Friday, December 26, 2008

Hint Hint

Calendaring was fun in its own way, but I'm also glad to be back to posting normally.

Hm, I'm just thinking... how do you hint something to someone who doesn't take hints? Doesn't life get pretty de-layered without hints? Say, for example that I would DM some story in which the characters have the free choice of choosing, say, A or B. If I blatantly make someone say "A is better" then hint-less people would choose A, nee? Or if I let two people blatantly say one each is better, it comes down to which person they like better. On the other hand, small things subterfuged into the story and into scenes here and there would guide hint-taking players to consider the choice carefully... so that they can discover the truth on their own, not having someone tell them how it comes together. How is this accomplished, really? Because I refuse to have people *say* all important information in a game. Then it feels like all it's about is talking to, alternatively mind-raping, the right person. I guess that works if it's ass-hat hard to talk and/or mind-rape people, but it's not. In a game, the main thing players tend to do is talk and mind-rape people as much as is playably possible. So... what do you guys think? You like having info told to you? Or how are you supposed to discover things?

I hope people understand what I'm trying to say here...

Oh, and also, I'm going to get rid of that banner because it's annoying the hell out of me that I suitably put it up with the first calendar post, but not taking it down with the last... Yes, I'm anal about it. It's just, ps is fucking with me and it's 4 o'clock in the morning. G'night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Advent Tale XXIV

Up to them stepped a man in uniform, and the impressiveness of his charisma was only matched by the width of his chest and the whiteness of his teeth. He saluted them with a friendly smile and looked them over.

“Well, I can tell we have a winner right here,” he said and reached out and shook hands with Julian. “Congratulations!”

“What?” Julian said, blinded by all the attention and this sudden change of events.

“Ah, excuse my manners,” the man said. “I am Derek, I am in charge of public relations. And safety. And finances. Oh, hello Leigh.” He shook the human’s hand as well. Leigh still looked grumpy and went off to climb a building to get his mind off his defeat.

“Wait, what? In charge of what?” Kati wanted to know.

“Ah, let me explain. The Lancea Sanctum will be pushing a political campaign in the area, and we thought we needed a local to speak for us while we’re off elsewhere. My boss, wise as he is, knows that it’s the woman behind the man that counts. So we agreed that the couple with the strongest woman coming to our Christmas Party would take charge in this region.”

“See?” muttered Benji.

“In charge of the region?” Julian said.

“This guy’s so fresh he can’t tie his shoes,” Kati said. “And don’t think you can just waltz in here like that, the Invictus…”

“Obviously he’s the most suitable man,” Derek declared and went on to shake Sam’s hand. “It can’t be doubted! Ah, well, I am needed elsewhere. Please enjoy the party; we will sort the paperwork out tomorrow. Tonight is Christmas, after all!”

And he was gone.

It was silent for another ten minutes. Then the star atop the tree released Ray from its magical spell, and he yawned and stretched and looked around if anyone else was bored.

“Hey guys, look, presents!”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Advent Tale XXIII

“We will stop you, one way or another,” Kati said. “Think you can defeat us all?”

“We’ll take down your evil plan!” Aiden declared.

“I think,” Ray added.

But Julian, at seeing the couple and at the damage he’d taken, suddenly remembered what had happened, how Leigh had come around and sent him off. He struggled to get on his feet and Kati helped him up. “It doesn’t matter what you do!” he yelled. “You’ll have to kill me to keep me away from Sam!”

At which Sam jerked up. “What?” she said and turned to Leigh. “You told me he left.”

Leigh wet his lips and smiled disarmingly. “Did I? I meant, he left when I told him to.”

“You beat me up!” Julian protested. “Said you’d kill us both if I didn’t get lost!”

“Well, he’s obviously too weak for you,” Leigh told Sam. “I’ve shown you what we could do with the place. Come on, let’s continue. Don’t mind these people.”

Sam stared at him. “Forget it,” she said. When he tried to stop her from going she simply lifted him by his stylish coat and told him if he ever laid hands on Julian again, or any of Julian’s friends, she would send him back to his boss in one-pound boxes.

And once that was out of the way, she returned to Julian, who was overridden with joy at seeing her and immediately recovered.

