The mansion was impressive, but Richie, it appeared, wasn't there to admire the architecture. Several of Julian's security people tried to stop him outside the house, and Frank just trailed on behind past the unconscious bodies. He wasn't quite sure what he was following, but now he was very sure Richie was no ordinary Kindred, and he also knew that Richie was not in a particularly good mood. The pair walked into the hallway unchallenged.
It was Cash who strolled out of one of the interior rooms, looked somewhat surprised and decided to take on his role as chief of security.
"The Prince is not available this evening," the Gangrel said in a very restrained tone; Frank was surprised since he had seen Cash overreact to threats to Luna. "How did you get in here?"
"Funny, that's what everyone's been trying to tell me," the Immortal shot back. "Thing is, I don't believe you anymore than I believed them."
Frank watched Cash's metaphorical hackles go up.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave," Cash told them in a tone that suggested future violence if not obeyed.
If it had been up to Frank, he would have been leaving, pride or no pride. Richie on the other hand didn't look as if Cash was even worth his notice. Cash didn't seem to realise was that this was the man everyone had been looking for over the last few days. Frank would have been happy to explain, but he knew he wasn't going to have time. Short was not quite the word for Richie's fuse this evening and as Richie's mood became blacker, his Russian accent was becoming thicker; probably why Cash hadn't picked up on who he was looking at.
There was virtually no warning when Richie finally decided he'd had enough and no way for Cash to get out of the way. The far wall was very hard, and after colliding with it, Cash found that the floor became a very convenient place to go to sleep for a while.
"You know, just talking to them might get you somewhere," Frank commented as they proceeded further into the house.
"I'm not interested in lackeys," was the cold but calm reply. "If you want action, you go to the centre of power."
There was definitely a slightly patronising tone to the voice, but Frank chose not to comment. He figured he'd be better staying on Richie's good side since humans had a tendency to break a little more easily than Kindred. The two pushed opened the doors to the conference room and walked in as if they owned the place. They didn't find Luna, but they did meet Daedelus.
"Good evening, gentlemen," the Nosferatu said calmly, "you have a great number of people looking for you, Mr Ryan."
Daedelus was well ahead of the game as ever, it seemed.
"It's nice to be wanted," Richie responded evenly. "Where's Luna?"
The other Kindred smiled, and Frank suspected that Daedelus knew something out of the ordinary when he saw it, but he also thought that Daedelus found Richie interesting rather than threatening.
"Our Prince is in his study," the Nosferatu replied as if he was not bothered by Richie's presence in the slightest. "I'll tell him you're here if you wouldn't mind waiting."
"Don't bother, I'll go myself," patience was obviously not one of the Immortal's current virtues.
Richie moved off as if he knew exactly where he was going and Frank thought that possibly Richie did, but that did not mean Deadalus was going to let him. Richie found his way blocked by a very large, menacing vampire and Frank decided the night was going downhill. Deadalus could be very scary.
"I'm afraid I must insist that you wait here," Daedelus said in as pleasant tone as was possible given the circumstances, "I'm sure Mr Luna will not keep you waiting long."
Now Frank knew a little of the Nosferatu reputation and this was the Primogen of the clan, he didn't think going against him was a good idea. Taking on a pack of Brujah was one thing, but this was *the* Daedelus, taking him on was pure stupidity.
"Ah, Richie," he said, hoping that he could talk some sense into his companion, "let's just sit down, huh. The chairs look comfortable and I'm sure Julian won't be long."
"I'm not in the mood to sit down," the Immortal said coldly, Russian accent very heavy now.
Richie's eyes changed colour dangerously, but all Daedelus did was smile. The Nosferatu let his own Kindred face reveal itself and two vampires stared into each other's gaze and Frank wondered if backing away slowly would be better for his health. Richie scowled at the creature who blocked his way, scowled and stared down the Primogen of the Nosferatu clan and came out sane. Frank was vaguely impressed in a terrified, this is getting out of hand, kind of way.
"What are you?" Daedelus asked and seemed to be very surprised by what he was looking at.
From what he had seen, Frank thought it took a lot to shock a Nosferatu, but Richie appeared to have managed it. Daedelus, it seemed, decided that Richie was a real threat, because as Frank watched, the Kindred let all the traits of his clan appear, and fangs and claws became readily apparent.
"Wanna play?" Richie enquired, seemingly totally unafraid of the display of power.
