Reaching a wooden slat fence she stopped, leaning against it and catching her breath. She looked across the fence into a pool and saw no reflection, though she knew the blood was still on her face. She half climbed half fell over the railing, her satchel and violin case falling haphazardly to the ground beside her. She knelt at the side of the water in the darkness and cupped it in her hands, bring it to wash her face. As the water washed away the blood from her mouth she wished she could weep, there were simply no tears left. Her mind a blur of images from the past and present she sat back and watched as the first rays of light of the false dawn began to kiss the countryside. She breathed in deeply, considering for a moment simply waiting for it to consume her for her crimes. As she watched for a moment, she saw the red roofs, barely distinguishable through the trees. She rose and collected her things and dusted herself off, walking to the town, as she had done many through the years. Of course, one business was open, as usual. Opening the doors, she found herself within the rustic old tavern. The candles had burned low in the long night. She sat on a stool looking at the bartender as he cleaned about the place.
"Wild night?" She said simply as she sat her things down next to a barstool. She then slid onto the barstool with the help of the bottom rung.
He nodded and continued to sweep. Finally stopping for a moment, he leaned on the broom. "I just put a fresh cup of coffee on, care to join me?" Looks like we could both use it. He was a plain man, one that had seen spent too many nights sweeping up after the farmers of the town and surrounding area as they came in to wash the dust out of their throats. With his sandy blond hair and sunken eyes, he seemed so weary despite his obvious strength of character.
"Yes, I would like that" She replied as she looked about the bar at the plain stone walls. The decor was about what she thought she would find in the small peasant-farming town. Cut barrels made up the majority of the stools around the plain wooden tables. On the center of each table were placed hand rolled candles, some a bit odd shaped, though they did the job. Over the fireplace hung a hunting picture of wolves chasing a carriage through a winter scene.
Soon the morning crowd would be in. Not the kind she cared to feed on. The hard working people who cared only about their families and the days work ahead. She smiled politely as he joined her, sipping the coffee and idly chatting. Romani took a sip of the hot coffee and winced at the strong bitter flavor. "A bit strong" The barman said, the farmers like it that way here. Romani only drank to wash the taste from her mouth of the two victims she wished she had not claimed in the night. She had no desire for most humans' pleasures these days. The coffee was strong, as strong as she once found around the fire where she grew up as a child. The morning crowd came and left, "Is there a room here where I can sleep for a while?" The barman smiled at her and recommended a small boarding house at the end of the street. She nodded, sipped the now cold coffee again. He looked at her, and noting her simple clothing. "There is a room in the back, it ain't much, but the price is right." He winked, and showed her to the back room. It was a simple cot under a blackened window. For that, she was very relieved. The one thing she did like about the taverns, they were always dark, even at noon.
Romani set her things down as the barman closed the curtain giving her a bit of privacy. She tossed in and out of dreams of the innocents she had drained the night before. Finally, she fell into a deep slumber, her mind forcing her to relive the night. The woman was so kind as she spoke with her on the street. She invited her into her home for tea. She had sat there, pretending to drink as she felt the pains of hunger begin to consume her. She tried to distract herself as she looked around the sweetly decorated home with its crocheted doilies and carved figurines of ladies neatly aligned on the shelves. It was when the woman returned from getting more tea that she reached across in front of her that it happened. Her slender neck stretched forward as though it was a choice morsel being offered for her to partake. The delicate lines of her throat, the pulsing blue of the vein in her neck inviting her to partake of the life giving red fluid. She could not help but lean forward, as she did the golden curls of her hair brushed against Romani's forehead. Her lips parted, mouth all but watering as she bit inward piercing her vein with the ominous pop. Since she had only fed on drunken old men, the woman's blood tasted sweeter than she had ever known. She savored it, chewing into the flesh to break away more of the skin as she drank deeply, pulling her to her in an eternal embrace as she leaned back in the chair. The woman screamed but in her present state, it was garbled as though she was choking on her own blood. When enough blood had flowed into Romani, she let loose her grip on the woman who fell in a heap over her lap. She looked to see a small child, no more than six or seven running at her screaming, "What did you do to my mother!" Romani's heart sank as the child threw her fists at her. Shrinking back from the child she dropped the woman's body to the floor. The child continued to scream, finally Romani clutched the child to her, fearing the neighbors would hear, she all but crushed the small form in her arms. Romani grasp the child by the side of the neck, turning her just so and in what seemed to be a moment that would last forever she lifted the delicate young neck to her lips and began to drink.
