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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Specialist290

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Well, now we have some (very rough) idea of the Master's provenance. Given the nature of vampirism, I wouldn't be surprised if he was a contemporary of Zoroaster (if not even older still), which if the usual rules apply means that he must be prodigiously powerful himself.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Dealing with a serious player here. Quite possible that in his/its time, it has run continents and empires behind the curtains. At this point in...existence I suppose will have to suffice, he is so powerful that everything must seem a little inconsequential. Aside from ensuring humanity doesn't die off, he doesn’t have many interests or weaknesses, save apathy. Reticent desire to keep Alvert alive no matter the mission indicates apathy is starting or already has taken over a bit. He doesn't have the desire to raise another lieutenant.

In fact, the only thing that seems to interest him personally, since otherwise his organisation seems to run itself, is the appearance of new blood, and other strains of vampirism that are headed by, presumably, his peers. There are some hints that there is something that he swears by, whether that be a renowned elder such as himself or something even higher on the food chain...

All very interesting.
 

El Pip

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I had been wondering how such an ancient organisation was not more powerful, but this last update was illuminating. The utter refusal to ever issue a clear instruction, state what is required or just explain anything means all the Lord's minions are constantly thrashing about in confusion and having to guess what his latest cryptic statement means. Obviously they get things wrong and that is why his schemes fail.

Then again, reconciling the Zoroastrianism aim of becoming an Ashavan with being a Vampire probably requires a great deal of mental gymnastics, euphemism, weird thinking and outright denial. At that point being cryptic and baffling becomes a survival trait, regardless of the consequences.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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I had been wondering how such an ancient organisation was not more powerful, but this last update was illuminating. The utter refusal to ever issue a clear instruction, state what is required or just explain anything means all the Lord's minions are constantly thrashing about in confusion and having to guess what his latest cryptic statement means. Obviously they get things wrong and that is why his schemes fail.

Then again, reconciling the Zoroastrianism aim of becoming an Ashavan with being a Vampire probably requires a great deal of mental gymnastics, euphemism, weird thinking and outright denial. At that point being cryptic and baffling becomes a survival trait, regardless of the consequences.
My thought was that he already did everything he wanted to do over the last few thousand years with unlimited unchecked power etc, and now he's coasting for a bit looking for something else to do...
 

stnylan

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Was that a Sumerian inflection to the conversation at the end, there? Just what manner of ancient power are we dealing with (the eternal question, I know.)
One of my greatest regrets of my younger life is that I didn't try to learn cuneiform - or more accurately at least one of the languages written in cuneiform. One maintains an awareness though.

Well, now we have some (very rough) idea of the Master's provenance. Given the nature of vampirism, I wouldn't be surprised if he was a contemporary of Zoroaster (if not even older still), which if the usual rules apply means that he must be prodigiously powerful himself.
Well Zoroaster's dates are notoriously uncertain, but the oldest range of potential "serious" dates are I think latter Bronze Age. However, power is a fickle thing - to use a more modern example think Kodak in around 2000.

Dealing with a serious player here. Quite possible that in his/its time, it has run continents and empires behind the curtains. At this point in...existence I suppose will have to suffice, he is so powerful that everything must seem a little inconsequential. Aside from ensuring humanity doesn't die off, he doesn’t have many interests or weaknesses, save apathy. Reticent desire to keep Alvert alive no matter the mission indicates apathy is starting or already has taken over a bit. He doesn't have the desire to raise another lieutenant.

In fact, the only thing that seems to interest him personally, since otherwise his organisation seems to run itself, is the appearance of new blood, and other strains of vampirism that are headed by, presumably, his peers. There are some hints that there is something that he swears by, whether that be a renowned elder such as himself or something even higher on the food chain...

All very interesting.
Certainly he is now far removed from his human mortality.

I had been wondering how such an ancient organisation was not more powerful, but this last update was illuminating. The utter refusal to ever issue a clear instruction, state what is required or just explain anything means all the Lord's minions are constantly thrashing about in confusion and having to guess what his latest cryptic statement means. Obviously they get things wrong and that is why his schemes fail.

Then again, reconciling the Zoroastrianism aim of becoming an Ashavan with being a Vampire probably requires a great deal of mental gymnastics, euphemism, weird thinking and outright denial. At that point being cryptic and baffling becomes a survival trait, regardless of the consequences.
I did not consciously think about it this way, but you hit upon something that has definite merit. He is so far removed from his subordinates that what seems obvious to him, and what seems like clear communication to him, may be anything but to those he instructs. Of course, the more capable will grow adept at interpretating his remarks.

