May 8, 2013
For the next couple of weeks, Brianna and Loomis maintain a pretty steady phone correspondence. Mostly they call each other late at night, and not on nights that Joey has fights. They talk mostly of common interests and the past and the future. They also talk about the commonalities of being predators in the human world.
Brianna talks about how she didn’t have a great childhood, how she moved around a lot, dropped out of high school. She hasn’t been in a relationship in a long time, not since her true nature revealed itself. She and Joey have been friends and business partners since they met in St. Louis years ago and the two have moved around a lot since then. They plan on being in Portland for the foreseeable future.
Brianna works out at the gym religiously, likes “stupid” television, likes sporting events and dancing in mosh pits. She doesn’t have a lot of close friends and always has the feeling she has to hide her true face, even within the supernatural community.
She shares some of her non-Gould related adventures with Loomis, including interacting with Warden Capstone in Portland. She avoids talking about her family and the White Court in general as well as her job. She does let Loomis know that work keeps her busy on Thursdays through Sundays.
She also has a few questions for Loomis:
Where has Loomis lived? He grew up on a reservation in Washington State and then moved to Seattle. He doesn’t have much in the way of family.
Did he always know he was “other”? His shapeshifting manifested itself when he turned twelve. Until then, he was a virtual orphan on the rez.
Has he been in any recent relationships? Nothing recent—he’s been too busy for that sort of thing. But he is divorced.
How long has he been working with Ezekiel? About a year.
How long has he been with Seattle PD? About ten years.
Interests? Bowhunting, fishing, baseball.
May 22, 2013 (Wednesday)
During one of their late-night conversations, Loomis brings up current events in Seattle. apparently Red Court on Red Court violence is up. It’s become a bit of a free-for-all since the Margrave was killed.
“Be careful,” Brianna says, “If you get your ass handed to you by a Red Court vampire before I get to go on a date with you, I’m going to be unhappy.”
Loomis also has a bit of news about Ezekiel. " So Ezekiel is going to be brought before the White Council. "
“That’s an interesting choice of words,” Brianna says. “Is he in trouble?”
“Yes. Apparently they felt he was pressing too aggressively.”
“Wizard politics,” Loomis says.
“Whatever. What does that actually mean?”
“According to him, his status as Warden is on the line.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that.”
“So is he in some kind of wizard holding cell leaving an unprotected Seattle?”
“No, he’s free while the Council deliberates.”
“Is there anything we can do for him or stay out of it?”
“I’d stay out of it,” Loomis says.
“Well, this’ll be interesting,” Brianna says.
“It could mean a new player in Seattle,” Loomis says.
“Is all that’s at risk is his Warden’s status?”
“From what he’s said.”
“I don’t know a lot about the White Council, but some offenses are more deadly than others. Does he know how long they’ll deliberate?”
“I’m glad you told me,” Brianna says.
The two finish up their conversation and hang up.
Soon thereafter, Brianna receives a text from her cousin, Quincy: EXPECT A WIRE TRANSFER
Brianna texts back: WTF?
Quincy calls. Brianna answers with “What’s going on?”
“The wire transfer is for plane tickets.”
“Alright,” Brianna says, wary.
" The House is calling you home. Jason wants to see you. "
“Is that all the info I get from you Quincy, who I saved your life several times, or do I get some idea of the reception I’m going to receive?”
Quincy sighs. “He’s curious about you. And impressed.”
“Okay. When do I need to be there?”
“Alright. I’ll have to get stuff squared away here.”
“I should be able to leave tomorrow. This isn’t something I am bringing Joey to. I’ve got to find another manager for him. You going to meet at the airport?”
“I’ll send you the fight information.”
May 23, 2013 (Thursday)
Early the next morning, Brianna takes Joey aside.
“We need to talk for a second.”
“Alright,” Joey says.
“I don’t know if its good news or bad. It’s just news. Quincy called last night.”
“That’s usually bad news,” Joey says.
“I’m being summoned home. The Patriarch wants to see me. Quincy says I’ve impressed him. I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news. I’m going to have to find flights out today.”
