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Embrace: 5th November 1995
Sire: Erik Haraldsson
Physical Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3
Social: Charisma 2, Manipulation 1, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 4, Wits 3
Damian's small and not very strong, but agile and tough. He's too quiet and reflective to impress those around him with his force of personality. He's too instinctively honest to be much of a manipulator, very Gangrel. His looks, combining red hair and green eyes with a slightly Asiatic cast of feature, are exotic rather than handsome, but many have found them attractive. As befits a scholar, he's keenly intelligent and perceptive.
Talents: Alertness 3, Brawl 1, Dodge 1
Skills: Animal Ken 1, Melee 2, Music 1, Repair 2, Stealth 1, Survival 1
Knowledges: Academics 3, Computer 3, Investigation 2, Linguistics 3, Occult 2
Damian's Abilities are primarily academic. He's not a typical Gangrel in that respect. He's picked up a few skills in Animal Ken, Stealth and Survival from his sire, and from rough camping in isolated digs. He was often the guy who had to fix the portable generators or vehicles at that kind of dig hence his skill in Repair. He practiced a bit with ancient weapons like the sword and quarterstaff at university, which gave him some proficiency in Melee. He's been devouring the contents of archaeology texts since he was twelve, and also has a quite impressive grasp of history. Mostly of the ancient world, but also of the Middle Ages. He was fluent in Latin and written Ancient Egyptian before he met his sire; several years of wandering with the old Viking gave him a pretty good grasp of Old Norse as well. He also speaks modern Welsh, thanks to his family connections in North Wales.
Backgrounds: Allies 2, Contacts 2, Generation 4, Mentor 5, Prestigious Sire
Damian has two allies. The first, Professor Amelia Rutherford, is his old tutor from University. He recently got in touch with her, without revealing his changed condition. Increasingly, however, he's getting the feeling that she knows perfectly well what he is, and this unnerves him. The second is Ioan Glendower; the half-gypsy lead singer of a mildly famous folk/country music group called Fallen Prince. Ioan is perfectly aware of Damian's ... condition. They met in rather... interesting circumstances. Damian often hitches a lift with the band when they're headed in the same direction. His contacts are all on-line fellow historians and occultists. He suspects there may be at least one Nosferatu amongst his correspondents, but there's no way to know for sure...
Damian's Mentors are his sire, Eirik Haraldsson, and Eirik's grandchilde Marc de Brabant, a Gangrel elder based in Brussels who works through the institutions of the European Community, including Europol, the new European police service. Plus, of course, there's the mysterious force in the background, subtly manipulating him...
Virtues: Conscience 4, Self-control 4, Courage 4
Morality: Humanity 7
Disciplines: Animalism 1, Celerity 1, Fortitude 1, Protean 4
All stories are supposed to begin with "once upon a time", so here goes. Once upon a time, a thousand years ago, there was a rabid psychopath called Henri Tyrell, who only understood the words "kill" and "eat", and couldn't spell either of them. He came over to England with William the Conqueror, was granted lands near the Welsh border, and spawned a whole line of little Tyrells, with a black sheep in every generation. The most recent of these being my grandmother Catherine, who was a WWII intelligence officer who brought back a Navajo code-speaker from her posting in the States, and married him.
And from this union came my father, and from him, me. And my story really beings at the age of 12, when I went on my first archaeological dig as part of a school trip. I knew straightaway that I'd found what I wanted to do with my life. I plunged headlong into the study of archaeology, history, ancient languages... though I found I also had a knack with computers, especially creating VR simulations of what the ancient sites must have looked like. I got a minor reputation and tenure for post grad work at Cambridge out of that little talent.
Then one day Professor Rutherford comes bursting into the shoebox I ironically call my "office". A big find in the crypt of some old church in Northumbria, the old girl tells me, no time to lose, have a change of clothes and a toothbrush packed in ten minutes or she'll feed me to the vice-chancellor when he goes peculiar at full moon. (I used to think that last bit was a joke; I'm not so sure now).
So, we got to this little northern town, Eriksburgh. Pretty little place, like a picture-postcard that has come to life. The villagers were nice folk. Took a lot of interest in what we were doing. Our little team used to hold court in the pub every evening, filling them in on the progress of the translation work.
And the translations were pretty amazing. The documents that had been unearthed in the old church crypt were just a trade agreement with a town in Norway for jewels and furs, nothing special. But they were written in two languages, medieval vulgate Latin and nineteenth dynasty Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Well, after we looked for signs of forgery, and we looked, believe me. We headed straight for that Norwegian town and started digging. Who knew what we might find? Clues about Viking trade in the Med. basin and Egypt? A treasure trove?
