Dialog 6

by Dustin Evermore and Lisa Hartjes

It was a few days before Fianna returned, but when she did, her dress matched that of the hotel's usual clientele much better. She had on a nice miniskirt and a blouse. It wasn't buttoned all the way up, and it was just noticeable that she wore no bra. Strong Bow was with her, protectively at her side and alternately watching for signals from his mistress and people around them. He was dressed more informally, still just wearing a large, un-tucked t-shirt and blue jeans. He was wearing a hand-made bone choker in his native style as well as a amulet which hung about his neck. The amulet took the form of a small wooden circle bound with spider web-like leather string and decorated with a few stone beads.

When the two arrived at Beren's hotel room door, Fianna knocked and waited for the answer. After a few moments, the door opens to reveal a huge black man. Fianna recognizes him as Azeem as he looks down at her emotionlessly.

"Hello, Azeem. Can the lady of the suite receive visitors?" asked Fianna.

"She is not here," Azeem replied, his deep, almost melodious voice out of place with his huge, hulking figure. He shifted his position slightly, and even through the clothing he wore, Fianna could see his muscles ripple. "She is tending to her out of town business concerns. This is for you." His hand went into a pocket hidden somewhere around his hip and extracted a business card. The card was blank except for a phone number.

"If you need to speak to her, or wish to arrange a meeting, call that number and leave a message. She should be back in Ann Arbor tomorrow night, but has tickets to the opera. She will not be available to see you until after 1 am."

Fianna looked at the number for a moment to memorize it, but didn't touch it. She nodded and said, "I shall." Fianna turned and looked at Strong Bow, who then escorted her away.

***A few days later***

Strong Bow handed the phone to Fianna after having dialed the number. Fianna nibbled her lip in worry and a small line of worry creased the space between her eyebrows as she waited for someone on the other end to pick up. Someone did, but it was only an answering machine.

"This is your friend from town," Fianna told the device. "I need to talk to you about an unexpected visitor that may be stopping by your place. Please call me at 555-7038 and we can find some place to talk." Without further comment, she turned off the phone and handed it back to Strong Bow. It was a half moon tonight, and she was at her most alert. She sensed she had less than three hours till dawn.

Less than five minutes later, the phone rang. "Where," the female voice asked.

A quick question to Strong Bow and Fianna was able to describe an all-night coffee house. The phone went silent and Fianna hung up.

A very short while later, Fianna and Strong Bow were seated in the coffee house. There were a couple other people there, aside from the employee, but each was seated alone, sipping coffee and reading a book or newspaper. It was much too late for the bar-going crowd and it was too early even for the mortal early-risers. Instead, night shift people just off of work or insomniacs populated the coffee house.

The interesting thing about the coffee house was that it was partitioned, somewhat. Orders were taken near the entrance, and tables were set up not far from there. That's where the clientele were currently located. But farther in was a partial wall. It had a fireplace adjoining it (although it was unlit at the moment), facing away from the table. Around this were a number of couches and overstuffed chairs and beyond them were a number of tall, round tables at which one could stand or sit on tall chairs. Strong Bow stood at one, apparently reading a paper, while Fianna lounged on a couch sipping a cup of something steaming.

Strong Bow was dressed in what had to be too warm of a long coat, and looked like a militant member of AIM. In truth, he probably actually was a member of the radical American Indian Movement. Fianna was dressed in black leather and her face was accented with dark makeup. A studded wristband decorated her right arm and rugged boots gave the attractive woman a tough appearance.

Strong Bow immediately saw Azeem enter the doorway to the coffee shop and look around. The huge black man was wearing a heavy overcoat that must have been tailored made to fit his frame. When Azeem caught the eye of Strong Bow, he motioned silently for them to follow him.

Strong Bow touched Fianna on the shoulder and she looked up. In a moment the two of them were following Azeem. They exited the shop in time to see Azeem disappear around a corner and into a dark alley.

Fianna looked uncomfortable and Strong Bow loosened his coat for easy access to his weapons. They stepped cautiously into the alley.

Fianna heard a muffled sound that she recognized as fresh bones breaking. When her eyes became adjusted to the dark, she saw Azeem and Beren standing over a large packing box. The elder vampire was straightening up and made a silent gesture to Azeem. He bent over and stuffed some trash [from?] the dumpster into the top of the box, then taped it shut with a roll of duct tape that he pulled from a pocket.

"You had warning for me," Beren said, her voice carrying just far enough to reach Fianna and Strong Bow's ears.