The games were over, this was for real and Frank did step back as Nosferatu met Toreador. Deadelus threw out a clawed hand and grabbed Richie by the throat, as far as Frank could tell, intent on exposing the jugular and giving a clear strike to drain Richie. The only thing was, the grip didn't hold.
Daedelus found his arm being slowly pulled away from its target, and Richie reciprocated the gesture. Richie literally snarled at his opponent as unnatural strength battled with unnatural strength. By the looks of it, for the first time Daedelus doubted his own ability to force this anomaly into submission, and Frank stepped back further as Daedelus put all his power into one throw.
Richie went sidewards a good five feet and collided with a chair, but he was still upright, and seemed to be actually enjoying himself. He used Toreador speed to very good effect, and Daedelus found himself at close quarters again almost instantly. Material ripped as both Kindred went for handholds on their opponent, and the roar of an angry Nosferatu filled the room. Frank wasn't sure who was winning.
The Immortal gained the upper hand this time and Daedelus went flying through the air just like Cash before him and the picture he landed against followed him to the floor, but the Nosferatu did not stay down. What climbed to his feet bore little resemblance to the calm, efficient Daedelus Frank vaguely knew. This was Daedelus at his most dangerous, and Frank thought it might be time to leave. Daedelus threw the wrecked canvas aside and growled his anger.
"Stop this," the command was loud and held the roar of authority, just as the two were ready to go for each other again.
Frank almost jumped out of his skin at the sound and turned to see Luna standing by an open door. When he glanced back at Richie and Deadelus the command actually seemed to have shocked the pair out of the rage that was quickly taking over both of them, but two sets of golden eyes were looking at the Prince of the city.
"Well, well," Richie said coldly, "the man himself."
Frank remained very still, just in case as Luna scanned the room slowly and took in the destruction that had occurred, however, most of Luna's attention seemed to be on the creature standing in the centre of the carpet. It was quite obvious that Luna recognised that the combination of Immortal and Kindred had produced something very unusual indeed.
"We've been looking for you," Luna said in what sounded to Frank like a completely calm tone. "You didn't have to assault every one between here and the gate; you are quite welcome in my house."
It seemed Luna had chosen the civil approach which made Frank relax a little, but he was sure that the claws would come out if necessary.
"They didn't seem to think so," Richie returned, also appearing to calm down.
It was at that moment Cash decided to stagger through the door and came to a rapid halt as he saw what had been going on. Frank almost felt sorry for the Kindred in the room; they clearly didn't know quite what was happening.
"Your friend, Duncan MacLeod, has been worried about you," Luna said in what Frank thought was meant to be a soothing way. "I can give him a call if you like."
The name brought an astounding change over Richie, so much so that Frank thought he was seeing things for a minute. Richie had not allowed his eyes to fade to their normal blue, but at the mention of MacLeod Richie blinked and they lost their supernatural colouring.
"Mac," Richie said slowly, seeming almost confused.
Now this was the person Frank remembered letting sleep on his couch. The accent was gone and so was most of the aggression. Something made all the Kindred look at each other as well and then Frank saw a blue spark lance across Richie's eyes and that seemed to settle it. It was as if all strength just leaked out of Richie, and he collapsed to his knees with his head in his hand.
Nobody moved and Frank wondered what would happen next as Luna watched the whole thing with a very calculating gaze. Daedelus' mask of logical reason was back in place as well and Cash appeared to want to do something, but was waiting for instructions. Frank just wanted someone to explain things.
It was confused, almost frightened eyes that looked around the room, and Frank had the feeling he was looking at the real Richie Ryan. The only person Richie appeared to recognise properly was him as he glanced at everyone else.
"Frank," Richie said quietly, "how did I get here?"
It was then Luna chose to take charge.
"Do you remember anything that's been happening," Luna asked almost kindly and walked towards the kneeling individual.
Frank had seen Luna be cold and ruthless, but the Prince seemed to be in a compassionate and kind mood. Luna helped Richie to his feet, much, it seemed, to Cash's growing concern, and sat him in a chair.
"Bits," Richie responded slowly, "I was at Frank's place, then I remember something at the Haven, but I don't know what I'm doing here."
An insane Kindred probably wasn't the best person to have around, and Frank was beginning to think Richie wasn't quite all there, but Luna seemed concerned rather than worried.
"That's not important now," Luna told Richie with half a smile, "you're newly embraced, and that takes some getting used to."
Frank didn't think it usually did this to people, but he was no expert, so he just kept his mouth shut.
"Do you know where you've been for the last couple of days?" Luna asked calmly as Lillie entered the room silently behind Richie.