Seeing as Leigh had met his match he had no desire to fight them. He came with them back through the tunnels and up from the hatch under the Christmas tree. Where our heroes discovered that today was Christmas day, which they had, with all the excitement, forgotten. The tree was lit up with the most amazing lights and the star at the top mesmerized Ray for a whole fifteen minutes.

Outside also waited a whole crew of vampires, setting up a stage and testing microphones. None of them seemed to notice them coming up.

Kati didn’t recognize any of them as Invictus. She grabbed one of them and asked, “What is going on here?”

A voice cut through the crowd; “Let me answer that!”

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Advent Tale XXII

Julian sped up when he heard voices. It did sound like the guy was giving Sam a tour, and Sam was listening and talking back. Good. Then at least she wasn’t hurt.

He came rushing just as the guy was telling her about the composition of earth that gave it its orange color, and the guy flickered his wrist and a dozen throwing stars came flying at Julian. He didn’t even stop talking meanwhile. Sam was a bit distracted, though, as Julian cried out in pain and stumbled to the ground.

The others caught up with them but were slowed down by the ease with which the guy had defeated Julian. Ray and Aiden hurried up and pulled Julian away some, and began plucking stars out of him.

“Now what is this?” the guy demanded. He was of middle length, dressed with stylish ease and with nothing but peach fuzz on his head.

“Leigh!” Benji shouted, stepping out and pointing with one dirty glove. “It’s not over yet! I have…” And he grabbed Melody’s arm to pull her up front with him, but she was quite finished with pretending and finally got to elbow him again.

“Release that girl now!” Aiden yelled.

“What?” Leigh said. “What are you talking about, release? She can go if she wants.” He turned towards Sam and held out a hand, showing her she could do as she liked. She hesitated.

Aiden, Kati and Melody tried to attack him when he wasn’t expecting it, but like with all good fighters he didn’t really have a time when he didn’t expect it. Even Ray who had snuck up invisible was struck back. They were all repelled again and again, and the chances for our heroes seemed slim.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Advent Tale XXI

Further down the road they stopped seeing any people. The tunnel grew wider into the size of a subway and weak light came from somewhere. This was simply a transport tunnel to get to other towns; they even saw one or two cars. Melody and Aiden took the front, since they were the ones who could take a first blow. Benji insisted he could, but no one was really sure if he could or if he just thought he could, so he walked in the back with Julian, Kati and Ray.

The tunnel walls were soggy here, the brown earth was almost orange and rocks littered their path; once or twice one fell from the roof. A weak sound was reaching them; echoes of someone in pain. The tunnels caught the sounds and amplified them, bouncing agony at them.

Soon they came upon the wounded. A werewolf, a young male who seemed to be in pretty bad shape. A skinny girl dressed in black was next to him, trying to get him on his feet.

“This is Elaine’s best?” Kati said.

“You’re from Elaine?” the guy on the ground groaned.

Kati nodded.

“The guy is further down. We ran, and he didn’t really follow. He’s showing a girl around, as if it’s some tour or something.”

“Sam!” Julian shouted and ran off.

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” Kati sighed and followed him.

“Thanks,” Aiden yelled back at the two young ones before the whole group took off.

“Be careful,” the skinny girl called to them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Advent Tale XX

Kati said they had to go back through the tunnels and take another way at the hub where they’d gotten separated, to get to where Elaine thought the guy would come from. Aiden really had no idea where they were anymore, so he just followed. It took some more walking before they were back, and this time they came out from one of the tunnels pretty high up, able to look down on everyone passing through below them. There weren’t a lot of people going about. But just as they were about to go down and continue, Aiden caught sight of a group of four. The person up front wasn’t anyone he knew, but the other three were familiar faces.

“Geronimo!” he yelled and jumped down right at them.

It seemed they had prepared a bit better for being attacked this time, because when he landed among them they didn’t run away. Instead Ray went invisible, Melody unfolded claws, and Julian hid behind her back.

Before anyone else had time to react, the guy Aiden didn’t know walked up to him and smacked his shoulder. “Nice!” he commented. “That sounded really fierce, man!” Then held out his hand. “Benji.”

They spent some time telling each other what had happened while they were separated, as well as warn Aiden that the next time he did that he’d get a pair of claws through his stomach. Then they extended that warning to Benji just to be sure.