As for power....

My thought was that he already did everything he wanted to do over the last few thousand years with unlimited unchecked power etc, and now he's coasting for a bit looking for something else to do...
... it is all about what one's objectives are.
 

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Lady Parr
Lady Anne
Are there any more Ladies named for the wives of Henry VIII? Parr named such to distinguish from one of the other two Catherines? ;) Then again, there were two Anne’s as well ...o_O
A human might have swallowed. I have lost the instinct.
Disconcerting. Good line.
“I will give you a gift, something to occupy your time in your voyage. You may find it useful, now or later.”
What - or perhaps who - will it be?
for the first time tonight I feel unsettled.
Not the only one. Does a zombie apocalypse approach? Not World War 2 but Z instead?
 

Le Jones

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One of my greatest regrets of my younger life is that I didn't try to learn cuneiform - or more accurately at least one of the languages written in cuneiform. One maintains an awareness though.
Ok - mine was not risking all with Sarah H in my fresher's year but, y'know, each to his own.

I'm with @El Pip here, you do get a sense of the fog of war hitting communications. I'm not saying that we're Raglan and Cardigan, but you do feel the sense of disconnect, and as ever, exceptionally well written.
 
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stnylan

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Are there any more Ladies named for the wives of Henry VIII? Parr named such to distinguish from one of the other two Catherines? ;) Then again, there were two Anne’s as well ...o_O
Wouldn't that be a hoot!

Disconcerting. Good line.
Thank you.

What - or perhaps who - will it be?
Not the only one. Does a zombie apocalypse approach? Not World War 2 but Z instead?
Surely, given the subject matter, World War V?

Very true. The higher you are, the farther you can fall...
For someone on top of the world/
The view is not exactly clear

This story is going so well and keeps intriguing in every chapter

Congrats on your ACA win!
This story certainly deserved it
:):):):)
Thank you

Ok - mine was not risking all with Sarah H in my fresher's year but, y'know, each to his own.

I'm with @El Pip here, you do get a sense of the fog of war hitting communications. I'm not saying that we're Raglan and Cardigan, but you do feel the sense of disconnect, and as ever, exceptionally well written.
:)

I think disconnect is a very good term. Even within the span of a human generation someone in their 80s can have difficulty communicating effectively to someone in their teens. How greater than someone in their 800s with someone in their 100s, or greater divergence still.

All
So when I originally conceived this meeting I had it occur discreetly in its own locale, but when I had the idea of moving it to the quiet hours of the Blood Court I knew that was better. My aims here were thus:

(a) introduce another task for Albert on his travels
(b) having a second look at Albert's relationship with Mithras
(c) develop a little more how I want to portray Mithras in this tale
(d) lay the groundwork for some future developments, presuming they flower as I am hoping.

Mithras is a devilishly hard character to write about. Without going into specifics, he is a very old creature, far removed from his common mortality. In a very real sense he is alien. Adaptable to an extent - can speak English for example - but still very alien. The best potrayals of aliens in science fiction I know are by C J Cherryh - in particular the iduve of Hunter of Worlds, and her Chanurr books (I have yet to tackle the Foreigner series). To some extent that has been my example here.

I believe I have one more post and Chapter 1 will be done.
 
Eorhic II & The Past I - Nora - April 1859

stnylan

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Eohric II

My new owner does not set a fast pace, walking his horse gently through the dark and quiet streets. Beside me walk two guards. Perhaps they flank me in case I run, but what is the use of that? My new owner said my old owner had been wasteful with his treatment of me - what does that mean?

It is too much for my pain-numbed mind to think through.

The horse is of good stock, I can see that just by looking. Well-groomed, not overweight or underfed. Not, I think, meant for war. My new owner’s cloak is a fine-trimmed fur. A sharp stone jags into my foot through my wrapped rags, and I stumble. One of the guards pulls me upright and gives me a gentle push forward. My new owner looks behind at me, and glances down, and then looks forward again.

It is a long enough walk, but probably not that far given the slow pace, when we approach a small compound, the gate part-open, a man on watch. He calls in as he sees my new owner. The guards beside me shift as we enter the yard. A fair-sized space is enclosed, with a straggle of buildings abutting the wall - a stable, perhaps a warehouse, and some others. On one side of the compound is a fine, if not large, townhouse. A groom takes the bridle of my owner’s horse, and my owner dismounts.

