by Dustin Evermore and Lisa Hartjes
4:30 am, morning after the Elysium party.
Fianna stood before the great oak door and lifted the heavy, twisted iron knocker twice, letting it fall to announce her arrival with resounding thuds against the knocker's heavy backplate. She stood there alone, dressed as if for a ball in a slender black gown that accentuated the curve of her hips and the generous, firm forms of her breasts. It was cut high up the thigh, revealing smooth, nearly perfect flesh and allowing greater freedom of movement. She was even wearing carefully applied makeup that brought out her dark eyes and full lips. Her cheeks were the color of roses and she gave off a startlingly alive glow. She had fed recently and deeply. There was an aroma of perfume and excitement that wafted about her most perceptibly.
The door opened and Fianna saw Andre, wearing a black silk robe, loosely tied around around his waist, and barefooted. His tousled golden blonde hair lent him a rakish air as he looked her up and down, drinking in her appearance.
"You honor us with your presence," he said, stepping back and inviting Fianna in with an elegant gesture. "Berengiere awaits you in solarium." Closing the door and locking it, he led her through to the rear of the house and into a large solarium. Fianna could smell the night blooming flowers, and heard the gentle sounds of running water from an elaborate fountain in the corner. The scene was lit by a dozen or so large beeswax candles. It was then than Fianna noticed the light was not reflecting off the glass. In fact, she could no see out through the glass at all.
Beren herself was lounging on a "fainting couch", wearing a loose black gown that sparkled in places as the light from the candles danced across it. Tonight, her hair was long, hanging down to her waist in a cascade of ebony curls. In one hand she held a crystal goblet filled with deep red liquid, the other, a hardcover novel, called "Queen of the Damned."
When Fianna entered the room, Berengiere looked up from the book and Fianna felt like she was being devoured inch by inch by Beren's eyes. When the elder's eyes reached Fianna's, she could see a dark fire burning deep within them. "I hope you didn't go through all this effort just for me."
Fianna chuckled softly. "The Prince had a ball tonight, celebrating the new appointing of Elysium. I'd have rather done other things, but it was required attendance."
"Please, have a seat. May I offer you something to drink?" Beren indicated a large, comfortable looking chair near the end of the couch by her feet.
"Thank you very much, but really, I've had all I can tonight," she smiled. It made her eyes sparkle. Fianna glided to the comfy chair and sat down, taking care not to stretch her dress in the wrong places. When she walked, Beren's experienced eye could tell Fianna was working very hard to keep her balance. She was wearing high heels, and although the heel was fairly broad, Fianna was obviously not used to wearing them.
As if on some unspoken command, Andre came forward and knelt before Fianna. "May I," he asked, his fingers lightly brushing her foot.
Fianna smiled, happy to be given leave to be rid of the evil things. "Please," she said, offering a foot to him. ~Where *does* she find such excellent help,~ Fianna wondered idly.
Andre carefully took Fianna's foot in his hands and slid the shoe off with obvious experience, the repeated the process with the other foot. When both feet were resting on his lap, he picked one up and began to massage it with expert skill.
Fianna watched him for a moment and then sat back relaxing in the chair. "Oooh, that's nice," she sighed. She closed her eyes and took a moment to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Andre noticed there was a faint trace of sex about her, as if she had been exposed to it, but not partaken.
The tone of the massage changed slightly, becoming sensual as well as soothing, as Andre worked out the aches and pains. He shifted his position slightly, causing Fianna's other foot to slide until she could feel the hardness of his arousal against the sensitive arch of her foot.
Fianna raised an eyebrow and lifted her head to look at Andre for a moment. But she smiled and settled back against the cushions of the chair again.
"He has had a long time to perfect his technique," Beren added softly. "He truly aims to please, and has taken many courses on a variety of massage and reflexology techniques."
"Mmmmm. Well, whatever those things are, they're nice," she stated. She raised her head to look at Berengiere. A crooked smile crept over her face. "So. Aren't you going to ask me how the ball went?"
An indulgent smile curved Berengiere's lips as she marked the place in her book and set it aside. "How did the ball go? Did you get swept off your feet," she asked teasingly.
Fianna laughed. It was melodious and sparkling with real amusement; an honest laugh from someone who hadn't laughed nearly enough in the long years of her existence. "I sure did, but not the way you might think!" she said through the laughter.
