I become aware of voices.
"He'll drain himself dry if he goes on like this."
"I know." Julian.
"Shouldn't we do something?" That's Cash. What's the Gangrel doing in Julian's bedroom?
"I'm open to suggestions." Julian again.
There's a pause during which I can hear someone sobbing.
"I could go get his second. Maybe he'll know what to do. It could be a Nosferatu thing."
Cash, what are you talking about?
I open my eyes. Or rather, I try to. My lids appear to be stuck together by something. As I try to move my arms to clean out my eyes, I realize I'm holding something close to me.
Then, memory and awareness return fully. The renewed force of my grief is like a physical blow, and I know only that I must hide, hole myself up somewhere and never come out again.
"Daedalus?" Julian's voice asks.
Forcing my eyes to open, I growl something non-verbal and gather Callum to my chest to stagger off the bed and out of the room. Cash wisely moves aside to let me pass. Like an automaton, I stalk the hallways and stairs until I reach my haven, where I gently lay Callum down on my bed and drop down onto the floor next to it.
I killed him.
I killed him.
For a long time, I'm only aware of my sobs and the blood tears dripping steadily onto my hands as the despair slowly drains out of me together with my vitae.
Suddenly, there is a gasp. Another presence in my haven. I freeze.
A long groan. Callum's voice.
I'm on my feet in an instant to stare down at him uncomprehendingly. He's alive! He’s moving, his eyes are opening... All my strength leaves my limbs, and I collapse back down next to the bed, sobbing again, but now with relief.
The first thing I hear while coming to is some kind of sobbing. Did I faint? Did I die? I can’t remember. I don’t even recall how it felt being in bed with Julian; a fact I regret. But this isn’t Julian hugging his knees beside my bedstead, it is Daedalus. I feel pain everywhere, and I can’t rise, yet I stretch out one trembling hand to touch his shoulder. The sobbing stops abruptly, and his face turns to watch me out of his blood-rimmed eyes, in point of fact out of his blood-stained face.
I try to speak to him, but my throat is indescribably dry, so all I manage to utter is something like a croak. At once, he is with me, hovering over me, caressing me like I did him when he was injured. But, strangely enough, although I feel relieved to see him again, and from the way he behaves can but guess that something went quite different from what we all expected, I don’t want him so close now. Not yet, after coming to from whatever state I was in. So I smile at him and softly push him away. He looks so wounded, so fragile, that for a moment I am scared that I might have hurt his feelings too much, but then he seems to understand and just lets me be.
Before he can run away, I hold on to his arm, trying to get command of my limbs again. With an effort I finally manage to sit up. I am grateful that Daedalus won’t make any move to help me. After taking a deep breath, I try again. "My friend," my voice sounds hoarse and totally strange, but at least I can speak again, "your place?" As if he’s afraid to bother me with his voice, he simply nods. God, I’m thirsty.
"Want to go to my place, please," I manage. Suddenly very much in need of another person close to me, I open my arms in a hug-me-pose. Daedalus understands at once. He lifts me up as if I’m no more than a child, and carries me through a door and along innumerable sewers, until we come to what must be the hospital’s cellar. We don’t need to talk. I snuggle close to him, afraid that something else might happen, something that makes me hurt again, and I don’t want to be hurt right now, and I don’t want to be without him, and everything’s like walking through jelly.
We emerge somewhere in the empty hospital corridors, we fortunately don’t meet anybody in the passageway, and a moment later I’m in my room. Another look shared between the two of us, and he knows that I need some more time to come to. He puts me down on my own bed, and although I try to hold on to him, he gently disentangles himself from my grip, retreating into the shadows. I know he’s still there, I can sense him, and with this feeling I relax and let my thoughts wander.
I don’t know what’s happening to me. I know I died. And yet, I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before. There’s a strange kind of energy flowing through me, filling me with sensations that make me tingle and my hair stand on end. The memory flows back to me. The night with Julian is like a bad dream, or a nice dream, I can’t make up my mind and I couldn’t tell which choice would be better.