And so they went on, stronger in numbers, south to confront Sam’s kidnapper.

Friday, December 19, 2008

An Advent Tale XIX

“Okay,” Julian said. “Let’s start this over.” He was crouching on the ground next to Benji, who was squatting and holding his chest. “Why are you challenging us in the first place?”

Benji made a face. “I need to catch up, y’know. The other guy is way ahead of me.”


“He’s got this great girl… I have to find someone like that too!”

“Who has what?”

“My rival!” He suddenly stood up and fisted a hand in the air, the pain forgotten and a new grin on his face. “He’s cheating, I’m sure of it! But I can still win!”

“Are you talking about the guy who kidnapped Sam?” Julian said. “It’s a competition?”

“Kidnapped?” Benji said. “Competition? Not really. But I want his job. The boss might put me ahead if I can bring a really great girl.” He spun around towards Melody. “So please come with me! You’re not dating one of these guys, so you might as well go with me!”

Seeing that he was about to get another elbow, Julian grabbed his shoulders and turned him around again. “This guy, could you take us to him?”

Benji snorted. “Why would I?”

“How about you get a date with Melody if you do?” Julian proposed.

Ray made Melody stand still and be quiet while Julian did his best to make the deal look more like an opportunity and less like the instant death he figured it might be. Benji thought about it. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll show you there if you pretend you’re with me at Christmas. Deal?” After some convincing Ray and Julian managed to get Melody to at least pretend to agree to pretend.

“I can’t help but get the feeling this guy got it all wrong,” Julian said.

Ray shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Advent Tale XVIII

“I have gotten some information about our enemy, though,” Elaine said. “His objective might be more complicated than what we anticipated. He may be working for someone else, and I don’t want to theorize on how powerful that person must be.”

“Someone else?” Kati said disbelievingly.

“Some say he’s working for someone on the other side of the ocean. Some up and rising Lancea Sanctum creep with megalomania. If that is true, and he is heading this way, it means he might be aiming at preparing this region for the Lancea Sanctum’s arrival. We’ve gone uncontested in this territory so long, I guess that was to be expected.”

“But what’s he doing?” Aiden asked. “If he’s only defending himself, and only travelling here and there, and not talking to anyone.”

“That’s what’s so evil about this plan!” Elaine explained. “No one can figure out how it’s supposed to come together! But no matter who he works for and what he wants, he’s made it quite clear that he’s hostile. And regardless, a mortal who knows about vampires is always unsettling. Anyway, if he’s coming this way like you said then he must be coming through the tunnels. It’s the easiest mode of transportation to go unnoticed. Large amounts of tunnels and not enough vampires to guard them.”

“He’ll come from the south.”

Elaine seemed thoughtful. “I sent some of my best that way on another mission, but I haven’t heard anything from them since.”

“Worth heading that way and take a look,” Kati said.

“Good suggestion,” Aiden agreed. “Let’s run right at the crazy vampire-killing mortal. May I also suggest we find the others first so that we can all die together?”

“They’ll be going that way too, to rescue Sam,” Kati said. “Come on now, let’s go.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Advent Tale XVII

Ray stared at the glove on the ground. Julian stared at Ray. And Melody took a step forward, quite deliberately stepping on the glove, and stared the grinning guy in the eyes.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked.

“Benji, at your service, ma’am,” the guy said and did an elegant bow.

“This is the guy Kati was looking for?” she said.

“I don’t see Sam,” Julian said, looking around.

“What the hell do you want?” Melody asked Benji.

“I just challenged him to a duel!” Benji said, pointing to Ray.

“Why?” Julian asked.

“For his woman, of course!”

“Shana?” Ray said, confused.

“So that’s your name!” Benji said, smiling at Melody. “Shana, that’s a great name.”

Julian felt that aura coming on again, that he’d felt the first time Melody opened the cottage door to him. She grew somehow, becoming frightening. Probably some vampire thing. Benji didn’t seem all that frightened, but he did stop smiling.

“Okay, stop,” Julian said. “This is Melody.”

Benji let the hint of confusion slip over his face. “Melody?” he said. Then he considered that some and finally seemed to think he’d sorted it out. He pulled off his other glove and hit Julian with it. “Aha! I challenge you!”

