The Dreams that Fiends Dream

Second Meditation on Burning
The fall of Ravan

Ruoholahti, Helsinki
October 21st, 1985.

The only piece of 20th century technology that she truly enjoyed was the car. Driving, or being driven, was a meditative experience. The monotone drone of the engine, the winking of street lights you passed at speed, the elegant zipping of other vehicles in their assigned lanes, the rhythmic opening and closing of intersections, all of it represented a familiar background of mental white noise. She sat in the backseat, with Kirke at the wheel, her eyes peeled on the side window, staring into nothingness. Her consciousness, as is so often, was fragmented into dozens or sometimes hundreds of little pieces that jostled with the lelekbrood of Helsinki. The out-of-body experience was at the same time soothing and intoxicating – the jumping from one semi-sentient spirit to another, taking in their perspective, their smells and primitive little feelings they attached to their surroundings, but then the integration of all of that in her mind, the leidification of the disconnected chaos, that was like a drug. It was like she acted as a conduit for life around her. For a creature that was dead for centuries, that was truly a marvel.

Earlier that night, her vision of the other place struck again. That was a true counterpoint to the coasting on leleks - it was abrupt, completely solidified into one pair of eyes and feelings and perspective. It was her vision – her curse – that she did not share with the spirit world. It might have come from it, but it was hers to experience. For a medium of the lelek throngs, that was disconcerting in itself. She did not dwell on it. She tried not to think about it for the most part. If it was some entity trying to reach her, she could not stop it or help it. If it was an omen the world has branded her with, she would suffer it stoically. The only thing that scared her was the possibility that it was just a figment of her mind – a fracture in her will that was getting wider and wider, and would shatter her from within.

They arrived to the warehouse in Ruoholahti and she had to leave the car. If you watched her from the outside, out of context, she would make for a peculiar sight. A petite teenage girl in a long coat, handled and directed with peculiar reverence by a confident-looking albino woman, at the Helsinki waterfront, amid of all those warehouses, in the middle of the night. The large hangar door slid open, a spindly young man handling it from the inside and Leida spoke for the first time in an hour: "Good evening. I am here to meet Alton."

*

There was something about this vampire that nagged at her. Both of the Ventrue patricians of Helsinki were complicated beasts. She didn't need to use her craftiness or blood powers to divine that much. The Prince was tortured and followed by omens of danger, while the sheriff was like a contained storm. There was something in the man that lay under the surface, that he let out in a disturbingly calculated way. Like when he probed her about her powers and it took her a long few sentences to realize she was telling him more about koldunic views on the spirit world than she ever shared with a friend like Papa Baptiste. As they sat down and exchanged words during this meeting, what unnerved her about the Brit was that he had been a predator she did not consider threatening. Who knows how her defenses had already slipped within this short hour?

"What surprises me, Alton, is that I have spent a turbulent week within this besieged praxis of yours, but I have neither seen nor felt a single intimation of a besieger." Her words were careful and articulate, the young voice producing thoughts that should not find a home in a throat that juvenile, yet still in the uncanny Cainite way they did. "Where is your Sabbat, lord?" She affectated despite him clearly communicating no such title was needed, and even more so, that a Camarilla lordling had no Sabbat to call his. "I commune with the…"

The sentence was abruptly halted and she gasped for air, despite no need for her lungs to fill up. Her eyes widened without blinking, her mouth a large 'O'.

A guard gurgling for breath as two Cainites sunk their teeth in him. The scream was swallowed by the blood that gushed into the man's mouth. Four more crowded around the poor victim, hungry for blood. They did not linger though and started running away.

snap

She was the wind and then the few water vapors in the cold night. She was looking at it up close, the chitinous skin twittering like some humongous insect. It was a huge winged beast, more an insect or a crab than a man, the leathery wings almost lazily cutting into the air and sending her point of view swirling away. With every swirl, she could see the roof of the warehouse in which Alton and she sat and exchanged their Camarilla thinly veiled lies and agreements. The beast was coming for them.

snap

The same six, from above. They carried cleavers and ran from the waterfront towards the warehouses. There was murderous intent in their sprint that would converge with the leathery beast from above.

