Takes place after the coterie’s encounter with the Brood-inspiring hotspot at the Old Jail in Belfast.
Brenna had been nearly consumed by her wrath. She felt the need to kill Miora and even Ian. She knew she would not have been able to kill Kian, but the thought had in fact crossed her mind. They openly mocked her and treated her with no respect at all.
Friends they say. Does not seem that way. Kian never treated me like that when I did well in a fight. None of them seem to care. Of course it was the place Aife says. But did it not simply strengthen my own feelings of anger? It magnified all the little things that buzz like gnats, making them huge.
Time had passed before Brenna was ready to see Kian again. She knew he was furious with her. The question was this time did she care? The only way to know was to speak to him.
Kian had a note waiting for him when he woke. I was delivered to him by Trina when he emerged from his hidden haven:
If you would like to meet me I will be waiting for you at Kelley’s. I think I am ready to talk about things if you are willing to.
Kian read the note, then left his home without a word to his ghouled servants. He made his way to the bar and made his usual greetings to the regular patrons he’d come to know so well before finally picking his way toward Brenna’s table. Since she was already seated, he dragged up a chair and sat down.
“Hey,” he said.
The moment she saw him she had her answer. She cared a great deal more than she should. All she could manage to say was “I’m sorry.”
Kian’s sad eyes immediately changed character. He looked back at her with surprise at first, and then cheer washed away the darkness that had pervaded them since the Old Jail. He knew exactly what she was talking about because it had been on his mind constantly since then.
“We’re good,” he assured her. He seemed ready to leave it behind and move forward again.
“I don’t know if I am.” She said calmly. “A lot of things happened to me that night that I just don’t know if I can ignore anymore.”
“We all took a nip at each other here and there. I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “If you don’t have thick skin in this society, you break. Actions are what you really have to pay attention to. Actions reveal what a person is really feeling.”
“Not always. It is not that I don’t have thick skin, or that I have thin. Whatever was down there intensified your own feelings. Everyone seemed troubled but you, and still you…” She took a small sip of her drink, letting it spill back into the glass slowly. So it appeared she were drinkng it.
“No what everyone said and did down there was meant, even if it was pushed a little. I was shown to be cared for as less than I should. Not that I ask for much in that way, but you have never been so excited about me doing well in a fight.
“Guess none of it matters anyway. But, Kian you know why I left that night right?”
“Yes,” he said. “And I think you made a very poor choice in how you did it. But you already apologized for that so why worry about it?”
“Because I think you assume why I left that night. Thinking it was because I was upset at everyone and pouting. But that is not why. I left because I was about to attack Moira. I wanted to kill her. That I think would have been the worse choice. Besides I left the only way I could to make certain I was safe. My best understanding was that Chris most likely followed Pat again. He had what she wanted anyway. He said that.”
“You’re rationalizing a bad choice, Brenna,” he stated. “I don’t care why you left. I only care that you left without saying a word, leaving me to think you were taken by that diabolist, or worse, destroyed. That’s worse than simply rude. I thought that’s what you were apologizing for.”
She could see the edge of anger she was pushing him over. It is always like this for us. Maybe I should reconsider being here. “Yes, to you. Because of how you looked at me when you came in. I was not sure untill I saw you.”
“Anyway, we’re all Kindred. Everyone’s a predator and everyone wants to build themselves up at the expense of someone else. That’s just our nature as I’ve observed it.” He said. “But now you know you can fight it, right? You don’t have to let those voices guide you. Just focus on something and don’t pay them any mind. That’s what I did.”
“Yeah, sure.” Brenna was suprised at him. She had expected him to maybe be concerned. But to her he seemed to be pushing it all away. Maybe because he had his answer at that was all that mattered. Case closed for him. Not so much the I am right and you’re wrong. More the I have the answer why can’t you see it.
She sighed and tried to move on, like always. Just push your feelings and everythign else under the rug. Or rather the back of your mind. You have been wronged and insulted and still can not take it out or get what is owed for such slites. Again you acted and it is wrong, no matter how. If I had stayed I would have been wrong in my actions because of an external influence. I leave and that was wrong too. I’m Nos how am I supposed to protect myself?
