Born in Los Angeles, Cal. in 1917, Lilith Crowley grew up in a succession of run down apartments and trailer parks up and down the coast of California. She married young, to a sometime drifter, sometime thug tattoo artist named James Vallient. He taught her many things, tattooing being one of them. She had some latent artistic ability, which quickly manifested itself in her art. Soon, she was more sought after than her husband, which lit the fuse under an already unstable powder keg. Their fights - more like brawls - became nearly lethal. She learned to enjoy pain - both giving and receiving it. James also pimped her when they ran low on money, which was frequently due to his drinking and drug habits. In 1942, James was drafted. He did what any red-blooded American male in his position would do - he disappeared. For the first time in her life, Lilith was alone. She drifted back to Los Angeles, a town she had fond memories of. She was "working" at an after-hours bar in Century City when she made the acquaintance of a man who said he was looking for a woman of her talents.
She enjoyed his company for several nights, and then was snatched from the street one night as she waited for a bus. She awoke from a drugged sleep to find herself in a cemetery with about a dozen other people, all outcasts and drifters such as herself. She was given a shovel and told to dig her own grave. The experience seemed so unreal to her that she did as she was told. Then the leader of the gang stepped forward, and she recognized him as her "friend". He asked if anyone wanted to leave. Several people said yes. She watched in fascination as the first was allowed to walk, unmolested, away from the cemetery. The next two were torn to pieces before her eyes. Then the question was posed again. This time, nobody said yes.
The next few hours are a hazy blur of pain and terror in her memory. She wakes screaming sometimes, sure she dreamed that which she cannot remember, but she has no idea who exactly embraced her or exactly how it was done.
Sometime before dawn, she was pushed roughly into the hole she had dug, and covered with dirt and gravel. Then, she began to scream. She can remember her friend's voice, floating down to her, laughing. "Just be sure you dig in the right direction," it said.
Nothing but silence and the overpowering stench of dirt and the weight of the cold gravel on her chest and head and arms. She fought and dug and wept and dug some more. It seemed like a long time, maybe a day or two, before she got tired and stopped digging. She was tired, cold, hungry and terrified. And something inside of her snapped.
She stopped digging for a long time.
She heard the birds, and knew when the sun came up, and she heard the crickets and knew when it was fall, and the birds again in the spring.
Sometimes she would dig a little, but mostly she remained, alone in her thoughts, in a field of blackness.
Then, digging idly with one hand, not expecting, not even remembering the other world, not remembering anything else but her aloneness and the dirt, her hand encountered something strange, foreign to her.
It moved freely, unweighted by the earth.
She flexed her fingers. It felt strange to do that. She pushed her arm more fully out of the soil, felt drops of water hit her palm, and knew that it was called rain, the water was, and she remembered the feel of rain, and surf and the ocean, and the other world came crashing back onto her, suffocating her now with it's sounds and textures and memories.
She frantically clawed her way through the last remaining inches of earth, and looked around, dazzled by the sun in the sky at night. Little suns hung from poles where the small road leading to the cemetery had been. They can't be streetlamps, she thought, streetlamps don't have bulbs that bright. The small two lane blacktop road that wound it's way to the cemetery had been replaced by a wide ocean of cars and taillights, stretching as far as her eyes could see.
She stood up and promptly fell back down again.
She tried to take stock in where she was, in what had happened. She finally chalked it up to a bad dope trip and tried to forget it. She caught a rat beside a headstone in the cemetery and tore it in two, sucking the life from it before the nerves stopped twitching.
She had a vague idea what had happened - After all, she'd seen 'Dracula' at the theater.
She broke into a boarded up house three blocks from the cemetery that morning, climbed the stairs to the attic - as far from the basement as she could get - shook the dirt out of her clothes and hair, and slept.
At dusk the next night - she stood at a bare window, looking down at the lights of Los Angeles, wondering if she could ever go home.
By dawn the next morning, she had her answers.
She drifted up and down the coast for several years; never staying anywhere long enough to draw the attention of anything more than the rats she shared houses with, until she came to Santa Monica. Something told her she'd found a place to call home for a while. Maybe it was the ocean that drew her, black and restless as her soul, maybe the tourists who came for the ocean breezes and wide beaches, and fell victim to her perversions. Within three months she'd found a new identity, stolen from a tattoo artist who'd trusted her just a little too much. She made sure that the woman's body, if found, would never be identified as human.
She moved the shop, a little one-man operation called Liquid Dreams, from a low rent neighborhood to the boardwalk itself. It was a Kindred's dream; good hunting, young healthy bodies, and the prey came to her. She made sure her business cards could be found in the restrooms of every metal club and Goth bar within ten miles of the pier, and some nights found herself regretfully turning food away at her door.
