This is the thirty-ninth story in a series of (currently) forty-nine snapshots I have written about a role-play I am involved in, one that has gone on for over three years. I will not post them all, but there is the possibility that the DM and I will write the whole story (in book format) and post that. The game is set in 1500 AD and takes place mostly in London. Most of the active vampires in this region are either Gangrels or Malkavians, although there are others. The Prince is a Gangrel. The local Malkavians harbor more than a few dark secrets.
This snapshot starts out in 1445 AD and ends in 1488 AD.
Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire: the Masquerade. I do own the story.
Amidst the snarling of the wolves, Patricia knelt down on the grass and began to pray. The hungry beasts would show her no mercy – she was resigned to her fate, and she readied herself for death. She sternly told herself as they drew closer that God would not mind that her pretty yellow dress had been dirtied and torn. She would die saying her prayers, and she would go to Heaven because she was a good little girl.
Tears ran down her muddied cheeks, though. She was afraid. She was trying to be brave, but she was very afraid.
As the first wolf sprang, she heard a roar, and then suddenly the wolf was flying in the opposite direction. A tall, dark shape materialized between her and the wolf pack. Another wolf leaped at her, and the figure flung it away, too. She unfolded her hands and rubbed the grit from her eyes, not even daring to hope that she was truly seeing what was before her eyes. In her clearing vision, the figure's movements were followed by pained yelps, and what few wolves remained before it fled. It stood motionless as the sounds of flight faded into the woods. Then it turned toward her. She nearly shrieked – it had glowing red eyes and fangs, and its face was frozen in a snarl.
But then she blinked and wiped the remaining tears from her eyes, and the face no longer belonged to a frightful devil but to her dear godfather, Xavier. He was kneeling before her, an anxious expression on his face, and he was saying something to her that she could not understand.
Patricia lowered her tiny fists from her face and hiccupped. He held out his arms to her, and she jumped into them eagerly, not quite believing that she had been rescued. She pressed her face into his neck. "Are you real?" she whispered.
Xavier pulled her in front of him and replied, "I am, child. Are you hurt?"
His eyes bored into hers until she squirmed in his grasp. "What are you doing out this far at this time, Patricia? Your parents must be frantic with worry. And if I had not come by when I did, they would have lost you."
More tears slid down her cheeks, and she sniffled. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! I was picking pretty flowers for Mama, an' then there were wolves, an' they chased me, and they were going to eat me! I'll never do it again! Promise! I'm sorry!" By the end of her explanation, the young girl was sobbing.
And Xavier, who was an elder vampire and by all accounts should not have cared what happened to one of the kine, drew her to him again and rocked her in his arms. She cried herself to sleep in moments. He stood and brushed her tear-matted hair from her face, and he walked with her to the Rudiffer estate. "I would not have let them harm you, child," he whispered into her hair, thinking to himself that it had been far too long since he had held a child. They were so warm, and trusting, and innocent, and they were able to see past the monster to the man. He missed that, sometimes.
He almost missed Linden's quiet voice behind him. "She is special to you, Sire," he said matter-of-factly.
Xavier did not bother to look over his shoulder. "My goddaughter, Patricia."
Linden appeared beside him and ran his fingers through the sleeping child's curls. "She is a beautiful child, my Prince. She must be charming." He vanished just as suddenly as he had appeared.
"She is," Xavier agreed aloud. But he could say no more, because he was suddenly at Charles' doorstep, and Julie was taking the girl from his arms and crying in relief. He almost growled at her, but he caught himself and turned it into a cough instead. Curious, he thought to himself as he was led inside by Patricia's grateful parents. How very curious.
And Patricia slept through it all, half-waking only once to ask Xavier to tuck her in to her bed.
Patricia's smile was strained as Xavier sat down beside her on the bench. The moon was high and full in the sky, and its pale light illuminated the entire yard. She was able to see the older man's face clearly, and she did not like what she saw. She shuffled her feet under the bench, glad that her long dress covered them. She did not face him.
"You wished to see me?" Xavier asked as he turned to her.
"I did, sir." She hesitated as his eyes clouded over with some unknown emotion. She supposed he was confused. After all, he was her godfather, and he was the most trusted man in her life. Why should she not turn to him in confidence?
She glanced over at him instead. "I… I heard you, and my father, earlier this evening. You discussed my future. He asked if you wished for my hand in marriage." The lump that had been rising in her throat for the past half an hour suddenly caught, and she swallowed hard to clear it. In a voice that held only the faintest trace of a quiver, she asked, "Why did you refuse?"
Xavier said nothing.
Her vision blurred, and she turned her face away to hide the tears that burned in her eyes.
