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World of Darkness: Attrition - The Order (Part Five)[FIN]

Adrian Moss

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"The test is simple, but hard, Slave Adrian."

Adrian was chained in the basement. His hands were chained to opposite corners so that he had enough movement to touch his mouth, but barely. His feet had much less room. It was impossible for him to bring his ankles together. He wore a nice white dress shirt, nice slacks, and little else. His bare feet felt cold against the concrete floor. Virginia stood some distance away to one side. His Master, Thomas, Initiate of the Void, was talking to him.

"You will be drained of all your blood. When I am satisfied that you are dry, you will be given only enough blood to fight off the frenzy. You will not frenzy. If you do frenzy, you have failed the test and can't try again for a half-year. If you succeed, you will be released and monitored. You will only feed once a night, every other night, of the next six nights. Your victims must be capable of leaving you under their own power. If you resist the frenzy for the entire week, you will have passed and I will confirm you as Supplicant of Hunger.

Adrian had already faced the Chrysalis, but only barely survived it. It was the ultimate transformation of the vampiric form. That wasn't the important test for him right now. Now was the 'draining all the blood' part, and that was his first concern.

"Master, how will I be drained?"

"I will administer ten cuts across your body. You will heal each cut. Any other questions?"

Adrian shook his head in the negative. He was too afraid to ask any serious questions anyway.

Thomas stepped forward and opened Adrian's shirt. The knife was presented before Adrian's eyes with a flourish. The Master looked into the Slave's eyes. He slashed down with an economy of motion. Adrian winced. Thomas waited for a moment then Adrian remembered his part of the ritual. The wound healed. Nine more times the blade came down, digging into his flesh and causing him to flinch in pain. At the time of the fifth wound, he began feeling the hunger building up in him. On the sixth, the Beast was at the gates. On the seventh, it rattled the cage and stretched the gate, but the lock held.

The Eighth wound began the real struggle. Adrian hadn't felt this way since his First Night, when the Beast had raged out of control. It was another fear layered upon the fears of pain and failure. The Ninth wound's healing brought a growl to his lips and a clawing in his guts. The Tenth was almost anti-climatic. There was a dusty emptiness inside him. It was something he had not felt before. It was the sensation of a truly dead body. He could hear voices around him, but they were unclear. The Beast stalked instead of raged. The cage was not of flesh, but solely of will now.

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Virginia ... it was Virginia he was pretty sure ... was pressing something into his hand and saying something. He breathed in and smelt ... BLOOD. His eyes bugged out and his hands grasped it. The Beast lunged forward, seeking total control. Adrian beat it back with the greatest effort of will. Adrian's hands brought the blood bag to his face. He tilted his head back, blood bag above his mouth, and drank deep.

He looked down at Virginia. She held something of his, something that belonged to him. His arms reached out, hands claw-like. The female vampire took a half step back. Adrian drew the chains taunt. Seeing his need, she pushed another blood bag into his hands. He drank deeply, the Beast totally consumed in a battle with his failing will. Another blood bag was forced on him, but Adrian felt his will starting to fade. He had barely enough for a few more seconds of fight. The final blood bag entered his mouth and made its way mystically into his flesh. That had turned the corner. The door slammed shut on the Beast's cage. It was one very tiring victory for the Man against the Monster.

"Adrian?" his Master called. "Adrian?"

"Yes Master," he managed to wheeze a reply.

"I'm unleashing you now."

Even with a warning, Adrian almost fell over. He managed to save his footing and his dignity by taking a few steps away from the chains as they came unlocked. Virginia looked at him ... hungrily? He began to button up his shirt protectively. That done, he put on his shoes and his jacket.

"Where do I go from here?" he asked his soon to be former Master.

"You will spend the next six days with Virginia. Don't leave her presence for more than ten minutes or the test is failed. We have already made accommodations at her haven, which she has been kind enough to let you use."

It only took a moment's hesitation for Adrian to turn to Virginia and thank her. With a final word with Thomas, the two younger vampires left for Virginia's car. He was unsure what to do, but she walked over to the driver's side of her Camry. Adrian walked over to the passenger side and got in. They moved down the road, driving in silence for some time. Virginia broke the silence.

"What was it like for you, the Chrysalis?"

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I was in my body but it felt colder than normal. I guess I was feeling myself when I was a corpse, right before the vitae brought me back from the edge of death. I not only felt the body, I could see inside it, though seeing isn't quite the right word. What I could do was follow the pathways the blood takes in the normal body and how it is altered in the vampiric form. When I saw the difference I ... I knew what was ... inefficient I guess is the best word. I saw were the energy was being wasted.

