The Pet Leech - Closed

/ By Ixionic [+Watch]

Replies: 36 / 138 days 11 hours 15 minutes 17 seconds

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  1. [Allowed] shesmorethanamemory


Vampire's are well known for being creatures of the night, feasting on blood and human foolishness. However, a small population of nobles in the kingdom of Haverly have decided these volatile beings are better kept as pets. They became things of amusement, and they quickly turned into a sign of status. If a vampire pledged itself to your family - whether it be because you bested them in combat, or merely had the resources to house them - it was a symbol that you had somehow reached the top of the food chain. These powerful beings of the night would wield to no one after all.

Something always feels... off about this bizarre alliance, though. These creatures may be few in numbers, but their power was not unknown. Could a human truly control it? Extreme ideals developed around whether or not these "leeches" could be trusted, and concerns over how these beings were being used by noble parties were also brought to the forefront.
[b (A)] is a well known, if considerably lower class, cleric in Haverly. They choose to stay out of the politics, trying to focus their church's efforts on keeping the poor safe and fed. Human or Vampire, their church was well known for these kind deeds... Which was why it was such a shock when their church was burned to the ground, killing most of the homeless living in the shelter attached to it.

[b (B)] was one of the few to escape the flames, and remembers a few details of the assailants. However, they suffer from delusions, causing their memories to often come into question.
[b (B)] is a rarity among other vampires, and often considered an example of the worst thing that can happen if the change doesn't outright kill you like it does most. It burns away your sanity instead. While not the worst case of this, [b (B)] has long since been discounted by their own kind, considered weak, and barely even able to feed on other humans.

They are [b (A)]'s only lead, though, on why the church was burned to the ground. They choose to take care of [b (B)], taking the vampire under their wing to get to the truth. The truth, however, is more complicated than a simple church on fire...

[p FAQ]
[list
If you are interested in my general RP "Rules and Guidelines", view them on my main profile [http://rp.eliteskills.com/u.php?u=78318 HERE].
I intend for this setting to be fantasy/historical in setting. Possibly Steampunk and Victorian in nature. I'm open to other suggestions.
I don't care if you're A or B.
If you want to expand the plot, let me know. Otherwise, this is one of my "Quick Fix" ideas. You can view my list of QFs [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=403708 HERE].]

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Wordlessly Bella shakes her head no. She hadn’t eaten since the night before. She also wasn’t sure if she should follow Ajax as she had for the past few months, or if she should resort to caring for herself as she was. Standing a little taller and arching her back, she hears several of her joints pop dully. Her body was uncomfortable from being huddled for a day, but otherwise she was fine. It was a miracle that she survived the fire without harm. Bella didn’t mind him asking, it was oddly polite that he thought of her needs. Regardless of how different they may be from his own. A soft smile pulls at Bella’s lips.

“It’s alright Father, I can feed myself. You have been too kind to me. I am forever grateful. I am more worried about you. Where will you go? Who will feed you?” As she waits for his answer she runs her fingers through her hair pulling free a few knots. She must look terrible, all of them did. She felt for those that didn’t have anywhere else to go or those that didn’t make it out of the rubble. Turning her back to Ajax, she scans the cinged remains again. The massive skeletal monster and dancing shadows flashed before her eyes and she blinked them away. Usually she didn’t dwell on what she saw, sometimes thinking about the vision made them reappear. This time however she welcomed it, maybe seeing it again would help her remember something new. Or would help her finally see something clearly. Tenderly she reaches out to Ajax and excuses herself. The night was hers and it was time she claimed herself.

Bella’s visions ripped her apart too often and after each she felt disconnected. As though her mental state and her physical state depended on a steady balance. Other vampires didn’t have the problems she had, but she knew that they made her stronger. Overtime Bella has learned to control her fear, at least most of the time.