"I didn't really want to go, you know? I thought it would be yet another long, dreary session where I spend most of the night avoiding contact with the more manipulative or bitchy Kindred." She paused for a moment. "Bitchy. That's a fun, new word I picked up recently. I think I like that word. It describes a heck of a lot of vampires, that's for sure."
Beren nodded. "I have to agree with you," she replied with a smile.
Fianna directed herself back to the topic at hand. "Anyway, everybody had to go unless they were assigned to security, watching for a Sabbat attack. So I went to my friend's place to get ready. Nuyen van Faulk has this woman by the name of Stazi living with him. She is *so* generous. Seriously, she spent $40,000 just on clothes for me just because I happened to mention I only owned the drab clothes I had on. Stazi is kind of weird about things like that. I had really wanted to ask her how one gets money in this age, but she went all the way. She never does things in a small way."
"M'lady," Andre said softly, his hands slowing slightly in his ministrations to her foot. "Will you permit me to remove your stockings? It would allow me to better tend to your needs."
"Thank you Andre, but I have few needs and you are attending them very well as you are." Fianna smiled at him appreciatively, but was not about to let him reach much higher than her knees.
"As you wish, m'lady," Andre replied, continuing to massage her foot.
Fianna sighed and arched her back, stretching out just a bit and getting more comfortable in the chair. "So, Stazi picked this outfit out for me. I picked the shoes because I thought they made my legs look better. When we got to the party, we all kind of went our own ways. I took Sean with me for protection, of course. He's my bodyguard in town." Fianna paused and her smile faded. Something about Sean was bothering her.
"Sean obviously means a lot to you," Berengiere said. "What is the matter, ma petite?"
Fianna looked down at her hands, sadness on her face. "Sean Killian was the only descendant of my sister that I'm aware of. Roma and Celeste found him for me, as a gift. They were going to let me have him as part of my knew bloodline. He didn't have any family and few friends. I was given permission by the Prince to even make him my ghoul. It would have taken a long time and an immense amount of training, but he would have been the first of the Fianna Laoch." The woman sighed, disappointment clear on her face. There was even a tinge of rage at the edges of her voice, but it was tempered by whatever had happened to put her in a good mood this evening.
"Things were going really well until about a week ago. The Sabbat took him away. Trying to hurt me, I think. They took him and murdered him and brought him back as one of their own. But my-," she stopped herself from saying something, and then continued, "Roma found out who did it and where they were. A couple weeks ago Nuyen, Jaques and I went to the graveyard where the Sabbat had held their
'shovel party' and were waiting for their victims to rise. I was almost to terrified to move, but in the end I did and I helped them wipe out the Sabbat there. We dug up their victims and Sean was just about the only real survivor."
Bitterness crept into her voice. "Sean Killian had been corrupted. The Sabbat succeeded in preventing me from ever being able to achieve a worthwhile goal with Sean by turning him into a dirty, rotten Gangrel. They slandered my family name by doing that." Hate seethed from Fianna with enough intensity to cause Andre to pause and look up.
"Even worse, he's what I a call a city-dog."
"And then," Fianna continued, "Sean had the gall to utterly fail me the other day. While we were setting the trap to finally ensnare that evil fey creature, he managed to get himself involved in a shoot-out with some silly gang members. He *knew* better than that!"
"What did he do?"
"He let himself get shot. Multiple times. In the head. And then he was stupid enough to get back up after taking what should have been lethal shots and scaring the gangers badly enough they ran off. A total breach of etiquette, protocol and the rules he knew he had to live by."
Fianna sighed and leaned back in the cushions again. "Then he had to nerve to commit a selfless act by using himself as bait, thereby saving my human servant and capturing the fey beast. He was trapped with it and it pretty much reduced him to a pile of gore. But he was a vampire, and that in itself would not kill him.
"When Roma arrived she asked what I would have done. I had been made responsible for Sean. His mistakes reflected upon me. So I ordered him destroyed. I will not tolerate failure and stupidity, especially from a Sabbat spawned city-dog. Blood or no Blood." In spite of her harsh words, it was plain the whole thing had upset her greatly.
"Why do you have such an obvious hatred for the Gangrel," Beren asked curiously.
