Chapter XLI: From his flesh I built my house...
From the outside, King's Way looked much like any well-to-do house in the neighbourhood, save for the thick metal-film coverings of all the doors and windows. Theoretically, it could be passed off as necessary for privacy, or perhaps a photo-sensitive film shoot. I knew better than that. Walking up the stairs to the door, I paused, hearing what sounded like murmuring from the other side. Was it...no...there... Again. A rhythmic chanting, and the wet sound of flesh being cleaved from bone. I pulled at the door handle, finding it locked. The humlike voice stopped, with the sound of retreating footsteps. Swearing, I came back down the stairs, and opened the side gate, looking for another way in.
The back of the house held an empty swimming pool, unused for quite some time. As I proceeded around the building trying all the doors, I caught wind of another hum. This time, the sound was that of a swarm of blowflies, coming from the inside of the house. I ignored the noise, coming to a trellis wrapped in vines, which gave me access to the top floor patio.
The sliding door to the building was partially ajar. Double checking the combat shotgun I had with me, I used the barrel to move the door, which slid easily along it's track. I took a step into the room, my head torso quickly turning towards the sound of shattering wood from my left.
The creature advanced on it's hands, making that now-familiar gasping noise. It was becoming difficult to take the creatures seriously now, as killing them was becoming routine. As it jumped, I raised the gun, firing into it's abnormally wide mouth, stepping back as ash spread over the floor. Now clear, I surveyed the room.
My sense of calm fragmented as I took in the small details. A bed, comprising the bones of human and animal alike. Two chairs, their 'leather' backs a tight skin canvas, stained and marked from the act of change. The flesh covering the walls was equally stained, pitted, the smell of stale sweat and fear clinging to the air, soaking my skin, turning my stomach. I shuddered, keeping my distance from the walls, leaving the room and entering the hallway.
I proceeded down the stairs, recognised from the videotape. This was wear the buzzing noise was coming from; a swarm of overly-large flies clung to the walls, my powerful vision able to see the pin-like mouths sucking greedily at the flesh. I batted some flies out of the way as I proceeded down the stairs, fired again, killing the creature waiting at the bottom. The noise alerted another creature in the kitchen, which with a sickly roar, came galloping forward in an awkward gait, being put down quickly with a shot from the gun. Dropping the empty clip, I replaced it with a fresh one, seeking comfort in the click as the clip connected.
Walking through the open-plan first floor, I came into the kitchen, at once noticing the fridge. Compared to the rest of the house, where all furniture and facilities seemed unused, the humming whitegood in front of me was well-kept and maintained. Curious, I opened the fridge, finding a selection of bloodpacks. The inclinations and character of the landlord at once clear, I walked towards the front door, carrying on down a hallway leading to a small sitting room.
Along one wall was a series of portraits, sinister even by vampiric standards. Between two ghoulish looking vampires was a woman, once beautiful, now in a state of mummification. Yet instead of being wrapped in swathes of cotton, the woman's own skin was wrapped around her, grossly distended and covering. A feeling of overpowering malice clung to the image, one of a distant and unfeeling force, at once alien and natural. Turning at last from the image, I noticed a strange twisted claw placed on a table, wrapped in thick, rotting cloth. I felt a sensation of healing when I held it, of a heightening of my unnatural regenerative process. Unbidden, the words came to my lips.
'Mummywrap fetish'. How I knew what it was remained unclear. Perhaps the knowledge of my Tremere bloodline instinctively knew the arcane. Shrugging, I turned to the closed door at the end of the room.
The stairs led down to a large basement, the rank smell of corrupted blood and gore flaring my nostrils, increasing the sick feeling I had felt since stepping into this gruesome caricature of domesticity. Right down to the over-friendly fucking canines. I nodded, feeling the presence in my mind stirring. In the bizarre cruelty of this place, the raw animalistic rage and fury of the Beast seemed a welcome friend. Grimly, clutching the automatic weapon tightly, I proceeded down the stairs.
Standing at the centre of the room next to a blood-drenched cistern, an alien stood. At least, it looked like an alien. Surrounded by portrayals of inhuman, uncaring, uncomprehending torture, a green figure stood, hands clutched behind his back, posture straight like a 17th century lord. The elongated skull, reptilian eyes and curved fangs made the creature before me look more like a monster from a science-fiction movie than a vampire. Yet a vampire he was, his aura displaying his origins. Yet, he felt different from those I had met so far. Where others had human emotions, human temperaments, or at least the visages of such, this creature had shed all such attachment, instead becoming something distant, calculated. It raised it's head to watch me come down the stairs, sniffing quickly at the air before snarling.
