Morwen had received instructions direct from Aife, herself. The Regent needed to know what exactly happened in London, and she was to acquire a report from the new ghoul slave named Sarah Kennedy. Morwen had complied by taking Sarah to the park, where she hoped the ghoul would be able to relax.
It didn’t seem to be working, however. Sarah kept glancing over her shoulder, as if fearful of an impending attack. Realizing that getting details from the addled girl like this would be futile, Morwen opted to rent a small motel room on the edge of town where they might find privacy and security from prying eyes. It took two hours, a sizeable dose of Morwen’s own Vitae and half a bottle of wine to get Sarah relaxed enough to give a thorough report.
Sarah sat in a cushioned chair next to a table. She had a goblet of red wine from which she kept taking habitual sips.
Morwen switched on a mini recorder so that she could play the interview back for Aife, word for word. “Sarah,” Morwen said, “I need you to give me that account now.”
Sarah looked up from her goblet. “You mean about what you were asking earlier? About London?”
Sarah took a breath. At first she had thought Morwen might be her executioner. She’d caught a glimpse of Morwen’s axe earlier and knew her defiance would be allowed to stand. Being certain of one’s death didn’t loosen tongues, but the wine did. Sarah had finally decided that if Morwen was going to kill her, then it would happen regardless of what she said or did at this point. The wine had loosened her inhibitions enough now that she just didn’t care anymore.
“Well. Mistress Moira, accompanies by Mistress Brenna and Master Shawn arrived in court about a week ago. They were dressed very well, I might add. It was during this presentation that my Empress chose to present me to them as a gift. I was instructed to help them in the ways of court and perhaps introduce them to people they needed to meet. I was flattered to be trusted so, but nervous, too. I wondered if the Empress was displeased with my service, and I didn’t know what would happen to me next.”
Morwen broke in, “Stick to the facts, Sarah.”
“Yes ma’am! I am sorry,” Sarah rushed to say. Her eyes searched Morwen’s for a hint of approval or anger, but found neither. She cleared her throat. “So after that, I went with Mistress Moira’s group. It was made clear that I belonged to all three of them, not any individual.
“The ambassador’s group went back to court many times to meet with people. Aside from introducing them to couple individuals they needed to meet, I was not allowed to be present during any actual meetings, so I can’t report on that.”
“Who all did they meet with?” Morwen asked.
“I am not necessarily aware of every individual they met but I can tell you who I am certain they did see. They Mistress Moira had meetings with the Empress, of course. There were several lesser members of court they spoke with as well, including contacts with the Circle of the Crone and including Mark, Prince of Kernow,..” she paused to see if she needed to explain.
“He is known to me,” Morwen stated. “Continue.”
“Um. I know that Master Tepish had interest in Moira, but I don’t know what was said.”
Sarah nodded. “That’s the one. They also ran into Charlie, who is blood relation to the Empress, and her coterie. I don’t know a lot about that directly, but I understand they had a favorable meeting.
“The ambassador’s group also had some time on their hands while awaiting the Empress’s decision regarding whatever matter they were in London to mediate. So, they asked me where I liked to go and then decided they would go there. I remained with Moira, but Shawn and Brenna went elsewhere because they couldn’t get in to the club. Moira and I are… special enough to be allowed. Anyway, I think Brenna and Shawn must have gone to a bad part of town but I am not sure.
“Soon after Brenna was attacked and injured by a hunter with a knife. It was a horrible wound. I suspect it was poisoned in a way that hurt Kindred. Moira collected us all and made us go after the hunter, but eventually they gained some assistance from the Sheriff’s people. It was… violent.
“Master Shawn had a couple private meetings with Mistress Diana. She is very powerful and answers only to the Empress and is of the Invictus group. But I don’t know what they talked about. I only know that I tried to warn the ambassador and Mistress Brenna that making deals with her was extremely dangerous.
“But Mistress Brenna then had a private meeting with … some people. I suspect they were very important because eventually I found out that we were going to the Underground, a place forbidden for Kindred to go on pain of death. Yet here we were, about to go exploring on foot.
“So, I suspect that Brenna made some kind of deal on her own, like Master Shawn did. I don’t know why. I only know that I was ordered to slog through the sewers armed with a couple flairs, hairspray and a lighter along with a backpack full of camping supplies. These were paid for by Mistress Moira. We were joined by a Master from a place called Detroit in America.
“In the sewers we encountered horrific monsters! They were attacking and killing one of their own kind, but my eyes must have played tricks on me because all of a sudden it was just a girl, maybe a teenager, that these monsters were tearing apart. I couldn’t stand it, so I dashed in and pulled her away. I used the powers my master taught me long ago to do it.
“Her name was Genevieve and she said she was a shapeshifter. She was very relieved and happy we saved her, too. The others said they had to go back down there and search for… whatever they were supposed to find. They never told me what it was. Gen and I were very hungry and tired from watching over them during the day — although a couple of the Masters stayed awake — and so they left us with money and I got us a hotel room. We were able to scrub the filth from our bodies finally and get clean clothes, too. I don’t know what the Masters did in the underground.”