What we didn't expect to find was one of the signatories to the trade document, but unfortunately for me, we did. Our excavations disturbed her long slumber and she erupted out of the ground in front of me one night, after I'd gone back to the dig site to collect a favorite pen that I'd forgotten. Stupid thing to get killed over.
Anyway, she'd drained me pretty dry when my sire came roaring out of the dark and grappled her. She was stronger than he was and she'd probably have killed him if I hadn't used the last of my strength to light one of our little paraffin lamps and thrown it at her.
After she burned, Erik came to stand over me. I'd saved his life, he said, and he always paid his debts. Did I want him to save mine?
I wanted to him to save me, all right, but - as insane as it sounds - my motive for saying "Yes" was as much curiosity than anything else. I'd just found out that a legend was real. Vampires really did exist. I couldn't bear the thought of dying before I found out more. There were a thousand questions running through my head even as I felt myself losing consciousness. I told him to do it with the last of my strength, and then I blacked out.
The first thing that hit me when I woke up the next night was the burning hunger in my stomach; the second was the smell of wet, rotting wood. I was lying in an underground storage area - to call it a "cellar" would be pushing it - in a run-down, disused shed in the middle of the forest. Presumably it was some sort of supply shack for game wardens, or something, but it didn't look as if anyone had been near the place for years. And I was alone, except for an unconscious deer, trussed up next to me. I drained it dry before I even stopped to think.
Not a pleasant awakening. Eirik followed the Gangrel tradition, and abandoned me after my Embrace to test my survival skills. He told me afterwards that Gangrel who don't go through the gauntlet like that tend to be scorned by their clan mates; given the option, I'd have chosen that over spending a month in the wilderness, trying to fend for myself. I passed several nights in a sort of fugue state, scrambling to find small animals to eat, always on the verge of frenzy. I found a few roads leading through the forest, but no human habitation within half a night's walk of my refuge - even given the long nights of the Norwegian winter. (I managed to stay awake long enough on my third day to try facing the sunlight; I felt myself start to burn and blister almost instantly, and dived back inside my refuge in blind panic).
The trauma couldn't last forever, though. I remembered basic lessons in trapping animals that my uncle used to give me when I was growing up on the family farm on the Welsh border. Once I managed to secure a more reliable food supply, the Hunger didn't distract me so much and I began to make longer-range plans.
There was precious little traffic on the roads, but what little there was seemed to follow a fairly predictable pattern, mostly container lorries. There was one guy in particular who used to come through every five days, regular as clockwork, driving a big tractor-trailer rig. He'd pull over, sprawl out on the ground watching the stars for a half-hour, wolf down some food, take a leak, and then drive off again. I figured that I could sneak into the back of his truck without him seeing me, I'd have a fighting chance of making it back to civilization before the sun rose. I knew it was an insane risk, but what was the alternative? Running around in the woods for... well, forever, if the immortality part of the legend was true? I didn't think so. Once I found my way back to human society, I'd go first to Professor Rutherford. Her extensive collection of contacts might include at least some scientists who could shed some light on my condition.
I'd positioned myself out of sight near the rig's usual parking place, and I could hear the engine approaching in the distance when a voice behind me said mildly: "One word: Inquisition"
I suppose I should have started, or whirled around, but I didn't. I wasn't scared, or even particularly surprised. It was as if some buried part of my mind had been waiting for this to happen. I knew who was standing behind me.
It was an interesting voice. Basically, it was a young man's tenor, light and well modulated, like a trained orator or singer. But there was something else, a sort of animal rumbling, underneath it. It was though a cat were giving a deep, throaty purr in perfect synchronization with the words.
And it had an instantly identifiable accent, pure New York. "Word" has come out as woide
"Inquisition? That could mean anything. It's not very helpful. But it's more helpful than you've been for the past month".
"The point of the past month was to find out if I were able to help you. Not everyone has the mental strength to be what we are, and if you hadn't, cosseting you would simply have prolonged your agony".
"And if I hadn't passed your test, you would have killed me?" Strangely, I didn't feel outraged, or even upset. The question was simple curiosity. Perhaps the whole situation was too bizarre for outrage.
"You died a month ago. If you hadn't passed my test, as you put it, I would simply have put what was left of you out of your misery. But trust me, there wouldn't have been very much left of you. A vampire who can't face the reality of what he is loses all reason and capacity for conscious thought quite quickly"
I shivered slightly. I don't know why I believed him, but I did. Even then, it seems, I instinctively trusted Eirik to know truth and tell me truth.
"All right, maybe there was a good reason. But what the fuck did you mean, Inquisition?"
"Five hundred years ago they turned about half the vampire population of Europe into ashes drifting on the wind. Follow through on your plan to go to Professor Rutherford, and the same thing could happen again".
I finally turned to look at him. He stood lounging casually against a tree, dressed quite casually in worn blue jeans, a pullover black sweater, and hiking boots. Startlingly normal looking if you didn't count the fur, claws, and glowing golden eyes.