I have dreamt of being with Julian before. Of course. I think there’s no being on earth that wouldn’t dream of being with Julian, once they’ve seen him. He is so… powerful. Beautiful. Gracious. Or maybe that is what I think now, and it’s just the fact that I have been with him that makes me think this way. And it’s not even that we had anything like sex. Yes, I can hear my inner voice talking to me, it was more than that. Sex is nothing compared to what we did.
He wanted me to become one with himself, in a very intimate way, and then he killed me. And something went wrong. All this I know. But my instincts tell me that nothing went wrong. It was the right thing to do, and the right process to happen, and the only thing I can’t understand is what really happened. But it’s all right now, I am still alive, or alive again, I can feel my heart beating, and yet…
We were one. First, I was aroused simply because of lying by his side, feeling his lips on me, his arms around me. It’s not that he wasn’t excited, too, only in a less explicit way, I could feel that. But then… it was like our minds were mingling, melting together, and I can still sense his feelings, his thoughts, like an echo. For a long moment, we had one mind, one body, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t what you get by having sex only. Because of that, I now know how much power he really has, and besides this fact, I also learned about his fears, his hopes, his dreams. I am pretty sure that he would have given in to other sensations, too, had he not this iron self-control of his, and the burden of a responsibility for a whole city pressing down on him. For one precious moment, I knew that he exceedingly wanted me, and what is more, that he also wanted Daedalus, and both of this matching my own desires, I am the only one of us allowed to live it up.
Trembling with strange desires and this new kind of energy, I suddenly have the urgent need to take a shower, as if to wash away the last traces of death and blood, of my former life, and of everything I was before that. Isn’t it that you wash a new-born child, and only when it’s freed of all the gore and the stickiness it looks like a newborn is supposed to look, nice and clean and cute?
I peel off my clothes in a hurry and have to suppress the urge to throw them away. But I know I’ll never put them on again.
When the first spray of warm water hits my face, I can feel my thoughts clearing, and I give in to whatever comes up next. Well, there is something that has indeed come up already. So I set to get this task settled, and it feels like I’m doing it for the first time in my life. Time has no meaning to me, I let the heat consume me, the fireworks burst in my mind, and finally, only partly satisfied, I have to turn the water to cold before I burn up.
And then I sense that I’m not alone. Someone is watching me, like before, and of course: the only one who ever watched me like this is Daedalus. He must be able to make himself invisible. I have never asked him about this, but now I will. Some time later, at least, I will.
I look through the milky glass of my shower cabin and tell the bathroom in general, "Hey, I know you’re watching me. Why don’t you show yourself?" For a moment, I think I’m really going mad this time, but then I see him standing there, emerging from the mists, watching me indeed. My own desire is reflected in his eyes.
I open the shower cubicle, not caring what sight I present to him. For a long moment we’re both standing there, in the mists of my shower excess, before I find the right words. My voice is still rough, I don’t know if it’s from the climax or from the rebirth process, or simply because of the fact that Daedalus has been watching me. "Hi. Why don’t you come and join me?"
"Why don't you come and join me?"
His words are soft like the wind whispering through the trees, yet their impact is harder than thunder. I stare at him, at the vision he presents to me, and, drawn as if by invisible strings, I take a step closer, and another.
He smiles mischievously. "Daedalus. Take off your clothes. It helps."
I hesitate, and, sensing my reluctance, he reaches out and pushes my coat off my shoulders, and it falls to the floor behind me unnoticed. The scent rising up from his wet skin is as intoxicating as the smell of blood. Overwhelmed, I close my eyes, feeling him open the buttons of my vest, my shirt, and when I dare to look at him again, he is kneeling in front of me to remove my shoes.
Desire rises up sharply at the sight of his elegantly curved back, and my hands reach out for him before I can force them back down at my sides. He has noticed, however, and takes one hand to lead me forward, and I step out of the rest of my clothes to stand naked before him.
