by Dustin Evermore and Lisa Hartjes
Fianna stood outside, eyes red-rimmed from un-spilt blood tears. She worked the knocker, and whispered to herself, "Oh please be here, Berengiere. I need to talk to somebody." She was dressed in a hot little number, looking like a red and black-clad Goth with a too-short skirt, a red top and a little black jacket. Black gloves with chrome studs that were cut down to expose the tips of her fingers as well as the leading knuckles of her fists would have given her a tough look had she not looked like she was trying not to cry. Runes of blood traced her forehead and cheeks, ran down her neck and disappeared under the clothing covering her chest.
The door opened to reveal a huge, well muscled black man, wearing robes similar to what the servant had worn who had waited upon Andre at their first meeting. He took one look at Fianna, ushered her inside, and in a language she did not understand, sent one of the servants scurrying off. Moments later, Berengiere appeared wearing a smart, very expensive business suit that would have looked very professional had the skirt not been just barely long enough to be decent in public.
Beren took one look at Fianna and frowned. "What has happened?" She looked briefly at the large man and issued a few commands to him in the language he had spoken in earlier. He nodded, then disappeared up the stairs. Soon, Fianna could hear the sounds of water running.
"I just spent the evening after the party trying to get Nuyen van Faulk talked into a more reasonable mood after he burned Sean Killian to death." Fianna stood there, left fist balled tightly in an unconscious sign of stress. She shrugged off the little jacket and hung it herself on a nearby coat stand. More runes were visible coursing the length of her arms, disappearing under her top. They, too, were of blood, yet they seemed alive with power. Staring at them seemed to make them writhe and move, and even the permanent inked dragons on her arm and exposed belly seemed to wiggle on their own.
Silvery power seemed to radiate with each movement she made, giving the impression that if she had wanted to put a fist through a wall, she'd have little difficulty. Yet it was not power that Beren understood. It was not gleaned through the power of the blood in her veins. Thus, the power was not the result of some kind of supernatural strength, but rather an energy that radiated from within perhaps the runes themselves.
Then, to Berengiere the runes seemed to make a bizarre kind of sense. It was a full moon tonight. Something about Fianna told the elder she had been doing something she should not have tonight.
"Who's blood is upon your skin, Fianna," Beren asked. "What have you done? What power have you brought into my home?"
Fianna looked surprised and looked down at herself. "It's only me! Honestly, I have brought no power tonight that I did not have any other night. I'm sorry! I didn't have time to clean up tonight. And it's not my blood.
Fianna hurried to explain, worried that she had angered Beren. "Stazi, Celeste and I went to that Brujah party I spoke to you about. Stazi did her own thing, and Celeste started hanging out with the ghouls and humans, seeming to have fun. I went after the big fish. Why waste time, I figured. I might not have forever to do this.
"Things went really well for me. After the taste of that blood they had there, though, I was in the mood to try something more potent. Some of the guys talked about hunting a werewolf, and that seemed like a good idea to me. There was a whole lot of Brujah and Brujah anarchs there, and I figured they'd serve as pretty good expendables while I gauged the strength of the Brujah clan in action. Plus there was the side benefit of having access to were blood." Fianna's lips curled in a hungry smile and a primal fire burned deep within her dark eyes.
Beren frowned, but kept silent.
"Well, Stazi would have no part of it. She said it was suicide, but I believe she underrates everyone else's abilities but her own. Celeste thought it was a cool idea and she came along.
"While we were getting worked up and ready to go, I was still busy with that Brujah and noticed he was very *excited* about me. I wanted more, so I bit his finger and used his blood to paint the runes, while I used my Ogham to empower them. That excited him even more, and he was ready to go out there and fight any werewolf in the world for me." Fianna looked triumphant, but it was still colored with grim sadness over what happened later. "Not only do I have him wrapped around my little finger, but now I have all I need to learn his True Name. I don't do blood magic like the Tremere do, but my own powers are more than adequate to allow me an edge over my enemies. A significant edge." It probably would have seemed like boasting, had she not sounded so serious and somber.
"So, you used your powers to gain control over one of the Brujah. Why?"
"Not my powers, per se," said Fianna. "It doesn't work like that. But if I know someone's true name, and they harm me, I can inscribe an Ogham rune on my body. When they see it, they'll be cursed in one of five ways, of my choosing. Anyway, it takes a lot of time and effort on my part to discover the true name of someone. This is just my way of having some insurance in case someone decides they want to take things farther than I want them to. Oh, and the curse is never permanent. I don't think." Fianna pause, looking thoughtful. "Well to be perfectly honest, I know how to do it, but I've never actually had to do it to anyone before."
