"There is always something happening in Los Angeles," she would say. Diana didn't know what was happening in Los Angeles and why her Sire would send her there, but it seemed that the Jyhad had carried her right into the middle of a four way war.
This is a completely reimagined version of my much older story, Damned By Midnight. I've thought about deleting it before simply because I felt silly for writing it when I look back, but I'm still in love with the characters I created. This is the prologue to Neo-Damned by Midnight, as it were.
For all it was worth, Diana Clare knew that her arrival in LA would not go unnoticed. A Ventrue barely out of her first few years in the World of Darkness carrying a suit case full of bad news, would catch the eye of all factions in the city. They knew where she had come from, the Camarilla in Toronto all but dust in the wake of a Sabbat take over. When she asked for safe haven from Prince LaCroix or anyone who would answer her it made the Kindred of the city nervous.
Diana Clare was one of very few survivors of Toronto's wide spread Ventrue Clan, Childe to the ruler of the city herself. Stories circulated immediately that the Childe had sacrificed Sire in order to survive. Still more believed that the Sire knowingly stayed behind to save what lives she could, a Ventrue of over five hundred years with power enough to stop a few Sabbat cowards. In the darkest allies of Los Angeles, there were rumors that Diana had cut and bled her own Sire dry before ending her life. They believed it to be Diablerie at its worst. Little proof existed to substantiate these claims, even as the young woman wheeled her things into her hotel room.
The Empire Arms Hotel was a sufficient distance away from most who she believed would give her trouble, and Downtown tended to be the seat of the Camarilla, the first to respond to her call for safe haven. She knew her duty to immediately visit the Prince of the city, but there was time enough to refresh herself after her journey.
A quiet meal alone suited her well as she thought over her prospects in the city. It was to her benefit that the Ventrue Clan held a large presence downtown, and with a little time spent among them, she could secure a more permanent residence among those of her own bloodline. She preferred it this way. Calling on old Ventrue tradition and demanding safe haven from the Camarilla Prince would have cast her in a dark light. The last thing she needed was even more negative criticism.
Her eyes fixated on her own image in the mirror on the other side of her room. Her black hair remained well kept, wrapped into a loose bun on the crown of her head. With a heavy sigh, she looked away from the mirror. Of all the things about her new life, she most hated seeing herself. Part of her truly wished that all vampire clans could not see their reflections.
Gary didn't understand why he agreed to LaCroix's wishes that he keep tabs on the Ventrue Childe that would briefly make her residence in room 509 in the Empire Arms hotel. From the ventilation shaft, the Nosferatu was able to look down at her, watch her leisurely drink from a wine glass of cold blood. She appeared distracted and utterly alone, the Prince's earlier impression of her growing less and less likely by the minute.
I need to know her intentions, Gary. One does not cross a continent for safe haven.
Typically, Gary would have taken his side in that argument, but the girl sat alone with her feet propped up on her suitcase. She stewed in a pool of her own thoughts, wasting time before she set out to do whatever it is she intended to do that night. He thought she looked like a proper Ventrue, wrapped up in an ungodly mess of designer clothing and pride. Underneath it all, the Nosferatu smelled fear.
He believed that she didn't know what to do now that she had arrived in LA. It certainly wasn't Toronto. There was no powerful Sire to protect her from the hounds that would surely take advantage of her. She was a pretty little thing, a proper arm decoration if he had even seen one. A woman like Diana would put Ginger Swan on the run when it came to beauty, and that's just about all she seemed to have going for her. She was thin and unarmed, and she looked easily distracted.
He watched her take one more drink from her glass, finishing off its contents before she stood up and made her way toward the door. It was time for him to go. He had to beat her to the Ventrue Tower and let LaCroix know exactly what he wanted to hear.
