Dialog 7: Dead and Back

by Dustin Evermore and Lisa Hartjes

Hours crept by and soon word seeped in of some kind of disturbance and a fire in the trailer park. It was difficult to tell what exactly happened; no one seemed to remember it precisely, but apparently none of the locals were missing or hurt. Two trailers now stood empty, however, and there were some signs of violence, including a broken window, a door heavily damaged by a shotgun, and a burnt, blackened area near the cornfield. There was also an abandoned car with a torn flat tire that was towed away. An ambulance arrived and took one man to the hospital. He was not a local, but was described as having native American features.

But there was no word from Fianna. The long night soon slid by, without a peep to be heard from Beren's friend. Indeed, even the man taken to the hospital, seemed to disappear. It should have been impossible he could walk out because he should have been in a coma from which it didn't seem likely he'd ever recover. The big Indian had been nearly cut in half twice, and looked like he'd take a hit from some kind of explosion. A missing, apparently homeless John Doe native American was not particularly newsworthy, however, and was completely overlooked in the press.

Nor was there word the next day, or the day after that. In fact, soon a week passed by, and the concerned Monitor tried Fianna's cell number. There was only a voice explaining that the phone in question was not turned on or out of service.


More than two weeks had passed when a message was delivered to Beren. A servant had taken the call and written it down. It said, "I would be pleased to extend an invitation to you, Lady Berengiere, to come to my home to talk about current events. At three tomorrow, my man will be dispatched to meet you at your house in Ann Arbor. If at all possible, I will accompany him and we can bring you and your guest to my stronghold. I do hope that you will consider this invitation, for you will be my first guest in all the time I have lived here." The secretary stated the message was from Fianna, and there was a phone number left for Beren.

Beren returned the call from a payphone in Detriot, saying simply she'll be there, then hanging up.

The next night at 3 am, Fianna was at the door alone. In short order Beren and Azeem were ready to leave. Fianna had said very little in terms of greeting apart from a quick, "Hello, are you ready to go?" She seemed very nervous tonight.

The car she and her driver had arrived in was not in good condition. The classy, black BMW had obviously been the very recent victim of some serious vandalism. The trunk was tied down. The roof had been ripped up and shot up, and then bent back into place and held with duct tape. Beren could see inside enough to know that the seats had been ruined by dark, brownish-red stains.

But this was not the car they were taking. Across the street, the driver sat in a non-descript brown Chevy. He got out with Fianna and the others approached and let the women in the back. Azeem was given the front seat. Once everyone was secure, the driver guided the car out onto the road. Fianna continued to watch anxiously out the windows for a few minutes before finally settling back in the seat with a sigh. 

"I'm sorry about all this Beren. I think I really managed to get into trouble this time, and I just don't want you to be seen with me. I know you don't need that kind of attention, and recently the heat has really been turned up. But tell me, how are things with you?"

"Indeed, much has happened," Beren agreed.  "Things are well with me. But what of you," she asked.

"Sometime okay, other times, not so good, Beren. I was badly hurt in the skirmish we had a week ago. I was shot in the back by an ally and that nearly finished me. This just after I share my power with him to keep him on his feet and fighting. In the end everyone was down or missing and I was facing off with a Tzimisce in Zhulou (?) form backed up by a Gangrel antitribue. Ironically, I would have won had I not been sprayed with automatic weapons fire by an ally. He struck me down and our side barely won. I have been trying to recover all this time." Fianna looked more pained than angry. Sitting this close to her, Beren could also see that she was dressed not in a black jumpsuit and coat, but rather body armor. It had been damaged and resewn recently and the scar on it matched a horrid, red wound that still show above the armored vest. By the looks of it, it ran nearly a meter long down her torso. It looked like claw marks. 

The car was soon out of Ann Arbor and had turned off the main roads. Now the Indian driver was driving through countryside.

"Was it deliberate betrayal," Beren asked softly, "or were you just caught in the line of fire?"

Fianna looked bitter but took a moment to calm herself down. Beren was beginning to get the idea that being forgiving might not really be what Fianna wanted to be in this matter, but was giving it a try. "I understand now that he had orders to kill the Tzimisce. He did not wish to wait until I finished defeating him, so sprayed the entire area, hoping to shoot through me to get to the enemy. He had no regard for my safety or life, so yeah it was fucking on purpose. Sorry, I'm not mad at you, Beren. I'm sorry. It's a tough pill to swallow."  