Leida and Alton were being attacked, she realized. The Sabbat came.

snap

Even his composed demeanor couldn't mask the surprise with her abrupt pause. She jumped to her feet and half-screamed. "They are coming, Alton. They will murder us. One flying from above, a huge beast. Another five or six running from the sea. They are here now." His reaction was much faster than hers. He jumped to his feet and both of them started shouting at their two retainers in front of the building.

They hadn't passed through even half of the large warehouse when he realized how slow she was – with the flashing of the spirits before her eyes, her body was almost like a forgotten appendix of her mind, that she barely made jog after the sheriff. Without a word, he grabbed her and started carrying her toward the streets as the spirits enveloped her body. In the Ventrue's embrace, she was gathering what lelekbrood would come to her, to prepare her for the battle to come. As they burst out of the building, they were a sight to behold: her hands clasped around his neck, his eyes jotting left and right to catch the sight of the creatures she had seen, while her face deformed and scintillated with the spirits drawn to her blood and call.

*

She was lying on the concrete warehouse floor in a steaming pool of crimson. Both her arms had long gashes from hand to elbow that trickled more blood into the hot pool around her. As she weakly blinked back into her body, she croaked to Alton who kneeled above her: "He is running. More blood, I need more blood." The other vampire didn't hesitate for long and offered her his wrist. In all that gore, the red steam in the dark and cold concrete warehouse, she smiled and bit in, drinking on the Avalonian vitae of old. She did not stay for a moment longer than to drink, her eyes violently turning and showing whites right after he had fed her. The Englishman jumped to his feet and ran from the warehouse, to the neighboring one were Kirke and Lars still awaited for the approach of their land-bound attackers. She saw glimpses of him making short work of them – with otherworldly speed, a few shots of the revolver and cutting of the blade the sheriff murdered them in a dance that looked more like a choreography than battle.

In the meantime, Leida soared with the spirits above once more. Now, the beast was very different than in her first vision – his frontal ridges and plates burned and charred, she could smell the black ichor coursing through its body and tainting the air as it pumped the wings to fly faster. She riled the spirits of smoke and charcoal and oil in the polluted skies of the city to combust around his extremities and wings. She had done so since the first moments when Alton was still carrying her. There was a sick beauty to the whirlwind of spirits and fire that she stirred around him, fueled by her blood in the warehouse below. It was meditative, almost like the car ride.

View
The prices of a Prince's Praxis
A Jack Bauer sequence

Helsinki
October 15th, 1985.

2 AM

…and that is, I think, everything you need to know about your warding circle.

Jacob's shiny new spirit-warding circle.

Michaela, my dear, you have outdone yourself. Thank you.

3 AM

Oh goody, now the the Young Kraken is just taking a piss.

Standing on the edge of his brand new warding circle, looming above the, now, ankle deep water flooding his safe room, Jacob sighed. He then proceeded to carefully, with both precision and apprehension of a pessimistic bomb technician, undo the strap binding the scroll.

The scroll was delivered to him not three minutes before, placed at his feet by a watery tentacle that had spout out of a box, which, in turn, materialized in his sealed chamber not long after the deluge started.
Jacob had contemplated on shooting the box at one point. 
The inconspicuous brown parcel had since disappeared, somehow lost to a bottomless abyss in the shallow flood, and the water level was going with it, rapidly seeping into the impregnable floor, leaving everything eerily dry.
Including the brand new warding circle.

All that was left was the scroll.