"How do you find out a person's true name, and does everyone have one," Beren asked curiously.
"Yes, everyone has one," Fianna replied. "Through careful study, applying my knowledge of occult arts and using something with an intimate connection to the subject, I can determine what it is. A bit of flesh or blood is most intimate to an individual.
"Is there anything anyone can do to protect themselves once you know their true name," Beren queried.
Fianna shook her head. "No. It's not guaranteed it will work, but I think my skills are enough to overcome most people's resistance."
She continued with her description of the night's activity. "The hunt hadn't even begun when we ran into Nuyen van Faulk. Jacques was running, screaming down the street, with one arm burnt off, the anarch haven was burning down, and two vampires were dead. Apparently, one of them disrespected Nuyen, disrespected the office of the Scourge." Fianna sighed heavily and looked around for a place to sit.
"You will tell me the rest while we wash you," Beren replied, the tone of her voice brooking no argument, and pointed at the stairs.
Fianna turned and marched upstairs, following Beren.
Once at the top of ths stairs, Beren led Fianna into a huge room with a marble bathtub large enough to hold eight or nine people. The room was opulent and decadent, decorated with erotic statuary, and Fianna noticed there were no mirrors.
Fianna gasped in awe of the splendor. "Wow..."
"Take off those clothes, and I'll see to it that they are cleaned," Beren said, moving to gather thick, fluffy towels and wash cloths.
"But, I won't have anything to wear," she complained.
Beren looked at Fianna, and the maiden vampire couldn't read the elder's eyes. "Please. You fairly glow with magic, and we needs be rid of it soon, lest someone detect it and decide to investigate. I have clothes here for some of my servants, and there will be something to fit you."
"It's not that kind of power it's," she cut herself short and then began to worry. She didn't try to argue and began pulling off her skirt, wriggling a bit to get free of them. She then pulled the top off over her head and held them out for Beren. She stood dressed only in her undergarments, revealing yet more complicated swirls and designs covering her front and as she turned, Beren could even see them covering her back. They were done in ink, but were not all permanent tattoos. Only a few were actual black and white tattoos. It was actually pretty amazing Fianna managed to not only scribe them on her own back, but she did so artfully. Interlaced with the swirls and patterns were identifiable symbols of the sun and moon.
Beren took the clothes from Fianna and handed them to the large black man. Seeing Fianna's concern at the man's seeing her, Beren shut the bathroom door. "Azeem is my second oldest ghoul, and you need have no fear of him. He used to be a harem guard before he... came into my service. He has no interest in women, clothed or nude, except as objects of beauty."
Fianna felt very self-conscious and it was plain to see. She hesitantly took off the bra, but then stopped, covering herself with her arms. She still wore the panties.
"Those too," Beren said softly. "Unless you want to explain why your panties are wet and the rest of your clothes are dry..."
Fianna bent and slid off the last of her undergarments, her spiraling, shining body art glistening under the warm glow of yellow lights. She didn't seem to know what to try to cover first, and tried to hide her embarrassment by staring at the floor.
"Fianna, we're both women here, and we have the same parts. It's not like it's something I haven't seen before," Beren said gently. "Please, get into the tub," Beren said, and quickly removed her ownclothes.
"Ah, Berengiere. I don't think that we really should, I mean..." she trailed off. It was clear that Beren wasn't going to hear any nay-saying.
"This is a very expensive suit, and one of my favorites. I have no desire to get it stained, so, unless you wish Azeem to assist you in your bath, I am the only other option. I have no female servants here tonight."
"Oh. No. I mean, yes, thank you. I appreciate your help," Fianna mumbled as she stepped into the steaming water. She slid quickly into the water.
Beren slid into the tub, motioned for Fianna to sit, and reached for a cloth and a bottle of shower gel. Once the cloth was rich with lather, Beren began to gently wash Fianna's back, settling into a relaxing rhythm.
"What happened with Nuyen?"
Fianna sighed and relaxed a little. It had been a long time since someone else had washed her. "Apparently, Nuyen was questioning an anarch there with Jacques. He's one of Roma's top people and the Prince named him Inquisitor. Anyway, Jacques made the mistake of insinuating that the Scourge was behaving in a manner that put himself below his due station." Fianna paused, "What does 'brown-nosing' mean?"
Beren chuckled softly and gently touched Fianna, guiding her to stand up. "It's modern slang and rather derogatory," she explained. She began to stroke further down Fianna's back, the washing feeling both impersonal and incredibly intimate at the same time as the cloth slid over Fianna's buttocks. Fianna emitted a small gasp. "Literally," Beren replied, "it means that a person's nose is brown because they have been kissing another person's rear end so much that they have feces on their nose. In more general terms, it means the person is doing whatever he needs to do to gain the favor of a person in a powerful position."