Fianna paused, looking at the box. She appeared to be uncomfortable speaking in the alley. "Yes. You're going to have some company, very soon. I have heard that some of our -- people -- of the city have been poking around your neighborhood and may have located your -- haven. I believe their intent was to find, um, mutual enemies, but I am concerned about this. I have heard the Prince will send a representative to you to ask some questions. I think that if I were you and this happened without warning, I'd kill the messenger and then leave town for a very long time. But in this case, I wanted you to know that it is not necessary. The representative is not hostile and does not mean to threaten or attack you. It's just that the situation in your neighborhood is rather difficult. Is there somewhere you'd rather talk?"

Beren's face and voice were emotionless. "We can talk in the car. This way." She turned on her heel and headed down the alleyway in the opposite direction from the coffee house, her pace brisk. Her servant picked up the box with ease and followed her. Five minutes later, she stopped next to a large black Hummer. Azeem stepped forwards and opened the door, then moved to the back of the vehicle to put the box in the back. Beren disappeared into the back seat.

Fianna climbed in after Beren and shared the back seat. Azeem spoke with Strong Bow and they both got in front.

"Tell me everything you know." Beren sat, arms and legs crossed, revealing blackclad calves and black cowboy boots. If Fianna didn't know better, she'd swear she was in the presence of an inquisitor.

"The Nosferatu are the ones who've discovered your haven. I believe they were initially simply looking for the heart of Sabbat activity in Ann Arbor. But they were concerned since they did not know you and informed the Prince. Due to the Sabbat activity in the area and perhaps some reasons that I am unaware of, he has chosen to send a representative to you."

"The Prince and I know each other from the past, and he knows I am here in Ann Arbor. I announced myself to him when I arrived in the area, out of courtesy and the old ways, because I will be entering his territory from time to time." Beren replied softly.

Fianna nodded. "Then there must be some other reason why he has sent someone." She shook her head. "I do not know what that may be."

She continued. "We've identified a number of individuals that we can get valuable information from. Strong Bow will be retrieving them and questioning them during daylight hours tomorrow." Fianna paused in thought.

"Who might these people be?" Beren asked.

"The friends and relatives of over a dozen people who've gone missing. We anticipate a shovel party in two nights. That means they could double their number if we don't hit them tomorrow." Fianna shook her head again. "There are already too many for the few of us who can attack.

"I'm worried about this. This was supposed to be no more than a training run, Beren. I believe it is going to be much more difficult than that. I'm still going in, looking for your college student, but… Look, they are led by a Lasombra elder and backed up with Tzimisce firepower. I expect fast Brujah and city-dog muscle and the stars say there will be many more than we expect." Beren recognized that city-dog was the term Fianna used for City Gangrel often employed by the Sabbat. "I hope the future the stars have told me are wrong, because if they are not, that means Strong Bow's destiny ends tomorrow night as well." Fianna actually wrung her hands in stress. "Strong Bow will procure the current location of the Sabbat as well as more precise numbers."

"Do not risk yourself for the student," Beren replied. "Your concern is to eliminate the Sabbat threat. Will you be able to share the information you learn about them with me?" She paused.

"I'm afraid there won't be time to tell you about them before hand. As soon as we have the information Strong Bow has provided, I'm pushing my allies to strike. We can't afford to let them create more Sabbat members. And as for risking myself, I may not have much of a choice."

"What else have stars told you?"

Fianna stared out the window into the black night for a while. Time passed and Beren began to wonder if she had heard the question when Fianna suddenly spoke again. "I have two paths before me. The outcome is not clear. Clear choices have not yet been made but it is possible the team that has been collected may devour itself as well as the Sabbat. In this case, my Destiny fades for a long time. It does not reappear within the realm of the Camarilla Sect, which leads me to expect the worst.

"If I do not participate in this, my Destiny appears strong for a little while, but some of my allies die. It causes a weakening later that also ends with a drastic change in my current direction. My Destiny weakens and dies after a long, violent struggle with hopeless odds.

"My only option is to see this through and pray that my… allies make the… correct choices. If so, all will be well, save for a rift that I foresee growing within it."

"What else do the stars say about your allies and other friends?" Beren asked.

"Some will die tomorrow unless they can put aside their pride and work together. Others may die later because they answer to Nuyen van Faulk who will ask them to help me in Ireland. Celeste will be safe -- she is out of it. She has a future." Fianna looked up at Beren. "And if you are reserved in your association with me, then you do as well."