Melody elbowed him in the chest, which quite abruptly ended his challenge.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Advent Tale XVI

Aiden followed Kati through the door and came into what looked deceptively much like a regular office. If the walls hadn’t been of bare concrete it would really have looked like an office. Aiden stepped inside and admired the mahogany desk and the diplomas hung up on the walls.

Behind the mahogany desk stood an Asian woman with flowing black hair in a business suit, impeccably clean despite the location. She and Kati locked eyes and Aiden waited patiently while they sorted out their issues by trying to mind-control each other.

Once they were done, for the moment at least, the woman sat down in her leather chair with crossed legs. “Nice to have you back, miss Haines,” she said, looking at her desk.

“Nice to be back, miss Warren,” Kati answered, also staring at the desk.

“What have you been up to?”

“Some of the unaligned are willing to help us in finding him,” Kati told her. “And I spoke to the mage. She says he is heading this way. Have anything been up in the tunnels?”

“Yes,” said Elaine. Aiden knew her name was Elaine because it said so on the diplomas. “Some guy has been whisking around here. But it’s not the man we’re looking for, it’s someone else. Actually, I have no bloody idea what this other guy wants or who he is, but he’s been nothing but trouble, running around hitting on women and fighting most everyone that has come in his way. The difference is, he’s not winning.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Advent Tale XV

Julian had ended up with Ray and Melody. All three of them calmed down around the same time, and so also realized about the same time that they were irrevocably, indisputably lost, and this time with good reason. The tunnels split and curved everywhere and they didn’t know what was forward and what was back.

“I say we follow a wall,” Ray said. “If we always take right, we find our way out sooner or later. See, I can draw you this diagram…” And he started looking around for a stick to draw with.

“We don’t have time!” Julian wailed. “Who knows what Sam’s going through!”

“Shh,” Melody said. “There’s someone coming from behind us.”

Since there was really nowhere to hide in the small, empty tunnels, they all huddled together and waited. Coming around the corner, teeth gleaming in a wide smile, was a young vampire dressed in jeans and t-shirt even as it was the middle of winter.

“Whew,” he said. “You all ran off like that, I thought I wouldn’t find you.” He pulled off one fingerless, black glove, walked up to Ray and hit him in the face with it. Before the three’s confused eyes he then threw the glove on the ground. “There,” he declared. “I challenge you!”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Advent Tale XIV

Kati and Aiden came to their senses only to realize they were alone. The other three were gone, and even if Kati knew how to get back to their starting point, no one was there either. Their friends must be running around at random somewhere and it would be impossible to find them.

“They should be able to find their way out,” Kati said. “Eventually.”

“I guess,” Aiden said. “No cell phone reception down here either. So what do we do now?”

“What we were going to do in the first place,” Kati decided. “My boss lives down here, and she knows the tunnels like her own back pocket. I need to tell her what I found out, and maybe she’ll send out someone to find the others.”

“Very well,” Aiden said. “Lead the way, and if something else comes dropping down from the sky, let’s punch it instead of running. Seems like a better idea.”

“You punch it,” Kati said.

The odd pair walked on through the tunnels and entered an area where tunnel walls were exchanged for bricks and a number of doors appeared on each side. Aiden figured people lived here, mostly because some of them were walking around outside.

Kati went up to a door and knocked on it. “Boss,” she called. “I’m back!”

An Advent Tale XIII

Kati continued right up to the Christmas tree. Once they got close she kicked away some strategically placed snow. There was a hatch in the ground right at the foot of the tree. “It wasn’t always there,” Kati said, “who would be stupid enough to make the entrance to secret tunnels right in the middle of the town square? But after they put up the tree it makes for a stylish entrance. We’ll fill it once they move the tree away.”

And with that they opened the hatch and went down into the tunnels.

It was dark and damp down there, and just as cold as above ground. The tunnel was so tight that they had to crouch down and walk in a straight line behind each other. Aiden went last since he practically filled up the entire tunnel. It was dug out of hard earth and it was only because the ground was frozen that it didn’t collapse. Eventually it opened up into a room, higher than it was wide, with several tunnels leading out at different heights. These tunnels were much better reinforced and looked more permanent than the one they had come through. This appeared to be the nexus of the undergrounds. They saw no one else and everything was completely quiet.