"Calling the Scourge a brown-noser was likely not the most intelligent thing for Jack to have done," Beren added, continuing even strokes of her hands.
Fianna giggled at the graphic images Beren's definition brought forth. "No, it wasn't. You'd think that after a thousand years, a vampire would know better than that. Or perhaps Jack is subconsciously offended that a six year old vampire has attained greater status, power, and respect than he has. In any case, Nuyen isn't a fool and he can do what he says he can.
"At any rate the exchange was lethal for Sean. He'd been commanded to protect me, but he had also been commanded to protect all Tremere. When Nuyen responded to discipline Jack, Sean must have gotten in the way. He was almost completely destroyed. He certainly is dead.
Fianna turned and slid a little further back into the water. It had a pinkish tinge now, from the blood. She took Beren's hands in her own for a moment. "Beren, do you know what these are?" She released Beren's hands and traced the delicate outlines of hand-inked runic symbols traced over and around each round, pale breast.
"They look like tattoos, but I can see that they have some kind of significance," Bernegiere replied. "Are they another means through which you use your magic?"
"Not so much magic, precisely, although I can do that as well. They tap the power of my native Clan. The ones in blood were for battle, to harness rage and focus it into power. These are for life. This one," she touched the ones over her right breast that seemed to twist and twine themselves around her breast and nipple, "grants me the power to withstand much heat and fire. To a great extent, it allows me to survive the blaze of the sun. At least, for a while," Fianna smiled.
Beren lifted her free hand and lightly traced the decoration, as if mesmerized by or trying to memorize the pattern.
"I last saw the sun one year ago, at dawn." Fianna looked into Berengiere's eyes. "Roma and the others thought I was crazed, insane for trying it, but I had just survived conversion at the hands of the Sabbat. I had a great deal of pain to release, as well as all the past I had known. I wrote runes upon my body, like these, and stood upon the roof of the chantry house and greeted the dawn to allow the light of day to burn the pain and darkness from my soul."
Fianna took Beren's hand, guiding the one that held the cleansing sponge and led Beren to gently wash away the ink, to reveal the too-perfect flesh beneath. When she was finished, Fianna stopped again.
"The marks I have placed here, upon my left, grant me the power of the Moon. This strength depends on it to determine what enhanced abilities I have. However, drawing upon the power of the moon does have its dangers, and I do not use it lightly." Fianna lay back and allowed Berengiere to continue to rub those runes away, too.
"In exchange for the gift of kindness, and for wanting to listen to me without taking advantage, I want to give you a gift, too. Beren, if I can prove myself to you enough, and you and can trust my ways and me completely, I can inscribe the runes upon you, too. I can give you the sunrise."
Beren's hand stopped in mid movement and she looked at Fianna in surprise and a touch of disbelief. "I... I don't know what to say. I must admit, part of me feels like this is some kind of trap or trick. Another part of me wants to leap upon your offer like a rabid dog. I'm going to have to think about this. When will you be leaving?"
"Well, yesterday I spoke of having to leave soon, to go away and I really don't know if I'll be able to return. I don't have a precise date because there are some extenuating problems. Remember when I said Sean had connections with some kind of Irish resistance movement in Northern Ireland? And that was the reason why Roma had him spared after his first failure? Now he is gone and I will not be able to use that. It hurts my chances of success over there severely."
"What is it that you need from the IRA," Berengiere asked. "They are a group of terrorists - people who kill innocent women and children to further their goals."
"Specifically, I needed their connections to get at my quarry there. And it is so dangerous that I needed them for, well, expendables. I hate to say it, but there isn't a nice way to put it. It was shown to me recently that if something isn't done soon, the people there are going to unwittingly unleash it. Time is of the essence and we must eliminate the danger before they begin digging."
Fianna folded her arms and suppressed a shiver. It was purely psychological, since the dead do not care whether they are warm or not. "The magic of my runes can't be detected in the way you thought as if it was normal magic. But you were still right. Roma has told me that something horrible and ancient has begun to stir in Ireland. It has just begun to draw magical power in the area over the past year and this is why the Tremere have noticed it.
"Beren, it has dark fey guardians." Fianna stared at Beren with dread in her eyes.
"What are dark fey guardians," Beren asked. "I know of the existence of the fey, and I know they are powers not to be taken lightly. Are these guardians more powerful than others of their kind?"
"Immensely so. Imagine the worst monster you can think of and then give them supernatural powers. Nuyen mentioned Vozhd war ghouls, and I have heard of the power of major demons through my studies at the Chantry. These are creatures from myth and legend and would be of equal power. The fact that the term 'guardians' has been used in the plural tells me there may be more than one."
