A/N: A quick warning before I begin:
PLEASE DON'T READ THIS UNLESS YOU'VE FINISHED 'BROTHERS TO THE DEATH'. THIS CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS, AND I DON'T WANT TO RUIN IT FOR ANYONE.
There, you've been warned :P I will say that though this is about a very important part of the book, it is also very different from how it was originally written. I've changed most everything, but the important part is still the same.
I hope you all enjoyed 'Brothers...' I sure have a lot to say about it, but I'm not going to rant. So, read on (IF YOU'VE FINISHED THE BOOK!) and enjoy!
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It was gone midnight by the time the VIP guests had left the Cirque's after-show party. The air was cold, and snow had started falling slowly down from the clouded sky. A full moon shone out from behind the clouds, casting the Cirque in a silvery glow before disappearing again and leaving everything in blackness. The guests hurried back to their homes, pulling scarves and hats closer to themselves.
The performers shared a few stories of what the amused and amazed humans had said to them, praising each other on the performances. Larten Crepsley - having had enough of praise and admiration for one night - soon bid good-day to his fellow performers, and trailed after the last of the guests. His trailer was on the very edge of the camp, and he yawned loudly as he wove his way through the various trailers and cages that made up the Cirque's camp.
The moon leapt from behind the clouds just as Larten had reached his trailer. The silver glow made him look up into the night sky, and he smiled slightly, enjoying the feeling of the cool snow on his face. As his eyes travelled back down from the moon, he caught sight of a figure sitting on top of the trailer.
The vampire tensed, and pulled out a knife from his belt (though he carried one just in case of an emergency, he never once assumed he'd have to use it). The figure on the roof simply sat still, their face obscured by the hood of their jacket.
Larten hesitated, but still kept his defensive stance. The moon emerged from behind the clouds again, and the figure on the roof was bathed in the silver light. Larten blinked and then laughed, lowering his knife and relaxing his stance.
"I did not expect to see you again." He commented with a smile as the figure stood and hopped down onto the ground beside him. They flipped their hood back, and Arra grinned up at him. "How have you been? And what brings you here?"
Arra's grin slipped, and a worried look appeared in her grey eyes. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, "Something serious, I'm sorry to say."
The orange-haired vampire nodded after a moment, and held the door to his trailer open for his ex-mate. Larten took a moment to study her, noting how different she looked. He didn't miss the small scar under her left eye, or the way she her movements seemed to be very alert and precise. She definitely looked older, more like a woman and less like the teenager he used to know. He also didn't miss the uniform she was wearing.
Arra caught him looking, and let a small smile slip back onto her face, "Aren't you going to congratulate me? Making it into the Trackers is hardly an easy task."
Larten smiled, "Of course. Congratulations! I am very pleased to see how far you have come. Staffen is not an easy man to impress." Staffen Irve - the Head Tracker - was an infamously strict leader, and only those with the highest level of sneaking, fighting and tracking gained his attention. Actually being accepted into the small group of elite vampires was a great honour, and many had tried and failed over the years. Staffen was very particular when it came to the Trackers.
"I seem to be doing a good job," Arra commented, dropping a small duffel bag and perching on the edge of Larten's coffin. "I'm his second-in-command." Larten's faced dropped and she laughed, pleased to see his reaction. "Never expected that, did you?"
"I have to admit, I did not." Larten admitted, sitting down at a small table in front of the coffin. "I thought the fact that you had been accepted into the group was amazing enough." A small smile crept onto his face and he looked up at Arra, "I always suspected you would go far though."
She returned his smile, and then a more serious look appeared on her face. She glanced around the trailer and sighed, "I don't have long. I'm on my way to track down a mad vampaneze." Larten nodded in understanding, and she continued, "Staffen told me to stop off here on my way, though. We've... discovered something."
Larten cleared his throat, a sense of impending doom settling over him. He motioned for her to sit at the table with him, and she slid from the coffin and took a seat next to him. "We have started to make written reports of the various attacks and crimes the vampaneze have committed over the years. We would question the vampires involved in it, or those who had found out about the incident, and gather as much information as we could."
Arra frowned, "Seba said it was a good idea, to make written copies of things. He's been helping us organise it all. I've been writing it all down. Staffen and the other Trackers have been doing the questioning."
Larten could see where this was going, and steeled himself for the upcoming conversation. He hadn't mentioned Alicia's death to anyone at the Cirque, and though he knew Mr Tall had been informed of it, the giant ring-leader never said anything to the vampire. "Go on."
Arra dropped her gaze and stared down at the table "You see, when we got to Randel Chayne, well, things started to get difficult."
"How so?" Larten looked surprised. "How difficult could it be, he murdered Alicia. What more is there to it?"
"Well," Arra coughed, and looked up at him with something of a concerned expression, "one of the Trackers, Brynjolf, said he remembered clearly that he had helped track down Randel years before he killed Alicia. He'd been with Wester-"
"Wester?" Larten asked, shocked.
Arra nodded slowly, "Yes. He said that he believed Randel knew where the vampaneze who killed his family was. Brynjolf didn't stop him from going along. Bryn has lost humans close to him, so he knew what it felt like, wanting to get revenge." She paused, and looked up at Larten again, seeing if he had figured it out yet. He looked blank, but there was a darkness in his eyes. "Randel was running with another vampaneze. Brynjolf let Wester go after Randel alone. When they met up again at dusk, Wester said Randel had attacked him, and then run off. Wester was hurt, so he couldn't follow."
"Randel got away." Larten concluded, not seeing where this was going, but feeling as though something was very wrong. He hadn't known that Wester had tried to track Randel down.
