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Halifax: Hadrian Evans

April 27, 2008

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April 21st. You get the heads up from Ottawa. A friend of a friend of a contact you had briefly in Lisboa. Nosferatu. "Skub." Prefers not to give out a real name, but that's to be understood. You have every confidence that the information is legitimate.

Petrov will be on Alaska Airlines Flight 295 from Anchorage to Halifax next Thursday - likely trying to surprise you. You know that he's already gotten word of your own alleged travel arrangements out of Veradero from a man who's more than willing to cheerfully pass along some false facts for a trivial or two.

Simple evasion would be easy enough at this point, but you're a long term thinker.

It's best to deal with this sooner rather than later.

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You start by getting a jet into Halifax early. Amelia seems detached. She reads a short collection of essays by Gide and otherwise largely ignores you throughout the flight. You ask her what is on her mind only once, to which she smiles enigmatically and leaves you uneasily deciding not to press further until you're back on the ground. While you do consider it, Telepathy would be pointless over something so minute and might well result in a messy disagreement.

She's often like this, anyway. You've grown accustomed to it.

It's drizzling and gray in Halifax by the time you land. You pay several hundred in cash to a motel clerk who won't remember the false name you give him and set up for a night of planning. Amelia sits attentively beside you, brushing the rainwater from her hair as you briskly multi-task between plotting and unpacking.

Morocco. Lisboa. Veradero. Quebec. He's been following closer and closer over the past few months. You aren't worried yet, but the conflict will eventually become unavoidable and you don't want this grudge getting older than a few decades, given what's already on your plate.

Amelia comments quietly that the resentment might well fade with time - given how quickly blood oaths dissipate and how time has an embarrassing way of making even the most heartfelt of vengeances seem futile. Her mouth turns down a little at the latter statement, and you get a bitter feeling that there's a basis in personal experience. In spite of the tangent, however, she quickly concedes to your overall assessment of the situation.

"In the end, I have more faith in you doing what's best than I do in him."

You nod, hoping that this qualifies as some sort of compliment, and begin to outline your plans in more detail.

Petrov is headed to Halifax, undoubtedly seeking you out. When he arrives, you will have a stage set for this climactic battle to pan out upon, and you will be more than willing to oblige him when it comes to blows. If you have the initiative, if you can easily conceal yourself, and if you are able to react quickly, the fight itself shouldn't actually be a problem even if he has the upper hand in terms of speed and strength. The yet to be determined arena will be outfitted ahead of time to secure these advantages. Concealed weapons minimally. Traps if you have time for it.

You'll start from Obfuscation and be in a position to put a great deal of distance between the two of you when it starts. If all else fails, your escape should at least be assured, given the benefits invisibility and distance will afford. If you're moderately lucky, you'll be able to Dominate him or even goad him into a frenzy and gun him down within a few seconds.

This, of course, is assuming that he's alone. There's also Roske.

You frown a little as you tap through a few notes on your PDA. Victor Roske. You made him Scourge. He's apparently joined in the pursuits of his Clanmate, according to confirmation from "Skub" of a few sightings back in Lisboa. Somewhere, he gained a first name and lost an arm and an eye since last you saw him. Interesting. Last report puts him squarely in a suburb outside Ottawa. Kanata. That was yesterday.

While you figure you can still escape if he makes an appearance, you doubt you'll be able to fight through a two on one, especially if he brings a gun. In spite of your confidence in her, you also don't want to face the risks of a two on two. While capable if pressed, Amelia isn't a fighter.

Considering briefly, you decide to at least try to make arrangements of some sort before he makes the rendezvous with Petrov. If he hasn't moved and if he's still as conspicuous as reports lead you to believe, a few well-placed commands should help matters considerably. While it's a slight gamble as to whether or not you'll find him, you decide to dedicate the rest of the night to such an endeavor once other things are settled.

You make a few quick calls, announcing yourself quietly to the Prince - a young Québécoise Ventrue who proves more than willing to respect your desire to be out of the spotlight. You eventually choose the Neptune Theatre as your ultimate venue. It's a former meeting-place that fell into disuse some years back and technically now falls under the Domain of an elder Toreador rather than the Prince proper. Amelia's pretty certain he will respond to some namedropping and a few appeals to his ego.

