I Went To The Market – Nosferatu Style
A Kindred: The Embraced story by Elena
Disclaimer: The characters of the TV series and the White Wolf universe aren't mine, no money changed hands. All Nosferatu in this story besides Daedalus and Camilla are my brain children, and I'm keeping them!
Author's notes: This story was inspired by the Clanbook: Nosferatu. It's also a snippet belonging to a novel-length story I'm currently writing with my co-author, and some references to that story are made.
The Clan is already present when Frederick slinks into my Haven, casting a timid glance in my direction. "Sorry, boss," he rasps in his hoarse voice. "Got held up gettin' munchies." As proof, he holds up a potato sack squirming with what everyone present immediately knows to be rats. His other hand is hidden behind his back.
Fox, so named because of her small, pointed face and red splotches covering most of her skin, leans back a bit on her pillow to get a glimpse of what Frederick is concealing. Her expression of delight as she sees it, coupled with the subsequent guilty look in my direction, tells me what it is even without my having to make Frederick show me.
I suppress a sigh. My entire Clan loves that vile sweet brown concoction. They say it tickles when you drink it, and you get a sugar high "like you wouldn't believe, boss". Oh well. We all have our vices, as the number of bottles of red wine lined up before me testifies. It's going to be a long night – but we're prepared.
"Now that we're all present –" I look over to Frederick, who mouths "Sorry, boss" back at me, "we may begin." I pause while my second places the plastic bottles he brought - Pepsi and Coke this time – in the middle of the circle where everyone can reach them, casting another apologetic glance in my direction. I shrug at him, and he brightens considerably, his large black eyes gleaming in the candle-lit room.
"What are the rules?" Camilla wants to know.
I smile at her. It's good to have her back. My Clanmates, too, love her because of her age and kindness, regardless of her altered appearance. Now that she's returned from the exile she followed Goth into, my Clan has not only regained a powerful member who's now accorded the respect due an Elder, but also a steadfast soul and source of comfort amidst the pain of our existence.
"Standard rules apply," I answer her question. "Starting point: Tuesday five weeks ago, which was when we last played. Only news of this domain, pertaining to Kindred, allowed. Verbatim repetitions only. Validity and worth of claims to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. No negative news."
"What's that mean, boss?" Joshua asks.
"No items like 'No Sabbat activity during the last three weeks'," I clarify. "Or else we'd be here reciting what didn't happen until the Final Night."
"Do we have to name witnesses?" Skip asks, taking the open Coke bottle out of Frederick's hand.
"If required," I say, "if no one else here can corroborate. Ghouls don't count. If there are no witnesses, and there's no other way to validate, it's not valid news."
Skip, who's just taken a sip, grimaces but nods. Then the hulking Neonate sneezes three times in rapid succession and grins. Immediately, the bottle is seized by Gary who's sitting next to his two childer.
Realizing that we have apparently started to imbibe before we started the game and not wanting to be left behind, I reach for a bottle of wine and open it with my index finger's claw. "Who wants to begin?"
All Nosferatu, seated in a circle on boxes, pillows, and the floor of my haven, look at me and at one another. Should I start, being Primogen? Should Joshua start, being the youngest? Should Camilla start, since she wasn't present the last times we played?
In the silence, a soft sound becomes audible, the high-pitched whine of electronic equipment. Everyone freezes.
I mock-growl, wine glass halfway to my mouth. "Whoever brought that thing has five seconds to turn it off. You're a disgrace to your Sire, whoever you are."
Amidst some snickering from the others, Winston reaches into his jacket pocket, and the sound stops. "Good thing he doethn't know it, then," he lisps through his protruding teeth which earned him the nick-name "Horse". His remark, of course, refers to the fact that his Sire was destroyed almost three decades ago.
"Amendment to the rules," I state, piercing Horse with a withering glance. "No memory aids, be they written or electronic. And certainly no mp3-recorders off e-bay!" I emphasize this by taking a sip of wine.
A round of chuckling greets my pronouncement. We all know that Winston spends most of his time in front of his computer, buying and selling.
"I'd like to go first," Patty finally speaks up. "I was out first last time." She twirls her single thin braid of hair between her taloned fingers as she looks at me expectantly.
I look at the others. "Any objections?"
There is a general shaking of bald heads and a few sneezes from Joshua, who's gotten hold of the Coke bottle.
"Very well, Patty. Begin."
She grins. Silence descends as everyone strains to hear her and remember her words. "On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven."
Gary looks at me questioningly, and I nod in confirmation, this not being news to me. He shakes his wart-covered head. "True love will out, huh?"