"You can read minds?"
Well, why not? It was no more unbelievable that anything else. "What do you suggest I do instead?"
He gave a purring, rasping chuckle. "You've proved that I can help you. I'm willing to offer you help if you're willing to accept it".
The big container rig was pulling up nearby. I turned my back on it, which was all the answer he needed. Silently, he handed me something.
A pen. My favorite pen that I'd gotten killed over.
I tasted a single blood tear as I followed him into the forest.
We walked for about twenty minutes before I noticed we were doubling back and heading for the road again. We came out of the trees next to a battered but still serviceable old Land Rover. At the time, it seemed like the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. My ticket back to civilization.
We drove for about five minutes before he spoke. "Which question do you want me to answer first?"
I blurted out the first thing that came into my head. "You're going pretty damn fast for the visibility we've got. Are you sure you know how to drive?" Then I started laughing because it seemed such an absurd thing to be worried about at a time like this.
His answering chuckle was unnerving thanks to that underlying feral purr. "Lad, for someone with my night-vision and reaction speed, we're going pretty damn slow. And the sunrise won't wait for us".
I sobered and settled back in my seat. "Okay, then. Let's start with introductions. Which means let's start with you introducing yourself, I suppose. If you read my mind, you already know who I am".
"Actually, no. I didn't probe beyond the outer fringes of your thoughts... your immediate plans. Your name is still your own. Choose whether to give it to me - or not - as you prefer. My name is Eirik, son of Harrald, more commonly known as Eirik Harraldsson, the Rune-Wise. I was born, here in Norway, in the last decades of the ninth century. I became one of the Chosen of Odin, what you would call a vampire, in my twenty-third year".
I sank even further into my seat, shocked. "You're almost eleven hundred years old?"
"Eleven hundred years is just one night at a time". His tone was still amused, but I thought I heard something aside from the big-cat rumbling underneath it. Weariness? Pain?
We drove in silence again for a couple of minutes. I was struggling to balance shock, fascination, and the urge to dismiss such an absurd claim out of hand. When I did, I was struck by the odd coincidence. I'd wound up here because of a discovery made in Eirksburgh - Erik's town, in English. Now I met a vampire called Eirik. I opened my mouth to ask about that, paused, and closed it again. There were more important questions to ask first.
"What happens to me now?"
"Now I teach you to survive. After that... what happens to you will be your own choice"
Another long moment passed. Gazing out of the window at the darkened forest flashing past the speeding car. I could clearly see Eirik's reflection in the glass. So much for folklore.
"Who was the woman at the dig site?"
"Her name was Ingrid. Seven hundred years ago, she destroyed my home and murdered my friends. Just as she murdered you. But for whatever small comfort it may be, you were her last victim"
I would have liked to know the details, but something in his tone said: no trespassers. Okay then. That could wait.
"Where are we going?"
He laughed. It sounded almost like the shrill bark of a fox. "Are you speaking geographically, or philosophically?"
Another chuckle. "To a small lakeside cabin owned by an associate of mine, initially. And then, to many places. You have a lot to learn. Would you like to tell me your name, now?"
"Oh". I'd forgotten I hadn't already given it. "Damian. Damian Tyrell"
"Not from the north Welsh border, by any chance?"
I looked at him, startled. "How did you know?"
"Educated guess. I knew a man named Tyrell once, who came from there. I was wondering why you looked familiar. That little bit of Asian in your face threw me off the scent. Perhaps you're a distant relative".
"It's Navajo, actually, not Asian. From my grandfather"
"A mathematician and cryptography expert who worked as a security specialist on IBM government contacts. I think he could perform the Blessing Way, or part of it, but that's as far as it went. He wasn't much interested in traditional Navajo culture. Nor am I". I'd been teased a little at school, about being part-Injun, though I'd had the last laugh when my "exotic" looks starting attracting the girls. "What makes you think that?".
"Various reasons. The Celtic cultures often regard red hair and green eyes as the mark of a seer. I wondered if you might have a little magic in your heritage".
"Sorry. The most supernatural thing I've ever come across is you".
He shot me an odd glance. "That you know of".
"Meaning what?" I frowned. "I think I'd have noticed if I'd come across vampires or werewolves..." a thought struck me "... are they real, too? ...before now"
He grunted, sort of. It came out more like a throaty purr. "Lad, there's a basic law of nature which you're going to need to learn if you want to survive. The successful predators are the ones who know how to stay hidden. If their prey - which used to be you - notice them, they go hungry. Don't assume you never met them just because you didn't notice them. And yes, werewolves are real too. They're the descendants of a mating between a mortal woman and the Fenris wolf, half human, half demon, and wholly deadly. And they hate our kind, just as their progenitor, Fenris, hates our progenitor, Odin. They're best avoided unless you have overwhelmingly superior numbers".