“I just got back in the ring,” Joey says, anger rising in his tone.
" I know. I’m going to talk to Mel. I’m hoping he can find someone to manage you. I’m afraid he’s going to dump us as mush as we’re in and out nowadays. "
“So you don’t want me there?” Joey says, challenging.
“I don’t want you anywhere near my family. Quincy is a good guy. I like Quincy, but I don’t trust the rest of them.”
“Who’s going to watch your back?”
“The only human beings around my family will be thralls. I don’t think they’re too careful around humans.”
“I’m not exactly a dainty flower,” Joey says, with disgust.
“I know you’re not, but I’m also worried about someone coming after you when I’m not looking.”
“You’re the boss. If you don’t want me there, I won’t be there.”
“Loomis let me know that the Ezekiel is in a bit of trouble over the events in Seattle. Apparently, the White Council thinks he’s being too aggressive and his title as Warden is under review,” Brianna says.
“And the hits just keep coming,” Joey says, shaking his head.
“Yeah, that was the bad news. I don’t have a time frame on when that’s going to be resolved, but he could lose his job. Which is bullshit.”
Brianna gives Joey an assessing look. “If I bring you, are you willing to feed me?”
Joey looks her in eye. “You need someone watching your back. If that’s the price, alright then.”
“I’d rather have someone looking out for my interests, but I may have to be very clear why you’re there and I may have to mark you as mine.”
“I just want to be very clear that you’re mine and that you’re not a thrall to be used by others.”
Brianna starts looking at plane tickets and texts Quincy that there will be two at the airport. Quincy texts back questioning whether or not that’s a good idea. Brianna responds that she needs another person watching her back.
Next, Brianna calls Mel. As expected, he is extremely pissed off. In fact, he’s had enough of their on-again, off-again, and tells Brianna “You’re out. Find yourself another promoter or promote yourself. See you around. Nothing personal, but this is business. You should treat it like it is.”
Joey is philosophical about the severing of ties with the promoter. “We knew it was coming.”
“This is going to be my life for a little while; you’re my business partner and you’re my friend. I don’t think this is turning into what you signed up for,” Brianna says. “Maybe it would be better to become a promoter and manager. It is starting to turn into where I’m not doing you any favors.”
“I’m make my own choices,” Joey says, indignant. “I’m loyal.”
“Your loyalty is not in question.”
“No its not what I signed up for, but I make my own choices.”
“Alright. I just wanted it out in the open. Let’s pack.”
The pack their professional clothes and head up to PDX to fly to Denver.
May 23, 2013 (Evening, Denver, Colorado)
Quincy picks the pair up at the airport in the Denver in a Range Rover and begins to drive them to their destination. Along the way, he is quiet.
“You’re awfully quiet, Brianna says.
“Not much to say, I guess.”
“Bullshit,” Brianna says, mildly.
“I’m a little nervous,” Quincy says.
“You’re nervous? Why the hell are you nervous?” Brianna asks, incredulous.
“Well, it should be fine, really, but the Patriarch can be intense. And so can his people. Most of the House aren’t as easy going as I am.”
“Well, that’s good, ‘cause you’re my favorite asshole. Is this King Asshole I am dealing with? Because you may not have noticed but I don’t have the best grasp of my tongue, Quincy. I don’t deal well with King Assholes.”
“I’m trying to give you a heads-up, here,” Quincy says, defensive.
“I know. I’m nervous myself,” Brianna says.
“Just remember who’s in charge and you’ll be fine,” Quincy says.
“Am I staying at the house or someplace else?”
“At the house.”
Quincy drives out of the city and into the surrounding mountains. He takes a winding mountain road to a remote resort compound near the top of a mountain.
As the three are piling out of the Range Rover, Brianna tells Quincy, “I need Joey in a room attached to mine.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“If not, then you better get me a cot. I’m not going to be finding Joey down in this place.”
