January 3, 2013
That afternoon, Brianna takes a taxi to Nirvana. There in the parking lot, she sees a luxury car waiting for her with Clive and another gentleman. Brianna slings her dufflebag over her shoulder and approaches.
“Clive,” she says and Clive nods.
The other man, dressed in a designer suit, puts out his hand. "I"m Timothy. I’m the driver."
Brianna shakes his hand. “Brianna. The bodyguard.”
Clive opens the back door of the car for Brianna as Timothy slides into the front. Inside, resting on the seat is a shoulder-holster with a semi-automatic pistol. Brianna gets inside and Clive shuts the door. As Timothy pulls out of the parking lot, Brianna puts on the shoulder-holster under her jacket.
Brianna scopes out the back seat. There is a glass partition separating the driver from the passengers, as well as a small speaker box for speaking with the driver and a button for lowering the partition. Speaking of which, the glass lowers and Timothy calls out. “If you want, I can your bag up here.”
“That would be great, thanks.” Brianna shoves the bag into the front seat. "Do we have an itinerary?
“None that I’ve been given. I’m to pick up the client from the airport and take her The Nines. From there, I’ll receive further instructions. Anywhere she wants to go, I’m to drive her.”
As Timothy pulls into the parking garage at the airport, he hands Brianna a small sign with the name “MADELINE RAITH” printed on the front. Timothy also gives her the terminal information that Brianna needs to make the pick-up.
Brianna goes inside the baggage claim area and waits, holding her sign. Soon a beautiful brunette with an indulgent swagger comes walking up to her.
“I am Madeline Raith.”
“I am your assistant.”
“And what’s your name, assistant?”
Madeline quirks an eyebrow. “Karkana? That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. Well, Brianna, we must wait on my luggage.”
“How many bags do you have?”
“Just the one.”
Soon, Brianna is fetching Madeline’s elegant, though practical, bag from the carousel. Madeline makes no move for it, assuming Brianna will get it, which she does. Then the two of them start walking back to the parking garage. Brianna walks slightly ahead, looking for trouble.
As the two approach the car, Brianna spies a grey-cloaked figure popping out from behind a support pillar with its hands raised, a brass rod in one hand. Brianna shouts for Madeline to get down and rushes the figure, using her vampiric speed to hasten her steps. She reaches out and disarms the figure of its rod.
In the meantime, Madeline has moved behind the car. The figure, who is now clearly a woman, then mumbles something in what sounds like Latin and suddenly fire erupts from her hands, burning Brianna. Brianna yells, “Timothy, get her in the fucking car!” She then punches the figure in the face. She can feel the woman’s jaw break from force of her blow.
By this time, Madeline has made it into the car and Timothy has started the engine. The woman in the cloak then tries to run away and throw fire over her shoulder. However, she misses her mark and the flames catch under the hood of one of the other parked cars. Timothy pulls up the car as Brianna collects the brass rod and clambers inside the back seat. He then hightails it out of the parking garage.
Brianna turns to Madeline. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, my dear.”
Brianna looks down at her charred suit jacket. Fuck she thinks to herself.
Brianna then pulls out her phone and calls Clive. She hears a soft voice in a cultivated accent. “This is Clive.”
“There’s been an incident at the pick-up zone, Clive. Our client is safe. Someone threw fire at me. She left behind a brass rod, which I have. Shall I proceed to the hotel or does this change plans?”
“If Ms. Raith is amenable, come to the club.”
Brianna checks with Madeline, who says “Very well.”
“We’ll be there,” Brianna says and hangs up.
“She was wearing a Warden’s cloak,” Madeline says. Brianna turns pale.
“Do you have any idea why a Warden would come after you?” Brianna asks.
“None at all, except if they wish to escalate the conflict with the Red Court and draw in the White.”
Brianna doesn’t know a great deal about the Wardens, other than that they are the enforcers of the White Council and often act as judges and executioners for crimes against the Laws of Magic. She also knows that the Accords are supposed to protect against such open hostility between the various factions.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Brianna thinks to herself.
The car finally pulls up to Nirvana. Brianna grabs the brass rod and gets out. Timothy lets Madeline out and Brianna guards Madeline up to the door, where the doorman lets them in. Brianna leads the way to Nerise’s office. There, as usual, are two armed guards at the door.
“We’re expected,” Brianna tells them, giving them a no-nonsense stare. They nod and knock on the door. Clive emerges and goes to Madeline, takes her hand and kisses it. “Ms. Raith. Please come inside.” Clive’s voice is soft and cultivated. He motions for Brianna to follow.
