Beginner Tales: First Lessons

They aren't mine.

Italicized sentences are thoughts.

Individual italicized words are for emphasis.

Two men stood on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco Bay, watching the twinkling lights of the city sparkle against the backdrop of sea and sky. The younger man turned to the other man and said with a smile, "It's beautiful here, Julian."

The slender, Armani-clad man by his side turned his head and, returning his newest childe's smile, replied, "I agree, Frank. Your Grandsire, Archon, marked this site as his when he first took this city and gave the clans one hundred and fifty years of peace. I've loved this place, and this view, since he first brought me here after my embrace, but now you need to practice your animal transformations while I still have the time to watch you."

Julian Luna casually strolled over to a nearby wrought-iron bench, Frank following him. Upon reaching the bench, Julian seated himself and, leaning back, he stretched his legs out comfortably before him, crossing them at the ankles, before looking up into the face of his newest childe. With a nod, he then gestured for Frank to begin.

The irreverent thought crossed Frank Kohanek's mind as he stopped in front of his sire and prepared to follow the man's order. I hope I don't look as constipated as Julian does when he starts to shift. Several seconds later, a grey wolf sat on its haunches at Julian Luna's feet, tail wagging briskly.

A pale, slim hand was placed under the grinning wolf's chin, Prince Julian's other hand rested at the base of the upright ears of the wolf. Giving a congratulatory scratch behind those ears, Julian nodded in satisfaction. "Very good," he praised Frank, "Your transformation was much quicker this time. You're doing well."

After a firm, and final scratch to the upraised head, Julian dropped his hands before nudging the wolf away. Rising to his feet, he smiled down at the furry face grinning back at him and said briskly, "I've a Conclave to attend, so show me how well you can reverse the transformation."

Two seconds later, a brown-haired, thirty-something man stood beside him. "Thanks, Julian," Frank said, as his sire threw an arm over his childe's shoulder and steered the man toward the mansion looming before them. As they passed through the beautifully scrolled wrought-iron gate separating the mansion from the landscaped grounds, Julian turned his head toward his childe and said cheerfully, "By the way Frank, you do look constipated when you start to shift."

The next night Julian and Frank were sitting in Julian's study, discussing viniculture, vintages, wineries, and etiquette over a glass of wine. Julian was in full instructional mode.

"You only fill the glass to, at most, half-full, so that the wine can breathe," Julian said, before taking pity on the younger Kindred's obvious bewilderment. The Prince continued his lecture, saying patiently, "All that means is that the full aroma and flavor of the wine has the room, time, and air to expand to its full potential." After seeing a look of comprehension cross his childe's face, Julian said, "Now, take the glass by its stem and swirl the wine."

Leaning back in his wing-backed chair, Julian Luna crossed his legs at the ankles and stretched them comfortably in front of him. He carefully hid his smile as he watched the wine in his childe's red wine goblet swirling rapidly, reminding him of his days as an enforcer of the laws of his sire, and former Prince, Archon. Frank's wine was swirling as if it were in the spin cycle of an industrial washer.

Julian well remembered that early spring morning in the small laundromat. The sun was just rising as he, and the late Gangrel Primogen, Stevie Ray, stood outside the back entrance of the "Foaming Bubbles Sea-Side Dry Cleaning and Laundry." Archon's enforcer left Stevie guarding the back exit. The pair had timed it right. No one but the night manager, Jerome Flannigan, had been in the "Foaming Bubbles" when Julian had entered through the front, thoughtfully locking the door behind him. Flannigan had been busy loading one of the larger washers, by the time he had started it, the future Prince had materialized behind him.

Prince Julian's lips twitched at the memory of the man's startled face when he saw the Kindred enforcer's reflection superimposed over the laundry spinning before his eyes. The startled human had turned as pale as a newly embraced Kindred before Julian had slapped a hand over his mouth, grabbed his shoulders and dragged the fiercely struggling man out to the waiting Stevie Ray.

It really was an annoying inconvenience when a human found out about the Masquerade. Stupid Brujah! Julian hated having to clean up after their messes. Of course, he'd never been fond of cleaning up after any of the other clan's messes either, including his own Ventrue clan, but at least he hadn't had to do it as often as he'd had to with Eddie Fiori's Brujah - especially with the man's own childer. The, thankfully late, Brujah Primogen's childer had been particularly careless this time.

Letting the human who had shot and 'killed' him during a particularly enthusiastic 'sales attempt' see him extorting protection from other shopkeepers in the area two days later had cost Eddie's childe, Archibald Stanislowski his life. It had cost the human his 'life' too, but fortunately for Jerome Flannigan - he got better. After gaining Archon's permission, Stevie had been more than happy to embrace the man. Jerome was a good mechanic and electrician. "Foaming Bubbles" had not been happy to lose a manager who could also keep their aging machines going, but the Brujah's loss had been the Gangrel Clan's gain. The Gangel clan, and their motorcycles, could always use another mechanic. Jerome and Julian had gained as well. Jerome gained a new life, and Julian gained someone who was more than happy to pamper the future Prince's cars. The experience had also provided Julian with a wonderful simile with which to illustrate his soon-to-be expressed point to his newest childe.

