The Monitor

by Benoît Semelin (28 Nov 1994)

Hi everybody. Here is a little piece of so called "creative work" we thought of, my friend Louis Granboulan and myself. Last time I send such a piece, it was written in French and I got some grumblings in return. So this time, I took a scalpel, opened up my skull, took out my bleeding brain, and searched it for every single word of English I knew. I hope the resulting writing is understandable.
Would have been better in French but I've got a fragile back and I don't want anybody beating it again. So here it is.

The Monitor

Once again, tonight, Johann is walking down the dark lanes of a northern town. Icy rain is pouring down hard on the roofs of Hamburg. An anonymous ship leaves the harbor, sirens howling fearfully. Johann likes harbor districts. They stay alive until dawn with the activity of their hazy pubs and whorehouses. In harbors life is more intense and so is death.

But tonight, Johann's mind is heavy with years and sorrow. Grim memories are stalking his mind. So many years filled with hope and despair, rises and falls... Once again, he longs to end it all, hand it over, and lie down to rest for eternity. But his ancient duty is calling on him again. Somewhere along the path, Karl has failed. Last week, a new presence came to Johann's awareness. He felt there were now thirteen of them.
None of the Chosen Ones had been ready for this yet, he knew it in his heart. Karl was an old, old, worthy friend, and Johann grieved for his failure.

The rain is soaking Johann's coat. He is walking bare-headed, letting the cold water wash away the bitterness. For the first time in all these years he doesn't know the way. Something has gone wild.

He is weary. The rumbling of the rain on the cobblestone fills his mind. Something catches his waning attention, a whisper in the wild song of the rain. Maybe an answer. An answer he will not understand.

The "Blue Angel" is an eerie pub where he knows he will find Karl. An old, weak neon sign is hanging above the front door, luring but insects and derelicts to the place. The first L is missing. Johann dives into the obscurity of the entrance. Heavy blue smoke fills the room inside. The flickers of a few anachronistic brass lanterns provide sparse lighting, the incomer can barely outline a few shadowy figures. The wood of the floor and of the stout beams running trough the ceiling has turn to an oily black over the years. Johann spots Karl, sitting idly, almost hidden in pitch darkness. He walks straight to him and settles in an empty chair. Karl's eyes had been closed, they open up, smiling and sad:

- "I should have been expecting you..."

He has the face of an intense middle-aged man. Deep lines are carved in his unlikely tanned skin. Johann's young marble-white skin glows in the dark. Tonight there is anxiety in Karl's pale blue eyes.

- "Is it he or she?" Johann asks.
- "She".

Johann sighs. Many have wandered off the Path because of love, for love seems to be the marrow of the Path. It is not. It takes a long time and harsh revelations to understand. She will be young, she will shine with breathtaking beauty, she will probably still be full of mortal life and Johann cannot see any way to let her live on. A cold wave of dread washes over his mind.
He wouldn't stand to think about her but his sacred duty is a relentless master. Silently he calls for her.

- "She will be with us soon" he says, and he hates the fear that rises in Karl's eyes.

There they sit, both silent. Johann catches a dim glow through the smoke; Karl is staring at him right in the eyes. For a long time they look at each other without a word and, once again, Johann reads a whole story on Karl's face. The story of a difficult, endless quest, a story of will, inner fight, and purity, a story of weariness and despair. The road has been to long for you my dear friend, Johann thinks. You have not reached the end in time, you are sore and tired. But this will not open the gates for you. This is pityful, unworthy of one who has sought wisdom and peace for so long. Maybe it was not meant for you to be saved ...I doubt you'll ever find the True Path anymore.

By the time Johann's feels her closing in he can see dark tears on Karl's face. A silent distress rises in Johann's soul:
"Who am I to judge your weaknesses, my friend?"
And the answer comes like a blow:

"I am the Monitor."

Johann feels her presence acutely, now. She standing right outside the pub. He can feel anxiety, excitement and love. And something else too. Which could lead Karl to such mindlessness. On an impulse, she pushes the heavy door and comes in. A tall, slim figure walks to their table, and Johann feels something unusual again. About her moves... She walks out of the shadow into the glow of a lantern and Johann realizes the truth with a shock. She is old, painfully old.

What then? Wasn't love the cause of everything? Or was it, still? Maybe I made a mistake, Johann thinks. Maybe he was ready, maybe she was worthy... Has he lost the Insight? Now she sits by Karl, in the dark. Tentatively Johann reaches for Karl's mind, and is drown in a flow of mindless, primal love. The old woman shines in Karl mind with the aura of a goddess. Karl worships with all his soul.

Sadness crushes Johann's chest. Of course he was right. Karl failed... How could his intuition be wrong. It never was. Now judgement is passed and the sentence has to be carried on. As Johann wills it away, the noise of the tavern dims... There they sit, in the heart of Hamburg. They could be in the middle of a desert, for nothing and no one will intrude against his will. A preternatural music plays in the still air. Johann can see immortal blood flowing through the vampiric bodies in front of him. Out of the bodies... How would it taste like?