The streets of uptown Haverly were quiet, but not dead. Horses that stood tied in front homes were waiting for their owners to finish their visits. The younger beasts lifted their heads as she passed and nickered. The more experienced barely noticed her. Haverly smelled like human sweat, stirred dirt, smoke, and alcohol. Her dark eyes searched every shadow and alleyway that she passed. She wasn’t looking for demons, more for prey. Sticking close to the edges of the street, she blended in beautifully with the darkness around her. She couldn’t help, but let her more human thoughts disappear into her mind. Letting her beastly instincts creep forward and guide her. Bella’s nose lead her to the outskirts of town. Sighing heavily she makes her way to a set of steps to sit down at. The house behind her was slowly falling apart, the roof sagged to one side and a few of the windows were smashed in. The front door swung open in the breeze and then banged shut. Under the floorboards Bella could hear a few mice squeak and then scurry away. It takes several minutes for the mice to settle back into their normal routine after she had arrived. Haverly kept her secrets close. Often hidden behind closed doors and never spoken about. Across the street in front of a tavern a table of men played dice. Their voices barely reached above a whisper. Chewing the inside of her cheek. One man was muttering about his wife possibly cheating with the milkman, the other was snickering softly to himself.

“Twis yer wife, I’d cheat too.” Bella frowned and moved forward. As the men caught her getting close they stopped and stared at her. Offering them a curt nod, she passing into the tavern and is greeted harshly by the smell of burning tobacco and human blood. Dipping her head, she picks her way between the tables. The patrons grow quieter as she gets closer to the bartender. Leaning forward a little she plants her eyes on his. The bartender is a broad chested man with blacksmith’s arms. His belly bulges with too much meat and ale. His curly hair is a fiery red and his bread settles in the center of his chest. The man’s face however isn’t unkind and he smiles at her.

“Bella sweeti’! I was startin’ ta worr’.” The man’s broken speech is accented by his missing front teeth. Someone once told her that it was from a mighty shield bash that should have broke his neck. A wide smile brightens Bella’s face as she straightens.

“Thank you Hudson. I came for a reason however: I need food.” she whispers to him. Keeping her voice low was a way she avoided conflict in public. Vampires were treated like outsiders, even when the didn’t have the mental cap she had. Hudson takes her from the main room to an upstairs bedroom. Under the floorboards there were a few stashes of bagged blood. They were kept in a small chest filled with precious ice. Kneeling she fetched a bag and sunk her teeth into the soft plastic holding it. Glancing up at Hudson, she knew that she would have to pay for it somehow. A long time ago they had worked out that she would muck out the stable for every bag she needed, it also saved Hudson from having to pay someone else to do it. By saving the few coins he did having her do it, he was able to keep her supplied. The only issue they had run into was that the horses didn’t appreciate her existence. After her meal she cleans herself and follows Hudson back down the stairs. From there she changes into a pair of loose fitting trousers and blouse to work.
  Reannabella Frost / shesmorethanamemory / 137d 14h 11m 51s
Was he alright? That was easy to answer out loud, but his face betrayed little. He was a leader at his church, and a man of composure. If he showed any weakness, it was often a calculated gesture. At this moment, he merely looked tired.

Her concerns were noted, but he couldn't say much in response. He merely accepted his robe back and asked her, [b "Have you eaten today?"]
He wasn't one to ask if she "needed blood" or if she had "hunted". It felt like a cruel way to ask any vampire, an almost constant reminder of their beastly nature. It seemed to reinforce the idea that these lost souls were unchanging monsters. Ajax was of the mind that anyone could change for the better if they wanted. He was roughly that optimistic.

At least, he was typically this optimistic.

[b "The blood the church stored has been lost. We'll need to see if someone would willingly donate a little. You weren't the only one to manage to escape the basement, after all."] It seemed his notion of rest was fading with this reminder that blood was not just a commodity to the undead. It was their means of survival, and even sanity.
It used to be that the church had a system of accepting blood from donations and storing it away. The system was borrowed from a hospital that had a few researching studying the effects of human blood used to treat certain conditions.
  [Delusions of Smoke] / Ixionic / 137d 16h 40m 40s
Bella flocked to Ajax quickly. Seeing him covered in soot and ultimately filthy was a little bit of a shock to her. Gently she pulled his robe from her shoulders and offered it to him. The inside was splotched with black marks, but looked better than the ones he was wearing. Her heart bled for him, but she was unsure of how to show it. Her eyes scan the black soot, there wasn’t much left to do. Everything was picked over thoroughly, everything that could be saved looked like it had been. Taking the soft pad of her thumb she pushes her fangs back into her gums again.