"Oh. Well the Gangrel and the Weres were the ones most responsible for the slaughter of my entire bloodline. Where the groups of mages failed, these two groups proved much more resistant to our charms and our powers. It was all about territory. We had it and they wanted it. But my kind was never very good at working together. Every ancient vampire had her own circle and competed against everyone else for the same things. It kept us strong in a way, but against a concerted attack, the age-old tradition failed. That's why I will rebuild my line in my own image. It will be a far tighter hierarchy that stresses cooperation instead of competition. Anyway, I still blame the Gangrel and Weres for their aggressive attacks on my kind. We might not have been perfect, but we didn't deserve to be wiped out just because we wouldn't bend our knees before the Christian orders.
"I think the Gangrel are just as bad as the dogs they think to emulate. Instead of controlling their beast, they revel in it and they act like animals. So I hate them."
"Times were different then, Fianna," Berengiere said, and for a moment Fianna could see the burden of centuries of undead existence weighing heavily in her eyes. "And you cannot blame them for their nature, any more than you can blame the Nosferatu for their sometimes grotesque appearance, or the Malkavians for their insanity.
"Vampires never heal wounds. They just make them disappear," Fianna replied cryptically.
Fianna returned to the topic of Sean. "But it turns out we couldn't let him go. Not yet. He had connections in Ireland from his days with something called the IRA. I don't know what that is, really, but I know he builds bombs. And we will needno, *I* will need those connections soon. So they brought him back, but this time they conditioned him quite thoroughly and made him considerably more than just a stupid city-dog. He was now allowed in the Chantry and was assigned to be my personal bodyguard."
"But I digress," Fianna said. "You wanted to hear about the party tonight." A smile faintly returned to her lips. "I got to be very naughty tonight and I got away with it."
"What did you do," Beren asked. "Anything that you need to be spanked for?" Her smile was mischievous, with a hint of suggestion.
"Spanked?" Fianna asked. "Oh, you mean punished? Well, I hope not." She paused, looking at Beren's expression and hesitated. Fianna suddenly caught Beren's meaning and looked momentarily flustered.
Berengiere laughed delightedly, like a child who had just heard a joke. "Have no fear, ma petite. No one shall do anything to you here unless you allow them to."
Fianna cleared her throat and continued with her story, but she had nervous smile. "Uhm
Then I had to avoid a few people tonight. I really hate some of the Chicago Tremere." The smile faded from her face while she thought about it. "I would never have agreed to our arrangement if I'd been forced to stay with them. Cruel, vicious, evil brutes. They don't even seem to be aware how much I know about them and hate them." Fianna shook her head and sighed. "In all of North America, this city has the only Chantry headed by a woman vampire. It's also one of the strongest ones, and I think the reason for that is clear."
"Perhaps they do know, but simply do not care, for they think they control you." Berengiere shifted slightly, and for a moment Fianna thought she caught a glimpse of the curve of Berengiere's breast through the fabric of the gown she wore. "Why is it that you hate the Tremere so?"
"Oh, the Tremere in Chicago do not control me. They don't even have a say in what I do. Roma has made sure of that." Whether that was true or not, Fianna seemed to believe it. "But I witnessed one manipulating the mind of a friend once. It was cruel and vicious and based entirely around some stupid perceived slight. Tugwell," she spat the name. "A white-clad low-brow if I ever met one. He was at the party, but I made sure I had no association with him. I think he was attracted to me."
"Nuyen took me around to meet some of the other vampires. In general I wasn't very impressed and wasn't having much fun at all. But I do like Lisette. We're a lot alike, she and I, even if she is a Toreador. She managed to survive the Sabbat, too, somehow. It scarred her pretty bad, mentally. But she's an artist and expresses these influences so creatively I can't help but consider them masterpieces. She does pretty weird things to her ghouls. But who am I to cast stones?" Fianna smiled mischievously.
Berengiere returned Fianna's smile. "And what is that *you* have done," she asked. "Perhaps I might learn a trick or two. What do you think, Andre? Should I ask Fianna to include you in her next session." Berengiere's voice was teasing.
"It would be an honor to learn anything the lady would be willing to teach me," he replied, voice laden with innuendo, "if it would please you, beloved."
Fianna watched the exchange with some amusement.
Berengiere's laugh was like husky bells on the night air. "You and I both know you have a mind of your own. Now, Andre, behave yourself while we continue to talk and I may allow you to help me into bed." She returned her attention to Fianna. "Now, tell me more about the ball." Andre's face was covered with a wicked grin as he once again bent his head to his task.
