“You wanted to see me?”

The words were spoken with clear wariness and more than an edge of distrust. Not that Carl would blame the vampire with the blue hair and mohawk for his paranoia. Neither he nor Thorn thought they would ever be standing in Carl’s office in the middle of his and Michael’s haven. The last time the two of them had seen each other, Carl had attempted to drain him to the point of his Final Death. And their previous meetings hadn't been any friendlier. Still Thorn, he called himself, was family, sired by the same vampire. This was a family issue.

"I've been given some information" Carl said. “Something you deserve to know, despite everything. Or maybe because of everything.”

Thorn looked at him as if he just announced that he had two heads. “What information?"

Carl didn't say anything but handed him the box. Thorn handled it gingerly, clearly expecting it to blow up in his face. Great caution was used opening the lid as if he was worried that there was sunlight stored inside about to incinerate him. “Paper,” he said after a moment.

“Not just paper,” Carl responded. “Take a closer look.”

Thorn picked up one of the sheets between thumb and forefinger and tilted his head, studying it. “Letters,” he said. “What do they have to do with me?”

“It’s some of the history of our sire and grandsire. Things that I was never told, and I know you weren’t.” Carl took the letter from him him. “Things that explain a lot of what happened to both of us.” He looked at Thorn sharply. “You told Michael that you wanted to learn about our bloodline. And this would be a way to start.” He gestured towards the box. “Do you want to read them?”

Thorn looked at the letter in his hand dubiously. “No,” he said after a moment. “I don’t even know why I’m here,” he added as he turned away and reached for the doorknob.

That was the reaction Carl expected. “Sit down, Thorn,” he said. Harsh authority rang in his voice. And Thorn, stunned, dropped into the chair next to door. Carl closed his his eyes and took in a deep breath before looking at Thorn sharply. “You told Michael that you wanted to learn about our bloodline. And this would be a way to start. So you will sit there and you will listen.” When Thorn, either though the force of Carl’s command or sheer curiosity, remained seated, he carefully unfolded the first letter and began to read.

11th of February, 1850

My dearest Calvin,

I know now that it was a mistake to leave you without a proper goodbye. I pray that you do peruse this letter and not cast it into the flames upon seeing my script. I also trust that you will have the discretion to keep these letters private. You know I was used to sharing my mind freely to you in private, and fear that I will not be able to break myself of the habit even if I am limited to the written page instead of the spoken word.

I should have waited and attempted harder to convince you to come with me. But I feared that if I did not leave then, I would lose my nerve and not set out on this journey. And worse, would have to endure Trevor's chosen as our peer. What he sees in that common cook I will never know. I do not know how you bear it, but then I have never had the vision beyond the near future that you possess.

But I shall begin efforts to widen my vision. By the time you are reading this (if you are reading this) I will be aboard a steamer leaving New York bound for the Mosquito Coast. From there it is a short ride overland to another steamer which will deliver me to San Francisco. I have already sent letters of introduction ahead to the Court to prepare the way. There are currently no Toreador in residence, and I have been assured that I will be accepted with no difficulty. As would another, if you wish to join me.

And I do beg you to do so. If Trevor does Embrace Villanova, I fear that you will be tied down with obligations that will keep you in Iron Rapids. Join me on this grand adventure, and I swear to you that you will not regret it. We will be able to live and love in the open without a concern about Trevor or Adrock or any of our elders. It is the the perfect chance for us both to start over. Please, break free from him and join me here.

Yours,

Clinton

15th of March 1850

My dearest Calvin,

After an interminable trip, I have arrived in San Francisco. I am not certain if you have read my first letter, so I am sending this second one on the chance that that your response has not been forwarded to my domain.

After one ferry ride and a land journey across Nicaragua, I disembarked the second ferry to land in a city that is both foreign and familiar to me. Some of the buildings going up in the hills have a more East Coast flavor. Most cling to the dock and bay but are slowly spreading up into the hills as wealth and prestige are gathered. Foreign in that some of the construction here has a decidedly Spanish influence, although this territory is now under the control of the US government. Not to mention, there are an influx of all races seeking their fortunes in one way or another adding to the mix by building in the style that most closely resembles their homeland in an effort to create something familiar and comfortable.

