Like Sire like Childe
Sebastian LaCroix would not self-identify as the paternalistic type.
He had sired a few childe but not in a long time. When he had been sired it had not been uncommon to have vampires of his generation but nowadays it was mostly just the higher generations who chose to sire as the lower generations could have sired children long ago. Now it was something special when a new ninth generation was created and those who were of the same generation or higher but had been around for far longer took it as a direct affront.
He never had the patience to walk neonates through their new lives which was what was expected of any sire. Siring couldn't be done casually. If someone was going to create a childe they needed to take responsibility for it and teach it the ways of the world. They also needed to make sure the childe stayed alive or what was the point in even bothering to create it in the first place? They were a nuisance but they did have their uses.
So LaCroix sired where he needed to to get what he wanted and was on the receiving end of devoted resentment just as strong as the kind he felt for his own sire. But it had been decades since he had last needed to sire and his children who were still around were all well-acquainted with the Camarilla.
Then came the fledgling.
He wasn't actually sure what her name was. She was never supposed to be important and she still wasn't, not really, but somehow or other she just refused to do the decent thing and face her final death.
The Nosferatu came to him with news that a strange vampire was going to be siring someone within the limits of his new territory. LaCroix hated to deal with the Nosferatu but he could hardly run a principality, particularly one so hostile to the Camarilla, without them.
When his men arrived at the scene the deed had indeed been done already and they paralyzed the both of them before bringing them back to LaCroix. He didn't know who the sire was. His clan could be guessed at from his attire (he certainly wasn't a Nosferatu!) but it couldn't be verified. Since he was so new to Los Angeles he hadn't had the time to meet every vampire in the area and many moved freely between cities. It was a little stranger that the Nosferatu also didn't know who he was but in a way that gave him a great deal of freedom.
If the man in question had been Smiling Jack (who LaCroix had never liked and would not put it past to sire lots of children just to inconvenience the Camarilla) then LaCroix would have been forced to let it go and appear weak to avoid provoking a war with the trigger-happy Anarchs. Oh, he would have tried to find a way to bring Jack to justice but he was quite idolized among his gang of rabble-rousers.
It wasn't him, however, and if the Nosferatu didn't know who he was then the Anarchs likely wouldn't either. That meant he was probably from out of town and perhaps just here to cause trouble. Well LaCroix would show him what he thought of that!
In this new era of cameras and the internet it was so very easy to slip up and violate the Masquerade in a way that led to the whole world being aware of their supernatural overlords. That couldn't be allowed to happen and so siring had become a privilege that must be granted. Even the Anarchs seemed to respect that, from what he'd heard, and Isaac Abrams down in Hollywood was sought out when a kindred wished to sire. LaCroix knew that his position was still a little tenuous and he could not afford to show any weakness here and let people think they could just ignore him completely. He certainly wouldn't be afforded any less respect than an Anarch baron!
He staged a trial of sorts and invited the kindred of the area to join him. He was rather pleased at the turnout. There was no point in presenting evidence as the facts were quite clear. No matter where this vampire was from, they were in his city and thus bound by his rules. He wasn't consulted about the siring, LaCroix explained to the congregation, and so his life was forfeit.
It was all going quite well and his speech was rather brilliant. Then Nines went and ruined everything. Of course he did. The Anarchs never could leave well enough alone, could they? It was one of the reasons he despised the Brujah. Their only saving grace was that they weren't the Sabbat. Well, that and he could look at them without wishing to retch. It really wasn't saying much.
No one challenged LaCroix's right to execute the sire and he thought it was all going rather well. But then he had to move on to the fate of the childe. Technically, the girl had done nothing wrong. She was looking quite confused and probably hadn't even realized she was dead yet. But it was a common thing to hold children and ghouls and other minions responsible for the acts of their master. Hadn't the Tremere wiped out the Salubri and the Giovanni the Cappadocians when the new clans arose?
Oh he would hardly go that far but it just made sense to wipe out the illegal childe of an illegal siring. Without a sire she would only become a Caitiff anyway and who knew what kind of chaos she could cause? She wouldn't even be aware that there was a Masquerade she could violate and might do something stupid like go see a human doctor or step into the sun in front of witnesses.
But Nines objected. Evidently he had some respect for the idea that kindred could not sire impulsively and had to act responsibly but did not want the childe to have to suffer for the crimes of others.
