Part 23: BloodlinesNow, if I keep following this street, I should find the Last Round...
I walked down the quiet streets of L.A., taking in the desolate feeling of it all. The only accompaniment to my foosteps seemed to be the rustling of papers, the occasional cold breeze. Sure, it was late, but there should be more people than this. Even Santa Monica felt more alive. Where was everyone?
I stopped as I turned the corner, looking at the men standing on the corner. Could this explain why the place felt so empty? A biohazard crew would explain why people were avoiding the area, but why hadn't LaCroix mentioned anything?
Face it. You're nothing in his eyes. What he hasn't told you wouldn't fit into an entire set of encylopaedias.
I grimaced, but it was true. LaCroix let me know what he wanted me to know, and precious little else. Any question answered was brusquely dismissed as unimportant. Unimportant to LaCroix, perhaps, but to the newborn I was? Knowledge was the only thing keeping me alive.
The deep purple glow caught my eye as I walked past the building. I didn't know what could create such an effect. Idly, I considered this, pausing as something entered my head. An ornate card, lying on the desk in my haven. Something about the sun at night...I couldn't quite remember, it hadn't seemed important at the time. Well, you've got time to investigate...
I stepped towards the doors, which opened as I raised my palm to grasp the doorknob. It seemed I was expected.
The hallway led into another hallway, decorated in a vermilion design. As I made my way down the corridor, I experienced a strange sense of disorientation. The house had not looked that wide from the outside, and yet I walked on for minutes, around curving hallways, seeming to walk in circles as I found myself staring at the outside hallway. Perplexed, I turned, walking down the corridor. Vaguely I thought back to highschool, to the classics. 'If you're walking in a labyrinth', the wrinkled old woman had droned, 'always choose a left hand path, unless you have no choice. Only turn right where there's no alternative.'
I shrugged. Well, worth a shot. Again, I felt that disorientation. It seemed there was some kind of magic here, and not the usual vampiric kind.
In front of me were a pair of ornate stained-glass doors. I knoced, hearing a deep, imposing voice from the other side. 'Come in, neonate'.
The man was dressed head to toe in red, a look finished off by a red leather coat extending to his calves, and sunglasses with red lenses. On anyone else, this look would have made me laugh...yet on this man, it looked somehow right, adding to his mysterious and vaguely threatening presence. Whereas Jack had treated me like a kid brother, and LaCroix as if I was a minor inconvenience that may work to his benefit, this man studied me intently. I shifted uncomfortably; under this gaze, I was an insect. Worthy of study, perhaps interesting, but if that required dissection, well, so be it.
'So you would be-'
'Chantry?' I enquired. Everywhere I was coming across more obscure terms.
I was excited. Finally, a sense of belonging, something I could become grounded in.
'You are my clan? A Tremere?' My enthusiasm, my curiousity, was apparent. Strauss chuckled benevolently, resting his chin in his hand.
There was so much I wanted to understand, where to begin...
'Well, how about the basics? What exactly distinguishes Tremere from other clans?'
Strauss informed me that such a question would take months to answer fully. In short, Tremere were the mages of the vampires - specialists in thaumaturgy, blood magic. That ability I had used, to draw the blood from my opponent, was the hallmark of the clan. Strauss detailed exactly how it worked, and why it would come naturally to me if required, now that I understood the origin. He said, as my abilities grew, that I would be able to manipulate blood in different ways. Regarding me with an expression of bemused interest, he commented that for a neonate with no guidance from within the pyramid to be able to instinctively draw on that power without knowing of it's existence was unusual.
'So what exactly is the pyramid? I assume it's some kind of hierarchy?'
Sounds like pyramid is a fitting term. Sounds like a scam to me.
I felt bile rise up inside me. So, again, an outsider, not fully accepted by the Camarilla, not even accepted by my own clan. How it stang, the knowledge that I was considered unworthy to be part of their elite little club. Unable to hold my hostility in, I snapped at Strauss.
'So is there any way an "outsider" can join the pyramid?'
If Strauss noticed my aggressive tone, he paid it no heed.
You condescending son of a bitch...
'Well perhaps at the very least you can fill me in on events here in L.A.'
Again, that feeling of being spoken down to, slapped in the face and brought up short. I seethed. For someone deeming me seemingly unworthy to be in his clan, to know their secrets, he was certainly one for passing out sagely advice. Gee, thanks, DAD were the words I wanted to spit at him, but it didn't seem worth the trouble. Besides, it was childish to consider it, but this man was bringing out the worst in me.
'Epidemic?' I rubbed my temple. 'That would explain the biohazard footsoldiers standing around. Why would vampires be interested in that?'
'You mean this affects us as much as it does the...' What was the expression he used? '...Kine?'
I thought for a second. Unworthy? Maybe I'll solve this little problem, then we'll see who is unworthy. Wouldn't it hurt, Maxy, for you to owe me?.
'I can save you a job Max. I was just on the way over to the Last Round to pass on LaCroix's demands. I could see what I can find out...' I left the proposition hanging in the air.
Now that's what I like to hear...
'Consider it done. I'm afraid I know nothing about the vampiric sects though. Can you give me your explanation of what exactly the Camarilla is?'
'And the prince?'
Oh-ho! What is this captain? Dissent in the ranks of the Camarilla? And here's me thinking you're such a happy fucking little bunch.
'What do you mean Strauss?' I asked, as innocently as possible.
'Neither will I. Goodnight Max.'
I walked out of the building, a gust of wind ruffling my hair. It seemed the politics of this situation were even more murky than I thought. Unworthy was I? Not really part of Camarilla or my own bloodline?
Seems the lordly LaCroix's position here is precarious to say the least. Wouldn't it be a shame to see him toppled?
I laughed softly to myself, and headed for the Last Round.