“Father?” Bella started, watching him closely. “Are you alright? I mean truly.”
  Reannabella Frost / shesmorethanamemory / 138d 5h 11m 26s
The fire took most of the night to tame to embers. Most of the structure was destroyed. Ajax was one among many who fought the heat and red tongues of fire, and he was one of many to receive burns from it too. He was covered in ash from head to toe. Most of his beautiful robes were now covered in soot and filth and sweat. His brown eyes were somber, and often times downcast when he wasn't actively speaking to someone. He sorted through charred bodies, belongings, and the carcasses of what was once even his room.

Night was broken by dawn, and a tavern owner stopped by. He was a fat, old man with salt and pepper hair. His grey eyes were saddened by the sight, and he helped Ajax in silence for a while before finally speaking.
[#708090 "Haverly won't let ya face this alone,"] he stated. [#708090 "If ya need a room... I'll provide it for ya until ya can rebuild. Just let 'em know that Turner sent ya for it."]
Ajax offered a grateful smile. [b "Mother bless you,"] he responded. [b "Any word on how the... What's this?"]

The city seemed to be gathering on the street. At least, those who walked its streets the most seemed to gather. It would have been touching if Ajax had not been so defeated and exhausted.
City guards were patrolling and guarding the sight, keeping the worst of the scavengers away. Women were gathering with their children to hand out what food and water they could, and many were volunteering to help organize as much of the recovery as possible.

The man who named himself "Turner" offered a bashful smile, changing his appearance from hardened to almost fatherly.
[#708090 "Told ya. Haverly won't let ya face this alone."]

Thus, the morning crawled into the afternoon. Ajax was still in his robes, he had since deemed them a lost cause. However, they were good to cover his hide while he worked. The community gathered and tried to keep things calm.
At one point, a small riot broke out between a couple of men claiming some of the supplies for themselves. At that point, the guards helping out started to maintain a stricter perimeter.

The basement was dug out too. Most of it had burned with the fire, but a pocket was protected by some of the stone foundation collapsing in an arched fashion. Inside, there was the body of Sister Hazel. She had suffocated in the smoke. She also held a sheet of paper in her hand. It was crumpled, but had a few names written on it. Ajax glanced at the paper, but quickly stuffed it in his pocket as the elderly woman's body was brought up and into the sunlight.

Ajax finally stopped to eat as the sun started to dip back down again. He felt like he could hardly swallow anything, though. After a meager meal of some bread and cheese, he went back to sorting.

When the ruckus started, he ignored it at first. His first assumption was that this was another wave of scavengers. However, the crowd appeared to have thinned too much for this, and when he heard a woman's voice, he turned to see who it was.
Immediately, he remembered Bella. His robe, much cleaner than the rest of his attire, practically hid the petite girl in its rich fabric.

[b "Over here, Bella,"] he called to her as soon as she broke through the guards. [b "Come, and I'll help you get situated again."]
He took a few deliberate steps away from the blankets holding some of the items. It was like walking away from a sick child. How could one do it? He needed, to, though. He had been up all night and day, he was exhausted... And he hadn't been able to process much as he was surrounded by the community. He honestly just needed a place too [i grieve] in peace.
  [Delusions of Smoke] / Ixionic / 138d 5h 44m 12s
“No, I was drowning in a green sea,” Bella whispered back. “But I heard voices. I need more time to remember clearly. I-i I’m so sorry.” With that Bella pulls Ajax’s outer robe closer around her shoulders. She bites her lip against the urge to call after him, to ask him where she would find him later. Ajax’s robe billows out around her as she starts toward the thin forest behind where the church used to stand. A thick column of smoke plumed into the fading night sky leaving her with few options. The few human friends Bella had lived outside of the city limits and were outcasts themselves. However, if she risked the walk to them the sun would blister her skin to the bone before she reached them. The sun was supposed to slowly simmer her into a puddle of clothes, hair, bones, and black blood. At least that’s what Ajax had told her. She had never met another vampire that was willing to sit down with her and teach her about their ways, or bodies. Everything she knew she learned from experiencing it herself or from what humans had told her. Even then some humans only wanted to fill her head with nonsense or scare her. In spite of her miserable existence she couldn’t imagine herself ending it, or allowing someone else to end it for her. She didn’t remember much from when she was human, but she did know that somehow she was living a better life. That this was her life to live and there was hope that she could one day learn to control her delusions.