Romani woke in a sweat, flailing about on the bed. She rose and grabbed her things and started to head out of the small room in the back of the tavern. She caught herself, smoothing back her hair and tying back the curls with a strip of leather from her bag. She wiped her tears, smoothed her skirts, listened and knew that it was night. The sounds of a tavern at night could not be mistaken, by her kind. She put on her best smile for a moment, trying to convince herself that she could do this. She pulled back the curtain and walked into the main room. She was greeted warmly by those within the tavern that saw her enter, a few eyes of the lonely always seemed to find her. She gazed down and headed for the door, she was not hungry enough yet to feed, nor did she care to tonight. As she reached the door, a hand was gently placed on her shoulder. She turned quickly, catching her breath in her throat. It was the barman, smiling warmly at her. "I hope you slept well he said." She simply nodded in reply. "Where are you heading now?
"I thought I would head north to the city" She replied.
"I've heard tell there are vampires at large in the city." He continued, "Be careful there."
She smiled weakly up at him, then bit her bottom
lip and turned, stepping out into the night.
Quest: Gain Locate(2)
As she ventured further northward towards the city, the night began to wear short. She had not had a good day's rest in a long time. She had slept some, once in a cave, more than a couple times in the darkened cellars of homes, always careful to not attract too much attention to herself. A woman traveling alone, at night attracted more than enough unwanted attention, and served her well to attract a good meal. Finally reaching the outskirts of the city, she came upon a cemetery. Being very cautious of approaching another's territory in the wee hours of the morning, she made extra noise in hopes that she would draw whomever out that dwelled within the hollowed place. As she neared the center of the graveyard one stepped from the shadows, one like her. She nodded and looked at him and he did the same in reply.
"I have only come to rest for a day." She said, "Then, I shall move on into the city." He said nothing, just moved to the side of one of the crypts and pushed open the large stone door revealing its interior. She entered, her feet falling upon the cold stone floor as she stepped down into the center of it. The scent rising from the depths was one of ancient death, it filled her nostrils, and strangely put her at ease as though the ancient arms enfolded themselves around her like a blanket.
The other vampire entered behind her, pulling the crypt door close. "Not much, he said, but it is home." She turned and sat down her things as she gazed about her surroundings. Several sconces were set into the walls next to each small door leading into the more private chambers of the individual crypts. The walls were a dull gray marble with black lines trailing over their surface like fingers reaching out to wrap around the dead. Several names, each over the individual doors were cradled in the clutches of ornately crafted gargoyle feet. She looked at one noting how its eyes appeared to look back at her. The gargoyles blank expression being one she had seen long ago during the war in the south of France. The children there all seemed to have that look after they were ripped from their parents arms before being put to death. She gazed down at the floor as she saw a rat scamper across the corner into a tiny hole on the far side of the room. "They won't bother you." the vampire said.
"Your pet?" she said playfully, and smiled.
He raised an eyebrow, finding no humor in her comment. "You are welcome to rest on one of the crypts, or merely in a corner." He said, gesturing with his hands. She noticed how thick his accent was, she could only guess it to be Russian. "I have had a long night, and am gorged. If you will excuse me, I too must rest." With that he sat down in a corner near the door and leaned back. Romani did the same, propping her satchel into the corner she leaned against it for a pillow. There were no dreams tonight, she was far to exhausted to even care if there were. She awoke groggily to find the vampire watching her. She stretched uncomfortably and smiled at him. "How long did I sleep?" She asked a bit unsure due to her exhaustion.
"Much longer than you intended, I am sure." He said, turning to look across at the dimly lit crypt. "Though there is no sense in venturing out tonight. Some hunters are mulling around outside looking for "our kind""
He said it with such emphasis that she raised an eyebrow. "I see, and why would think even know were here."
"It seems that the young bride of the mayor was taken a couple nights ago.." He paused, "And no, it was not by me. I am far too old and careful for such mistakes. Things will settle down in a few days and there are always the tunnels if we get desperate." He said as he motioned to the far end of the crypt. She looked in that direction seeing nothing and could only ascertain that there was a passageway of some kind hidden beyond the door.