"Frank," Julian said calmly as he watched Kohanek madly swirling his glass before his childe stuck his nose in the goblet opening and took an enthusiastic sniff, which was quickly followed by a mouthful of one of Julian's better Ports, "you aren't the agitator of a washing machine. When you swirl the wine, do it slowly." Julian demonstrated with his own glass. "After all," he responded with a disarming grin to Frank's sheepish look, "we're not trying to send the wine into orbit."

Frank Kohanek opened his eyes and stared at the embossed ceiling over his head. He stretched, and turned his head, glancing at the heavy, deep burgundy-colored drapes covering the windows. It was night again. He'd been Kindred for two weeks, five days, and …, he glanced at the watch on his wrist, 14 hours. He was in his sire's home, in the room Julian had given him after his embrace. His glance had a certain proprietary air as he took in the sights of his present 'home.' At least his suite was comfortable: Hell, the room was as big as his condo apartment, bigger if you counted the bathroom. Which, he thought in relief, was good, considering he was confined to it unless Julian personally came to let him out. If he had to be stuck in one place, typing reports and memorizing Kindred law and traditions, at least he had the space to do it in, and, he had to admit, it was a relief to have someplace he could actually pace when frustration threatened to overwhelm him. Although, all he felt at the present time, was satisfaction. Aside from his present confinement to this room, the result of his near breach of the Masquerade almost a week and a half earlier, Frank was happy with his new life. He'd bite off his tongue before he'd tell that to Julian though.

Frank loved the freedom of the Kindred world. However, he wasn't terribly thrilled with some of the obligations, Frank Kohanek thought, as he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of his king-sized, heavy wooden bed. Walnut, he decided, as he studied the intricately intertwined roses carved into the headboard, but he did understand and, he winced as he admitted to himself, agree with his sire's decisions regarding those obligations. Not that he really wanted to admit that to Julian either.

Frank glanced at his watch again. Seven PM. Julian had a Conclave to attend tonight, and it was here at the mansion. "Prince" Julian shouldn't be coming by his newest childe's room for at least another two to three hours. He had time to sit and stare at the fire in his fireplace for an hour or so, Frank realized as he put on a pair of black dress slacks, gray shirt, and black shoes and socks, before strolling over to seat himself comfortably in the large navy-blue, wing-backed chair facing the cheerfully leaping flames. Leaning back until his body found a comfortable position and, after intertwining his fingers, he placed his hands behind his head, before settling down to consider the last few weeks of his life

Frank enjoyed Julian's lessons; well all of them except for the ongoing one on obligations, but then Frank was certain enjoyment hadn't been on Julian's mind when his sire had decided on that one. He had to admit Julian was a good teacher, and a reasonably patient and tolerant one. Frank's mouth twitched before he gave in and snickered at the memory of his first wine tasting lesson. He'd provided his sire with more than one reason for amusement, starting with his attempt to play Kindred agitator with his Port. "Sending the wine into orbit" Julian had called it. Frank had almost burst into laughter when Julian had said that. He'd definitely choked, as he continued to sheepishly meet his sire's eyes. After Julian had demonstrated the proper technique to swirl one's wine, his sire had then advised him to take the rest of the wine tasting process slowly as well. Apparently, you also took the time to admire the reflection and coloring of the wine as it slid down the inside of the glass before placing 'your nose inside the opening of the glass and delicately sniffing the aroma of the wine. Once you had sniffed, then you delicately sipped said wine, rolling it about your tongue and the back of your epiglottis to appreciate the wine's full flavor and aroma.

Frank wondered how his sire managed to keep a straight face considering some of the things the man said. Come to think of it, he wondered if that comportment, or should it be deportment, was something else Julian was trying to teach him. They'd had a few 'discussions' so far about Frank's "charming gift for informality" and the appropriate time and place to allow said gift to appear. Was Julian trying to teach him by example? Frank sighed. Of course he was. Example was part of Julian's style. Ventrue formality was going to be such a chore to learn and he didn't even want to think of the Ventrue fashion sense. He did not want to wear Armani, or even worse, tailor-made clothing: All the detective needed, was to have Internal Affairs think he was on the take. Where else would someone of his rank and income level come up with the money to wear tailor-made clothing? Was he all of a sudden going to have to pretend he'd discovered the 'joy of clothing' and had then promptly decided to spend all of his spare income on yuppie clothes? Frank shuddered at the thought. He did not want to turn into a clothes horse.

Frank shook his head. Maybe he was overreacting. He noticed the fire looked as if it were dying down. Standing, he grabbed a poker from the handy fireside rack, and pushing and prodding the remnants of the logs, poked the flames back to life. Once those flames were once again burning briskly he settled back into his seat and returned to his contemplations.

