Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.
Cassandra True has followed her roommate Cecily to the Cyba-Netsu, a local club frequented by vampires and other exotic people. She has learned that Cecily has been seeing a vampire there, and Cassandra hopes to save her. Miss Kurayami has warned Cassandra not to interfere with her friend’s love life, and so Cassandra decides on another course of action.
“Oh, my god.”
“What is it?” Philippe looked around the club floor.
Cecily crouched down, trying to hide behind the screen on her table’s laptop. “It’s my roommate, Cassandra,” she whispered. What was she doing here?
She saw Cassandra come out of Kurayami’s office and look around the dance floor. Cecily tried to sink lower in her seat, but it was too late; Cassandra’s gaze met hers and she strode purposefully towards their table.
“Hullo, Cecily!” Cassandra said cheerily. “I was hoping I’d find you here! This must be Philippe.”
Philippe rose and gave Cassandra a half-bow. “Your servant. And you must be Cecily’s friend, Cassandra,” he said in the suave, Continental tone that made Cecily melt inside when he directed it at her, but made her feel quite differently when spoken to her roommate.
“What are you doing here, Sandy?” Cecily said through gritted teeth.
“I decided you were right. It’s not fair for me to judge your friend before I’ve even met him. So, if it’s all right with you, I thought I might join you.” Cassandra grabbed a chair from a nearby table and sat down between Cecily and Philippe.
It was not all right with Cecily, but Philippe said, “We’d be delighted and sat back down.
“Then we’ll make it a three-way.” Cassandra giggled. “I mean, a threesome.”
Cecily frowned. That remark was so unlike Sandy. “Have you been drinking?’
“I have not,” Cassandra insisted. “Just one Nuzzy Fable. Fipple. One Fuzzy Navel.” Cassandra giggled again. Yes, Cecily was sure now; Cassandra was pretending to be drunk. Now she was unbuttoning the collar of her blouse, that silly high-collared thing that she thought made her look professional but really made her look more virginal than usual. “Whew! It’s so warm in here!”
Good grief, how unsubtle could she get? But Philippe seemed to be eating it up. “Another Fuzzy Navel for this lady here,” he told a passing waiter.
Philippe couldn’t keep his eyes off Cassandra’s cleavage. No, not her cleavage, that peculiar amulet she was wearing. Where did she get it? Cecily didn’t remember seeing it before.
Then Philippe turned his attention to Cecily again and in an instant all her jealousy evaporated. Of course he loved her. How could she think otherwise? She relaxed a bit. But then his gaze returned to Cassandra.
“So I understand you’re a vampire,” Sandy was saying. “Tell me a bit more about it. I expect most of what I know is wrong.”
“Well, to begin with, we dislike the term ‘Vampires.’ It has such a superstitious connotation. We prefer to call ourselves The Kindred.”
“That is so fascinating!”
Cecily scowled at that. Cassandra wouldn’t find it fascinating; she would find it pretentious. She’d figured out Sandy’s game now; she was trying to break the two of them up. Well, it wouldn’t work. But why didn’t Philippe see that? And why he focusing on that amulet and why did he seem so tense?
“What an interesting charm you’re wearing,” Philippe said at last.
“Oh, this?” Cassandra seemed to notice what he was staring at for the first time. “A friend gave this to me. For protection, she said. But we’re all friends here, right? I’m sure I don’t need it.” She unfastened the amulet and set it down on the table. Philippe seemed to relax.
They chatted some more and Cassandra slipped deeper and deeper into her Fuzzy Navel. Cecily was still sure she was only pretending to be tipsy.
“Would you excuse me?” Cassandra said suddenly. “I have to visit the Little Girl’s Room. I always get turned around in this place; where is it?” She stood up abruptly and teetered a little.
Philippe rose immediately and steadied her elbow. “I was on my way there myself. Let me show you.”
His offer was like cold water in Cecily’s face. He was going to bite Cassandra. She knew it. How could he do that? Cecily wanted him to bite her. She was expecting it. She was waiting for it. And now he would be drinking from Sandy, his lips at Sandy’s throat. It wasn’t right!
Cecily was about to say something, when Cassandra scooped up the amulet from the table and placed it in her palm. “Take care of this,” Cassandra said softly, her voice suddenly sober. “Keep it safe. Please.” She closed Cecily’s hands over the charm; then she lurched towards the lavatories.
Philippe came close after her, but first also paused by Cecily and brought his lips close to her neck. “I won’t be long.” His breath was cool and sweet on her flesh. “I haven’t forgotten you darling.” Again, all her suspicion and mistrust ebbed from her, replaced by a sense of blissful anticipation. How could she doubt him?
He gave Cecily’s hand a pat. “And dispose of that, will you?”
The chill returned. Cecily watched Philippe escort Cassandra towards the back of the club. Then she opened her hand and looked at the amulet. Sandy told her to keep it safe. Obviously, it was a charm to protect her from vampires. And Philippe had told her to throw it away. Cassandra was trying to play some sort of game here. But she had also trusted Cecily.
She did not throw it away. Instead, Cecily fastened the amulet around her own neck.
Immediately, a strange clarity seemed to come over her. She still loved Philippe, and desired his touch on her throat; but for the first time she realized that his regard for her was purely nutritional. He was going to enthrall Cassandra; and then he was going to take both of the back to his flat and feed on them both.. And she wouldn’t even be sharing him with Cassandra, because he belonged to neither of them; they belonged to him. And despite how wrong she felt this to be, Cecily knew she would welcome it, and he would make love to them, and he would offer Sandy some Essence…
No. She couldn’t let Cassandra do this. She rushed to the back of the club to the alcove in front of the lavatories. Cassandra was backed up against the wall, with Philippe standing over her cooing tender blandishments and drawing closer to her carotid artery.. In Cassandra’s face Cecily saw the same mixture of dread and desire that had paralyzed her so often.
“Sandy? I was thinking,” Cecily said, and the Vampire’s spell was broken. “Neither one of us got much sleep last night. Maybe it would be a good idea to call it a night.”
Cassandra blinked, as if confused. Then slid away from Philippe to Cecily’s side.
“I could call you a cab,” Philippe offered.
“That’s okay. We’ll manage. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Cecily put her arm around Cassandra and escorted her out of the club.
“Thanks,” Cassandra said. “I thought I could hold out against him. It was harder than I thought. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how it was.”
“It’s okay,” Cecily said. “We’ll get you home.” Already she was beginning to regret leaving Philippe. She had so looked forward to later. Still, there would be tomorrow night; and she did have a responsibility to Sandy.
“Funny,” Cassandra said as they walked out into the evening drizzle. “I thought I was coming to the club to rescue you.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Cecily said.
A taxi cab pulled up alongside the sidewalk by them, and a big black cabbie rolled down the window.
“Tobias!” Cassandra said.
“Grams told me you might need a lift about now,” the cabbie said.
This made no sense to Cecily, but it seemed to make sense to Cassandra. In any case, she was glad to get out of the rain.