November 5, 2009

Meeting the Khaibit

December 1st, 2009

I woke up hungry. Before I left to find food, I stopped to talk to Rebecca. They had retrieved the car, gone to the restaurant, and met with the Bishop. Apparently Gio had found out Thomas Mattheson had been put on trial for assaulting a priest and causing the priest to lose an eye. He pleaded self defense. And won.

Knowing what we did about Mattheson, its a good bet that the priest was a member of the Mallaus Mallifcarum. She didn't know what his uncle had said. I decided to ask later. For now, I was fucking parched, and I needed to find food before I met with the Khaibit tonight.

I struck out into the tunnels. Looking for larger prey up top meant I only needed one animal, but for now, this was safer. I didn't have the time tonight to risk getting fucked with.

I found a couple rats... which was actually more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Not so much finding them.. but catching the little bastards. I was looking for more when I felt an itch between my shoulder blades.. like someone was watching me. I turned in a slow circle, but could see nothing. I shook it off and kept moving.

Around the curve of the tunnel I noticed the shadows were dense and inky against one wall. Unnaturally so. I tried to move them, but they resisted me. I was fresh out of patience, so I tried for the direct approach. I unsheathed my combat knife. "Can I help you?"

A tear opened and a familiar face stepped out. The khaibit that had helped Giuseppe become a hollow. She looked like she should be wearing ceremonial garb from ancient Egypt, instead of dark leather died cotton. I quickly put the knife away.

"Wise choice." And she motioned me into the bank of shadows. The tear closed behind us. I found myself in a small room constructed completely of shadows, complete with a table and two chairs. Sound was muffled. We sat across from each other.

"You have something that belongs to me. Do you have it with you?"
"No, but I can get it for you quickly."
She nodded. "And how is Icegalos?"
"As well as he can be, I imagine."
"And I take it he left as soon as his task was complete?"
I nodded.
"An interesting experiment, trying to make them into servants. One that's success is still to be determined. Icegalos is the only one who has survived this long. Now, I have come all this way, I might as well answer your questions since you are returning my property to me."
"I appreciate it.." And suddenly I didn't know what to say. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts. I started with the obvious. "How did you do this?" I gestured to the room we sat in.
"Darkness is a part of us. It dwells inside of us even as we battle against it. Learning to shape it comes with experience. We can create it, mold it, and even step through one shadow and out of another. Your sire is especially adept at it."
I nodded, I'd seen some of his talents. "How do you know Giuseppe?"
She gave me a 'I know something that you don't' grin. I hate those. "We met many years ago in Rome. The question is, how do YOU know him?"
"We met a few years ago in New Orleans."
"I did not ask where you met him, I asked how you know him."
I tilted my head thoughtfully and regarded her. "I'm trying to know him better."
She just watched me. That wasn't the right answer either apparently. I got the feeling it was a question she didn't completely expect an answer too.

"What exactly did you help Giuseppe do in the lake? He became a hollow.. but what does that mean?" Right now I was more focused on that information than information concerning the khaibit.
"He separated his soul from his body."
"What benefit does that hold?"
"He can travel to realms he could not before to hunt his prey. He can attack the darkness directly, not being bound to this realm by his Ka. It comes with downsides, but the gains are great."
I chewed on that for minute. I knew the downside. I'd run into it a few times already. "I haven't heard about this before Giuseppe did it... is it something that is exclusive to the khaibit?"
She shook her head. "No, it is something you will find among the Shadows.. but you will never find it among the underdwellers... nor among the kings.. nor the Succubi.."
So it was a Mehket trait... it made sense, especially since Mona had been hollow since her embrace, and wasn't khaibit yet.. as far as I knew.

"And his Ka.. it is it trying to kill him?"
"Either that, or it seeks to make his existence extremely difficult. More than likely the latter is correct."
"Is it possible to put the Ka back?"
"There is no way I have discovered." And she had had a wealth of opportunity to search for such a thing.
"How does it find him?"
"It always knows where he is."
"And he it?"
"No...I can only wish to know what problems mine is causing at this moment..."
"Will it move far from him?"
She gave me that grin again, she knew what I was getting at. "Not as far as one might think..." She tapped her fingers on the shadow table. It sounded solid, like it was made of wood, yet oddly muffled.
"You said it probably wasn't trying to kill him.. would it try to get others killed to make his life more difficult?"
"Oh most certainly."
"Fantastic..." I considered what else I wanted to know. "The ritual that Giuseppe used.. how is it done?"
She shook her head. "That I cannot tell you. Only those who go through it may know what occurs in the ritual."

I had no other questions I could think to ask her. I went quickly and retrieved the mirror for her, and she departed. I felt like I should have asked more, but its not uncommon that I find myself at a loss when actually faced with someone who has information that I want.

When I returned, Nadi was setting up her new laptop in the internet room and Rebecca was having a very animated conversation with Maury about music. I paused and listened for a moment. It made me smile slightly, they both seemed to be enjoying themselves. I made a mental note to have a talk with Becca later. What Nobody had said was still eating at me. As I walked by the lab Gio called out to me.

