CAST OF PLAYERS:
Ezrandi Shadowheart……Andali…………………………………Eshu Changeling
Mia Schubert……………….Marlboro…………………………….Satyr Changeling
Jera Morrison……………….Alseyne Aulaudin…………………Sidhe Changeling
Carol Hart…………………..Janneth Jones………………………Troll Changeling
Kendall Nye…………………Joseph McAdoo……………………Ronin Garou
Rob Bennett………………..Arian Plicare………………………..Ananasi
Suz Dollar…………………..Samantha Reese…………………..Human Guardian
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Casey flushed when the ghoul turned his attention to her. She hadn’t intended for her whisper to carry that far, but she stood by her comment. “He serves a vampire,” she replied to Andali, an undercurrent of revulsion and disdain audible just beneath the surface of the words.
“Like M…people, Awakened come in all sizes and flavors. Houseman was one of the rare, but decent ones,” the Eshu said simply. “From the short time that I’ve known him.”
Casey looked blankly at Andali. “Houseman was one of the rare but decent…what?” She understood the term “Awakened,” but not how it might apply to Mr. Houseman. Well, it made sense, now that she thought about it, that Houseman must be something other than just an ordinary man. He was a friend and ally of Falco’s, and he’d had something important to contribute to this war. Casey just hadn’t had the ability to see him clearly yet when they’d rescued him from those vampires last night. “He was a rare but decent what?” she asked again, very curious now.
“Kindred…Vampire. Some…very few…still have their humanity intact. He seemed to be one.”
Casey recoiled. “Mr. Houseman’s not a vampire!” She was in this fight to help eradicate those vile monsters, not help save them. But even as she spoke, she could see that Andali believed what she was saying.
A memory surfaced unbidden in Casey’s mind: Houseman, reaching for the blackened, gasping remains of his man — Spence — in the parking garage. Falco lifting Spence into the back of her truck so that he could be saved.
No human could be that burned and still be saved.
Falco’s words earlier that night: “As long as they continue to drink of the vampire’s blood, they live forever.”
Her mentor’s uncharacteristic silence a few minutes ago when she’d asked him whether Housman knew that Trevor was a vampire’s minion.
Plicare’s reference to Houseman’s “King.” Falco had never mentioned any King in Austin, but he’d talked about the Vampire Prince.
The pieces fell together with wrenching suddenness in Casey’s mind. It had all been a deception. ‘Your trust in me must be absolute,’ Falco had told her, but he’d been misleading her from the start. He’d tricked her into helping him save two of those ununholy abominations last night, while claiming to be an enemy of that very evil.
This was no holy war, it was just a political campaign, factions against factions. And she’d let herself be deceived into adding her own power to the feud.
Speechless, Casey struggled to come to terms with the fact that she’d been played. By the one person she had decided to trust implicitly.
This wasn’t her fight at all; it was between all these fae and werewolves and ghouls and their masters. The treacherous night was their realm; hers was sunlight and clarity. She didn’t belong in this company of walking mythology.
She needed to reassess her situation and come up with a new plan.
Trembling, she moved slowly away from Falco and the rest of them and found an unoccupied booth, sliding into it rather weakly. She’d wait till sunrise, and then walk away from this lunacy and never look back. She wasn’t powerless, not by a long shot, and now that she was seeing clearly she could start making better choices. Smarter choices. She just needed to sit tight until the sun came up.
Falco’s eyes followed her as she moved away. A question shone behind those eyes, then understanding dawned there. She noted something else there…hurt?
It passed almost as quickly as it appeared. His attention was back on the dragon and the others.
Casey scowled. Let him be as hurt as he wanted. All his talk about trust and honesty, and he’d been manipulating her all along. He’d had plenty of chances to tell her about Houseman’s true nature; the fact that he’d kept that truth from her meant that he wasn’t above misleading her to gain her cooperation. He could be deceiving her about any number of things, and she had no way of knowing.
She’d always been a strong person, physically and emotionally. She was used to looking out for herself. It had been stupid to put all her trust so blindly in someone she barely knew. She was going to have to be smarter than that if she wanted to survive this city; she was going to have to start remembering that the only person she could truly rely on was herself.
McAdoo spoke up into the awkward silence. ” Ok, so who called this meeting and for what purpose? ”
“That would be me, my guid man-wolf,” Myrle answered. “And our mister Falco is right when he says we must all have common cause. The fair folk seek the young princess and their missing brethren. Obstacles and enemies emerge at every turn. All the while, another presence is at work…” He glanced to Andali, “A dark figure with green eyes… and a penchant for collecting hooves.”
Andali shuddered. The werewolf’s eyes narrowed.
The dragon sipped on the soda…sluuuurp. “One of the most powerful men in the city is brutally murdered along with his darling niece,” he continued. “How did someone manage to get past Bruce Lobban’s significant defenses… and what message is the old Bruce trying to share with you, Mr. McAdoo? Why was it so important that Lobban die? What did that wolf know?”
McAdoo growled softly in the back of his throat, eyes yellowing in frustration.
“Meanwhile the Vampire Prince turns on his most trusted lieutenant,” the dragon said to Trevor. “Why?” He looked to Claws. “The Red Talons have been Wyrm corrupted. They ally themselves with Prince Bronwen. How was this managed?”
The Dragon looked upon Falco. A puff of smoke emerged from the corner of his mouth.
“The Guardian dies — my dear Berke — and the Guardian rises, my sweet Sam. The Demon is among us. I tell you this, Kilarothes is near and he is in league with your Vampire Prince. Forces are drawing together to bring these matters to a conclusion. Your foes have common cause. And thus, so do you. You are stronger together than apart.