You are probably wondering why I chose San Francisco when there are grander cities such as New York to resettle in? No, it is not to place a continent of wilderness between myself and Trevor, although the idea does has its appeal. I believe that San Francisco has the potential to not merely be an equal to New York, but to surpass its grandeur. Think about it, Calvin. Here you do not have to make sure your designs blend in with the existing facades. Here you have a chance to actually set the design and the tone of your creations from the very beginning. You could design the cityscape to your heart’s content because you are in control in a way you cannot be in Detroit.

And right now San Francisco is any Kindred’s dream for hunting. There are more than enough people to support a healthy population of Kindred. Scores of people, men, women, children all strangers, all lusting for wealth. There are so many transitory communities that no one to notice if someone goes missing. There is enough chaos and mayhem to cover a hundred feedings a night. But for all the lawlessness and violence, there is a potential here. Once statehood is granted, there will be a push to moderate the wilder elements of society. Eventually the thieves and whores will want respectability and will be willing to pay to gain the pretense of it. And we will be there, guiding and molding it into the shape we wish it to take. And we will be the elders here.

There are currently mostly Ventrue and Gangrel in residence, although all the Clans are represented. I wish to cement my presence in the city before more (who I am certain are in transit) arrive. Already I have taken on a ghoul, an Englishman named Reginald who had been lured to California by the tales of easy wealth to be had. He was of the class referred to as the genteel poor, and found himself sorely unprepared for life in the rough and tumble West. He is more than capable of taking care of my mundane needs. Now I have to find a suitable candidate to fill the role of childe and obtain permission to Embrace.

But even the companionship of a childe cannot replace what I have lost. Despite the bustle of crowds of immigrants and residents surrounding me, it is lonely here. Every new discovery I turn to tell it to you, only to remember that you are not at my side. Please. Shake off the fetters that Trevor has placed on you. Break free of his machinations and ambitions and join me here. We can build our own life as we choose.

I eagerly await your response.

Yours,

Clinton

Carl folded up the first two letters and replaced them in the box. He had quickly run through the first two letters without giving Thorn the opportunity to deliver any sarcastic commentary. Now he paused to look at his broodmate.

Thorn’s expression was a mix of curiosity and surprise. “You…” He searched for the right words. “… Knew about them?”

“No,” Carl said with a curt shake of his head. “I knew nothing. Clinton wasn’t the most affectionate of sires. In fact, Chris joked more than once that Victoria, him, and I were just another of his collections gracing his haven. Even at his friendliest with us, he was distant and stern.” He shook his head. “I don’t even want to think about what he must have been like when he met you.”

“Yeah,” Thorn said quietly. “I’ve seen more sympathy from some pack members.”

Carl blinked. It was a disconcerting reminder that Thorn was Sabbat, although perhaps not as gung-ho about the sect as some. The only reason that he as still here, Carl guessed, was that the ties of the blood of House Van de Nacht, although Thorn wasn’t aware of it. Their bloodline, like the Toreador they had descended from, had the weakness of fascination. Unlike the Toreador, it wasn’t beauty that they fixated on. It was family.

Thorn, like Carl, had spent most of his nights believing that he was Toreador, just as their sire and grandsire had. But unlike Carl, he hadn’t learned that they weren’t proper Toreador. It had been an unspoken decision between him and Michael that until Thorn proved himself trustworthy, he would not be told the truth. He just hoped that once it was revealed, Thorn would forgive them.

That, however, was the future. For now, Thorn was sitting and staring at the box, eyes shadowed in thought. Carl cleared his throat twice before the other vampire looked at him. “Do you want me to continue?” he asked, reaching for the next letter.

Thorn said nothing. After he nodded, Carl picked up the next letter and began to read again.

26th of February, 1855

Dear Calvin,

I cannot tell you how receiving your letter overjoyed me. I am delighted that you have chosen to keep in communication and not cut off all ties as I had feared. Now If I could only convince you that the communication would be better face to face rather than words on paper, I would be perfectly content.

But now onto the news that casts a shadow over our reunion, even if it is only in words. Rumors were reaching the West Coast that Trevor has resigned his position as Seneschal in Prince Adrock’s court bare hours before I received your telegram confirming it. It is difficult to believe that he would turn away from such power and prestige among the Camarilla. Is there any hint, any clue, any suspicion about what caused this turn of events? Or any word on whee he has gone?

But no matter the circumstances, I must congratulate you for being nominated to Seneschal in Trevor’s place. It is recognition that you so richly deserve. Although I must do so with a heavy heart, for this promotion, no matter how prestigious, does add one additional thread to down to Iron Rapids. I still hold out the hope that I can convince you to join me in San Francisco.