Then came the pain and struggle. Knowing what was wrong wasn't good enough. I had to know how to make it better. As my mind tried to follow my teachings, there was incredible pain. My pain was intense. My heart beat inside its withered core, and my brain hurt as I pushed in more blood and drew out more knowledge. Yes, the very act of thinking had become painful for me. I became lost in a haze and for a time all I could sense was my pain and the Beast prowling around me. It was outside of the cage that I always keep it in. It wanted to break me down and wound me spiritually.

When I felt all was loss, I remembered my heart and the pain centered there. I followed that pain down into my self - my body, and started sculpting my way through pathways. I stopped trying to see something better and started trying to force something to be better. With each mental slash of the scalpel, everything became clearer. The threat of the Beast receded and the pull of the Coil became stronger. Finally, at the point of exhaustion, I knew I had found a better way. I know it was a better way for me, anyway.

"That's pretty much it."

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Virginia's house smelled old. It felt old too. Even when she'd been alive, Adrian was pretty sure she hadn't done much living. What she did have was books and books and more books. She had computer stations (a few years out of date) facing three ways around her main desk. She had even set up a hook-up for Adrian's laptop. Adrian had to have wondered if the area had any Wi-Fi hot spots in the area. Even someone's unsecured area might have been useful.

She brought him in and showed him around.

"Do you like what you see?" she asked.

That was one of the most loaded questions of all time. Of course it could have a very simple connotation, but it could also be taken to be much more personal. That was the territory Adrian feared to tread, especially with his status in the Ordo at stake. Adrian fought for the right words, or turn of phrase that could keep his hopes alive.

"This place is a towering example of your Intellect, Virginia. I'm truly impressed with you every time I come by."

She smiled, accepting the compliment as fair, if not what she'd hoped for.

"You should come by more often. We have much we can share with one another, we are so unalike. At times, I even envy you your worldly experience. It has prepared you in ways I couldn't have imagined when I was offered the Gift."

"I would have thought my lack of any formal education would have been something you found ... unworthy, of being in the Ordo Dracul," he said.

Virginia inclined her head in assent, "But I saw past that pretty quickly, as did Master Thomas. You have the fire to learn, and that is what really sets a True Ordo member from the poseurs. You want it, Adrian ... and that is what attracts me to you."

Suddenly a Futurama episode came unbidden to Adrain's mind. A rank 19 bureaucrat was putting the moves on Fry because he was a 'dirty, dirty boy'.

"What I like most about you is that you are willing to look beyond what you know, Virginia. You look beyond books and seek change. Too many of my ... or soon to be my fellow Ordo Dracul members look down on my because they think I'm an idiot. We are an intellectual Order by and large."

"Small minds will always disparage what they don't understand," Virginia interrupted. Now it was Adrian's turn to nod at the statement.

"It takes a good deal of imagination to see me as one of ... you. Still, I'm doing it. I will continue to do it too. You know I have ties elsewhere, but my real efforts are with the Ordo."

"What ties?"

Adrian hummed and hawed, not sure he'd put a foot in his mouth. It wouldn't have been the first time.

"I've been spending time with the Invictus. I like keeping a leg in the going on's in the city, and I think the Invictus is the way to go. It allows me to find out some information that Thomas has needed in the past."

"That sounds ... dangerous. I mean, what happens if they find out?"

"Oh, they know. They just think that the Ordo is my side-line and that they are my primary interest."

"Are we your primary interest, Adrian?"

"I've never really doubted it. I mean, once my sire explained what the Ordo held for any vampire willing to put in the blood and will, I knew I wanted in. I wanted in like nothing I had ever had before. Before that I only knew the streets, and that's where I am with the Invictus - in the streets, doing street-level things. And that's how I know I'm for the Ordo."

Virginia nodded in thought, then smiled. Not only did it make sense - everyone who was anyone wanted to improve themselves - it was what she wanted to hear.

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Adrian was down in the basement, in the room Virginia had set aside for him. He had excused himself downstairs reasoning he had to check out that his day-haven would be safe. He did this, but he also made time to give Jordan a quick call. It was late and thankfully his 'ward' had already gone to bed.

"Jordan, Adrian. I'm going to be out for the rest of the week. Use the credit card sparingly, but stay safe. Sorry about this, but this is something I was talking to you about. I need to be gone, but ... but I miss you, so stay safe. Take care and ... well, you know. Bye."

He pocketed his phone and made his way back upstairs. Virginia was many things, but hyper-perceptive wasn't one of them. But she was much smarter than him.

"Everything to your liking? I know it's not much, but I didn't expect a house guest so soon."

