Parting ways with her kumpania was the hardest thing Solena had ever done, but it was necessary once they had discovered what she had become. The gentle rocking motion of riding horseback combined with the moon and stars shining gently overhead swayed her into a reverie of memories.
Normally, the baro was very tolerant of strangers who were open and honest. This stranger had seemed to be both. Approaching the main bonfire, he said he saw a performance of the kumpania's dancing troupe, the only way the kumpania made legitimate money, and claimed that he had to meet the star of the show. The baro, Matéo, fetched Solena from the main vurdon where she had been changing out of her costume. The stranger introduced himself as Diego Ramirez, a tavern owner from Madrid. Diego wanted Solena to be the tavern's nightly act. Solena's eyes lit up immediately, and Matéo smiled broadly. One of his own off in the capital city. Her silvery eyes shining brightly, Solena went off to tell her mother about the news. Matéo invited Diego to stay and share the evening meal. He declined the food, but accepted the company. The entire night, his eyes never left Solena. When most everyone had retired to one vurdon or another, Diego asked Solena to accompany him on a walk through the nearby woods. Solena agreed believing that since Matéo trusted Diego that he must be a good person.
That was the last time Solena relied on the judgement of others.
The last thing she remembered from that night was Diego pulling her into an embrace (quite literally she would later discover). A few hours later, after frantic searching, Matéo and a few others found Solena in the woods and carried her back. Diego had vanished. She awoke the next night feeling feverish and restless. Emerging from the vurdon, the first sight to greet her eyes was Matéo pacing in front of the fire. His worried gaze settled on Solena, then moved to his wife Isabel. He continued pacing for what seemed like an eternity to Solena, all the while all she could feel was a primal urge to break away from the camp and run into the woods. Finally, Matéo turned to Solena. "We all care a great deal for you, Solena," he began, "but you can no longer stay here. What you have become, we cannot tolerate."
It took a few moments of Solena staring blankly into the fire before the words truly sank in. She took one last look around the camp, and fled into the woods with hot tears of blood streaming down her face. Only her instincts guided her. She found no vessel that night to slake her burning desire for blood. Instead her only drive was to find shelter against the looming dawn. A fallen, hollowed tree provided her first night's haven. The second night of her new life provided many questions, but few answers. Some of the questions formed that night still have no answer.
It was then that the familiar smell of a campfire brought her out of herself. Wiping away a tear of blood she discovered trickling down her face, she turned her horse in the direction of the smoke. "Well, Sylvin," as she had taken to calling herself these days, "let's see what kind of trouble we can cause."
Bringing her grey and white dappled mare to within a few hundred yards of the encampent, Sylvin dismounted and tied the reins loosely around a nearby tree. She approached with the silence only a century of learning how could provide. When Sylvin could see who was camped around the fire, the sight that greeted her eyes took her aback.
Clearly not the gypsies she was familiar with, but that they were distant relatives was clear. Her heart suddenly ached for her family and her kumpania, both now lost to her forever. Fighting back the tears she could feel building, Sylvin edged closer to a concealed spot and stayed to observe the camp. A different language was spoken, that she could tell, but some familiar-sounding words floated back to her ears. Sylvin nearly lost herself to a flood of memories again when she felt the all too familiar point of a knife at her throat.
"Who are you?" the sharp male voice whispered in her ear from behind. He chuckled slowly then said, "No matter, Rianna will deal with you."
Sylvin didn't have a clue who Rianna was, but suspected she wasn't going to like what would happen next. Deciding cooperation would best serve her here, she didn't put up a fight when the man behind the voice pinioned her arms behind her and led her into the camp.
The unseen man brought her closer to the main fire. "Go get Rianna," he said to a plain looking woman sitting by the fire. "It seems we have a 'visitor'."
The sneer he placed on the last word caused Sylvin to suppress a shudder. She let her silvery eyes roam around the camp, noting certain differences in these gypsies and the ones she once knew. After all, she had nothing to do now but wait.
"Go get Rianna," he said to a plain looking woman sitting by the fire. "It seems we have a 'visitor'." The sneer he placed on the last word .....