The Immortal shook his head, and then frowned as if trying to bring back an elusive memory.
"Paints," Richie said slowly, "all I remember is, there were paints."
Given that there were a large population of Lillie's clan in the city, Frank wasn't sure that narrowed it down anymore than the fact Richie was Toreador did.
"How about who did this to you?" Luna didn't sound as if he expected a sensible answer.
Richie just looked blank.
"It has to have been Andre," Lillie chose then to enter the conversation and she walked round to get a better look at the man who had so recently wrecked part of her club. "I should have realised earlier. He hasn't been around since this one disappeared, I just assumed he was creating something, until I was informed what had walked into the Haven this evening. Andre took an interest at the club the other night, I didn't think he'd go this far."
Again a name caused a reaction in Richie and his eyes changed colour again for a moment, but quickly flashed back to their normal blue.
"Didn't want to loose me," was what Richie said in an almost dreamlike voice, as if he had no idea where the thought came from.
"Do you know where he is now?" Luna asked, apparently wanting as many answers as possible before Richie lost what lucidity he had.
There was real concentration on Richie's face as he tried to, but whatever was causing his confusing seemed to be too great.
"I don't know," Richie said finally, "there are just these big blanks."
The Prince looked up at Cash and the Gangrel disappeared, Frank assumed to go and check on Andre's known haunts. Frank didn't know what normal practice for Kindred was, but he couldn't help wondering if Andre had had his just deserts at Richie's hand.
"Why don't you wait in the other room," the Prince suggested calmly, "we have some business to deal with, and it looks like you could do with some rest. There's a large couch in there and Daedelus will show you the way. If there's anything you need, just ask."
Richie didn't even try to protest, and Frank was reminded of the morning when he had run into Richie at the café. As Daedelus helped him to his feet, Richie just went, the aggression of earlier completely absent. It was almost eerie.
Julian was not used to running into things he just fundamentally did not understand, but Richard Ryan was a shock. As Daedelus led the new Kindred away, he could hear the young man's heart beating in a slow, steady rhythm. It wasn't at normal human speed, but it was definitely beating. While they waited for the Nosferatu to return, he indicated that they should all take seats; this was going to take some discussing. Frank was the only one who didn't sit and took to pacing around nervously.
"He found a pencil and paper on the table," Daedelus observed calmly on his return, "and appears totally absorbed in drawing pictures of you."
Daedelus looked directly at Lillie, but she said nothing.
"He did that at my place," Frank commented and paused in his pacing. "He's been with me all day, and take it from me, he has no problem with daylight."
"Why didn't you bring him straight here, Frank?" Julian asked and managed to make it sound almost like it wasn't an accusation.
Frank looked unhappy by the tone of the question, bit that was nothing new.
"I would have done, but he didn't want to come," Frank shot back, "and if you expected me to argue with him, you have to be mad. I like being alive."
It was a sensible argument and Julian decided that maybe Frank had had no choice. At least everything seemed to be going their way for now.
"Okay," he said calmly, "but what I want to know is what has Andre created with his meddling? There is power in our new associate that cannot come from any source I know."
There were ways that Kindred could increase their individual abilities other than just surviving, but not to the extent that they could take on a Nosferatu after just days. It was Daedelus to whom all eyes turned.
"I cannot explain the source of his prowess," Daedelus said evenly, "but I will say that I believe it is fading; in the few moments for which I was in contact with him, I believe I actually felt his abilities diminish. It was only marginal, but it was definitely there."
Daedelus looked at the other two Kindred thoughtfully.
"I had thought the stories I had heard of other eternal beings to be legend until proof of their existence was shown to me," the Nosferatu continued calmly. "Since they actually exist it is logical to assume that the tales I once heard are not all fiction either. If so it would seem that to combine an Immortal and a Kindred would be to try and pair direct opposites. *They* are fundamentally alive, *we* are fundamentally dead, I would hazard a guess that by his very nature, Mr Ryan cannot be one of us. I would therefore go as far as saying, I believe he is becoming human again. I cannot say how long it will take, but I would suggest we keep him here until the truth of the matter is revealed."
Daedelus never spoke unless he meant it, so Julian just accepted what his friend said. He nodded and arched his fingers, tapping his lips thoughtfully as he considered the situation.
"That leaves the mystery of how it is he feels like a Toreador of more than a few centuries," he said slowly. "Even if this problem finds its own solution, I would still like to know how it came about. This is something we do not want to happen again."