Great and Respected Prince Jacob, Mithraic Scion and the Kindred's Bastion in the North

I write to your Majesty as a wretched traveler asking for a moment of Your Night. Because of the deplorable and shameful siege of Your Holdings I cannot pay the traditional respects to Your Praxis in elysuim, in full view of Your Servants and Advisors. Therefore, I reverted to this vulgar way of contacting You and You Personally, My Liege, to humbly request an audience with Your Excellency at the time and place of Your Choosing. I will come alone, with my utmost respect to Your Domain and Person, to be at Your Mercy. I beg of You My Liege, fear not an ambush or a ploy of Your Enemies. I am not a tool of the Sabbat, and to that, I give You my word. I arrived in Helsinki with recommendations and assurances about my character and conduct from two of Your Southern Peers, the Distinguished Majesties, Princes of Berlin and Hamburg. My nights are spent in Their Domains, where I am a servant to the court and their needs. I hope such an arrangement can be made in Your Besieged Domain as well. If Your Liege deems my humble plea favorably, please have Your Servants leave Your Reply on the bench closest to the entrance to Kansallismuseo from Mannerheimintie tomorrow morning at five. I sincerely hope to be graced by Your Princely Presence as soon as possible, to plead my case and satisfy the Traditions and Your Rights.

Hopefully Your Humble Servant,
Leida Vaino.

What…

…did I just read?

 

Helsinki
October 16th, 1985.

2 AM

That's not Barnabus…

Standing at the edge of the clearing, her back to the precipice of the Vallisaaran shoreline, Jacob was doing his best to keep Erica's eyes from wandering back to the huge, apparently vampiric gyrfalcon that had just settled on a nearby tree. Odds were that was Ladak.

Unfortunately, not looking at him proved not to be too difficult, as the tenebrous treeline seemed eager to birth new sadows.
Three new shadows.

Lost, are we missy?

The rest of the gang.
The Tropical Crusade.

Uhm… No sir, I love strolling about these ruins at night.

No, the Topic Castrates.

And things.

No, the Trophic Cascade.

…and stuff?

click

Now, when ambushed by an entire Sabbat Pack, going for the gun is generally considered a gloriously suicidal move. It does, however, provide one with the dignity of a fighting end, dying one's gun in one's hand.

rip

But Jacob really wasn't considering dignity when he decided Erika will draw.
A dead sleave is a lesser liability than a captured one.

Also, the dispossesion stroke is so much easier to conceal if if the sleeve is already convulsing in agony.

bang

Of course, riding out the punishment wasn't without risk, but Jacob was an adamant supporter of the "don't do your enemies job for them" doctrine. Yes, they have probably knew what's going on, but there was absolutely no need to go ahead and confirm it for them.

crack

Hopefully, being ravaged by a bird, then shot, then bit by a wolf was sufficient subterfuge. Enough enjoying the island air, it was time to wake up.
Good bye Erica.

thud

Oh for fuck's sake, first Kowa, now Barnabus too?
Fuck.
Fuck.
FUCK.
Ok… ok, calm down, you got this.
Let's find out what can a koldun do.

3 AM

Well, at least the fucking circle works.

Standing at the foot of his bed, listening to Darvag tire himself out in the next room, Jacob was almost amused. What ever arcanos he used, Darvag had fried the house with them long ago and was now reduced to clawing on walls and flinging around those few bits of loose furniture the antechamber had. He still had some tantrum in him, obviously fueled by his sudden impotence, but the worst appeared to be over. And the safe room, vapid save for Jacob's bed and the warding circle, was undisturbed.
The circle was, indeed, working.

What a fucked up night.

Now, what's next, what's next.

0330, MEET BORIS (ALTON)

Hmm… this will require an evening attire.

cell phone noises

Hello Erika.

4 AM

I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

You… know where Ladak is?
I… Wow.
I… I am seldom left this speechless. Congratulations Leida.
I'll be right over.

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Freedom squelched
Ceterum censeo

Piz Däjake, Helsinki
October 12th, 1985.

The Beast took over his body and mind as he stared at the bloody pulp that was Thisse. There is this moment of clarity when the blood within takes over – an eye in the mental storm if you will – that is a peculiar place. Red knew it all too well. Now, as his friend was downed and blood gushed out of his wounds, with the Ventrue scumbag preparing to lash out with his sword at Red's onslaught and the other one starting to speak despite half of his face being shot off, Red could only think of the stop that they took at the gas station. As the Beast grabbed the reins, the eye of the storm transported him back to the calm of the evening just hours before. On their trip back to Helsinki, something propelled Red out of the car and toward the gas station 24/7. The excuse was vodka for the ghouls, but he wanted a word with Thisse away from the car. As if there was something he wanted to tell him. 