And before you suggest that I return to your side and seek a place in the Court of Iron Rapids, I must remind you that I have those same obligations to the San Francisco Court. I may not have obtained as vaunted a position as Seneschal, but I do have responsibilities here I cannot forsake. By virtue of age and being one of the first Kindred settlers since the territory was taken over by the United States, I have been named Primogen of the Clan Toreador.

To that end, I have been granted permission by Prince Alvarez to Embrace. I am carefully searching for someone worthy of the gift. Although San Francisco is known for its bawdy entertainment, those cultivating true art are few and far between. I will be the one guiding its development. So I will be very discriminating in my choice to carry on the lineage.

So while I share with you the joy of your new duties and the quiet pride of the of my new responsibilities, I still feel a quiet sadness that yet another wedge has been driven between us. And yet I hold out a hope that one day, I will be introducing my childer to you and ours. And I pray that day is not too far off.

Yours,

Clinton

“Wait a second.” Thorn looked at Carl through narrowed eyes. “Trevor was the freaking right hand man to a Prince?”

Carl nodded as he folded the letter. “Surprising, isn’t it? I was shocked when I read it.”

Thorn shook his head in disbelief violently enough to make a couple of the hoop piercings in his ear chime against each other. “I knew that he was respected. Hell, he’s used the belief that he’s still part of the Camarilla to his advantage at times. But I had no idea he was the Senechal to Adrock before Iron Rapids fell.”

Carl nodded. “It’s true. But to hear Clinton tell the story, he was always Sabbat, and he was rebelling against his dastardly sire to side with the Camarilla. But no. He was highly ranked in the Iron Rapids Court, and well respected among most of the Camarilla. In fact, there are still those out there who are in denial about him being Sabbat.”

“Yeah, too bad for them.” His eyes, almost shining with curiosity, cut over to the box. “So what comes next?”

Carl kept the smile from rising to his lips. Thorn was hooked now, fascinated with the tale and unwilling to leave it half told. “I think you’ll find the next letter very interesting as he opened it. He scanned over it for a second before he started to read.

18th of February, 1857

Dearest Calvin,

As I mentioned in my last letter, I am following through on my intentions to Embrace. The name of my childe-to-be is Christopher Montague. He is an artist who came to San Francisco not to seek his fortune in the gold fields. Instead he works by providing newspapers and magazines sketches of people and locations to illustrate articles. That was how I became aware of him. But his true passion is portraiture in oils, although he rarely has the funds or the clients to indulge.

And that is how he became aware of my existence. After seeing the raw life that existed even in the newspaper reproductions, I had to meet him, had to watch him create in person. I contacted him and expressed interest in having a portrait painted. And it was not all deception. I am in the process of having my haven properly furnished, and will need artwork to grace the currently bare walls. What better subject than myself to have him paint?

Christopher was all to eager for the work. And during that initial consultation, while he was displaying his portfolio of sketches and paintings, I asked discrete questions about his past. And when I wasn’t being shushed and admonished to hold still, he was forthcoming about his history with a little of our special kind of persuasion.

He had been raised in Boston in the upper class. Growing up, he had been indulged and allowed to follow his every whim. The one thing he had been expected to do he had rebelled against - he hadn’t married a woman of means to continue the family dynasty. Worse, he had been caught in flagrante delicto with another man. Once the nature of his affair was made public, his family cut off his access to their bank accounts and forced him into the cold, cruel world to seek his own way.

Prevailing on the charity of friends and close acquaintances, Christopher made his way to San Francisco intending to seek his fortune. Staking a claim and working it would be too hard on his delicate constitution he declared. Instead, in the manner of the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance, he is seeking a patron he can cultivate to regain some of his former lifestyle. He has decided that I am a man of such means and is all to eager to curry favor with me. He has also hinted that if I so wished, I could have a much more intimate relationship with him than being his patron. This I have declined, although I have commissioned the portrait.

The next night we had the first sitting to determine the pose and composition of the portrait. He suggested that it should occur during daylight hours for better lighting. But, I refused for obvious reasons. But the sitting gave me a chance to study the painter more in depth. He was a tall man, and somewhat thin and possessed fine features. His sandy blonde hair was cut close. I could practically feel when his blue eyes would flit from whatever feature he was studying intently to the lines his sure hands were placing on the canvas. Tomorrow night we will resume once he returns with the oils he purchased with my down payment.