I haven't considered myself pleasant to look at since my Embrace. Like most of us, I can still remember my Breathing Days, and I know I looked different then. Nosferatu's curse has stolen the soft curves and ample musculature so valued by my contemporaries, and left me only my tall frame, lean and thin with every bone, every muscle cord and every sinew clearly defined beneath my gray skin.
Callum, however, apparently likes what he sees. Grasping my other hand, he pulls me forward into the shower cabin.
When my feelings set towards overload, I often tend to switch my emotional gear to "objective". This is what I do now. It’s just too much.
God, he looks – different. His pale skin is smooth, especially when wet, and just a bit too tight over the cords and bones. It’s, in fact, all cords and bones. Well, almost all… And he’s big. I can’t deny this. And I wonder if it comes with the "brood" or if he’s always been like that.
We just stand there with the current between us, watching each other, trembling. I have to do something. I’m not prepared for this. I should know better, I’ve done this kind of thing often enough to be experienced. Yet, I hesitate to touch him. Why? Because I don’t know how he’ll react? Well, did I ever know, with all the others?
I pump some shower gel into my hand and carefully apply it to his chest. He trembles even more, but that’s the only reaction I get, besides the obvious fact that the whole situation turns him on just like me. Reassuring myself that Daedalus won’t jump it now, I get a bit bolder and start massaging the lather into his skin. He closes his eyes, but a suppressed growl tells me how close he is to doing something, well, wild. I presume. So, for the time being, I refrain from massaging certain bits. That will have to wait until later.
I wash him from bald head to taloned toe, registering all the tiny places that are more sensitive than others. When I’m finished, I take his hand. He opens his eyes, and they seem on the edge of blazing again. I talk to him, soothingly, "It’s all right, Daedalus. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Everything will be fine. Here, give me your hand." Like in a trance he obeys, and I put a generous amount of shower gel into his calloused palm. "Come on, do it. Don’t be afraid." Very carefully, as if he might break my skin, he starts echoing my applications. His hands are like pumice, and yet, he’s ever so cautious and I like what I feel.
Enjoying his caresses thoroughly, I lean into him, let our erections touch and our physiology work on its own.
After the water has gone cold and our activities have reached something like an intermediate end, we are lying on my bed side by side, partly wrapped in towels, for the sake of decency. I feel empty, and wonderfully filled at the same time, the tingling has stopped, my mind is free. Daedalus seems to be feeling similarly, because I can’t sense the slightest movement from him.
Slowly, my intellect catches up with my thoughts again. I look at Daedalus without turning my head. "Uhm... I’ve got a little problem. It’s got nothing to do with you, but... you know… why am I alive?"
Daedalus turns his head to face me without moving any other muscle. "I know. I have no idea." He turns his head back. "I’ll have to research this phenomenon."
"How do you feel? Different? Changed?"
"Electrified. Satisfied. In love?"
There is a short pause, then, his voice with that little humorous edge, "That’s not what I meant." He takes my hand and looks at it as if it’s something totally new to inspect, then just remains holding it. "You look different somehow."
"Feelin’ different, too," I admit. "Like, you know, have you ever touched a broken cable?"
This forces a grin. "This is so romantic, ya ken."
Daedalus looks around the room. "We could light a few candles."
This won’t be answered.
I let some time pass before I form my thoughts into a question: "This your first time?"
"My first time talking to someone who wasn’t embraced and should be dead but isn’t? Yes." He sounds as if he’s standing in front of a classroom. "My first time lying half-naked next to this someone? Yes. My first time lying half-naked next to someone who isn't Kindred, or a woman? Yes. My first time performing frottage? Yes."
I half rise, turning towards my new lover. "Thank you, Mr. Daedalus, for this very precise statement. I liked it, too."
"It was… wonderful."