Kati was just about to show them the way when they heard a loud shout; “Geronimo!” and something came flying from above. It landed right in the middle of them with a bright flash and a loud bang. Something screamed inside Julian’s head and red danger flashed in front of his eyes. One moment he was standing there, the next he’d ran several steps, and once that far gone he went on running. Someone was running in front of him, but he was vaguely aware of that some others had taken off in another direction. As he disappeared into the tunnels, he heard a disappointed voice calling from behind.

“Hey! Where did everybody go?”

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Advent Tale XII

“Thank you for your help,” Kati said, “I’ll have to tell my boss.” She stood up and carefully set the teacup away.

“I’ll come with you,” Julian hurried to say. “If Sam is with this guy, then I have to go too.”

“We’ll help you!” Ray cheered, backed up by heavy nodding from Aiden.

Since the purple clashed so horribly with her furniture, Shana refused to try her magic again. They said farewell and thank you to her, and she told them to come back anytime they wanted tea. The group walked out back into the old apartment building with the bent mailbox.

“Where are we going?” Julian asked. “What’s an Invictus?”

While the three cottage friends told him about vampire politics Kati led the way towards the middle of town. Invictus was the ruling political group, they said. Themselves, all three were unaligned, which meant they followed Invictus rules but didn’t give crap about politics. That’s why they lived far off in that cottage, Melody said. Other vampires had dug out tunnels and living space under town, pretty much living in a complex of underground-connected basements and cellars, since no building above ground was grand enough.

Kati led the way to the town square, where the Christmas tree was waiting, towering above all the other trees. Once the happy day came someone would turn on the light switch and it would explode in a sparkle and shine like nothing anyone had ever seen, that would distract Ray for hours.

At this time the square was empty and quiet. It was too cold for the homeless to be anywhere except in the vicinity of fire and too late for anyone else to be outside. Julian looked around and saw nothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Advent Tale XI

While Julian managed to spill his cup of tea and Ray tried to clean it up without Shana noticing, Kati told them her mission.

“Like I told you over the phone,” she said to Shana, “The Invictus are looking for this guy who’s been all over the vampire radar the last weeks. He’s killed everyone who came in his way. Traveled very pointedly down south, and then back up north lately. We still don’t know why or who he really is, but whatever he’s trying to do he must be stopped before he kills more of us.”

“Wow,” Aiden said, “that’s a powerful vampire.”

Kati shook her head. “That’s the thing. He’s not a vampire. As far as we know he’s just a mortal.”

“A hunter?”

“He hasn’t gone after anyone personally,” Kati said, “only defended himself. So, Shana, what can you do?”

“Like I said,” Shana said, “I’m on Ray’s side, and Ray is neutral, so I won’t help you go after anyone. But I can see if I can find him.” Once again Shana opened her book. Again purple energy spewed out. She quickly snapped the book shut, with her hand this time. “Damn. That’s strange.”

“What happened?” Kati demanded.

“Something is protecting him from my sight,” Shana said. “The strange thing is, the same thing happened with that girl Sam.” Julian perked up. “I think they’re in the same place.”

“He killed her!?!” Julian demanded.

“If he had killed her they wouldn’t be in the same place,” Shana said. “What I do know is that he’s coming this way. In a very straight line.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Advent Tale X

While Shana alone appreciated her tea, Julian came to understand that his newfound friends’ friendliness indeed wasn’t the result of the hallowed time of year, but rather his instinctual use of vampire powers. Once that was established, and the others had declared they would help him find Sam but would also kick his butt if he tried to do that again, attention turned back to Shana.

“Well, I’ll see if I can find her then,” Shana said, setting her empty cup aside.

The book on the table snapped shut and Shana closed her eyes and mumbled a few words. Another book came flying to her and she flipped through it, still with her eyes closed. The room seemed to shrink on them and the air became heavy. Julian thought he could se swirls of pink energy emanating from the book. Halfway the energy changed color into a sickening purple clashing horribly with the red cashmere and blue silk.

