A new year began a week after Sean and Claire had set sail for the land of their birth, as well as their consequent rebirth. During that cold winter week, Sean had taken to following the blood bound crew around the ship each night, attempting to learn all he could about yet another skill that they might just need again during the endless nights ahead of them. Claire was less interested in learning how to captain a ship. She spent most of her nights in just trying to find a way to deal with all of the worries that came with the prospect of having to deal with Awsha once more. Especially after she and Sean had worked so hard to get past the damage that had been done to their lives when Awsha was last part of them.
During this week, Claire spent most nights staring out at the sea and the stars while playing every possibility through her head for when they arrived back home, and attempting to find ways to plan how to deal with each. Given, most of those scenarios always eventually led back to thoughts of how she would cope with her husband’s vampiric sister once again.
Though, Claire spent most of these nights alone thinking, she was not truly alone. A large black cat had begun following her around the ship nearly everywhere she went. On this particular night, Claire stood looking out over the waters once more, and was swayed from her attempt at mentally preparing herself for their new lives when she felt that cat rubbing against her ankle below the long skirt.
“You again?” she shook her head down at the creature and allowed a small smile as she moved from the side of the ship to stoop down and scratch at the critter’s ears “I don’t know when you decided I was your new best friend. I can’t be the greatest company” Claire spoke softly to the cat as she continued to stroke its head and neck as it purred up at her quietly “What are you even doing here? You folks don’t like water last I checked” she smiled down at it again, “And a black cat too? Should I be worried that I have even more bad luck in store?”
Almost as if in response, the cat meowed up at Claire and then started to move away deliberately, looking back at Claire almost as though it wanted her to follow.
“Ok, either I’m crazy or you’re actually trying to get me to follow you” Claire called after the cat as it stopped at the steps that led below deck, and meowed back at her “Either’s equally possible I suppose” Claire stated more to herself as she simply shrugged and gave in to following the cat, as it seemed like it wanted her to.
The cat led Claire back to her and Sean’s quarters and stopped to look back up at Claire once more, then meowed at Claire, then the door behind her, and then Claire again.
“So… you have a secret you want to tell me, then?” Claire smirked as she shook her head and turned to close the door behind her “yeah, I think the me being crazy answer is probably the cor…” then her voice stopped immediately as she turned back to face the cat, only to see that there in its place was a young woman with nearly waist-length brown locks, pale brown eyes, and not a stitch of clothing covering her. The shock on Claire’s face was more than apparent, to say the least.
“Ok, I promise to explain, but mind if I borrow something to cover myself with first?”
Rather than verbally providing an answer, Claire just looked back at the other woman wide-eyed as she managed to gesture to her own nearby closet. The young woman offered a smile in return and moved to find one of Claire’s plainer dresses to pull up over her.
“So, hello” she attempted to greet Claire with a smile after she finished dressing and took a cautious step forward to hold her hand out in greeting.
‘You’re… a cat…” was the only response Claire could find right then.
The other woman smiled as she looked downwards before reaching for Claire’s hand and taking it gently in her equally cold hand, “Or you could just call me Lissa” she attempted with another smile as she released Claire’s hand a moment later.
“But, you were… a cat” Claire insisted, the obvious shock still apparent.
“It’s easier to hide in plain sight” was Lissa’s smiled response.
“Hide?” Claire managed.
“Well, obviously, we weren’t on the ship’s manifest” Lissa stated apologetically.
“We?” Claire stammered, still trying to get her head around speaking to the cat that was no longer a cat.
“My companion and I” she allowed, looking down guiltily, “I guess the technical term for us are stowaways.”
“Is your companion a dog, perhaps?” Claire managed, which caused a small chuckle from Lissa.
“Well, you’re making jokes instead of tossing us overboard, so that’s better than I hoped for” Lissa smiled at her again.
“I don’t…” Claire began, “other than the cat-ness, of it all, I’m not quite sure I understand how or why or how…” she repeated again.
Then Lissa adopted a more serious look as she attempted some explanation “we were at your club the night before the fire” she began the tale.
“Our club?” Claire repeated, her normal volume returning to her slightly at last.
“Like you, we went to Hollister after Minna’s servant got her to safety and then went back to try and help your servant” she added, her voice dropping slightly on the mention of the servant who had given his life trying to ward off the royally appointed arsonists.
Looking down slightly at the mention of Jonathan, Claire managed to find her voice again “Minna?”
“My companion. She’s hiding out in the cargo hold. She’s less able to hide in plain sight, like some of us” she explained quietly.
“So, you must both be Kindred if you went to Hollister?” Claire managed, trying to latch onto one part of the story at a time, while also hiding her worry at the idea of having another two unknown Kindred in her presence when they were all already so vulnerable while at sea.