"Don't tell me you didn't see that comin', Sire," Frederick rasps. "I could smell the hormones from those two clear to my haven, and that's on the other side of the Bay."
Winston, next to Patty, clears his throat. "Okay, I'm nektht. On the theventeenth of thith month, Cash and Sasha thpent a night together in hith Haven. She altho athked him on the thirteenth, but he thaid no."
"Oh, come on, Horse," Skip objects. "You'll be quoting lottery numbers from last month next." He looks at me. "That's not news worthy of our sophisticated intelligence network, is it, boss?"
I take another sip of wine, silently thanking Julian for granting me access to his wine cellar. "It's certainly marginal," I agree. "Winston, can you do better than that?"
He frowns. "Let'th thee. On the theventeenth of thith month, Cash and Sasha thpent a night together in hith Haven. Four dayth ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash Thee Dee online."
My haven explodes with laughter as we all imagine the tough Brujah Primogen listening to Johnny Cash.
"Okay," Skip gasps, "that's something. Horsie, you're still in, in spite of taking two tries. Okay, boss?"
I nod, grinning. "I suppose you have proof of that, Winston?"
"Hacked into hith ordering info, boss. It'th all on my hard drive."
There is some residual snickering as we focus on Joshua who's next in line.
The fledgling is grinning with triumph. He's obviously ferreted out something he considers worth at least as much as Winston's news. "On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven," Joshua recites. "Four days ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash CD online. Delivery of said CD was intercepted by Sasha, who toasted a copy and passed the original on to Cameron without saying a word."
This time, the laughter startles even the rats. I join in with a chuckle. Poor Cameron's reputation in Sasha's hands – it'll be interesting to see what she does with it.
"Proof!" Camilla and Frederick call in unison.
"Joshua?" I add my own voice, though I know it's true.
Still grinning, Joshua reaches into his jacket and pulls out a blank CD with the words "Johnny Cash" written on it by hand. "My Primogen, Sire, Ladies and Gentlemen, the corpus delicti. You'll find that this is Sasha's handwriting."
"Way to go, Josh!" Fox says, delighted. "You lifted it off her!"
"And you'll bring it back before dawn," I say sternly. "We're not Ravnos, Joshua."
He looks at me, startled. "Sure thing, boss."
"However," I raise my glass to toast him, "congratulations on a successful first hunt, Joshua. You've earned your place in our Clan. I'll present you to the Prince at the next Conclave."
Stunned silence greets this.
"Daedalus, you sent him to take it?" Gary explodes.
"Why wasn't I informed?" Camilla, Joshua's Sire, chimes in. "He could have gotten caught, and it'd have been on my head!"
I nod in acknowledgment. "Forgive me, Camilla. I've taken a liberty with your Childe, it's true. I would have taken full responsibility had he been caught. However, I was confident that he wouldn't be."
"Oh?" Camilla's reptilian eyes bore into me.
"I sent him on the night I knew Sasha would be with Cash. There was no risk."
She smiles, relieved.
"There was no risk?" Joshua pouts.
"Don't worry, Joshua. At the next full aranta-shadur, you'll be given an adequate task. This was merely to introduce you to the practice."
Appeased, the fledgling takes another sip of the vile sugar water.
Gary shakes his head ruefully. "You coddle the Childe too much, Daedalus," he admonishes me over Joshua's sneezes.
I smile. "Maybe." Joshua's had a difficult Becoming, and for a while Camilla despaired of his state of mind. Under these circumstances, I don't think a little coddling can go amiss. "And meanwhile, Fox is next."
She starts. "Oh, uh..." She trails off, trying to remember.
Eight pairs of eyes fix on her.
"Here, have a rat," Frederick finally rasps helpfully.
She takes it and kills it with a practiced twist, still frowning. We all wait patiently while she drains the animal. Only a few sneezes from Frederick are heard.
"Uhm... Oh yeah. On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven." Fox gathers speed as she remembers. "Four days ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash CD online. Delivery of said CD was intercepted by Sasha, who toasted a copy and passed the original on to Cameron without saying a word. Our Prince bought a local internet radio station yesterday."
I look at her approvingly. This news must have been hard to get, as Julian tried to keep it from becoming general knowledge.
"Did I really say 'said CD'?" Joshua asks.
"Yes!" Gary, Fox and Camilla say in chorus, while Winston and Skip look at me questioningly.
"That true, boss?" Skip asks.
I nod. "Do you also know the sum Julian paid for this radio station, Fox?"
"No, don't say it. Keep it for the next round." I take another sip while everyone present looks at me. I draw a breath. "On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven. Four days ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash CD online. Delivery of said CD was intercepted by Sasha, who toasted a copy and passed the original on to Cameron without saying a word. Our Prince bought a local internet radio station yesterday. In sewer exit No 45 B near the cemetery, a group of homeless children has taken refuge this evening during the rain."