What could he do? Nines was being held back by his fellows but he looked angry and he was their leader. LaCroix had called this little demonstration to solidify his power not to start up an open war with the Anarchs! If he had declared that the fledgling had to die then he wouldn't be able to back down from there without weakening his position further and that would be a death sentence. Strauss was watching. Fortunately, Nines interrupted when he had explained his reasoning for the fledgling's death but before he delivered the sentence.
Perhaps it rang a bit false for him to finish his sentence declaring that he would take charge of her and make sure that she knew what she needed to know but nobody could prove that he had backed down and the Anarchs had gotten what they wanted anyway.
That meeting made one thing perfectly clear to him. He was never going to have the kind of power he should as long as the Anarch stuck around. Unlike the Anarchs in other cities who knew their place, the LA Anarchs had a long history they all clearly remembered of ruling LA independently. Granted it had all quickly devolved into street gangs but it made them happy. Happier than the order imposed by the Camarilla at any rate.
Fortunately, the Anarchs were so easy to fracture even without any outside pressure. Nines was painfully obviously the only one keeping them together and Nines had offended him personally. Very well. He was going to need to take down the Anarch leader and everything would fall into place.
But first he had that fledgling to deal with. He was far too busy and esteemed to bother to figure out what clan she was and let her know about all of that. She was told she was a vampire and that the humans could not find out about them and then shipped off to Mercurio. Mercurio was only a ghoul and not even his own but he had proven his worth time and time again over the past thirty years and so he deserved to be remembered.
It would be ideal, of course, if the fledgling failed to accomplish her task. It wouldn't be Mercurio's fault, of course. Taking down a Sabbat warehouse was no mean feat and even the Sheriff couldn't wipe the Sabbat out entirely. He never would have expected even the most experienced and powerful of ghouls to try it. As long as Mercurio provided the Astrolite and the directions to the warehouse his job was done.
LaCroix wanted that warehouse wiped out just the way he wanted all of the Sabbat everywhere (but most especially in his city) wiped out but there was a reason that it wasn't gone already. The Sabbat had a lot of raw recruits and even if most of them were easy pickings for a vampire attacking them like that and declaring war was practically suicide. If the fledgling failed then perhaps eventually he would dispatch the Sheriff to do it for him.
It would solve his problem quite nicely. The fledgling would be dealt with in a way that he couldn't be blamed for and in the unlikely event that the Anarchs still had any tender feelings towards her they could take it up with the Sabbat. He would be free to refocus on his plan to make LA a secure Camarilla holding and break the Anarchs.
And if she succeeded then chances were the Sabbat would kill her for what she'd done. If they didn't or she dodged that reprisal then that just meant that he had a skillful new minion to send out, didn't it?
And she did make it back having apparently had far too easy of a time in Santa Monica. According to her everything went just swimmingly. She arrived, found Mercurio, took the Astrolite to the Sabbat and it was over. Sabbat reprisals? What Sabbat reprisals?
That was…annoying but hardly cause for alarm. He needed someone to go over to the Elizabeth Dane and get some information for him. She clearly didn't want to head back to Santa Monica when she had just been there but she didn't complain. Most fledgling vampires wouldn't know their place and would start complaining but this one didn't and that alone gave him some suspicion about her clan. He didn't care enough to ask, however.
The Elizabeth Dane was a mission she couldn't fail. There wouldn't be any other vampires there, hostile or otherwise, and she just needed to get him information. There wouldn't even be any hunters so while it was entirely probable that if she was seen she would be shot at the greatest risk was that the legend of the Elizabeth Dane would grow with all of the police officers on board being slaughtered the way the crew had. People would think it was weird but it wasn't Masquerade-destroying. And if she did become a mass murderer here because she couldn't be bothered or wasn't skilled enough to stay unseen then it would give him ammunition if he ever needed to dispose of her.
But she was back quickly enough with all of the answers he had been seeking and no one being any the wiser. Well, that was some surprising basic competence for someone so new and untrained. Suitably polite and deferential, too. Even if he had heard some unsettling rumors that she volunteered to join the Anarchs at the Last Round after doing all sorts of (admittedly Masquerade-preserving) favors for them, he really could have been stuck with a worse fledgling. He gave her a currently empty apartment he paid the rent for in the Skyline Apartments and was it just him or did she seem a little loyaler after that? Not loyal enough to not outright be an Anarch but it wasn't like he wasn't planning on having her killed eventually anyway.
