blood off my face. "Is she okay?" I muttered through the wet cloth.

Nick responded without looking at me. "She's fine. She's learning..something. I don't know what, exactly. I'm going to stay here until I can be sure she's alright."
I nodded.
Nobody chimed in, "What is she learning?"
Nick seemed slightly annoyed. "Look, I don't mean to sound condescending, but it's not something that I can explain in a way you can understand."
But Nobody was persistent. Or stupid. Take your pick. "Yeah, mage stuff, but can you at least explain the gist of it?"
Now Nick seemed very annoyed. He turned stared at Nobody. "Look. I don't mean to be condescending.. but this is not something you will be able to understand."
Nobody started to protest again but I interrupted. "We'll leave you to it. Let us know if you need anything." And Gio and I left the room. Nobody got the hint and followed us out.

I stopped into the bathroom to wash the rest of the blood off my face.

"So are we going to find this homeless guy or what?"
Gio looked at me, started to say something, paused, looked over his shoulder at the room Nadi was in and considered it. I waited with my arms crossed for him to realize he needed my help, especially since Nadi was indisposed, and that he wouldn't be able to talk me out of going anyway. Finally, he nodded.
"Yup. Lets go. This might take awhile."

We went down and began canvasing the streets near the river. We wanted to be more efficient, but didn't really know how to go about it. We were walking the streets for a couple hours when Giovanni spotted someone he knew. He crossed the road and started talking with the guy. It took me a moment to realize that it was Deuce Carter. I took the fact that I wasn't fending off attacks as a good sign. I didn't know what they were saying, but at the end of the conversation Deuce nodded in my direction and handed Gio his baseball cap.

Gio limped back over and tossed me the hat. "Deuce said you're hair is obvious. Hide it so you don't stick out so much."
I twisted my hair up and hid it under the hat, pulling the bill down over my eyes. I looked over at Deuce and nodded to him. He returned the gesture.

It was nice to know I still had some allies in the kindred community up top. Or at least vampires that wouldn't try to kill me on sight.
"What did he say?"
"He said there is a guy that sounds close to who we are looking for. Said he can't get close to the guy, that you may not be able too either, but he doesn't know why. This way."

We took off down the street. We'd walked about half a mile when we noticed a few people acting suspicious. Three people were half dragging their drunk friend down the street. A man with paler skin than mine, and white hair, a woman, and a guy with so many piercings he looked like he'd had a fight with a tackle box and lost.

It was normal enough in that area of town.. but something about the way they were looking around tipped me off. I paused and watched them, pretending to be talking with Gio and Nobody. They're movements were nervous. Eyes darting back and forth, body language tense. The person they were dragging wasn't drunk, but completely unconscious, nose bloodied. Reading their auras gave me the final clue.. werewolves. They ducked into an alleyway.

We exchanged looks.
Gio disagreed before anyone even said it. "It's not our problem."
Nobody, obviously, disagreed. "No, but there's a slim chance that person they were dragging is the one we're looking for. Besides, I'm curious."
I frowned. "But they're fucking werewolves. And we don't know the situation. That might not be some innocent victim...I'd rather not get into a fight we aren't going to win."
"And if its our guy?" Nobody objected.
I frowned. "Nobody, play fly on the wall? No harm in measuring the situation. Just don't let them see you."
He grinned and nodded, "You act like I wasn't going to do that anyway." Smart ass.
Gio just shook his head.

He walked about a block up and crossing the street. He went down another alley, and if you looked hard, you could see him scale up the wall, across the roof, and start down the wall of the alley the werewolves were in. We could see the pale skinned man near the mouth of the alleyway, presumably keeping watch.

Gio and I stayed put and pretended to be loitering innocently. We tried not to stare down the alleyway. We waited for Nobody to come back. Instead, we both got a text at the same time.

'RUN!!!!! Really pissed off doggy! I'm OK'

That same moment we heard a familiar and blood chilling sound, the roar of a rampaging werewolf.

"Shit!" We said in unison.
"We can't leave him there." I said, eyes trained on the alley, waiting for the wolf to appear.
"Fucking of course not. Goddamn it Nobody, what the fuck did you do?" Gio cursed.