“He told us that the fire was only the beginning of the hardships our kind would be facing under our wonderful new queen, and that if we were smart, we’d get on a boat too, like the two of you” she stated quietly, “so we followed you and Sean to the harbor, but we didn’t have the means for our own ship, as I’m merely a nurse, or I was” she added more quietly, “and Minna was just a patient of mine. So we had to find another way to leave England, and figured our safest bet would be on a boat with a crew of those bound… so here we are” she finished with another attempt at a smile.
Claire thought over all of her words for a few moments as she slowly paced the cabin, gnawing at a fingernail before finally catching Lissa’s expectant gaze once more “So we’re all just a bunch of war refugees, with fangs?” Claire made another attempt at humor, “and you’re a cat” she had to add once more with a still somewhat perplexed smile “I realize I’ve only been one of us for ninety or so years, but I never learned the cat-trick.”
Lissa allowed a small chuckle at Claire’s continued awe of her own abilities “actually, you’ve been Kindred longer than I’ve even been alive, honestly. I was born in 1604, embraced in 1631” Lissa offered as she took a tentative seat at the table in the corner of the cabin.
“Wow, now I feel even dumber” Claire responded.
“No, don’t. I’m from a different clan. Yours doesn’t have that ability, at least not unless one of us teach you… which would take years, before you ask” she added with another smile.
“A different clan?” Claire asked with interest as she also took a seat, “I mean, I heard there were different kinds, or clans, of us, but never really spoke with many, besides other Toreadors.”
“Yeah, my clan usually doesn’t meet many at all. We tend to keep to ourselves. But war came to the lands I lived upon, and circumstances forced me to become a battlefield nurse. Then I found myself in the city by the end of one war or another, and decided to try and continue to help where I could, and I took a job at a hospital in London. Which is where I met Minna, and I soon discovered that human doctors would never be able to truly look after her” she finished quietly.
“Wait, why would one of us even be in a hospital?” Claire had to ask, getting more curious about this other stowaway that she had yet to even meet.
“Though we usually don’t suffer many physical afflictions, there are others that can affect us, at least some of us” she stated sadly.
“You mean like madness?” Claire asked, eyes widening again.
“That is such a cruel term, but the only one the humans can manage to come up with for someone like Minna” Lissa stated, eyes still cast down.
“So, she’s not mad?” Claire asked with a bit of hope.
“She sees things differently. Admittedly, very differently, but just differently” she then added more softly, “and she sees things.”
“You already said that” Claire said, her worry not completely dissipating.
“She’s a seer. She sees thing that haven’t happened yet” Lissa attempted a further explanation, “So, of course, the only explanation could be madness, according to human doctors. But the fact remains that the things she sees always do come to pass; In one way or another” she added in the same quiet tone.
“Has she seen anything about us? Sean and I?” Claire dared.
“Well, she hasn’t really met either of you officially yet, but not as far as she’s told me as of yet, anyway” Lissa offered the best answer she could. She then added “she’s got other abilities too; Ones that could be very useful if we’re going to have to be surrounded by humans in a new world as harsh as the Americas seem to be right now.”
“Like what?” Claire asked as she leaned slightly forward in her seat.
“She has the amazing ability to bend humans to do what she wants them to. It may not always be used so wisely by someone with her afflictions, but it would be highly valuable to you and your husband, if indeed he is in line to become Prince someday, like the others in his line have.”
Claire paused a moment, “You mean like giving them commands they have to obey, and erasing memories?”
“You’re familiar with those skills?” Lissa asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Haven said he learned them from another Kindred, ages before he made Sean, but he also said that that vampire could do even more amazing things than what Haven was taught to and what he passed on to us”
“Then you already have started to learn just the beginnings of that ability to control and change others, as we need to from time to time. It should be easy for you two to learn the other facets of her ability too. She could be even more valuable than just the sight already has made her” Lissa continued to plead the case to Claire to allow them to stay there on the ship with them.
Claire thought on her words for another moment, “So, you said you were embraced a little over fifty years ago. How long has Minna been one of us?”
“When she came to the hospital, I found records saying that she had died ten years ago, so I can only assume that that’s when she was embraced. But she had her mental affliction even when she was human, so all the rest just came after the embrace” she answered in the same hopeful tone.
“You think she would really be willing to teach us more of what she can do?” Claire returned thoughtfully.
“Well, you two already have learned the basics of that ability. The rest really should come much more easily to both of you” Lissa assured.
“And what about your abilities? Can you teach us those too?”
“My abilities are exclusive to my clan for the most part, but I might possibly be able to pass on a trick or two. But it’ll take time. A lot of time” she reminded Claire once more.
Then Claire replied “Well fortunately, time is the one thing we all have an overabundance of, isn’t it?”