02 those fucking pretties

The Hunters retaliated soon after that. They abducted our mole’s sister. She was still alive and quite unaware of her brother’s affairs. Paul was devastated, I heard several kindred tell each other, some with genuine pity in their voices, while others were amused. I decided to go check on Paul.

It was almost morning and he sat on the edge of the abandoned stage of the nightclub, crying silently. Paul was a Toreador ghoul, his suit was impeccable and though his flawless face was riddled with tears, his hair was perfect and unruffled. I loathed him instantly.

I carefully crept closer and put a hand on his shoulder. I wasn’t wearing gloves but he didn’t recoil. His sadness was greater than his worry that his suit might get dirty from my touch. Perhaps he was not as shallow as I expected.

“I heard.” I said with emphasis, knowing there was no sense in explaining what I had heard from whom. “I’m very sorry.”
He turned to look straight at me with his shining eyes. “She is innocent. She has done nothing to deserve this. It’s all my fault.”
There was no sense arguing with that. I nodded slowly.

The ghoul needed someone to listen to him; he continued, sighing and sniffling: “I can’t stand it. I don’t know where she is and what they are doing to her. For all I know they might be torturing her.”
I shook my head and gave him a little pat. “To what end? Unlike us, the Hunters are human.”
He was silent for a moment, overthinking that bitter truth.

I cocked my head in my best puppy-eyes expression. “What is being done to save her?” I knew the answer all too well, but I felt like stirring up the poor mortal’s guilt anyway.
His voice trembled as he replied. “Nothing. She is of no value to my domitor or the clan. Let alone the Prince. There’s nothing I can do.” There was a hint of resignation in his eyes, as if he would be able to accept the loss of his sister this way eventually.

I wasn’t going to let him get away with that any time soon.
“What do you mean there’s nothing you can do?” I gave him a hurt look and pointed in the direction of the kindred that were still hanging around the bar. “There are more people here than your domitor. You have powerful friends, Paul. Of course there are things we can do.”
There was worry in his eyes as he shook his head. “A man in my position cannot afford…”
“A man in your position?” I interrupted. “What is more important to you? Your position or your sister, your own blood?”
Speechless, he started to cry again and I patted his shoulder with a slight smile. “There now. Of course there are things that can be done to save her. Just say the word.”
He looked at me with his shining eyes once more. “You would do such things for me?”
“Not everything has to go through your domitor.” I said, carefully avoiding a direct answer. Before he could ask for anything specific, I told him: “It will be morning soon. I have to go. You know where to reach me.” knowing full well that next to Ralph and Charles, I was one of the hardest people to reach in the entire city.

The next elysium was to be a party to celebrate our triumph, over the Sabbath, over the Hunters, a senseless exercise in self-affirmation. I had asked Ralph whether he really needed me there, and I had stressed the fact that I despised parties, but he said he would really need me again. He was certain the threat was not yet gone. I was familiar with his usual paranoia, but I feared he was right. So I braced myself, emotionally, and accompanied him again.

As Ralph rushed into the ballroom to meet with the other primogen, I met Charles in the hall. He was unarmed, as a punishment for his previous mistakes, and he had been told to take orders from Hawkshaw too. Which meant that he spent a lot of his time getting Brujah’s coats and fetching drinks for them.
Charles looked at me through the glass of his gas mask. There was a hint of laughter in his raspy voice. “You dressed up tonight?”
I was wearing a shapeless black cotton dress with a woollen poncho over it that matched my hat. He looked at my feet, at my black pumps.
I shrugged. “It’s a party. I was hoping to dance. Perhaps with a Torrie?”
He let out a hoarse snicker. “I’d like to see that, gorgeous. You go dance with them fucking pretties.”

His scorn was just what I needed to jab at that distant longing at the back of my mind. This is what being a Nosferatu had taught me. Beauty and the shallow pleasures that humans and Toreador enjoy are meaningless, and the only way to get rid of the senseless desire for them is pain. This is why my sire had named me Belle, the prettiest Nosferatu in all of Europe. This is why I had been the laughingstock of the warrens for decades. To stamp out my frivolity and replace it with practicality and skill. With clenched teeth I entered the ballroom.

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