Brianna follows Madeline and Clive inside where Madeline and Nerise meet each other like old friends, giving each kisses on the cheek. Nerise motions for Madeline to take a seat and she does. Nerise sits behind her desk.
“An eventful arrival,” Nerise says.
“You always had a talent for understatement, Nerise,” Madeline says. Nerise simply smiles. “Brianna failed to mention that our assailant wore a Warden’s cloak,” she continues.
Brianna grits her teeth. Nerise quirks an eyebrow. “Oh really. A Warden. That’s bold.”
“I’ve had some dealings with wizards. This one seemed…underwhelming.”
“Do you believe you were the target?” Nerise asks.
“Well, whoever they were, they obvious were not up to the task of facing a Karkana,” Nerise observes.
Madeline nods. “Yes, Brianna was adequate to the task.”
“I took the liberty of having your room changed at The Nines, just in case,” Nerise says. “Brianna?”
“You fought this wizard. Do you have any insights?”
“She left this behind.” Brianna holds up the brass rod. “She’s a she. She should be easy to find as she has a broken jaw. Her element is clearly fire.”
“If she’s a Warden, she may have more than one element,” Nerise points out.
“I have to concede that she ran pretty fast. She was lying in wait—she followed our car into the garage. One could always call Ms. Capstone and see if she has a broken jaw,” Brianna says.
“Who is Ms. Capstone?” Madeline asks.
Brianna explains. “She’s the local Warden. Frankly, I’m more intrigued as to why someone would want us to think the Wardens are attacking and breaking the Accords.”
Nerise says, “That is curious..”
“…but not why I’m in Portland,” Madeline says. “I’m in Portland to complete these business transactions. But today I am tired. If I have rooms waiting for me, I’ll take them.”
“Of course,” Nerise says, “We can begin in the morning.”
Madeline rises and starts to head out. Brianna follows and hands Clive the rod on her way out. They leave the club and go to the car where Timothy is waiting. The two get in the back seat and Timothy pulls out of the parking lot.
As Timothy drives them toward the hotel, the partition between the driver and the back seat comes down. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but it appears that someone is following us. What would you like me to do?”
Brianna looks at Madeline, who shrugs. “See if you can lose him.”
Brianna turns in her seat. “Timothy, what are we keeping an eye on?”
“A 90s model Pontiac. A Grand Am, I think.”
“Let me know if it approaches the car too closely.” Brianna turns to Madeline. “I don’t know if it’ll come to gunfire in the street, but I may need you to lay flat in a hurray.”
“I will,” Madeline says.
After a few turns, Timothy announces that he thinks he’s lost him.
“How close are we to the hotel?” Brianna asks.
“Should be there in ten minutes.”
“Throw my bag back here.” Timothy complies and Brianna changes jackets, exchanging her charred one for another. She then sends a text to Clive: FOLLOWED BY RED PONTIAC. TIMOTHY MANAGED TO LOSE THEM. MIGHT NOT BE A BAD PLAN TO SWITCH CARS. THEY APPEAR TO HAVE MARKED THIS ONE.
She soon gets a return text: CHANGE IN A.M.
Brianna texts back: ACKNOWLEDGED
Soon they arrive at The Nines, a luxury hotel. A doorman handles the luggage as Brianna and Madeline exit the car. Brianna sticks close as they enter the hotel, looking for signs of potential danger. She backs off a bit as Madeline goes to the check-in desk and makes the arrangements. Making their way to the elevators, she manages to use her intimidating demeanor to ensure that only she, Madeline, and the bellhop are on the elevator.
Once they arrive in the room, Madeline tips the bellhop and begins to settle into the bedroom of the suite with her things. Soon, she hears a shower running. Brianna locks all of the bolts on the door and begins examining the room. They are on the fifth floor. A balcony is in the bedroom that opens with French doors. These are lockable, which she engages. She throws away the burned jacket and changes her outfit. She then goes to the kitchenette and wets a towel to wipe the smudge marks off her face. She notes that the front door opens into the room. She places the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.
The shower stops and soon Madeline emerges in a casual blouse and tight jeans. She looks at Brianna and languidly says. “I suppose I’m going to have to go out and grab a bite.”
Brianna looks awkward. “With all due respect, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
Madeline smiles, a predator’s smile. “Well then, we have two choices. Either you’re going to see some things you don’t wish to see. Or we don’t leave the room.”
Brianna flushes. “I’m no one’s meal,” she manages to say firmly, not letting her anger get the best of her.
Madeline smiles, as if it all doesn’t matter to her. “Then we shall have an interesting evening.”
“I guess we will, ma’am.”
“Please don’t call me ma’am. Madeline if fine.”