I have enclosed one of the sketches he made of me in preparation for the portrait. By the time you read this letter, the portrait will be finished and I will have Embraced him. If you wish, I will commission a copy be made and sent directly to your care. I’m certain that you trust my judgement, but I do not wish for someone to take the opportunity to spread false rumors regarding my choice in childer.

Yours,

Clinton

“So that’s how he was Embraced.”

Carl looked over the top of the sheet at Thorn. The other vampire had an almost wistful expression on his face. He blinked at Thorn thoughtfully. “You didn’t know any of this,” he said, working out the emotions flickering over the other vampire’s expression.

“No,” Thorn said with a brief shake of his head. “We didn’t have that much time together. And what we did have, he spent explaining the rules to me.”

He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer, but Carl asked it anyway. “How long did the two of you have together?”

Thorn stared up at the ceiling, jaw working back and forth as he counted to himself. “Four months. Give or take a few days.” His head tilted so he was looking Carl in the eyes again. “How long did you think?”

“I didn’t know,” Carl answered. “I was so oblivious when it came to him, it could have been years.” Now he was wondering if this was a good idea. “Thorn, there are things I’m going to read you’re not going to like to hear. Things that Christopher did. Are you sure you want me to continue reading?”

“Carl, I’m sure that there’s nothing in those letters that I haven’t done,” Thorn said with an arrogant tilt of his head. “Keep going.”

Carl thought about that for a moment. Thorn was right. Given how he had spent most of his nights until recently, he could probably tell some tales that would turn even their grandsire’s hair white.“Okay,” he said and reached for the next letter.

30th of July, 1859

Dearest Calvin,

As I said in my previous letter, I have Embraced Christopher Montague. However there have been difficulties in the transition that he is still struggling to overcome. To put it bluntly, he has killed.

Christopher has been an apt pupil once the lessons began. He is adept at the art of seduction of both women and men. And even if that were not the case, here there are many who can be had for the right price, no matter your tastes. But rather than being restricted to feeding on the low classes, I have helped hone his skills in persuading those humans that believe they are of our station to engage in intimacies that they would never consider by the light of day. And he had been careful (at least while under my direct guidance) to stop drinking once he had taken enough to last him the night. I thought he had learned enough control to be trusted on his own. And unfortunately, I had sorely misjudged him in this regard. At least he had the good sense to come to me for aid in hiding the corpse.

He had gone to a house of ill repute. Not that they weren’t difficult to find here. There is a reason that San Francisco is referred to as Sodom by the Sea. And if you inquire discretely, you can find them serviced by whores of both sexes. Some of them are run by enterprising Ventrue and serve as neutral hunting grounds. Others are run by mortals who are willing to look the other way when one of their girls appears paler and lethargic after servicing a client and not ask any questions when an employee disappears.

It was from one of these mortal run bordellos that a messenger came, one of the young boys who work there for clients of different tastes. There had been an incident, and I was needed. There was only one kind of incident Christopher would request my aid. I grabbed my cane, coat, and hat and told the boy to take me to my childe.

There were only a few hours left before sunrise when I was led to on of the more flamboyant and ostentatious of the whore houses near the wharf. I spoke with the madam of the establishment, charming her so I was allowed upstairs under the auspices of the boy without paying. The boy guided me to one of the rooms without hesitation. Him I gave a gold dollar with the request to not speak to anyone of tonight. I could have saved the expense, I know, but on occasion a smart boy will prove more useful than the best trained ghoul. The boy’s eyes went wide at such wealth bestowed on him, promised me that he would speak to no one of this, and scampered off with his treasure. To think once we were all so young and innocent.

I turned my attention back to the door and knocked on it, quietly calling Christopher’s name. I heard a rustling in the chamber and footsteps near. Christopher cracked it open just enough to look outside, obviously and rightly concerned about one of the brothel’s workers discovering the body, or the wrong gossiping tongue being given a new tale to spread. Assured that I was alone, he opened it wider so I could slip inside.

I had feared that I would come across a scene of wild lust gone wrong, that there would be wasted blood splashed across the walls and soaking the bed. Instead, the room looked like most in such establishments - overdone in reds and golds and velvets and cushions and candles, similar in style to how some of the noveau riche or the newly Embraced poseurs decorate their havens. Subtle fittings on the bed and items not discussed in genteel company were on marble vanity, further confirming the trade that takes place in such chambers. The only thing that looked out of place was the too pale and too still male form draped by the white silk sheets. Christopher had fed well, and other than the unnatural paleness of the corpse, the only sign of how he passed were two neat puncture marks on the catamite’s neck.