"I took Sean downstairs for an orgy, figuring he'd really like that. I was right."
"Is that's what bothering you, Fianna? That he enjoyed indulging in the physical pleasures of life?"
"No, I understand it. He had only become Kindred a short while ago and he was still reveling in what remained of his humanity. I was able to find a group that included willing humans, not the bonded or mind-controlled slaves that a lot of the others used. I feel like that's healthier. I seen some of us that, once started down the path of control, sadism and masochism, they're never are really the same again.
"The desire for sexual intimacy, or even excess, is not a failing in and of itself, nor is it reveling in one's remaining humanity when one is newly Embraced. For many of us, it is one of the few ways we can delude ourselves into thinking we are still alive, and not souls trapped within dead shells that should long ago faded to dust."
Fianna paused considering this. It was an idea that hadn't occurred to her before. "That would explain Nuyen's behavior, too," she said agreeably.
"Anyway," she continued, "I left him to have his fun down there and returned to the main floor of the ball. I wanted to dance tonight and I was fortunate enough to find a partner. There seems to be a lack of available males that like to dance, or that can dance, so I danced with Celeste.
"I don't remember if she asked me or I asked her first. But we were soon in the middle of the floor. I guess that's when the trouble started," Fianna grinned wickedly. "I don't know the modern dances of this age, so I did what I knew. I think they liked it. Celeste sure did! Before I knew it, we were dancing right up in the air above all the other little dancing vampires. I'm not even sure how long we were dancing before I noticed. It was Celeste's doing, and she was looking like she was just in heaven. It was *great*!" Fianna grinned.
"Roma collected all the Tremere together then and we all had to leave early. I think she was embarrassed for Celeste and I. I didn't really notice at the time, but thinking on it later, I think that I've discovered that Celeste like girls, not men. Anyway, Roma was embarrassed for us because she didn't want such a weakness being displayed in front of the whole Camarilla of Detroit. She made us leave early, but nobody got in trouble. Celeste told Roma she was using the dance to learn who might be manipulated by such displays, but I know she was telling a bit of a white lie."
Fianna laughed, "Anyway, they must have wanted to believe that, because the next thing I knew, Celeste and I were assigned to get in touch with the Brujah, seduce who we could and learn what they're up to. Celeste and I had been invited to a Brujah party earlier this evening, you see. It's set for tomorrow night. Stazi heard about it too, and made sure she got an invite, since she was also nominally part of the Brujah Clan. She doesn't know that we're going to spy on them." Fianna shrugged.
On some unseen signal, Andre stopped massaging Fianna's foot and moved to one side as Beren slid from the couch and stood. As the fabric of her gown unfolded and slid away from Beren's body to drape around her form, Fianna suddenly realized that the black fabric was actually nearly see-through gauze. Fianna could see everything, from the curves of Beren's firm breasts to the dark, thick triangle at the junction of her thighs.
"Is that why you're here?" Beren asked as she moved to stand between Fianna's legs while Fianna was still taking in the surprise of Beren's clothing. "To spy on me?" She leaned forward, her hair brushing the bared top of Fianna's thigh, and once again Fianna's senses were filled with her scent. "To seduce me and learn what I am up to." The elder's eyes burned hungrily into Fianna's, giving promises of pleasures the celtic vampire could only begin to dream of.
"No!" she said quickly. "No, I haven't told anyone about these meetings. I'm just curious, that's all." Fianna's voice dropped to awhisper. "If that's spying, then I'm guilty."
Beren leaned forwards and captured Fianna's lips with hers. The touch of Beren's mouth sent thrills through Fianna as the elder's tongue caressed her, requesting entry.
Fianna's hads trembled with fear, excitement and tension as she touched Berengiere's face, cupping the curve of her youthful cheek and jaw line. Fianna drew back. Naked fear was in her eyes when she asked, "If I say no, are you going to hurt me?"
"Do you want me to?" Berengiere's voice was as soft as a summer breeze. She looked deep into Fianna's eyes as if studying her soul. Fianna saw the flicker of some emotion, unreadable in the instant it was visible. "I may tempt and tease, and like you, seduce, but I never force myself upon someone who is unwilling." Beren reached up and caressed Fianna's face with gentle fingers. "No, ma petite, I will not hurt you."
Berengiere stepped back and returned to the couch, returning the safety of space to Fianna.
