Chapter II

Seema's words echoed in Kain's mind.

If you play square with us, we'll play square with you.

"Do we have a deal?" Seema asked, taking Kain out of his thoughts. He was aware, then, of just how close he'd been standing to her. He slowly moved to create distance between them.

"Yes," he said, grudgingly, "But if I suspect any treachery, from you or your Patriarch or anyone else, I will leave. Do you understand?" His voice took on a dangerous tone. Kain was not about to play the role of the pawn again and he wanted this girl to know it.

"Perfectly," Seema replied.

Just then, Kain was seized by a spasm. He gasped in pain. Seema carefully ushered him away from the balcony.

"You're going to need to feed soon, I think..."

Kain nodded.

"Follow me." Seema walked back into the room. She tied the piece of translucent black cloth she had been holding around her face, and Kain understood its purpose: to obscure her face. Kain slowly followed behind her as she exited the room through a small door and went down a flight of stairs. Seema led Kain down to the streets below."Let me go on ahead, to make certain that there is no danger. Wait here." With those words, the vampiress hurried on ahead. Kain was glad for the time he had alone. He cautiously observed his surroundings. This part of Meridian was old and falling apart. He did not remember the slums being in this location, but Seema had said that his memory would be faulty. He watched as Seema stopped, and stood a few feet away. Although she was insolent, and too bold and willlful by half, he was intrigued by her...

Kain, don't be alarmed...can you hear me?

Kain was confused. Had he just heard Seema's voice in his mind?

Seema, what is this?

He could hear Seema's soft laugh in his mind.

This is the Whisper. All vampires have this ability. We can speak to each other over long distances this way.

I remember now, Kain whispered.

Know that I can't see your thoughts when I am speaking to you this way.

This was some comfort to Kain. He certainly didn't need anyone reading his thoughts, least of all this impudent fledgling. But he had been thinking of her...he had, in fact, entertained the notion that he had called her himself.

Come on. Let's go! With that, Seema hurried off down the street. Kain gave chase. If she was taking him to feed, she was certainly taking her time. For a split second, Kain considered leaving her. He could surely defeat the Sarafan Lord on his own. In all probability, the woman was lying anyway...

But Seema had given him no reason yet to mistrust her. He sprinted ahead to meet her and found her standing on a low rooftop. She waved.

"These are the slums, Kain. These slums are the most dangerous place in Meridian--for humans. This is the best place I could find to train yo--"

At this, Kain interrupted. "Train me? I am no dog, Seema."

"Well. Re-educate you, then. Does that suit you? With all due respect, Kain, you have lain dormant for two hundred years. Your memory has been destroyed. You have to re-learn some things." When Kain didn't answer, Seema went on. "We vampires are much stronger than mortals, and we can jump higher and farther. If you can't find a way to walk through someplace, find a place to jump. Join me up here."

Kain obeyed, more because he had been promised a meal than anything else. Seema's brusque manner was starting to grate on his nerves. "I thought you were taking me to feed," he said accusingly.

"Be patient," Seema sighed. She turned around and walked to the other side of the ledge. "We also have the ability to float. If we jump off of a ledge like this one, we can float down and land silently. You must relearn this skill as quickly as possible, Kain. It will mean the difference between life and death. Follow me." With that, she jumped off of the ledge. Kain watched as she slowly floated down. She landed noiselessly and waited.

Kain jumped from the ledge and focused all of his will on floating downward. He had seen Seema do it. Surely she could not have been lying about all vampires having that ability. As he focused, he found that his fall was slowing. He landed on the ground in a crouching position, so quietly that even the most observant citizen of the slums could not have heard him land. Seema nodded and hurried on ahead. She led Kain through a maze of derelict old buildings and dark, cramped alleys. A few times, Kain lost sight of Seema, but when that occurred she would always let him know where she was via the Whisper.

This city is a labyrinth! Kain Whispered in exasperation.

And what better place to hunt than a labyrinth? Seema Whispered back.

Kain finally caught up with Seema on a high wall overlooking a courtyard. "Well done, Kain," she said, "I have a prisoner waiting below for you. He's a most vile little man. He thought he was going to rob and murder an...unfortunate lady of the evening, but he met me instead."

"I've no patience for this moral anecdote," Kain growled.

"Drink, then. I'll wait for you down below." Seema jumped down to the courtyard below. Kain followed her, and, as Seema had promised, there was a man chained to the wall there. He had red hair and green eyes. His face was streaked with dirt and tears. He might have been handsome if he hadn't been so afraid.

"That woman...she did this to me. That vampire wench! She's going to kill me. You won't let her kill me, will you?"

