Having received permission to enter San Francisco – the stalwart realm of powerful elder vampires whose capabilities dwarfed imagination – the young vampire Prince of Sonoma County directed his driver to cross the foreboding Golden Gate Bridge. With him were some of his most trusted advisors and allies, none truly looking forward to the business at hand, and each trying to hide their unease. A new predator had moved into his Domain, and signs pointed to it being a former resident of the peninsula city. With luck, the eldest vampire of his Clan would be able to provide some insight into his motives, his methods, and his personage.
Driving through the Mission District, trying to ignore the feeling of unfriendly eyes peering at their sleek black sedan from the many dark alleys they passed, Prince O’Keefe barked at his driver. “You missed it,” he growled. “The map says it was two blocks ago.” Wordlessly the chauffeur pulled the car around, making three right-hand turns in accordance with the plethora of “No Left Turn” signs that had become a hallmark of the great city’s downtown, and retraced the drive.
“Again?” O’Keefe grunted after some minutes, looking back at the directions they were given and realizing they had driven too far anew. “Nevermind – pull over and we’ll walk the rest of the way.” Obediently, the car came to a stop next to the low curb, the wary vampries within stepping into the brisk Bay Area fog. “Circle the block,” the tall Prince demanded, looking over his shoulder, and the driver merged smoothly into the midnight downtown traffic without a word of complaint.
As the Prince of a sovereign territory, O’Keefe was afforded a fair amount of leeway when visiting other Domains, such as permission to enter San Francisco at all, that privilege normally reserved only for those who had existing business arrangements with the elders who ran the city, but that his trip had approval scarcely provided calm against the omnipresent feeling of danger, of the stark, bestial desire to flee. Looking in his advisors’ eyes, he saw the same fear reflected back at him. His station may afford him some privilege, but his subordinates had a much more tenuous veil of safety.
Nodding to his Sheriff, the feral woman who had stood by his side since his rise to power half a decade prior, having kept existing enemies at bay and new threats from rising, he lead the small retinue down the street, four ordinary, if well-dressed, denizens of the night. To let their fear show would be to invite disaster, and though the Prince and Sheriff were martially-capable, the others were much more political or strategic in nature, and would be liabilities in a fight against other vampires. With great concern both to their surroundings and to their appearance, they took in the architecture of San Francisco’s oldest district.
“Damn,” O’Keefe snarled through pursed lips, noting a nearby street sign. “How did we miss it?” The party turned around, retracing their steps. “Again?” he blinked in confusion several minutes later, having missed their destination in the other direction. “Emma, what’s going on here?”
Though she was the eldest of her bloodline in Sonoma County, Emma Sans was but a baby in the greater history of vampire-kind. A devious and manipulative tactician, it was she who feared their impending meeting the most – not only were they to see the eldest member of her Clan on the West Coast, unbeknownst to the rest, their dangerous journey was to ask about her sire, her creator, who had finally tracked her down and started to make his troublesome presence known. She didn’t know what that information would do to her shaky relationship with the Prince, let alone what the elder would say. It was hard to tell which she feared more.
“You children lost or something?” came a snickering voice from a nearby stoop, with all the bravado of a school-yard bully looking for milk money from the new student. Slinking out of the darkness came a fashionably-dressed androgynous figure, leather pants tucked into tall boots and styled hair seeming to defy gravity. “Take a wrong turn?”
O’Keefe stepped forward as his Sheriff’s fingers twitched, her protective instinct almost overriding good sense. Needlessly adjusting his immaculate tie, he looked down at the stranger. “We’re here to see Madame Opal,” he offered calmly, his voice even, in stark contrast to the heightened alarm he felt in his veins. The youth seemed to recoil at the name, as he had hoped.
Lore held that Madame Opal was one of the two founding members of the San Francisco vampire Domain, and that her word was obeyed second only to the reigning Prince’s, her close ally who had ruled since the city’s inception over a century prior. A mysterious figure who did not appear at public events, even other elders had to work with her intermediaries. It was said, and widely believed, that her plans and machinations were far beyond any comprehension, and in her aloof madness she had unearthed secret powers of the blood only imagined by lesser vampires. Powers, some whispered, that let her see the future and alter reality to her whim. Her followers were fanatical, unerringly serving her unknown plans, unwilling or unable to describe their motives or aims in terms others could understand. Most gave her bloodline a wide berth.
“You are expected,” the young-looking punk intoned bowing low and spreading their arms widely. “The Lady has granted you audience.”
“And where is the Lady?” O’Keefe asked pointedly, neither wishing to engage in a duel of words nor to be late to their rarely-granted appointment.
“Just there, good Prince,” the youth answered, eyes still lowered out of respect, one finger pointing across the street.
Turning at the gesture, the Sonoma County vampires blinked as if to wipe sleep from their eyes. An enormous opera house stood, filling the entire city block. They had passed the building multiple times, they realized, but it never seemed important or worthy of note before that moment. Emma noticed that though the downtown nightlife had scores of people out and about, not a single one walked the sidewalk in front of the theatre, absent-mindedly crossing the street and avoiding the entire block. It was as if the opera house didn’t exist, and wouldn’t exist, until its presence was pointed out.
“She is ready for you.”
Squaring his shoulders, not knowing whether to be impressed or frightened, and finding himself with a healthy amount of both, O’Keefe lead his small delegation to the legendary home of San Francisco’s oldest and most powerful vampire.