Diana stepped out onto the streets of downtown, passing a careful glance over the typically empty streets. She felt eyes on her. The prostitute in the corner turned her back to her, and a man nearby lit up a cigarette, watching her as she crossed the street and carried herself away toward the Ventrue tower. There were no lights on in the nearby apartment building, and the music from the Confession club just down the street roared out and rocked the concrete beneath her feet. When she was able to put the club behind her and cast her gaze upon the Ventrue tower, she felt quiet falling all around her.
The two large, black statues staring down as her as she neared the front doors to the tower reminded her of the stone guardians at Toronto's Tremere Chantry. Just looking at them, she could feel that they were not enchanted by some kind of blood magic, but they served nearly the same purpose. Cold and intimidating, they almost made her step away from the doors, but with determination, she reached out and pulled one door open.
As she stepped in, she found that the lobby reflected the same design template as the statues outside. Everything felt cold and unwelcoming.
"Hello, may I help you?" A chipper, feminine voice called in stark contrast to its surroundings.
Diana's eyes fell upon a woman she assumed was Ventrue sitting at the front desk, staring at her with wide blue eyes. Big, blonde curls cascaded down the woman's dated, or rather vintage, blouse. She seemed to make up for the uncomfortable entrance.
"Uhm, yes. I'm here to see Mr. LaCroix. My name is Diana Clare."
"Clare?" The receptionist seemed surprised at this.
"Yes, that is my surname."
The woman turned her gaze away from Diana as she began typing away at the keyboard in front of her. Surely this was how she kept in contact with LaCroix, or at least kept meetings in order.
"Oh yes, you're the Childe from Toronto. I didn't think you would make it this evening. He'll be ready to see you in just a moment. The buzzer will go off whenever the elevator comes down to take you to the penthouse level."
"Alright, thank you… What are you doing at this desk anyway? Isn't it a better place for some kind of security guard?" Diana asked.
"Normally, yes, but we're a bit understaffed right now. The last night watchman quit after a few weeks, and we haven't found a replacement. I don't do much but sit at my desk all night anyway, so I'm watching over things in the meantime- Oh, there's the buzzer. It was nice meeting you, Miss Clare."
"And you as well…errr—"
"Cecilia. My last name is Clare as well."
Diana turned her back to the woman as she passed through the metal detectors and turned to go up the flight of stairs that would lead her to the elevator. She hoped that this startling amount of grey and obsidian coloring would fade away once she reached the penthouse level. There seemed to be no end to the dull color scheme until she entered the Prince's office, a startling change from the otherwise sleek and 'modern' colors she left behind.
Paintings she had seen before in history classes hung on the upper walls. Even the walls seemed like a work of art to her, all golden and antique looking. All of these things must have come from the time he knew as a mortal. Anne, her sire, had a habit of surrounding herself with reminders of her past life as well.
"Good evening. Thank you for coming tonight, Miss Clare."
Diana looked forward, averting her eyes from the design of the room for just a moment to get an idea of who she was dealing with. A tall, foreboding looking man stood much taller than the person she assumed was Sebastian LaCroix. The sword he carried let her know that he was more than likely the Sherriff, ready to do any dirty work that would happen to arise. At the desk, a blond man with sleek, well-kept hair leaned forward, his own eyes falling on her. She knew the look in his eyes well. He was sizing her up.
"Oh, there is no need for thanks. I am the one who called on you, after all, and I should be thanking you for having me in your city."
"Forgive me for being so straight forward, but I am curious as to your intentions here. There are many safe Camarilla cities between Los Angeles and Toronto. It seems like an awful long distance to travel for safe haven."
Diana nodded," Yes, I suppose it is a long way to come. My Sire always told me that if I had a chance to leave, I should come here. 'Things are always happening in Los Angeles,' she would say. She said it would be the best place to go, and I didn't doubt her, nor would I deny her the satisfaction of knowing I listened to her for once."
"So you come out of remembrance of your Sire. May I ask who she was?"
"She has called herself Anne Silver for many years, though it is not her birth name. She had been in charge of the Camarilla in Toronto for some time now."