His elder brood brother and partner, Sonny Toussaint, wore 'casual' clothing. Frank had seen Sonny in jeans and flannel shirts when they'd been at work or he'd picked Sonny up for a stakeout. On the other hand, he'd also seen Sonny in a tailor-made suit when Sonny was fulfilling his duties as Ventrue Primogen or even when the primogen of the Ventrue clan, in his detective persona, was testifying in court. Frank sighed again - another example of 'appropriate time and place.' Damn! He was going to end up in Armani. He knew Julian well enough by now to know that the man would never give up until his sire had not only gotten Frank to the Prince's own tailor, but had also managed to engrain enough Ventrue taste, manners, and etiquette into his newest childe that Frank would be able to pass as a 'gentleman' in the highest society. Frank had a good laugh at the thought of himself as some sort of male version of Eliza Doolittle, although the thought of Julian as Professor Higgins was even funnier. The latter thought was enough to provide him with several minutes of amusement before a further thought occurred to him. I've been in this room too long. It's a good thing Julian's taking me out hunting tonight. It's getting too easy to amuse myself.

Let's see… Frank's thoughts continued as he squirmed into a more comfortable position in which to watch the flickering flames. I like animal transformations, but I am going to have to work on the starting to shift part. I refuse to look like the before use, main character of an Ex-Lax commercial. I realize you have to concentrate to initiate the shift, but really… There has to be a more dignified way of doing so.

Hmm … Frank's mind wandered through some of the other things he'd learned over the past few weeks. Julian had taken him out several times to show him how to hunt, but Frank hadn't yet been allowed to hunt without his sire's active help. He had to give the man credit, Julian did manage to make the lessons interesting, and his sire certainly did have an active and inventive imagination. Most of what he'd learned had been how to discretely isolate a 'donor' from other humans and how to make said 'donor' forget his, or her, culinary contributions to Frank's life force once they had been coaxed away from the safety of the crowds. Julian had also taught his childe how to avoid killing and how to leave his prey in a good enough condition to make it back to their homes without mishap, even to providing transportation if necessary.

Feeling warm and relaxed, Frank thought: I finished all the reports I needed to before I went to my rest and Julian also wanted me to write six copies of the Traditions. I finished those before my rest too and that rest wasn't nearly long enough. His watch showed he had at least another hour before Julian showed up. Frank continued watching the flames leap and dance as his thoughts faded away.

At 10:30 PM the door to Frank Kohanek's room opened and Julian Luna stepped through. Glancing to his left he noticed his newest childe slumped in the wing-backed chair closest to the fire. A short laugh left his mouth as the Prince of San Francisco's Kindred shot a quick look at his childe's desk. Upon seeing several stacks of papers neatly stacked on the desk, he strolled over and picked one off the closest stack. You did these before your first rest, didn't you Frank? I'm proud of you. He picked up another stack and rifled though the papers. He finished his copies of the Traditions too. He's learning, Julian thought as he carefully placed the papers back on the desk and strolled over to gaze down thoughtfully at the resting Frank Kohanek. Young Kindred do need their rest and I've been pushing him since his fiasco at the 7-Eleven, but … Perching on the right arm of his childe's chair, Julian leaned down and whispered into Frank's ear, "Recite the Traditions for me, Frank."

Frank started at Julian's soft order and as his brown eyes snapped open, his head swung to his right. Upon seeing Julian, he relaxed and started his recitation, ending with his own colloquial version of the Traditions. After he finished, he said, "Sorry to fall into rest on you, Julian."

The dark haired man, with the mismatched eyes, sitting beside him just smiled and said, "Don't worry about it Frank. You finished what I asked of you. That's all I expect of you at this point. We can leave anticipating my every wish until later." Julian grinned at Frank's startled look. "Sonny hasn't mastered it yet either, and I've had seventy years to teach him, so you needn't worry about it," The Prince said calmly, his eyes twinkling, "… and yes, I do have a sense of humor."

Rising to his feet, Julian caught Frank's eyes with his and said; forcefully and sincerely, "Young Kindred need their rest and I won't endanger you by denying it to you. There's plenty of time to finish your reports and ..," he grinned, "your excellent copies of the Traditions." His grin grew even broader as he caught his childe's wry thought, Terrific! Now I discover Julian's sense of humor. I should have known his style of humor would run toward the twisted and sarcastic. Julian could feel Frank's thoughts grew fainter as he remembered Julian could probably hear him, but the Prince could still detect his childe's faint final thought on the subject. It's a good thing my style of humor tends to run the same way.

Julian reached a hand down to grasp Frank's arm and pull him to his feet. Putting one of his own arms around Kohanek's shoulders, he then steered the man toward the door, saying, "…but now we need to go hunting." His head turned toward his childe as, with a broad smile on his face, he cheerfully proclaimed, "Congratulations, Frank, this time you're going to be doing it without my active assistance."