And what could I do? To turn him into Prince Alvarez would not only guarantee his destruction, but also lower my standing among the court. So I impressed on him yet again the need for secrecy and control, and chided him for both losing himself in his indulgences and not thinking his way out of the trap of his own devising. This I demonstrated by compensating the madam of the house generously for lost future earnings of her employee. It’s not the first time her or those in her position have looked the other way when confronted with what Kindred and kine are capable of, nor will it be the last.

I know that when you are newly turned, that mistakes can happen. I can remember more than one night where I was sorely tempted to let go and continue drinking until there was no more. But I have never indulged, or at least never unless it was under sanctioned circumstances. Although he appears to be contrite and worried, I cannot shake the belief that this was a deliberate act. My impression is that he is a young child who has opened a door to a room forbidden by his parents and peeked inside. How long before he plucks up the courage to cross the threshold?

Yours,

Clinton

“He told me about that,” Thorn said in an offhand manner.

“What?” Carl let the letter drop to the table. “He
told you about this?”

“Yeah,” Thorn said. “He used it as a lesson. Warned me to never attempt to Embrace without permission because he’d find out about it like Clinton did when he tried it.”

Carl froze. Clinton had written that, but he put the thought down to his grandsire’s paranoia. “Wait, you’re telling me, he was actually trying to Embrace him? It wasn’t a botched attempt at feeding?”

“Yeah.” Thorn shrugged, clearly considering it old news. “Don’t tell me that you thought you were his first attempt at Embracing.”

“I didn’t even know I was one of his attempts,” Carl muttered.

Now it was Thorn’s turn to stare. “You didn’t know he was your sire?”

“No,” Carl said with a small shake of his head.

Thorn’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “But how—“

“It’ll be explained in the next few letters,” he said, gesturing towards the box. Although Carl was comfortable discussing his lineage with Michel, Thorn was a different matter entirely. Given the distrust that existed between the two of them, he would find it more comfortable for the explanation to be in the words of his grandsire than his own.

Thorn sat back in the chair. He studied Carl carefully for a moment before speaking. “So keep reading.”

21st of October, 1870

Dearest Calvin,

I have been granted permission to Embrace another childe.

Yes, I now I swore after Christopher’s error I would never take on the burden of guiding another fledgling through their first nights. Before you call me a liar, please, read this letter and the enclosed pamphlet. Then you may judge.

Recently, I was given a publications that are popularly referred to as a dime novel. You’ve seen the type - a stapled book printed on cheap paper that sells for five or ten cents that contains of short stories. The stories are usually in a serial format to persuade you to buy the next book. Usually they target a specific reader, such as the most common type being romantic stories for young ladies. The particular one I was given were stories of ghosts and other creatures of the night. This particular one focused on a vampire haunting the crossroads next to a graveyard.

The book shocked me to the core as I read it. The vampire who lived at the graveyard was blatantly feeding and leaving a trail of corpses and chaos in his wake. He was hunted and destroyed, but in a twist of fate, not by a human mob. Rather the deed was done by by his fellow vampires for bringing too much attention to their kind and breaking the code of secrecy by which they existed. It was the Masquerade in typeset and cheap, pulpy paper. And whoever wrote it would be facing his Final Death for it.

But the pathos he captured, the sheer terror and pleasure and seduction he portrayed - it was frightening how accurate he was. He had to either be of Toreador whose art demanded the Masquerade be brushed aside or worse, Malkavian who in his madness had lost any need for secrecy. This story, if it was read by the right people, could be used against us. But at the same time, the writer brought such a sympathy to the vampire as the hunter turned into the hunted that it was hard not to admire him. You could sense that every word had been carefully chosen to fit into the crafting of each sentence. This story, in short, was beautiful. And I could not see the writer destroyed for the sake of his glorious art.

I wasn’t the only one who saw the similarities of the story to our mode of existence. Prince Alvarez charged me, since I would have the likely connections, to determine who was responsible for its creation. After a discrete inquires to the publisher, I was informed that the writer in question lived in San Francisco. I wondered if this Alvarez already knew that, and had arranged this as a test of my abilities and loyalties. I couldn’t discern if I were to determine who the writer was and turn him over to the authorities to be properly dealt with or if I were to take matters into my own hands. Either choice did not affect my immediate actions. I sent a missive in care of the publisher to one Carlyle Dannenfelser requesting a meeting to discus potential future works. If he were to be destroyed, I had to meet the writer, if only once.