Flee! Run! I am compromised! 

Nothing like that was said. The problem was that Red didn't know that Red was compromised.

The calm in the storm disappeared as the Beast withdrew under the touch of the third vampire, who came running up the steps and grabbed the body Red felt so distant from. With the Beast gone under the man's touch, he crumbled next to the friend he betrayed, his face constricted into a rictus of utter shock. Red knew he betrayed him and he somehow knew the sheriff was instrumental in that.

"He must have been, God damn him!"

But. He. Could. Not. Remember. How. And. When.

"Let's go sit down and talk a bit" – said the other one with the terrible wound inflicted by the vomit of Thisse's gun. It jolted Red back to the staircase and the reality he so desperately wanted to leave. Like an automaton, he followed them into the flat.

Words were exchanged but Red could barely understand what was happening. The Beast simmered under his consciousness, finding the right noises of deference that would let him survive the night. Funny thing, how the Beast somehow knows when to go belly up. A smarter creature than the owner of the body it inhabits, Red thought to himself without a grin that would usually follow that thought.

He found himself firmly in his head, in control of his words and actions just as all of them got up to leave the room. Warwick, the Sheriff, caught that in his eyes and demeanor, that Red was back in control and that bloody murder was all he could think of.

"Oh, and Red?"

He felt his name like a lash on his cheek. The way it fitted into his smug mouth was too much.

"Don't come back. Ever!"

And Red left, like the humiliated dog he was.

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Anarchy curtailed
Persona non grata

Piz Däjake, Helsinki
October 12th, 1985.

The deep loud bass of Thisse's giant revolvers was still bouncing around the stairwell when the final swing of Warwick's wickedly sharp blade froze the expression on anarch's face. Alton looked into his unblinking eyes, which seemed to hold an unspoken question, as he slowly fell backwards stiff as a plank. The wet squelch sound his sword made as it extracted itself from falling brujah's body brought him back from the moment of abstraction and he quickly changed his focus on Red.

Red was losing control… It was obvious in his eyes, the beast was already there, switching gears, and by the look of it Red wasn't even fighting it…

Too bad, I wanted to avoid this, but I understand… Rage borne of impotence… I've been there myself. Alton changed his swordsman stance to defensive and braced for inevitable charge of the beast. He wasn't too worried, it wasn't so much that Siggurd was beside him, or that he saw Boris coming up the stairs, it wasn't that he didn't see or respect Red's battle prowess, it was more to the simple fact that he would be far more worried if Red was actually in control…

Red's feet were already leaving the ground when Boris planted him back down with two hands on his shoulders, as he whispered soft words to Red, Warwick could see the bestial rage retreating from Red's eyes, giving way to human scale look of anger and betrayal.

Sheriff and peregrine stood motionless, eyes locked, in awkward silence, but Siggurd broke it with a tone that seemed cheerfully out of place. Let's go sit down and talk a bit!

Once seated in the apartment, Siggurd continued… You do realize what happened here and why, right? Thisse needs to answer some questions and the way he chose to start the interview sure as hell seems he knew we wouldn't like the answers!

Warwick saw that Siggurd was weighing if Red needed to be dealt with too or not. Even though he answered with an unhealthy dose of belligerence, Red wasn't stupid, his answers were more or less what Siggurd wanted to hear. But…anarch's eyes never left Warwick's and they were full of hate and promises of revenge. I don't think he can ever be trusted, if he ever could have been… We cannot have another disruptive factor here, not with situation as it is. Alton thought to himself. Should we end him? I have justification, even if I didn't, I have some very reliable witnesses on hand… No! We did everything clean, why throw suspicion on it when we could have a first hand, hostile witness to corroborate it all.

As they were exiting the building Alton turned and faced Red. You should report what transpired here to Katherina von Wynitz post haste. Leave by tomorrow. Tell her the objective truth. We are more than fine with it…

Red raised an eyebrow. You want me to tell her what happened here?! He said with a poorly hidden semi-victorious smirk.