The next mission was one that he actually hoped that she wouldn't be killed on. It seemed unlikely as there were only some rogue ghouls wandering around and hopefully she was better than that. The fact that she wasn't officially affiliated with the Camarilla and was, in fact, on the Anarchs own side (did they really expect he didn't know about that when they couldn't stop telling people about it?) made her a valuable witness. If she did die then he could probably still have someone witness "Nines" leaving the mansion but how to convince someone who would be believed and who would admit to it to go there?
Grout was a problem. He was Malkavian and trusted as almost sane. Almost indeed. Maybe the Tzimisce wouldn't blink at his little house of horrors but the more civilized clans would be appalled. And then there was that nasty paranoia. Maybe he was right but it certainly did seem rather mad. Trusted and respectable and suspicious of LaCroix? That was bad enough but the Malkavian madness often let them see truths that they themselves could not understand. If he had any idea about his plans for the sarcophagus or the Anarchs or the alliance with the Kuei-Jin then he was finished. So he had to go and it was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Nines in a safe and approved of manner.
Bach chose that time to rear his ugly head and try to ruin everything once more. It was fortunate indeed that the fledgling hadn't taken any longer to get there than she had because according to her she had only barely confirmed that Grout was dead before that madman Bach set fire to the whole estate. Well, it did preserve the Masquerade at least. Fortunate, too, that she had believed Bach when he told her that he hadn't done it (why on earth would anybody believe a vampire hunter about anything?) and not only suspected Nines but was willing to share it. Yes, perhaps he had needed to dominate her into telling him and forgetting the domination (as opposed to the domination he would have given her to make her learn her place if she tried defying him) and she was so sure Nines had a good reason but he had gotten the information he wanted in the end.
And he was careful not to call the blood hunt right away but to fret about it so no one would think he wanted this. If they thought Nines was being framed their suspicion would not turn to him. If they had learned anything from their clash with the Kuei-Jin maybe they would realize just how Nines was framed but they'd never be able to prove it and wouldn't dream that he was involved as well.
He only had one more task for the Fledgling before he had no further use for her and it was technically a task he could send anyone on since it was more of an errand than anything else so why waste anyone with any real value on it? He sent her to the museum to get the sarcophagus. Her conduct on the Elizabeth Dane convinced him she at least had a shot of pulling this off without needing to massacre everyone but even if she couldn't this would just help the legend of the sarcophagus grow. Then, too, he wouldn't need to care about such petty consideration once the sarcophagus and the Antediluvian found inside were in his possession. Then he wouldn't need the goodwill of the Anarchs or the Kuei-Jin and he certainly wouldn't need the fledgling.
But. But things had been going just a little bit too well for him lately, hadn't they? He had struck a powerful blow against the Sabbat that they hadn't dared strike back for. He had taken down one threat, sent another running, and had a third poised to take the fall later.
So of course that filthy little maggot Gary had betrayed him. He hadn't understood how the fledgling could have failed at so simple a task at first but the Nosferatu weren't always clear on the concept of loyalty.
He was stuck. He needed Gary to tell him what happened but there was no indication that Gary would be cooperative. He didn't have to emerge from his little sewer hiding hole and if LaCroix actually suffered the indignity of going down there he knew that he would be in their world and have to abide by their rules. It couldn't be endured. Gary would not openly defy him by refusing him what he wanted to know but he could easily pretend he had no idea what happened and the best he could hope for was being sent on errands like some sort of a lackey to 'earn' the information.
Well he wasn't a lackey but he knew someone that had failed him (failed him twice as far as she knew when she hadn't returned with Grout alive) and who was in need of being killed doing something beyond her. So either way, he won. Either she sorted this headache out for him or she died trying and he sent somebody else. Sooner or later Gary would tell him what he wanted to know but anyone who wanted the sarcophagus would want to have the power of the Antediluvian for themselves or at least to destroy it in the misguided hope of averting Gehenna. They wouldn't wait and he couldn't afford to, either.
It took her far too long to come back from Hollywood. She was full of excuses about a Tzimisce hellhole and having to take 'the long way' to see the Nosferatu in their lair then Chinatown and the Kuei-Jin and being captured and experimented on and didn't she see he didn't care? She eventually found her way to the Giovanni and a stronghold of theirs that was jam-packed with every vampire, ghoul, and mortal relative in the area.