Kian stared at her, watching her face. “Brenna? Can I ask you something without you jumping to conclusions or assuming I’m feeling things I’m not?”
She nodded her head yes.
Kian shook his head in wonder. “What this is about is that someone cares about you and cares what happens to you. I care about you. So when you disappear in the middle of a struggle against a deadly monster, I get scared you’re hurt or worse. Is it really so difficult to believe that someone cares about you enough to worry?”
“Can answer without you being upset?” She looked at him. “Sometimes is the answer. I get confused to reactions. You yelled and said you would be sure to tell Aife. It made me feel like you did not care for my well being. But that I had not done my part on this mission. I have seen those who are concerned with the well being, scared and angry but still they hug the other in relief once they see they are okay. That is not why I did what I did, not for any reaction. I was not thinking it would matter for me to be gone. I mean…” She stopped.
“Sorry I am rationalizing again. This really is about me and what I was feeling down there. I wasn’t sure I wanted to apologize for my actions. Did not feel it was necessary. But when I saw you, saw how you looked at me, I wanted to say I was sorry to you.”
Kian wanted to reach across the table and hug her, but he restrained himself for the sake of appearances. “Aye. I was quickly growing frustrated with the in-fighting down there. I didn’t understand why my friends were at each other’s throats. I had focused entirely on finding the diabolist and it seemed like others were just slowing things down. At the time I didn’t understand that the rest of you had been so influenced by that irritating voice. Ah well, I suppose it doesn’t matter now. One day, She Who Sleeps may take some action to get rid of that place, but I don’t know.”
“Influenced. Magnified is more like it. Whatever we were feeling was made intense and impossible to ignore. That is the danger. It did not try to persuade or change our nature or minds. It simply amplified what was there. That is my problem now. My own feelings and what I wanted to do down there. That is what I can nto ignore. Because I am getting pretty used to ignoring what everyone else says and does to me.”
She paused momentarily. “What I really wanted to do when I reached the surface was leave, but I stayed and watched that you were all out safe. Then after the clean up I left. That is when I realized how much I wanted to leave Belfast.”
Kian looked very pained at the thought of her leaving. “I know, but it only brought out the bad thoughts. Everyone has those. But what about the good thoughts? They went unsaid because there was nothing forcing them to the surface.
“Please don’t give up on us Brenna,” he asked in a voice that was quietly pleading.
“You I would never give up on. Myself and what I am becomming in this time is another story. It is not that the good thoughts have gone away. But you are my only good thought here. You and Rory. William has been good. Patrick has at least not upset me further. But Moira compounds it. Did you hear what she thinks of me? I am beneath her she said. The fact that she gets to bed you makes that worse somehow. Now I am faced with working with those who think so little of me. Plus the fact that all of society know my student became Brood. That will be poor for me as well.” She put her head in her hands.
“Moira?” Kian chuckled a might evilly. “You realize that when She Who Sleeps rises, Moira’s place will most likely be forfeit, don’t you? Yours will remain, but somehow I don’t believe our true Prince is very concerned about keeping Moira as a Seneschal. I’m certain you will remain Master of Elysium, but Moira will have to carve out a new place for herself or be left with nothing. That means She Who Sleeps has a far higher regard for you than she does Moira and that must count for something, yes?
“And, I think maybe now is a good time to tell you. I expect to be removed from the position of Guardian of Belfast as soon as it is convenient to do so, so that I may server the Prince’s interest directly as her right hand and bodyguard. Technically, this is a demotion for me, too, though I would certainly choose it if given a chance.
“As for Moira sleeping with me? Well, it has not happened yet. Actually, I’ve been wondering when she will let the spirit have what it wants. I’ve decided I won’t make the first move, though I won’t refuse it either.” He smiled. “I want to see how strong Moira really is. Will she give in and get it over with? Or will she foolishly try to defy the will of the spirit within her?”
“Make no mistake. Miora wants to taste your flesh more than the spirit does. To the spirit you were a random choice. To Miora you are a prize. Personally I hope she is a fool and the spirit takes over her. At least then we wil not be subject to her ego. Her beauty is not earned. Nor is it a gift. She takes it for granted. It also gives her a false sense of power.
“As far as her position. Well she is Aife’s daughter. I am sure she will have words to keep her there.