The sky was turning pink with the rising sun and Bella was quickly running out of time. She wandered farther from the city and deeper into the forest. The soft needle covered ground gave way to shale as the mountains loomed ahead of her. Picking up her speed she is lucky enough to find an overhang to hide under. Hugging her knees close to her chest and covering up with Ajax’s robe, she found she was thankful for his kindness. As she waited for the sun to go down she wondered how she could repay him. What little belongings she had were covered by sooty ruin or turned to ash. Unlike the others she couldn’t scour the wreckage, and it was likely they would take anything they found regardless who it had belonged to. After carefully counting her loses, she turned her attention to the dancing demons and skeletal monster that had scared her so much. Her eyebrows knitted together as a light pounding started at her temple. It was extremely important that she remember clearly what she saw, to finally decypher what it was. Hugging herself tighter, she decided that she was attacked and that her mind had tricked her into believing that the shadows she had seen were demons. The skeletal monster was another matter. It was possible she was being tormented while Ajax was gone, that happened sometimes. Bella never moved to hurt anyone that stayed in the shelter or who was apart of the church. She didn’t even tell Ajax how she was treated. When it came to hunting she stayed far away from the area in general. It was one way she repaid him for his friendship, that and she didn’t want to hurt him by accident in her bloodlust.

When the sun finally set again Bella rewrapped herself in his robe and started back toward the town. Her eyes burned from staying away and thinking. Licking her lips she felt how dry and cracked they were. Her skin was cold and a shiver wrecked her thin body. She needed to hunt, but she wanted to get back to Ajax and tell him what she had discovered. During the day she had learned that there was a stranger in the basement with her, at least one. She wasn’t sure if they were the one that had started the fire because the fire didn’t appear to have started in her room, but it was possible that the skeletal monster was prompted by someone stroking or collecting coals from her hearth.

Bella found Ajax searching through the wreckage of the church still. What was left was sorted into piles. Singed lumber was stacked off to the side while damaged, but readable books were closer. Preserved food was on the other side on blanket someone had donated among any jewelry, and valuables that hadn’t been taken. Guardsmen stood by watching closely for any looters while those that had remained to help were slowly wandering back to their own homes. Ajax stepped over half charred beams and pews searching for anything that was left. As Bella drew closer guards in bronze armor stepped forward.

“Halt!” The pale one called. He stood a head taller than Bella and twice as wide. Startled, she looked up to meet his gaze in which he put his hand on his longsword. “This is a protected site, looters will not be tolerated.”

Nodding, Bella opened her mouth to explain, but as she smelled fresh flesh her fangs poked through her gums. Covering her mouth quickly and then taking a step back, she shook her head and looked toward Ajax. When she finally spoke, her clearity was muddled by her tongue tapping her fangs.

“I’m just givin’ my ‘riend his robe ‘ack.” She manages. The guard straightens and pointedly looks at her.

“We’ll be watching.” His words were closer to a threat than a dismissal. A shiver runs through her as she turns from then and retreats into Ajax’s protection. Normally Bella wouldn’t be so terrified of everyone and everything, but she knew suspicions would soon turn on her. It was only a matter of time before she was accused of setting their home on fire. Her mental state and the general population distrusting her didn’t help her image any. She wondered if this was reason Ajax wanted to leave.
  Reannabella Frost / shesmorethanamemory / 138d 6h 7m 28s
Bella! Ah Bella... She was a unique case. Sure, vampires had sheltered there before. This is what the world was, now. However, she was not like the others.

