Scout’s Honor, Part 11: Of the Blood

The following scene parallels and completes a secret scene from 11/19/2015. Scout content warnings still apply. 

***

FORT FUNSTON

Scout stands on the bluffs of Fort Funston, looking down at a mess of police tape surrounding the entrance to one of the tunnels. It’s a calm, clear night, with enough moonlight out for night time jogging, but no one seems to be around. Considering Captain Anstis’s fashion sense, she had expected his pirate hide-out to be more of the classic sea-cave-filled-with-piles-of-treasure type deal, but all intel says this is his place.

Perhaps we all have to make do, she thinks as she scrambles down the dunes to the pitted concrete. Anstis clearly isn’t much of a threat, but protocol says she should investigate his business anyway. Besides, Cantor would think it only fair to invade his haven after he invaded theirs.

Pausing to brush the sand off her new suit, she obfuscates, steps over the police tape, and disappears inside.

Darkness engulfs her, but through the gloom she can see side-tunnels branching off in various directions. She keeps to the main tunnel, moving slowly, pausing occasionally to listen, her hand hovering near her knife. Finally, she hears echoes of movement ahead, and a distant glow around a corner. She approaches carefully and peers around.

A cavernous room lies at the end, lit by ancient halogen sconces embedded in the walls. In the center of the room is a fresh teleportation circle. A hooded figure crouches next to it, one bloody hand extended, as if about to dip into the enchantment.

Suddenly the figure tenses, then stands fluidly, facing toward her. Her movements identify her instantly: it’s the woman from Union Square.

And she’s not in a hood; it’s hijab.

Scout draws her knife and presses against the wall as the woman slowly scans the room. Bright eyes shine from a dark face, darker than the shadows of her shawl should cast, and a curved dagger swings from her hip. She clenches her bloody hand, then blows hard through the fist. Droplets of blood fly out and swirl through the air, forming a mist that expands rather than settles.

“I know you are there,” the woman says, accented-voice drifting like wind through a canyon. “Have you come for me?”

Scout backs towards the tunnel.

“Come out.” The woman steps forward and blows another cloud of blood. “Or I’ll ferret you out. You think you can hide from judgement?” She paces forward, approaching Scout’s position, the red mist following her. Scout eyes the unnatural cloud warily, then concentrates….

A mirror of herself appears on the far side of the room, gripping the same knife and staring at the other Assamite with the same wary expression.

The woman hesitates, and for a moment Scout fears the trickery is obvious, but then the blood mist evaporates. The woman turns toward Scout’s illusion and scowls. “So. You have followed me here?”

Scout gathers more will and casts her reply from her doppelganger: “I wasn’t following you. I came to find information about the pirate.”

“Information.” The woman stalks toward the illusion, away from Scout’s real position. “You seek something for your master. Tell me where he is, and how I may come upon him.”

The illusion eyes her. “Who are you?”

The woman flourishes a hand. “I am Fatima El-Amin, of the Blood and loyalty of Haquim. I am an Assamite of the Warrior clan, and you…are nothing.” Fatima spits to the ground. “Traitor, cut from the tree. Will you stand there and fight me? Or has your master brought other servants to this place?”

Scout glares at the insults, but the illusion spreads her hands placatingly. “I don’t want to fight anybody.”

“And has that stayed your blade before? In Istanbul? In Vancouver?” Fatima takes another step forward. “In Mexico City?”

Both Scout and the doppelganger still. Each of those cities had been a site of some of her biggest jobs, and the times Cantor had been the most proud of her. The rush of power had been intoxicating and she’d let herself fall into it, bit by bit, surrendering to the only thing that brought her even a facsimile of joy anymore.

Until the night she had learned Tom was still alive, and her slow descent began to reverse.

“The blade may have been held by my hand those times, but I wasn’t the one directing it,” Scout replies firmly, but her knife trembles in her grip.

“You lie,” Fatima sneers. “You are a liar’s childe. You should not have come here. You should not have come to this city at all. You should have done what was right and fallen upon your own blade as soon as he’d let you.” Fatima steps forward again. “Tell me where your master is. Where he truly is, not the cathedral he plays at making his den. Tell me all you know of him and I will make your death swift. Do not, and I will drag you screaming to Alamut.”

Scout stares at Fatima’s unsuspecting back. It would be a simple thing to take her now, or to run, but something makes her hesitate. “…You really think you’ll be able to stop him?” she asks finally. Hopefully.