We expected to see the werewolf tear ass out of the alley, instead, we heard sounds of a scuffle as we were crossing the street, and I picked up the faint sound of ripping flesh. We stepped into a shadowed alcove as the pale skinned man walked out of the alley supporting a "drunk" friend, still slightly furry. This time it was the pierced up guy. He was shrinking rapidly, but no one else was around to notice. The pale guy hid it well, but we caught a glimpse of his friend's face. His jaw had been ripped clean off. I smelled blood. There was no more sounds of fighting. What the fuck happened?

We waited for the guy to get about a block away before we slipped into the mouth of the alleyway. The woman was crouched over the unconscious form and I could barely make out the figure of Nobody on the wall to her right, about 15 feet up. She wasn't in her war form, but she looked bigger. Gio and I decided to play concerned couple.

"Hello? Is everything okay?" Gio started down the alley.
The woman paused. We could tell her hand was still on the unconscious body, but she wasn't going to murder someone with witnesses.
"Everything is fine. My friend is just drunk."
I followed after Gio. "We heard fighting, are you sure everything is okay?"
We were walking closer to her, now about half way down the alley.

Nobody decided right then would be a great time to get into a fight with the fucking monster. He launched himself at the woman, I saw the glint of silver in his hand just before the knife bit into her shoulder and he used his momentum to drag the blade down through her body.

Her reaction was immediate. Before he even landed his blow her hands had grown wicked claws. She used the same momentum to tear furrows across his chest and stomach. He hit the ground hard, and didn't get back up. She was pretty fucked up herself, and would have finished the job had we not stepped in. Fucking Nobody...

As soon as Nobody had struck Gio had shifted. He was taller, more commanding, and stood without help from the cane. He also had large black wings, but they were mostly concealed by his coat. He slid his shotgun from his coat and fired into her back all in one smooth motion. My two shots landed right after his.

Her body jerked at the impact, and when she turned to face us we could tell she was panicked. I was slightly surprised at that, but the wound down her front was gaping and jagged, pouring blood at a pretty steady rate. She wasn't healing it quickly like they did most wounds. She melted into the form of a wolf. Gio took aim again, and I switched from my gun to my combat knife. I'd learned from experience that guns were mostly ineffective against most supernaturals. I had to get up close and personal to do any real damage.

Right as Gio was about to pull the trigger a white blur came out of nowhere and knocked him off balance. He didn't fall, but his shot went wild. The other werewolf had come back. We could finally tell why he was so pale... he was albino. His wolf form was covered in snow white fur, and his eyes were pink. The woman took that opportunity to blow past us both, going at a all out run to the mouth of the alleyway. The albino and Gio began to circle each other.

I hadn't wanted to get into this fight for two reasons. One, we had no idea what was going on. For all we knew that person they were harassing deserved it. Two, werewolves are fucking dangerous.

But these two were just trying to get away. For a brief moment I considered letting them go, avoiding taking any life tonight, but it was a short lived consideration. If we let them go, they would come back with friends later. And the last thing we needed was a bunch of pissed off werewolves looking for us.

I burned the blood and took off after her. She was fast, but I was faster. I caught her before she made it to the mouth of the alley and shoved my blade into one of her kidneys (I think.. I'm not as familiar with wolf anatomy as I am human anatomy). She was already badly injured. My hit put her over the edge. She collapsed into unconsciousness. A glance told me Gio had locked eyes with the albino, and neither of them were moving. I turned back and raised my knife, about to bury it in the back of the unconscious werewolf's skull when I suddenly found myself frozen, unable to move, with a hand on my shoulder.

I looked behind me, and there was a homeless man.

"You do not want to do that, miss."

I slowly lowered the knife, and he turned towards Giovanni, who was still staring down the other wolf.

"You take yours and I'll take mine." Gio's voice was deeper than normal as he spoke to the white wolf. Gio and the wolf started to circle each other again until the wolf's back was to me, to the entrance to the alleyway. Once Gio wasn't standing between him and the exit, he bolted, taking his unconscious companion with him as he went. I let them go. The homeless man made sure of that.

Once they were gone, I sprinted to the end of the alleyway, where Nobody lay unconscious and bleeding profusely. I started using his shirt and anything else I could find to do some quick patch and fix work. I had a small kit with me, not the monstrous one I usually carry, but enough to keep him from bleeding out. Gio looked between me and the homeless man that was watching us.

Nobody's eyes fluttered open and he groaned.
"Nobody. can you hear me? You okay?"
"Ugh..yeah.. I'll live. I think."