“Very well, Madeline.”
“Speaking of which. Will you need to feed?”
Brianna blinks. “Optimally.”
Madeline smiles again, her eyes flashing. “Truly an interesting evening.”
Brianna says, “We’re out of my hunting grounds.”
“You have a grounds?”
“I have a territory. Although small, but it’s mine.”
“Intriguing. Shall we?”
Madeline calls for Timothy to bring the car around. As the two women head downstairs in the elevator, Madeline asks, “So what do you know of the night life in Portland, Brianna? Any suggestions?”
“I know a few clubs.” She names off a few places and describes them the best she can. She has a feeling that her and Madeline’s idea of fun are two different things. Finally, Madeline decides that The Zoo sounds like her kind of place.
They meet the car downstairs and get inside. Madeline turns to Brianna and asks. “Where is this hunting ground of yours?”
“The warehouse district.”
Madeline nods. “I think, purely as a practical matter, that perhaps we should hit your hunting ground first before we visit mine.”
Brianna smiles. “I think you’re dressed accordingly.”
Madeline sniffs. “I’m a Raith. I’m always dressed accordingly.” Brianna gives directions to the fight venue to Timothy.
Once they get to the warehouse, Timothy waits outside with the car while Brianna walks Madeline up to the venue. Rick the Doorman is waiting and Brianna tells him that Madeline is with her. He lets them in. As they go inside, Brianna turns to Madeline and says “This is also a place of business for me. And not a publicly known event. So I’d appreciate your discretion.”
Madeline smiles and her eyes smoulder. “My lips are sealed.”
It’s a Thursday night, so there’s no “main event” fight; most of the fights here are lower echelon fighters working their way up. Brianna starts to feel the first tingling sensation of feeding. She makes the rounds, saying hello to people she knows with Madeline in tow. To those that ask, she’s “Cousin Madeline”. At one point, they run into Mel Landry, who seems enchanted with Madeline. Brianna takes the opportunity to soften the blow that Joey isn’t fighting this weekend, letting Mel know that “Cousin Madeline” is the family emergency that popped up.
Finally, after sipping at all the ambient violence and rage in the ring (and from the spectators), Brianna has enough to satisfy her demon—for now. She turns to Madeline and says “You ready?”
Madeline looks at Brianna flatly. “That’s it?”
“For what I need right now, yes.”
Madeline looks disappointed. “I suppose we’re done here then.”
The two leave the fight venue, get in their waiting car, and head to The Zoo.
Timothy parks the car near the night club and as the two women approach the door, they note a long line of party goers waiting to get inside. Brianna leads the way as the two head to the front of the line. Brianna slips the man some cash and seems to be satisfied with the looks of the ladies, because he lets them inside.
Inside, the music’s loud and the dance floor is crowded. People seem to be having a good time. Madeline heads out to the dance floor and Madeline sticks close—but not too close. She allows Madeline her space to have dance partners. And she has more than a few. Most of the dances are very touchy-feely and intimate. Brianna stays on full alert for any sign of danger, but Madeline seems in her element.
Finally, Madeline brings one of her partners over to Brianna, a blond young beefcake named Donnie. “He’ll be joining us for a night cap,” Madeline says.
“Nice to meet you, Donnie. Are we ready then?” Brianna asks.
“Yes,” Madeline says.
The three of them head out of the club, Donnie and Madeline pawing at each other the whole time. Timothy pulls the car up and the three cram in the backseat. Brianna makes sure that Madeline is between her and Donnie—not only does she not want Donnie touching her, but that way if there is trouble, she can grab Madeline and leave Donnie behind.
As they get inside, Madeline leans over to Brianna and whispers, “Don’t worry. I told him you only like to watch.”
Brianna spends the car ride to The Nines vibrating in suppressed embarrassment and anger as Madeline and Donnie canoodle.
Once at the hotel, the three get on an elevator and Brianna snarls at someone who tries to join them, scaring them off. Once they get into the room, the canoodling turns decidedly more serious. The two stumble into the bedroom. Brianna shuts the door on them.
Brianna makes sure the suite is secure and then does sit ups to relieve her pent up anger. She listens for any unexpected sounds coming from Madeline’s room. She hears nothing…unexpected…from there. Eventually, all grows quiet and Madeline emerges from the room in a bathrobe, flush and sated. Brianna can see Donnie lying sprawled, unconscious, on the bed. Madeline looks from Brianna, to Donnie, and back to Brianna. “That, my dear, is feeding.”
Brianna goes to the kitchenette and gets a glass of water. “I know it.” She gives a Madeline an unfriendly look.