Yes Red, word for word, deed for deed, all! Alton said louder, his composure running thin. Naive Fool! What does he think Tante Kathy is going to do about it?! She is a smart survivor, and if she lashes out he is gonna be the first to feel it. I would feel sorry for using him if I could stomach naïveté.

Fine! Red spat the word at the Sheriff and walked by him outside.

Oh, and Red?… Don't come back…ever! Alton said in a way that left no room for replies.

Red slowed his step for a second without turning, then continued determinedly into the night.

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On the Edge of the Knife

Helsinki
August 15th, 1985.

Emil Saari gripped the hilt of a vicious looking sissipuukko his late grandfather gave to him – all the time staring through the window to the street below. Through the closed door of his room he could hear his parents fighting. They fought over his fathers‘ drinking, they fought over money (the lack of it), they fought out of despair and helplessness – and usually these fights would end with his mother getting a beating. Since his father lost his job on the assembly line of SAKOs‘ Riihimäki plant, they fought just about anything.  Emil had no respect for his father, and since his grandfather passed, he considered himself his mothers‘ last line of defense. His weak mother, that always rejected his help.

Emil nervously welcomed the sight of two VW Type 2s‘ – a blue and a black one – that slowed down to a halt in front of his building block. Emil was already dressed so he slipped out of his room. His mother was standing by the kitchen door, catching his eye but saying nothing. Half way to the apartment door his fathers‘ slurred voice interrupted his escape “Where do you think you‘re  going? There‘s a curfew out…” losing his words suddenly as he saw a knife in his sons‘ hand. Emil produced a hateful smile, while motioning a gutting maneuver across the air aimed at his father, before exiting the apartment.

On the street outside a few figures of various ages waited. They were his real family. “Get in, kid.” A tall guy in his forties with short blonde hair motioned Emil towards the van. The guys‘  name was Lauri. Some might consider him a right wing firebrand, but to Emil – Lauri was a direct link to the mystic warrior past his grandfather talked about. To him, Lauri spoke of the times as they were – shed of realpolitik. People like Lauri will eventually lead Finland out of her predicament.

Emil was sitting in the back of the blue Type 2, there were about 7 guys crammed in the back – some of them his high school friends, all nervous like himself. They passed some bad attempt at kilju in a military flask among themselves to lighten the mood and find their sisu. Lauri, sitting in the front seat turned around to face them, he was wearing a vest holding a large puukko with Lapua iconography engraved on its wooden hilt. He put a walkie talkie near his mouth “Listen up my soldiers, you all know your roles, and if you follow them we will finish this quickly. When we arrive at Ronnbacka, and find this place, I want you on your best behavior. I hope you polished your puukos‘ so the hyökkääjät can appreciate them better. You all know what to do, we talked about it this morning… Tonight you are picking up the slack of our corrupt state services, and doing what should have been done to these hyökkä strikebreakers years ago. ” a loud cheer erupted from the back of the van, the same could be heard through the walkies‘ static. The vans continued their cruise through three police checkpoints – unmolested. A police Saab 900 slowly drove away from its parking spot as the two Type 2s drove by their destination – a large apartment block in Ronnbacka. It was already cleared of two police patrols which patrolled the block with their dogs. From the VWs‘ exited 18 men with ski masks which then proceeded in good order to the entrance of the apartment building.

In the early morning hours the denizens of Ronnbacka were woken to the sounds of ambulance and police sirens, to the barking of dogs and wails of mothers and wives as eight bodies lay covered in black plastic in front of an apartment building at Rapakvientie 10.

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Frühlingsstimmen
An interpretative dance

"Ice Box" facility, Vantaa
August 4th, 1985.

The large door slides open and a well dressed, middle aged woman enters the large, empty storage hall. She quickly scans the area then proceeds towards the most interesting item – a large holding harness in the very center of the room, in it a slumped female figure. After inspecting the restraints, the woman grabs and yanks out  a wooden stake previously protruding from the figure's sternum.