Then Shana opened her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said, waving her hands to chase the purple color away. “Locating people is difficult, but vampires are almost impossible. I can tell you’re not from around here, though. You came from down south, many nights ago. Fleeing from something, or someone.”

“And Sam didn’t come with me?”

“Not as far as I can tell.”

“Well,” said the woman who had brought them there, “if you’re done, can I have a moment.”

“You came to see Shana too?” Aiden asked.

“Obviously,” the woman said. “Why else would I have taken you here.” She stood and held out a hand to Shana. “I’m Kati. I called, remember?”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Advent Tale IX

“Thank you,” Julian said, “but we’re kind of in a hurry. I have to find Sam. She’s my girlfriend, she was with me when…” A cup of tea came levitating towards him and he took it out of pity. Teacups weren’t supposed to levitate. “Well, I don’t know what happened,” he finished. The cup was warm and he tried to warm his hands. Otherwise the tea smelled suspicious, and he wasn’t yet sure if vampires could drink tea, so he decided not to try drinking it. No one but Shana tasted either.

“Please describe her,” Shana said and gestured for him to sit down. He shook his head because his clothes were all dirty and full of snow, but she insisted, so he sat down on the edge of the seat of a dining room chair with a blue silk pillow on.

“She’s blonde, about this long, and skinny,” he said. “Her name is Samantha… and she’s a vampire. I think. I mean, we think, I don’t know. I, um, last thing I remember I wasn’t one, and I was with her, so I guess…” by now Shana was staring down into her teacup and didn’t seem to listen so he changed course. “Please, if you can help me…”

“Yes, yes,” Shana said, “of course I help a friend of Ray’s. No need to try and awe me.”

“Do what?” Julian said and saw the other cast glances on him with narrowing eyes. “Err… sorry?”

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Advent Tale VIII

Her apartment was the third on the second floor. It said S. Fields on a little sign next to the door. “So since a mage isn’t a vampire,” Ray explained to Julian. “She lives like normal people do. But she’s not quite normal either.”

“You’ll see,” Melody told him and rung the doorbell.

The door swung open but there was no one to be seen inside. Ray walked in first as if he owned the place, and the others followed, one by one. Aiden politely invited the woman to come with them inside and was surprised when she said yes. Julian was the last one to enter. It was odd, because the apartment really looked larger from the inside. In fact, it even had stairs leading to a second floor, and the windows overlooked some kind of sea or ocean. The door slammed shut behind him and he jumped of surprise.

The hallway led them into a large living room with hand-woven carpets on the floor and paintings of landscapes on the walls. One entire wall was occupied by bookshelves; shelf after shelf with books no less than half a decimeter across the back. In a red cashmere sofa sat a blonde woman with her head bent over a book. The pages were flipping themselves.

She looked up when they entered and smiled to welcome them. “Ray,” she said. “How nice, you brought friends. Would you all like some tea?”

“Maybe later,” Ray said. “This is Julian, and…”

After the initial greetings were over Shana returned to the tea. “It’s not tea-time, I know,” she said, “but it’s always night here in case Ray wants to come visit. So we might as well call it tea-time and have some tea.”

Sors, no pic, I messed up dates and numbers XP calendaring is difficult stuffs, must know numbers 1 to 24 :o

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Advent Tale VII

Melody went and came back in the exact same manner, only madder once she realized what had happened. Aiden didn’t want to try. So after some bickering Julian went. He walked up to the woman like the others had done, but while still at some distance he said, “Excuse me, we’d really like some help, if it’s not too much to ask.”

The woman stared at him, but then she said, “Fine, what?”

He smiled with relief. Everyone was so nice to him, he didn’t quite understand why. His earlier excuse of Christmas spirit was beginning to sound a little too childish. “You wouldn’t know where a woman named Shana lives, would you?” he asked.

“Sure I do,” the woman said.

“Really? Could you tell us?” Meanwhile the others had joined him, having gained confidence from his success. “Ray seems to have gotten lost.”

“Lost? In a town with one main street, you got lost?” the woman said disbelievingly. “Fine, I’ll show you the way since you seem incapable of navigating straight roads.”

She started walking, and the others followed even if Aiden had to talk both Melody and Ray into coming quietly.

“I’m Julian,” Julian told the woman, walking up front with her.

“Really,” she said.