Even if he did, I wouldn't give this bastard the satisfaction of knowing it. Lowering the gun almost negligibly, my stance relaxed, I took a long look around. 'Interesting place you have here. Although, you really could use the help of an interior decorator.'
'It's not your furniture that bothers me. It's your dogs. Can't you keep them leashed?' I dropped the act, looking at the man with narrowing eyes. 'I feel it's safe to assume that the tape was your doing.' The creature chuckled, deep and throaty, it's eyes boring deep into my skull, looking at me as if I was an ornate puzzle to be taken apart and studied.
'You know, I'm really longing to blow that grin off your face. What was the purpose behind the tape?' I tightened my grip on the gun, quietly switching the mechanism from one-shot to automatic.
'Sabbat. Figures. Every anti-social headcase I've met so far has been Sabbat. What plan?'
And everything leads back to this...
'What does this have to do with the Ancient?'
'Or, it's a dead guy in a stone box. Personally, I think we're more at risk from those strange things you have running around upstairs than this so-called Ancient.'
The creature smiled then, almost fondly. It was enough to make me raise the shotgun to waist-level.
I felt sick, imagining this demonic scientist contentedly taking living material and breaking it, reshaping it, converting natural to abomination, human to monster.
'And where, pray tell, do you find your 'materials'?'
'They really are ugly though.'
'That's not saying much. You're even uglier than they are. They say that it's what's on the inside that counts, but given your hobbies, I'm not sure I'd want to find out.'
NO! The blood is to be consumed, not corrupted! Rip! Kill it! The Beast raged, its anger tinged with fear, the wolf trapped, back against the wall.
'You've got to be kidding. If I thought I was becoming like you, I'd walk face-first into the sunrise.' The fleshcrafter gazed into me, reading me, communing with something he found there. His eyes opened, his teeth bared in anger for the first time. 'You walk with mortals, childe, and it taints you.'
What's in my blood?
I stepped back, setting my feet. 'That really sounds like a threat to me.'
I roared my defiance, pulling the trigger on the shotgun, riddling the vampire's body with bullets. They penetrated hollow flesh, minimal amounts of steaming black blood dropping to the ground. The creature raised an arm, purple waves rolling around it as he somehow sunk into the floor, appearing again further away. I raced forwards, hearing the barking sounds behind me, at my side. Jumping past the fleshcrafter, I pulled myself up onto a high-legged table, watching the frustrated machinations jumping, trying to reach, and failing. Standing where I was, they posed no threat. The vampire came closer, watching.
Round after round I emptied into the vampire, as it stood gazing at me impassively. Throwing down the shotgun I pulled out the colt, firing three shots into the vampires head. He stepped back, reeling slightly from the impact, the bullets penetrating skin before being forced out the vampire's sheer will. Frustrated, I killed the marauding beasts that snapped at my feet, before jumping off the table, drawing the katana from my belt.
Anger raising my strength, fortifying my abilities, I attacked the vampire with the sword, leaving large gashes in the arms and face which healed faster than I could make them. Yet the impact forced the vampire back until he stood in a corner. In vain hope, I thrust the sword deeply into the man's chest, feeling it hit the wall behind him. The creature smiled.
'Goodbye for now, childe.'
With that, he once again raised an arm, and slowly floated beneath the concrete, seemingly unaffected by the barrage I had opened on him. I breathed out deeply, wiping the blade clean and sheathing it. Whether I had done any significant damage to the vampire was debatable, yet for now, he seemed to have fled. I sat down heavily on the table, gathering my senses, considering my next move. What had the vampire meant about it being 'in my blood'? Was my nature to become one such as him? Why was his voice full of such anger when he named me Tremere? There was much here I didn't understand, and for now, couldn't understand. Sighing, I looked towards the double doors that led out from this basement level. If the Nosferatu were trapped by the vampire and his beasts, then he would have to have access to the sewer network from the house. The most logical place to search was behind those doors. Checking my weapons, drinking deeply from a bloodpack, I stood, walking resolutely towards the door.