Fiana put covered her face with her hands. She was sick with worry. "I'll be frank with you. Not I, nor Nuyen, nor Jack, nor all of us put together had any chance of defeating even one of these things on an even playing field. And that isn't even counting the horrific power they are guarding. There is a chance that, because of who I am, they will not regard me as a threat, but it's rather a distant hope. I have better hopes that we will be able to enlist the first and second most powerful Tremere on this continent to aid us in this mission. In fact, it is they that have asked me to do this."
"Why you?" Beren asked, continuing to gently wash Fianna's body. As she listened, she moved downwards, cleansing Fianna's hips and skirting lightly, almost teasingly, around the junction of her thighs.
Fianna smiled and relaxed a little. "Because, you see, Meerlindia and Roma believe that I may not be the last Lhiannon. Only a Lhiannon could have bound such guardians. And to do that, they'd have to be at least as powerful as you or Baron von Rhoden. I may be wrong, but I further believe in my heart that it is due to her sensing the use of my power that she has drawn magic to herself and used it to cause humans to begin to unearth her and expose her to the world again."
"Makes sense," Berengiere replied, coaxing Fianna's legs apart, and began to wash the sensitive skin on the inside of her thighs with a light, subtle touch. "Why are they sending you? The Tremere has been meddling with this kind of thing for centuries."
"The truth is, that I don't really think they do know what this is. The Tremere, before I came along, never had any contact with my kind even when they were still all human. They honestly don't know what they are dealing with, so they're calling in the only living expert they have.
"They want me to bring her back, alive. But Beren, this I cannot allow! You might think I'd be glad to see one of my own kind still alive after ten centuries, but I am terrified! I think they will get rid of me if they think they can control someone who has already mastered the powers I show only potential to gain." There was a look of naked fear and desperation on her face. "My hope is that I will have the opportunity to diablerize her, to take her soul into my own.
"Or what if it is even worse than that? What if she proves too strong to be taken? What if it's someone I knew from the past. What then? It could not have been my sire or the Morrigan. But if she knew me, then she might know my True Name. She might be able to bend me to her will and I will loose my freedom again, this time forever."
"Have no fear, Fianna, I shall not reveal your secret, nor force you to tell me," Beren reassured Fianna.
"Could she control you if someone already... owned your soul. I don't mean through a Blood Bond, for those are nigh unto unbreakable. Is there a way through your rune workings to tie yourself to someone else, albeit temporarily, and thus protect yourself?"
Fianna thought about it. "I don't, personally. I think there is someone at the Chantry that could. Some of them are masters of Domination."
"And you most certainly don't want them to do it, lest they learn more of your secrets. Do you have someone else you trust enough to do it with?" Beren asked.
Fianna said, slowly, "No. Well maybe. I don't understand how Dominate works and I'd be stupid to allow them to experiment on me. I saw what they did to Sean Killian. I'd rather that not happen to me for any length of time."
"What precautions can you take to protect yourself?"
"I wouldn't know
Wait. I know some magic that can prevent me from being discovered. I use it each time before I come here now. It protects me from prying eyes for ten hour chunks of time. That's one of the reasons why I am not afraid of being discovered coming to visit you. I even have a legitimate reason for using the spell; I don't want vampires from the city magically spying on me to figure out where my haven is and how to get in."
"Yes, but once you are discovered by the creatures you seek, what then? The guardians may ignore you like that creature did before, but if your target is indeed one of your own kind, then she may sense you, or even set the guardians upon you. If she wishes to control you, then she willl do whatever it is she can to take control of you, or perhaps diablerize you herself."
Fianna nodded, "That's what I'm worried about."
She stood to climb out of the tub, body and soul clean and refreshed. "I should go soon if I'm going to beat the sun," she commented.
"Here," Beren said, stepping out of the tub and taking one of the thick, fluffy towels from the warming rack. "Let me help you." She held the towel out, draped it around Fianna's shoulders and began to dry her.
Fianna drew in a breath and discovered the towels carried the same heady scent Beren had. It was a very pleasant aroma and Fianna wondered if all of Beren's belongings smelled that way.
"Fianna," Beren said after a few moments, her voice in Fianna's ear like a gentle breeze. "I have found from personal experience when I was younger that concentrating on an intensely... pleasurable experience helped when trying to overcome the attempts of others to control me." She moved so that she was standing in front of Fianna, still nude, her hair caught up into a pile of curls save for a few stray locks.
"Do you mean like an ecstatic dance to celebrate the gods or Fate?" Fianna asked.
