Gangrel: About the Clan of the Beast
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More often than not, I get no respect. No matter, really, just an observation. The thing is, though, sometimes I'm not sure if I'm getting respect or not.
It's not easy being a mortal bartender in a gathering-place for the undead... I think the only thing that's saved my ass at all is that I'm good at what I do. No, I don't mean 'tending...I mean information. The Malkavian have their madness network, or whatever it is, but most individuals-kindred and mortals alike-are just that: individuals. They need an information broker. That is as easily me as anyone else, da? I'm here a lot, I see a lot.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. You were asking me about the strangest things I've seen working here...I started talking about respect. You may start thinking I'm Malkavian and not mortal after all, but it all ties in somehow, I assure you.
I don't see many of them, but the Gangrel are likely-no, definitely-the oddest group of anything I've ever met up with in my life. Sure, there are the Nosferatu, with their ugly mugs, but I must respect that bunch; we're in the same business, half the time. And the Giovanni are a bit frightening, with their penchant for death, but they're just plain evil. I may not like it much, but I can understand it and deal with it. Malkavian, of course, you just listen to and filter the trash. The Gangrel, though... nyet. There's no way I can explain those creatures. They aren't human, even the new ones. And that's what I mean when I say I'm not sure if I get any respect or not: from Gangrel, respect doesn't come in any kind of package; nyet, it comes from a quiet glance, a nod of the head. And you're lucky if it's that obvious.
Case in point: a few nights ago, I was wiping down the bar, getting ready to leave for the morning. Dawn was maybe an hour off, and it was rather quiet. I don't know where all the kindred go, but it isn't always this bar. Anyway, I was cleaning up... some Anarch had made a hell of a mess earlier, and I was just now getting to the spills. It wasn't pleasant work, but it's what I do. After a bit, I noticed there were a lot more mice in the place than usual. We've got some rats here, but the smaller rodents usually don't ever show up. I saw at least four running around in the shadows. I also had the odd feeling that I was being watched. I know, it shouldn't seem so odd, me being a mortal, and me working where I do and all, but like I said, I'm the rare friend that kindred have among my kind. I usually don't feel...hunted. That night, I did.
Now, if you'll turn around a moment, you'll see that most of this room is visible from my vantage behind the bar...all of it, in fact, save that corner, on the other side of the fireplace...the light of the fire puts enough glare out to blind most, and that corner's got a lot of shadow in it anyway. I glanced over there, and I could see a pair of eyes looking back at me. Granted, a lot of kindred have eyes that glow red; there's nothing new about that, but this glaring set of eyes was white. I don't mean they just looked pale, like some kind of blue, I mean they were white. They glowed white, and they shook me up. I made a guess that running wouldn't do me much good, so I decided to just do what I usually did when a new face turned up. I smiled, nodded, and asked if I could do anything for him.
The eyes never blinked. Slowly, though, they rose, and moved forward. As this guy came out of the shadows, and I got a good look at him, I grew even more disturbed. He was tall, almost seven feet, and although he was shaped like a person, he was completely inhuman. There were claws on his fingertips, his bare legs were covered in a fine, shimmering fur, and his upper body was a mass of sinewy muscle. He was wiry, and moved with a grace more fluidly catlike than any tiger I've ever seen. His wild mane of hair was silver, matching the fur on his legs, and came down past his shoulders. He walked easily to the bar, still saying nothing, and those feral eyes just continued staring at me as if I were some bloody side of beef on a meat hook. If you've ever seen a wolf-I mean a real wolf, not one of those Garou-and been awed by its sleek power, just looking at it, then you know how I felt.
I mentioned those mice before, da? Well, those came out of the woodwork like a plague, now that he had actually shown himself. They were all over the place now, scampering around and climbing tables and chair legs. One even clambered somehow onto the glossy surface of the bar top, scurrying toward him on that higher surface. The eyes left me then, dropping to the bar top. Their gaze softened, and a clawed hand slid, palm up, onto the flat surface. The little mouse ran onto that hand, and was slowly elevated to the same level as the vampire's face. A brief string of shrill sounds slid through his lips, and a return volley was fired from the rodent's tiny throat. Before I had quite realized the two had just held conversation, the mouse had climbed to a shoulder, and the eyes had again engaged my own face, evaluating me with a palpable impassivity.
In another instant, he was on the bar top, crouching on the balls of his feet and balancing himself with one long-fingered hand. The other hand shot out, picking up one of the bottles of blood I like to keep around so the customers can satisfy their thirsts on something other than me.