Ahhhhhhhh!

Good evening.

Yes, hi, hello. Mamma L, was it?
I’m Prince Jacob’s personal assistant, Erika, and I will be interrogating you tonight. Now, if you would stay calm, obedient and honest, this will all be over before you know it.

With a shrieking inhale, the figure – Mamma L – animates back to life. Mamma L flexes her fingers, her stare fixed on Erika.
Erika, apparently content, places the stake on an instrument tray near the harness and proceeds to undo Mamma L's restraints.

Feel free to stretch your legs too, dear, I’m sure they’re stiff.
Tell me, do you like classical music?

In another life, I liked it. These nights, I exist for it.

Splendid. I was thinking of playing some Strauss.
Frühlingsstimmen, to be precise. It’s this beautiful, rich waltz.

You do waltz, don’t you?

Mamma L gets up slowly, managing a forced, modest smile. 

Not in the least. But you lead.

Wouldn't have it any other way. You will pick it up in no time.

Erika, looking quizzically at her walki.

Now, how do I… oh, it’s already on. Is it on?

Erika knocks on walkie microphone.

tap – tap – tap

It is. Sorry.
Spin it.

As the waltz erupts from the corner speakers, Erica waves her finger, directing the first few notes. Mamma L closes her eyes, her posture loosening.

Ah, the majestic voices of spring. There’s something in the mathematical nature of a waltz that eases the mind. Oh, do come closer dear, you’re not in any danger.

Mamma L approaches slowly. As Erika puts her hand around Mamma L's waist, Mamma L keeps glancing around the room as if expecting another presence.

I was hoping for a proper meet with the Prince.

Were you now? I'm sure you will meet him in no time.
But right now, right hand over my shoulder, like that, yes, left hand in my right, good, good.

Mamma L let's Erika do what she would, her bearing almost resigned.

Now, do you hear the tempo, the one, two-three, one, two-three, one, two-three of the brass? Just count those and follow my lead.

Mamma L nods, they start dancing. 

After several steps, Erika starts talking mid dance.

Do you know why I actually love a good waltz?
This bloody infectious tempo. Once you dance a few steps, it latches on and stays there. Always somewhere near, in the background noise, always being counted.

One-two-three, one-two-three, don't-miss-a-step, one-two-three.

It doesn't really ease the mind as much as give it a mindnumbingly menial task.
And numb subjects are so much easier to interrogate.

Mamma L`s posture stiffens as her look of resignation turns into one of trepidation.

My dear, you are as rigid as a board. And you’re trembling.

Erika presses Mamma L closer.

Don't tell me you are that afraid of little old me?

Mamma L keeps silent, her trepidation turns into outright fear.

Oh. No.

It’s not just that. It's…
You are desperately trying to hide something for me, aren’t you?

How nice.
See, now – now we can dance.


Helsinki
August 12th, 1985.

Slumped in his armchair, Splendor Solis sitting on his lap, Jacob turns the control knob on his viewing console, once again going through the rewind – pause – play motions of Corridor Camera B's final minute of footage. 

So…
Mamma L wasn't staked.
Wasn't dominated.
And can liquefy, er… transmute inanimate objects temporarily. 

Amusing.

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Ever Returning

Unknown
Unknown

He was running for his life.

Long leaps through the jungle, scrambling for footing with each step, each jump precariously leading him forward. The branches scratched his face, stinging in the darkness. The starlight and the full moon let patches of light through the canopy above. The dog barking wafted after him overlapping with the noise of the posse. Men shouting, the words in English and French coming forward, chopped up, like the light, like his leaps, like his cheeks, like his thoughts. A gunshot. Quickly followed by a second and a third. Then screaming.

He continued running.

He had no clue why he was running or from whom. Were they Force Publique? They must have been, with the dogs and the loudness. Only the owners of the jungle would be so callous in making so much noise. His chest did not pump for breath, his heart did not climb up into his throat, there was no taste of bile and wheezing of exhaustion. But he felt the Beast roaring up its ugly head with each gunshot and each allez-y, allez-y that reached him. It was threatening to take over, to fight, to fly, to sprout the claws and rend the colonial mercenaries into shreds.