~well damn~ Rianna thought to herself.... ~the new guy was just not working out that well....one simply did not sneer at visitors~
She quickly made her way towards where the newcomer was being held....and could immediately see the apprehension in her silvery eyes.....She turned to the "captor" and immediately let him know what she thought...."How dare you treat one in this manner?? most especially someone who is so clearly one of the Rom?? let her go immediately and report to Stephan for some sort of discipline to help you remember to use your mind in cases like this instead of your muscles..." Rianna then turned to the newcomer and in a completely different tone of voice said "From our fire take warmth.....from our food take strength...and from our family take shelter" and held out her hands in an unmistakable welcome....
Glad to be free of the iron grip and the knife at her throat, Sylvin shook her arms slightly to loosen a bit of stiffness. Although not the same welcoming Matéo used to offer, it was similar enough that Sylvin felt put at ease. She took Rianna's hands in her own as a show of her trust. "Many thanks for your kind welcome. These days I am called Sylvin."
She smiled, her silvery eyes twinkling once more. "And though gypsy I seem, Rom I am not. I was not born to my kumpania though they treated me as if I was." She refused to let the sad memories overwhelm her once more, so she smiled more forcefully than intended. "Come, mistress Rianna. Let us have a night of sharing company and stories. Though first I must retreive my horse. She's tethered to a tree a few hundred yards away." Sylvin dropped Rianna's hands and slipped out of the camp. A few minutes later, she returned leading her dappled mare. After tying her to the post where the rest of the horses were, Sylvin returned to Rianna. "So does my offer intrigue you enough to take it?" She smiled with a little more than a hint of mischief in her eyes.
Rianna smiled thinking of her clan's own foundling...her beloved Katrianna, whose red hair always stood out among the raven tresses of her adopted family,,,,
"Come, mistress Rianna. Let us have a night of sharing company and stories. So does my offer intrigue you enough to take it?"
Rianna laughed at the mischief in the eyes of this newcomer....yes it would be a lovely thing to spend an evening as she suggested. "Aye Sylvin, I will take you up on your offer.....come to the fire and we shall begin" With that she called to her family to bring their guest food and drink and to have an evening of hospitality and delight.
Sylvin smiled a dazzling smile and sat on a large log near the fire. She gratefully accepted the hot food and warm drink, but set both aside for the time being. She waited for the rest of the extended friends and family to gather around the fire as well. She knew as well as any of them just how much fun it was to hear a new story. When Rianna had finally assumed her place by the fire, Sylvin felt it was the appropriate time to begin her tale.
When she spoke, her voice still held the quality of her old speech patterns complete with a slight lisp characteristic of southern Spain. "I was not always a part of this realm. I was born on Earth, and I spent a great deal of time there before leaving. The specific place of my birth was Sevilla, Spain. It is near the very southern end of Spain, which explains the presence of gypsies, though not my life with them," she said with a smile, but a touch of sadness. "That I shall explain first. My family lived on a small farm raising sheep and making a living selling the raw fleece as well as processed wool. My mother and older sisters were the spinners and dyers while my father and my younger brother tended the sheep. It was not at all the life I envisioned for myself."
Sylvin shifted to make herself more comfortable on the log. "So when a dance troupe was passing through, I took a chance and, at barely twelve years old, ran away with them. I later found out that the troupe was a band of gypsies. They used the dance troupe as a way to get into town and earn legitimate money." Sylvin looked to Rianna with a knowing smile while several others in the group nodded in agreement. "The younger ones would beg money from the crowd, while the older ones would pick pockets. They never stole from the poor, only those who could afford to donate." She smiled as a chorus of chuckles arose from the group. "They adopted me and showed me their ways. The woman who took care of me taught me to dance, and with a lot of hard work I earned the honored position of head dancer by the time I was eighteen." She paused to let the first part of her story sink in while she took a sip of the warm beverage to wet her throat.
"What brings you here?" called a female voice from the crowd.
"I'm getting to that," Sylvin said with a smile, "but there is much to tell before that. The troupe had made it all the way to Toledo, and after a particularly profitable performance we were all in high spirits. The baro, Matéo, was approached by a man who said he watched the performance. Matéo always greeted strangers openly, and this was no exception. The stranger, who happened to be charming and attractive, said his name was Diego Ramirez, and he wanted me to come back with him to Madrid to perform at his club every night. Being the naïve girl I was, I agreed to go with him the next morning. Everyone was happy for me and my apparent success. After everyone had gone to sleep, we went for a walk in the woods, and the last thing I remember of that night is feeling a sharp pain on my neck before everything went black."