The Irish woman sighed. "Some nights I feel like I'm some kind of Plague." She chuckled a little. "I wonder what Roma would say if she knew all the information I have about the Sabbat Pack. Probably tell me I couldn't go. She doesn't believe in astrology... Wish me luck tomorrow?"

"What exactly do you mean by 'reserved' in my association with you," Beren asked.

"It's hard to explain. I just know that our paths are not supposed to become entangled too much. It always means trouble if we defy our Fates." Fianna looked across the seat to Beren, wondering if she understood.

"And do the stars tell you what my fate is?" Beren asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Fianna turned away a little, but nodded her head. "You will be fine, Beren. There are no guarantees, because strange things happen even in the heavens sometimes. But I think this is how it will be, so long as you stay your current course."

"If something should go wrong, I'm afraid you cannot come to me, nor can I come to you and offer assistance. I cannot become directly involved in what you will be doing."

"Yes, the Fates agree. But I do not fully understand why."

"I have removed myself from the politics and night to night life of the Kindred, and have sworn not to interfere," Beren explained.

"That is a big decision. Why do you not participate?"

"I am a Monitor," Beren said softly. "It is my role to watch and to learn. I am bending the rules even to be befriending you and giving you the information about the Sabbat pack in Ann Arbor."

Fianna thought about this for a moment. She had thought Berengiere was an independent operator, perhaps strong enough to enforce her personal freedom. In this, she appeared to be mistaken. But at last, she had a basic understanding of what motivated Beren. Fianna moistened her lips as she thought. "Whose rules do you bend?"

"Those of my... teacher, and his teacher before him, and his before him," Beren replied. "I cannot say any more."

Fianna nodded and slouched back in the seat. "I have still more ill news. It seems the parks in the same area as the Sabbat are full of weres. I have had to arm Strong Bow with silver and heavily plant my sword with it. It's going to ruin the edge. But a silver bat is better than a steel sword in this case."

She shifted in the seat as if unable to get comfortable. "Beren, I know our destinies should not cross, and I know that I would probably be in a good deal of hot water if all that we did was known. Right now things are tense and complicated, and I won't be able to get away for a few more days, but I would still like to come see you. I have some new responsibilities. A new Apprentice. Her name is February, but she must never know of these excursions. She's half Cherokee and half Irish, making her a good fit. An excellent fit because she shows a gift for magic. But she's still mortal and a rare enough find that I will not risk taking her into danger or to my haven for now. At any rate, her training will occupy some of my time and that's why I mention it. But I will still always have the last couple hours of the night here and there, if you would still like to see me." She watched Beren's face hopefully.

"Do you think me so jealous and possessive of my friends that I would spurn you rather than accept whatever time you could give me," Beren said softly, shaking her head. "You are young, and you have set yourself a long series of tasks. When you wish to see me again, simply call the number I gave you." She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on Fiana's cheek.

Fianna smiled, "I was concerned you might leave because of the Prince's attention. I'm glad that it will take more than a little visit to scare you away."

Beren shook her head. "The Prince and I are not strangers to each other," she said with a slight smile. "I suspect I will be hearing from him shortly about what has happened."

"Is there something that has happened I should know about?" Fianna looked at her friend.

"I was referring to the intrusion of Kindred from the Detroit into my territory," Beren explained. "As to what I will do, that shall depend upon what the Prince's representative actions and behavior." She paused. "Tell me, how did you learn about the clan of the leader of the Sabbat, and have you confirmed it?"

Fianna shook her head. "No, no confirmation. But this is what our Nosferatu spies have discovered, combined with unreleased police reports. What Strong Bow does tomorrow may confirm some of this for us. But, I recognize, the Lasombra, Beren. I have encountered her before." She shivered at the memory.

"I don't think I ever told you about it, Beren. It's no secret. One year ago, when Nuyen and I were scouting territory, I called the rats of the docks to seek out the dead. Unfortunately, I learned that day that even animals can be treacherous. Or perhaps it was simply bad luck; a twist of Fate. Anyway, a whole Pack of Sabbat came down on the two of us. The Lasombra lay down her darkness to blind us and I countered with my magic. Then four Brujah came at us fast, and armed with guns and knives. Nuyen bravely stood his ground. He had neither their speed or strength, but his own abilities, coupled with my magic, made him a match for two of them. It was bad, Beren. To make things worse, there was a Hunter, sniping from a rooftop. Fortunately, sheer odds meant the Sabbat was hit more often and that took out another.