Efficient staff and uniformed staff take the luggage while Quincy leads the way into the main resort house. It looks like a large lodge. One of the staff informs Quincy that rooms have been arranged for Ms. Karkana and her guest. The Patriarch will see her later in the evening. They may rest comfortably in the lodge. Quincy thanks the servant and says, “May as well get a drink.” He leads them to a sunken living room with a small bar. He pours drinks for Brianna and Joey and himself while the three settle themselves onto the comfortable couches.
“Do you live here?” Brianna asks Quincy.
“I stay here from time to time.”
“Is this where all the Patriarch’s live or just the current Patriarch?”
Quincy thinks, “I believe the previous Patriarch was based in California, but that was before my time.”
“How many of the family are here?”
“At any one time outside of a gathering? Five to fifteen.”
The three hang out in the living room for a good couple of hours before someone comes from a nearby hall. A tall, imposing bald man in a turtleneck sweater comes in and gives Brianna an obviously assessing look. “The Patriarch will see you now,” he says. “This way.”
Joey rises and the bald man raises a hand. “The thrall stays here.”
“He’s mine and I keep an eye on him,” Brianna says.
The bald gives Brianna an intimidating stare that doesn’t faze Brianna. “We’re wasting time,” she says.
“Take it up with the Patriarch,” the bald man finally says. “Come on.”
The man leads them into an impressive, and very masculine, den. There is a stuffed boar’s head on the wall behind a desk. There are hardwood bookcases surrounding the room. Sitting at the desk is an imposing looking older man with a mane of white hair and a beard. When Brianna enters the room, the man rises and smiles. Waves of supernatural power come off him, making goose-pimples rise on Brianna’s skin. He notes Joey’s entrance with a raised eyebrow and then addresses Brianna.
“Daughter, come here, let me look at you.”
Brianna steps forward and allows the man to take her hands. “You are more beautiful than I thought,” he says. “Please, sit.”
Brianna and Joey sit. The bald man takes up a position beside the desk while the older man sits behind the desk.
“So, Brianna, who is your friend?”
“This is my man, Joey Aragon.”
The bald man leans down and whispers in the Patriarch’s ear. The older man seems to wave something aside.
“I called you here because I was pleased with your initiative in talking the conflict to the Margrave of Seattle.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Patriarch,” Brianna says.
“I have become impressed with the things that I have heard coming out of the northwest about your dealings with the intrigues of the Court.”
“My hope was that my actions would speak well for my House.”
The old man smiles. “They do indeed. The other Houses do not understand conflict in the way that we do.”
Brianna nods in agreement. The old man continues. “Tomorrow I would like to give you a tour of the compound.”
“I would be honored,” Brianna says.
“In the meantime, by all means take advantage of the hospitality of the lodge.”
“Forgive an old man for forgetting your lineage. Whose get are you?”
“My mother is Lauren Elizabeth Karkana. Her father was Brandon Alexander Karkana.”
“I remember Brandon,” the Patriarch says, his expression neutral. “He was impetuous.”
“Family trait,” Brianna says.
The Patriarch smiles. “Until tomorrow.”
The bald man moves toward the door to escort them out. He leads them back into the living room. When they get there, he turns to Brianna and says, “The Patriarch is impressed with you. I am less than impressed.”
“Fortunately, I’m not worried about impressing you, now am I?” Brianna says.
The man stalks back into the hallway.
“Asshole. Who is that, Quincy?”
“Bruno. He’s the Patriarch’s number two.”
“No wonder he’s got a stick up his ass.”
Brianna takes a few minutes and gets Quincy caught up on her conversation with the Patriarch.
“Does he normally give tours of the compound?”
“If he’s doing it himself, that’s pretty impressive,” Quincy says.
The three then head to their rooms. Joey has a room next door to Brianna’s. Before they go to bed, Joey goes to Brianna room and Brianna feeds on him. In his rage-frenzy, Joey strikes her. Brianna, after feeding, tells Joey to lock his door.
24 May 2013 (Friday, House Karkana Compound)
That morning, Brianna and Joey meet Quincy in the living room before Quincy leads them to the kitchen area to have breakfast. In the dining area, they see Bruno eating, but he largely ignores them.