"What trouble do you feel you are in now?"

"I engaged the enemy again yesterday. This isn't a small set of isolated encounters anymore, Beren. It's open war now and I don't when or where they will strike. So far, I have been on the offensive, but now I'm out of places to hit them. And frankly, I'm not up to fighting them now." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying to find a position where the armor did not scrape against the still-angry wound.  

The car slowed and turned into a gravel driveway. It ended into a sort of grassy parking lot in which several other cars and a few motorcycles were also parked.  Strong Bow let everyone out and the four moved up a path toward a large, grassy hill which was nearly as tall as the trees surrounding it. Curiously, no tress grew upon the hill, but the top was litter with a couple trailers and a few very large teepees.  

But they were not going to the top of the hill.  Midway up, a little off the path was a dark, shadowy depression in the hillside. Strong stepped to the side and Fianna walked to the back of the shallow cave. It looked to be solid rock, but Fianna reached out and touched it with a faintly glowing hand. The resulting movement was invisible to all but Beren's sensitive eyes. It seemed as if the rock itself flowed of its own accord into cracks that were not there a moment ago. In seconds, there was the outline of a door. Fianna pushed it with a light touch and it soundlessly swung inward.  

Within was a long hallway. It must have gone some 40' feet before it opened into a larger chamber beyond. The way was lit by brightly glowing stones that sat in niches in the walls. Fianna stopped and turned to face Beren and Azeem.

"Welcome to my home," she said.  Fianna turned and led them through the tunnel, while the driver and bodyguard stayed behind. As the others moved in, he closed the door, standing guard outside. From all appearances, Fianna would be alone with Beren and her escort.  

Beren looked around the underground chamber, then remembered what her mentor had told her. It was a shame.

They continued through the corridor. The little glowing stones gave off a light as bright as any campfire, yet they miraculously gave off absolutely no heat of their own. When the entered the main chamber, Beren could see that it was circular, and decorated with a variety of native American symbols. Hand made blankets and pillows surrounded a fire pit. The fir pit itself was simply a collection of large, glow-stones. Quarts sparkled in the ceiling making it appear like a night sky. In fact, Beren could even identify some constellations. Somehow, pieces of quartz had been melded into the stony ceiling. 

"This is a beautiful place," Beren said. "If it were mine, I would rarely venture out into the world." She smiled.

Fianna smiled proudly. "Thank you. I love my home. It extends much further," she gestured to the back of the chamber, indicating there was another tunnel somewhere there. "And it's designed to protect all of my people. But this is where we always get together and talk." Beren could smell the leftover smoke of a pipe.

She made a welcoming gesture toward the blankets. She unfastened the body armor, loosening the front so it wouldn't bother the wound, and sat down carefully. She lounged upon a pillow and looked across the recessed "fire pit" at Beren.

Fianna bit her lip, showing some consternation. "But going back to the engagement two weeks ago. I'm sorry Beren. I saw what the Sabbat did to those people. I...  I don't think they will be able to function in society very well anymore. If they live. I couldn't recognize your college student, and was not conscious at the end of the battle to look some more. In nearly every respect, I have failed. Both two weeks ago and last night. Aside from accomplishing, just barely, the minimum requirements for success in these assaults, I mean."  

Beren shook her head. "I'm afraid I may have given you the wrong impression about the student. There was no... personal attachment.  I was raised in an era where the inhabitants of my domain were my responsibility. It was my duty to ensure they were safe, and that no others poached on my land, so to speak.  Old habits die very hard."

Beren sighed. "I hope you have not become too attached to this place," she said softly.

Fianna blinked and looked at Beren in confusion.

"I have learned that there are several groups that have become aware of you, not the least of which are a mage or two, and a tribe of lupines.  You are in danger here, in the wilds."

"Because of this interest, I feel we need to be more discrete in or meetings, and to reduce their frequency.  Neither of us can afford the attention it would bring." 

