Prologue: A Matter of Soul, Scene I (Lauren)

Prologue: A Matter of Soul, Scene I (Lauren)


“The science which teacheth arts and handicrafts is merely science for the gaining of a living; but the science which teacheth men deliverance from worldly existence, is not that the true science?”

Thomas Hobbes


January 3rd, 2007

"LAUREN! You have been promoted!"

Even by the standards of most meetings with Vincent Moon, this was an odd one. It took place in a disused Tesco supermarket, not long after the very last of the employees had cleaned up and left. Lauren had recieved an email to be here and be here promptly, as Moon has, in his own, very distinctive writing style, informed her that he had "...A Plan!" This promised to be dramatic and quite possibly life-threatening.

"Also." Moon said, picking up box of gum and unwrapping it, sniffing one of the sticks. "Which dimwit puts butylated hydroxyanisole into a stick of gum. The stuff will kill you. I've a buddy in California who was on the research committee for that, he sent me a sample of the report."

Moon was dressed, this evening, in a brown, worsted suit, complete with a trilby hat. By Moon standards, this was almost normal, and it was without a doubt that Sophie had been involved in the selection of this outfit somehow. (On one or two notable occasions, Lauren had heard Sophie arrange a break-in into Moon's private dresser at one of his many havens and replace the hippie-ceremonial magician clothing with something more respectable.) Of course, the effect was rather lessened when Moon took off the trilby at one point to scratch his head, and Lauren saw that it was lined on the inside with tinfoil.

"Where was I..." Moon said, still puzzling over chemical composition of a stick of gum. "Seriously, you can replace this with α-Tocopherol and get the same effect. Right, sorry, anyway, I talked to the Lady of London last night." -- The Lady of London, Elizabeth Sheridan, was the ruler of the vampires of London, a much younger vampire than Moon, but far more influential and politically savvy -- "And she owes me a favor for the Dandy Dog incident, so you've got a temporary promotion."

"For a period of 72 hours, starting at dusk a few hours ago, you've been promoted to Herald!" Moon grinned, and Lauren could see his thin, viperish fangs. "You're an ambassador to the wizard's Consilium of London. Fun, huh?"

Well. As far as possible promotions went, that certainly hadn't been one she would have ever expected. Herald? That was pretty important. Lauren rather doubted her abilities as a Herald, especially since she had almost no understanding of politics. But it was only for 72 hours, and surely she couldn't cause too much lasting damage in that amount of time.

"So, what's the plan?" This was surely not the end of it. Becoming the ambassador to a bunch of mages was not nearly dangerous enough. Not that she really knew how dangerous mages were, exactly. Just that they were bad and she should stay away from them.

Lauren briefly considered also asking him about why they were in a Tesco, but figured that Moon would tell her if it was important. Maybe he just wanted to sniff gum. At least he appeared to have managed to find an ensemble that was less eye-searing than usual. So he could sniff gum and blabber about its supposed lethality if he wanted to, she supposed.

"We've got a bit of a wizkid problem." Moon explained, moving smoothly through the aisles of the supermarket until he found what he was looking for, which was a shopping cart full of, as far as Lauren could tell, about two dozen extra-large cans of Folger's Coffee. "So I want you to bring them a present. Wizkids like presents."

"Go to Highgate cemetery and look for the Jeffries mausoleum." Moon said, shoving the shopping cart towards Lauren. "It's huge, marble, ostentatious, has a Bible quote over the entrance. Can't miss it."

"Give them the cans, as a gesture of good faith, and tell them that I am willing to negotiate a weregild. Got that? Were-gild. Then play it by ear, and come back." Moon said, growing still as he wondered if this covered every angle. "We should send someone with you, just one Herald looks a bit embarassing. Anyone you want to bring along?"

"Coffee cans. Weregild. Got it." She still didn't understand half of this, but whatever, she'd figure it out as she went. And by now, Lauren knew not to ask for further explanations from Moon unless she wanted to end up even more confused.

For the question of who to take with her, one name immediately sprung to mind. "Oleander. Wait, he's a werewolf... Does it matter?" Her voice was rather hopeful. And, hey, she could even rationalize it! Lauren would need his help if things got ugly.

"Nah. You've got diplomatic protection for this, as does anybody with you, but you're representing me, not the Vampire Court. Anybody else?" Moon said, waving a hand. He dug into his pocket and tossed a pen and a set of car keys to Lauren. "Clip the pen to your pocket, so the cap is poking above. I've rented a hearse for the week, you can use it to drive around."

"Oh, one last thing. Mages have some trouble with this, so be sure to remind them." Vincent Moon said, and he looked Lauren straight in the eyes. He was wearing dark glasses, as he usually did, and Lauren could see her face reflected perfectly in them in the darkness.

"You are my Childe, and you and Oleander are under my protection. Tell the wizards of London that if they hurt one hair on your head, pull one thought from your brain, if they hurt you mind, body, or soul." Moon said, his voice whisper soft. There was none of Vincent Moon's usual bombast now, just quiet certainty, backed by the dusty weight of time itself. "Then I will find out, and I will make them envy Jericho's fate."

"You got all that?" Moon said, his toothsome grin suddenly returning. He leaned over and clapped Lauren on the shoulders. "If so, scoot, kiddo. You'll be fine."

Lauren obediently clipped the pen to her pocket and looked at the keys. Aaaaand the endless parade of strange vehicles lent to her by Moon continued. Though, she supposed, this one certainly suited their destination. Still, would it kill him to throw her something she'd actually be pleased to be seen in every once in a while?