The transformation from human to vampire was staggering. Your very nature was ripped to shreds and rewritten in a painful coma, and from how Ajax had once heard it described, it felt as if your skin was paper and your bones were brittle sticks. Any movement felt like it had snapped the body in several places. Granted, this was just a sensation, and not the actual proceedings, and if you could survive the agony without going mad, you came out of it a strong creature of night and blood.

You could still physically survive and mentally lose yourself to this agony, though. Every case was different, and it was a rare one that could physically endure the pain at all, let alone make it out with their mind intact.
Bella was not so lucky. Her body was healthy enough, but her mind had ruptured with the transition. It made her an outcast to her own kind.

Thankfully, she had never appeared to be bloodthirsty to Ajax. She primarily stayed to herself in the basement, leaving to hunt rarely, and surviving off of any blood donations that were given to her. It was for the best.
Ajax felt fondly toward her in most cases. When the visions and delusions were light, she was kind enough. Helpful, even, so long as she was kept from the others. Humans distrusted her, other vampires saw her as weak and a threat all at the same time. It must make existence even more maddening, no?

Her words were hard to digest, though. She wouldn't burn her only haven down. Ajax would not deny that. He placed a hand on either shoulder, so thin she was, and gave a small shake to try and calm her. To try and calm himself.
[b "Reannabella,"] he said in a firm tone. [b "Did you see who did this? I only need your honesty here. Did you see who burned down our home?"]

Because it was [b their] home. It belonged to whoever lived within its walls and under its ceiling.

Then it struck him. The only people fleeing the building were the inhabitants of the shelter. The other church members were nowhere to be seen. None of the nuns were soothing the scared, and none of the men or the two priests beneath him were helping to douse the flames. What had become of his parish?
The flames were being tamed, surely, but it would be a long night. Immediately, the cleric stripped away the outermost layer of his robes. He draped it over Bella's shoulders.

[b "Hide away until the fire is controlled and you are safe to travel. I will remain here until you come back, alright?"] He held eye contact with her then, making sure that she was comprehending what he said. [b "I'll see to it that you're fed and sheltered again, but for now, I must help with the fire."]
  [Delusions of Smoke] / Ixionic / 138d 7h 47m 53s
The world around her was sea green and wavering. Distant voices warbled in her ears as though her head was shoved under water. Somehow her bedside candles continued to burn and flicker. Bunching her skirt in her hands Bella scanned the basement bedroom. Biblical books lined shelves in every language available. A soft rug covered the stone floor and in the corner a hearth burned an unnatural purple color. Black shadows danced around her, their shape mirroring her own. Bella licks her dry lips. Her breath escaped her mouth in hurried puffs as she waited for the delusion to be over. The shadows twisted growing long and darker the more they passed in front of the hearth. Moving suddenly she yanks a leg off of a chair and turns the pointed end toward her black enemies. Trembling and backing herself into a corner Bella prepares to defend herself. Blinking several times, she prays that the delusion stops. The demons that stalked the recesses of her mind could control her for minutes to hours at a time. Her longest delusion lasted a day. When she didn’t let them have what they wanted they tortured her with images of her family and friends being ripped apart over and over.

A scream fills her chest as a skeletal creature with bladed teeth clamors out of the purple flames. The hearth’s iron guards scraped against its spine as it pulled itself forward. The black dancing shadows melted into the ceiling at the sight of the undead. Bella tightened her grip on her makeshift weapon as the creature stood; its head bumped an iron hanging and its bones popped with strain.

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Bella whispered to herself, shutting her eyes tightly. The room around her began to warm and it was harder to breath.

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” She repeated, warmth of the room turned into a heat and the voices sounded more like screams.

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Bella nearly bellowed, her voice raw. She sucked in a breath and choked on a mixture of water and smoke. A tremor shook the church and books fell to the floor around her. She could hear glass smashing somewhere above and feel the skeletal monster’s hot breath on her cheek.