As he stands up awkwardly, predator's sensations suddenly storm over his brain with ragging furry. The scene shifts; he is running on all fours with a primal horde, rushing like the wind through the Taiga, tracking down a bleeding prey. The air reeks with the smell of raw meat, his legs are beating the frozen soil with a hypnotic rythm, his heart flooding his body with pure red blood. He is flying over rocks and brushes. He closes in on his prey with blinding speed, catches on, jumps, topples it over and sinks hungry fangs in the soft flesh. The blood gushes in his throat and sets his body on fire. But soon pleisure turns to pain, and extasy to wild torture. His body begins to burns like in a lake of lava. Something shifts again and the soul flowing out with the blood explodes in his mind, revealed in stunning beauty. Johanns feels his own life fading, draining away. He pulls out with a jerk.

He is standing by the toppled table, shaking. He can see two rivulets of blood running down Esthers neck. Her wide eyes are locked on his, digging directly in his soul. In those eyes, a cryptic message lies...

Year 1223, in the deep of winter, somewhere in eastern Europe. The Children of Saulot have met in an unlikely council. Grief is in their hearts for Saulot is no more. He has met Final Death under the hungry fangs of Tremere. The clan is orphan.

His teachings tell them they should not grieve. He taught them to master the Beast within, to reach a state of inner peace he used to call Golconda... And he taught them that for one who has reached that state, death is but redemption. He taught that to pass away in Golconda at the end of the Quest is the Final Victory. But now they learn that for those who remain, the knowledge provides no relief from the pain.
Many among them are ready to follow him in oblivion, and all yearn to do so. Yet he taught them also that the wisdom must be passed on.

So during these cold months, when the winter freezes the earth, while many of them prepare themselves for the final passage, twelve Elders are chosen to begin a last quest. They need to find twelve outstanding mortals, people with such moral purity as to be the pioneers of a new era. They will be made of weak blood to weaken the Beast from the start, to weaken the temptation of power, and to keep them in hiding. Each of them will take a whole clan of immortals as his spiritual flock and will swear to lead its members to salvation through the ages. Each will assume the behaviour of a genuine member of his clan and work from within. Neither Setites nor Tremeres will be forgotten for they believe the longing for purity lies in everyone's soul. The task will be demanding and stern for those Shepherds. Centuries of loneliness are waiting for them. They will have to discover the few worthy ones in a sea of corruption and guide them toward Golconda. However, their task will end in time. They will be allowed to pass away.

The Elders of Saulot's line know that time is a dreary force, that it erodes to the bone the most powerful will, drags down the purest soul, twists designs and blurs ancient wisdom. Against time they need the best of them all. They need one to carry their message unspoiled through the centuries, to keep Saulot's wisdom perfectly true and pure in his heart, to monitor the Shepherds mission and to give them their leave from unlife when the time has come, before the Beast takes them back. But for him, there will be no leave, no help, and no end to duty. He will have to fight the Beast and keep his soul pure forever. This is why only the best of them stands a chance.

He is known to them all, his name is Johann and he will be the Monitor. He is one whose soul seems to shine with inner light. When they look upon him, the oldest among them remember Saulot when he was still young. His soul is like a gem of unearthly purity. Still, will he be able to withstand an eternity of corruption?

To help him in his task, the whole clan unifies in a mystic ritual inherited from their father. They give him the memory of their love and gratitude, and weaken his blood to that of a neonate to free him from temptation. And while they assemble for their final passage, he walks away into loneliness, with the duty to face eternity.

Johann walks in the night again. The rain drowns the countryside in darkness. The most bitter despair is upon his mind for now he knows for sure. The Beast is taking him back. For endless centuries he fought to free others from it, to guide them to their final passage to salvation. And now, after so many years lived in purity he knows that the gates of heaven are closing for him. All that have ever mattered to him is lost, and he is walking heedlessly across the countryside, maybe waiting for the sun to rise in its blazing glory and turn his body and soul to cinder. He was not even able to enact his duty a last time. His mind blanks out. The rain beats on the soil. Time passes. A song. In the dance of the rain, a song again. A whisper to his soul from somewhere else. What is it saying? The dreary rumble of the rain almost covers it up. Does it sing of long awaited rest? Does it say: "She is your salvation, you can sleep now"?

So this was a personal version of the clan Salubri. Twelve members of weak blood (8th gen), one for each of the clans, working to guide his flock to Golconda, and a monitor of 10th generation, who had been in Golconda for 8 centuries, but is slowly loosing his soul. Time is a dreary force indeed. It could make a quite eerie encounter for your PCs.

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Benoît Semelin.