“Uh… well… you haven’t seen a girl, have you? About this tall, blonde…?”

“No,” she said without looking.

“Well, we’re looking for Shana because these guys tell me she might know where…”

The woman stopped and he stopped talking. She turned towards him and he half expected to tell him to shut up, but she said, “We’re here.”

They had arrived at a run down apartment building where Ray immediately recognized the tilted mailbox and declared this must be where Shana lived.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

An Advent Tale VI

“Hm,” Aiden said. “We could ask that person over there.” He was watching a lone woman standing in the shadow between two light-coiled poles. She looked largely innocuous, brown haired, wearing jeans and a winter jacket, but she was one of them. Julian was beginning to understand how to know these sorts of things. It was still overwhelming to think of what he had become, but finding Sam was much more important than that. Even if he had some questions he’d like to ask her, once he did find her.

“Alright,” Ray said and began walking towards the woman.

Ray approached the woman briskly and head on. Most often others of the kin were far more likely to resort to violence if they felt as if they had been snuck up on, so he preferred the open method. He went up to her with a smile and waving his hand in a friendly manner. Just as he opened his mouth she stared him in the eyes and spoke one word, very articulately.


He turned around and walked back to the others. They were looking at him funny.

“What? Weren’t you going to ask her?” Aiden asked.

“Um,” he said, trying to figure out why he hadn’t. “Yes. Sure.” Tried to turn back and changed his mind again. “You do it,” he told Melody.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Advent Tale V

The group of four turned to the east and walked on. After not as long as Julian would have expected they reached a road, and following that road the forest grew less dense and houses started appearing as dots of red among the black and white. He must have walked right past that road and missed it. Forgivable, remembering how dark the winter night was, and that the road lights were turned off.

“Odd,” Aiden commented. “To turn off the lights at the darkest time of the year. Quite impractical, if I may say.”

The houses heralded the coming of a town, that would have appeared completely abandoned had it not been for all the lights, in windows, in trees, following roads and adorning bushes and poles. Even in the middle of the night the town was sparkling.

Ray led the way but after a few blocks he slowed down and began looking around with a suspiciously confused look to him. Another few blocks and he stopped completely. “Um,” he said, still looking around. “I think we should have taken that other road.”

“Really?” Aiden said.

“Um, yes, probably,” Ray said.

“You’re lost.” Melody stated. “How many times have you gone to visit her, and you’re lost.”

Ray held out his hands. “It hasn’t been this shiny before! All these lights distract me.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Advent Tale IV

Julian wasn’t really sure how this had happened, but he had borrowed a warm black coat from the man called Aiden, who apparently had a whole stash of warm black coats. He was walking through the forest again, through the dark and the silence, but this time accompanied by three others. He didn’t really know them, but something told him that Ray would do whatever he could to help, and the others would follow. Maybe it was because it soon was Christmas.

“What happened to your Sam?” Aiden asked.

Julian thought back, but his mind went blank somewhere along the way. “I… don’t remember,” he said.

“Tell us about her, then,” Ray suggested.

“We met some time back, things just happened,” Julian remembered. “I’ve gone to her place every night since.” Something slowly dawned to him. “Every… night…”

The other three exchanged glances.

“I… I don’t think I’ve ever seen her during the day… but that’s ridiculous. She’s small.” He held up a hand to show the measurements. “And… young. She’s not a vampire. Vampires are tall and dressed in red and…”

“Stupid, apparently,” Melody added. “If they all walk around looking distinctively vampiric. Hard to blend in, wouldn’t you think?”

Julian went silent and thoughtful.

“Well, since it is soon Christmas,” Melody went on, “I suppose we could return the pet to the master.”

“But I’ve never heard of a small, blonde vampire girl around here,” Ray said.

“Hm, maybe we should ask someone,” Aiden said.

“Yes!” Ray said and lit up like a candle. “Of course! Shana knows a lot of things! She might know something useful!”

“Is she one of us too?” Julian asked.

“A mage,” Melody said. “Quite some difference.”

“Then isn’t this a bit late to go visit?”