The emphasis she made on the word 'soon' made Adrian a tad uncomfortable. He was never sure what the extent of her interest was in him. It wasn't like vampires craved sex (sane ones anyway). What they liked was companionship. What constituted a companion was open to interpretation, as vampires were one half human and one half lone hunter. Adrian had a hard time figuring out what Virginia might see in him, so any overtures of friendship were often misunderstood.

Of course, Adrian already had a companion - a small, slightly annoying one, and someone he didn't want anyone else in the world to know about.

"I think the room will do fine, Virginia. Did you have much forewarning of my Trial?"

"No," she answered honestly, "I was told first thing this evening. I only had enough time to arrange something simple before I had to meet you at Thomas'."

He nodded in understanding. It was good to know that he wasn't the only one kept in the dark.

"Would you have told me ahead of time, if you could have?"

Virginia thought that over a minute. "No. I think it is more important you deal with your Trial alone. How else can any of us be sure you have truly broached your first Coil? Would you have wanted me too?"

"No," he responded instantly. "I've worked too hard to have to be carried the last little bit."

Her smile spoke volumes. Unfortunately they were volumes Adrian had yet to read.

There was a moment's pause before Virginia spoke again.

"How about we do some reading? I have some interesting treatise on some early experiments on the Coil of the Banes. Of course, it's a translation from a French text derived from the original German manuscript. Not the best source, but interesting none the less."

"Ah ... are ... is that the direction you are going in? Banes?"

"Not really. I'm more interested in the thought behind the process than the direction they eventually took."

Adrian chuckled. "You think somewhere down the line someone will be reading our notes on the subject?"

Virginia gave him a fangy grin, "I believe yours will have more impact than mine. I merely copy what has gone ahead, were as you cut your own path."

He thought that was highly unlikely. His notes were a jumbled mess. Normally Gwen ( he choked at the thought of her name) would have tidied things up for him. Now he had to do without. Seeing nothing else to do, he asked about the book. He had no real interest in education, but any distraction would do. Virginia surprised him by accessing her computer and pulling up the text.

What followed was one of the dreariest two hours of his unlife. Whomever had written this had been aiming for the audience bent on suicide by text. If the manuscript did succeed at something it was to make the reader want to set themselves on fire, or face the Sun. Virginia busied herself by going over his own notes on his Coil of Blood. He could hear her typing away now and again, with the occasional question to him about a confusing notation, or observation. If this was Virginia's idea of the best moments of unlife, she and Adrian were going nowhere fast.

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"Are you sure that's not your Grandmother?" whispered Adrian's date of the moment.

"Nah," he lied poorly, "we came in at the same time. Not related."

"I swear she's eye-balling us," she said, grinding against him on the dance floor.

The hunter found his opening. "If that's the case, why don't we find someplace she can't follow?"

His meal ticket - scratch that - meal led him toward the back. One of the features Adrian liked about this club was its many dark alcoves. This allowed for some undisturbed feeding. He and his 'date', Debra he thought her name was, headed over to one of those quiet places. Debra kept looking over her shoulder, making sure that the 'old lady' wasn't watching them. She was watching the wrong predator.

Their making out turned hungry and furious. Debra certainly seemed to have some issues, and by the way she was grinding Adrian against the wall, he would have gotten very lucky if he had been ... alive. As it was, he nestled in and took a bite. The Vampire in him wanted to drink deep - too deep. Adrian had to struggle to keep himself in charge as the Beast charged to the fore. The Hunger was very close this night, but that was what this test was about, after all. With some regret, he pulled back and licked the wound.

Debra swooned. Adrian caught her and steadied her on her feet.

"Whoa," she managed. She grasped Adrian tighter to her. "That's some ... kiss."

She staggered so much that Adrian switched positions and put her back to the wall.

"Is that going to leave a hicky? The girls are going to tease me ... (hiccup) at work."

"Oh, there won't be a mark."

'There had never been a mark before.'

She grinned at him, going in for another deep kiss, when their foreheads collided. "Whoops," was followed by a giggle.

"Why don't I get you a cab, Debra? Maybe you've had a bit much to drink."

She gave him a wobbly grin, "Name's Denise, silly."


"Sure thing, Denise. Let's get you outside."

Denise leaned heavily against him as they headed out toward the door. The bouncer gave him a knowing look. Whoever this geek was, he always seemed to score. More to the point, he always poured his 'dates' into a cab, or drove them home. That's what really mattered.

Denise was away now, and Virginia was at his side as Adrian walked down the street toward their car.

"Did I pass?" he finally asked, breaking the silence.

"You were the consummate Predator. Well done. You took enough, but not too much. I will record it as such."

