It took their ship over a year to make the extended trip down the eastern coast of North America and around Florida. All the while they had to find ways to stop often enough to get supplies, or at least fresh water, while avoiding any storms disabling the ship or blowing them off course into the waters around Bermuda that the captain seemed so wary of going anywhere near.
Finally, in early 1690, they saw their first glimpse of the Mexican coast and all rejoiced. Although, Claire’s joy was a bit more muted as she was thrilled to be off of that ship after more than a year, but now other problems lie ahead.
It was nearly morning already when the ship finally came to dock at the first Mexican port they saw. They all went about taking what they needed from the ship and then finding shelter for the day. The plan was for most of the crew to head back toward the colonies while Sean, Claire, Lissa, Minna, Isabelle, and three other servants procured from the crew, would start making their way toward Las Californias, as it was still being called by the Spanish colonists who were the first to settle there.
During that day, Lissa’s servant went to get horses and other needed supplies for their coming northwestern journey. His name was Francois, and he was a servant Hollister had procured when passing through France before coming into his throne in London. He appeared to be in his late twenties, with shaggy brown locks and even darker eyes, and he was rather quiet. Though his silence may have been an indication of him being more comfortable with his own native tongue rather than the English tongue spoken by his new Kindred companions.
Lissa was not overly concerned with these facts though, as she was the least in need of any servant at all for most purposes. Lissa was the one among them who was the safest in regards to finding shelter in this new rather empty world. She actually had the unique ability to meld with the earth and be completely protected from the sun even when there was no shelter for miles. And that was definitely one of the skills the other Kindred would certainly be interested in learning if they found a proper and patient teacher.
As they were all preparing for their journey, Sean had quietly been drawing them a map to guide them. That was when Claire and her new servant, Luke, came to watch as Sean put the finishing touches on the map they would be following. Luke was of course as beautiful as all the servants chosen by Toreadors. He had light brown curls that just barely touched his shoulder and deep hazel eyes that seemed much more soulful than those of most twenty-three year olds. Then again, the Kindred did have a slightly skewed opinion on what made one young, all things considered.
“So, how can you make maps like this for a place you’ve never been?” Luke asked as he looked over Sean’s work.
“Haven showed me the maps he had. I just drew them from memory” he added.
“When did he show you these?” Claire asked as she too admired how much detail Sean managed to include when working from memory alone. Then again, he had always been an artist.
“Last night” Sean smiled up at the surprised look he knew he would receive from his companions “he actually can talk to me in my head, even over great distances. It’s somewhat like the summoning I’ve used before” he looked down, quickly moving past the subject of the night Aidan was embraced and nearly ended up killing Sean’s wife as well as his own, Fiona. Of course, Fiona was only there because Sean had summoned her in a last effort to keep Claire from embracing him and endangering herself. “The difference with summoning is that you just compel someone to come to wherever you are. With this, you can carry on whole conversations with people miles away” he added with a smile, “I’ll teach you too” he offered Claire as he touched her hand.
“So he just showed you these maps in your head and you memorized them?” Luke repeated with a raised brow.
“Figured it was the best way to get there in one piece” Sean assured as he began rolling up the map to add it to their other belongings before they set out for the night.
“So you just had a chat in your head about maps?” Claire asked him quietly as the rest of their party joined them in mounting their newly procured horses.
“That was most of the conversation” Sean smiled as he gently squeezed her leg after helping her into the saddle and then moving to get up into his own.
“I suppose she’s still with him” she said more quietly as their horses started moving them forward, ever closer to the reunion she was dreading with every fiber of her being.
“He really didn’t mention her Claire, so…” he simply shrugged as he kicked his horse to pull ahead a bit so he could survey their path as they continued ever forward, toward whatever was to be waiting for them at journey’s end.
Being the eldest among them, and therefore the strongest, Sean took the lead on their journey, riding several feet ahead of them, but never out of sight. As he was also the most familiar with the maps that were in his head as well as now down on paper for the rest of them, it was the logical choice that he would attempt to guide them to their destination.