Unlife was good, she told herself, and only getting better.
Then, one night, a skinhead with a thick German accent showed up at her door. She turned him away at first, telling him four a.m. was her closing time and no amount of money could buy her talents after then. She told him to come back some other night, earlier, when she had the time to do some proper work.
The next night, he returned just after sunset. He was leaning against the door, one heavy jackboot propped on the glass, smoking a cigarette as she pulled into the lot on her bike.
He seemed normal, until she opened the door. Then, pushing her to the floor, he pulled a stake from his jacket.
She laughed and spit in his face, blood running down into his eyes.
"You got a helluva lotta nerve, lady" was all he said as he wiped his face.
She already had claws out and ready for an attack, long extensions of her knucklebones poking out through the skin of her hands. He saw them and smiled.
"What, you think I'm crazy enough to fight with a Tzimisce?" He threw the stake down at her feet. She kicked it away.
"Naw, I don't wanna end up like a pincushion...or worse. I'm just here as a friendly neighborhood reminder. The baronacy you're in is kinda...exclusive, y'know?"
When she got to Denver, her luck was running out fast. She found a large house, abandoned for thirty years, just behind one of the older cemeteries in the black section of town. She liked the decor, the peeling wallpaper, the ruined walls inside. She set out to make the place a home. For the first few nights, she hung out with the other Kindred, the small frightened ones. She couldn't understand how they could be so afraid when they had the same power she did. The power of life over death, to change and be changed. She tried to know them, to call them friend, but they only shunned her, whispered unkind things behind her back, and thought her strange. She opened a shop, played by the rules, upheld their precious masquerade. But something was wrong, so very wrong. She longed for California, for home soil, for stability.
Then the voices found her again.
They'd been her constant companions, for the fifty years she'd been underground and the three years she'd been up. The voices of the dead, the dispossessed and the damned. They found her in her new haven, rushing through the empty rooms and up the once-grand staircase, whispering past the doors and the locks and the shutters of the old house. They came to her in the early hours just before dawn, when she feared to move from the safety of her attic nest. And they came to her in the twilight, before the sun had set completely over the western horizon. They were the cold shivers down her spine as she waited in her shop for customers, and they were the hateful whisper in her ear in a crowded nightclub.
They were her family.
They were the dead.
And they wished to return, as she had, to the brightly colored world of the living.
She never remembered the first trip to the old cemetery, wishing to convince herself that it had been an accident, a spur of the moment whim that brought her there. All she knew was when she raised herself from the dream she'd fallen into, she was standing over a fresh hole in the earth
like mine my grave my grave im dead but i live theyre calling calling i can help them free them why dint anyone hear me free me kill me
with a crowbar in her hand, prying with all her strength at the lid of the coffin. Even if she'd wanted to stop, her hands moved by themselves.
help them get them out away from the worms and the rats and the things that twine in my hair and crawl across my skin the things that bite and whisper youre dead lilith youre dead
She hadn't known what to expect. The decayed corpse grinned up at her through the dirt spilled into the box. She smiled back, the first real smile in many years. Then she set to work in earnest.
The first one was the hardest. She had to keep backtracking, to pick up the small pieces that dropped continuously from the body. Ned circled around her, happy that his mistress was again in good spirits, whistling to herself. When she finally got the corpse home, she sat it down in the one chair in the house, and proceeded to collapse on the floor before it.
In that one second, her mind snapped, re-formed and hardened, like black ice on a forgotten pond. Looking up, she brushed a lock of black hair from her eyes.
James smiled back at her. He spoke to her, in his own fashion. Thanked her for rescuing him from the cold, the dark, the crawlers in the ground that had invaded his sleep.
And then he told her she must cover her tracks, or THEY would come. THEY would take him away again. THEY wouldn't understand her special gift, her talents, her sight. THEY would see only what THEY wanted to see.
And THEY would take him away. And she would be alone again.
She was always a good girl at heart. She did what James told her to do.
It was nearly dawn, and she was exhausted when she returned to the house. She distantly realized she had not eaten this night, that she was dirty and tired and starving, but none of that really mattered.
James was back. They were together again, as it should be.
Things were really going to be all right. And as she fed on Ned and then sank into a comfortable sleep, safe in the arms of the only man she'd ever loved, she felt a new hope stirring in her chest, where her heart had once been.
Things would work out. Things would be just fine from now on.
And the city of Denver slept on in innocence of the monster newly born in their midst.