She starts braiding her hair as you delve into the further minutiae of the set up, looking furtively at the blank television screen as she does and seeming ever so momentarily to search for a non-existent reflection in the glass. The night wears on as you mull out locations, times, and stratagems.

It's nearly 3:00 AM before you get out to Kanata.

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You honestly weren't expecting to find him so easily. As you drift invisibly through a sea of faces that still mill about the Elysium at this hour, you wonder briefly if this isn't a trap of some sort.

There he is - standing in a dark corner of the Brookstreet Hotel conference room, his good eye turned to the crowd. Tall, dark, and decidedly grim. Almost exactly as you remember him, saving that he's maimed and half-blind. You think he's still wearing the same trench coat he had two years back.

Telepathic inquiry is quick to reveal that there is no plot afoot - at least none you can uncover. Roske's thoughts are remarkably succinct and always in the present. From his corner, he watches a girl in an iridescent green dress float across the room. She cranes her head, laughing, discussing an unauthorized Caitiff killed out by the Rack last week. He muses silently for a moment on how Scourges outside of New York apparently have more in the way of work.

Other than that, he is bored. He is bored, and he is waiting for it to be tomorrow.

You scan both the area and your target's mind for anything suspicious or even slightly out of place. Nothing. As best you can tell, Roske is apparently just standing openly in a Camarilla Elysium, having nothing better to do than wait until time allows him to make the nighttime road trip toward Halifax for the purposes of aiding in your assassination. He's not waiting for anyone to contact him. He's not thinking to contact anyone else. He's not drawing up any sort of plan, strategy, or scheme at all... save trying to puzzle out the shortest route that avoids Montreal before he hits Sherbrooke.

You fish for pertinent details and find them easily.

Room #258, Motel 6 in the plaza a little way up north. Blue Volkswagon Jetta. License plate starts with a 2 and ends with a 20J. He meets up with Bojan at half-after-midnight on Thursday. Halifax International Airport. Clean the .45 tonight. Put off feeding heavily until Wednesday at least. Pick up a girl on Tuesday if it can't be helped...

You wait for him to head back. Implanting the memories is near effortless, aside from the strain of manifesting.

He gets a phone call from a familiar number. He remembers he's heard from this informant before.

There's a convenient and reliable head's up that the now largely-defunct Elysium at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax is technically under the Domain of an eccentric Toreador recluse - one who happens to be out of town. There's the helpful advisory that as it's not technically under the Prince's immediate control, there will be reluctance to send the Sheriff and company in immediately following a disturbance, at least not without some consultation...

"If there's a disturbance... you know what I mean..."

"Thanks."

"Make sure you tell him for me."

And you are swift to make quite certain he will, as soon as the imagined phone on the other end of the imaginary conversation clicks itself shut. You make certain of a few other things while you're at it.

From there you leave him to his own devices, still wondering at how simple it all was. You're fairly certain that you and Petrov will have the stage to yourselves when the time comes. The trap's baited now.

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The week winnows away, and the date of his arrival looms close. You begin to regularly stake out the Neptune after hours, preparing it accordingly. Amelia watches you pensively as she flips through a discarded playbill. Antigone by Jean Anouilh. She tells you coolly that Mssr. Maldonado (who does, in fact, enjoy appeals to the ego) is not keen on having anything in his territory damaged, and you grudgingly refrain from the use of explosives as you lay things out. The auditorium is still a deathtrap if you know what you're doing.

Thursday arrives. You don't know the particulars of when he'll endeavor to investigate the area himself or if it will even happen that night at all. If it happens at all... You hope he has more faith in Roske as an ally than you would.

You hide yourself early in the evening and wait, spelling out the details of the plan over and over again in your brain. Goad him first. If he gives into the Beast you have him easily, and nobody will contest the necessity of Destruction. Make him need to kill you more than he needs to stay alive. Then, you win. If that fails, Dominate him. If that fails, remember... as long as you're more than an arm's length away, you're safe.

You're a little surprised when the door of the atrium finally rattles open in the distance. Tense moments pass before somebody enters the auditorium, and as soon as you are certain it's him... as soon as you are certain that he's alone - you begin. Your voice echoes out into the darkness, your person remaining unseen.

