Snowflakes fluttered through the moonlit air. I pressed myself against the castle wall as heavy foosteps approached through the frozen gravel. Sigurd looked cleaner than usual but still ancient. Long hair, long fur cloak and a spear. Next to him walked a much more modern warrior. Black body armour, automatic rifle and a walkie-walkie. The malkavians called him project Nimrod, the perfect soldier.
I knew they couldn’t see me, but the stakes were high, no pun intended. If my heart had been functional, it would have been pounding in my throat.
They stopped in front of me for a second, and Nimrod shone his flashlight around for a moment as Sigurd sniffed the air. When the old Gangrel nodded, Nimrod said to his walkie-talkie:
“All is clear at the fire escape. Moving along to the gardens.”
When they had rounded the corner I looked up at the fire escape.
He gave me the thumbs up and continued climbing. I snuck around the corner and stared after the two warriors as they continued their rounds through the gardens. After a few minutes, Charles reappeared beside me.
“The Toreador and the Ventrue primogen both have a special room up on the third floor.” He sounded pleased. “The prince likes to sit by the window of the ballroom, where we can attack from the fire escape.”
“I saw Sigurd and Nimrod pause at the statue down in the gardens and now it looks like Sigurd is praying at a tree over there.” I pointed. “Let’s go report in”
Charles gazed out to the gardens, handing me a stake. “Do you think you can take on Nimrod?” He let out a hoarse laughter. “I think the old one will make for a nice bargaining chip with the council. And he really can’t see us.”
“We have contact!” Ernest proudly pointed at the laptop where we could see the face of Christiaan, the Malkavian primogen.
“Is this thing on?” His voice sounded croaky through the laptop’s speakers. “How does this thingamajig work? Get me someone who can work all those buttons.”
A face with sunglasses, a Setite, approached from the background and sat down next to Christiaan. A chatwindow opened next to the webcam’s screen, it said:
“We want Sigurd back. We will trade him for Oriana and Spiegel.”
CJ shoved Ernest aside and started to negotiate. We needed more weapons and blood. We did not have the luxury of snacking on each other like they did.
I crouched and crawled under a table, nursing the bulletwounds Nimrod had given me. He sat across the room, with the prophet and Carl, who were trying to break through the years of brainwashing. Sam leaned on Sigurd’s spear as he lay at her feet with a stake through his chest. She was still wearing the same pretty dress she had worn at the party.
The prophet had changed me somehow. I remembered the hate, the poisonous jealousy that had made me sick when I first saw her in that dress. But now I saw an ally, someone who could be saved. And if I were to be saved myself, I would have to let go of that hatred.
As one group went outside to exchange prisoners, and another one to attack and destroy the Ventrue’s special room, Sam and I sat next to each other behind our barricade.
“Can I be frank with you?” I asked her, breaking the silence.
She nodded, friendly curiousity on her face.
And I told her my story. Confessed I was jealous, because I had once been that girl. Pretty dresses, men who did everything for me, manipulative and spoiled. I apologised as if Sam was every girl I had ever envied.
Sam was touched and in return she told me her own story, of a girl who wanted to own a ranch. She used to pretend she was a man, and she was great with animals. But when a man fell in love with her and took her to meet his parents, he dressed her up. His parents hated her because she had no manners and she looked up to the women who did. To women like I had been. And that one night of the party, she had dressed up for him again. For Tom Hawkshaw, who had betrayed her and put a stake through her heart. Because the prince had ordered him to.
Gunshots rang through the air. Rushed footsteps. Oriana and Spiegel came rushing past the barricade, followed by August who laid down cover fire. Christiaan’s voice echoed over the courtyard.
“What part of truce don’t you understand? It means no firebombs in the attic!”