The next day, she gives Ronan, the Duke, a call. For once, he actually answers (albeit in the middle of a party.) He has a charming Irish accent and seems very good natured, even pleased to hear from her, though it’s clear he’s not taking her worries seriously at
all. She mentions that she believes she’s being stalked, and he laughs and goes, “Well, a pretty girl like you isn’t living unless she has at least one stalker, right? Kidding, kidding…” When she instead mentions that she’s surrounded by vampires and very seriously thinks that they might eat her, his commentary is “Nobody eats you but me!” with a laugh and another “Just kidding, kidding, of course.”
Portia begins to get the idea that not only is he not going to allow her to go home, he’s not going to offer any helpful advice. In a last ditch effort, she finally asks, “You’d let me know if any of them WERE planning to kill me, right?”
He wryly responds, “Sure, sure, if any of them tell me that they plan to bite you, you’ll be the first person I tell.” Upon hanging up, she decides it’s best to take matters into her own hands.
She made her way to several bookstores and wound up at a second-hand shop down on Clyde Ave. She found a few books on Celtic mythology that seemed promising and, while browsing for some vampire books that weren’t bodice rippers, was startled by a heavily accented voice behind her. “May I make a recommendation?” She turned on her heel to find Vlad, from New Dubrovnik, standing there and offering her a thickly-bound edition of Dracula.
“Certainly!” She exclaimed, trying not to let on that she was a bit nervous being cornered in a little aisle. “Ah, Dracula, a classic… been years since I read it.” She accepted it and glanced at the year it was published, which revealed it to be a first edition, possibly even one that wasn’t published en masse.
“Your new friends, you cannot trust them.” Vlad advised, “The Camarilla cares for no one, it merely uses them. When you have outlived your usefulness, they will surely devour you as they do all others.”
Portia blinked, glancing around to be sure that no one was listening, before she hesitantly questioned, “You know about Kindred?”
“I would hope so, being that I am one of them. But I am not of the Camarilla; my kind are more… honest in our dealings with mortals, though Camarilla propeganda would have you believe we are all monsters. But some of us are wiser than that, and I am old enough to see the value of mortals.”
She carefully added the book to her stack. “If you were me,” She asked slowly, “What would you do? Do you have any, erm, advice, by any chance?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, shrugging ever so slightly. “If you were my daughter? I would tell you to go home to England. To get out of town, as far away from this city as possible. To forget.”
Portia made a face as they walked towards the cash register. “I don’t think I /can/ leave,” She confessed, a bit sourly. “I’d very much like to, but I don’t believe it’s in the cards.”
“Ah…” He shook his head. “I cannot help you if you continue to follow the rabbit down its hole. The deeper you are drawn into Camarilla politics, the more dangerous it is for you. If you need safety, you may come to my restaurant, but the longer you wait…” Vlad shrugged again, slowly. “To Kindred, you are food. It is all I can say.”
“Thank you,” Portia managed a smile, “I really value the warning.”
“You’re welcome,” He smiled in return. “It is the least I can do for such a… promising new customer. Be well, Portia Blackwood.” And with that, he left the shop, leaving her to make her purchases. She took all the books home and immediately began to read the version of Dracula he had offered. It became clear very quickly that it was not the version available commercially in any way. In it, Dracula was portrayed as more of a likeable, ravishing protagonist, while Jonathan Harker was a psychotic man hellbent on destroying the vampire for stealing his wife (who had fallen in love with the incredibly handsome being.) Most of the powers were different and several of the methods of attacking vampires were revised or debunked completely. Portia did discover, however, that stakes could paralyze and decapitation could kill.
Checking the time revealed that some stores were still open, so she googled the nearest shop with medieval weaponry and made her way to the Merivale Mall, where she browsed until she decided upon a Celtic longsword. When she went to the counter to make the purchase, however, the cashier asked, “Oh, here to pick up your order?”
“I beg your pardon? You must have me confused with someone else.”
“You’re Portia Blackwood, aren’t you?” She nodded, confirming it warily. “The system says you placed an order a couple weeks back; it’s ready now, if you’d like to take it.”
