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The Prince's Wake

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Vampires and werewolves fought a bloody shadow war in Chicago in 1993. By the end of it Lodin, Prince of the vampires, was dead, and some of his childer with him. Lodin's remaining childer were weakened by the vicious attacks so none of them could effectively take his place. During the next few years, Lodin's strongest childer maneuvered for the throne while the lesser childer tried to find some way into the game. These scenes take place just nights after Lodin's death.

A Late Night Phone Call

“Man, you wanna what?” Kevin Jackson sounds like he’s just heard crazy talk.

The voice on the other end is firm, though. “You heard me. All of us are getting together after sundown tomorrow. Lodin’s place in the tower. Neutral ground.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. After all this shit -” After a few weeks of insane werewolves, freakish weather, and bloodshed night and day, Jackson isn’t trusting anybody.

“No backup, no tricks. Even Ballard’s called a truce, so there shouldn’t be a bloodbath – unless you want another one?” Capone almost sounds amused about it, like he could start another war if Jackson wants one, but they both know he’s lost as much as anyone. Maybe more.

Hopefully more.

“Naw. That, I don’t need.” A deep silence falls on Jackson’s end.

Both men know what Jackson’s thinking: The throne is empty for the first time in over a hundred years and getting all the contenders together in one place would be a great way to clean house, Godfather-style. And Capone is the Godfather, the O.G., the real deal, only he’s had about fifty years to learn how to be a better bastard. That’s almost fifty years more than Jackson’s had, if you don’t count the years before he became a vampire. And if Horatio Ballard’s gone out of his way to call a truce, then there’s definitely something he wants out of the meeting. Ballard’s the granddaddy now that Lodin and Edgar are dust in the wind. Ballard’s got at least fifty years’ head start on Capone, so that should mean he’s the biggest bastard. But if he is, then why aren’t Jackson and Capone out of the way already?

Jackson forces air out his chest in a sigh. “All right, I’ll be there, but my boys will be around.”

“Sure, kid, whatever,” Capone says, and hangs up before Jackson can snap at being called “kid.”

Besides, compared to Capone, Jackson is a kid. A dangerous, upstart, punk kid.

The Reunion

Most of Lodin’s brute squads were torn apart or cut down by gunfire recently, but it looks like some of the guards survived. Jackson recognizes their faces and even the way they stand – some of them are former cops – but they’ve seen better days. They look like they haven’t slept in a while. Or maybe they just need a fix. Two of them escort Jackson straight to the study, where Ballard and Capone are already waiting. The two elder vampires didn’t seem to be talking before he came in and they don’t seem to want to talk now. They just nod and let Jackson choose his spot in the room. It’s damned quiet as all three wait for the rest but at least the fire is fake, so they can stare at it without the risk of freaking out. Ballard’s got a glass of something that’s probably sticky and sweet and older than Jackson. Every time he lifts the glass, Jackson fights the urge to draw his lips up and wrinkle his nose in disgust.

Fat fucker’s always eating something or someone.

It doesn’t get much better when the others filter in during the next hour. Alan Sovereign shows up next, walking like he’s installed a new iron rod in his ass. He catches on to the vibe pretty quick and keeps his mouth shut, standing near his bloated sire like a good lackey. But even Sovereign’s lips purse together a fraction more when Ballard sips. Then Bobby Weatherbottom pokes his greasy head in. The geek’s wearing some kind of funeral suit, like this is a wake or something. At least Jacob Shumpeter and Joseph Peterson show up arguing, mostly because they’re both self-important asses who have to be loud about how important they are. They don’t even stop to notice how quiet the study is.

“Is this everyone then?” Joseph asks, like it’s the first thing on his agenda. “Where are Pham and Lawrence?”

“In Hell, with Brennon Thornhill and Tommy Hinds,” Capone retorts quickly. Both Capone and Ballard have lost childer in the current crisis; Joseph just hit a mighty sore spot.

Silence separates the men into their own corners of the ring.

“Did Lorraine make it?” Joseph asks, a bit more softly.

Questioning glances are exchanged, a few mutters.

“Nobody knows where she is,” Capone says finally.

“None of her accounts have been accessed for over two weeks,” Bobby supplies. None of them have to ask how the nosy little fucker knows that. He was Embraced because he could spy on any of them with his computer shit, after all. Now that Lodin’s gone, maybe his computer wizard can be put to better use. All eyes are on the geek. Then Bobby says: “I have it set up so that Annabelle will be notified the minute anything comes up.”

“Annabelle?” Jacob barks, making it clear that it’s none of her business.

“She said that any surviving childer of Lodin are a priority and can claim her protection, if they want it,” Bobby recites. There’s a subtle pause as the predators readjust their attention. If Bobby’s already under Annabelle’s protection, then she’s probably got him Blood Bound and ready to blackmail any one of them.

“I doubt that will be necessary,” Joseph replies stiffly.

None of them say it, but most of them are thinking it: Lorraine’s the only one who would need protection besides Bobby, and she’s probably dead.
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