I stand waiting. My owner looks at me, and then speaks to another attendant, who runs off to the stable. Yes, definitely a stable, the groom is taking the horse there now. A few moments later and a large, bleary-eyed man emerges. My owner walks over to him, and they exchange some words. My owner points at me, and the man makes an obeisance. Turning his head to survey the whole area, my owner then strides over to the house, whilst the large man walks to me.

He is truly large - tall and broad both. When he speaks his voice almost rumbles. “So, you’re the new boy. What’s your name?”

“Eohric,” I reply.

“Hmm,” the man peers down on me - my head is barely higher than his belly. “Today you are blessed, Eorhic. I have been instructed that you are to rest, and to be fed. Later you can do what light tasks we have for you, and then later still you will be washed and will meet with your new Master. Understand?”

I don’t know what to say.

“Well?`” the man asked, his low rumbly voice rising in volume.

“I uhhh - I will do as asked, but no, I don’t.” And I don’t. This is all very strange.

“Hmmm,” the man inspects me further. “Well, I suppose you don’t at that. But no matter. Do as you’re told. Come, you can rest in the empty stall until Prime, when we eat.”


The Past I - Nora - April 1859

Nora’s entire being seems to sing with the thrill that, after so many years, she will see a sunrise again.

She can still taste the earth. When her torso fell she got a mouthful of it, and even though she turned her head to watch the denizens of the city depart - few looking down at her dismembered form - hours later the soil-flavour lingers. What was it one of the old Lepers had told her - mud survives?

Mud might, but her time was nearly done. Her guilt had been well-constructed, copper-bottomed. Lady Anne had read out the sentence. Her Sire, Regent Valerius, had watched impassively, never speaking. The Satrap had approached, his expression was almost bored. He took the sword. She braced herself, and then she fell - her torso freed of its limbs, and toppled forward.

Lady Anne then concluded her sentencing. Technically it was not an execution, but it might as well have been. If any helped her, they would be marked - made Accountable. The language of the pronouncement was clear - and as she watched her fellows leave she knew even her blood had decided she was not worth the risk of saving.

She had known it was coming. Lady Anne had made a point of telling her. Nora had resolved not to beg - and that promise to herself, at least, she kept.

It is getting late now. Everyone had left, apart from Lady Anne and the Satrap. The one to kill her should she do aught to help herself, the other to ensure there would be an accounting on any who tried to save her. The sky is lightening.

“It would be a kindness to make it clean,” Lady Anne says.

There is a silence.

“So you desire her to suffer?” This time Lady Anne’s voice is sharper. Some more moments. “Satrap Albert!”

“Yes, my lady,” the Satrap now replies, his voice smooth. “You wish me to break the sentence you yourself decreed?”

Now Lady Anne pauses before replying, “Does this have a point, Satrap?”

“You gave Nora until the dawn. Are you not a person of your word?”

Nora feels like telling them to stop bickering. If these are her last moments of life, the least they could do would be to let her enjoy the sunrise in peace.

She hears movement, and feels herself being lifted up. Satrap Albert holds her in front of him - hours ago maybe she would have screamed. Now she has a strange calm.

“Tell me, little zealot, do you wish to live?”

Nora cannot see Lady Anne, but she hears her draw a deep breath.

“Who is going to claim me? You?” she spits back, suddenly angry at the question.

“If you will have me,” the Satrap replies with a quiet voice.

“Albert!” Lady Anne exclaims, but Albert ignores her.

Nora tries to speak, but cannot make any proper sound for a few seconds, then croaks out a “Why?”

“You were not sentenced to death, I see no reason why you should suffer that fate.”

Nora does not understand why she is being offered this chance, but she knows it will not be offered again. What was it he said? “If you will have me,” she says, and for a moment she sees the Satrap smile.

“A moment,” he says and places her gently on the ground, propped upright. “Yes?” he says to Lady Anne.

“Are you insane?” the Lady says. “You are an officer of this court, you cannot -”

“I am a Satrap of Lord Mithras, my lady,” Albert intones, “and I am a resident of the Domain of London. I serve the Domain. The Domain did not declare Nora’s death. And so I claim Nora, in line with your judgement. You have no grounds on which to be dis-satisfied.”

Nora sees a real rage build within Lady Anne, and sees the effort it costs her to restrain it. “My Sire -” she begins, but the Satrap interrupts.

“Your Sire is Regent only, and though he hopes otherwise my Lord still walks the Earth. You might remember that, my Lady.”

“Why?” she says again.