"Hey Harper! Come help me a second."
I walked into the lab. He was holding a yellow funnel and a length of rubber hose. The homunculus stood there, staring straight ahead. He had finished the eyes, and they were rather impressive. The eyeballs were made from the gold coins, and from what I could tell he had ground up some precious stone, maybe rubies, and used the powder to form the iris. The eyes were beautiful.

It looked like a large house cat. It was black, paws fading to a subtle red, and if you looked closely, you could see the toes were elongated. The tail looked like it could be prehensile, but it was hard to tell.

"What do you need?"
"I need to put this," he pointed to the container of blood on the workbench,"in there."
I nodded and began to walk him through what areas would need more blood, how to get it in, and anything else I could think of. "I'm not so much used to putting blood back into things anymore."
"Learn something new everyday."

It took about 45 minutes to get all the blood into the correct areas of the body. As we were going, we noticed that areas where sticking had been were now healed over. "Okay.. that's fucking creepy. There werewolf skin is healing itself."
Gio agreed. Once we finished, Gio left to go nap. I went to the internet room to make a phone call.

As I walked in, Nobody shuffled in behind me. "Anyone seen my spear?"
Nadi and I pointed at the glowing sword in the wall.
"Oh. shit. Think that has anything to do with my dream?"
Nobody reached out to touch it and hesitated. "Is it okay to touch it?"
Nadi shrugged. "I'm not sure. There are strands of fate coming off it and heading out in every direction. I think we should ask Sansome if it's part of the binding before we do anything."
I shook my head. "Ill leave that to one of you guys whose throat he's not waiting for a reason to rip out."
"Aw fuck it. I guess I can't let Harper be the only one who goes around stupidly touching shit." I rolled my eyes at him. I didn't feel the need to point out that not even I had tried to Spirit Touch this damn thing.
We watched as his hand hesitated over the hilt for a moment before he went for it. He yanked, and pulled and forced, and..nothing. His face was ashen when he finished. Too much effort for the number of wounds he still had. Once he touched it and nothing bad happened, Nadi started inspecting it more closely, running her hand over the hilt like she had been waiting for an excuse to be able to get closer. She pulled too. Nothing.

"Harper, think you can pull it out?"
I shrugged. Probably not. But I tried anyway. It didn't budge.
"No luck."
"Well fuck. I'm going back to bed." and he walked out of the room.

Nadi went back to setting up the computer as I pulled out my phone and made a call. This was one of the few people I actually got nervous calling. I always had to pick and choose my words so fucking carefully. It drove me fucking nuts.

When the call connected I could hear Norris walking, the sound of people talking abruptly cut off by a closing door.
"You must have a damn good reason to be calling me at this number."
I bit back the smartass remark. Norris was one of the few of the cities higher ups who I was pretty sure didn't want my head on a platter. It would not be wise to antagonize him. Besides, the fact that he even picked up the phone was a good sign.

"I'm looking for information about my new apparent condition, and you're the only person with contact with Joseph Traveler that I know of, that I haven't spoken too."
"Do you know you even have a condition?"
"I've been told I do..."
"And you believe everything you're told?"
"Of course not. But it's in the realm of possibilities, so I'm looking into it just like I would any other possibility."
"If we were having this conversation, and of course, officially, we are not, I would tell you that it would be in your best interest to ignore the paranoid ramblings of the man who is convinced of this ridiculous condition. I know I do. As for Joseph Traveler, what do you think my connection with him is?"
"I'm not entirely sure, but I know that you acted as his defense, entering in the insanity plea, which, as a District attorney, is rather unusual."
"It is indeed unusual, but it was an unusual case. The duties of a District Attorney are varied and far reaching. This includes, occasionally, acting as defense."
He wasn't giving me information really, but he hadn't hung up on me yet either. I frowned and started pacing the room with the phone. Nadi looked up at me every once and awhile. "Besides the bodies being put through textile machines, what else was so unusual about this case?"
"The eyewitness reports varied dramatically."
"More dramatically than the usual unreliable eyewitness reports?"

I'd learned from first hand experience that eye witness reports were pretty unreliable. People added details that weren't there, forgot important clues, and sometimes outright lied. Sometimes it was on purpose, sometimes it was shock. It took me hours of going over Driscoll's death before I was able to remember some of the important details, and even then, my report didn't match up with a few of the others.

"If the witnesses had been the usual unreliable ones, yes. However, those questioned were known as upstanding members in certain communities."
"Which communities?"
"The less public ones."
I nodded to myself.
"The original defense attorney disappeared... mysteriously. I took the case after that when no other defense would."
"Why was that?"
"Whether or not the lawyers disappearance was Joseph Traveler's fault is irrelevant. There was a taboo surrounding him now that the other lawyer were afraid to become involved with."
"And you weren't afraid?"
"Quite the opposite. I had an axe to grind."
There was a pause. I was realizing that he was trying to give me information while still covering his own ass. If anyone asked, ie- Prince Maxwell, he could truthfully say he was merely discussing an old case with an interested party. The game was dangerous. I don't know why he was willing to take the risk for me, it could be because he didn't agree with Maxwell's decision, because I was Ordo, or because he owed something to Traveler, or someone else. Either way, I was grateful. Even if the conversation did make my brain throb.