After a moment, he spoke up. "I do not mean to hurt you, child," he began.
She whirled around and angrily faced him. "I am not a child!" she declared. "I am a woman now. Can you not speak to me as such?"
Xavier stared at her, but Patricia would not back down. "You may not have meant to hurt me, but you did," she continued. "You hurt me very much."
"And for that I am sorry," he replied. "But you must understand, Patricia. I still mourn my wife, though she has been dead for many years. You cannot replace her, and I would not want you to try."
"But I want to!"
Xavier took one look at her flashing eyes and defiant posture and sighed. Patricia would grow up to be a marvelous woman, but it could not be with him. She was mortal, and he was not. It would only be a matter of time before she would figure out he was not a normal man, and then she would turn on him. And that would only happen if she was lucky. Once awakened, the rage of the Beast was not easily sated, and he did not know if he could live with himself knowing that he could very easily become her murderer, accidental or not. "I do not want you to. You are still young. Your father will find you a good, young man to marry, one with a good name, and you will be happy with him," he told her.
Patricia blinked and then turned away again. When she spoke, her voice was harsh. "I do not want a young man. They do not know how to treat a woman with kindness. I want someone I can trust, someone whose confidence I hold. I want someone who can love me the way I want to love them." She seemed to be embarrassed at her words, but when she looked back at Xavier her eyes were full of emotion.
And in them he could see what she wanted to tell him, and he saw what she wanted him to say.
And he could not say it.
"I cannot give you what you are looking for," he told her. "That is my final answer."
For an instant, Xavier thought Patricia would dissolve into tears, but before his eyes she strengthened, and her eyes grew hard. "Then I thank you for your time and honesty, my lord," she said quietly as she stood. "Good night."
Goodbye. The unspoken word hung between them as she turned and walked back to the house.
"I will never forget you," Patricia whispered as the distance between them grew. "You broke my heart. And I will never see you again."
She did not know that Xavier had heard every word.
I am getting too old for such surprises, Patricia thought sourly. I am fifty years old. I have been here longer than anyone should have a right to. And I am going to be here much longer still, because I am dead. She grinned. Dead, dead, dead as a doornail. At least I do not bore as easily as I used to.
Patricia walked calmly down the hall to her receiving room. Since her husband had been killed two years ago, she had not had much time for entertaining company. One of her grandsons, Richard, lived with her, but he was not one for entertainment of the high society sort, and so he often hid himself away in his study for hours at a time. And he was unable to help her run her late husband's estate – he had not the knowledge for it.
Her children were not of much help, either.
So when an offer of assistance came seemingly out of the blue, she was willing to at least entertain the idea. She was almost too old to remarry, but that might not matter. She would only need the help until she was able to sort through his business herself.
Unfortunately, she did not have enough time to do it now, when it needed to be done. Hence her current situation.
Patricia laughed as she walked up to the door. The Embrace was one of the best things that could have happened to her. Now she had all the time in the world. It was a shame that her husband was no longer with her to enjoy it.
"And I did show them all, did I not?" she softly asked the air around her as she closed her hand around the doorknob. "Your Malkavian wife, running your business empire. Father would have been proud of me. Proud of us." She grinned, and she carried that grin with her into the receiving room.
Two men were seated there, and both arose when she entered the room. One, she did not recognize. He appeared to be in his early twenties, a man in his prime. And he was gigantic, half again her size.
When she saw the other man, her grin faded.
"Patricia," Xavier said solemnly, bowing as he did so. "It has been a while, my dear."
The woman stared at her godfather, and the words tumbled from her mouth before she could stop them. "You haven't aged a day," she said. Then, using one of her new-found vampiric abilities and acting on a strong hunch, she scented his blood and listened for his beating heart.
His blood was cool and smelled more alluring than the finest chocolates.
His heart did not beat.
And neither did that of the young man beside him.
Her stare turned into a glare as her shock and surprise melted away to anger. "Is this why you turned me down?" she demanded. "Is this why you refused me?"
The blond man glanced down at Xavier, but the older man would not look at him. He looked straight at Patricia. "It is part of the reason," he said quietly. "I did not lie to you when I said I still mourned her, but no, I did not tell you everything."
"Get out of my house, and get out of my life."
The expression on Xavier's face then was almost worth the thirty-six years of heartache he had given her, but he schooled his features quickly into something bland and expressionless.
Patricia folded her arms across her chest and toyed with the idea of testing one of her new abilities on the man. She had recently discovered how to make those opposing her either fly into a frothing rage or flee like little children, and she wondered how Xavier would react if he suddenly found himself standing on her doorstep with no recollection of how he got there. She smirked.