“Haquim rules all things. If it be His rule, I’ll slay ten thousand Cantors. And if not, I’ll go before him in judgement. Can you say the same, slave?”

Both Scout and her illusion shake their heads slowly. “No god’s will guides the actions of that man.”

“Spoken like an apostate. Haquim will judge your soul and if he does not, Allah will.” Fatima draws her dagger. “You and have plagued this world long enough. Let the Sabbat know what happens when they shelter diablerists and demonologists.”

The spark of hope in Scout’s chest dies. Leaving the illusion where it is, she slowly starts to back down the hall. The further away she moves the more her head throbs, will straining at holding the image so long. As soon as she loses direct line of sight, the image will dissolve, but by then she should have enough of a head-start to escape the assassin.

Fatima moves closer to the image. “Come then, Sabbat. Show me what they taught you to do with that blade of yours.”

Scout gropes behind her, feeling for the bend in the tunnel, preparing to run….

Fatima’s dagger glints in the wan industrial light. “No pithy comeback? Your brother had more to say.”

Scout stops. “…What do you know of my brother?” the illusion asks sharply.

Fatima’s posture shifts. “I know he thought you dead,” she says, tone touched with mocking. “I was the one to tell him otherwise, to tell him his sister had become a terrifying thing, slave to darkness and the demons of hell. I showed him what you were, and he died knowing it.”

“From what I hear, he’s not dead.”

Fatima laughs. “He is as dead as they come. I watched a pack of Kindred hunt him down and drag him into the bowels of the Chantry. They no doubt used him for some ritual purpose.”

Scout and the illusion eyes her coolly. “Or he could still be there.”

“The Tremere don’t waste materials,” Fatima replies. The illusion stares back flatly, but Scout herself shudders.

“You’re stalling,” Fatima continues, raising her dagger. “Step forward and face me blade to blade. Pretend in your last moments you have some measure of honor remaining in your corrupted, stolen blood.”

Scout hesitates. The darkness of the tunnels calls to her, whispering to slip away, but her gaze fixes on Fatima’s lithe form, pacing through the cavern like a panther. In thirty years, Cantor had shared with her very little about the nature of their clan, and what pieces he did were usually dripping with disdain. But the one thing always clear was that an Assamite’s single-minded focus was both her greatest strength, and her greatest weakness.

Scout steps back into the cavern, easing the tension on the illusion, and moves closer toward Fatima. “You’re not here for me, you’re here for my master,” she says smoothly, then gathers her will to struggle against her blood bond for a moment of breathing room, “…Maybe I can help you with that. If you help me.”

Fatima eyes the illusion. “You try to bargain with me? Draw me into a trap, I wonder? Or do you truly hate him enough to draw him into one?”

The bond suddenly wrenches, silencing Scout’s words, but the stare on the illusion’s face speaks enough.

Fatima stares back, body still coiled to spring. “Why should I trust you? Even if you hate him, you are bound to him.”

“I am. Until he dies.”

“You cannot work towards his death,” Fatima scoffs. “The bond will not let you. And even if it did, he will not.” She smirks darkly. “You are not the first of his childer to become known to the Blood.”

“Then why don’t you hunt them down instead?”

“Because they are already dead. By his own hand.”

Scout stops her slow advance. Dread swells in her gut, twisting into a sick suspicion….

Fatima paces closer to the illusion, continuing in a voice as smooth as her stride. “Alamut has tracked him, and his perversions, for as long as he’s hunted the night. He has spread his blood to hundreds of childer over the centuries, one at a time. Every single one was reclaimed before he moved to the next.” She cocks her head and grins mockingly. “Has he told you otherwise?”

Scout’s mind races, combing back through thirty years of conversations. “I’ve lived under his control, his threats, for as long as I’ve known him, but….”

“But they are not threats. They are promises.” Fatima eyes the illusion, face smooth as obsidian. “He will consume you. As he has all the others.”

A piece of Scout spasms in horror, aching to yell, to deny, but it settles back quickly, overwhelmed by the rest of her psyche; the part that had, deep down and despite trying to ignore it, known all along.

The illusion stares back coolly, but Scout closes her eyes, squeezing back frustrated tears. “…Why?” she whispers.

“For, as you say, control. Cantor is an abomination of the Blood, missing that which marks us as the blood of Haquim, body and soul.” Fatima lifts one hand reverently to her chest. “Cantor calls this curse a blessing, using it to slip into the darkest cracks of the world. From there he spreads his ruin and death. But his ‘blessing’ is only valuable if few people know, and even fewer people share it.”