A collective gasp went up from the audience at her last words and Sylvin could sense the crowd was hanging on her every word.
"When I awoke, it was the next night and the whole camp was nervous around me. Matéo told me I had to leave right away, so I ran crying into the woods. I took shelter in a hollow log the first night, but the second night my instincts took over." Sylvin paused and looked into the eyes of the crowd with her unwavering silvery gaze in an effort to ensure that all understood her meaning. When her eyes found Rianna's, she grinned slightly and continued her tale. "The second night I discovered certain changes had occurred. My thirst for blood was nearly unquenchable, and a large deer served to slake my thirst that second night."
"Whatever happened to that Diego character?"
Sylvin smiled as she found the source of the voice, the same woman who had called out before. "I did not see Diego again for nearly three years. I had settled into a comfortable haven not far outside Madrid when Diego suddenly reappeared in my life." She paused to take another drink to moisten her throat. "He explained to me exactly what I was and told me of the known history of my clan." She smiled and looked to Rianna. "Your mistress Rianna here is Ravnos. They have always been very closely associated with gypsies like us. I, on the other hand, am a Gangrel. It was not my choice so I am therefore still very closely associated to my gypsy roots."
Many murmurs arose from the crowd at her last comments, but a stern look from Rianna around the campfire quieted everyone.
"Diego told me about the horrors creatures like us had been through in my country. The mortals called it The Inquisition, but it was the closest thing supernatural creatures had ever known to hell. He also told me of The Society. They are the descendants of the original inquisitors, and they are closer than anyone to revealing vampires and other supernatural creatures to the world at large. He took me to what was then their only known place of existence in London, England. There I learned to speak English and live in a city, even though I longed to roam the countryside the way I used to. Living so close to the mortal hunters taught me to be cautious and how to get information from them through stealth rather than force. I changed my name from my birthname, Solena Alvarez, to Nina Smith in an effort to blend in a bit better." Sylvin chuckled a bit. "With this coloring in a fog-filled sunless city, I wasn't able to fit in too well."
The audience laughed softly, with some of the darker members of the crowd nodding vigorously in agreement.
"But then I stray from my story. After three decades of watching and waiting, Diego and I discovered the plans for The Society to branch out. Their plans were to established offices in New Orleans and Tokyo within the next ten years. When The Society prepared for its division, we decided to part ways, but not before Diego taught me a few tricks to keep me alive in dire situations. Only four short decades after we crossed paths, we were separated again. I headed for New Orleans, and Diego went to Tokyo."
Sylvin paused to allow her words to absorb before she picked her thread up again. "I followed The Society to New Orleans, where I changed my name again to Sylvin Bordeaux. Sylvin because I liked the sound of it, and Bordeaux because it quickly became my favorite wine." Her last statement brought a few chuckles out of the listeners. "I gathered as much information as I could and reported back to Diego on a yearly basis for nearly a decade." Her silvery eyes darkened along with her expression.
When she spoke again some moments later, Sylvin's voice held a distinct note of sadness. "Just last year, I received word through the grapevine that The Society had discovered Diego's haven and killed him." Sylvin willed herself not to let any tears escape this time. "I never heard the whole story, but a Nosferatu with reliable sources told me all I needed to know. I went to Tokyo myself and tracked down Diego's killers. Some members of The Society managed to escape, but not before suffering heavy losses at my hands."
She smiled grimly at the memories of the bloodshed. "I knew every law enforcement agency on Earth would be looking for me, so I decided to escape Earth entirely. A powerful Ravnos introduced me to the ways of inter-realm travel, so now I sit before you telling my tale . . . and hoping for another chance at happiness here." Sylvin sighed heavily at the conclusion of her tale, trying to shake off the mantle of sadness that seemed to settle around her. She looked up, and though her smile seemed a bit forced, her voice betrayed no hint of her inner feelings. "I believe that since my story is concluded it is now someone else's turn." She turned her silvery gaze on the crowd with a look of anticipation.
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