As always, it took Virginia twenty words to say yes, Adrian thought.

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The Awakened Learnings of Adrian Moss, Supplicant of Blood

What makes life great is the surprises.

The death of genius is tedium.

Two Wrights don't make a Wong.

Two people make love. One love makes a stalker.

Talk softly and carry a big stick, because if they won't listen you need to clear their heads.

Truth hurts; lies kill.

Don't go alone into a dark room. Push someone ahead of you first.

If you can't say something nice, pray that person has no power over you.

Don't save the last bullet for yourself. Shoot the sonavabitch and go down screaming.

When life gives you lemons, get a refund. Lemonade sucks.

When asked to answer a question, "What that guy said" rarely works.

Always wear a suit. You can always dress down, but you can't always dress up.

If some says they're here to kill you, don't ask why. They are here to kill you, so what else matters?

If you ever find yourself in need of revenge, don't declare it. It's harder to stab the bastard in the back if you do.

If someone shoots at you, duck, cover, and run. Don't get into fights you don't understand.

If someone threatens to kill themselves, let them. If they are lying, they will save themselves. If not, they are too crazy to save.

If you love someone and they don't love you, GET OVER IT. Life is not a teen-angst movie.

If someone loves you and you don't love them, base your relationship off of something they have. As long as they have it and share it, you're good.

If you love someone and someone else loves you, don't tell that person. Psycho girl/boyfriends don't wear name tags.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a psycho, go out on a munchies- run. Write off your belongings and start over.

If you are a psycho, don't let them go anywhere alone. Too many others have gotten lost that way.

I used to hate books until I used one to deflect a bullet. Now I would tote around the Encyclopedia Britannica if only they'd let me.

The difference between a dog and cat is that you can throw a cat at someone. The dog has to run to get there.

If you see a pretty girl waiting alone, she's probably waiting on someone else. If you see an ugly girl waiting, she's probably waiting for you.

Cruelty gets you to the top. Revenge tears you down.

I would rather be nice than mean. Nice gets you slapped. Mean gets you shot.

Why do psychics not win the lottery? They know how much trouble they would get into.

If you find a poor man with all the answers, pay attention. You will learn what not to do.

You can survive a slap. You have no idea what a slap-back will earn you.

If you run into a Man-Eater, don't use your real name and don't let then at your wallet.

If someone gives you their word of honor, believe them. If they are lying, they'll try to kill you, while if they are telling the truth, you've earned a friends. 50/50 isn't such bad odds.

If someone lies to you, get over it. Forgiveness is free. Revenge costs.

If someone lies to you and brags about it. Let them. Liars are scorned, while patsies are sought out.

When it comes down to looking weak or strong, look weak. No one stays up late at night thinking of ways to take down the weak guy.

Don't be weak. Be confident in your limitations. There is a difference.

You don't need to win. You need to achieve your goals.

You don't need to achieve your goal tomorrow. Achieve a lesser goal today that leads to your ultimate goal.

A fact is nice, but a coincidence is useful.

The person who said, 'It's better to seek forgiveness than permission' never fucked up.

And finally:

If you force an idiot to keep a journal, you can expect all kinds of useless sayings.

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Virginia came out and nodded to Adrian. Her smile was still on her face, so her interview with Thomas must not have gone good. Now, that didn't mean it was a good thing, only that it hadn't gone badly for her, his minder. Unbidden, Adrian found himself rooted to the spot.

"Come on, Adrian," Virginia said, a trifle worried and beckoning him to her and the open door to Thomas' study. Slowly the young Mekhet willed himself forward. The first step was an agony of fear, a fear that all that had lead to this point was pointless. Failure had dogged Adrian his entire life and now that success suddenly seemed to be a real possibility, his mind couldn't accept the thought.

The second step was only a little easier. His sense of fear was welling up as the Beast snarled at its confinement. It could sense a weakness of character and sought to exploit it. The third step followed and then a fourth as Adrian and the Beast struggled. The cage door slammed shut. The chains of obedience once more held strong.

"Adrian," Virginia whispered, "are you okay?"

All he could do was nod.

'Why has everything seemed so easy up until now?' he thought. 'Why am I panicking now?'

"I'll be okay," he whispered back. Then, "Are you coming with me?" Adrian asked, trying not to sound as desperate as he felt.

Virginia could only shake her head. Adrian was doomed to face this alone. He found himself ghosting into the room to face Thomas, his (maybe former) Master. Thomas was busy reading Adrian's journal, and that very thought made the Mekhet want to choke. Lost were the jokes and gibes that had forced his pen to paper. His visions were too few and so unclear he had little certainty that they would matter. Adrian came to stand a body-length away from the desk while Thomas continued to read. He took his time, slowly going over each page.