Fatima’s fist clenches and falls back to her side. “Every few decades, he captures a new childe, passes on his mutation, and raises it in his image. But he must retain control of his blood, from embrace till death. Most are culled once they fall to ravening madness. But some go the other way, fighting past his control.” She smiles grimly. “Some even survive a few nights before he finds them.”

Nausea rolls over Scout, but she fights it down to maintain the illusion and focus on Fatima, slowly pacing closer to the doppelganger. A few more steps and she’ll be close enough to touch it, destroying the facade.

Scout’s gaze darts toward the exit. “What if I want to fight him?”

“You lie,” Fatima sneers. “His bond is too strong. If you had subverted his will enough to even speak of such thoughts, you would already be dead.”

Scout hesitates. But…I am…and I’m not….

Horror gives way to confusion. Did Cantor know? Was this some new game of his, letting her flirt with freedom before he killed her? Or was he so occupied with his own plans that she had somehow slipped through the cracks…. “What would it take for you to believe me?” she asks out loud.

Fatima laughs. “A miracle.” She moves closer, dagger glinting.

A miracle…. Scout’s mind races. Cantor hadn’t told her much of Assamite lore, but he’d told her some. Perhaps even enough. Slowly, unseen, Scout sinks to her knees, scraping her last reserves of will, fighting rising hunger as she pours in extra power….

The lights in the room flare, blindingly bright. The illusionary form of Scout in front of her remains unmoved but Fatima staggers, staring around.

Fatima El-Amin,” a massive voice booms through the cavern, as if the earth itself had opened up to speak. “Judge of the Hunter, shepherd of the flock. Mind those of my blood who have lost their way. Trust them to find strength in themselves, protect them from the wolves who covet them, and bring your judgement down upon the unworthy.

Slowly, the light recedes to normal. Fatima stands frozen, hand clenched on her dagger. Unseen nearby, Scout crouches against the floor, head pounding from exertion. The doppelganger still stands calmly, but her grip on it wavers, threatening to let it flicker out of existence. Gasping, she gropes for her knife and traces a thin line through the skin of her palm. The pain shoots across her body, but it’s enough to ground her in sanity and stabilize the illusion.

Fatima whirls toward the doppelganger. “What is this…a trick?”

The illusion stares back blankly.

Fatima glances around the room. “This…this is some trickery. Some devilry, sent to tempt the faithful,” she says, though her hand is still shaking. “Why shouldn’t I kill you right here? How do I truly know this is Haquim’s will? I have been commanded to find and kill Cantor. I do not disobey my commands!”

Scout climbs slowly to her feet. “How will killing me get you to him?” the illusion responds.

“You are bound to him, you would stop me.”

No, I won’t, Scout tries to reply, but, drained as she is, the bond easily squeezes her throat shut. Fear and frustration dance across her face, leaking out to reflect in the figure standing before Fatima.

Fatima’s eyes narrow. Her hand flickers on her knige. “Do you truly hate him so?”

Scout grits her teeth. Slowly, she forces her head–and the illusion–into a nod.

Fatima raises her dagger. “If I leave you alive, and you warn your master I am coming, I am cursed by Haquim, by my own masters. Why should I take such a risk? What are you to me, to the Blood?”

The doppelganger smiles sadly. “I’d rather be an artist.”

Fatima laughs meanly. “You are not a Toreador, you are an Assamite. Would you reject Haqim? Reject the ways of the Judges? Reject the Blood you were given?”

Scout hesitates, glancing at the vitae leaking out her sliced palm and beading on the tip of her own dagger. “I…don’t know enough about it. All I know is Cantor.”

Fatima’s laugh echoes around the cavern. “And am I to pity you for this? You who have never been tested, you who did not go through the Three-Fold Path. You who have never laid eyes on Alamut or faced the Weeping Stone. What are you? Just another pretty blonde American girl plucked from your bed by a monster, whose final death is long overdue.”

Scout’s head snaps up. The pain and horror collect into something new, bringing an unnatural clarity to her mind. Her bleeding hand clenches. Slowly, gripping her knife, she stalks forward, coming up behind Fatima.

Fatima lifts her dagger toward the illusion’s throat. “What would you be if I stayed this blade?”

The illusion lifts her chin. “I don’t know.”

