Story art by Vampire the Masquerade, First Edition.
From the author: A piece RPG fiction, left over from an old White Wolf/Vampire the Masquerade campaign. A letter from a Clan Brujah elder to his Childe, upon the waking of Troile.
Despite my current pretensions, I am neither poet nor scholar, so forgive me if this letter lacks finesse. No soldier manages to be a man of both deeds and words – long centuries prove that to master one takes away one’s ability to practise the other effectively. I am inadequate to the task at hand, yet I shall endeavour to give what I can.
To put a chronological date upon our initial meeting is beyond me – I kept little track of dates during my long sojourn in Japan. Suffice to say that I remember the glory of early spring in what they now call Yokohama. I remember the Festival of the Blossom, and the beauty of the mountains as the night gathered over them. And I remember it as the time that led me to both you, and to Kiku, my wife.
Kiku was the only daughter of the Shõgun of Watushi First Province, beautiful to me and to her father, but renowned less for her looks and more for her outspoken nature, considered unseemly for the daughter of a noble house. Yet Kiku was an only child, and much belovéd – her nature was not curbed as she was the light of her father’s life. When she chose to share with me the shame of the ronin, she caused that light to extinguish, and it left only darkness and poison in its wake. Her father needed a weapon of revenge.
The weapon he reached for was you.
How long did you track me, Reyukai? In the long years that followed, you never explained to me the full tale – how you stalked me like a mountain predator, learning my every move and weakness, to perfect the moment of your attack; how the Kindred of the West were unknown to you, and how you sought long for each fragment of information, to learn how to best me at last. When that moment came, were you as sure of your success as you were of every other deed you accomplished?
Somehow, we were so alike, you and I. Perfectionists, never content with second-best.
How close did you come to dealing me the Final Death? I have never told you that Charon the Boatman stretched his hand to me that night; by no sound or touch did you give yourself away. Only that extra-sense which marks the soldier from the poet alarmed me to your presence, only the forbidden gifts of the Garou, offered to me so long ago, saved my unlife.
Shock, anger, admiration. You were honour-bound to complete your contract; we were ninja and samurai, bitter enemies in a long and terrible struggle. We both know you would have died fearlessly rather than surrender to me, and that was the reason why I did not give you the choice. Kiku returned to speak with her father, and he released you from the contract that bound you.
What pulled us together, Reyukai? Your ever-present struggle to better yourself, to be the best you can be at your vocation? My respect for your courage and confidence? I know that temptation had taken you. With our battle, you witnessed abilities beyond your ken - celerity, potence, presence. The disciplines that Hamilcar once displayed for me could be yours if you dared to reach for them.
You asked me to teach you. And I understand. Hamilar was a master of presence, but it was his power and speed that I ached to emulate. He told me – ‘I will turn you into the greatest warrior that Sparta has ever seen’ – and I wanted, needed, to believe him. Was that why you needed to learn what I knew?
Unlike Kiku, you refused the position of ghoul. The blood-bond would have taken too much of you away from yourself, I have always understood that; for that reason my presence was never used upon you. Instead, you trained under my teaching – and I trained, also, for you taught me much that I did not know. When the time came for you to accept the embrace, you did so willingly and fearlessly – wishing the gifts that being Kindred would bestow.
No words are ever enough for the emptiness with which the new Kindred wakens for the first time. To lose the sun, to lose taste and hunger, these things can be bourne. But to lose touch is terrible thing. No longer can you test your strength by hardship, no longer does pleasure hold meaning. Such a loss defies comprehension, yet It is the sacrifice that must be accepted, and you bore it with your inscrutable courage never cracking. it created another thew that bound us together, Reyukai, that of discipline.
We remained in Japan for over two centuries; ronin, outcasts. As the European cultures began to encroach upon our solace, Kiku wearied at last, and asked to be freed. And we left Japan for India, Russia, Eastern Europe. We found ourselves in France, where you met the bearer of this letter, and at last in Italy, where I retired to my fortress of academia and tried to document the long-lost days of Lycurgean Sparta.
And now, our time is done. Gehenna is upon us. And we must bid farewell to everything we have loved.
You will need all of your discipline, Reyukai, and all the courage that I have seen in you, down long years. When Troile awakens, the days of Clan Brujah will be over. I fought in the last days of Carthage: I felt her final frenzy, I was there when she fell. I felt the stain of her fury sink into our bloodline, reduce our noble Clan to no more than spoiled children. When she awakens – and she stirs even as I write! – so will every rage I have denied for so long, held back by the iron discipline of my people, come roaring at last through my blood.
And I will be ash.
My word to you, my Childe and my dear friend: as our final days approach, let us perish as befits the elders of our Clan, not as the pitiful, savage remnants that rant in the streets of Los Angeles. Let us perish with the nobility and integrity of our cultures and our training, the courage that we have sought to preserve throughout the long, long centuries of our association.
Hold to your government, Reyukai, to your defiance of Troile’s staining, and let us face, fearless, the fall of night.