The others nodded in agreement, even Frank could see the sense in that. Unfortunately for him, his beeper chose just the wrong moment to go off.
"Damn," he said loudly and then looked at Julian. "Can I use your phone?"
The Ventrue half smiled, but nodded as well. It seemed like such a normal event amidst what had been complete chaos. There was a lot of talking to be done, and Julian expected trouble from Cameron's direction, thanks to what Richie had done to the Brujah. As the cop disappeared through the door, he called the meeting to order once more.
Cash was on edge, given that he had just met a, reportedly, three day old Kindred who had kicked his ass and he didn't like what he found at Andre's apartment. There were no signs of life as he and two of his most trusted clan mates walked up the stairs to the penthouse. It was only as they came through the last floor door, into what was almost a lobby that anything untoward became apparent. Lillie's money paid for private security and no nosy neighbours, but even so it was usually wise to shut the front door. The three Gangrel headed for the inner sanctum swiftly and silently with Cash in the lead.
They were met by an utter mess: there was furniture every where, and spots of paint over just about everything, almost as if someone had thought to create a work of art. There was a strange order in the chaos and even as Cash looked, he found his eyes dragged to the centre of the room where they immediately saw the major exhibit.
On a table in front of a very large canvas, Andre was lying, sprawled over the surface with a paintbrush sticking out of his heart. If it hadn't been quite so serious a matter it might actually have been funny: an Artiste, paralysed by his own tools. Ryan had not stopped there, however, at least Cash assumed it had to have been Ryan, and he thought that had been Toreador he might have admired the workmanship. Andre had had most of his blood drained via a slit in the side of his neck, but his childe had not used it to bolster his own power. Instead, in his rage and, what Cash was pretty sure was madness, Ryan had used it to create, and on the canvas was a tonal study of Lillie and Andre in a less than innocent pose.
The blood painting was perfect, down to the finest detail, but that really wasn't what was on Cash's mind as he hurried to the side of the prone vampire. He didn't even hesitate as he gripped and pulled out the wooden shaft, releasing Andre from paralysis. He expected a show of anger, even though the Toreador would be weak from lack of blood, but that wasn't what happened.
"My god, he's magnificent," were the first words out of the Andre's mouth.
The helpless creature had been lying there all day, and his first sentence was in praise of the Kindred who had done this to him. Cash wondered if Toreadors were actually as mad as Malcavians, they just didn't show it as much.
"It was incredible," Andre insisted with all the strength he had left, "he was so powerful. And this," he turned to the canvas and actually smiled, "has so much creativity. It's breathtaking."
At that Cash decided he would never understand his Toreador cousins, and chose to just get on with things. He had a feeling Andre was lucky to be alive, but he wasn't going to comment.
"The Prince would like to see you," he said evenly, "we have a car downstairs."
The older vampire didn't seem to really hear him, he appeared entranced by the painting, but he had no strength to resist when he was politely herded towards the door.
"Stay here and make sure no-one disturbs anything," Cash told one of his companions, "I think Mr Luna will want to see this."
Then he took his charge out of the apartment, and left his associate with the somewhat disturbing painting.
There had been no measure of time as far as Richie was concerned as he sat by the window and drew on the pad that he had found. He had no understanding of his need to create, and before Andre, would have claimed no ability either. The pencil seemed to have a mind of its own, and he was actually quite content as he produced a miniature portrait of the Primogen of his clan. She was beautiful and he found he liked beautiful things.
As he drew he was completely focused on what he was creating. It was the only thing that seemed to matter as he strived to capture the beauty of his Primogen. Why he was doing it didn't matter, only that he was and he worked carefully on every detail. He had seen her only three times, each briefly, but her features were engrained into his memory as if his blood recognised her and wanted him to remember. The way her hair fell beside her face and the soft curve of her lips; it all had to be perfect.
It was only as he finished his creation that he found his outlook had changed once again.
He smiled to himself, once more in the grip of Kindred passions and gazed around with vampire senses. No heart beat sounded in his chest, and the night filled his mind.
It was not the angry want of power which drove him now, but it seemed to be a fusion of childlike wonder and a taste for freedom. He really had little idea what he was doing, but without hesitating, he put the picture aside. Standing he walked to the French doors that led out onto a small patio and opened them. The smell of the city drifted to his nose and the little sounds called to him. It never occurred to him that staying put might be a good idea. Walking onto the patio he flexed his powers of shape-changing for the first time and took to the wing. Nobody noticed the eagle which soared over the garden as if it had been born to the sky.
End of Part 5