Xavier caught her look and said, "There is another reason why I am here."
"Oh? And what is that?"
"That you are still a childe in our society, and you have not yet been presented to me. Such a thing is a crime that must be punished."
"And are you someone to punish me? Do you have this authority?"
A small smile played across Xavier's lips – which revealed pointed teeth as they parted – as he said, "In fact, I do. I am the Prince of this city, Patricia, and your lord."
She almost disputed this, until she realized there was no lie in his eyes. He wore an almost-visible mantle of authority. Her Beast leaped in rage inside her, but she firmly pushed it aside and sat down heavily in one of the cushioned chairs across from Xavier. The men did the same. "Then what am I to be punished with?" she asked.
"That remains to be seen," he replied. "I must have answers from you first."
When she did not respond, he continued. "First," he asked, "what is your name?"
"Patricia Weston," she replied sullenly.
"To what clan do you belong?"
The blond man raised an eyebrow. Xavier took it in stride.
"Who is your sire, and how long have you been one of the Kindred?"
She told him.
"Have you not been told to present yourself to me?"
Xavier studied her face and then sighed. "Very well. I have made up my mind. With this man my witness," and he gestured to the young man, "I declare my punishment."
Patricia glared at his feet.
"You are to answer, truthfully and completely, one question of my choice."
She clamped down on her Beast again.
Xavier leaned forward until he had nearly bridged the gap between them and asked, "Why do you dislike me so?"
Patricia's head snapped up, and she stared at him in open shock and amazement for a moment only. Then she began to laugh, a mad, rippling laugh. "That's rich," she told him. "You should know the answer to that one, my Prince, but I will gladly answer it for you. You had my bared heart in your hands, and you squeezed. Blood dripped into the earth and vanished. My poor, tender heart. It died that night, you know. And it was all over then. Dislike? No. I hated you, after I made myself stop loving you. Hah! And then that rubbish about still in mourning? I believe you were, a bit. But a vampire? That's a better excuse than what you gave me. Oh! Ha! And then you expected me to go on, as if nothing had happened! That," she finished with a snarl, "is your answer. Now go away and leave me alone."
Despite what she had just revealed, Xavier was somehow still calm. "Would you have wanted a life with a monster, so to speak?"
"I wanted a life with you, you blind little beast! I had loved you then! Do you think that I would have cared?" she snapped. "My husband was turned with me four years ago, and those were some of the best years of my life! And I loved him despite it."
"You misremember, my dear."
"I am no child, Xavier. I am a woman grown now, with children and grandchildren of my own. I know my own mind. And I am not lying to you when I say that I could have been happy with you despite your… monsterness."
Xavier looked down at the woman who, despite the years and hardships she had weathered, was still full of the same fire he had admired in her many years before. "Then I owe you an explanation, at the least. Is it too late to say that I am sorry?" he asked.
"Oh, you can apologize," she said coolly, "but that won't change the past. You broke my heart, Xavier. Broke it into a hundred little pieces. I can't trust you."
Patricia forced herself to ignore his pained and anxious expression. "Why not?" she echoed. "How can I trust you? The man who I offered my heart to, the man I trusted to keep it safe, the man who broke it? If I could not trust you with that which was dearest to me, how can I trust you with anything else?"
"I would change that," he said quietly.
"That is no excuse."
"I did not know what to do with such a precious gift, Patricia." He was whispering now, which should have surprised him. "For a mortal to freely offer me the one thing our kind has been denied the most… I was frightened. Frightened for you, and frightened for me. I did not want such a complicated thing. I turned you away. I should not have."
His head hung against his chest, his back bent and his hands neatly folded in his lap. "I would change that, if I could."
"Even though we are monsters that should not be trusted?"
"Oh. Then why did you not say so in the first place?"
The sudden uplift in her voice surprised him, and he glanced up at Patricia. Her eyes were bright and shining, and she was smiling at him. "Now, about business…"
Somewhat bewildered, Xavier glanced over his shoulder to where Linden had been seated, but the other man was nowhere to be seen. He made a mental note to have a talk with him about it later, but that note was forgotten when Patricia smiled at him again.
Linden watched the two of them through the window as they discussed what options Patricia had for her husband's businesses and thought to himself, Xavier is a lucky man. She has grown up to be quite a woman. Perhaps someday I will find someone like that, someone with that kind of fire.
He sighed and sat down beneath the window and waited for them to finish discussing business.
Thank you for reading! If you have read "A Twisted Fairy Tale", you might recognize some of these characters. They are part of something a bit bigger than one or two one-shots. *grin* Take inter-character relationships as they are so far, although you are welcome to comment on them if you would like. Everything will be revealed eventually.