"Don’t strain anything." I put my head on Daedalus’ chest. It’s a nice chest, hard but quite comfy, and I feel that I’m about to fall asleep. "Whatever it is, I like it like that." Suddenly, I know what’s missing, and look at him doubtfully. "Hey, I don’t hear your heartbeat, mister."
Daedalus puts his arm around me, a gesture that is most comforting. "That would be because my heart isn’t beating right now."
"Ah." I relax again. "Could’ve thought so."
His breathing evens out, and I realize that he's asleep.
After the tempest of emotions that slammed into me and swept me along to wash me ashore on the banks of this situation, I now feel completely calm. It's as if I've been drained of more than vitae by crying for so long; I can't even feel excitement or wonder at this turn of events, or at the fact that I’m lying in bed with a lover after sharing what we did in the shower, and again on this bed.
I don't know what possessed me to follow his invitation and join him. It could so easily have ended in disaster. I haven't fed in a while, long enough to know that, right now, sunlight would present a problem. And still, so soon after almost losing him, I risked him by seeking his presence while feeling the Hunger. In the throes of unaccustomed ecstasy, I was more than once tempted to follow my instincts and feed from him, and I don't know if I would have been able to stop in time. Fortunately, he'll never know how close I came.
The smell of his skin, his hair, the feel of his warm body against mine... He would try the patience of a saint, and I am as far removed from that as I could be. I may dress like a gentleman and talk like an aristocrat, but underneath the trappings of civilization, I'm still a beast.
Even this fatalistic thought lacks the power to disturb the peace I'm feeling. Listening to Callum's regular breathing, lulled by his heartbeat and surrounded by his scent, I'm tempted to just remain here until the sun rises, and spend the day's rest in his arms.
But I can't. Not here. Reluctantly, I disentangle myself from him, using my mental powers to keep him from waking up at the disturbance, and then I look down at him.
He does look different. There's something about him that wasn't there before, something that can't be detected by normal senses.
Before I can stop myself, I lean down to brush my cold lips over his warm temple. And then I have to stop myself from answering the call of his blood beneath the delicate skin.
I must go, now.
Gathering my clothes, I leave his quarters and the scene of our first time as lovers.
On my way through the sewers, I come across a few rats whose blood eases the worst of my hunger. Then, a clansman out hunting late informs me that there's some kind of uproar in Luna Manor.
"Where in God's name have you been, Daedalus?" Julian greets me as soon as he sets eyes on me. "You're not in your haven, no one knows where you are, all we can find is Nosferatu blood on the floor next to your bed, and Callum's body's gone as well. What the hell happened to you?"
"I'm sorry, Julian. It wasn't my intention to worry you."
He frowns, looks away, then back at me wearing a forced smile. "I wasn't worried. It just seemed irresponsible to let you wander out alone in your condition. You weren't exactly in your right mind. Are you all right?"
I stare at him, wondering, not for the first time, why it is so difficult for him to admit his feelings of concern, at least to me. He's the Prince. I'm his councilor, his Enforcer. It doesn't make him any less admirable to me if he admits to weakness, something he should know. "I'm fine." I abandon this topic and take a step towards him. "Julian, something extraordinary happened. Callum is alive."
"What?!" He stares at me open-mouthed. "That can't be. I felt him die. He was dead."
"Indeed he was. There was no life in him for at least an hour. Then, somehow, he came back to life. He's still human, Julian. He wasn't embraced. He was dead, yet he lives."
I smile ruefully. "Three hours ago, I would have agreed. Now, I'm not so sure. After all, we exist. It's possible that Callum, too, is something other than human, something we haven't encountered yet."
Julian visibly struggles with this concept. "Where is he now?"
"I brought him back to the hospital."
"Well," he says weakly, "so much for preserving the Masquerade. He now knows more about us than ever."
"I doubt that betraying our secrets would be his first priority at the moment," I say dryly. "Besides, the Masquerade exists to protect us from discovery by humans. Technically, Callum isn't human anymore. The Tradition of the Masquerade doesn't apply to him."
He stares at me, then gives a weak humorless laugh. "You got what you wanted, didn't you."