“Haquim will not save you for not knowing. If you do not know the answers intrinsically, then you are of no use to anyone.” Fatima sneers, baring ivory fangs in her dark face. “What would you be…slave?”

In one simultaneous moment, Scout reappears and drops the illusion, grabbing Fatima’s hair through her shawl and forcing her head back, knife pressed to her throat. Fatima spasms, drops her dagger, then freezes, staring up at Scout in shock, eyes briefly darting across the cavern as if to estimate how fast Scout must have moved to appear behind her so. After a moment, though, Fatima’s body relaxes. Slowly, deliberately, she closes her eyes. “I await Haquim’s judgment,” she mutters, followed by a soft prayer in Arabic.

Scout’s head pounds again, this time in hunger. One fist tightens on the shawl while the other presses the etched blade deeply against the smooth neck. The tip splits the skin, releasing a bead of vitae, glittering like a jewel in the wan light. Scout shudders. There’s no coffee to erase the expectant taste building in her mouth, and very little will left to stay her hand.

And no other threats to distract you from claiming your prize, the dark voice within her whispers.

Scout stares at her prey, hands tight against body and blade, then slowly leans down. “I don’t know what I’ll be,” she whispers in her ear. “But I’m willing to find out.”

With a great wrenching of will, she releases the woman and stands back, ignoring the frustrated cries of the demons within her.

Fatima instantly dances away, swooping down to reclaim her dagger, backing up against the wall. She watches Scout warily, ignoring the nick at her neck and the uneven tilt to her shawl, half unraveled to reveal hair as dark as her skin. “What do you want?” Fatima whispers.

Scout stares back evenly. “I convinced my master to bring me to this city to find my brother. I thought maybe I could help him…or he could help me.”

Fatima’s eyes narrow. “Your brother is dead.”

“Maybe. But I need to know for sure, and if he is, then I need to find those who killed him.”

“And then do what?”

“I think you know.”

Fatima eyes her a long moment, then slowly nods. “The one called Rabenholz, the pirate, and the Tremere your master took a contract on. They are the ones who took him. Them and the Justicar. They are bad men. Predators in every sense. Hunters who stalk the night and inflict terror and damnation on their victims. They seek power, and death, and horrors, respectively. You seek to judge them?”

Scout eyes her evenly. “Let’s just say a short temper runs in the family.”

A smirk splits Fatima’s face. “Perhaps you are not such an artist after all.”  

Scout nods, then clenches her jaw as she struggles against her blood bond. “…If…you need Cantor,” she blurts finally, “…maybe…if you can wait for a better opportunity–”

“I have been waiting, and the city threatens to burn around me while I do.” Fatima’s smile vanishes. “I cannot return to Alamut with you and he alive. They would put me to death and they would be right.”

Scout frowns. “But he’s the one they really want.”

“Yes, it is his blood I must take. But I am not strong enough to take it. Not yet.” Fatima eyes her significantly. “I have been hunting Cantor for many, many years. Through Montreal, to Colorado, even to Mexico City, I followed him. And you. I’ve seen enough of him to know I am not his equal, and the few in this city who are I have no hold over. So I wait, and I watch, and I take such…opportunities as I can.”

Scout nods slowly, grip on her knife tightening again. Cantor’s strength of blood is great, but he had also always been cautious about it. He forced her to embrace childer for his consumption so they would have no chance of fighting back, and in thirty years of missions he had never allowed her to even come close to consuming prey that would allow her to grow and rival his power. “I am not that opportunity,” Scout says. “But perhaps…I could provide you with one….”

Fatima’s eyes narrow skeptically. She opens her mouth to respond…then snaps her head around, facing toward the tunnel. Scout freezes, then hears it too: voices, echoing deeper down the hall.

“Did you come alone?” Fatima asks, voice low.

Scout watches the tunnel. “Yes….”

“Were you followed by others, besides me?”

“Not that I saw.”

Fatima eyes her. “Did you see me?

Scout shoots a glare back.

The voices come again, louder. Still holding her dagger, Fatima tightens her shawl, then stops, staring up at the industrial lights bolted to the walls. “When you came into the cave, did you turn these lights on?” she asks slowly.

Scout turns to her, eyes wide. “I thought you did.”

The distant voices turn to shouts, clearly approaching. Scout and Fatima trade a glance.

Instantly, both women disappear from sight.

 

END OF ADDENDUM

 

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