"My name is Besednyi, Besednyi Nagorka." He half bowed from the sitting position and smiled. His eyes were pitch black, matching his hair. He had very rugged features, the kind she often liked to feed on. She smiled back at him, "I am Romani, Romani de Carpathia".
"Ahh, gypsy. You have no name?" He seemed a bit puzzled by the use of a word such as romani as a name to which she found quite amusing.
"It serves its purpose. My father had a sense of humor. He was a magician, and his name was Magician. As his daughter, a rom, I am Romani."
He laughed, then caught himself fearful that the hunters outside would hear the exchange. "I am from Byzantine, I was under Oleg's command when he, when the Rus', attempted to overthrow the city." He stopped for a moment as she nodded, he had expected her to be impressed, though she had heard so many tales through the years that she smiled and pretended to be interested. He continued talking about himself, the Slavic tribes, war against Constantinople, the devastation brought on by the "greek fire", and the use of the vampire as warriors throughout the day. Finally, he paused, "Forgive me for dominating the conversation. And you, Gypsy of the Carpathian Mountains, what brings you to my fair city?" His attempt at humor more than lacking.
Surprised that he had stopped talking she looked up, her eyes moving to see him waiting for an answer. "Oh, I have to be somewhere, why not here?"
He nodded, "If you are to remain here, there is much in the way of powers that you will need. There are a couple of guilds in the city, they are kept quite secret. They move throughout the city every three days to keep the humans from knowing where they are. Word amongst our kind travels fast, most of the time fast enough. You have acquired some skills, or you would not be as ancient as I feel you to be."
"I, I have some powers,.." Her words cut off as she heard movement outside the crypt.
"Do not worry, they will not come in here." He pointed upwards to the names over the family crypts. "They are the mayor's family, the last place they would be looking for us." He chuckled quietly.
She smiled, "You are the crafty one."
"Where was I,.. Ahh, yes. It is very important to be able to locate things within the city quickly, especially those of our kind. If you were to gain good levels at this skill it would help you to survive here. Far too many vampire around here to be able to tell friend and foe." he continued to talk about the importance of the skill for some time, finally pulling a bota from inside his pouch and opening it. He began to lift it to his mouth before offering it to her.
"Thank you" she said and drank from it. The mixture resembled mulled wine, though she noticed something extra within the red wine, cinnamon and orange spices, the taste she could make out anywhere, blood.
"It is sweet, no?" He said, impressed with his concoction.
"Yes, it is. Mayor's daughter blood?" She asked before passing the bota back to Besednyi. "Where would I find one of these guilds?" Romani had began the studies of locate long ago, but being a gypsy as well she always managed to find what it was she was seeking, and sometimes more.
He raised his eyebrows and smiled widely at her comment on the blood. "Not just any guild will do. They are moving today sometime. We should know their locations by nightfall tomorrow. I can help guide you there, but after that I have a bit of work to do."
She did not ask as to his work, she was just thankful for the help. With his love of self, she was quite sure that if he wanted her to know something, he would indeed tell her just for the sheer enjoyment of hearing himself speak.
As the night came again, even in the small chamber the two made ready. After all the years they had spent as vampire, they knew when the sun kissed the distant horizon, bringing forth the shadow of night. "Tonight, we will travel through the tunnels, until we get into the heart of the city. There we can find information on the guilds. I have one scroll, sadly, it will do you no good as I know the quest and you will have to travel to the far corners of the city in order to complete it." Besednyi said as he opened the door at the back of crypt. Romani followed him, carefully watching as he took the candle from the sconce before turning it, revealing a secret panel. He replaced the candle before entering the passage.
The tunnel was cramped, barely enough room for her to stand. "This network" Besednyi said, "runs the length of the city, to all the dark old places. It is how we travel here." His word sounded so harsh, she could feel the tension as though he feared. Romani sensed more than his presence in the tunnels, and as they passed under the grates leading to the city above, she sensed the humans. She could smell their blood, as could Besednyi. Finally reaching a corridor that branched off into three different directions he pointed upwards and quietly announced "We are here."