Finally, Thomas closed the book, but kept looking down at the cover, lost in thought. Adrian didn't know what to make of that. Any reaction would have been welcome over this waiting. Thomas drummed his fingers on the journal for several seconds that drug onto a minute before looking up.

"This was ... interesting isn't the word ... different perhaps?"

The way he said that didn't send a spike of joy through the young Vampire's undead heart. He had no idea of what different meant. It seemed that he would have to wait.

"Why?" Thomas asked, "Why the pages of sayings? Is that what the Coils of the Dragon have taught you?"

"I ..."Adrian stammered, looking for any sign of inner strength, "I ... " and he found it, "I found that the Coils isn't a thing that is achieved like ... like a winning hand of poker. I feel ... that I am growing and that I can't be who I want to be unless I acknowledge who I have been."

Adrian all but panted after that statement.

Thomas tapped the journal, "And you feel this is learning?" he said skeptically.

'Nowhere to run,' Adrian thought. "Yes. I am Adrian Moss. Everything I've learned has led up to this moment, good or bad. Hell, good and bad. I can't be one without the other, can I?"

The question wasn't one that he meant to be answered, because he rammed forward.

"I can't apologize for who I've been and quite frankly, that shouldn't matter. So, I'm not typical. I could care less about that. I am who I am and that makes me a criminal and student, caretaker and predator. I guess ... I guess I really shouldn't care about your verdict. I guess I don't."

The realization hit Adrian then. Not only of what he said, but how much he meant it.

Thomas stared at him for thirty seconds. His smile crept upon his lips until he could no longer hide it. Finally, he laughed. It was a thin thing, devoid of life, but somehow clear and present.

"As you shouldn't, Supplicant Adrian. Each evolution in the Coils is a very personal experience, with no two alike. Too many Slaves don't understand that. They seek the wisdom in books, or in the stories of others. They should be looking inside themselves, but this is something too many are afraid to do. The Coils are not safe, nor are they for the faint of heart. Few can stomach the ordeal, and fewer still more than once."

All Adrian could hear well was the word 'Supplicant'. That meant ... that meant he had made it. The rest of Thomas' words had to be pieced together later.

"From here on out, you may use my library as needed, Supplicant. I do ask that as you gain knowledge that you bring it back here for others to share. Also, if you remain within the Order here that you remain open to assignments from time to time ... which you are now free to decline, of course."

Thomas stood up and gave Adrian the slightest of bows. He was an Initiate after all. Adrian responded with a deeper bow to one he could now consider an equal, if one more accomplished in the Path.

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Jordan hugged him when he got home. She had been terrified of two things; one, that they wouldn't let him come back, and two, that he didn't want to come back to her. The first would be another cruel twist of fate. The latter would imply that she really wasn't worth anything. For several long moments she didn't let go. Adrian for his part rubbed the top of her head, somewhat speechless. He had almost forgotten how much good it felt to be needed by another living being. He felt that he had sacrificed so much into his Ordeal and following Trail that he had pushed all other things aside.

Now, in his young ward's arms, those feelings came rushing back. This was the secret strength too many others couldn't understand. He had known Gwen. He knew Jordan. They fed off one another. He gave them someone they knew who cared about them. They gave him that human tie that made him give a damn about existence - any existence, even his own.

Finally, "Miss me much, Squirt?"

Jordan punched him. She turned away quickly, but Adrian could tell that her eyes were welling with tears. For a moment, he didn't know what to say.

"It's more than giving you money, getting your clothes, and having you watching me during the day, Jordan. It is knowing that you are here. You matter to me, no matter where I go, or what happens."

"That's what Daddy said," she began weeping.

"The difference is that I chose you, Jordan. I could have walked away that night on the streets, but you made me want to stay. I think you are special because you are."

"Special like retarded?" she sniffled.

"Special like 'Pain In The Ass," he joked back. That earned him a punch, but it was followed by another hug.

Adrian sniffed the air. "You've been ordering too much pizza," he said, changing the awkward subject to something safer. Jordan didn't immediately respond.

"I can smell it - mushrooms and pepperoni - plus popcorn, and stale Grape Shasta."

"What?" she said, pretending to be innocent, "Its three of the five basic food groups."

"Ha! I think that's maybe two: the Sugar and Bread groups. Besides ... isn't it past your bedtime?"

"Damn," she said, half way between a giggle and a sob, "Home five minutes and you already think you're the boss."

Adrian smiled down at her. He couldn't promise her much. He couldn't guarantee her much of a future. He could give her tonight, and tomorrow was looking pretty good too.

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