Fianna looked relieved and her face cleared. "Oh, I know about these things. Have no fear. I now have allies among the mages and this place is well guarded against detection by lupines and other mages. The Tremere made certain of that. But what is this tribe of lupines? I know there are some in the area, but I did not believe they were looking for me specifically."

"Are you so sure?" Beren said softly. "The Baron himself told me to warn you, and there are many ways to track a person, without using magic As for who these lupines are, I cannot say. The Baron did not share that information, but you can be sure they - or any tribe - would likely do whatever they can to claim your cairn as their own." She went silent.

Fianna paused, taking in the new information. "I'll be careful. I know I can be followed as any other mortal may be. But I do not follow predictable schedules or take the same route. I might still be tracked here, but it is the best I can do. At least here I can seal my faithful and I off from the world. I have many protections, guns, traps here. I can seal myself within the very bones of the earth, should I choose to, though that would force me to abandon my people to their fate. These people here… They love me. They would die for me. I will tell you a secret. I inspire True Faith in them. Through belief in me, they can repel even the undead. I know there is risk remaining outside the city. But I would rather be loved and sheltered in the wilderness in spite of all the dangers, than be hated and hunted in the city."

"I'm not saying you should leave here," Beren replied. "Just that you should be on your guard. Warn your people so that they will not be taken unawares."

"Why do you put such faith in the word of the Tremere?" Beren asked, suddenly changing the subject.

Fianna smiled. "Thank you Beren for being so concerned. I am enlisting a new Bear Warrior even now and the two will be entrusted with making evacuation and defense plans and practicing them every month. These things were sent in motion only a couple nights ago, so your advice is very timely.

"And I trust the Tremere because there are four among them that care for me, too. One of them would die for me and it was very nearly proven last night." Fianna lowered her voice to a whisper, but all sounds carried in that stone chamber. "I hope that she will awaken again soon." Her voice caught at the last word. Her expression was a message of surprise at her own emotion.

She blinked and cleared her throat. "I have strong allies, Beren. The strongest. The one that has offered me protection sits upon the Tremere Council of Seven and is among the most powerful among even them. And I know that she means to keep her word. I am very much unpopular with the vast majority of the Tremere, Beren. I know that. It is because what I represent and what I can give this council member is a power none of them understand and many of them still fear. And my ally knows that I am nothing if not loyal to my friends and allies."

She continued, "But truly I fear more what waits for me in the city than anything out here in the wilds. Here, they can only kill me and even then I have good ability to escape. Back in the city…  You do not know yet what has happened." She closed her eyes and almost touched the ugly wound across her torso.

"The Sabbat knows that I live now. I was given a device that tracked the one who killed Sean Killian and brought him back as a city dog. I followed it to his pack and we engaged in battle. Celeste, that backstabbing Nos, Colonel Dunkirk of the Ventrue, and the Brujah police officer Nathaniel, Strong Bow and I engaged them. We fought a leader was a master of illusion and very tough, that Gangrel, two Lasombra, a Tzimisce, and three others of various types.

"We were not able to defeat them last night. It should have ended in total our defeat, but that evil Lasombra bitch showed some sense of honor after all. We killed a Lasombra, or rather Celeste did. She has a very nice weapon for such tasks. We also captured the Gangrel and took out three others. But they eventually dropped Strong Bow, the Brujah went crazy (again) and the Nos ran off and disappeared again. Colonel Dunkirk got himself staked, and Celeste was gunned down by the Sabbat Tzimisce called Tierza."  She looked Beren in the eyes.

"I know Tierza. I know her horribly well Beren. We go way back." Her voice was flat, dead sounding.

"I also knew the Lasombra that still lived. I had consecrated the land so that it rose up in defense of me and I did damage to them, destroying an entire flock of bats summoned by Tierza. But in the end, it was I against Tierza and the Lasombra and they had no desire to try to fight me in the land I had taken, for it could tear them apart. But it did not matter. The Lasombra used her darkness to catch me and my light shone not bright enough to chase it away. Tierza told me that they would kill Celeste and all the rest unless I surrendered.

"They made me say it. They wanted me to beg for their lives." Fianna stared emptily at the sparkling ceiling. "They knew now that I had powers and magic. They were going to take me so that the Sabbat would have magic again. So I did. I gave myself to them to save the others.