“We have arrived at the end of the Age of Guardians. Sam is the last. If she falls to Kilarothes, mankind falls as well… and your desert sandstorms,” he regarded Andali, “Will no longer be terror relegated to nightmares — but will be the horror of reality.”
Sam choked on her soda and sprayed some out through her nose, turning scarlet with embarrassment as she coughed, recovering. She eyeballed her new companions with a whole new level of appraisal.
Casey absorbed it all, still feeling angry and betrayed, but gradually coming to understand that something important did seem to be at stake here, beyond just political jockeying. She’d choose her own sides from here on in, though. She had never let anyone else do her thinking for her before yesterday; she should have known better than to start with someone who was — almost by definition — into mind games. She knew better now.
Arian listened silently. He lofted a brow a bit before looking over the group, as if mildly curious how everyone else is taking bad news that didn’t really affect him personally.
McAdoo looked to the soda spewing woman and then to the recently black bile vomiting one handed troll. Eyes narrowing, he shuffled one foot and tightened the belt of his white bathrobe. ” In my room.. is a fetish for information gathering…if I could only use it. ” he looked to Andali, “Lady .. I ask your help in matters magical as I believe you have reason to trust me, perhaps a small debt to pay.”
Andali regarded McAdoo cautiously, and then nodded. “Yes…what do you need from me?”
” I’m at a loss on how to use it. I believe it will lead to Lobban’s fail safe of information.. ” The bathrobed garou’s frustration was evident.
Arian looked over, lofting his unscarred brow. “I have little exposure to the fetishes of your kind, but it’s possible that spiders inhabit yours. Curious,” he stated sterily.
” It’s most a definitely garou fetish. If I understand your input. ”
“Garou commonly use Grandmother’s servants in their tools. Especially those of your kind more prone to using technology,” Arian said simply.
The garou turned suddenly to Myrle. “Kilarothes.. and this is who to number amongst the players on field?”
“Kilarothes is an exiled demon prince. All that stands between him bringing his army to this lovely realm is that one,” he hooked a claw at Sam. “If she fails, yuir all dead — or wishing you were.”
“He’s a real piece of work, too,” Sam commented grimly. “I got to meet him sort of the same time I ‘awakened’. Hopefully, what I’ve learned from Myrle will make a bit of difference the next time we meet. Obviously, I did well enough not to die, but I can say little else for it.”
“Then let us put him down first and deal with games of thrones later, ” the garou responded. ” Machiavellian plots and chaos… among your enemies, stir them up against themselves, turn the strong on the weak,” he muttered, “and then choose the linchpin of strength amongst kingdoms, breaking it. ”
“An admirable suggestion,” Myrle nodded, “But all of these threads are woven together to form the fabric of the conspiracy. Kilarothes, as rotten a scoundrel as he is, is not the most dangerous player at the table.”
“Who is it then?” Yggthor demanded, annoyed. “Show him to me!”
“Would that it were that simple,” said the dragon.
“It’s never simple,” Pip groaned a whisper to Alseyne.
“And why is it not?” The big troll growled.
“I regret to inform this most august assembly that I do not yet have that information. Magicks most foul hide the identity of the ultimate adversary. As loathe as I am to suggest it, you could be successful in defeating Kilarothes — and still lose all you hold dear.”
” Perhaps Lobban’s information would be useful,” McAdoo added. ” But let us choose one thread of the tapestry you’ve described. ”
Alseyne spoke up, “Myrle, is it possible that the Blade Brotherhood of Doon is involved in all of this? Some of us here encountered some of their warriors a few days back.”
He nodded. “The Brotherhood has their part to play in this, that is for certain. The Brotherhood is strong and would make a powerful ally in our cause. Yet they cannot leave the Land of Rocks and Canyons until their liege returns. And there are no indications as to when that might happen.”
“I thought the Swordmaster was their leader.”
“The Swordmaster leads in the absence of the liege.”
“Do they await another one, sort of like the legends of Arthur’s return?”
Myrle provided a shrug, “Not familiar with that one.”
Alseyne glanced at some of the others before returning her attention to Myrle, “I am not sure how well they would work with us anyway. They did not have any love for those of the Kindred.”
“In truth the Brotherhood have little love for anyone outside their borders. But they are loyal and will follow wherever their sovereign directs.”
Arian nodded slightly, “My sensei taught me of these things. They are ronin. A disgraceful state. Can they be restored to honor?”
“I believe the Spider misunderstands. The Brotherhood, these Warriors of the Shadow Realm, are not the Red Talon mentioned earlier. They are not garou.”
“No, the Spider understands. They are warriors sworn to follow a liege lord who is absent. They are ronin, warriors without a lord,” Arian stated simply.
“My apologies, friend Spider. You understand perfectly. It is I who was in error,” the dragon responded. “To answer your question — I do not believe the Brotherhood would agree with you concerning the current state of their honor.”
“Samurai without a master are in a state of disgrace. If they chafe in his absence, then they see themselves as lessened by this. If they choose to acknowledge the dishonor, then they are wise. If they wish to call it something else, they are choosing to be blind,” Arian pondered a bit. “In the Shadow Realm? Where is this? Is that where their lord is?”
“The Shadow Realm is their Land of Rocks and Canyons. Their Lord is beyond my reach. Though not beyond the resources of one here in our company.”
“Who?” the Spider asked.
Myrle looked meaningfully to Andali.