“I have learned my lesson with Chris though. I gave her pity and lenience. I tried to help her. This will not be repeated with anyone.”
Kian thought about what she said about Moira. “I think you’re right about her.”
He shook his head and then smiled as he considered some new possibilities. “You know, we are not married to this coterie. If you know some people you like better, we could simply form a new coterie with them. Keep what we like, and if you find you cannot tolerate someone bring it up to the rest of us. If given a choice between you and Moira, I would choose you. Then we just start hanging out with new friends and gradually pull away from old ones that are no longer good ones.”
Brenna looked at him in shock. Had he just said that? streamed through her mind. Kian is loyal to Aife, and this was her coterie. Chosen by her. “You would really do that? Give up that much for me?” Surprise filled her voice.
He nodded. “Yes. I still must be loyal to the city and to the Prince when she rises, and I am loyal to Aife, too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pick my own friends. It doesn’t mean I can’t choose to express that continued loyalty and service among those I consider most trustworthy. That’s you.
“I know we’ve had our differences, but it has never changed the fact that we have always stuck it out and have always talked things over when we had half a chance. It also doesn’t change the fact that you are the most competent person overall in this coterie and who has shown the most growth in terms of skill and power.
“Well,” he paused with a sheepish grin, “I could come up with good reasons all night, but the fact is I just like you best. And if it comes down to splitting the coterie into a couple new coteries, it’s better to do that when we might still be on amicable terms with them.”
“Don’t be mad. But I thought since you are not interested in the joining ceremony you did not have such a connection to me.” She thought for a moment. “How is it I say…” Brenna scratched her head. “I did not think that our connection this life was one so deep as that you would give up or risk such for me. To break the coterie would go directly against Aife. Not to mention it would upset her. That would be going against what you have chosen to do with your life.”
He shook his head. “I disagree. First, I think Aife would learn two coteries loyal to the good of the city was even better than one. Second, this coterie is a very distant second to my mission here in Belfast. We work as a coterie because working as a team makes us far more powerful than we are alone. But I say that when the coterie begins to limit us, its time to shed it and begin anew.
“Now, you know I am perfectly willing to separate from the coterie with you. Are we to that point yet? I know you have given Moira more than enough chances to straighten up. Do you think it would help if I informed Moira she was going to break the coterie if she continues her antagonism? I have no compunctions against telling her that she’s crossing the line too many times.”
“I don’t think it will be viewed as such. Even Aife will see that it is me, not the others. ”
“Well, she won’t say that because if she did, she’d be wrong,” Kian stated.
“How would she be wrong? I am the one that has the issues. Well known issues. It does not matter if there is merit to them or not. I guess I don’t have as much faith as you do.” She smiled as she looked at him. “You are a good to me Kian.”
He smiled back and took her hand. “Listen. You and Aife might have had a history, but this time you are not in the wrong. And you’ve never been the antagonist in this stuff. I can get her to see that.”
“I don’t know. Breaking hte coterie seems so wrong. It is just not what you do. You don’t betray your family. Guess that is my issue. I feel betrayed by my family because of how they treat me. As less than they, inept. As though I am unworthy to be near them.”
“Well, back to my earlier question,” Kian said. “Would you like me to speak with Moira to give this coterie another chance? I know she hasn’t been listening to you, and if she also does not listen to me, then we won’t be wrong to pick new friends. That’s what a coterie is, after all, a circle of friends, and when they stop being your friend, it is no longer a coterie. What do you say?”
“You make it sound so simple. If you go to talk to her it will make her accusations seem accurate. That you had to bail me out. I guess I would rather provide her the rope. But you can speak to her if you feel strongly about it. I won’t stop you. I have already told Aife my concerns when it comes to Miora.
“To me the easiest solution was to leave, maybe see this new world. I have never ventured off this island until our trip to London.”
“That may be,” he agreed. “Although, so long as VII is after you, such trips might be well cut short. And I intended that pun in the worst way,” he said with a rueful grin.
“Are you sure I never told you why they are after me? And now that you mention it I don’t really appreciate being put on the sppot like that. Or meetings being held to discuss me and my personal life.” She smiled. It was simply a statement no anger behind it.