“Bella! Sweetheart run!” Bella’s eyes snapped open, the water was gone replaced by thick black smoke billowing down the basement stairs. The shadow dancers and skeleton was gone too. In their place was bright orange flames racing up curtains and engulfing wallpaper. The rug that covered floor was soon to be next as the flames jumped from fabric to the next. Scrambling to her feet Bella raced for the stairs where the voice had called to her. A nun in a long black dress and modesty hood held the door open for her. The woman’s hands were withered and worn from prayer and working for the church. Firelight glinted off of her glasses as she motioned with one hand for Bella. A support beam stood ablaze between her and the woman. Jolting forward, she takes her chances with jumping over the flames. Her unnatural vampiric abilities making the jump easy, but the heat licking at her skirts making it dangerous. Tumbling out into the front yard of the church she joins those that managed to escape. The edges of her clothes were soot covered and singed. Turning back Bella sees the nun that had helped her had disappeared. Breathing heavily and coughing, she follows the weakened to the street while those that are able douse the flames with buckets. Sinking to her knees, her dark blond hair falling into her eyes, Bella coughs smoke from her lungs.

Bella lifts her head to the sound of running feet. A familiar smell fills her nose, pushing passed the smell of roasting flesh, smoke, and burning wood. Her kind cleric Ajax trots up to her. Quivering she gets to her feet and attempts to dust herself off. In spite of the night’s events she wanted him to think highly of her still and not as some undead thirsty beast. Not as others thought of her. Bella’s red rimmed eyes met his as she twisted her fingers together in front of her.

“Father, I promise I didn’t do anything! I was in the basement reading! Th-then they came! They danced and laughed, and screamed, and I was so afraid! Then it crawled out of the purple herth! Its head touched the ceiling and it was fleshless milky white, no eyes. Father! You have to believe me I-i- I’m not a monster!” Bella stumbled over her burnt skirt and nearly collapsed into the priest’s arms. Her curls had fallen out of their updo and her aproned brown dress was soot stained. The blood ring that circled her irises burned with hunger, fear, and marked her as a vampire to all that would look at her. The iris itself was tearstained blue. Bella’s full lips pouted as her full brows knitted together. Soot dotted her broad nose and lined her cheeks. Making her thin frame look boney. Unlike other vampires, Bella wasn’t beautiful or possessed the seductive curves. Her frame was quite small yet athletic and only slightly muscled. She was built closer to a servant than a lady.

“They did it! You believe me don’t you, Father?! Oh please tell me you do!” Bella struggled to regain herself. If her heart still beat, it would hammer against her ribs. Hugging herself, she watches the other survivors pick themselves up and turn to help. A few straying eyes glared at her, tight mouths frowned at her, and backs were turned. Many wished she had burned with the church. Unshed tears prickled at her eyes though they wouldn’t, couldn’t, fall.
  Reannabella Frost / shesmorethanamemory / 138d 9h 8m 30s
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Handlee]
[handlee [right Dear Father Conroy,]
I was afraid this would happen. You warned me, but I thought that by staying away from the heat, I would avoid the fire. This is never true. You taught me better than that, Father. Today, I write on the remains of my stationary from the Church of Dawn, for the light saw fit to burn it's shell down to the ground... And most of the structure inside too... It aches so much...]

[p Two Nights Before]
It was so easy to step aside. That is what Cleric Ajax Smith knew from fact.

Fundraising? That was a chore. Ajax was well known among the other nobles for a few reasons. The primary one was his willingness to house anyone in the church's small shelter. For those whose hearts had not frozen to stone yet, this was an endearing quality. Leech? You hid in the shelter basement during daylight hours to protect your flesh from God's light. Human? You hid in the main shelter at night to protect yourself from exposure. Both never starved, whether it be because the vampires hunted, the humans tried to work, or someone was kind enough to donate blood or resources. It made him a prominent community figure most nights.

To the more cunning in the noble circles, the man was a good tool to use to gauge how the public currently felt about them. See, having upset city-folk and poor was normal. However, rebellions and fights could come to extremes, on occasion.
A young woman with dark hair that curled and twined in a spill around her shoulders knew this well. She still bore the scar on her right cheek from the night a group of frustrated civilians broke into the manor and slaughtered two of her family members. The bright red scar was a startling contrast to her milky skin, and it was a badge she wore.

