3.23 - Familiar

3.23 - Familiar

I didn’t take Destiny as the belle of the ball kind, but she was serious about this one. I didn’t even picture her as the house party kind. I always saw her as someone like me, who enjoyed their time alone. Last week she made it mandatory that we were to attend this ball. I even had to get a tuxedo for this one, something I never thought I’d be doing. Suits and ties aren’t exactly my kind of thing but this midnight blue looks pretty good on me. The color looks even better on Destiny, her gown is poufy and flowing, like something a Disney princess. She looks beautiful, not more than usual, but a different kind of beautiful. The kind of beautiful that you expect from real life royalty.

“Stop staring at me,” Destiny punches me in the arm.

“What? Nobody is staring at you.”

“Then what were you doing?”

“Wondering why we were taking a limo, since last time you almost let me die,” smooth save by me.

“No, you weren’t wondering, because you knew I wouldn’t let you die. You were looking at me. Hard, really hard.”

“I just think you look amazing in that gown.”

“I always look amazing.”

“I’ve seen you eat,” I laugh.

“Okay smart ass.”

“What’s the deal with this whole fantasy ball thing,” I change the topic.

“Occasionally vampires get together and have big parties, just to remind ourselves there are others out there. Usually the primeval kind love to have big fabulous balls like the old days. That’s where we’re heading to.”

“Why would you want to go there?”

“I’ve got my reasons.”

“Like seeing me looking my most handsome in a tuxedo?”

“You’re not that handsome,” she waves her hand.

“So, you’re saying I’m kind of handsome,” I nudge her with my elbow.

“Sometimes, but I’ve seen you on a normal day,” she grins at me. “When we get here, you have to be really careful,” she suddenly sounds serious.

“There are a lot of vampires here, they’re going to have familiars and other people around. You’re with an Adze you’ll stand out for that. You’re also black, and there won’t be a lot of us in this place. I’m sure you’ve had that nervous feeling when you’re the only black person in the room.”

“All through school.”

“Well this will be like that, but a hundred times worse because a good portion of the people here can kill you in the time it takes to blink. Don’t leave the ball room, nobody will try anything there. Outside the ball room, they might try to drink your blood as a power move. These old school creeps have a thing about showing they’re more powerful than other vampires. That might even mean killing a familiar.”

“If it’s so dangerous, why are we going?”

“Because I have my reasons, and I need you to trust me.”

We arrive outside of what appears to be a rundown old hotel that gives me a horror movie vibe; but there’s a red carpet and people waiting outside. As we’re let out of the limousine people snap photographs as if this was some kind of movie premiere, but there’s no fan-fare or shouting, just a lot of pictures. We wave and pretend we’re celebrities for just a moment before stepping inside.

The outside of the hotel looks like crap, but inside is magnificent. The interior is bright white, dotted with red. White tablecloths covered in red roses, a white curtain with a red trim for no reason, some chairs have been covered with what appear to be midlevel crests, and sigils. I’ve played enough video games and read enough fantasy books to know that they must be the important families.

I get why Destiny said to be on guard here almost immediately. It seems like every person here, vampire or not is trying to assert their dominance in some way. Yelling at the wait staff, eccentric clothes, just being loud or commanding their own followers to make a mockery of themselves for amusement. The two of us find a corner and have some champagne, no old friends to chat with or anything like that. Clearly this is all business for Destiny. I pass the time drinking and trying to spot different types of vampires to no avail. A small chime echoes throughout the hall causing me to perk up and pay attention, but nobody else seems to care.

“Stay put, be careful. That sound means there’s a vampire only meeting upstairs,” she finishes her drink in a big gulp and heads off.

I assume the rest of us left in the room are the guests of our vampire buddies. I make my way around the room looking for a friendly face. I settle in at the bar where a group of guys are chatting about how they’ve been for the last few years.

“Hey, new guy,” a man takes a seat next to me.

“How’s it going?”

“What house you belong to,” he asks.

“I don’t know,” is the only answer I have.

“That’s going to get you killed. Knowing your house, lords and history is really important. Let me see your brand,” he asks.

“My what?”

“Your brand,” he rolls up his sleeve.

A circle is burned into his reddish flesh, raised and looking old yet raw at the same time. Inside the circle is a 4-pointed pitchfork, each one tipped with a diamond and odd-looking letter inside. It reminds me of a fraternity brand, but looks more painful, as if it’ll never fully heal. Something I don’t have.

“I don’t have one of those.”

“What? You must be new blood. Your master must have you picked out for something big. What are you a lawyer or doctor,” he asks.

“I work in IT.”

“Hmm, dot com bubble already popped. You must do some special IT work.”

“Not really. Is everyone here a doctor or lawyer or politician?”

“Nah, but each of us has an important role to play. You just haven’t been given your role yet.”

Talking with the man about the vampire hierarchy gives me a completely different view than chatting with Destiny. Thralls, ghouls which are failed thralls, brands, blood lettings and all of this crap, way different than what I’ve heard. Sure, she’s Adze, and as she keeps pointing out, they’re different but I can’t help but think she’s just been using me this whole time. Bait for the succubus, running errands for her, solving cases, so on and so forth. From what I’ve learned every person here, is here because some vampire finds them useful. Butlers, politicians, lawyers, architects, but not a single friend. Why would she even bring me here if I was anything more to her than just a toy to be played with and discarded? 


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