"I see," LaCroix paused," I have never heard of her."
"The Ventrue Clan in Toronto was very insular, more than the Tremere there, some might say. A lot of them were her Childer."
"If there is anything you need while you are in my city, Miss Clare, you have but to ask."
"Thank you. I had thought to ask if you would accept me into the Ventrue tower, but it is far too early in my relationship with the Camarilla here to come asking for such favors. I'll find some temporary housing for now and see if I cannot make myself useful for your people. I have to start somewhere, if I am to be trusted."
She saw his brow quirk as he mulled over what to say to her. She could see the clear calculation in his eyes, another obvious sign that he did not trust her either. It appeared that no one in the city could find it in them to put the rumors behind when they saw her.
"What did you do before you came to Los Angeles?"
"I was a dancer, actually. Classical ballet before I was embraced and, uh.. belly dancing afterward."
Diana refused to look away from him as he questioned her about the life she led before she arrived in his city. Anne always told her it was a sign of weakness that she couldn't afford. It had been her Sire's dream to sculpt her in the image of what she thought was a perfect Ventrue woman. Diana did her best to please her, and yet part of her still believed that she had failed as the Prince continued to look at her with his brow quirked.
Keep your head up. Look at me.
How are you going to get anyone's attention with your hair down like that? Show them your neck.
Blood is power. Give of it and drink of it, and you will be rewarded.
The color of Sebastian LaCroix's eyes reminded her of storm clouds or grey marbled stone. When she was alive, her grandmother would have told her that the man in front of her was a force of water, ebbing and flowing and taking anything he desired. The old, full blooded Japanese woman was usually right about people just by looking at their eyes, and Diana hoped that these observations that stuck with her even to that day would keep her safe in the coming nights.
"I see," LaCroix finally spoke again," What kind of work did you do for your Sire?"
"She would often ask me to deliver messages deemed unfit for email to other clan members and primogen. I also met and greeted newcomers to Toronto when they would arrive."
"It seems you had quite the opportunity to get to know everyone in your city."
Diana nodded," Yes, everyone but the Sabbat. The Tremere Primogen and his wife were fond of my visits, more so than the others I usually went to see."
"Do you know of anyone that survived the Sabbat attacks?"
"No, I don't. I haven't heard from anyone."
"It's likely some of your former associates survived and are lying low to avoid backlash from the Sabbat. If this is the case, I have to ask you to respond to no one, Miss Clare."
Diana tried to find the right response. Part of her wanted to deny this suggested policy if anyone tried to get a hold of her, but she understood better than she wanted. Anyone could say they were anyone from Toronto just so they could find her, and if they came to LA, they would be LaCroix's problem too.
"I understand where that may be necessary. I don't mean to attract more Sabbat into your territory if they are seeking out those of us that survived."
LaCroix stood from his desk and turned his back on her, moving toward the tall windows that had previously been behind him. He remained there, staring out over the city that Diana knew little about. She knew the silence in the air very well. It followed Anne everywhere when she tried to make decisions, as if the absence of voices slowed time itself.
"The Sabbat has already begun moving into the city, long before your announced arrival here. They are more difficult to control than anticipated, but I doubt their strength can compare to the sect that murdered your Sire."
"There were many Tzimsce present at the attack on our clan – too many for us to handle once their creatures got involved. We saw signs for many weeks before they moved in, but we couldn't trace them."
"Why is that?"
"They took the sewers first. The only people we could rely on to find them were silenced first. We knew a storm was coming when the Nosferatu went silent."
"Perhaps your experiences will be beneficial to us in order to avoid a repeat of the events that happened there."
"I would be more than happy to convey the whole story at a later date," Diana said.
"Yes, of course. There is much to do tonight and I have little time to comb through the rest of the details."
He looked over his shoulder at her, and she wondered what the look in his eyes meant now. Did he tire of her?
"I'll take my leave then. I wouldn't want to take too much of your time. Good night, Mr. LaCroix."