Morwen nodded. “Very well. Tell me what you did with this Genevieve.”
“We got to talking and I thought I liked her very much. As a friend, you know. And that was… kind of new. I mean, I have a couple people in the London Court that were friendly to me but most turned on me because they felt I betrayed my master.”
“I guess I did,” Sarah said.
“What does that mean, you ‘guess’?”
“I was accused of sleeping with someone without his permission and I was trying to prove that I was innocent of this. It’s a long story, but what happened was that I did end up sleeping with someone. I thought it was okay, that they’d help me if I did. I was wrong. And I found out nobody cared to listen to me. Master MJ then gave me to the Empress.”
Tears slipped down her cheeks from this. She stared into her wine glass and didn’t see the scathing look on Morwen’s face. If she had, she might not have understood that it wasn’t Sarah she was angry with, but the underhanded politicking she thought she saw within Sarah’s story.
“What happened after you and Genevieve spent the day together?”
“Well… I decided I had to leave London and she went with me.”
“Why did you do that?”
“My three masters spent much of their time at court meeting people without me. It was clear that although I was given to them to help them in their meetings, the truly did not need me. So I spoke with other members of the London Court while I was idle. Those I feel are my friends expressed concern that I was going to Belfast. Even my worst enemy, the one that smeared my name through the mud and made me get thrown out of my beloved master’s house felt sorry for me. I saw it in her eyes and in her voice when she spoke to me.
“I had realized that since meeting my new masters much of my time was spent running or fighting. Well, just running in my case, and so if felt like the truth.”
Morwen asked, “Didn’t you talk to your new masters about your future here before you ran out on them?”
Sarah nodded. “Yes. But just with Mistress Moira.”
“And what did she say?”
“Well, she knew I wanted to be an actress, but my manager only got me jobs doing porn — that’s how MJ found me. So I asked her what I might do in Belfast and if there was a chance I might be embraced. She told me she was the seneschal here and that she ran an escort service but she said I wouldn’t be Embraced.”
“You’re sure that’s what she said?” Morwen pressed.
“Well, not in so many words. But she said the same thing I’ve always been told, that she couldn’t give me an answer on that right now. I’ve heard that many times before so I know what it means. I don’t have any illusions about that and I didn’t think it mattered in the least if I simply left. And I didn’t want to be anybody’s whore, not even if they called it ‘escort’.
“I know better now,” Sarah said. “Sex is all I have. It’s who I am. Even though it has cost me everything, it’s the only thing I’m good at.”
Morwen felt ill hearing the younger woman talk like that. Yet for all she knew, it was the gods’ truth.
“So you ran.”
“Yes,” Sarah admitted. “I went to Birmingham with Gen. She’d lost everything, too. Her family was killed by the monsters in the underground so we went to crash at her friends’ flat. But bad people still found her and took her away.”
Sarah cried openly at that. Morwen let her be for a while, then went to the bathroom, liberated a box of tissues and brought them to Sarah. She set the tissues in front of the ghoul slave and she took several to dab her eyes and clear her nose.
“Master Shawn and Mistresses Brenna and Moira found me and took me back here.”
Morwen asked, “Now that you are here in Belfast, how do you feel?”
“Resigned,” Sarah said. “I’m not going to run again, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve got no place to go and no friends anymore. I know it was wrong of me to run and that if I did it again, they’d have to send someone to make me disappear. And anyway, I was supposed to marry Master Shawn.”
Morwen looked surprised. “What? Why is that?”
“Something about life insurance,” she said. “I don’t know the details but I guess he wants the world to believe he’s dead pretty soon. He just wants me to give him the money after he returns from the dead.”
Morwen was appalled at the alleged greed of it. But then Sarah was a ghoul, a person made into a slave by the power of the blood. It disgusted her and reminded her exactly why she chose never to enslave people or animals in such a way. But Kindred were not known for being sensitive to their slaves’ feelings.
“I see,” said Morwen tensely. “It seems to me,” she said, changing the subject, “that you do have courtly skills beyond just sex. Why do you think that’s all your good for?”
“Because those skills didn’t matter to my three masters,” Sarah said simply. “Sex was the only real use I had for them.”
Morwen sighed and stood up. “You sell yourself short. I don’t care if you had sex with them or not. Those are mere games to the Kindred. You did introduce them at London court and you did point out who’s who to them as you were bade. If you think that providing a momentary diversion was the best thing you did, then think again.”
Sarah blinked and stared up at Morwen. She didn’t understand. Morwen sighed and tried to think of some way to get through to this broken ghoul.
“Look, if you are going to survive around here, you need to be good at what you do. If that’s sex, then fine but you better get right with it in your head because if that’s all you can do, you’d better be damned good at it. But if you get through that thick skull of yours that you can to a bit more than just that, you might have a real place around here. You definitely aren’t going to be considered for the Embrace until you do.”
Sarah looked up at Morwen, then nodded slowly. Morwen could see the gears were turning in that pretty blond head.
“Good,” Morwen told her. “We’re done here.” She turned off the mini tape recorder with a snap.