"She wouldn't have wanted it this way."

You can hear him stop midway down the aisle. It's an evocative beginning to be certain.

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You continue with an argument that you hope will prove as infuriating as it is rational. He paces somewhere in the darkness as you repeat the first statement, trying to sound as coolly nonchalant about it as possible. "She wouldn't have wanted it this way." It's one of the more painful things you can think to say, possibly because it's true. She really wouldn't.

He doesn't utter a word in reply as you continue. With better than human hearing, you can make out the almost imperceptible sound of his grip readjusting furtively on whatever weapon he's carrying. Crowbar, likely.

He's obviously unnerved already. Good.

Your words are terse and factual from here on. You lecture calmly on how little your death will profit him, on how he will be hunted like a dog if he succeeds, on how you will do little in dying that would bring him satisfaction, on how the dead will remain dead.

He's obviously getting to the edge, even before you check his thoughts for confirmation. As you drone on about how you won't pursue him if he leaves, about how there's no solid grudge that you have against him, you can see him grow all the more desperate in his anger.

You punctuate your words with something you hope will prove compelling. Memories. A night back two years ago when the air was warm and there was the scent of damp earth from the April rain. Pale skin. Pale lips still smiling in a confused sort of surprise. They're flecked with cast off blood from the shot. There's a scent of smoke in the air. The pain must have caused her to tear up, ever so slightly... She certainly wasn't the sort of woman to weep. It's a little different from how you remember it, of course. A little more vivid, a little more dramatic. You alternately soften and sharpen the details to make her stand out as more the victim, more the martyr, more the rallying point... more the things a bereft thrall would want to see in her now.

It works better than expected. Images from the past float by you. Lillian Greer. Darren West. Lillian Greer. John Tisch. Sarah Capone. Lillian Greer. The sensation of rage burns more acutely with each recollection. He seems aware that you're in his mind.

It goes from there. The monologue continues, interspersed with telepathic images. You soften your voice a little, trying to sound sympathetic.

"You'll feel differently about all of this in a few decades if you're willing to let this cool on your end. I certainly won't pursue you. I have my own affairs to tend to. You and I are young, really, in the scheme of things."

Thoughts flood from his mind back to yours. Her voice is a monotone. Twenty-seven years under the Embrace. Eleven steps removed from Caine, as they'd say. She fidgets with her hair as she looks out the window, sighing. She always seemed so tired back then.

He's tired too. Tired but determined. Without seeing you, he gazes vacantly in your direction, shaking ever so slightly. You decide it's about time to bring this to a head. Shadows silently and invisibly blossom around you as you speak.

"She honestly wouldn't have wanted this. I'd know better than you."

And you do, to be honest. For all he wants to play the avenging hero, he really never bothered to understand the heroine. Had he, he wouldn't be here, particularly not on her account. She wasn't one for this manner of melodrama. She wasn't one to need avenging. Memories rush back to you before they hit him.

Her eyes are cloudy and unmoving as one, two, threefour five bullets hit home. Her expression never changes as the gunfire whips her neck back.

"When it came down to it, I think she even understood on some level."

It's mostly a lie, of course. She didn't really understand. She was angry. Understandably angry once it happened... but before. You'd never seen her that angry before... and it was a risk you couldn't take. You remember that she called you a coward, that she said she'd never have betrayed you, that she claimed she was the only one loyal to you, that she had confessed even to loving you. She said the sort of irrational, vain, pathetic things people say when the world crashes down around them and they're powerless to stop it. It was uncharacteristic of somebody so used to getting their way.

None of this gets relayed to Petrov... nothing except the sound of her voice, stripped of it's context - whispering things not quite audible to human ears as the flame consumed her body. You step out to face him, confident that the Beast is nearing the surface. Your words are cold and clipped.

"She didn't even struggle."

That does it.

He lunges toward you, unthinking and unhesitating, barely flinching as the bullets hit his body. You're surprised at how fast he is. Time itself seems to speed up for a moment as you realize that he nearly has you by the throat before you can get off a third shot. You deftly try to get out of his way, unnerved by your poor estimation of the distance. The writhing mass of smoky tendrils that emanates from your person pushes him mostly off of you as you realize that he's managed to get a grip on your wrist. Dammit. No need to panic though. Not yet. You still have a free hand. You still have a gun.

