It had now been over a decade and a half since four Princes and one former Prince combined their resources and power to wipe every last trace of the serpent’s influence from that growing Spanish settlement on the coast of southern California. In that time, Prince Haven’s territory was quietly able to grow into a full-fledged port town with very little turmoil; except of course the inner brand suffered by any member of his Toreador clan throughout all of those endless nights.
In January of 1807 it had been unusually cold for California, meaning the temperature had actually dipped below seventy degrees Fahrenheit. As the sun set on that particular night, Sean sprung awake from his daily slumber, almost as though waking from a nightmare; despite the fact that the eerie sleep forced upon his kind each day had always been quite dreamless. The way he startled awake so violently did do well to equally startle Claire from where she had been sleeping in his arms, like she had done for nearly 221 long years already.
Though what was even more startling to them was the look of nothing short of pure panic and despair on the faces of their two servants who waited alertly at the door of their bedchamber while the two Kindred had been forced to remain unconscious throughout the day.
The two servants they had at this point in time were a male and a female, which seemed to be a combination that had worked well for them ever since they had acquired their very first servants, Ash and Baila, all the way back in the late 16th century. The male was named Finn and had curly reddish brown locks and pale blue-gray eyes. The female was named Emilia and she had the same pale blue eyes only hers were accented by soft dark brown waves that fell slightly below her shoulders. Finn stood at six foot tall, while Emilia’s frame was a petite yet curvaceous 5’2”, and both were quite striking, as all those servants ever chosen by their Toreador regnants.
“What happened?” Sean immediately asked his servants, though the way his voice broke made one think that he had already had some unconscious knowledge of that answer.
Emilia attempted to offer an answer, while Finn looked down sadly “some of the dock workers came to the door today. They found…” that was when she sniffled and looked down.
Finn gently squeezed Emilia’s shoulder as her voice failed her “they found ashes out near the dock” Finn attempted to finish for her.
“Ashes?” Claire exclaimed, her eyes widening.
“They immediately went to inform Pr---Haven” Finn shakily continued while he and Emilia both struggled to force their tears to remain below the surface “only, no one answered the door. After knocking for ages, they decided they had to go and check the house, considering.”
That was when Finn found himself struggling for words and Emilia took over again “all of Haven’s servants… all of them…” that was when Emilia couldn’t hold back a sob, though she had said enough then that it was apparent to Claire as well as Sean what had transpired that day.
Then Finn forced his voice to work again “after all the servants were…gone” he settled on “it was easy for their killers to…” he sniffled again “afterwards those murderers took their own lives too. Apparently they didn’t want to risk anyone being able to read their minds and…” Finn just shook his head again as he sniffled instead of trying to form any more words, satisfied that Sean and Claire were now aware of the tragic events that had indeed taken place. That horrible third part of the prophecy then immediately sprang to both of their minds…along with the fourth and very next part that very well could be awaiting them at any moment at all, now.
That was when Finn forced his teary eyes back to Sean “we weren’t sure what you’d want done. So we left the bodies and… and the ashes, in case you wanted to try to find any…” he just shook his head again, words still a struggle for any of them right then.
“What I’d want done?” Sean asked, though his voice sounded as though it had been shredded by a hundred blades at that point.
“Well, you are the Prince now” Finn offered sadly, though his sadness was nothing compared to that reflected on both Sean’s and Claire’s faces in that one horrible moment wherein so many of their long held fears at last became their terrible new reality.
The first few weeks of Sean’s reign as the new Prince of the future Los Angeles, were nothing but a blur as he raced to try and force himself to step into a role he had never wanted nor felt remotely prepared for at all. His first order of business was to of course replace all of the servants who had met their doom the same day as his sire. The very next thing he did was begin requesting shipments of all the materials needed to turn Haven’s home into a much, much formidable stronghold than it had been previously.
As February began, Sean found himself with the briefest moment of silence and immediately moved to the study to pour over the plans for the reconstruction of the home that was now his. Upon hearing Sean’s footsteps moving into the study downstairs from where Claire had been sorting through various belongings left behind by Haven and his servants upstairs, she sighed slightly and headed down the stairs.
She quietly rapped at the slightly ajar door to the study as Sean looked up at her for only the briefest moment before forcing his attention back to the plans before him “a moment to breathe? If we even needed to” she added with a sad smile.
“Can’t really do much else other than make plans for the new house until we get the shipments” Sean told her distractedly, his eyes still on the paper before him, a pencil clenched tightly in his fingers.
“So, are you keeping all the same Primogen?” she attempted to find some subject other than the one that had been screaming through her mind since the second Sean’s reign began nearly a month earlier.
“That’s the plan” he told her in the same distracted and strangled tone.
“I suppose that makes me the new Toreador Primogen?” she offered as she gently shut the door behind her and moved to the chair across the desk from him.
“You are the oldest now, other than me” Sean agreed, his voice trying to break as he did, but forcing it to remain as steady as he could.
“Yeah, I guess you are a whole week older than me” she tried another smile “or I suppose four years if we count the time before…” getting no visible reaction from him, she sighed once more. There was then another long moment of silence that belied the loudness of the prophecy that was screaming through her brain on a constant loop now “so, if I’m the new Primogen” she paused slightly as Sean still did not look up at her “does that mean that I should be staying in our house instead of here, with you?” she managed.