If he had been in her place and had to go in personally instead of just sending someone he might have seriously reconsidered how badly he wanted to complete his mission. Nothing was more important than the sarcophagus but it wouldn't have been easy. Apparently the fledgling had more trouble with Kuei-Jin than anything else. Oh, Ming Xiao may have insisted they were just 'security' but he knew that she wanted her grubby little hands on it just as much as anyone.
The sarcophagus was secure. It was everything he had always wanted. The fledging wouldn't hurry up and die but she had at least gotten him what he wanted while she was being inconveniencing.
It was everything he ever wanted. He was about to get his wish (assuming the Antediluvian really was in torpor and not about to kill him). Yes diablerizing was illegal but once he got the power of a third-generation vampire added to his own no one would dare say anything. They certainly hadn't the last two times.
But no. Once again he was foiled, this time by the fact he couldn't get the lid to open. It was a little embarrassing to fail in front of a minion and Beckett but Beckett seemed to think there was a special way of opening it and provided him with some professor who could find a way in. He was almost tempted to just break it open but who knew what would happen then? He couldn't risk killing himself or the vulnerable Antediluvian inside. At least not while there was another way.
He wouldn't be so stupid as to invade a stronghold of the Society of Leopold and Beckett put the fledgling off as well citing something ridiculous about not wanting too many of them there. That was fine. Beckett was too valuable at this point to lose anyway.
And so he found himself in the awkward position of hoping that the fledgling he had spent the last few days attempting to get killed survived a suicide mission. And survive she did, as had proven her wont, with a very confused but reluctant to ask questions professor. There was a key, apparently. That had been the missing box from the Elizabeth Dane. Oh, of course. He would get it back, make no mistake, but first he needed to know who had it. He would reach out to Gary and hope that this time he would be a little less likely to betray him after the fledgling had found one of his people or something.
In the meantime, the fledgling had served her purpose. She had more than served her purpose. But even with Nines hiding out in fear of the blood hunt he had finally felt safe enough to call on him, he knew what it would look like if he killed someone he had previously declared in his protection for no reason. Even princes needed to be accountable to somebody.
But the answer was so easy. The Sabbat had just been fool enough to attack him in his tower and he and the Sheriff had made short work of them but that was an act of war. He had no more intention of seeing Gehenna than they did but they were so rash and reckless. Such an insult could not go unanswered and he had the perfect person to deploy to issue it. Anybody who looked at the fact that he was sending her off to wipe out the Sabbat in Los Angeles would know what he was doing but nobody could prove anything and he could just cite his faith in her.
It was perfect. Knowing her, she'd manage to strike a heavy blow against the Sabbat before she was finally overcome and everyone could be pleased she died doing her duty. Maybe her death could spur on some real kindred to clear the Sabbat refuse out.
It was a masterstroke and he was quite proud of his machinations.
He never thought that she could possibly survive it. How could she? Even his own Sheriff, the only reason he hadn't been killed when he'd dared enter Anarch territory waving the Camarilla banner and claiming sovereignty, hadn't been able to completely dispatch of them though he had certainly devastated their ranks every now and again. The Sabbat rank and file were just so easily replaceable, though, that ultimately it made no difference.
But she did. He had been so sure that she would die that, unlike the other times he was hoping not to hear from her, he didn't tell that security guard at the front to expect her. For a moment he almost considered that she was just lying and had pretended to take them out when she really hadn't but then realized how foolish such a thought was. If she hadn't killed them she couldn't hide that for long. Even if this was the childe who thought she could openly ally with the Anarchs and somehow he wouldn't hear of it. She couldn't have that little respect for him.
She had eradicated the Sabbat in the city. She had carried out all of his plans to perfection and the only times she had been stymied it had been due to forces outside of her control and she still pulled off miracles. Had he been so focused on ridding himself of this irksome childe-by-proxy that he had overlooked her true value? It seemed that way. He had only begun to start rearranging things in his head to find a place to stick his new most valuable agent into when she made her fatal mistake and he cursed the Kuei-Jin for it.
She had apparently had a run-in with Ming Xiao herself outside of the Sabbat headquarters. Ming Xiao had been upset that he had lost interest in allying with them and exposed the alliance to his fledgling. She seemed eager to be convinced Ming Xiao was lying but just the fact that she knew…she couldn't be kept around. Suddenly she was a liability. Ming Xiao had made him need to destroy a good agent the moment he recognized her as being worth something. Damn her. And damn her for taking his key, too. How was he supposed to not move against her now? Granted it had always been his goal but she didn't know that. Not for sure.