The third bullet connects with his temple as you pull away. Bones dislocate and shatter in the process. You'll have to take cover before you can heal. You chide yourself silently for the overconfidence and remind yourself to be more careful. A Shroud covers you as you duck behind a row of seats.

You make your way toward the Dobbs Special under seat F7. He follows. Another shot. It misses this time, and he blindly tries to stab into the direction from which he thinks it came. As long as you're more than an arm's length away, you're safe.

It continues from there. Shot after shot empties into him as he tries, groping in the darkness, to find, disarm, and kill you. Everywhere there's the smell of blood and smoke as the battle progresses rapidly. It's almost like a dance as you lead him, lumbering... timing each gunshot such as that you can just barely get away before he topples down upon you. It takes concentration, and you find out fast that making eye contact will likely prove a fatal maneuver. You know what you're doing though... He nearly gets a hold of you once or twice and at some point crashes a rather expensive-looking piano down on you both, but you know what you're doing.

In the end, you're the one in control. In the end, you're not the one with the barrel of a high caliber pistol at the base of your neck.

It's almost certain to finish things. He's taken enough bullets to have trouble standing. Before things close, you decide something ought be said at this point - to draw it to a close.

"She wouldn't have wanted it this way either.

"Sorry."

A little over-the-top for your tastes, but you aren't saying it for your own benefit. Your finger begins to tighten around the trigger.

Something goes wrong.

Somewhere between the time that the impulse in your brain says "Fire" and the point where your hand is supposed to operate the firearm, something goes wrong, and you aren't really in a position to figure out why. You're suddenly on the floor and his teeth are in your throat.

Your consciousness recedes into the back of your mind as you can feel the vitae ebb out of you. Still in shock, you wonder briefly whether or not you are dying before the bestial hunger of frenzy overrides your thoughts.

You hope Amelia is alright.

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You awaken to the taste of hot blood flowing over your lips, filling you from within. All around you it's dark and silent, and you have a splitting headache that worsens by degrees as you start to come to your senses. Your skin seems to ripple as you feel fragments of bone and teeth painfully twist their way out of where they were formerly embedded. You get the impression that you ought feel rather pleased to be alive.

As your eyes reposition themselves into their sockets the world comes into a hazy focus. You look at the crinkle-cut patterning of ceiling tiles above you, visually tracing the edges of brown water-stains as you lean back into the flat mattress of what you presume is a motel bed. Above you, her face floats in front of the halo of a yellow light, beatific and silent, her lips arcing upward into a smile for a moment as she sees you come to.

There's a sinking sensation as you realize that the bond is complete now.

She lifts herself from the bed as you begin to sit up, still reeling from the headache. The room is a dirty brownish-orange color that you remember thinking was ugly even back in the 70s, which is when all of your current lodging's furnishings seem to date from. You ask haltingly where you are, to which she looks down at her feet a moment before replying."Somewhere safe. It's been a few days."

You don't know where to start from there. You find yourself unexpectedly hesitant about making further inquiries but open your mouth to make another anyway. She answers before you can get out more than a few words.

"Petrov's dead."

You try to look unsurprised and start to explain that you can't really remember what happened after a certain point in the theater, that things went awry and you're not certain how. She looks at you patiently as you stumble through the events of the fight, and you get the feeling that you're not telling her anything she doesn't know already. You segway into an awkward thank you and ask calmly what happened.

She goes through the motions of sighing as she sits down to explain. She tells you that Petrov, after crushing in a good deal of your skull, was prepared to finish things and that it was here that she felt it finally appropriate to intervene. She tells you that before she took you, he remembered killing you and her both.

"It was over very quickly. He probably could have killed us both if it had gone wrong... It didn't though. For some reason, Halifax managed to get the Justicariate involved when they found him - Pascheck in particular. The ensuing tribunal was over very quickly."

She drifts to the window blinds and opens them a crack, letting a green light flood the room from the neon vacancy sign outside.