"But I would make their victory hollow. The Lasombra was pulling my body apart, but I still had one hand free and I still had power, I turned myself into a living statue, knowing they had not the magic to turn me back.

"Beren, I would have done anything to avoid being skinned alive and abused like that again. Even risk eternity staring fixedly into space as a living statue.

"But as I stood, hearing my enemies howl with rage and prepare to shatter my body with a shot from a high powered rifle, that damn Nosferatu showed up again. It seems that the Lasombra owed a debt to a Nos somehow. She backed off and ordered Tierza to stand down, even though they could have defeated him and taken us all.  They collected as many of their own as they could carry, leaving the one whose head Celeste had reduced to ash and the one they knew I had come for.

"Now they bide their time and wait for their chance to find me again. They know how to defeat me now. They know the city, as well. That is why I do not wish to go to your places of safety. I may be followed. There is no place now that is safe, but at least if you are in my haven, then it is only my haven that is endangered. I do not think they will touch you."

"There is much you do not know, ma petite, about me," Beren replied softly. "And for your safety it is best that it remains that way.  I can assure you that the Sabbat would be very interested to learn I still exist.  A pack or two have claimed they have destroyed me, and I would prefer that the Sabbat continue to believe that fiction.  That is one of the main reasons why I could not act to eliminate the Sabbat pack myself."

Fianna gave Beren an impish grin. "I presume a lot, don't I? I'm sorry. I guess I want my friends to be safe so badly that I'll tell myself it's okay even if it's not true." She sighed.

"So you don't think you should see me for a while? Maybe you're right. I'll be in seclusion for the next two weeks. Then I'll take a look around and see if things are calmed down a little. If I'm not attacked, chased, or otherwise pressured, may I contact you again?"

Beren nodded. "That would be fine." She paused, then glanced towards the entrance to the chamber. "How is Strong Bow healing?"

Fianna looked at Beren. "I don't know. I haven't seen him. He was torn apart by the claws of that Gangrel, and my blood doesn't seem to heal him any better." She looked more than very sad. She looked just miserable over it. "I don't even know if he'll pull through. I don't dare visit him, for fear I could be followed. I don't want to see Sabbat assaulting a hospital just to get at me."  

She sat up, and pulled her knees up close. She put her head in her hands, sadly musing. "I think I should let him go. He's been through too much, had to survive being gutted twice. No, four times in two different battles. He's tough as nails but he's paid his dues in service to me, and it's only going to get worse. I will never embrace him, so his lot in life from now on will be to suffer in pain, and to forever pine for my attentions. Maybe I should try to find someone I don't care about to be my bodyguard."

"Why would you never embrace him," Beren asked curiously.

Fianna paused in thought as she tried to find a way to put the answer. "I chose Strong Bow for his faith and strength. A Bear Warrior's status is that of permanent defender of my line, the Bas Filidh.

To be eligible, the candidate must also be a very capable leader. They have to know how to work with people and get them to work for you. In addition, the candidate should have a background in magical studies under my tutelage or its equivalent. This requires magical aptitude. Strong Bow has none of the traits necessary for this.

"Besides, I have already accepted my apprentice." Fianna continued, but her eyes were not focussed on Berengiere. She seemed to be sharing her thoughts aloud. "I do have permission from the Prince to make a Childe. At the end of her training some time from now, I will give her the choice to join me in the creation of a new Bloodline, or she will remain my student indefinitely. She will one day stand at my side or she will take my place should I finally fall." She seemed to be thinking about something devious when she let slip a giggle.

"What do you find so amusing?" Beren asked.

"I know a way to make Childer with blood no more or less potent than my own. My Bloodline will not be short." The black-haired vampire grinned impishly at Beren.

"I am glad to hear that," Beren says with a smile. "Will you share that secret with me?"

"It is the most beneficial use of a power that is available when I at my greatest potential. I do not think you could learn this power without embracing my frame of reference completely. That is necessary because without it, you would have nowhere to draw the power from." She reflected upon what the Tremere would ask for it. "They have a way different than mine to accomplish the same task using manipulation of the Blood. They would exact a price for such a service, of course.  Do you have something I could not find at the Chantry that you can teach me in exchange? They might go for that."

Beren shook her head with a smile.  "I did not mean for you to teach me how to do it, just to tell me how it's done."