Melody just smiled. “No sleep for the wicked,” she said.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An Advent Tale III

Ray yawned and stretched and went out into the living room to see if someone else was bored, and was met by the sight of Melody arguing with some young man he’d never seen before. She was trying to explain the concept of vampirism and that it was indeed real, but the less the guy understood the more agitated she got until it sounded more like a fight. Ray decided to make an attempt at breaking in.

“Hi,” he said, walking over and holding out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve met.”

The man turned towards him and, with heartbreaking desperation, said: “I need help!”

Ray stopped. “Okay?”

“This is Julian,” Melody said and explained the situation as far as she knew.

“You want us to take you to a city?” Ray asked.

Julian shook his head so that flakes of frost and snow flew off of him and started melting in little puddles on the floor. “I have to find Sam! My girlfriend, I have to find her.”

Ray seemed to think for a moment. Then he shrugged and nodded. “Okay.” Melody took a deep breath. Ray did the same, but called out: “Aiden!”

Out from another of the little bedrooms of the cottage came a giant of a man, completely dressed in black, peeking in through the doorway as if he was extremely busy elsewhere. “What’s all this yelling about?” he demanded.

“Julian wants us to go find his friend Sam,” Ray said and patted Julian’s shoulder.

Aiden thought for a moment and then, too, shrugged and nodded. “Okay.” He left his doorway and started looking around for shoes. “Where are we looking first?” he asked, pulling on his black coat.

While Ray said he didn’t really know and maybe Julian had an idea, Melody sighed and watched with a growing sense of coming disaster as they made plans about making plans. “Could this maybe wait until tomorrow night?” She asked. “Besides, we don’t know who this guys is, it might be a trap. And how long has he walked anyway? And he hasn’t eaten in forever…” But it was useless because the three men were already going out the door.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Advent Tale II

The woman’s eyes scanned the man in front of her from his head to his toes and he retreated slightly and pulled his thin clothes tighter around himself. “Who are you?” she demanded. He was only slightly taller than herself, and pale and ill dressed both considering the weather and, well, everything else. On top of that he was stiff like a corpse from the cold. A miserable sight.

“I’m… my name is Julian,” he said and threw a longing eye into the warmth of the cottage.

Since he didn’t go on she sighed and let him in. “I’m Melody,” she said. “I have no idea how you got here through the snow, but you better have a good reason for invading our privacy.”

“Our?” he said and looked around. The cottage was hardly something to be proud of, small and scarcely furnished with a few shelves, sofas and tables, nothing on the walls. Any number of people could have lived there, from one to ten.

She didn’t answer that. “I thought you came to meet Ray? He knows a lot of strange people,” she said instead.

“I don’t really know where I am,” Julian said. “I, I don’t know what happened. I’ve been walking through the forest for days. You haven’t seen someone else have you? A woman, blonde, um, short?”

“Nope,” Melody answered.

“Oh,” he said and looked sad.

“Maybe she’s dead,” she said. “If she wasn’t turned, in this cold, she wouldn’t make it.”

What she said seemed to upset him, but he focused on what he didn’t understand rather than what he did. “Turned?”

“Please, I’m not stupid,” Melody said. “You must have fed since you turned or you wouldn’t have made it so far. You’re one of us. The kindred.” When he still looked confused she sighed, walked off to a bookcase and came back with a book, blood red. She held it in front of him and, with a bored sneer, clarified; “A vampire.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Advent Tale I

The winter night was dark and cold. The first snow had covered the land in a dampening blanket and rested beneath the pine trees like a gray beast lurking on the living, waiting to swallow them into its freezing belly. Through this black and white landscape came a single figure walking, the air around him having crystallized into glittering frost against his clothes and skin. His back was bent and his movements were stiff, but there burned determination in his eyes and nothing in the world could have stopped him from taking one more step forward… and then another one.

His walk through the endless forest hade been long and hard, but this night he lifted his gaze from the snow to see lights in the distance. A little cottage daring the cold in the middle of nowhere. Empowered by this welcome sight he went on and arrived after some time on its doorstep. Just as he lifted a hand to knock the door was opened and before him stood a young woman. She was lean and beautiful with short chestnut hair, but there was something distinctively dangerous about her. The way she stood tall in front of him, the way she met his eyes. He let out the first breath that had come out of him in days, but there was no heat left in him to turn it into a cloud of mist.

And so it began.