As they rode through the night, the servants spoke quietly to one another from their saddles, while Lissa was the one who trailed the closest behind Sean, being the most familiar with all aspects of the natural world that was now all around them. This left Claire trailing slightly behind the servants with Minna, who was most often quiet, but even Minna had the rare moment where she was anything but silent, since nothing about a Malkavian such as herself was ever predictable.
As Sean scanned the landscape before them for any signs of danger or civilization, he momentarily found himself distracted.
Sean. He heard his name spoken by a female voice, as though far away, and looked back at Lissa, who was intently watching the landscape herself, showing no signs of having spoken.
Sean, please, just let me know you can hear me. The voice continued, which did cause Sean to look around once more, before slowly coming to realize that the eerie way in which that voice was now breaking into his consciousness was almost identical to the way Haven’s voice had come to him during their conversations over recent nights.
He quickly came to the conclusion that this was indeed another Kindred trying to communicate with him as Haven had. Though, she was a female, and most every female Kindred he had spent any time near were now riding along behind him at that very moment; All of them, except one. That thought came to him as he allowed a sigh, wondering if maybe he could just ignore the voice and hope she assumed he had not heard her after all.
Just let me know you can hear me. Awsha’s voice intruded on his psyche as she repeated her plea again.
Shaking his head, he finally allowed himself to send thoughts back to her, returning her communication. What is it that you want, Awsha?
Yes! You can hear me! I was afraid it may not have worked. This is the first time I’ve tried to do this at all. Her thoughts continued to him, obvious happiness in the voice he heard in his head, at having gotten a response from him.
Again, what is it that you want? He transmitted the same thought to her again, the impatience coming through easily in his projected voice.
Please don’t be angry at me, Sean. Haven’s already been angry at me for so long. He even said that he thinks… She began, but then her thoughts trailed off.
Thinks what? Sean pressed.
Just please tell me that you don’t hate me still, after almost twenty years. I couldn’t take it if you did. She pleaded with him in her mind.
Sean allowed another sigh from atop his horse as he looked back toward his companions who were most likely completely unaware of the current imposition he was suffering that night.
Sean, please, speak to me again. Please tell me that you haven’t shut me out already. Awsha continued.
I don’t know what you want me to tell you, Awsha. He decided on, his words echoing so closely to those their sire had shared with her so recently.
Tell me that you don’t hate me, please. I mean, I only…
But it was Sean’s thoughts which cut into her own then, You only used your powers to mess with my mind so badly that we...did what we did. What reaction were you hoping to get, honestly? He transmitted those angry thoughts to her, his face not able to hide his scowl right then either.
Sean, you know there was more to it than that. She responded, though sadly.
There may have been a chance for there to be more, but when you forced the issue the way in which you did… That chance was gone then, Awsha. Those were the only words he could find for her then.
There was a long moment before her voice broke into his mind again. I admit I could have done things differently. I should have done things differently. She allowed. Please, just let me have the chance to make up for it. Please. Her thoughts repeated.
And how do you plan on doing that? He responded.
Just let me prove you can trust me again. Come here, to California. Let me make up for it, please. She pleaded again, almost as though she wasn’t already aware that Sean was on his way there as they spoke.
I’m not the only one you need to make it up to, Awsha. Now please, I can’t deal with any more of this right now. Just think about how you’ll make it up to her. That’s the only way you can even hope to repair things with me. Goodnight, Awsha. He finished, though attempted to transmit at least a semblance of gentleness before putting up those mental walls to keep her voice from intruding in his mind any more that night.
As morning approached, they began looking for shelter before the sun climbed up over the horizon. Thankfully, they had been traveling close to a cliff face and came upon a cave that went back deep enough that the sun could be avoided. And of course, their four servants would be there to make sure no living threats could reach them either.