"I suppose," Beren replied. "I should let you know, I was raised under the yoke of Christianity, and it has rather soured me on any and all religions."
"If you wish, I could help you create this experience, if you will trust me. It would go only as far as you wish it to, with no risk to your virginity. As you can see," Beren said with a sultry smile, stroking the triangle of hair at the junction of her legs. "I suffer from a rather pronounced lack of the correct equipment for that, unless you count these." She wiggled her fingers suggestively.
Fianna's eyes widened, and her mouth formed a silent 'O'. "Uhm, I don't know. Are you sure it would help? I know that you've been wanting to for a while. I mean, I recognized the signals. It's just that I don't get it. We're, ah, dead. Is there a point to it?" She hoped Beren understood what she meant.
Beren chuckled. "If we were truly dead, Fianna, we would not be walking around, talking, and doing whatever it was that we do. We would be in the ground, rotted into food for worms and the earth, or had our ashes scattered to the winds long ago. And there is a lot more to physical intimacy than the mere act of procreation, no matter what the priests or priestesses try to tell you. When done right, it can be the most pleasurable thing a person can ever experience.
"Why do I enjoy it? Because I am a very sensual creature. I find beauty in almost every curve of the human body, male or female." She chuckled slightly at the look on Fianna's face. "Do you find that surprising?" Beren asked. "I find pleasure and satisfaction in both men and women. My sire was my first lover. Andre has been one for centuries, and the Prince of Paris during my early years as a vampire gave me my first taste of what making love to a woman could be like. And if you think that the taste of mortal blood laced with wine or other spirits is heady, wait until you taste the blood of one in the throes of passion, as they climax. Or better yet, the blood of another vampire. A well timed and placed bite can do more than any other action during the art of love making, and I have had centuries of experience.
The look on Fianna's face was an almost comical mix of curiosity and doubt.
"Sex is also a very powerful tool, especially to a woman," Berengiere tried to explain. "In an era where a woman had very few options, her body was her most important commodity. Who she chose to have sex with - or perhaps more importantly, whom she withheld it from - gave her power. Why do you not suppose it is almost always the mistresses with the power, and not the wives. Some people will do almost anything to obtain the favors of someone they are lusting after."
"There is something else to think about. Something very important. If the being you are going to confront is someone from your past, they might know a lot about you, and will look to exploit you. They would know about your virginity, and the reasons that you have kept it for so long, and try to manipulate you through it. This is one facet of yourself that you can change. Knowledge of the physical pleasures of the flesh might be the something that would give you an edge - a weapon against it. If you are offered a taste of it, then you can reject what it offers, holding on to what you have as a weapon against its wiles.
"As for my own desires in this, I did not approach you to make you my lover. I must say, it would be an honor to be your guide into the world of earthly delights," Beren said, smiling at the euphemism. "But it is completely and utterly up to you. I give you my word this is not an attempt to seduce you, and that any use of my powers will not be to bind your or manipulate you in any way, other than to make your experience as pleasurable as possible, and give you as strong a memory of the event as possible, so that you might use it as a shield against your enemy. We would be teacher and student. What you do with what you learn would be completely up to you."
Fianna thought about it. On the one hand, maybe it was a ruse to get her into bed with a voracious elder vampire who received the embrace during puberty. Maybe Beren was simply as sexually active as any teenager would want to be. On the other hand, maybe what she said was the plain truth and that she was really interested in Fianna both as a friend and a physical companion.
Either way, what would it hurt? thought Fianna. If she didn't like it, she knew she wouldn't have to do it again. And the fact that she was with a small, attractive girl-vampire and not some more intimidating male had a certain amount of safety in it, too.
Fianna looked into Beren's angelic face and agreed with a nod.
Beren dropped the towel and took Fianna by the hand. She lead her though the other door in the bathroom into a richly appointed bedroom. The bed dominated the room, and was larger than any bed Fianna had ever seen. It was a four poster bed with a canopy, draped with heavily embroidered damask curtains that Fianna guessed could block out even the strongest rays of the sun. The bed was piled high with pillows and cushions of all shapes and sizes, and the sheets were a purple silk so dark they were almost black.
Beren left Fianna's side for just a moment, moving to the doors and locking them so that the pair would not be disturbed.
"Berengiere," she said cautiously, "I think I should tell Strong Bow to go home. If I stay, it will be too late for me to get home."
Beren nodded. "You are more than welcome to stay here for the day," she said. "If you do not wish to spend it here, with me, there is another bedroom available. Not as well appointed as this one, but it is serviceable. I will have one of my less imposing servants tell Strong Bow. Is there a particular phrase they should use to let him know the message comes from you?"