Upon reaching the main level of the city they found themselves in a small alleyway behind a wagon. A gypsy stepped around the wagon and grinned. "Ahh, good eve." With that, he winked at Besednyi. "And who do we have here" the gypsy said as he bowed and looked up at her with a dazzling smile. He was handsome, the stunningly handsome. "What vista? And why do you travel with this old ganji?" He said, as he poked Besednyi in the ribs. Romani opened her mouth, starting to speak before Besednyi cut her off.
Besednyi said "This good lady seeks out a guild, I was sure you could help her with that information." He grinned. "If anyone knows where these things are, you will."
The gypsy knelt down, lifting his pendant from under his shirt. He looked around before he began to chant, leaning back and forth allowing the pendant to begin circling. Romani watched, knowing the drill as he began to scry, using his pendant as a pendulum. Finally, he looked up at her, saying only "The guild you seek is at Gloom and 2nd street." With that, he collapsed dramatically. Romani tried not to roll her eyes at his display. She smiled politely, and gave him a couple coins and a polite thank you. She could tell he had questions for her, and hoped that with the extra coins she gave he would keep silent. All gypsies know it is forbidden those of their blood to be turned vampire. Moreover, if he knew who she was beyond her gypsy blood more trouble would come to this city than just a few vampires.
As Romani and Besednyi walked he spoke of how he could help her get to the guild, but beyond that, she would be on her own as he had business to attend that night. Again he did not say what the business was and changed the conversation swiftly. "The gypsies here talk to a bit too much, it is best that we did not linger." He paused, looking at her. "What is this "vista" he asked about?"
Romani turned, continued walking and Besednyi caught up quickly. "It means home, camp, kind of kingdom of sorts. Each gypsy camp has their own hierarchy."
"What vista are you from then?" He asked.
"I am of the de Carpathian, hence the name." She said. "It is complicated, but thank you for stopping his questions. The vampire that turned me did not follow the code of the ancient Dracule, and in turning me he in essence condemned us both." She spoke quietly, as though she feared any nearby might hear.
As they made their way through the seedier parts of town, he took her arm, and they walked as though they were lovers on a stroll. This was more to stop questions from the older people of the region than anything. They both knew that she was quite capable of taking care of herself. Many of the elder men and woman of the city would question why a woman traveled alone. On the other hand, many would ask as to why there was no escort for her if she was with a would-be suitor. As a couple, they could travel safely through many regions of the city.
Besednyi stopped outside of an old bookshop. He nodded to Romani, indicating that this was indeed the place. They passed the shop and walked down a quiet alley along side the building. He paused at the painted green door and knocked twice, then waited. A curtain moved on the small round window next to the door before it opened. He quickly stepped in and Romani followed. The room was quite dark, smelled of old books, which filled her with a sense of warmth. She did so love the smell of old books. Romani was taken aback by the youth of the man clad in plain, dull brown robes and raised an eyebrow as she turned to Besednyi. He just grinned and said nothing, leaving her to do the talking.
As the tree continued to look at each other finally Romani spoke, "I seek.. the guild master?" She looked at the young man, hoping that he was not the one she had come to find. Even in her vampire state, she still expected ancient people to at least look ancient. The young man nodded and lifted his finger to his lips as if to shush her. She cocked her head curiously as the young man stepped aside and from behind a curtain an eloquently dressed elderly man came out, bringing a smile to her face.
The elderly man came forward and gave a sweeping bow to Romani and Besednyi. The young man stepped behind the elderly one, indicating his subservience to his master. The guild master reached forward to greet Romani who offered her hand, palm down. He lifted her hand almost to his lips pausing, gazing up at her with his deep brown eyes. His bushy eyebrows raised upwards as he licked his lip before pressing an all too moist kiss to the back of her hand. Romani smiled warmly, not wanting to offend the old man. She needed this one old man alive, at least for now. She would wash her hands later. She truly despised when old men licked their lips before kissing her hand.
Besednyi clicked his heels together and bowed a quickly with a nod of the head. The guild master raised his finger as he remembered something. "Ahh, yes, the package." He turned to the young man behind him saying, "Best you get it for quickly." With that the young man slipped behind the curtain. He returned only a moment later with a package wrapped in plain paper tied with a string. He handed it to the guild master who then gave it to Besednyi who in turn handed him a ring he took from his inside pocket. Romani did not inquire, his business was his own. Besednyi tipped his hat and quietly left.