“What happened to ‘never out of my sight’?” Madeline asks, all innocence.
The glass shatters in Brianna’s hand. “I didn’t think the situation was compromised.” She begins to pick glass out of her hand.
“We were going to have an interesting evening and you take me to your hunting grounds and talk to people.” Madeline says, incredulous.
“I’m sorry my feeding habits don’t entertain you,” Brianna says through clenched teeth.
“Then we were going to have an interesting evening with my feeding, and you shut the door in my face. I’m very disappointed.”
“I was hired to protect you, not be a voyeur for you. So if you want to go to Nerise and ask her to get someone to entertain you, that is your prerogative. But if you want someone who is going to throw down her fucking life to keep you safe, you better back off,” Brianna says, shaking."
Madeline blinks and says, “Goodnight, Brianna,” and goes back into her room.
“Fuck,” Brianna says. She then places a chair in front of the front door and takes another chair and places it in front of Madeline’s bedroom door. She texts Joey: HOW’RE THINGS GOING? THINGS INTERESTING HERE, NOT NECESSARILY IN A GOOD WAY. She then settles into the chair in front of Madeline’s door and goes to sleep.
January 4, 2013 (5 am)
Brianna hears muffled speech outside the front door. She rises carefully and looks out the peephole. She sees a figure in a grey cloak waving their hands in front of the door handle.
Brianna runs into Madeline’s room. She’s lying naked beside the unconscious Donnie. Brianna touches her arm, ignoring Donnie. Madeline grabs Brianna’s hand. Brianna whispers. “I need you to be able to move quickly. There’s a grey cloaked figure outside the door.” Madeline nods.
Brianna checks the door again. The figure is still there. She then quickly unlocks the door and grabs the person, pulling them inside. A ball of fire forms in the person’s hand. Brianna then throws the person down to the ground and lets her demon feed on them. The fireball fades. She recognizes the figure as the young woman from before, now with an Ace bandage wrapped around her head to hold her jaw in place.
Pissed at Madeline, pissed at the wizard, pissed at this entire evening, Brianna lets the rage flow and, before she knows it, she’s extinguished the life from the wizard. Brianna feels more sated than she’s felt in a long time. She looks up and sees Madeline staring at her, dressed. “Now that was a feeding,” Madeline says.
Brianna gets up and gets her phone, shutting the door to the bedroom. She calls Clive.
“This is Clive.”
“Clive, we had an early morning visitor at our door. Now we need a clean-up. Same person from before.”
“You’re in a hotel. That makes it…complicated.”
“We’ll probably not be leaving anytime soon. Why don’t you call me back?”
“I will call you back once arrangements have been made.” The phone goes silent.
Brianna turns to Madeline. “We need Donnie to get out of here pretty soon.” She then takes the body of the wizard, checks it over for ID and finds none, and puts it in the closet. She locks the front door again. Brianna then takes her turn in the shower, attempting to wash away this day.
When Brianna comes out of the shower, Madeline is reviving Donnie and sending him on his way. Brianna makes Madeline and herself some coffee. She motions to the closet. “Hopefully that’s the end of it.”
Madeline nods. “She was very determined.”
“She had no ID. That’s unusual.”
There’s a knock at the door. Brianna rises and checks the peephole. She sees two paramedics with a gurney standing outside the door. Then her phone rings. It’s Clive.
“I have two paramedics standing outside my door,” Brianna says.
“Ah, good. Then they’ve arrived.”
“Then they’re from you? There’ll be no questions asked?”
Clive says, “There was a report of food poisoning from this floor…”
Brianna lets the paramedics in. They collect the body without a word and secure it into the gurney, covering it in bedding, and then take it away.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Brianna turns to Madeline. “What’s on your agenda for today?”
“Nothing exciting. Meetings with Nerise. Perhaps lunch.”
“Why don’t you get ready and we’ll get started.”
January 4, 2013 (7 am)
Madeline gets herself ready and calls Timothy to bring the car around. He informs her that they will be in a navy limousine today.
The two women head downstairs and get in the car. Timothy pulls out and drives them to Nirvana. Once there, they head up to the office and are met by Clive, who lets them in to see Nerise. Nerise greets Madeline and the two settle into chairs together.
“Normally Portland is not so inhospitable to visitors,” Nerise says.
“I don’t believe I will be having that particular trouble anymore, thanks to Brianna,” Madeline says.
“None of our people recognized the girl. When she’s found, perhaps our law enforcement contacts can help with that,” Nerise says. Madeline nods. “Do you believe the White Council is behind this?” Nerise asks.
“I believe we were meant to think it. But, no. I will not risk the diplomacy.”