Normally, of course, I scowl at customers sitting on top of the bar, but I doubted the prudence of asking him off at that moment. Instead, I watched as he leaned over, searching for something. I asked, in a distant voice, if I could help him, but he paid me no mind, instead moving on all fours to a spot farther down the bar. Reaching down, his fingers found a stack of bowls and removed one, roughly placing it in front of him. Picking up the bottle, he deftly uncorked it with a claw, then filled the bowl. He slid the bottle, now half-empty, toward me, unaware or uncaring of the fact that it tipped and rolled, spilling its contents onto the bar and the floor.
Enthralled, I watched as he lifted the bowl to his lips and drank deeply. The muscles in his face and throat rippled as the thick liquid flowed from the bowl to his mouth, then into his veins, or wherever it goes in a kindred's body...his paper-white skin gradually grew darker, flushing with the warm blood, but that was only a secondary detail to my eyes. What I noticed most was the look in his face as he drank. I have seen other vampires feed, both from a vessel, as he did, and from actual beings, but never had I seen anyone drink in such a...businesslike...way. Most kindred will savor the vitae they ingest, somehow enjoying it, or despising it, but never are they indifferent to it. This one, though...
This wild creature fed with efficiency, with expediency. To him, it was simply a matter of remaining alive. His eyes were closed, but it was not from ecstasy, as it is in many vampires. He cared nothing for flavor, or any other aesthetic appeal. As he drank, his long hair fell into the bowl, the silver taking a crimson stain as thin rivulets of red spilled out of the bowl, dripping thickly onto my bar top. None of these things fazed him, however, and the quiet gulps of his throat soon stopped. Setting the empty bowl down, he looked again at me. If anything, his appearance was even more awesome than before. The unnatural pallor was gone from his face, replaced by a flush that made him seem that much more demonic. The glistening red at the tips of his glossy hair reminded me of the snout of some carnivore, looking up from its kill. I knew the small bowl was nowhere near large enough to have satisfied his thirst, and his pale eyes made me uneasy as they fixed on my face, on my warm human body.
Something in me knew that there was no point in trying to escape if he was planning on using me as a straw, and I simply held my ground, facing him as naturally as I could manage. For what seemed an eternity, our eyes were locked, those intense, animal eyes of his boring into mine...I was terrified, but didn't move. I was too scared to move. The upset bottle was dripping blood rhythmically onto the floor, and the fire on the other side of the room was crackling away, and the mice that were all over the place were making tiny scratchy mice-noises, but he was staring at me in complete silence. I was holding my breath.
Suddenly, and slowly, he nodded. A single gesture that I have yet to decipher, it was little more than a tiny inclination of his head, not even enough movement to shift his unkempt hair. I think my mouth fell open then, but I still wasn't breathing, and no sound came forth from my tight throat. His eyes were still boring into mine, but the back of my mind noticed a sudden exodus among the rodents in the room. Then, he left. It was the most unnerving exit I've ever witnessed in this bar, more so than even the eerie habit so many have of simply melting into shadow. This one didn't stand and walk out the door, as I do; nor did he just wink out, as I have seen some do. Nyet...he dissolved. Beginning with his feet, his body faded away, until only the image of his burning, beastly eyes was left. Soon, even that was no more than an afterimage burned into my own eyes.
He was gone. The sky was growing paler with each moment, and I was badly shaken. After taking a shot of vodka, I wiped the dark, sticky blood from the bar and closed up. During the drive home, I savored the dawn's light as I never have before.
But do you see my point, about Gangrel being radically different from the other clans? Ventrue, Lasombra, Tremere, Assamite...they all have something human about them, be it a lust for power or a religious fanaticism. Gangrel, though, are animals. No matter how human they appear to be, their minds work like those of rats and of dogs. They may speak a human language, but they certainly don't think it. The shapeshifters may disagree with me here, but I think most Gangrel are closer to nature than any Garou-homids, at least-could ever hope to be. Gangrel have embraced the Beast; they know it is neither evil nor good; they know simply that it exists. In the same way, Gangrel themselves simply exist, and desire to continue existing. It isn't politics, or power, or anything else that keeps a Gangrel going night after night; it is simple, impassive survival, and that's all, and I pity the man who gets between a Gangrel and her continued unlife. It's frightening, how close to the beast these creatures can get...they toe a line most kindred I've met would never dare tread.
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