I refuse to be offended. "Yes," I reply with dignity. "Although no one could have suspected that something like this would happen."
Julian looks at me with a strange expression. "Yes, it’s hard to expect that with someone like Callum…" His cynical tone of voice seems to hide some deeper emotion, one I'm unable to fathom.
I have no idea what he's trying to imply. No one could have foreseen that Callum would come back to life, or even that the Embrace wouldn't take. "I certainly didn’t expect it." And if I didn't, who knows him so much better than any of us, who else could have? After all, Julian was as surprised as I was.
"And thus it was so easy for him to get what he wanted," Julian states inexplicably.
I make no effort to hide my confusion from my friend. "To continue living, yes." What else could he mean?
He looks me in the eye, his expression cold. "To get in your pants."
I stare at him.
"The little… Scottish whore."
I feel a sharp stab of anger at this insult to my beloved Callum, but I clamp down on it with the ease of centuries of practice. This is Julian, one of the very few friends I have. I will not harm him because of words. The growl remains unuttered, and my eyes retain their usual color.
Still, I can't keep a glacial tone from entering my voice. "To assume that he orchestrated all this, just to achieve this purpose, is a bit... preposterous, even for you, Julian."
It is a testament to Julian's trust in our friendship as well as the strength of his convictions that he stands his ground – something I've always admired about him. I know of no other Kindred in this domain who would risk angering me like this, no one I would let talk to me like this with impunity.
But Julian has always been one of a kind. "You forget that I now know things about him," he goes on.
"So do I," I reply curtly.
"And yet. You shouldn’t get involved with him. You know what happened before…"
This time, I instantly know what he means, and the renewed stab of pain makes it very hard for me to hold on to my composure.
Of course I remember. It happened more often than I care to count, but the last time was the worst because I had actually allowed myself hope. I had thought, for a few blissful hours, that happiness could indeed be mine, that, with the aid of alchemy, I could enact my own masquerade and be close to a human woman for a time. And when it ended the same night it began, it hurt.
But this time is different. Callum already saw my true form. He isn't repulsed by my looks. If this fails, it won't be because of my blood. This time, I'm entitled to a little hope.
I realize that my feelings are threatening to overwhelm my detachment. "Maybe we should discuss this another time," I force out. Please, Julian, I don't want to lose our friendship over this, I add silently. It means too much to me.
To my relief, Julian says, "Agreed. But maybe you should also ask him about his past."
He won't let this rest, I realize. "I concede that your experience with relationships is far superior to mine," I say stiffly, "and I will heed your advice." I won't force Callum, though. His secrets are his own.
Julian frowns. "Touché. But, please, let me address you as your friend, not as your prince, Daedalus." He looks at me earnestly. "You deserve better. I’ll say no more."
Better than Callum? I don't think that's possible, Julian's bad opinion of him notwithstanding. I'm tempted to say something sarcastic, but I do know that he means well. "Thank you for you opinion, my friend," I say sincerely. "Unfortunately, what I may or may not deserve and what I can achieve are two different things."
Julian gives me an odd look, but doesn't comment. "What are you going to do now?" he asks after a pause.
"I'm going to try and find out what he is, so we know how to deal with him. He became what he's now because of my interference. Informing him about his new situation is the least I can do."
That is something Julian understands. "Is he a danger to us, or to the humans?"
I shake my head. "I don't know. But I'll hazard a guess that he's not the only one of his kind. Perhaps something like this happened before. I'll search my library for hints – accounts of failed embraces, mortals coming back to life without our help, things like that."
"And if you don't find anything?"
I smile grimly. "Then I'll have to find someone who is like Callum and ask him. Or her."
Not for the first time, I realize the limitations of my library. Moving to the New World forced me to leave most of my books and scrolls behind back in Europe, which means that the information I'm seeking, if indeed it ever was in my possession, is now beyond my grasp.