“Paid for and everything?” The cashier nodded, heading into the back room and then returning with a long black box, which he opened to reveal a very glamourous Celtic longsword, not unlike the one she picked out, but extremely ornate, with gems studding the hilt and the blade shining brightly in the light. Additionally, the box contained a voucher for free sword-fighting lessons at OSMAC. The cashier had no further information on who could have ordered it for her, so Portia accepted the sword and took it home. Afterwards, she made her way to Canadian Tire and purchased a hefty plank of wood along with sandpaper and the necessary tools needed to cut and shape it. Once at home again, she does just that, crudely forming a stake from part of the plank.
While she’s sanding it free of splinters, there comes a knock at the door. She goes to check and – voila! – there is Gideon Wolfe. “May I come in?” He asks.
Portia doesn’t quite recall if vampires needed invitations in the Dracula edition she just read, so she stalls. “My place isn’t terribly fit for entertaining at the moment; it’s a bit barren, actually.”
He waves away the concern dismissively. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
Portia bites her lip, glancing over her shoulder towards the room where a stake lies on the table, a sword on the kitchen counter, and vampire books scattered all around. “I… suppose it couldn’t hurt anything… would you care to come in?”
He grins and steps over the threshold before pointing out, “We don’t actually need an invitation; it’s just polite.”
“Good to know.” She responds wryly, closing the door behind him.
“Have any vodka?” Portia shakes her head, causing him to go through a longer list of things he might accept in its stead. Finally, she interrupts him to clarify that she only has a bottle of merlot. “Oh. That will do nicely. I’ll have to have someone deliver some vodka here so that it’s available the next time I come over.” She pours two glasses of wine and offers one to him while he picks up her sword and swishes it about expertly. “What a fine blade! I prefer shorter swords myself, the gladius namely, but the craftsmanship on this piece is excellent. Where ever did you find it?”
“It was a gift!” She sips at her wine, leaning back on the counter. “Anonymous, though.”
“You must have quite the admirer.” He carefully puts the sword back, wandering into the living room to continue his curious explorations.
“Yes, well, secret admiration never got anyone very far. If they liked me so much, I’d prefer to know them.” She follows him into the other room. “So, what brings you to my humble apartment?”
“Do I need to have a reason?” He wondered as he perused her books. “Perhaps I just want to go to bed with you.” He picked up the stake and raised his eyebrow. “I’m not sure I like the idea of you arming yourself against Kindred, Portia. Swords and stakes?”
“Well, it’s not like all Kindred are exactly full of good feelings towards me.” She responded defensively. “I’ve had two break-ins the last week alone, I think I’m being stalked, and an acquaintance of mine was kidnapped! I think there’s a very good reason to arm myself.”
At this point, however, he has stopped listening and was staring very intently at the Dracula book. “Where,” He hissed, “Did you get /this/?”
“Secondhand shop,” She replied neutrally, “Down on Clyde Ave.”
“I’ve been there,” He snapped brusquely, flipping through its pages with increasing agitation. “There is no chance that this book simply showed up on their shelves. Where did you actually get it?”
Portia scowled at him. “I DID purchase it there. Would you care to see my receipts?”
“Yes.” He put the book down and returned the glare as she fished into her purse and thrust the appropriate receipt at him with no small amount of annoyance. He studied it for a moment before handing it back over, still scowling. “Someone must have put it there for you to find, then, because there’s no way you found it coincidentally.”
“Be that as it may,” She snipped haughtily, “That IS where I bought it. Why are you so agitated about it anyway?”
Gideon hesitated, smoothing his hair and adjusting his tie before replying, “We’ve worked very hard to maintain a specific PR campaign of misinformation about Kindred. This one must have just slipped under the radar.”
Portia narrowed her eyes at him and essentially called bullshit, but he made for the exit before she could really drill him with questions. Just before he left, however, she called out sharply, “Gideon, the next time you invite yourself into my hospitality, you /will not lie to me./” He didn’t respond and left without any further niceties.