Fianna replied, "Tell him the instruction comes from Mahpiya Winyam. It is a title he will understand."
Beren nodded. "It will be done as you asked."
Fianna looked around the room. "Amazing! Do you sleep here?" Fianna was impressed. "It's so luxurious!" She walked to the bed in a rush and knelt to touch the smooth fabric of the silk pillowcases. She looked up at Beren. "I sleep in the raw stone of the earth's bedrock, usually. Since my haven is in the wilds, I take extraordinary precautions against discovery by the lupines. And before that, I slept in the earth so that the enemies of my people would not find me and destroy me during the day. I so admire your daring and position, Berengiere!"
"This is but one of the many places where I sleep. This house has had many special... modifications, and during the day I have guards trained to deal with the supernatural protecting me. I have never slept in anything other than a bed," Beren said, her face darkening, "except when I was younger and less powerful." With a concerted effort, Beren pushed away the bitter memories in favor of more pleasant thoughts. "Since then, the only times I do not sleep in a bed during the day is when I travel, and then I do so in a very comfortable, very secure cargo container."
She paused and looked up at Beren. Fianna crouched there naked on the floor with a few permanent, ancient tattoos gracing her form and for a moment she truly looked like a savagely beautiful primitive woman. "Berengiere, I have to warn you. I panicked the first time I was confronted with sex. I don't want anyone to get hurt
"It was a mortal, correct?" Berenguere shook her head gently at Fianna's affirmative. "Have no fear, for I am made of sterner stuff." A wicked grin crossed her face. "Besides, sometimes I like it rough." The grin faded to a gentle smile. "But tonight, I shall be as gentle and tender as a butterfly landing on a flower, unless you tell me otherwise." She reached out and took Fianna's hand, guiding her to her feet and over to the bed.
"If you are afraid of losing control and lashing out," Berengiere said, slipping onto the bed. "I have something that will help." She turned her back to Fianna and went on all fours, presenting the celtic vampire with a perfect view of her smooth, eternally young posterior, legs parted just enough to see her thickly furred lips.
Fianna looked away, embarrassed again. Beren was so free and casual about it, and she had doubts that she could ever be that way about it. She picked up a pillow and self-consciously covered herself with it.
The elder vampire moved some of the pillows aside to reveal lengths of heavy chain attached to the bedposts at the head of the bed. With the ease of long experience, she removed the heavy manacles and replaced them with what looked like t-bars. Berengiere tossed the manacles on the floor away from the bed and turned to look back at Fianna.
"You can hold onto these," Beren explained, taking hold of one the handles and giving it a good yank. "It can withstand quite a bit of strength before giving way, and you can let go whenever you want." She put the chain down. "We can also decide upon two control words. One of the words will tell me to slow down or ease off what I am doing. The second word will tell me to stop immediately because you are afraid. You are in complete control of this situation. If at any point you are uncomfortable, tell me and we will stop."
Berengiere invited Fianna to join her on the bed by extending her hand.
Fianna stared at the offered hand a moment, doubts flashing through her mind. An image of white teeth wrapped within snarling, blood-dripping lips flashed through her mind for an instant. Fianna gave a little shake of her head, as if to rouse herself. She put down the pillow and reached out for Beren's hand.
The sheets were as soft and luxurious as the material in the pillowcases. The cool smoothness of them slid comfortingly against her skin as she snuggled into them. It was an experience, already, that she had never had before.
Berengiere guided Fianna's body so that Fianna was lying on her stomach, then ran her small, child-like hands over Fianna's body. "You are very tense," Beren said, as if commenting on the weather. "Let me help you with that." She reached over and picked up a bottle from the nightstand on the far side of the bed. When Berengiere opened it, Fianna caught the scent of wildflowers in spring.
"This is a massage oil," Berengiere explained. "It will help me work out the knots and strains of the night from your body." She poured an amount into her hands, set the bottle aside, and began to massage Fianna's shoulders.
Black eyes flashed, framed with wild, dark hair. Black crow feathers glistened in the hair. Fianna blinked and they were gone like smoke in the night. Beren felt a reflexive shudder wrack Fianna's body, but it seemed to pass.
Berengiere's hands slowed. "Are you alright," she asked softly.
Fianna nodded silently.
Berengiere gently rolled Fianna over onto her back, and guided Fianna's hands to the grips on the chains. "Hold onto these," she said. "And remember, if at any time you are scared, or you feel your control beginning to slip, tell me and I will stop. Also, if at any time you wish to touch me, touch me anywhere, please do so." Fianna reached up and gripped them, moving as if in a dream state.