So imagine my surprise when a mortal stepped into the office. Dark hair and green eyes were offset by skin that was not pale from being Kindred but merely not getting out into the sun often enough. When we shook hands in greeting I could feel the calluses on his palms and fingers from where he held pens for hours on end. There was no question about it. This was the writer.

I asked him the source of his stories. To be honest, I had thought that it would turn out that he was a ghoul of some other Kindred and being used as a front. Imagine my surprise when he told us that they sprang from his mind only. I pressed him further, asking if there had been a book or some family story that had been handed down, a local legend, or a tale told by a traveler passing through. No, he had told us emphatically. Actually, he sounded insulted over the accusation that he had merely transcribed tales belonging to other. While he had heard of such creatures as vampires and werewolves, the stories he wrote had been pure creations of his imagination.

Talking with him further made one thing clear. He was no ghoul. There was no shadowy presence his background pulling his strings. He had written this frighteningly accurate story completely free of Kindred influence. That made him an infinitely more dangerous as kine, let alone as he were to become Kindred. I am certain that you are thinking that I should have destroyed him then and there on the spot.

From that I eased into questions about his personal history. His story was somewhat similar to Christopher’s. He hadn’t been from as high class a family, nor had he been caught publicly in a relationship not sanctioned by the laws of god or man, but there had been rumors. And rumors were enough to bring a disgrace on the family name. His step-father had strongly suggested that he not return home from the regiment he had fought with in the Union Army. (How a Southerner ended up fighting for the North is beyond me. I know Kindred politics can be positively labyrinthine, but what goes on in this country can leave me shaking my head in confusion.) He apparently saw the wisdom in the suggestion and struck out on his own.

The longer I spoke with him, the more I became convinced that this was another artist that deserved the gift of immortality. And who better to bestow that than I? Christopher, who had sat in the meeting in the guise of my secretary, seemed almost as intrigued as I. And perhaps, which Christopher as a companion, his transition into the unlife will go more smoothly that Christopher’s own.

I could not see someone capable of expressing our pain and joys so perfectly destroyed. So I approached Prince Alvarez about Embracing him. And I had I convinced him that Carlyle could be more of an asset than a liability. If he were Embraced, he would have a stake (pardon the pun) in making sure that any information released to the public would be false, even if it was cloaked as fiction.

Included with this letter is one of the dime novels featuring his work. Once you read the story, you will understand why I am doing this. And, dare I say, you may enjoy the story simply for its own sake.

Yours,

Clinton

“Carlyle Dannenfelser?”

Carl merely glared at Thorn as he folded the letter.

Thorn practically doubled over in his seat, arms wrapped around his stomach, and giggled like a schoolgirl. “Carlyle Dannenfelser?” he asked through a wide grin.

Carl’s scowl grew deeper. “I wouldn’t speak if I were you, Kelly Henderschott.”

Thorn immediately straightened up and glared at Carl. Both vampires stared for several long seconds. Then both blinked and looked away. “You going to keep going?” Thorn asked.

Carl’s face was still set in the scowl. “Only if you want me to.”

Thorn managed a small smile. “Read on, Carlyle.”

Carl let out a quiet snort despite himself, but picked up the the next letter.

26th of November, 1870

Dearest Calvin,

I have an imbecile for a childe! I thought i had managed to instill some self-control into him. But the stubborn fool insists on heeding his willfulness. The single act of a spoiled brat has almost overturned all the careful plans I have been constructing. If I am not careful, he will bring everything down around my ears.

I awoke this morning to Reginald informing me that Christopher had not returned. I was not over worried. I had spoken to him before about the dangers of spending the day away from the haven. But Christopher knows how to handle himself, and would keep himself out of trouble. Or so I believed. After all, I hadn't found any bodies linked to his fangs yet.

It was several hours later that he returned to the haven with the writer with that absurd name. Christopher had the good sense attempt the pretense of acting ashamed, even if there was no trace of shame in his aura. That was the only thing that kept me from tearing out his throat on sight. But the writer…

Christopher managed somehow to keep him from frenzying. He hadn't seen to even this basic need of the first feeding. Or even an explanation for what had happened to him. The writer was shaking so hard he seemed ready to fly apart at the seams. His eyes were wild with a combination of panic and fear and the alien sensation of his heart being completely still. It was difficult not to feel pity for him.