I put on a Yoda voice "Much to learn I still have"
Surprisingly, he got it. "Adventure... excitement... soon you will be up to your undead ass in these things". He did a better Yoda than I did.
"Thanks for the warning". I looked at him. "So, where do we start?"
Training, training, training. It was worse than being an undergraduate. Clan rituals, the Traditions of wider Kindred society, history, hunting techniques, and above all, learning how to shift shape. We stayed in the vicinity of my tumbledown forest refuge to begin with, though Eirik would occasionally arrange for a car to pick us up and drive us to nearby towns when the isolation started to get to me. After a few months, I claimed my first human victim, a girl who picked me up in a small nightclub. Her blood was explosive ecstasy compared to the thin animal vitae I'd subsisted on up 'till then, and I could barely stop myself from taking too much. She was pale and weak for days afterwards, but luckily I did no permanent harm. It did teach me a valuable lesson in self-control, though.
Eirik placed a huge amount of emphasis on teaching me the Protean Discipline. Even amongst the Gangrel, he said, our particular bloodline had a knack for it, and it was a vital tool for freedom of movement in harsh terrain. The moon was full on the night I first shifted into a wolf, and I threw back my head and howled at it with sheer delighted exuberance. Then I charged off through the forest, marvelling at my speed, my agility, the sharpness of my senses, the incredible array of scents that bombarded me from every side. It was the single most liberating experience I've ever known. Eirik raced alongside me, also in wolf form, and working together as a team, we managed to bring down a deer. I discovered that my new shape had its own set of instincts when I automatically waited for Eirik to feed before taking my own share.
The first thing I did when we changed back was pull the pen from my pocket and throw it into a lake.
Eirik watched me silently for a moment. Then he said, "You're right. You can't go back. Vampire or mortal, we can never go back. Time only flows in one direction. I'm glad you've finally realized that. You might survive for centuries; but if you can't accept the weight of change, you won't".
After that, we were free to travel, and travel we did, mostly as wolves or bats. At the time, our wanderings seemed aimless, but thinking back, I can see a sort of pattern to them. There seemed to be a new experience around every corner. My first Gangrel Althing, mixing with medieval knights and World War One fighter aces and Blues singers and conspiracy-theorizing tabloid journalists in the same gathering. An encounter with a troll on the frozen lava-fields of Iceland, a huge blue creature who looked like a mountain made flesh. Running like hell from a pack of werewolves who wanted to rip me limb from limb. Standing on a cloud that felt solid under my feet, looking down at the top of a mountain while my sire argued in Old Norse with a pagan witch who claimed to have fought against Julius Caesar. Meeting a ghost and helping her to find her rest by rescuing her son from the Sabbat pack who were responsible for her murder. Standing in a circle of runes, burning with red fire from the power of Eirik's vitae, seeing visions of distant places and possible futures shimmer and dance like mirages. My old life seemed like little more than a prelude, a dream. At least, at first. But gradually, I began to feel a nagging sensation of unfinished business
maybe a need for closure.
"You need to go home".
I wasn't surprised that Eirik had picked up on it. Spending so much time in wolf form, we communicated using his telepathy as much as we did by speech.
We were in a hotel room in Bergen. I stood at the window, gazing out into the night through Eirik's reflection in the glass.
"I feel drawn back. I don't know why".
"Because you've reached the limits of what you can learn at present. I have more to teach you, but before you're ready to learn, you need to practice what you already know. And you need to do it without me staring over your shoulder. These past few years have been your second childhood. It's time to strike out on your own".
"Iain's waiting in the harbor for you. There's a boat ready to take you back to England tonight, if you're ready".
I turned to face him, one last time. "I'll miss you".
Then I turned my back on him and walked out of the door. Behind me, I heard his soft, purring voice.
"I'll miss you too, lad"
Eirik had arranged for me to stay in York. My misadventure in Glastonbury en route started me off, I suspect, on the wrong foot with the Prince, but it also netted me one ally, my sometimes-infuriating friend Nick Baron, and a reputation as a sort of lightning-rod for trouble. Not an enviable reputation to have, but it indirectly led Nick and I to the third member of our little coterie, a Tremere called Kathryn Malcolm. The three of us are like amateur occult investigators, finding out stuff that Man (and by extension, the bloodsucking undead), Was Not Meant To Know. It's not always safe, but it's always interesting, and that's no small thing if there's a chance you'll be around forever
Oh, one last thing - the village where it all started, Eriksburgh? I went back there and found a bunch of fields, some woods, and the crumbled remains of a parish church. Huh? I thought, and did some research. It seems that Eriksburgh was once a prominent local market town.
Before the Black Death destroyed it, in the late fourteenth century.