Fianna balled a fist in the heat of memory. "It was a tremendous battle. They took Nuyen down and I had to use the last of my magical power and Blood to seal him in concrete thick enough to prevent them from taking him. Then it was down to that filthy, rotten Lasombra and I. But we engaged in fair, single combat, sword on sword. I was winning, I nearly cut her sword hand off. She was a poor looser. She pulled out a pistol and shot me at point blank range. The next thing I remember, I was taken by the Sabbat." Fianna stopped, shaking in with both anger and fear.

"Do you hold that opinion of all Lasombra," Beren asked gently, "or just that particular one?"

Fianna caught herself before she spoke too soon. She appeared to reconsider. "I would have said no, one couldn't judge the many through the actions of the one. But Stazi, too, has had cause for a low regard for Lasombra, from what she told me. I can only truthfully say I have never heard of an honest, forthright Lasombra. It is the same for members of the Sabbat. Although I know a few ex-Sabbat member that I think highly of, I do not think their actions speak for the Sabbat as a whole. The Sabbat is still rotten. Why do you ask?"

"Have you heard of any Kindred who was completely honest and forthright," Beren replied with the hint of a smile. "I was just wondering if you felt the same emnity for the Baron."

"Oh! That is a good example. And no, I do not. He has always kept his word and I would honor his help in the past better if I remembered it." She shook her head sheepishly.

"Beren, this is very short notice, but I was wondering if you could help me. I need two vials of that werecat blood I gave to you for safekeeping until Ireland. I hope I won't need it, but if I do, it will give me strength and speed equal to or better than that of most Brujah. If things are as tough as I have foreseen tomorrow night, I will need an edge. Perhaps you could have someone you trust drop it off somewhere?"

Beren was silent for a moment, her face a neutral mask. "Is there a location you would prefer," she asked.

Fianna thought about it a moment. "I know. How about our post office box? I believe they set one up. 75689 Ann Arbor, I think. If someone could drop the package off in the morning I could have Strong Bow swing by and pick it up in the early evening." Fianna watched Beren's face. "What? What are you thinking?"

"You would not like what I am thinking, Fianna," Beren replied softly, no trace of emotion in her voice or demeanor. "I will do as you ask."

Fianna wasn't put off so easily. "Sometimes friends have to tell each other things they don't necessarily want to hear."

"Don't use the tainted blood. Allow me to destroy it. Using it will only strengthen the addiciton it holds, and increases the risk of it destroying you. Find some other way to get the edge that you need to deal with the Sabbat. If you keep the blood, what will you do when the six vials are gone? Will you seek out another werecat and bargain for more? It does not give you more power, Fianna, or an edge. It gives you nothing but a very important, easily exploitable weakness. Do you trust your 'allies' enough not to hand over that information if it suits their purposes, or under the threat of torture?"

"I was told that once a taste has been given, the addiction is forever." She looked at Beren with hunger in her eyes. "You don't understand the power in this blood, because you haven't tried it." Fianna squeezed her eyes shut and drew a soothing breath. "It makes me faster, stronger, and I can hurl magics that I cannot approach on my own. There is another way, but I understand diablerie is outlawed these days. One day I will be able to draw the very magical essence of the earth and use its raw power. But not today. Not until after Ireland." Fianna shook her head for emphasis. "I know what you're saying is wise, and I pray that I will not have to use it. But I would rather be addicted than dead."

"I do understand that hunger, Fianna, far better than you know," Beren replied softly, and Fianna got the impression that Beren was not likely to say any more on that subject. "I will get the vials to you as you requested."

Fianna thought she heard disappointment in Beren's voice and she hated that she was disappointing Beren. She wondered if Celeste would also be disappointed. The thought was upsetting, but she was set on her course, believing that this was a part of her Fate now. "Thank you Beren." She lowered her voice to just above a whisper. "And I'm sorry. Just a little while longer, and then I can destroy all the vials."

Fianna touched Beren's hand delicately and said, "If all goes well, then I will contact you this time tomorrow night with news about your college student. But if you don't hear from me, don't worry. I might get held up at the Chantry later. I'll call you the day after." She left unsaid what the consequences for her would undoubtedly have been if Beren did not hear from her for more than a couple days.

"I understand," Beren replied. "Be careful, ma petite." Fianna could hear what appeared to be genuine affection in her voice.

With bright eyes, Fianna smiled back at her. "Thanks, Beren. I will."

Website designed by Edward Cupps and Dustin Evermore. c.1999-2002

Credit and thanks go to Jason Monroe, Brian Pint, Ryan McCullogh, Josh Holt, Tom Welch, Holland Erickson, Lisa Hartjes, Curtis Eckerman and all those who participated consciously or not.  And of course...the Partyman R.I.P.