I summoned Reginald and instructed him in what was needed. And do not presume to lecture me about violations of the Masquerade. We both know that it is only a violation if you are caught. The Barbary Coast was home to more than enough street walkers that succumbed to the ills of their trade and other mundane means that the disappearance of one would not sound any alarms.

But the writer could not wait the hour it would take for Reginald to return. I opened my wrist and let him feed. And the whole time I stared at Christopher. He must have seen murder in my eyes, for he looked down and shrank away from me. If he hadn’t been well past his Accounting, I would have ended him then and there. I allowed the writer to drink enough to insure that he was not going to attack the first kine that walked into the room. The last thing we needed now was for him to reveal himself in a frenzy of bloodlust. When I pushed him away, he did lunge forward again, angry to be denied while he still hungered. Christopher did show enough common sense to grab him and calm him somewhat. Once the writer no longer needed to be restrained, I asked him what had happened. Christopher took exception to this, but I rebuked him. I wanted the honest answer quickly. And I didn’t want to have to sort through my chlde’s half-truths.

It was just as I had expected. After our meeting, he had returned to his shabby apartment in a boarding house and began writing. If it hadn’t been for the fact that he had worked through the entire day, a night, and part of another day, I would have said that he had already fallen into our creative trance. But by the time he had finished writing his latest masterpiece, he had pushed his human bounds and fell asleep in a fit of exhaustion. He slept through the rest of the day. He woke after nightfall to discover that he was not alone in his room. I should have known my childe was smitten the moment he laid eyes on Carlyle, or Carl as he has been rechristened.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Carl awoke with Christopher in his room. Christopher had followed him, and while Carl had been unconscious, read his draft. And then he showed Carl how impressed he was with both the story and the writer. Unlike our sire, I have no problems if one of my childer wishes to express a physical attraction. But this was not acceptable. Christopher had no permission to Embrace. I did.

I looked Carl over again. The writer had a spark of independence, but also seemed to take instruction well. I had intended to speak with Prince Alvarez about Carl being my choice. But I couldn’t go to him and inform him that I did not have had proper control of Christopher. Not only would he revoke my permission to Embrace, but he would see that the Tradition of Progeny and have both the Christopher and Carl slain. It would be a shame for his raw talent to be destroyed because of the accident of his Embrace. Christopher more than deserved it for his arrogance and presumption.

No. I couldn’t allow that to happen. I could not lose both childe and grandchilde in one night. And I would see to it that as far as the Court was concerned, Carlyle Dannenfelser, or Carl Dane as he would be known from now on, had been sired by Clinton Host. The problem would be making certain that Carl’s bloodline was never questioned. Christopher has an excellent sense of self-preservation, so I had no worries of him revealing the secret. However, I did not have time to impress on Carl the importance of utmost secrecy about his Embrace. Nor could I risk a nosy harpy taking a look at his aura and revealing the ruse. There was only one way to prevent it from crashing down around us.

The Ventrue Primogen Luna owed me a boon, and he has paid it in full. Once Reginald returned with Carl’s first proper meal, I sent him with a hastily scribbled note for Luna’s eyes only. I left Carl in Christopher’ care. You don’t have to tell me that it was a potentially fatal blunder to do it a second time. Christopher now realized how grave the situation was, and was attempting to curry my favor by showing me the proper respect. He was well aware of the fact that if anything happened to Carl during my absence, the same would be happening to him.

Luna arrived while Carl was still feeding. I explained the situation with little fear of reprisal. I was aware of several, shall we say, similar indiscretions regarding the Traditions that Luna had committed. And I made it clear to him that if my secret became public knowledge, I would not be responsible for any gossip that reached the harpies’ ears. He agreed to help me. And Caine forgive me, he and I rewove Carl’s memories of the prior forty-eight hours. No longer was Christopher his sire in his mind. I was the one who Embraced him, and I will take on the duties of sire for this childe.

Christopher, after some reluctance, has taken on his role and punishment. The first thing I insisted on was Carl being bloodbonded to my childe. (I must remember to call him my elder childe from now on, or it will raise too many questions.) I may be Carl’s sire in name, but Christopher is responsible for his initial tutoring. While I will be the one who will be held responsible under the Tradition of Accounting, ultimately Christopher will be dealt any punishment. He will not be allowed to abandon Carl the way he might be able to disguise his other mistakes. This time he will have to deal with the consequences of his actions

I should have foreseen this problem, given the hungry looks Christopher had been casting in his direction earlier. But I thought that he had self-control. Hopefully this will instill some sense of responsibility. I have already warned him that if anything untoward happens to Carl, such as a sudden disappearance, or he ‘forgets’ to lower the blinds to his room before dawn, Christopher will be held responsible.