"Oh." Fianna laughed a little. "I'll reach into the magical heart of the earth and ask it to fill me. I am a child of the Dark Crone, Lilith, so the earth answers my call. I can't describe it better than that."

"I see.  So, you believe you are a daughter of Lilith, not a child of Caine," Beren asked curiously.

"Caine was not the first Kindred. He is not at zero-point. The story of Caine and Abel is an old Hebrew myth, of course, and the names are wrong, but they pieces of the truth. But you needn't believe me. I am more than 9 generations removed from Her and received my training by word of mouth. Most would simply cry 'heresy'. Yet, I still wield the power she gave her own children. This heresy is yet another excuse they once used to attack and destroy the Lhiannan."

"Have you taken Strong Bow to a hospital in Detroit? I'm certain the Prince has control enough of the city that it would require a war band for them to get to the hospital.  If you don't want to risk that, have you gone to the Tremere for assistance?  They should number at least one physician amongst them." 

"Well, actually, I haven't seen him since I saw him fall before the Gangrel. I know he was left at the Chantry with me and while they worked to restore me, they took him to a hospital. It was the same one they took him to before, and it's here in town. I'm sure they are doing all they can for him. They don't like to see me going about without any bodyguards."

"Have you ever thought about simply calling the hospital, or having someone from the Chantry do so for you, to find out? And I would advise against abandoning Strong Bow. He is yours, and the love he feels for you is so strong that he would sacrifice himself for you, but that love can turn to an all-consuming hatred.  Would you do that to him?  Allow him to fade away until he is but a mere shadow of himself, or turn into an instrument keen on your destruction?"

"They told me his condition," Fianna replied, "but I haven't gone to him personally. I'm sure they will tell me when he recovers. But I didn't mean that I would abandon him in that way, Beren. I don't want him to languish like that. That's exactly what I don't want. I think he deserves better, so I was wondering whether death, itself, would be better for him than to continue to suffer like this."

"As for me visting, I think I'm more worried about one guy showing up with a bomb than I am a whole warband. A warband we can track. One guy delivering pest control supplies or something is harder to stop. I've recently been introduced to the power of explosives. I don't like them."

"They are a weapon - powerful and indiscriminate - and they have their place in any arsenal," Beren replied indifferently.  "They can also be a great tool, and have done much to help build the transportation infrastructure of many modern states."

"Yeah," said Fianna. "Unfortunately, I only seem to be the target of these things, not the owner.  Of course, I think guns are unfair, too, but that doesn't stop people from using them on me either." She made a face and shook her head. It would have been funny if she wasn't so literally disgusted with it.

"Then learn to use them and protect yourself from them," Beren replied simply. "You must learn to survive in these times, or you'll be ground down beneath its boots into dust."

Fianna chuckled, "Easy for you to say. Anyway, the Prince wanted to grant a favor, so I claimed this custom-made body armor. It helps against bullets and bombs, but to my dismay I learned it's not so good against claws and edged weapons. Looks like armor magi—I mean technology has not caught up to offensive weaponry."

"It's not that, Fianna," Beren explained. "What protects against one form of attack doesn't always work against another. Chainmail is excellent against crushing weapons, but useless against a stiletto.  Plate mail was defeated by the longbows of the Welsh.  Kevlar is excellent against bullets and explosions, but useless against something simple like a knife. You need to layer your defenses."

Fianna looked at Beren. "They made armor of metal plates? Who are the Welsh?" She shook her head. "Darn. I'm missing some history that must have happened not long after I left." Her amused smile quickly turned to a frown of frustration. "Nobody told me that the Kevlar armor had weaknesses until I found out for myself. This has to be the Prince's fault. He owed me a favor and all I asked for was armor that would protect me from weapons of this day, and all I got was this piece of cow dung." She made a thoroughly irritated noise.  "I'm not a warrior, Beren. I don't even want to be. I just seem to always end up fighting for my life."

She settled in for a big vent. "This is ridiculous! The only reason I've managed to stay alive at all is because by pure *chance* I knew how to use a large sword in a pre-sacrificial ceremonial dance. I was never supposed to have to cut people up just to stay alive! Oh yeah, and I know how to make rocks throw themselves. Yay. This isn't the way it's supposed to be!  It's just not! I can't fight. I never had to. I just hid, you know? I don't know how to fight. I don't even understand how guns make bullets go, or cars make people go."