Ordinarily, she tuned out nearly half of what Moon said, since it was usually jargon that didn't mean anything to her. However, on rare occasions, he did take on a more serious mood, and it was always important to listen in these cases. Moon didn't dampen his unending enthusiasm for just any situation. His words bolstered Lauren's confidence quite a bit. She knew that many thought Moon was crazy, but no one could deny that he was powerful. And while she didn't know who Jericho was, whatever happened to them sounded quite ominous.

When Moon's cheer returned, so did her own. "Alright!" She grinned and started wheeling the cart of cans toward the exit, steering with her elbows while she texted Oleander to get ready to go. At least the hearse had plenty of room for all the damned cans.


It was a clear, crisp night, and this meant that Lauren could actually drive the streets of London for once. There were promises of snow later towards the morning, but nothing that anyone could do about that. For the moment, Lauren drove down the streets of London, the shopping cart rattling distractingly in the back of the hearse. It had been tied down as best as she could manage, but there was only so-so much that one could do.

Oleander lived in one of the housing estates near the center of London, out by Tottenham. At least, that was where Lauren normally picked him up, though he'd so far managed to deflect showing her where, exactly, he lived. According to him, it wasn't nearly as nice an apartment as Lauren's, so they usually ended up at her place, when the mood struck them.

The big, blond man was leaning against a lightpost when Lauren pulled the hearse up. Oleander was dressed in jeans and a blue anorak, and he swallowed a laugh when Lauren opened the door of the hearse to let him in.

"Nice car." He said, getting into the passenger-side seat. He closed the door and reached over to run his hand along her neck, caressing her possessively, that maddening smirk on his lips. "How have you been?"

"...Lauren." Oleander said her name slowly, glancing at the rearview mirror and then at her. "There is a shopping cart in the hearse."

The vampire was struck with the strangest sense of Déjà vu.

Lauren was still a bit peeved that she never got to pick him up from where Oleander actually lived. She thought she at least deserved a peek inside his apartment by now. She cared less about how nice it was, and more about what was in it. You could learn a lot about people from their stuff.

Oleander looked good, as usual, though Lauren thought that was more because he was able to make damn near anything look good, and less because of any sort of fashion sense. Lauren was wearing her usual jeans + blouse + jacket combo, which she found worked well in most situations. It was nice to have versatile clothing when you were on one of Moon's errands and had no idea where you'd end up at the end of the night.

She rolled her eyes at the nearly ever-present smirk (his face was seriously going to get stuck like that someday) and reached a hand up to run her fingers over his arm. She was never going to stop enjoying how wonderfully warm and alive he was. "I've been pretty good." She grinned. "Got a temporary promotion to Herald, so... there's that. You?"

"And yes, there is a shopping cart in the hearse. There are also around two dozen coffee cans in the cart, which is why it's there, unless you'd rather carry them all around." Lauren began to drive off. "What'd you expect, a coffin or something?" She liked to think that her smirks had gotten better, since she was apparently learning from the Smirk Master.

"Actually, yes. A coffin would have made sense." Oleander said, sinking back into the chair and closing his eyes as Lauren drove them along. The secret to why Oleander looked good in anything had a great deal to do with the fact that Oleander was very much at ease in his own skin, comfortable no matter what situation. It meant, among other things, that he could fall asleep in an instant. "Given that we are in a hearse."

"Anyway. I've been alright." Oleander stretched, though he didn't go play with Lauren again. Not while she was driving, at least. "Work has been dull."

While she didn't know where he lived, Lauren had learned that Oleander worked as a security guard at a pharmaceutical company named Weide GmbH. It was one of the many corporations in which the Golden Room had their tentacles. So for all intents and purposes, Oleander was on the Golden Room's payroll full-time, though this did mean that in his off-time, he had to stand around and avoid falling asleep. Nothing, it seemed, was perfect.

"Though I might miss that dullness by the end of tonight." Oleander said, cracking one eye open to watch the road.


Highgate Cemetery. Located in the north of London's inner city, it was the most famous cemetery in all of England. Karl Marx was the most famous burial here, but a long series of businessmen, poets, artists, occultists, visionaries and madmen had been buried here over the years. The poet Christina Rossetti, the parents and brother of Charles Dickens were buried here. More recently, Douglas Adams weas interred in the ground, some two years ago. Authors, scholars, and monsters all alike could be found beneath the dirt here. It was considered the most haunted cemetery in Britain, a well-deserved reputation.

"Spooky." Oleander observed after they got out of the hearse. He made no move whatsoever to help Lauren with the shopping cart. Bastard.

It was, indeed, rather spooky. But Lauren was developing a tolerance to that. She shot Oleander's back a Look before wrangling with the shopping cart and managing to get it out of the hearse without tipping it over. She had gotten it in, after all. Lauren pushed the cart over to him.

"Here, you take this." She didn't wait to see if he protested or not, and walked ahead. "We're looking for the Jeffries mausoleum."

Lauren fished out her camera, occasionally pausing as she walked to take pictures of the graves. The scenery was very nice, and she didn't want her shots ruined by a blonde man pushing a shopping cart of coffee cans through them.

She spotted the mausoleum through her viewfinder first. Moon was right, it was impossible to miss. The cemetery had quite a few elaborate graves, but this one towered above them. Literally. And there was the quote that must have been from the Bible. Lauren didn't know her Bible quotes, but it seemed like the sort of thing you'd find in there. She waved Oleander over and cautiously approached, putting her camera away.


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