"And now to the lovely lady" He said as he smiled, his yellowed teeth flashing a bit in hopes of dazzling her.
"I have come.. " He cut her off. "Yes, you have come to learn locate. However, you have gained some experience. This is a valuable skill, and one not easily learned. It will require much work, and blood. For you to complete this you will be required to…" The young man leaned forward from behind him and whispered in his ear. The guild master turned and gave him a scolding look in return. "My young friend here is reminding me that it is customary to pay up front for the knowledge, lest you fail and I go unpaid it looks bad on the books." He then dismissed the young man, leaving the two of them alone to talk.
"What is the customary payment?" Romani said, hoping that this was a man of business with honor. He smiled, and she quickly knew he was not. Romani sighed, her look growing stern towards him.
"Well, normally, it is quite expensive. You are of gypsy blood?" He inquired.
Romani raised an eyebrow. "What I am, is someone seeking a locate quest, .. nothing more." She said firmly.
He sighed and shrugged. "Then the cost is 4000 coins. Though less if you were to.." He traced his finger over the edge of his lavender silk robe down to his belt, tucking his fingers in as he sucked in his rounded belly.
"Four thousand coins it is." Romani had quite a bit in coins though most was hidden on her. She turned, pulling a burgundy colored bag from her satchel then started to take one from inside her blouse. Suddenly she felt warm breath on her neck from behind. She smiled to herself as she took the second bag from inside her peasant blouse. She opened the tie a bit reveal the deep slope of her cleavage. She thought to herself what harm was there in a bit of show for the old man. She had worked so long to gain this much money, and after this was over, she would definitely need this new skill to be able to gain more. She mentally calculated what she had left as she retied her blouse then turned back around to find the old man leaning over her. She looked up at him and smiled, holding the two bags of coins between them.
He groaned a bit, backing up his eyes looking just beyond the bag of coins, lingering on her breasts. She continued to look at his face, waiting for him to come to. "Ahh, where was I? Oh yes, the quest. He turned and whistled for the young man who swiftly came out and took the bags from him before disappearing again into the back room.
The payment made he began again, "For you to complete this you will be required to infuse a bit of your essence into the city. Years ago, when the city was created, runes were placed in the city at various points. At each of the four runes on the outer edge of the city you must infuse some of your blood." He chuckled to himself. "Well, the blood you drink." He smiled wryly and continued. "When you have reached the first point at Aardvark and 50th and spilled your blood there, information on the second point will be provided. You will have five days to reach each destination. If at any time you fail in this quest, you will be forced to pay again, and start from the beginning if you wish to gain this skill."
Romani nodded, mentally making notes of what she must do. It had been a long time since she had been put to a challenge, and the feeling both made her nervous and invigorated her. When she felt she had all the knowledge, she asked, "When do I begin?"
The old man stepped over to a table where a large black cloth was draped over an object in the center. He reached out and took it in one hand, pulling it quickly to reveal a four-foot hour glass. He gave it a turn before he himself turned, and said quickly, "Now!"
Romani felt her insides churn as she suddenly panicked. "Which way did you say?"
He replied quickly, " Aardvark and 50th, and you have 5 days, well four days.. and of course, some odd minutes." He raised his eyebrow, lifted himself up on his heels and back down before he smiled again with his yellow teeth, this was obviously his favorite part of giving out quests. He tucked both hands into his sash and watched her.
She nodded and without thinking ran forward and gave him a peck on the cheek before she ran out of the shop and running right into Besednyi. Besednyi was such a large man that she all but fell to the ground. It was about like running into a brick wall.
The guild master laughed heartily as he looked
out to see this before he shut the door. His aged hand on his cheek where
she had kissed him.
To gain another level of LOCATE, you must infuse
further essence into the city. Spill fifteen pints of your blood at each
edge of the city. First, go to the corner of Aardvark and 50th and say
'Check-Point'. Make sure you say it exactly as I did. You will have five
days to reach each checkpoint.
Romani says "Check-Point"
Romani kneels on the ground, and gently tears open a wrist with a daggerlike fingernail. Blood flows forth, and half-seeps, half-crawls into the paved ground.
Zestless and 50th
Romani says "Check-Point"
Romani kneels on the ground, and gently tears open a wrist with a daggerlike fingernail. Blood flows forth, and half-seeps, half-crawls into the paved ground.