"They say he was burned to death. That was three days ago."

You ask what's to be done now.

She looks a bit sad and tells you that your "death" is probably for the best right now. Hers certainly is. She tells you that if she lays low for a few decades, perhaps even as much as a century or so, that perhaps then the Les Amies will find other targets to pursue. She apologizes for what it puts you through in the meantime but assures you she won't burden you after that.

You can't find any reason to disagree.

She adds, smiling a little sadly, that blood oaths fade in time.

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It's over a week later when it happens.

Another hotel. Another city. You're just getting the hang of the new personas. Justin Sharpe and Heather Lexington. Gangrel and Caitiff. Anarchs. You're still sounding out the details and mulling out if you're really willing to ship out to L.A. and muck about what remains of the Freestate for a year or two. It's a good place to disappear, all things considered, but the idea of trying to blend in with the neonate street punks still doesn't precisely fill you with glee.

You remember having a dream for once, although you can't remember its content. You wake up to the sound of sirens and the flash of lights and somebody pounding on your door. The air is chalky.

"Are you alive in there!?"

You stumble over to the hallway door and open it a crack, not undoing the chain. The officer on the other side looks even paler than you are, although he's clearly mortal.

"Good God! How did you... I'm sorry. Christ. I'm so sorry. Are you hurt?"

You tell him that you've just woken up. He looks at you as if you are mad.

"The room adjacent to your own, it just... dammit. How could you sleep through it. I'm... cripes... I'm sorry again."

Your mind starts to spin as you recall getting a divided suite this time. Wordlessly, and not caring about how insane it looks at this point, you shut the door and run back inside, opening the connecting door that led to her side of the room. It takes some effort, and you know, even before you open it, that it will be bad.

Nothing.

There's nothing there.

Well, to be accurate, there's the rubble and dust and remnants of what used to be half of a furnished hotel room. But other than that... nothing. It's hard to fathom. It's as though a hand reached down from the sky and crushed the part of the building closest to you.

You maneuver your way through the debris, either ignoring or barking Dominate commands at the various rescue workers trying to keep you from doing so. The scene seems surreal to you. Your hands are piled full of ash and plaster dust as somebody grabs you and tries to tell you that you need to leave. As much as you loathe the idea of telemetry... you feel you ought know.

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There's a flash of fire and something coiling around your body and you can't move and above you blue and clear and bright and furious is the sky, staring at you with an unblinking eye. Your body is floating away. You're acutely afraid.

You don't move as you concentrate on staying as calm as possible. The facts string themselves together in your brain. She died here. That's what you needed to know. You let people redirect you to the lobby to sit down. Somebody offers you a cup of coffee, which you politely decline.

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You are angry. Most of it is directed at the ridiculous turn the world seems to have taken.

And then, the winged serpent appears.

That's right. An unseen force of great power has demolished a large chunk of your hotel room, Amelia along with it, and a winged serpent appears. You worry acutely that touching the ash did something to affect your state of mind, and try to focus as pointedly as possible on remaining in possession of your wits. You want very badly to kill it.

It speaks to you in low sibilant tones as it approaches. Yes. It's talking now... a talking winged serpent. Your eye twitches slightly as you recall something like this happening before. Something with the Setites. Yes. Something with Langston. You take small comfort in knowing that this probably isn't an hallucination. You are glad nobody else is sitting with you.

"Helgiormir sends his tidings.
Helgiormir sends his tidings in blood to you, Hadrian Evans.
Lord Helgiormir, Lord of magic, Lord of storms, chosen of Jörmungandr
Lord Helgiormir who Sired Hreidmdar, who Sired Dagna, who Sired Jameson, who Sired Sirius.
He bids you remember his wayward progeny.
He bids you remember the debt you owed Sansariq, who stayed Svetlana's hand on Sirius' behalf.
He bids you remember how Sirius died by conspiracy and through..."

You don't let it finish. You squeeze your hand around the base of its neck, feeling the vertabrae dislocate and break as a dark ichor begins to pour from it's throat, as its eyes go milky, and its tongue distends. Your knuckles are white.

This is absurd. You don't want to deal with it.

You're a long term thinker, though. It's best to deal with it sooner rather than later.

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