"Of course not," Kain said. He approached the prisoner and sank his fangs into the unfortunate man's neck. As the warm blood filled his mouth he found his strength returning to him. He drank until he was certain that there was no blood left. Then he turned to find Seema standing behind him.

"You are restored." Her tone indicated approval.

"Yes," Kain confirmed.

"If you are wounded, then drinking blood will restore your health. Also, the more blood you drink from others, the stronger and harder to kill you will become. Leave no foe alive. Follow me." Seema hurried on ahead. Kain followed her as best as he could. She was quick. He finally found her standing by the waterfront. They were a good distance away from any buildings, and there were few people around. Her back was to him. She seemed to be looking out to sea. He crept up behind her, but she heard him approach and turned around.

"The sea is beautiful, isn't it?" Her question sounded sincere.

Kain wasn't expecting such a question. He looked at Seema, puzzled. "I suppose," he said after a confused silence.

"It's also dangerous. Water may give life to humans, but it is death for us. If you touch it, you will be burned. If you are immersed...well. You'll die," she said flatly. She looked around, and then walked over to the ruins of a wall. "Come here, Kain. I've something to show you."

Kain followed her. There was a small chest nestled next to the broken wall, almost out of sight.

"This chest," Seema said, "Was created by our ancestors. Humans have no use for it. It contains Lore."

"What," Kain asked, "Is Lore?"

"No one is really certain," Seema replied, "It is a strange power that makes us stronger. I think a demonstration would be more effective." She gestured toward the chest. "Open it."

Kain nodded, and struck the chest with his bare hand. To his astonishment, it opened noiselessly and a blue-white light floated up, out of the chest, and toward Kain.

"Now, breathe it in," Seema instructed.

Kain obeyed her, and the light floated toward him. When he breathed it in, he felt light-headed, and very hot. The feelings subsided and Kain felt refreshed, and...more powerful than before. He turned to face Seema, and almost spoke to her, but Seema said nothing.

"See?" With that, Seema walked ahead of him, toward another back alley, only to stop. "Damn."

"What is it?" Kain asked when he caught up to her. He could see another alleyway ahead, but there was a strange, green barrier that seemed to be in the way.

"This is a Ward Gate that has been raised by the Sarafan," Seema said. "The sneaky bastards must have put it up last night. They've been putting them up all over the city."

"What, precisely, does it do?"

"If you touch it, it will burn you. Worse than water. We'll have to find another way to go." Seema walked away, but Kain had more questions.

"Wait. Don't run off just yet. How, exactly, does a Ward Gate work?"

"Since you've been in your sleep," Seema explained, "The Sarafan brought this strange, new magic to Meridian. This is called Glyph Magic. It powers the city as well as the Ward Gates. I do not know how it works, only that it came with the Sarafan. You will see Glyphwrights working from time to time. They don't speak to anyone, though. It's best that you avoid them. Follow me to the sewer." Seema led Kain through a maze of dark alleys until they reached the entrance to the sewers. Kain intially balked at entering them, but finally followed Seema in.

"Now, it is time for," Seema said after a pause. "Vampires are equipped with a natural weapon. Our claws. They are...adequate." She grinned wickedly. "I do not think I will need to teach you to fight, but I will assess you. Don't worry, I will not use my claws." With that, she lunged at Kain. Kain had only a moment to react, and he blocked the attack. Seema nodded.

"Good." She lunged again and this time Kain struck at her. She easily backflipped out of his way. Kain was determined, however, to not disappoint her. He swung at her, and when she tried to do some acrobatics to get out of the way, Kain grabbed her by the throat and threw her against the wall. Seema slowly staggered to her feet.

"Very nice. I don't think you need any more help from me." She limped forward and smiled. "Let's get out of here." She led Kain through the sewers and up to the street above.

"If you go straight ahead, Kain," she said, "You'll reach the market. Just past the market is the Lower City. There's a bridge. I'll meet you there." As she spoke, she pulled a length of rope from her belt and started rummaging through the pouches on her belt. She pulled a grappling hook out of one, and attached it to the rope. Then she swung it up and caught it on the roof of a very old building and started climbing up.

"Wait! Where are you going?"

"I'm going to scout ahead to make sure there aren't any Sarafan patrols coming. You're not a bad fighter, but you're not strong enough to deal with the Sarafan yet." She continued climbing.

"It's very trusting of you to leave me to my own devices," Kain said. He had a mind to leave and go his own way, as he had always done. But there was something about Seema. If anything, he wanted to know more about her, and her Cabal. He also curious about the Patriarch.

Seema's reply took him out of his thoughts.

"Like I said, if you play square with us, we'll play square with you. Hurry. I'll meet you at the bridge."