And I slapped him across the face. "What the FUCK do you think you're doing?! Werewolves? I had half a mind to let her fucking gut you!"

"Had to save the girl... beating up on her."
Funny, I'd never really thought of Nobody as a humanitarian. Its not unheard of that he'd have a gracious side, but I found it highly suspect. But then, I'm paranoid, and I don't particularly like the fucker.
Gio piped in. "Yeah yeah..noble cause and all that shit. Not really buyin' it you crazy asshole."
Nobody started to protest as he did some of his own changeling magic and made the wound shrink a little, but he caught sight of the homeless man and the words got lodged in this throat. His eyes widened to a look of complete and utter shock and he started shaking. I looked over, but the man just stood there, watching us. I chalked it up the possibility of hemorrhagic shock, but with changelings, who knew.

I told Gio where to apply pressure and went over to the unconscious form. It was a young woman, and they had done a number on her. I did what I could, but most of the damage was blunt force trauma. She probably had a few facial fractures, and I could only do so much for that in an alleyway. I did manage to get her conscious.

"Hey! Whats your name?"
"K....Karin..." Then she muttered something in a language I didn't recognize, but sounded Russian or something, and fell unconscious again. She was probably going to be okay, I didn't see any evidence of bruising indicative of internal bleeding.. it looked like they focused mainly on the poor girls face.

We all stood to face the homeless man. We kinda figured he was the one we'd been looking for. He regarded us all with a stony expression. "Think about what you have done. When you have finished, you can find me by the riverbank."

As he turned and walked away we were all overwhelmed with a sickening sense of guilt. It was so powerful it was literally staggering. I leaned again the wall and held my head in my hands as the memories of all the bad things I had done in my life and death ran through my mind. The sense of guilt, regret, and shame was immense. Lives I had taken, even in self defense, injustices I had committed, even inconsiderate actions (of which there was a metric shit ton) all hit me between the eyes like a sledgehammer.

I think we all stood there like this for a good 15 minutes before we could move again. Nobody and Gio seemed even more floored than I was by the entire experience. Mainly indicated by the fact that they were both actually floored. They had to pick themselves up off the asphalt.
I inhaled and exhaled slowly.

"Everyone okay?" I asked.
"....more or less." Nobody grunted.
"Yeah, lets go get this over with..." Gio replied.

We walked out of the alley and headed for the river. I carried Karin with us.

He was washing his hands in the water when we walked up. His aura was odd. He was a vampire, yet his aura looked MORE saturated than a normal human's, instead of pale. It also looked almost gilded around the edges. Like no aura I'd ever seen, especially on a kindred.

He looked at us expectantly. "What problem do you have with the Pure? Why did you attack them?"
"They were beating up on this woman.. and..to be honest.. we were looking for you, and thought it might be you. So we intervened."
He turned and regarded Nobody, seemingly ignoring Giovanni's explanation.
"Why did you save her."
"She was getting the piss beat out of her. It reminded me of my old life... before coming through the hedge. I couldn't just sit there and watch. I would've just grabbed her and ran, but I didn't think I could do it and not get noticed, then attacked. So I attacked first. I had too."
The man didn't look surprised. If anything, it was like he already knew what Nobody was going to say. He gave Nobody a nod of approval, then he turned his attention to Giovanni.

"And why are you seeking me."
We let Giovanni take care of this one.
"I am looking for the blood of the living dead, and someone pointed us in your direction..."
He narrowed his eyes and regarded Gio with more than a little suspicion. "And how were you planning on obtaining this blood once you found me?"
"Well... I was planning on asking you for it."
The man considered Giovanni a moment before taking out a knife. "Do you have a container?"

Well that was easy..

Gio produced one from his coat and handed it over. The man placed the blade against his palm and met Gio's eyes solemnly. "If you use this as Al-Makkour did, to protect those who cannot protect themselves.. we will have no issue. However, if you ever use this blood for evil pursuits, be assured, I will find you, and I will take it back, and you will be punished."
Gio nodded. "I understand."
The man slit open his palm and his blood flowed into the container. I averted my eyes. I needed to feed.
He looked at each one of us in turn as the wound knit closed.
"You know where to find me. Come by again."

I had had millions of questions to ask him, but at that point, I couldn't form any of the words. I had just stared at his aura, trying to make sense of it. I made a mental note to find him again later, once I actually had my wits about me. We made our way back to the car. It was a long walk. Nobody could move on his own at this point.. but it was pained. His wound was more manageable now though. Faery voodoo. I carried Karin.