But what else could he do? She was working with the Anarchs. She had heard the Kuei-Jin on two occasions say that there was an alliance. The very idea was preposterous and outrageous and, unfortunately, true. He had needed to focus on one front just as much as she had and he knew that the Kuei-Jin were weak here and could be taken down by Camarilla reinforcements in a pinch. The Camarilla might suffer the Anarchs exist but they certainly would not tolerate the Kuei-Jin. The Anarchs were mostly Brujah. Maybe if they sat down and thought about it they would dismiss the idea he was allied with the Kuei-Jin but the mere thought of it might outrage them so much that they just acted. He couldn't have that.
He sounded very good when he told her they needed an alliance with the Anarchs. He would, in fact, need such an alliance but Nines couldn't be a part of it. Hopefully working with the Camarilla would bring some of them back to the fold. Nines would never submit and Nines had had a target on his back from the moment he publicly defied him at the trial a few days ago.
It was time for the cards to be laid on the table. The fledgling had a good point that she was hardly the ideal person to work out a treaty with the Anarchs because she knew nothing about arranging treaties and she knew very little about the situation and history and the complexities. That was fine. He told her he knew she was an Anarch but he didn't care right then because he had needed her in the past and she had done good service. Besides, an Anarch would trust an Anarch and she had to see that the treaty needed to happen.
So she agreed and went off to find Nines. He was hiding out with the werewolves. Oh, that was brilliant. It didn't take much to dispose of them, then. Just a little fire and the agitated werewolves would kill them both. His defiance and her knowledge would die there amidst the flames and the fangs. It was perfect. Not quite as perfect as if he had been able to continue using her and persuaded (one way or another) her over to his side but perfect enough. And the Anarch-Camarilla alliance would make short work of the Kuei-Jin soon enough. He needed to get that key back from then anyway.
It was all so perfect. Things were always perfect before they fell apart and he was starting to suspect that perfection only existed so meddling and incompetent fools could come along and smash it all to pieces.
The fledgling came back. How had she survived the werewolves, the flames, and then the blood hunt? How had she survived all his assassins and in Astrolite and even his Sheriff? Not he was going to need a new Sheriff and the Antediluvian or at least sufficiently low-generation vampire would be absolutely critical to maintain his position. She was there to kill him, of course. She betrayed him long before he sent her after Nines but he was willing to bet she had a chip on her shoulder about her 'mistreatment.'
But she had always been a little miracle worker, hadn't she? It was truly a shame that things had to end this way. She had the key. She didn't say anything about where she got it but it was pretty clear she'd fought her way through the Kuei-Jin and pried it from Ming Xiao's cold, dead hand so to speak. Ming Xiao wasn't a fool and wouldn't let it go under any other circumstances.
Well the Sheriff was dead but he had gotten rid of the Kuei-Jin, hadn't he? And the rebel Anarch forces would be gone just as soon as more Camarilla arrived to support him. And now he had the key.
He would like to think that when she burst in there he didn't sound as annoyed as he felt about the whole turn of events and when she revealed she had the key…It would be so easy. No, she didn't want to give it to him but he was a far older, more powerful, and lower generation vampire and so she would.
She really thought that she resisted his dominate when she didn't give it to him immediately. For one mad second he thought the same thing. But though she gave him the indignity of a slashed throat with his own knife, she also handed the key to him for no clear reason he could see and left. Well it must be that the dominate had worked after all but that she was sufficiently strong-minded that it took a moment to get her to comply.
He called after her how mad she was but he knew she wouldn't turn around. He didn't want her to turn around. She was a fool to turn down this much power but it wasn't her fault. She was so new and corrupted by Anarch influences. She didn't know any better and she was under his power still. He may have had to crawl over to the sarcophagus but that didn't matter. Once he had diablerized what was inside he would be unstoppable. He'd hunt down the fledgling and the Anarchs and would certainly make sure that Strauss knew his place. He'd be free, really and truly free for the first time in his existence.
And how nice would it be to have the Camarilla working for him for once?
Then he inserted the key and opened the lid. He couldn't contain the maniacal laughter that came pouring out of him at the sight. Everything that had happened had all led to this moment. His greatest success would be his final moments and there was no one here to see it. Even that cursed fledgling was well out of the way. Had she truly been under his power or had she known? It didn't matter. The die had been cast and his fate determined.
It was perfect.