As they eat, Brianna tells Quincy about her plans of becoming a promoter as well as a manager. During the course of the conversation, a pair of family members come down and join them. They greet Bruno and Quincy. Quincy introduces them as Miles and Veronica, a brother and sister.
“Are you here for the games?” Veronica asks Brianna.
“We’ll see,” Brianna says.
“Should be interesting this time around,” MIles says.
“Oh really, how so?” Brianna asks.
“I hear he’s brought in some weres.”
Bruno gets up. “Be out in front of the house at 9:00,” he growls at Brianna.
“Goodbye,” Brianna says brightly. “Quincy, let’s have a talk,” she says to her cousin.
Quincy, Joey, and Brianna excuse themselves. Once they seclude themselves in one of the lodges’ many rooms, Brianna turns on Quincy. “What the fuck is going on? What games?”
“Fights,” Quincy says.
“What sort of fights?”
“One person against another. One person doesn’t get up. The rest of us feed.”
“Quincy, are these willing participants in these fights?” Brianna asks, teeth clenched.
“I don’t know. I don’t ask questions.”
“Some of my good friends are weres. That shit concerns me,” Brianna says.
“This is the Patriarch’s house. Remember who’s in charge!” Quincy says.
Brianna stomps away toward the front of the house. Joey follows close behind.
In front of the house, the Patriarch waits with a golf cart. Joey crawls in the back while Brianna joins the Patriarch in the front.
“Good morning,” she says.
“Good morning, my dear. You truly go nowhere without him,” the Patriarch says, motioning to Joey in the back seat.
“I keep him close. I don’t easily let go of what belongs to me.”
The Patriarch nods thoughtfully and drives away from the lodge.
As they drive, the Patriarch points out a nicely apportioned servant’s house. He then parks in front of a garage and shows them a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles that he has collected over the years. The drives them over to another garage where his fleet of actual day-to-day vehicles are stored and introduces them to his fleet staff. He then drives them to his stables and shows them his herd of horses and takes Brianna over to the barn. Here he insists that Joey stay behind with the golf cart and Brianna acquiesces.
Inside the barn, the old man shows her a secret panel that leads to an underground staircase leading down into a large chamber. The chamber is full of human beings, about a dozen of them, on chains, kept in a constant state of rage. They have lost most of their humanity and are full rage-thralls.
“This is not something I show everyone. It is important to show that a leader learns about what’s important. Since the beginning of time, part of that duty has been to keep his people fed.”
As the old man speaks, she can hear the snarls, yells, and growls of the rage-thralls. She can feel the ecstasy of rage coming off of them. She takes a step back.
“No. Come forward. Embrace your power,” the Patriarch says.
Brianna takes a slow step forward. “It’s fairly overwhelming,” she says.
“Power always is. At first. But one gets used to it.”
The Patriarch turns out the lights and the two leave the thralls to their ravings.
When the two load back up into the golf cart, Joey gives Brianna a look. Brianna mouths “Later” him and focuses on the road before them.
The Patriarch takes them to another large building on the grounds. It has a smaller building attached to its side. Inside the larger, is a fighting ring with bleachers attached to it. As the Patriarch shows them around, he says, “Tonight we’ll be having games.”
“I think Veronica mentioned something at breakfast,” Brianna says.
“Yes, Veronica. She’s an avid spectator,” the Patriarch observes. “A chance for fellowship and feeding.”
“Miles said something about weres?” Brianna prompts.
“Ah,” the Patriarch seems disappointed. “Someone has spoiled my surprise.”
“It was a secret?”
“A surprise attraction. The weres often hold a spirit of rage with them that is unique.”
“I have many were that are friends. I have fought alongside them. They’ve been good to have at my back,” Brianna says, indignantly.
“Then you know of their ferocity.”
“Yes. Who fights?”
“Sometimes my children. Often our thralls. Tonight I have some wolves and a bear.”
Brianna shifts her feet.