Frustrated, and feeling the day lethargy creeping up on me with a vengeance, I abandon my search of the written word. It is noon and high time for rest, but some feeling of urgency makes me want to continue.
Maybe someone somewhere in the Nosferatu network can help me. I retrieve my laptop from within a drawer of my desk and log in to the network. A few contacts in Europe are already online, and even in Asia and our relatively new colony in Sydney, Australia, I can find someone to ask. I try to couch my inquiry in relatively innocuous terms at first, but even when I make myself clearer, no one can tell me anything beyond a few rumors and unsubstantiated legends.
Resisting the temptation to make this chat an all-out exchange of news and spend the next several hours at my desk in front of the computer, I log out and watch the laptop power down.
So. It appears that Mr. Harold Forrester will have to make an appearance and start nosing around the streets of San Francisco for a person who is like Callum.
Contrary to what the other Clans think when they call us sewer rats, we do venture outside and above ground occasionally – in disguise, of course. Mr Forrester is one of my Masks. He's my height and build (which makes it easier to buy clothes that will fit me), and he has one of those faces that are easy to forget with blond hair and blue eyes; the face of an accountant. Which is exactly what he was about 80 years ago, when he was still alive and I copied him.
A few hours' rest, and then Harold will see what there is to see.
The sound of the alarm clock has to go through several layers of Morpheus’ charms this time. It takes me quite a few minutes to come to, but I finally manage to look up. The place next to me is empty. The daylight is streaming through the blinds, and I blink to look around the room but, of course, no Daedalus. He must have gone during the night, and before I worry, I remember what he has gone through, and that he will need some time to rest, and also to imbibe whatever gore he feeds on.
Smiling to myself, I touch the sheets where he’s been lying, then I force myself to get up and fight another day, literally.
Fortunately, we have both absolved my night round, so that the children didn’t need to miss either me or him. Now, I start my daily routine by calling at Daniel’s first. I feel I owe him, somehow.
He looks at me over his breakfast and smiles warmly. I love the way he looks at me now, it’s no comparison to his previous anxiety, as if all the dreadful events of the past have fallen off him. His eyes are huge and curious and ready to explore the world, like they are supposed to be with an eight-year old boy. I sit down by his side and rustle through his latest opus. The pictures are even more colourful, and they look intriguingly original to my non-professional eye. This is what ancient Egypt must have been like: alive, vivid, exotic.
"How come you know so much about the way they painted, Daniel?" I ask him while he is munching his muesli.
He stops chewing for a moment and cocks his head. "I’ve seen them, Callum. The pictures on the walls, like, in the pyramids."
Yes, of course. I almost forgot about the fact that both his parents were archaeologists. They must have taken him on their journeys. What a way to grow up! I’m almost a bit jealous, but I’m also aware of the dangers a life bears to a child on tour, always new places, seldom other kids you can build up a real truthful bond with, and all those adults talking all that stuff. Many children have the ability to cope with such situations, but the damage is done, nevertheless.
Children want to be loved. They want us to be kind to them. If we behave strangely, they try to make up for it. If we treat them like adults, they try to behave in a grown-up way. From a certain moment on, it can even lead to them not being children any more, but little pre-adults who specialize on being adequate without ever learning to develop their own shape. Just to make us go on being kind to them.
This is something I cannot patch up. He won’t be here for long now, and it would take years to repair.
Reminding me of the topic I’ll have to discuss with him. "Daniel."
His eyes search me. He can sense that I’m about to say something very serious. Then he flutters his eyelids, obviously trying to find another topic, and starts to give a review on the ancient art of painting. For a moment or two, I let him talk, it is so nice to listen to his voice. My mind drifts off a bit, lingering over the past night, and then I am with Daniel again.
"And then, you know, they didn’t have what you might call artistic liberty. We have that today, but with the Egyptians it was all different. They achieved the highest art when the pictures they made looked just the same as the models. Which means, just imagine, for decades they had the same kind of pictures all over." He beams at me. The knowledge seems to be so good for his complexion.