"You're holdin' back, boss," Frederick says softly in his hoarse voice.
"Were you expecting something more... juicy, maybe?" his brood brother Skip needles him, but Frederick only smiles, looking more like a Roswell alien than ever.
"It's good to know, though," Camilla says. "We'll keep away from that exit until they're gone, then."
I look around. "No one wants proof?"
"I corroborate," Gary pipes up. "My rat ghoul saw them. He also saw your crow ghoul, Daedalus."
Fox puts the Pepsie bottle down and sneezes a few times. "I thought we said ghouls don't count?"
Patty takes the bottle from her. "Only if they're the only witnesses. If Gary's ghoul hadn't been there, the boss would've been his own witness, because his ghoul doesn't count." She takes a sip and sneezes. "Get it?"
"It's like saying my eyes saw it, too," Skip butts in.
"Oh. Okay." Fox doesn't look convinced, but she lets it go.
"Right," Frederick rasps, taking his turn eagerly. He obviously has something up his sleeve. "And the story goes thus: On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven. Four days ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash CD online. Delivery of said CD was intercepted by Sasha, who toasted a copy and passed the original on to Cameron without sayin' a word. Our Prince bought a local internet radio station yesterday. In sewer exit No 45 B near the cemetery, a group of homeless children has taken refuge this evening during the rain." He pauses dramatically before adding his bit of gossip. "Last night, our Prince was seen enterin' a gay bar, and he didn't come out until two and a half hours later."
As usual, Frederick brings the house down.
„No way!" Horse shouts over the scandalized laughter, while all eyes turn to me.
I nod, smiling. They don't need to know that, at the time, Julian had no idea what he was getting into.
Everyone gives their opinion at once, speculating wildly and inaccurately. I let them, using the opportunity to help myself to a rat and to open my second bottle of wine. This is a time for play, not for reminding them of the danger of supposition and speculation. The empty joins the three empty plastic bottles in the middle of our circle.
„What's the world coming to?" Gary finally asks the room at large. „Cameron a country fan. Julian in a gay bar. Our esteemed primogen will be modeling underwear next."
The Neonates fall silent, probably waiting for my reaction to this potentially hurtful remark, but Gary has been my friend since I joined the San Francisco Nosferatu almost two hundred and fifty years ago, and I can forgive him much more than this.
Besides, I'm in too good a mood to mind right now. This camaraderie is balm for my soul, something the others are undoubtedly feeling as well. Our dismal existence can use a little lightening every now and then without getting spoiled by unwarranted sensitivities.
„Maybe not underwear," I say at last, dryly. „But there is a centerfold in Playgirl that never made it to print..."
Even Camilla has to laugh at that, which makes it more than worth it.
At last, the room settles down somewhat. „All right," Skip takes the floor. „My turn. Following this excellent assist – thanks, Roswell, I mean, Frederick -, the continued story goes like this: On the seventeenth of this month, Cash and Sasha spent a night together in his Haven. Four days ago, Cameron ordered a Johnny Cash CD online. Delivery of said CD was intercepted by Sasha, who toasted a copy and passed the original on to Cameron without saying a word. Our Prince bought a local internet radio station yesterday. In sewer exit No 45 B, a group of homeless children has taken refuge this evening during the rain. Last night, our Prince was seen entering a gay bar, and he didn't come out until two and a half hours later. During that time, he was accosted by no less than 23 men."
"Really?" Fox says over the renewed snickering. "Who counted them? Proof!"
"It doethn't matter," Winston interjects. "He left out 'near the themetery'." He takes a swig of Coke. "Thorry, man. You're out." He sneezes as if to confirm his words.
Skip looks to me in appeal.
"I assume Frederick can corroborate your news, but Winston is correct", I pronounce. "You're out, Skip."
"Later, perhaps, if anyone wants to", I say, deadpan. "Meanwhile, it's your Sire's turn."
Gary chuckles. "Daedalus, old man, I swear you've been hanging around that mortal doctor too much. He's rubbing off on you."
I can't resist. "In more ways than one."
They stare at me.
"Really?" Frederick finally rasps weakly. He looks at the others. "Told you he was holdin' back."
The night continues in much the same vein. When, later, the game has ended, my rarely used stereo gets called into action, and still later, Skip's suggestion is followed with enthusiasm. During all of that, Gary keeps pestering me by asking for details about my love life, aided and abetted by his childe Frederick, but I, of course, remain silent.
My newfound happiness is certainly not something I wish to hear repeated over and over when we next play.