That did cause Sean to glance up at her for the slightest moment before speaking “isn’t that where you have been staying?”
“Only because I never even see you anymore, really. Didn’t have a chance to ask, until now” she stated quietly.
“I’ve been a bit busy” Sean returned, though his voice was faltering once more, despite him forcing his eyes to remain on the paper before him.
“Believe me, I’m aware of that” Claire returned in a whisper.
“I have to make this place safe, Claire. It’s not really like I have any other choice anymore” he attempted to defend, though his words lacked much force to them.
“Safe?” she sniffled as she then turned her eyes downwards.
“That’s my job now, isn’t it?” Sean stated in the same quiet tone.
Claire was as quiet as Sean for several more long moments before she finally verbalized just a portion of the terrible thoughts screaming through her brain “so, are we assuming that this… that what happened… that it means that Baron and Awsha are still out there plotting against us?” she asked at a nearly inaudible volume.
Sean let out his own heavy sigh; though it was apparent that that was one of his many troubling thoughts as well “we have no proof of who did this, or any proof that either of them is still alive…”
“But?” Claire offered.
“But they are obviously the most likely culprits” he managed with barely any volume of his own.
“So are we to assume that you and I are both going to be targeted as well, now?” Claire managed.
“Am I supposed to be able to tell the future now, Claire?” Sean returned sadly.
Claire was quiet for another long, sad moment before responding “I suppose we’ve already had someone tell us the future though, haven’t we?” she forced the words through shaking lips.
Sean sighed once more “we don’t know for sure that it was Awsha’s or Baron’s ghouls who did this. If it wasn’t them, then that proves the prophecy wrong, doesn’t it?”
“If” was the only reply Claire could manage for another long moment “but if this was her, then that proves the prophecy right” Claire sniffled again “and I guess I’ve at least partially answered my last question.”
“Which question?” Sean returned as he finally looked up at her again.
“About whether or not we’ll both be targets now. We already know that you won’t be. You have to save everyone after all. That’s quite a different fate than the one coming to me now, isn’t it?” she forced the words out, as tears followed just as quickly.
“Claire” Sean replied, that emotion finally returning to him as he choked out her name.
“It’s amazing how 220 years still doesn’t seem like enough time” she forced the words through another sob that now wracked her body as she brought her hands up to catch those bloody tears. Sean immediately made his way around the desk to allow her to fall into the arms that he now wrapped her in, holding onto her for dear life.
It was then that it hit Sean that his job was truly to keep everyone safe and to apparently save everyone; but somehow fate thought that his soul mate would be the one person that he may not be able to save after all. And that thought tore at his soul with a pain that he had not felt in any of those two plus centuries that he had had her there at his side to help him always endure most anything. Only now what he faced was losing Claire herself; and that would be the one thing that he was sure that he would never be able to endure at all.
When Claire finally forced her feet to carry her the mile or so away that House Toreador sat from Haven’s former home, her mood was still quite somber. She slowly made her way to the cellar stairs and just as dejectedly descended them and headed to the bedroom that she had shared with Sean for so many years already. Dropping her coat haphazardly to the floor, she crawled into the bed, pulling the sheet up over her and cradling the pillows in her arms as she took a place against the headboard, despite it still being several hours until morning.
She was painfully forcing more tears back when her two servants appeared in the bedroom doorway, having heard her return to the home “you two aren’t asleep?” was her only greeting, grateful for any subject of conversation though, no matter how mundane.
“It’s not quite ten. We still have a few hours ‘til morning” Finn stated quietly as Emilia nodded her agreement.
“Is Sean really going to be staying there and you here?” Emilia spoke softly as they took a few steps closer to the bed.
“I suppose I should have asked him if he wanted you there too, Emilia. After all, he’s the one you’re bound to” Claire managed, though her eyes did not come up to meet theirs.
“I think he’s already got ten or so other servants over there” Emilia stated in the same quiet voice.
“But you two are actually going to be in separate homes now?” Finn asked again, obviously having more than a bit of trouble imagining a world where Sean and Claire were not inseparable.
Claire sighed before answering “the Toreador Primogen has to be in House Toreador; and the Prince has to be in the Prince’s stronghold” she stated the facts as though she were reading them rather than honestly agreeing with them.
“That doesn’t seem very fair” Emilia returned softly as she and Finn moved to take seats on the bed.
“I guess most Princes don’t have spouses; let alone ones who are also their Primogen” Claire shrugged as if to accept that truth, though her sadness regarding it was nearly tangible.
“Whether you’re his wife or not, his Primogen or not; I’d think he’d want you by his side no matter what” Finn replied as he gently touched Claire’s leg while Emilia moved to place an arm around her.
“I think part of being Prince means…” Claire began, but then easily lost the strength to continue with her statement.
“Means what?” Finn asked as he also moved to a place against the headboard, wrapping his arm around Claire as well.
Claire took a moment to find her voice “means pushing everyone else away” she confessed, the words shaking her as she spoke them aloud.
“Haven always pushed everyone away” Finn replied quietly.
“That’s what I mean” Claire managed.
“But look how that turned out” Emilia seemed to finish Finn’s thought for him.
Their words did cause Claire to have to force back more tears “I think what Sean’s really trying to do is…” that was when she couldn’t hold back the emotion anymore as she forced the words out “is try to get used to the idea of not having me in his life anymore after all. It’s what he apparently will have to do soon enough.”