She was on a roll now. "Dammit, if Roma just let me, I would just go the hell up to that stinking place across the boarder and level it with an earthquake, but *nooooooo* we have to tip-toe around, don't alarm the humans. Give me a month, Beren, I swear I could do it. Well, now it's too late and they are going to be hunting me down like a dog!" Fianna slowed down a little. "She knows I really would, too, if I was scared enough. I guess that's why doesn't want me getting into that stuff. But the point remains!" she insisted. "I'm no warrior." She hid red-rimmed eyes and pressed a hand to a forehead as if she had a headache. "Shit," she said, using an exclamatory she picked up on the big screen.

Beren gave a wry smile.  "Do I look like a warrior to you, Fianna?" She shook her head. "I had to learn to defend myself, just like you have to. I was born the only daughter of a noble family. What skills do you think I had?"

"When I was newly made, that's what I did. I hid, just as you did. I surrounded myself with powerful allies and those whose enemies were common to my own.  I then sought out men to be my protectors.  First Andre, for I needed to have a man act as my agent.   Women had little or no power or rights in those days.  Then Azeem, my warrior. A prince amongst his people, he was enslaved until I offered him his freedom. He did not become one of my bonded servants until some time later.

"Your Bear Warriors are the same - they are to be your bodyguards.  If you do not care about them, you will come to take them for granted, and careless about them.  Those who treat their servants well reap greater rewards than those who rule by fear.

"You need to take a few steps back, and not let your emotions rule you. If you are to survive, you must learn to adapt.  You have skills and abilities that are unheard of in this day and age.  That makes you powerful - and has gained you many enemies, though many through no fault of your own.

"Meerlindia has many enemies, some of which are on the inner council with her, as well as Roma's rivals in Europe. They do not approve of you, and may seek to destroy you in an attempt to discredit them and reduce their power."

"I'll be especially vulnerable in Ireland," Fianna said with a sigh. "We're delaying that trip, maybe for a long time. I'm not ready to handle these kinds of enemies.

"I do care about my Bear Warriors, though. That's the problem. I can't stand to see him suffer every time I'm forced to fight. And I'm very limited, by the Prince, as to how many I can make. My warriors can only stand against Sabbat enemies if we outnumber them, and so far that has never been the case. So I need my Kindred allies to make it, but so far they have fled, or when they did stand and fight, they fell. I'm hip deep in wolves, Beren. And I'm a sheep. Maybe it's time for something drastic."

"Even sheep learn to use their teeth," Beren said with a smile.  "There's a saying that goes something like this: be like a willow and bend with the wind.  There was also a man by the name of Darwin, who came up with a very interesting theory about the evolution of species.  It  basically came down to the survival of the fittest - those who could best adapt to their surroundings are the ones who survived."

"By the way, do you know where the Prince has gone?  I have heard he's been absent from his court for quite a while."

Fianna shook her head. "No, I stay as far from court as possible. I have heard nothing."

Beren nodded with a slight frown. "This could be bad.  I have heard word that a government black ops group has found something 'interesting' in Detroit.  I'm not sure how much truth there is to this, but I thought I would ask you to pass the information along to the Prince as coming from an anonymous source."

"I'll pass it along to the underprince," Fianna said.

"And one other thing, before I have to go.  You mentioned wanting to level a city with an earthquake.  Which of them have so earned your emnity that you want to destroy it?"

"Oh! Uhm.  I don't know what it's called. We went across a border, I think. Canada is a country, right?  Yes, I didn't think it was a city. I just tracked the Gangrel there and found a den of Sabbat. I think they control whatever that city is."

"Yes, Canada is a country.  Was it the city right acoss the border from Detroit, or did you have to travel some distance?"

"I was right across the border," she replied. "Do you know what that place is called, Beren?"

"That would be the city of Windsor," Beren replied.  "Did you inform the Prince about the Sabbat pack on his doorstep here?"

There was a pause on the line. "I did better. Instead of simply taking revenge on the Gangrel, I have handed him over to them. Soon they will know everything he does."

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