Nerise nods. “Then the matter is closed?”
“As far as I’m concerned.” Madeline turns and looks at Brianna. “What do you think?”
“We don’t know her motivation. We don’t know if she was driving the red car that was following us. But she’s the only one we’ve seen. I still plan to be on guard.”
Madeline smiles. “That’s reassuring.”
Brianna continues. “She clearly had information. She knew you were arriving at the airport. She knew the car, she knew our hotel even though our driver thought he lost her, and she knew our room. I find that disturbing.”
“So you think she had an accomplice?” Nerise asks.
“She was getting her information from somewhere. Unfortunately, not being able to question her…makes things complicated.”
Nerise frowns. “Yes, it does make it complicated.”
Madeline sniffs. “Pft. She eliminated the threat. She did exactly what she was paid to do. So if the matter is closed, on to other matters, then.”
Brianna stands guard while Madeline essentially audits Nerise on the business practices of Nirvana. It is a long morning meeting. They break midday and all load up into the limousine, Brianna, Clive, Nerise, and Madeline, and head to a posh restaurant for lunch. Nerise and Madeline reminisce about old times in Chicago, as apparently Nerise lived with the Raiths at one point.
That afternoon, Madeline and Nerise have more private meetings and ask Brianna to wait outside. She chit-chats with the two “goons” as she waits. Eventually, Clive comes out, accompanied by Madeline, who announces that she is heading back to the hotel. Clive nods goodbye and the two women head out to the waiting limousine.
The sun is sinking behind the horizon by the time they return to The Nines. Brianna and Madeline head up to the room and Madeline immediately starts running water for a shower. Brianna makes sure the DO NOT DISTURB sign is still on the door, locks its, and sits down to read the newspaper.
As she sits, she hears a noise at the balcony door. She cautiously moves into the bedroom and sees a figure in a grey cloak entering the room. She rushes forward and the two exchange very hard and fast blows—inhumanly hard and fast blows. The person’s features melt away revealing a bestial bat-like visage that hisses at Brianna.
“Red Court fucker,” Brianna says. She calls out to Madeline in the bathroom. “Madeline, lock the door!”
She punches the vampire in the faces and then it spits at her, to no effect. Brianna goes to sweep its leg, but it nimbly gets out of the way. It rakes its claws across Brianna’s torso. Finally, Brianna sweeps the leg, knocking it off-balance. It manages to slash Brianna across her belly with its sharp claws, giving her a vicious gash. Brianna then pins the the thing to the floor and starts to incite its rage and feed on it at the same time. It thrashes about, enraged and tries to claw at her, but fails. Brianna feeds some more and it thrashes about with a crazed gleam in its beady, bat-like eyes. The thing tries to break away but fails. Finally, Brianna brings the thing to the brink of death—but manages to hold back, merely knocking the beast unconscious.
Brianna rises and goes to the bathroom door. “It’s okay to come out.” Madeline comes out in a bathrobe. “Red Court. Right there. I’m calling Clive.”
She grabs her phone and dials.
“This is Clive.”
“More excitement, Clive. We had a Red Court visitor. Temporarily unconscious. I need instructions.”
“Can you transport it?”
“The trick will be getting to the car.”
“Can you contain it until we come there?”
“Then do so.”
“I hear you.”
Brianna takes off her shirt and tears it into strips and uses it to bind the Red Court vampire. She takes her burnt jacket out of the trash and uses it as a gag. Then she puts on another shirt and sits on the unconscious creature.
“You recognize this guy?” Brianna asks Madeline.
Madeline shakes her head. Brianna checks him for ID and finds none. “Spit in my face,” she mutters and pops him upside the head.
About an hour passes and the vampire begins to stir. At the same time, there’s a knock at the door. “Madeline, could you check at the door? Don’t open it—just tell me who’s there.”
Madeline looks in the peephole. “It’s Nerise and Clive.”
Brianna nods. “Open it up.” She then reaches down and feeds on the vampire again, drawing its life force into herself, feeding her demon. He stops stirring. Brianna realizes that he may have passed over from being unconscious to comatose. Fuck.
Everyone in the room is staring at her. She looks up. “He was coming in through the balcony window,” she says, trying to get everyone to stop staring at her. “He’s got no ID.”
Nerise says, “We’ll we can’t very well question him in this state.”
Brianna says, “I was trying to make sure he was contained. He will probably take a little while to come out that. Again, apologies.”
Nerise looks annoyed. She turns to Clive. “What are our options, Clive?”
Clive shrugs. “Few and far between, I’m afraid. I suggest we call room service. We have a long wait ahead of us.”