He pushed himself to go faster.

Before he realized, he ejected from the jungle into a large clearing, stumps of large dead trees pointing upwards, covering the empty ground like fingers grasping toward the starry night. He stumbled, surprised, and lost his footing which sent him flying to the ground. He tumbled and turned back, toward the jungle to catch the moment when the dark trees he left behind combusted. All at the same time, turned from darkness to a red bright inferno, they turned into torches. The Beast exploded in his mind, suffocating thought and taking over eyes and limbs and Blood.

The mercenaries started howling in pain, and the cacophony of their voices turned into the shrieks of lupines…

… which startled him awake. The ship horn was blaring outside, muffled by the steel bulkheads that surrounded him. It wasn't wolves, it was ships. It was a dream. He was not there. He was not there, among the lupines and monstrous men and strange African Cainites. He was in Helsinki, waking up to a different kind of horror. In the complete darkness, the sheer joy of the realization that the Beast still slept had deformed his lips into a smile. Horror indeed, just not tonight.

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Ghost in the Bunker

Der Bunker, Berlin
July 7th, 1985.

His hands in the air. The bodies around pushing against his back, shoulders, arms, chest. The rhythmic swaying. The strobing lights. Blue. Red. Blue. Red. White. White. And then the music washed over him again, as the lights melted into the faces and the arms and the bodies and the smiles. 

He just continued moving, not thinking.

A woman, all in white. No, she was all white. Her hair, hands, cheeks, eyelashes, all white. Each time the strobe drowned the club in red or blue or white, she would turn that color, like a canvas made flesh. She moved with him, pushing against his chest. Her hands on his backside? She moved with him. No smile, but the pink eyes were hungry. She danced, and he danced with her.

He just continued dancing.

The music was muffled. She held his hand, and he could see the line of her bony shoulders under the thin dress. They were walking down a concrete staircase. His body rebelled almost physically – why would she take him away from the music? Still, he followed, all the will to resist the ghost ebbing from his mind. She opened the door and they walked into the fog. No, not fog, they were still in the building. It was smoke. It smelled like pines and stuck to your nostrils. The room was barely visible. Only shadows walked around them, singing words he could not understand to the beat that traveled through the walls and ceiling from above. Shadows walked around them, figures of people in smoke. Men, women, dancing, swaying, kissing. He didn't know for how long they were inside when she turned and started swaying with him. That’s when he realized all the figures chanted the same words.

He just started dancing again.

She gently pushed against him until he felt something wet under his feet. The chanting was increasing in pitch, becoming louder than the distorted music from above. Then, she finally smiled surrounded by smoke, showing the line of white teeth under the pink lips. He turned to look at what was behind him and saw the bathtub. A porcelain white thing, surrounded by metal bowls full of burning pine branches. The tub was overflowing with dark water and there was something hypnotic about it. The sound of lapping water, its scintillation in the smoky semidarkness, illuminated by the embers on metal. He watched for a small eternity, feeling her hand pushing him toward the tub. A hand slipped out from the water and gently grasped the porcelain white rim of the tub. Long white fingers, the fingernails a deathly blue, grasping the hard material strongly. Another hand, on the other side, and then the woman’s head encircled by a soft glow. Her eyes were unreal, two large pools of dark yellow, without pupils or whiteness. “Komm” she said and extended her hand.

He felt his body moving, his hand grabbing her's.

He was in the tub. The water was ice cold and it washed away the drug-induced slowness of his thoughts, at least for a little bit. She was coiled around him, in the water, cold as the water. Her head was on his shoulders, her face completely submerged. Just then he realized he was shivering, in the smoky basement of the club, in the ice-cold water of a porcelain tub, with what seemed a dead girl coiled around his body.

He screamed in terror and then felt the bite above his right nipple. It was like she was waiting for the fear to overcome him before she bit in.

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The flight home
Lucky or just that good?

40 000 ft. above the Atlantic
June 20th, 1985.