“I have already told you. But you should leave now, my Lady,” the Satrap says softly. “It will be day soon, and our business here is done.”

He turns, and scoops up Nora, and leaves before Lady Anne can make a reply. There is a carriage waiting for him, and he places her on the seat beside him.

“Why?” Nora asks. “Why save me?”

Albert looks down at her broken form, and smiles a little. “Would you believe me if I said I told Lady Anne the truth?”

Nora doesn’t, but neither does she press. She knows she will have to pay a price for this delivery, and she hopes it is not too dear. But for now her entire being seems to sing with the thrill she will not, after all, see the sun rise.


End of Chapter 1
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Huh...ok. What on earth are the vampires playing at? This I suppose it what happens when vampires get bored and live too long, they just bicker over everything including nearly dead corpses. Why? You're asking the wrong question.

And the Lord and Master is not completely undisputed, though apparently only when the Regent thinks they can get away with it. And also, the Master is absent for long stretches of time, even for a vampire.

Questions upon questions.
 

Bullfilter

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o_O The mechanics and reasons behind that play may be mysterious and opaque, but the essence seems simple enough: it is all a power play between creatures for whom power appears to be the only currency and the objective of their existence. (I carefully avoided say life, because it isn’t really, is it?)
 

El Pip

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It certainly speaks of an incredibly secure society where that sort of faffing about can be tolerated. Also a very formal one, not quite legalistic but of that flavour. Lady Anne is clearly high up but did not have the power to get Nora directly killed, so had to resort to this method which Albert subverted.

I suppose this is another aspect of what TBC said above, if you have too much time on your hands and your society is already rigid and hierarchical then this is the kind of thing you will end up wasting your time on, because you have nothing better to do than petty power games with your fellow vampires. It's a bit sad really.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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It certainly speaks of an incredibly secure society where that sort of faffing about can be tolerated. Also a very formal one, not quite legalistic but of that flavour. Lady Anne is clearly high up but did not have the power to get Nora directly killed, so had to resort to this method which Albert subverted.

I suppose this is another aspect of what TBC said above, if you have too much time on your hands and your society is already rigid and hierarchical then this is the kind of thing you will end up wasting your time on, because you have nothing better to do than petty power games with your fellow vampires. It's a bit sad really.
There is literally no hope for advancement, aside from time and occasional rituals. Your status is directly tied to how old you are and who your sire was. So the society is not just stagnant but utterly stable provided no one really old gets murdered (which is really hard to do) since the elders are so powerful.
 

Specialist290

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Not much to say about Eorhic's bit, honestly. I have a few idle thoughts about whether he might be someone we already know, but for the moment I'll keep them to myself pending future revelations.

I can't help but feel that Nora has inadvertently become a pawn in some sort of great game between Albert and Lady Anne -- at least, if she wasn't already. I also have a feeling that the Lady isn't one to take being snubbed like that lightly, but of course she wouldn't have lasted as long as she has if she didn't have some measure of patience and guile herself...
 

El Pip

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There is literally no hope for advancement, aside from time and occasional rituals. Your status is directly tied to how old you are and who your sire was. So the society is not just stagnant but utterly stable provided no one really old gets murdered (which is really hard to do) since the elders are so powerful.
True, but I was thinking of external threats. No werewolves or gangs of marauding vampire hunters. It's all very settled and decadent with no thought of security. The only real enemies are daylight and boredom.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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True, but I was thinking of external threats. No werewolves or gangs of marauding vampire hunters. It's all very settled and decadent with no thought of security. The only real enemies are daylight and boredom.
Oh, I suppose that is one area of excitement. Being a vampire who hunts and fights to destroy anyone who poses any physical threat should prove diverting and interesting. By this time though I imagine werewolves have mostly been wiped out and only the smartest human hunters and magic users remain against the vamps. The blood ducker have too many advantages and infinite time to work with compared with humanity.
 

Bullfilter

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Oh, I suppose that is one area of excitement. Being a vampire who hunts and fights to destroy anyone who poses any physical threat should prove diverting and interesting. By this time though I imagine werewolves have mostly been wiped out and only the smartest human hunters and magic users remain against the vamps. The blood ducker have too many advantages and infinite time to work with compared with humanity.
Probably true, with the hint at voodoo zombies in the Americas providing another set of potential non-dead adversaries. WW VvZ? Is there going to be an analog between the supernatural groups for the human war getting ready to start? Or is it just the vampires vs humans in their parasitic, power-mining way?