"Right. And he didn't want to talk about it to anyone, because he hadn't got the information he'd wanted. He was also ashamed that he'd let Randel go. Brynjolf had said it couldn't have been prevented, and they returned to the mountain. So, Randel was supposedly still running around out in the world."
Larten hadn't missed the hint of deceit in her voice, "Supposedly?"
"That was Brynjolf's version of the story. Wester's was completely different. Nothing added up at all. The location, the vampaneze, even the season. Brynjolf said summer, Wester winter." She caught Larten's confused look and elaborated. "Bryn remembered it was summer, because he got sun-burnt fighting the other vampaneze. He's got the scar to prove it, on his shoulder."
"How is that significant?" Larten asked.
"I know it doesn't seem like much," Arra agreed, "but that was the first thing. When we started to look more closely at the two accounts, we found even more discrepancies. And when Staffen went to ask Wester about them, he had gone. There was a rumour going around the mountain that we were on to something important, and Wester must have figured it was him and his story. So he left the mountain.
"And then when he didn't reply to any of the messages that were sent to him, we knew something was up. He wouldn't even reply to Seba. It wasn't enough to get everyone concerned; the Nazis were still occupying most of the Prince's attention, and even Staffen didn't have time to follow this one up just yet. And we weren't allowed to just up and leave, because the Nazis were hunting us.
"So we had to wait the war out, and then act. We did what we could in the meantime. We caught a few vampaneze who had strayed too close to the mountain." Larten was staring at her intently now, mostly curious as to what she was about to reveal, but also slightly angry that she was speaking badly of his brother. "Wester came back before the end of the war, raving that Randel Chayne had attacked and killed a human. He said he had witnessed it himself."
Arra paused again. She didn't want to tell Larten the truth, didn't want to hurt him with it. She couldn't lie to him though. Taking a deep breath, she continued in a hushed voice. "The thing is, the vampaneze that we captured told us that Randel had been killed by a vampire. They were friends of his, and had wanted to avenge Randel. Vampaneze don't lie. Brynjolf was allowed to go to where he and Wester had fought Randel and the other, and he found the remains of a body. It was where Wester had fought Randel. And it was a vampaneze, he was certain of that. The teeth and nails gave it away."
Larten felt sick. He wanted to stop Arra there, and not hear what was about to be said. But at the same time he wanted his sick thoughts confirmed. Arra had paused again, watching him worriedly. He nodded slightly, letting her know to carry on. She did, but placed her hand over his first. "Larten, Randel couldn't have killed Alicia, because he was dead. Wester had killed him. And Wester... he killed her. To get you to hate the vampaneze and campaign for war. Or at least we think that was his reason for it. We're certain though that it was him who killed Alicia. His description has been confirmed by Sylva. Staffen spoke to her...
"I'm so sorry." Arra finished weakly.
Despite the horrifying news Larten had just received, he felt strangely calm. He knew what he had to do straight away, and the though the thought made him feel sick to his soul, it also made him feel like he was finally going to be free of this whole messy situation. The years he had spent chasing a dead man, the years he had spent thinking that Wester was a good man.
He stood suddenly and started pacing. "Do you know where he is?"
Arra glanced up at him, shocking to hear his voice so steady and controlled, "In Europe. The North, I think."
"Who else knows about this?"
Arra blinked. "The Trackers, Princes, and you." She paused, and then added, "We didn't think it right to tell Gavner and Seba. Not yet anyway."
Larten's mind was whirring around at full speed, but as he came to a stop in front of his coffin, all of his thoughts settled and he knew exactly what he needed to do. "I need you to tell the Princes I am sorry, but I cannot accept their offer of investure," He heard Arra stand up quickly, but didn't turn around to look at her, "I also need you to tell them that I am resigning from being a General. I want nothing more to do with the clan. Tell Gavner and Seba... tell them that I am very sorry. I hope that one day I will see them again, but tell them not to hold onto hope."
Arra was speechless. Larten turned to face her after sensing that she wasn't going to say anything. He took two steps towards her and let out a breath he hadn't known he had been holding. "You can tell them the truth. I want them to understand that I had to do this." He sat down heavily and held his head in his hands.
There were sounds of movement, but he didn't look. His mind was focused on the task ahead of him. The thought of killing his brother made him feel terrible, but he knew it must be done. It was the only way he would be able to carry on with his life.
"Would you like me to come with you?"
Larten looked up. Arra was standing by the door, one hand on the handle, the other clutching her bag. She had her eyes fixed on him. He felt warmth spread through him for a brief moment, shocked but comforted at her obvious concern and loyalty to him, even though they'd been apart for so many years.
"No. I have to do this on my own." Larten answered, and Arra nodded, making to turn back towards the door. "Thank you, though."
She paused and gave him a soft smile. He returned it, and they watched each other carefully for a few moments.
Arra finally broke the silence, looking down and nodding slightly. She met his gaze again with a bright, hopeful smile on her face. "I hope you do come back to the clan. There are a lot of people who care about you, and miss you. I..." She trailed off, and looked away. Larten noticed a slight blush to her cheeks, and he smiled, remembering why he was so taken with her.
"Just don't keep me waiting too long, Crepsley." There was a crooked grin on her face, and she winked as she swung the door open and walked away.
As soon as the door had closed again, Larten started packing away his few belongings. His mind was once again on the grim task ahead of him, but he made a silent vow to himself that he would return to the mountain one day, just to see his striking Tracker again.
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A/N: Well, there you go! I have to say, I had forgotten how enjoyable writing can be. I managed to get this out in less than two days, and the time flew by. I must write more! Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this. Feedback would be much appreciated!
PS. For those of you wondering what the Tracker uniform looks like, just Google 'Skyrim Thief Guild Armor' and you'll have your answer.