by Steve Gilham
Pure self indulgence, this, but some might find it of interest as a specific instance of what's going on elsewhere, rather than yet another vague statement of intent...
The character concept is an independent minded young woman who left her safe, tedious professional class parents to become a VADS on the balkan front during WW1 (and ends up becoming a Bride of Dracula). Geography is fluid for story reasons.
It was a cold grey autumn afternoon with sleet falling from leaden clouds that drank up all the daylight. You were coaxing the ambulance the miles from the front to the field hospital along treacherous roads winding along the mountainsides. The blokes in the back were moaning each time the wheels struck a rut or shell hole, while Jack, the co-driver was trying to keep them jollied up, passing his meagre cigarette ration around.
You were reaching around to take a drag when it hit - sniper's bullet or stray shell, you couldn't easily tell. There was just a bang, and suddenly the ambulance was sliding out of control towards the river far below, bouncing and rolling.
Dark, and cold. Pain. Consciousness faded in hesitantly. Eyes opening, you could see that you were trapped in the twisted metal of the cab. Gaping doors opened hanging towards the steely sheen of the river in the moonlight. You could see no other bodies. The slow drip drip of blood sounded loud above the distant rushing of the water.
What a stupid useless way to go. You called out for help, voice weak. Sleep came fitfully, and each time you woke again, you called, feeling weaker each time.
Then, impossibly, a small moving whiteness - a young girl, perhaps in her early teens, dressed in the local costume peered in
"You are English," she asked.
"Then pray the Holy Virgin that she forgive me." and she broke into Latin, both Hail Marys and what sounded disturbingly like a Grace. She told you to keep still, and she moved around to the door and pulled it free, then with almost casual ease twisted the metal that had trapped you. Pain struck like a knife and you again lost consciousness.
Awareness surfaced with the feeling of something warm trickling into your mouth, and you drank greedily. Your entire body burned in pain, and ached with emptiness. You latched greedily on the source of the drink - a wrist, its veins slashed. It was the girl who had pulled you free. You were no longer with the van; instead you were riding in an old fashioned coach, four horses galloping through the night, and no sign of a coachman.
"What... Where..." the questions fought for air.
"Forgive me," said the girl, "I am Ivana. I have done mortal sin. You are dead. We go to my grandsire's castle. He can tell you better. He is our Prince."
"Wait." Something burned in her eyes, and you could not resist the command.
You came to what you later recognised as your presentation untutored. Prince Vlad raged at you and Ivana, but the woman Mina by his side interceded, reminding him of how he had similarly come to her aid some years previously; and how she would be glad to have someone with news of England to talk to.
Settling in to the run of unlife at castle Dracula was easy enough to begin with, a needed furlough from the horrors of a war still pounding away across the mountains, but soon it became a prison. Sleep, for months on end, sometimes years, became an escape. Skipping grey autumns and waking for crisp winter's nights with the moon on the snow and wolves howling. Spring evenings with the scent of flowers.
Another war came, and went, and the Prince's domain fell to the armies from Moscow. "Here is a season we must sleep," he said, "A generation or two, until these Brujah rabble lose interest. Then, perhaps I might again seek to take residence in London, in one of the properies my agents retain."
Forty years asleep, you have woken now. A dossier compiled by the Prince's retainers contains passport, currency, documents relating to properties, the address of the Prince's lawyers, and the deeds to a town house in London. His instructions also include how you should present yourself to Prince Edmund; and caution you to the need to beware of the entanglements of vampiric politics - "something," the Prince wrote proudly - "that I do not permit in my domain."
The journey began with a long jolting ride encoffined, smuggled across borders into Austria, and then a night flight to London - an amazing experience, culminating with the descent into a city ablaze with light. This surely wan't the city of your childhood.
[So we have a Tzimisce antitribu, with the "anachronism" flaw, and who intends to masquerade as a Ventrue, about to step into the politics of a London that has changed greatly in the years since her information was last updated]
26th Oct. 1985
I write as agreed to confirm my safe arrival in London. The world has indeed changed much while we slept. I find it amazing to see streets and stations lit up all night as bright as day, and the airport and aeroplane were indescribable.
As you instructed, I lost no time in presenting myself at prince Edmund's court. I was not the only new arrival paying my respects that night. There was also a German count, one Siegfried, who claimed to have recently awakened from an extended sleep. He says he is of clan Toreador, and behaves accordingly. There were two other new arrivals of clan Ventrue - one of my own (breathing) generation, a recently revived lieutenant of the Great War, named Henry Bannerworth, and a second, Sam Gwynne, who claims to have been Sired by a Professor Renfield, now a haematologist at Reading. I wonder if this may be the gentleman referred to in your account of your previous visit. The last new arrival was a mere fledgling, one Rupert Manners, as recently Embraced Tremere, being sponsored at the court by his Sire, of course.
Two interesting events during the course of the evening - at one point the court was gate-crashed by a group of breathers with a Kindred at their head. The Prince's immediate reaction to this would hardly have upheld the Masquerade - he was for killing the mortals on the spot. Saner counsel prevailed, however, and we persuaded the breathers to forget where they had been instead. The Prince had some other interesting guests - a young lady with a couple of bodyguards, wo, I gathered from court gossip, represents the local Lupine community.
Tiwards the end of the audience, the Prince received a letter, which, when read to him, provoked another paroxysm of rage. There is, it seems, another claimant to the throne of London, one Lady Anne. Gossip says that she took over leading the vampires of London during the Second War, while Edmund was not to be found. Since his return, they have been at odds. It seems she was objecting that there we new Kindred in town who had not paid their respects to her. What was noticeable in the Prince's response was that, in spite of claiming only disrespect for "the pretender", he instructed all of the newcomers to visit her on the following night, more or less as instructed in her letter.
When we obeyed the Prince's instruction to visit his rival's court we found a very different set-up; that (so Rupert tells me) of a modern company board meeting. We were inspected, and assigned to board members according to our declared clans, then dismissed. The Toreador who had brought Queen Anne's message to Edmund gave us invitations to their grand Masquerade Ball to be held at Halloween.
It might have been a quiet night, if it hadn't been for the Fenians in the office car park. Rupert and I heard voices, and found two men. We challenged them, thinking them mere humans, but had a nasty shock when one assumed Crinos form and came at us. I admit my courage failed me, and havign escaped the creature's notice, I fled. Rupert raised the alarm in the offices. Fearing for my other companions, I rejoined them to find Lt. Bannerworth had managed tocommand the wolf to flee, and its companion had followed suit.
Queen Anne clearly has contacts in high places, as we had very prompt attention from Inspector Lambert of Scotland Yard.
Neither Lt. Bannerworth nor Sam has a haven in London, so I have offered them space to sleep. I hope to persuade Sam to introduce me to his Sire soon.
Rupert's breathing girlfriend, Tamsin, has been helping me acquire a wardrobe suited to this time. I am beginning to get the hang of decimal currency, though it is hard to believe how little a pound is now worth.
I have not forgotten the task you have given me. I will write again after the ball to let you know more of the current politics of London.