Unwilling to disturb this healthy development, I go into the matter. "Meaning that every single pyramid has the same images?"
"Not all of them." He gives a knowing smile. "There’s one that doesn’t have a single picture at all." When I won’t reply to this one, he goes on, "It’s the Great Pyramid at Gizah. No pictures. Take my word."
"What, you mean it’s empty?"
"Yes. Isn’t that strange?"
I smile back. "Well yes, Daniel, it is. But I can’t make any sense of it, because I’m a doctor, not an archaeologist."
He sighs. "Yes, of course. I almost forgot. You know, Callum, it is so nice talking to you. You really care about me."
I look into his eyes, and I feel the pain. His and mine. I have to tell him. Now. "Yes, I do care about you a lot, Daniel. But there’s something I have to tell you. Something very important. From guy to guy."
He looks crestfallen, as if he can anticipate what I’m about to say. "Is it about the hospital?" he asks.
"Yes, Daniel. About the hospital. You… You can’t stay here forever…"
"I know." His voice is but a whisper. "But I want to stay with you. And with Daedalus. Why can’t I stay with you?"
"Because…" my voice is hoarse now, "someone has to adopt you. I can’t be that someone. We will find a nice couple where you can stay. But beforehand, you will have to be very brave. You will have to spend some time in an orphanage." I would like to add that it isn’t that bad, and that there will be parents who look just for him, but this would be false promises. There are seldom people who want to adopt an eight-year old boy, and the orphanages will be hell for Daniel. It almost breaks my heart.
He is crying now. No more words. Without thinking, I take him in my arms, and he clings to me like he’ll never let me go. I must force down my own tears, and so we just sit there, comforting each other, until I finally must leave in order to take care of the other children.
I have to keep myself from crying more than once this day. The past days have left their mark, and I really don’t want to say good-bye to Daniel. Sean has warned me about this, you always have to keep a professional distance, but not this time, no, it just won’t work.
I’ll have to find a solution. Hey, after all, I’m a Scot. Aren’t they proverbial for stubbornness?
Thinking of Sean, I start when the phone rings. It’s Sean.
I am relieved to hear his kind voice, but something in it alarms me. Again, he asks me if something strange has happened during the last weeks, or if it comes to that, days. I wonder how much he might know, and if it would be a breach of the Masquerade to tell him what happened. I try to wriggle out, but he is ever so good, and maybe he can read my mind, after all.
Finally I give in. In any case, Sean is my mentor, and I totally trust him. So, in a nutshell, I tell him what has happened. He listens to all of it, seemingly without any wonder at all, and at the end he says: "Then it has finally happened." I ask the question. He answers: "You are one of us now."
And before I can ask more, he goes on: "Callum, please. This is important. You need a teacher and a sword. You need a place to hide before you can expose yourself to the game."
"They call it a game. In fact, Callum, it is a game, according to legend." Sean sounds real grave now. "Most of us are sword-bearers, their only aim being to be in combat with one another. When we are involved in one of those fights, it is until one of us dies."
"I thought we can’t die."
"You can. If someone cuts off your head."
"You do believe me, do you?"
"Of course, dear." I do. Although I wish I wouldn’t.
And then he goes on telling me about the Immortals, about the "there can be only one" thing and all that. Finally, he closes his story with a flourish. "Rumour has it there’s one of our hunters heading for San Francisco right now. That’s why I asked you, and I called to warn you." Before I can reply something, he continues, "Please follow my advice and go to the house of Chao-dai Miao Yu, I’ll give you his address. He is a close friend of mine, and he will help you. It’s holy ground where he’s staying, and you’re safe on holy ground. Nobody will attack you there."
The phone call is soon finished, and I lean back heavily in my chair after hanging up. Fine start to a new life. I’m immortal, I’ll have to learn how to use a sword, and what is more, I risk meeting my very final death quite soon. Maybe this hunter will at least give me some time to reach the temple.
To be continued...