"Did you know that I play the piano?"
I paused for a moment, slightly thrown by the abrupt shift in conversation.. then smirked to myself.
"I didn't."
"Oh yes. I was classically trained. However, it becomes very difficult to play without full use of the left hand."
Ah. The same mobsters that kidnapped him had attacked Joseph.
"I can imagine. How was it you were able to play again?"
"Time heals many wounds."
"And how did you not lose your entire arm?"
"There were... interested parties that wanted to hear me play again." That I already knew. I just didn't know who it was that saved him. I had a few ideas, but I couldn't think of a way to get it out of him safely, so I moved on.

"How was it that Traveler was able to defend himself against 6 attackers?"
"He had help... in that he was able to work himself up into quite a rage." I hesitated and took a moment to digest that. I knew from the time line that Traveler couldn't have been a vampire at that point. The attack occurred during the day, and he showed up to court cases. I realized the important part of that sentence was the words before the pregnant pause.
"Do you believe he was insane?"
His voice took on a subtly rebuking tone. "The evidence suggests that he was not completely clear of thought." That's what I get for asking an opinion question from a lawyer.
"Was it ever evident that he was able to use this.. lack of clarity for his own benefit."
"If anyone could do it, Traveler could."
I guess my only other option was to talk to Joseph again. Norris didn't seem to believe this malkavia existed at all, but there were still differences in our auras, so something had changed. I wanted to know how I could utilize it, if it was possible.

I couldn't think of anything else to ask Norris, so I ended the conversation.
"I appreciate you discussing this case with me."
"Certainly. I hope it will lend to your further study."
"It will. Have a pleasant evening."

I put the phone away and rubbed my eyes. I took a deep breath in then exhaled in a frustrated growl. Nadi raised one eyebrow at me. "What? I really do hate the double talk shit. I'm grateful, but fuck me, its like pulling teeth from a sleeping mountain lion."

I left her to her computer set up. I'd offer to help, but I had a feeling she wouldn't want me near her computer quite yet. I could always use my own when I needed to. Maury and Rebecca were still talking as I went to my room. I think Becca was trying to convince him of the merit of modern music. Specifically, Cannibal Corpse at the moment.

I wanted to talk with Nobody and Gio, but I wanted to give them time to rest, as well as give myself time to focus. I spent the next 3 hours in my room, meditating and going over Japanese lessons.

I woke Gio and Nobody up once they'd had some time to sleep. They were grumpy. I didn't really care.
"What do you want Harper." Gio's voice was more of a growl.
"I need advice on this whole Scratch thing."
"Well, the first rule is, don't get caught. The second rule is, if you do get caught, have a fall guy."
I waved my hand impatiently. "That's the whole point. I'm trying to figure out a way to set it up. If someone starts sniffing around, I want the trail to lead away from me. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything, so I thought I'd ask you nefarious mother fuckers."
Gio shrugged. "That's easy. Get Rowan's help. She hates him right? She needs you around. I'm sure she'd love to have him take the fall."
I grimaced. "Yeah, but what if she reacts negatively to the idea? Could screw up the whole thing."
"Well what do you know about the guy?"
"He's a Nosferatu, a member of the order, he's sneaky, and no one likes him. That's the extent of my knowledge."
Gio thought for a moment, tapping a finger against his lips. "You know who does know more about Scratch? Sundown."
I gave him a questioning look. "How do you figure?"
"He has Scratch's journal."
"How do you know?"
"Because I was with Jaleel when he came to get it from Maury. It's the whole reason that Jaleel was in Chicago. Sundown sent him to get it. Sundown likes you. Why don't you call him?"
I considered that. Sundown might be willing to give me the info. I might owe him another favor though..
"Think Maury kept a copy?"
Gio laughed. "Maury doesn't seem the type to ever lose a piece of information like that." I nodded, turning to Nobody.

"It has come to my attention that my skills in hiding myself are lacking."
"And my medical skills are also lacking."
"Trade you."

With that, I walked out of the room. Maury and Rebecca were STILL going at it. I walked up to them and cleared my throat softly. "Excuse me."

"Whats up Boss?"
"Yes Miss O'Shea?"
"I was wondering if you retained a copy of Scratch's journal...?"
He looked at me very seriously. "Keeping such a copy would be a direct violation of the trust that Sundown put in me to keep that journal. Do you understand."
I nodded. "Yes, Thank you." I guess I would have to call Sundown. Then Maury reached over to a bookcase and pulled a slim journal from a compartment and handed it to me.
"If Sundown were to find out about this, he would be... extremely... upset. And so would I."
"I understand." and I did. It was a subtle threat, and one I didn't plan on having to deal with. Since the moment I stepped foot down here I had made it a goal to do everything in my power to NOT offend Maxwell Maury. I was amazed nightly at the lengths he had gone to help us. I still didn't really know why. But I was grateful as hell.

I left and they resumed their conversation. I locked myself in my room for the rest of the night, pouring over the journal, looking for anything that might help me set up another vampire to take a fall for me...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments or questions are welcomed