Beren shifted so that she was lying next to Fianna, so close their bodies almost touched. She went up on one elbow and looked down at Fianna, and Fianna was surprised to see something akin to love in Berengiere's eyes.
The dark-haired woman turned her head to look back at Beren. "Berengiere," Fianna began, but fell silent, seeing the look in the elder's eyes.
The elder vampire slowly and carefully placed one of her small fingers on Fianna's rib cage and began to trace out the pattern that had decorated Fianna's skin a short time earlier. Berengiere's touch was light and flirtatious, and where the pattern had circled Fianna's nipple, Berengiere's finger swirled around the sensitive nub of flesh, gliding over over it, teasing it.
As Beren's finger trailed away from Fianna's breast, she leaned forward and gently kissed Fianna, her tongue caressing Fianna's lips, requesting entrance.
Drums thundered in her ears and Fianna's wide eyes saw the naked, dancing form of an ancient elder long since gone to dust. Twirling and leaping, the form seemed to dare the fire it danced around to touch it. But the dance was not a thing of beauty, but a dance of war and death. The dancing woman who was also a creature of night, a vampire, suddenly twisted in the air and came down directly in Fianna vision, as if she saw Fianna's dreaming form. Her long, accusing finger seemed to skewer Fianna between the eyes. Fianna opened her mouth to scream. Instead, she found herself with Beren again.
Beren's tongue darted inside, playfully exploring Fianna's mouth, demanding nothing but hinting at the promise of more, should Fianna be ready. Too soon, the kiss ended, and Berengiere pulled back, the expression in her eyes unchanged.
Fianna's eyes, wild but determined, stared back at Berengiere.
"How about we change places," Beren suggested with a smile. "Explore my body. If you wish, you may do what I did to you to me."
Fianna rolled out of the way and rose to her knees, eyes bright and powerful.
Beren slid into the spot vacated by Fianna and reached up to take hold of the chains. "Do what you wish, and do not be afraid of hurting me. I will be able to stop you before you can do any serious damage."
Fianna dropped to her hands and knees, straddling her girlish bedmate. With eyes fixed upon Beren's face, she slowly bent to lick one small nipple while her hands stroked Beren's sides.
Pleasure and approval shone in Beren's eyes, and her lips curved in pleasure as her nipple hardened. She arched her back slightly, inviting Fianna to taste her again.
~I'm sorry Mal. I didn't mean to hurt you! I just wanted you to stop,~ Fianna thought to the imaginary face she saw. Fianna looked down at her hands and saw blood, gore, and bits of bone dried and stuck to them. She stared at the once-handsome body beneath her and knew she had leapt upon him and tore into him like a wild animal. She pulled her hands away from him and her long, sharp nails were like talons, tearing at his sides.
Fianna nails raked the skin along Beren's sides and her teeth bit at her nipple. Beren reflexively sucked in a breath and purred deep in her throat. She was about to speak when she realized that Fianna wasn't focused on the here and now, but playing out something in her mind, caught up in memories.
Fianna rose to her knees, off the dead body and felt him slide out from her. She looked down, horrified at what she saw she had done. Ghostly, accusing eyes appeared in her mind. ~What Have You Done!?~ echoed the screaming voice of her priestess her personal diety, the Lhiannon who called herself the Morrigan. The displeasure resounding in that voice tore at her soul, made her want to crawl before the Morrigan and beg her forgiveness, promising anything if only the Morrigan would tell her it was okay and that it didn't happen.
And she knew now that she had. She had been drunk with the power the Morrigan had given her in Blood. Fianna had been newly bonded. She had passionately embraced Mal, but things went too far. She couldn't control her new powers and passions. And she had corrupted herself, losing her role as the virgin priestess in any further rites. The Morrigan had punished Fianna severely for the transgression. Having murdered her lover and made love to his corpse, having given her virginity to the dead, Fianna had forfeited all her rights before the Morrigan's wrath.
The Morrigan had decreed that since Fianna would behave like an animal, killing her own mates, then a killer was what she would become. Once she was the Morrigan's favorite, destined to become her Childer, but no more now. Time and again, the Morrigan sent her forth to seduce and destroy whomever she wished Fianna to kill. She withheld the Embrace that had been promised Fianna for a thousand years, and forced the enslaved assassin to forget the crime she had committed. The Morrigan saw that the punishment would be greater if the convicted woman knew not why she was being punished. And through the power of the Bond, Fianna could never resist.
Fianna's mind seemed trapped somewhere else and she had collapsed on top of Beren's small form, legs and arms gripping Beren firmly as if afraid she'd be torn away from her. She hugged Beren tightly and whimpered, "I'm so sorry, please forgive me. Make it go away," over and over again.
