The Prince’s order left no room for interpretation: “in one half hour this Domain assaults the Anarch Movement. Join in the attack or be counted among our enemies.” Though neither the Ventrue’s Nosferatu Seneschal nor Malkavian Primogen believed the outcome would fare well for the Camarilla, they begrudgingly prepared for war, girding themselves with armour and enough arms to last them the many waves of upstarts that would doubtlessly show themselves. Their faces reflected the grim thoughts shared between them, lifelong enmity on hold on the eve of inter-sect war.

“Mason,” the Primogen broke the tense silence, her intonation forming his name into a question the way she knew he hated. They were nearly finished, warriors ready to wade onto a lethal and bloody battlefield, following a general they both hated but dispassionately obeyed. Before turning to face her he marked the time—just long enough remained to see them at the Prince’s side by his deadline. Impatiently he fixed her with his inhuman gaze, his rabid distaste for her presence impossible to miss.

Undaunted, as she ever seemed to be, a fact that always brought the legendary Nosferatu’s vitae to a boil, she continued her question, words hanging in the seaside air. “Mason, what if we didn’t go?”

Her innocent-sounding query struck him with the force of a thousand implications as he straightened. Though his eyes held hers he couldn’t see the calculating Malkavian studying his features; the seeds of disloyalty she had sewn with one question took root almost instantly—of countless indiscretions, he had never once considered the path she suggested. As his focus returned to the converted armoury he shifted his eyes with deliberate intent to the grandfather clock behind her.

They stood as if frozen, without even breath to disturb the air as they each counted long seconds passing with agonizing slowness. After a geologic age the clock struck. Mason Thomas’ eyes burned into Emma’s, no words capable of capturing the gravity of their decision—every second they stood was testament of their betrayal, their guilt under Prince O’Keefe’s dictates, and their violation of the Camarilla’s founding principles. Seconds stretched into minutes, any chance of forgiveness or redemption fleeting with each arc of the pendulum.

Two pair of eyes—one cold and hard, the other soft but resolute—bored into one another until finally, silently, Mason withdrew a cellular phone from his pocket. Fifteen after. With a flick of his thumb he dialed William O’Keefe’s private number, face emotionless though countless possibilities burned in his mind, the vast majority leading to his gruesome demise. He was shaken from his taut reverie when the call picked up, a mocking voice he didn’t recognize laughing into his ear. “Your Prince is dead—” Mason cut him off with a keypress.

Considering his next actions carefully, deliberately, he crooked his arm, watching Emma’s eyebrow quirk with silent question. “Seneschal,” he stated as much as asked, voice flat and matter-of-fact.

Slipping her arm around his, she answered with a lighthearted smile he knew far better than to trust. “Sire.”

Arm in arm, the two most bitter rivals in Sonoma County’s long history strode, determined to forge the wounded Domain into their new empire. Arm in arm, with every word and glance dripping with mutual hatred and disgust, forever.