Once they were settled in, they built only the smallest of fire so that the servants could see in the dark of the cave; Sean and Claire laid down a blanket in one dark corner, while Lissa and Minna selected a spot not far from them. Isabelle, Luke, Francois, and Minna’s servant, Richard, all disappeared to another dark corner of their night’s shelter to indulge those overcharged desires of theirs before the sun came up.
“Wow, all three of them?” Claire whispered as she watched the servants disappear, “It’s always the quiet ones” she added in reference to the fact that Isabelle almost never even spoke unless spoken to.
“Maybe they think we’ve been neglecting them lately” Sean returned as he moved to allow Claire to use one of his arms as a pillow while he moved the other hand up to absently twirl his fingers in his own long locks in thought, at least until the sun came up in just under half an hour or so.
“Well, I haven’t even gotten around to that with Luke. So much other stuff has been going on, and I guess I kind of fell out of the habit with Jonathan too, since he seemed quite taken with Isabelle anyway” she then glanced up at him, “when was the last time you were with her even?”
“Isabelle? I don’t think I’ve ever even done more than bitten her, which I guess you could argue is even more… but yeah, I never got around to anything else with her either. Like you said, she and Jonathan seemed pretty content with each other most of the time. And she’s been with us for what? Twenty years now?” Sean returned, trying to recall when it was that they did bring her into their home.
“So neither of us was with Jonathan or Isabelle?” Claire repeated. It’s true that she had never witnessed Sean and Isabelle being any more intimate than just the sharing of blood, but she had always assumed that it was still going on when she was busy with the theatre, or while she was at that other job she had held briefly.
“I guess not. I just assumed that you and he were together at the theatre instead of at the house, but I guess not” Sean returned with the slightest smile.
That was when Claire moved to prop herself up upon his chest and look down into his face, “So, since we lost the theatre” she began, not wanting to rehash the circumstances surrounding that loss just then, “you and I have both only been with James?”
“And there was only one time I was with him, without you being there” Sean added as he looked up at her, his smile remaining.
“And back when we originally ran the theatre…?” she left the rest of the question unspoken.
“I was busy running the theatre” he allowed with a shrug.
“As was I…” she agreed as she thought back over their years since leaving the English court “So, other than James, the last person I actually made love with was Aidan. You?”
“No, I never had sex with Aidan” he smirked.
“Ha ha” she shook her head down at him “But seriously, before James, and… she who shall not be named” she decided on, trying to ignore another smirk from her husband, “who was the last person you were with?”
“Um…” Sean wracked his brain, “Baila I think?” he offered.
“Baila?” she looked down at him with disbelief, “Baila as in our first servant, that Baila?”
“That would be the one” Sean shrugged again.
“Really?” Claire asked again, trying to search her own memory. “So, are you telling me that regardless of all of our orgies and proclamations of open marriage, I’ve only ever slept with you, Chantarell, Ash, Aidan, and James?” she raised an eyebrow, “And you’ve only been with me, Baila, her, and James?” she tried to recollect, though still refused to ever speak Awsha’s name in relation to her husband’s conquests.
“If we’re not forgetting anyone, that actually means you had one more than me. Tsk tsk.”
“She was your sister. She practically was you” she defended, though weakly.
“Excuses, excuses” he teased back.
“But none of mine were ever another vampire. I think that counts as two” Claire attempted to defend.
“Oh, are those the rules now?” he teased.
“Maybe” she teased back. But then she was quiet for a moment, though managed to wear her own smile, “If we’re not careful, we’re going to have to start considering ourselves monogamous again. The scandal!” she teased further.
“Now, now, let’s not make any rash decisions” he teased back. Claire managed to smile at his words, but soon moved to lay her head on his chest, her face turned downward. Once again, she found herself trying to not read anything more into her husband’s words. Though those words always seemed to have a way of somehow reinforcing her fears about Awsha all over again. Especially considering that her fears would have to be confronted once again, and sooner rather than later; As every step of the journey brought them closer to that confrontation.