“What troubles you, my daughter?”
“I’m very good friends with a were-bear.”
“I fail to see the relevance.”
“I’m concerned because I don’t know the nature of these games. Did they volunteer for this?”
The Patriarch arches an eyebrow. “Volunteers do not taste as sweet. We are not Raiths where simpering fools yield to our caresses. I though you understood more of our nature. Perhaps I was mistaken.”
“I understand our nature. I just seem to approach it in a different way.”
The Patriarch, faster than Brianna has ever seen anything move, reaches out and grips her by the throat and lifts her up. She reaches for his hands to dislodge his grip, but cannot.
“Did you volunteer for that?” he asks mildly.
“No,” she says, meeting his eyes. “but now I’m defending myself. And if you weren’t my Patriarch, I’d punch you in the face.”
“But you feel it, don’t you?”
“I want to hit you, yes, but I’m not a fucking animal.”
“Then your rage isn’t pure.” He puts her down. “That’s what I’m looking for. Do you understand?”
“You’re looking for someone who won’t hesitate. Who embraces it.”
“You have potential, Brianna. But you cling to weakness.”
“I don’t see it as a weakness.”
The Patriarch shrugs. “Until you see it, it will drag you down.”
“I guess we’ll have to see. I feel it’s gotten me pretty good so far. I intend to continue to do honor to our House, regardless if you approve of my methods completely.”
They all go back to the golf cart and load up. They drive back to the lodge in silence. “I expect you to come to the games tonight,” the Patriarch says as he pulls away. Brianna nods.
Joey turns to Brianna. “I’m sorry. He’s too fast.”
“I don’t care. Don’t touch that man.”
They go into the house and find Quincy waiting for them in the living room.
“Well, that went fucking well,” Brianna says.
“What’s wrong?” Quincy asks, suspicion in his voice.
“This is a conversation for our room. I don’t know these people,” Brianna says.
“Okay,” Quincy says and leads the way to Brianna’s room.
Brianna describes the tour to Quincy, but leaves out the portion about the rage-thralls under the barn. Quincy just shakes his head afterwards. Brianna paces the room.
“Only you, Brianna. Only you,” Quincy says.
“Apparently I’m in deep with the fucking Patriarch of the House, anyway, so its good. Quincy, I try to fight the monsters, not be one. I’m supposed to come to the fights tonight. That’s awesome. You might want to start distancing yourself from me now.”
“So what are you going to do tonight?” Quincy asks.
“Something relatively unpopular, I’m sure,” Brianna says. “Quincy, can you find out for me where these wolves and a bear come from? Does the Patriarch play really deep games? because you know some wolves and a were-bear…”
“I doubt he brought them from Seattle. Asking around could be dangerous especially after your conversation,” Quincy says.
“What time are the games?” Brianna asks.
Brianna paces until she tires herself out and sits.
“Me and my mouth, Joey. Me and my mouth.”
“It can’t be helped,” he says.
“I’m going to have a hard time standing by and watching people get killed,” Brianna says.
“So you’re going to take on the entire House?” Quincy asks.
“I can’t take on the entire House. Do you know who participates in these games from the House?” Brianna asks.
“Bruno sometimes does. There are others that visit. Why?”
“What about that building he didn’t take us to?” Joey asks.
“Hmmm. Maybe,” Brianna says. She looks at Quincy. “If I do something stupid, Quincy, how much plausible deniability do you want?”
“A lot,” Quincy says.
“That’s what I thought. Go away. I love you, but go away.”
Quincy gets up with a sigh and leaves.
Brianna texts Loomis: JUST THINKING OF YOU.
Loomis texts back: OKAY. YOU ALRIGHT?
Brianna texts back: YES
Brianna then turns to Joey. “I hope you’re not sorry you came. There’s a lot of reasons I don’t hang out with my family very much. Quincy’s a good guy, but I just come at things from different ways.”
“So what’s the plan?” Joey asks.
“I think I need to check out that building. I can’t not do anything.”
Joey smiles. “Alright.”