Jacob was sitting comfortably in his private jet cabin, looking out the window, counting his lucky stars. The Conclave went… almost unbelievably well.

Firstly, he was still unlive.
And, unfortunately, that was by no means a trivial success – not when one wakes to hauntings and suicide attempts, only to bob and weave through lethally delicate diplomacy in the evenings.

Secondly, Karolina was named Archon Praetor and Nikotar wasn't.
The latter part would be great on it's own, but Karolina… She was something else.
Interested in his problems, that's what she was. Enough so that she made Helsinki her staging ground. Also, she appeared to be interested in Jacob himself. 
Talk about a win-win.

Thirdly, the amount of information he'd uncovered was mind boggling. Raw data for the most part, sure, but a metric ton of it. For instance, he now knew that Helsinki was surrounded by not one but three Black Churches. Or, he now knew that Nyx was face behind his financial troubles. Or, he now knew nobody cared about Nedja.
He now knew a lot of useful things.

And lastly, Alton.
To his credit, Alton was taking the whole situation with remarkable calm, only a slight flexing of his index finger – a subdued tap – betraying his nerves. A true Englishman.
In a few curve ball laden evenings, Alton was named Archon, Lictor, Housecarl and, judging from his stained aura, he'd ingested some really old blood. So, Archon, Lictor, Housecarl and butt boy.
Jacob ended up being none of those things, to his eternal relief.

Of course, having his trusted Sheriff - yes, to top it all off, Alton remained his Sheriff – showered with titles and accompanying obligations had it's downsides, but those were nothing compared to the downsides of having even one of those gilded hand-grenades fall to his lap.

Phew, Jacob muttered to himself, glancing over to Alton.
And as he noticed Alton discretely inspecting his reflection in the window pane, Jacob tried to produce his finest expression of sympathy.

Poor bastard.

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The long flight home
Atlantic skies

40 000 ft. above the Atlantic
June 20th, 1985.

Warwick was sitting comfortably in a private jet cabin looking out the window, sorting his thoughts and emotions about the Conclave, impressions of one meeting in particular kept coming back to him…

The air was getting heavy and hot, but it wasn't the hot and humid Liberian climate, ego propelled corpses couldn't care less, it came from friction of wills and fraying of nerves of too many spiders in the same room, webs entagling.  The door opened suddenly and she flowed into the room like a cold fresh breeze.

Blind Justicar Maris… The symbolism was impossible to miss, but was it genuine ideological sentiment or just a morbid joke nobody knew for sure, she was an enigma, and the spiders froze… She glided trough the room, said hello here, quiped there, sent Dilon scurrying, talked to me for a minute, publicly elected her Arhont, then left the gathering, spiders frantically checking and rechecking their webs in her wake…

Well this Conclave was eventfull… I went there as a Sheriff of a provicial town under Sabbat siege, and I'm coming back as a, not in any particular order, Huscarl to Tyrfing, Firstborn, The Steel triumvir of Iron Courts, Lictor to Dilon Abernathy, Ventrue Clan Strategos of Scandinavia, Arhont to Justicar Maris of the Malkav Clan, some stuff I'll not even mention in my own head and lets not forget, still Sheriff of Helsinki, but now under Camarilla spotlights. Shit I'll have to print my business card on a billboard! Heh…

Alton's eyes focused back on the starry sky over the Atlantic as he stared trough the plane window on the long flight back. His contemplation was somewhat disturbed as the flight attendant opened the kitchenette door and light flooded the otherwise darkened cabin interior. The window became a mirror for a brief few seconds and Warwick saw Jacob looking at him with a hair raising cold stare.

Hmmm… Yeah, let's not fool ourselves, my merrits counted for, maybe, one third of the reasoning behind this titular shower, mostly I was to be a stone thrown into every spiderweb. I have to tread very carefully so it doesn't become a golden shower after all…

Pretending not to notice Jacob's unreadable glare, Warwick continued to look out the window, but the night sky didn't look like freedom anymore. It started to feel like a sparkling shiny net slowly constricting around him…

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