He shook his head and held up his hands innocently. “That wasn’t me, love. That was Katherine’s doing. Both times. The first time she asked to meet, I did and then found out it was about you so I told all of them we would not be discussing this without you there. So then she called it a second time in Elysium with the idea that you being right there, you’d be able to join us right away. It didn’t work that way, and they tried to start without you again, but I told them to hold up. I’m no harpy.”
“Then would you like to know what the answer is then? To your question about seven?” She stood and offered her hand to him. ” We can go back to my place then if you like?”
“That sounds perfect,” he said with a wide smile. His mind was already thinking they could be more free in their actions outside the bar.
Once back at her apartment. She went to a hidden safe and removed an ornately decorated metal box with intricate sculpted metal covering. She sat it down on the table in front of Kain. She herself sat next to him on the couch.
“I would like you to meet my Grandsire. Roxanna”
He blinked and looked left, then right. “Oh! You mean… in the box?”
“Yeah. From what I can tell her essence is in there. She is still alive, some Circle magics. I think. Anyway I figure this is why they are after me. To get to her.” Brenna opened a folder of news clippings and articles. “I could have sworn I showed these to you. But here is VII’s marker in her grave. It is an archeological dig. Like I said the museums keep taking my things.”
“Or in this case, your grand-sire. So, what do we need to do to bring her back? I mean, this can’t be good for her soul, right? All stuck in this box instead of reincarnated or resurrected?” he wondered.
“Hmm. I hadn’t really planned on bringing her back. She is ancient and powerful. That might not be a good thing to do. Well I would have to bring it up with Aife.
“It is funny really. I made the deal with the Lady of London to get my other bracer and this back. I am not supposed to get the items until I finish this poem for her. But I did a large favor so to keep good faith she sent this. I don’t think she realized how important this item is.
“So you think we should bring her back then?”
Kian wasn’t certain. “Well, that or let her pass on. Of course technically she is something like a vampire in torpor and she’s now in Belfast, so that would mean only the Prince or her Regent can order a someone’s death in a case like this. So that means we should probably figure out how to raise her again, if it’s even possible. But I guess before we do that we should try to find out as much as we can about her. Do you know if she was Circle of the Crone? Given that she’s family to you, you’ll be susceptible to her powers, just like I am susceptible to my sire’s powers so we need to keep that in mind. Also, where did she originally come from?”
“Oh man questions. Ack.” She smiled and leaned up agains him. “She is a very hard person to find anything out about. Except she was alive until about a hundred years ago or so. She is called Bloody Anna. I know of two who might be able to tell me more. Vlad mentioned her in familiarity and then there is the Hob Goblin.”
“Hm,” Kian considered. “Neither information source sounds like they’re handy. Have we got anything else?”
“There are a couple who might be able to find out. But I don’t necessarily want them knowing. However there is one I could get in contact with to see what he knows. No wait, I think I spoke to him about her already. I was just going to play it by ear and see what I could find out along the way. Too bad you don’t have Dorian’s memories. He would know more about her.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I bet he would. I wonder if I dream about past lives during the day? But then I’m sure it would be all jumbled up even if I could communicate.”
Brenna looked at him puzzeled. “Communicate?”
“Yeah, I know, stupid idea anyway. Everybody knows that’s not possible,” he said.
Brenna was even more perplexed. “No it’s not. What is going on Kian?”
“I was just taking your idea about Dorian’s memories and running with it, but I really have no powers or way of communicating when I’m asleep during the day,” he said. “So I guess I was just being silly.”
She considered his words. “Or not teling me something.” She looked at the drawings on the wall. They were memories. She knew it and he told her not to ask. “You have never mentioned dreaming before. In fact I am the only one who has ever said such. So now you dream, and can see past memories. Or at least have someone who can. Unless you have developed such art skills. I would just suggesting that if there were someone who could see such things it might be helpful to try. Be it you or whatever.”
“I’ll give it a shot. Although, I really don’t remember what I dream about any more than any other Kindred, so I’m not at all sure I have the control to try to bring up images of Roxanne. But I can try and focus by thinking about it when the sun rises. If I get something, I’ll be bringing drawings directly to you. No one else will know,” he promised. “In fact, I’d rather not have anyone else know either. They’d think I was just making stuff up anyway.”
“Good enough for me then,” she said with a smile.