Now the woman was strong. She had started training her body the night it happened. She was muscled and alert. She skipped the skirts in favor of form-fitting pants, and she always wore a gun on her hip. At her side was a creature of the night, her first pledge of two. The vampire, one similar in appearance to her to the point that they could have been twins, followed in her shadow.

She approached Ajax now, who had donned his church robes for the party. They were glorious in colors of green and blue, and they fit him well. It was the most luxurious clothing he owned, and he only wore them to parties like these where he would ply donations from the nobles with whatever charisma he possessed, aided only by how long the noble had been drinking, and the things Ajax might know about them at that time.

[#800000 "Cleric... How were the markets today?"] she asked. It was a subtle enough question. How did the poor like the kings today? That would have been the gist of it. Ajax addressed this with a nod and a small, somewhat sheepish smile.
[b "Ms. Darwin, you look beautiful,"] Ajax greeted. He got what he wanted by playing along. [b "Where did you obtain that pistol? I had no idea Haverly had lifted the tariffs on metal and gunpowder?"]

Ms. Darwin's eyes narrowed slightly. Then she offered a smile as well, this one a bit tighter. [#800000 "Gunpowder? Yes. Metal? No. It was a gift from Petrice, who is currently escorting my mother to Ash's Reach. She sent it via courier... I'm sure other merchants will feel safe doing the same these days since the Church has offered to start redirecting some of the more, ah, disenfranchised toward the military."]

What a mouthful! She knew what he wanted to hear, though, and was too stubborn to give it up without some redirecting of her own. Ajax paused for a moment to digest this.
[b "I see! A shame the disenfranchised - as you put it - are not just healthy young men, however. See, I had a family come in this morning. The father had died in a factory accident, and the mother was struggling to make ends meet. Thank goodness she did not have to stay the night... but she did need a meal for her two sons. I hope they grow to be strong, despite their circumstances."] Ajax wasn't technically lying. He neglected to mention that the mother was seeking a promising position as a maid, and the stop in was mostly for a blessing. The children [i did] in fact eat lunch while they were there, though.

[#800000 "Well, I suppose the Darwin Family could lend a hand. After all, boys grow into strong men when well cared for. I'm sure I can send Anna by within the week to contribute to the growth of Haverly's children."] There was a slight shadow to her features now. She had two younger brothers as well. A shame one of them was now buried in dirt. Ajax had hit a chord, whether he recognized it or not.
He seemed too, for his features softened in a warm and grateful smile. He moved in a bit closer.

[b "I would avoid sending Anna down Trader's Avenue then,"] he recommended. [b "I heard from a parishioner that several Dawn's Loyalists have been meeting beneath the tavern's main floor. They have not made themselves known yet... but it is hard to escape the eyes of God."]

So the anger was currently directed back at the leeches? So be it. Ms. Darwin gave a nod and a little bow. Then she headed back into the fray of the gathering, mingling with other guests. Anna trailed her...

The party went on like this for some hours. As the guests took their leave, Cleric prepared for his long walk home. He did not journey by carriage or the new-fangled automobiles. Walking gave him time to count his favors and sort the intel he had collected in his mind. It was like meditation.
As he approached his street, though, he was pulled from his thoughts by heat and glow. He dashed toward it, but the moments leading up to falling at the edges of his church felt as thick as the fire's smoke.

His life's work! His home! His... His parishioners! The homeless in the shelters! He didn't need to scream for help. The smell of burning and smoke had drawn the block together. While everyone struggled to help put out the fire and save who they could, Ajax was left confused and too stunned to act for the moment.
That was, he did not act until [b they] came to him. He recognized this one. In fact, he knew this one well. He went to them.

[b "The shelter... The church..."] He felt so lost. Words stopped making sense as he tried to seek a way to ask this vampire for answers.
  [Delusions of Smoke] / Ixionic / 138d 11h 13m 40s
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