Beren wrapped her arms the trembling woman and held her close, whispering reassurances in her ear. "I forgive you, Fianna." She placed gentle, soothing kisses on the top of Fianna's head, and comforted her as a mother would a small child. Berengiere exerted a small measure of her strength to sit up, bringing Fianna with her so that she was cradled in Beren's lap.
It was a few minutes before Fianna calmed down enough to open her eyes and see what was happening around her again. She looked at Berengiere and saw that her friend was perfectly fine and that nothing had happened. She lifted her head to look at Beren. Blood tears rimmed her eyes in red for the second time this night.
"I'm not a virgin," she stated. "I thought I was, but it's not true; I just didn't want to remember." Then Fianna began to speak of how she had met the sculptor, Mal, and had fallen in love with him, how she had been raised to favored status by the Morrigan and granted the taste of her Blood. She told Beren how her lack of control caused her to murder Mal when he pushed for sex, and how she had used his body as he died. Fianna went on to described how her lack of control cost her position and the respect of the Morrigan. Finally, she told Beren that for the next nine hundred years, the Morrigan had made her endlessly repeat her transgression by having to seduce and destroy men again and again. The only mercy that had been given was that the Morrigan had made her forget what exactly had happened. And now she realized that perhaps that was no mercy at all.
Berengiere looked at Fianna silently for what seemed like forever, then took the stricken vampire's face between her hands and gave her a long, tender kiss.
"What," Beren said, smiling softly at the incredulous look upon Fianna's face. "Did you think that I would abandon you, my friend. You did not choose to lead that life. It was thrust upon you by the Morrigan, and you were sorely, and horribly abused. She held you in thrall, and there was no way you could have refused her. But you are free of her. The only hold she has on you now is what you allow her through your memories.
"And you are not the only one in the world to lose control when flush with powerful blood, or hunger," Beren said simply, refusing to speak more on the subject. Her arms shifted to fall around Fianna's waist. The embrace was that of a friend holding another, completely innocuous and completely safe.
"The next question is, what are you going to do about what you have learned," Beren asked softly. She reached up to wipe away a blood red tear and had to stop herself from absently licking the drop of liquid from her finger.
Fianna took Beren's finger to her mouth and sucked away the blood tear, then pulled Beren over and gave her a tight hug. "Thank you, Berengiere." She remained there as she continued, "I'm not sure what I should do. I've got to move on, I think."
She sighed and let Beren go and turned around so she could lean back on the head board of the bed. "I've spoiled the mood I'm afraid." She left an arm around Beren's petite waist. "I like that you called me your friend", she said with a smile. "I like you Berengiere. I've rarely met someone who has been so kind." Heavy lids drew her eyes closed and she drifted off to that death-like sleep vampires always attain at dawn.
Beren looked down at Fianna, then silently slipped from the bed. She padded over to the door to the hallway and opened it. Azeem was standing there silently.
"Oh, don't look at me like that," Beren said, making a face at her ghoul. "It had to be done, and you know it. Better it was with me when the breakthrough happened than with the Tremere dancing attendance." She looked back over her shoulder at Fianna for a moment. "I will be staying here, rather than returning to the mansion. Please make sure that there are clean clothes for us, and I think I would like Alexandra to attend me in the morning. Oh, and when Andre returns, please ask him to sleep in the spare bedroom. He can report to me on the progress of his work when I awake."
Azeem bowed, and Beren watched him retreat down the corridor. Even after all these centuries, he still moved with the grace of his warrior training. She knew that he still practiced his sword technique, and on more than one occasion she had been able to give thanks for his diligence. Beren wondered for a moment what would happen if she did indeed attain her goal. Would they still be bound to her, or would they return to the mortal coil.
But there would be time enough to worry about that. She closed the door and walked back to the bed. Beren took a note pad and a pen out of the drawer of the night table and quickly jotted down a note for Fianna, in case she wasn't awake or was gone when Fianna awoke. She pulled the heavy draperies closed then slipped between the covers and pulled them up over Fianna and herself, then snuggled up behind Fianna, spooning her. Beren draped a comforting arm over Fianna's waist, and as the rising sun stole her consciousness from her, she smiled gently and placed a kiss at the nape of Fianna's neck.
Fianna woke with a start, forgetting for a moment where she was. The movement disturbed a piece of paper that had been carefully left in front of her as she slept on her side. Looking around, she saw she was alone and in the same room as she was last night. Fianna picked up the note and read it. It was a note from Beren containing an apology for having to rise early and go due to previous commitments, but it concluded by saying she would return by 2 am and signed with Beren's elegant "B". Her clothes were already cleaned and laid out for her, so Fianna slipped into them and soon headed back to Detroit.