"So what the fuck happened Nobody? What was with the rampaging werewolf?" Gio asked as we walked.
"I don't know! He just went nuts and started screaming at the woman, then attacked her. She fought him and tore his face in fucking two."
"What set him off?" Gio prodded.
"No idea! He just flew off the handle! Started screaming at the woman, saying she was mouthing off, but she hadn't said a word."

I made a disbelieving noise in my throat "Right. You're up there and he just HAPPENED to go into a fucking frenzy. That I believe."
Gio nodded agreement.
Nobody put on his innocent face. He was better at it than me.
"What?! What could I have possibly done to set him off? You saw! They didn't even know I was there!"
"Like I fucking know? But I will not for one second believe you had nothing to do with it." I scowled at him.
Nobody continued to protest, and Gio and I continued to not believe him all the way back to the car. I don't know what happened, but I knew he had to have been involved. It wouldn't surprise me if he'd done something like thrown his voice. I'd never seen him do anything like that.. but that didn't mean he couldn't.

I laid Karin in the back seat of the car. "What do we do with her?" Nobody asked as he lowered himself slowly into the seat beside her.
Gio shrugged. "Did she say anything else besides her name?"
I shrugged. "Something in another language." I tried to repeat it as best I could.
Gio thought a moment. "Sounds like polish. 'mother...' I think, hard to tell since you're pronunciation sucks balls." \
I just rolled my eyes and let him talk. "But that gives us somewhere to start. We know a polish werewolf."
I perked up. "Holy shit, we do. To the library then."

We rolled up to the library and decided against leaving Karin in the car with a guard. The Pure probably wouldn't hear about this incident for a few more hours, but we didn't want to risk it.

I carried her inside. We walked into the newspaper archives that Volkas usually hung around. He looked haggard and exhausted. He looked up and nodded to us. I don't think he saw me behind the others, because Gio began to speak, and Volkas' nostrils flared as he scented her, and he nearly bowled over Gio and Nobody to get to the girl I was carrying.

"Where did you find her?!"
"Being beaten half to death by a pack of Pure." Gio answered.
Volkas took her gently from me. "Her family was attacked. Her mother... my sister.. was kin. Not full werewolf. They made her watch as they slaughtered them. She ran, but they must have caught up with her...I did not know where she went...I could not find her."
I was perplexed. I wasn't very familiar with werewolf culture. "What set them off? Why would they attack her and her family?"
"It is not uncommon for Pure to seek out Forsaken kin and murder them all. They do not wish to risk any of them changing... sometimes its not even that logical. It is just a way to hurt the Forsaken...to weaken us.. to lower our moral. That is why they hunt down our kin." Volkas explained.
"One's dead. The others got away..." Gio offered as a consolation.
He modded absently. He only seemed to be half listening to us. His focus was on his niece. But I knew he'd be good and pissed once he knew she was okay.
"Thank you. I will do what I can for her. She will change soon. I must go. Thank you..." His gratitude was so sincere and heartfelt that it made me slightly uncomfortable.

We let ourselves out. Gio texted Bella with more than a little trepidation as he headed to the car.

From: Giovanni
To: Bella

-So...we may have caused some problems...

From: Bella
To: Giovanni


I didn't know that text messages could carry that much rage. Holy shit.

From: Giovanni
To: Bella

-Attacked a pack of Pure, mostly unprovoked. One dead, two escaped.

Gio waited for a tense moment that felt like 4 hours and was really only about 45 seconds for her pissed off response. He was ready for all hell to break loose.

From: Bella
To: Giovanni

-Want a raise?

Gio breathed an intense sigh of relief.

Nobody grinned at us. "See? We saved Volkas' niece! It was a good thing I attacked!" Gio and I smacked him upside the head to the same time. (player note: NCIS style!) "You didn't know it was his niece you idiot. You could have gotten us killed."
Nobody was unrepentant. "I couldn't just let her get the shit beat out of her."
I scowled and got into the car. I wasn't really that pissed at Nobody, but he was an easy target. I don't think I could have let her die either, even not knowing the situation... but I'm sure there was a better way to go about what he did. That and it was just too weird to seriously consider the fact that Nobody might honestly have a caring and compassionate side.

There was only so much mind blowing shit I could allow myself process in one night. We headed home.javascript:void(0)