"I'm sorry Berengiere. I just can't do that." Her face, already flush with her recent feeding, turned darker still, making her appear virtually alive. "I-it's my training, you see?" her voice was high-pitched and on the verge of panic. "I have to keep my virginity. I've kept everything intact for 1,053 years! I c-can't. She would turn away from me!"
"Who is 'she'," Berengiere asked softly. "Who is this being who warrants such fear from you. You who can do things that no other can do in this age. Trust in me to help you."
Fianna hadn't meant to say that. She hadn't meant to bring Her up at all. For Fianna She'd been dead for two years, but the Bond to her had lasted a millennia. Apparently, there were still subconscious strings still attached like jagged fish hooks in Fianna's mind. "She was the last one, the only one who had control over me. She called herself the Morrigan." Fianna was silent a moment before continued. "It's stupid, I guess. She's been dead since 1150. That was three years ago."
Fianna looked at her host with deep, dark eyes and folded her hands in her lap, as if to stay warm. It was a charmingly 'human' gesture. "I appreciate your patience and kindness, Berengiere, and I don't mean to be rude but I want to get this into the open. Why can I trust you?"
"Because one you know from the past trusts me," Beren replied. "A man by the name of Zauriel Von Rhoden. In fact, he's the one who sent me here. Please forgive my behaviour, Fianna. It has never my intention to harm or frighten you. I'm afraid I let my rather... passionate nature get the better of me. I do find you attractive. Very attractive. But I would never force myself upon you, especially if the attentions were unwanted."
Silence ran the distance between the two women for a few moments while Fianna digested what Beren told her. "You know the Baron? He was always kind to me. In the year 1151 I was lost, alone and being hunted through Europe. After my winged friends left me in the Black Forest, it was the Baron that took me in. All I did was ask, and he granted me protection for as long as I remained in his province and followed the rules of hospitality." Fianna looked up with bright eyes. "I met him again when I came to Chicago. I will trust you, Berengiere.
"And it's okay about the kiss. It's just that I wasn't sure what you wanted. I'm so sorry. I don't mean to be rude. You've been generous and by not reciprocating that generosity, I've been a poor guest." Fianna stood and walked slowly to Berengiere. She cautiously, gracefully knelt before the elder and reached out to take her hand. She lifted Beren's hand to her mouth and touched it first with a moist breath, and then with soft lips in a delicate kiss. "Will you forgive a poor country girl her transgression?"
"There is nothing to forgive, ma petite," Berengiere replied. "I require nothing from you, but will willingly accept any scrap you wish to cast in my direction." She smiled teasingly. "Please do not feel that for every gift I require equal payment." She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on each of Fianna's cheeks, the withdrew just far enough so that she could look into Fianna's eyes.
"The sun will be rising shortly," Berengiere sighed. "And you must go...."
Fianna looked into Beren's eyes for a long time, wondering what it might be like to feel someone close to her, to allow someone to physically share what she had to give. She thought about Mal and how she had panicked when he forced the issue. Her fear had killed him. She was afraid because she knew the Morrigan allowed no room for anything in her priestesses' lives but their faith and devotion to the Morrigan, herself. But the Morrigan was gone three years passed, and she was still afraid to allow physical contact beyond the Kiss. It began to seem that practically everyone woman there had ever been in the past two thousand years had known the love of another. But not Fianna. Never for Fianna. She realized with unbidden sorrow and shame that she was a thousand years old virgin and now it just sounded very, very sad.
The timeless maiden closed the inches separating the two, and touched her lips to Beren's. Her delicate tongue slipped between them for a moment, dancing between Beren's own sweet lips. Her soul sang with excitement and she gently touched Beren's forehead with her own. She brushed Beren's cheek with the tip of her nose.
"I'll come back," Fianna whispered. "I'd like to come to see you, if I'm able, tomorrow morning after the party and everything. Soon I will have to leave and go far away for a while. I don't know if I'll return alive. I want to see you again before I go."
"You will always be welcome here," Beren replied. "But where will you be going?" Concern colored her voice.
"I should know more after tomorrow," Fianna told her.
Beren nodded then moved her head slightly so that her glorious mass of hair fell forward, shielding her torso from Fianna's gaze. Her eyes were calm and accepting.
Fianna pulled away, hands sliding along the smooth, youthful thighs of the deceptively young looking elder. After allowing herself one last, long look, Fianna rose and left the mansion, walking back into the night.