If Carl questions this arrangement, he will be told that It was unusual, but not unheard of for a broodmate to help train the neonate. I suggested to him that he change his name as a way of signifying his rebirth. (I hope you didn’t seriously think that I would spend from now until the Final Nights calling this childe Carlyle Dannenfelser.) And he has taken to this suggestion wholeheartedly as a way to shed the emotional trauma associated with his mortal family. He has shortened it to Carl Dane, which does suit him better.

All this took place one month ago. Tonight was Carl’s presentation to Alvarez. Christopher acted the deception flawlessly. And Carl told what he perceived to be the truth, named me his sire, recited the Traditions, and acted as a proper childe. To tell you the truth, he seemed to be in awe of the whole situation, and showed no hint of remembering what actually happened. Alvarez accepted him, much to Luna’s, Christopher’s and my relief. There was some reluctance, but I am certain it was due to the fact that Carl writes in the horror genre. Of course the inevitable comments about breeches of the Masquerade were made, but Carl responded that was why he should be allowed to write, to plant disinformation in his stories so people will not know what is true and what is passing fancy. If he continues to show such prudence, I doubt there will be any true danger.

Please tell me, what news of Iron Rapids? I do hope that you are experiencing nothing as traumatic as the events here. And please do not judge me too harshly for allowing this to occur, nor the steps that I am taking to correct it. After rebuilding my life here alone, I cannot allow anything to threaten its appearance. Not when I know the news of my disgrace would be carried back to our sire.

I await your response with equal parts worry and anticipation.

Yours,

Clinton

Carl put the letter down, waiting for Thorn to say something, most likely a smart ass comment about his intelligence and awareness. He braced himself when he saw Thorn draw in breath to speak.

“I always thought you were being an asshole. I had no idea that you were messed with.”

Carl blinked. That wasn’t anything he considered Thorn would say. “Sorry?”

“I had no idea that you didn’t know that Chris was your sire. I thought you were going along with the whole ‘childe of Clinton Host’ deception and rubbing it in my face that he accepted you, but not me.” Thorn shook his head. I didn’t even think for a moment that they both lied to you.”

“Neither did I,” Carl said. “And the stupid thing were there were a lot of clues that should have tipped me off. I put down the blank spots in my head as part of the trauma of being Embraced.” He shook his head. “I was an idiot.”

“No you weren’t,” Thorn pointed out. “You honestly thought you were Clinton’s childe. Nobody would pick up on you lying because you believed you were telling the truth. And Chris and Clinton probably begged, bribed, and intimidated anyone who found out to keep them silent.” Thorn frowned thoughtfully. “That bitch whose Toreador Primogen in San Francisco. Does she know?”

“Victoria? Yes. I’m not sure how or when she figured it out, but she knows.” Carl gave Thorn a predatory smile. “She also knows that if word leaks out about it, she will find herself stripped of her power almost faster than she can blink.”

“You’ve got something on her? Good.,” Thorn chuckled approvingly. “And don’t take this as an insult, but you’re not the goody-two-shoes I thought you were.”

“Considering the source, I’ll take it as a compliment.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’ll be dawn in two hours. I think we’re at a good place to stop for now.”

Thorn frowned but reluctantly nodded in agreement. He looked at Carl with a bit of uncertainty. “Can I come back tomorrow and we finish reading them?”

Carl masked his surprise. He was still shocked that Thorn hadn’t stormed out already. “Of course. It’s going to take several nights to finish them all.”

“Okay,” Thorn agreed. “Tomorrow around eight?”

“Eight it is.” They left Carl’s den and walked through the haven. Michael, Carl noticed, was no where to be seen. Nor was his ghoul Richard. But he was sure both were keeping careful eyes on him, ready for trouble.

When the reached the door, Carl paused. “Thorn, there are going to be things in the letters that you’re not going to like hearing,” he warned. “Things about Clinton and Chris.”

“Little late for that warning, bro,” Thorn smirked. Smart ass attitude recovered, he opened the door. “See you at eight.” With that and a friendly slap on Carl’s shoulder, he swaggered out into the night.

Carl watched him for a moment and then shook his head before closing the door.