Within three months, she had a houseful of company. Some came and stayed only a few days, some moved in for life. And life was a very long time.
Of course, she couldn't tell anybody. No one had the gifts she did, to hear their tender whispers in their sleep, or feel the soft touch of fingers on her face when she bent over one of them, straightening an old decayed tie or brushing a piece of lint from a suit forty years gone in fashion. But she had those gifts. She could hear and see them as they had once been. As she once had been, when she had used to walk the golden sands near the pier in Santa Monica.
And then the hunters came.
She had considered running again. She'd run before, from baronacy to baronacy in the Anarch Free States, and then from those lands to the Camarilla held mountains and here, in the end, to Denver.
She fleetingly thought of her friend, Mari, who had stared at her so long ago, the third eye blinking and shining furious in the center of her forehead while she studied Lilith. Mari, who had known what was inside her, the pain and the anguish and the emptiness and the void itself, had known all that just by looking in her eyes, and had still called her friend, and had put her hands on Lilith's head, and lifted the fog from her mind. She thought of calling her, just breaking down and calling for help, for solace and succor, but she knew she had crossed a line somewhere.
She knew there were some things that just couldn't be fixed, no matter what.
And so she hunted the hunters.
Some part of her thought it was a greatly altruistic thing she did, to stop the hunters before they threatened her friends. The other part of her knew she'd used those same friends as bait to draw the leader of the group
little bitch little bitch let me in
away from her house one night, when Lilith and a friend slipped in and brought hell to earth.
UPI--Denver Colorado May311997 0235 ---
Police were shocked at the discovery early today of the bodies of several people recovered from inside the home of one of the cities most promising district attorneys. According to some sources, the bodies were all found in the living room of a white suburban ranch house at 10050 Cielo Drive, in the heart of the city's Willow Creek district. There are also as yet unconfirmed reports of evidence of satanic or cult activity. Police are not yet releasing the names or descriptions of the dead pending notification of next of kin. There has been a bulletin issued to all area law enforcement personnel to locate and apprehend Ms. Monica Bellhurst, assistant district attorney for the city of Denver. Police will not specify at this time whether she is armed or to be considered to be dangerous in any way...
Lilith and her friend had gleefully sprung the trap, pulled the noose tight around the little bitch's neck. One quick anonymous 911 call, another to the local paper, and it was all over.
The only problem was, the bitch hadn't hunted down her friends that night, as Lilith had planned she would. So a loose end was left hanging.
And she knew it was the beginning of the end.
They came then, to her house, because they thought it was safe, and they asked her with sincerity if they could haven there. She had to let them in. She was touched by their sincerity and the way they trusted her. She locked the doors to the second floor, and she told them to leave things alone.
The next night, she was busy in the arms of another when the sun began to rise, so she stayed there, safe in the embrace of one of her own kind, in another haven.
But she hadn't counted on Ned being such a fine watchdog. And she hadn't given him credit for having the brains to remember things. Like the way she dragged home her friends, her family.
He was only trying to be a good dog. He was only watching her house, her sanctuary, like she'd told him to when she created him, three years ago.
So when the Others his mistress ran with attracted the attention of the neighbors, Ned had to kill them, and then he had to have the blood.
And then, he knew what to do with bodies that smelled like this, like death but not the life-in-death his mistress smelled of. Besides, he'd done other things, and she'd petted him, and rewarded him, and called him Good Boy.
And he wanted to be a Good Boy. He loved her, for ever and ever.
And he had to break the doors down, because he had no fingers to turn the knobs with, and anyway, he didn't know where she kept the keys. He did a good job, setting the woman's corpse in the empty chair at the dinner table with the others. Then he lay down and went to sleep, because he was happy. He was a Good Boy, and his mistress would love him.
When Lilith arrived home, she saw the splintered door, the blood trail, the guilty looks on the faces of those who she'd allowed to hide in her sanctuary. And she knew. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, she knew that they were going to tell THEM.
She couldn't let that happen.
But first, she had to check on her family, because if they were hurt, if they had been disturbed...
The one who trusted her least followed her up the stairs, along with the thieving gypsy. She should have known it would be the end of her to allow a thief into her house.
The second floor door was shattered, splintered off at the hinges. She stepped in, speaking to her family. They were all happy to see her, relieved that she had come back to set things to rights.
Then she heard a cry of surprise from the hallway, and turned to see the two of them standing there, staring open-mouthed at her family.
She saw the accusation in their eyes. It confirmed all that James had told her. THEY would be here, soon. THEY would take her family away.
She couldn't let that happen.
She managed to get a shot off, firing at the young one as the gypsy pulled him backwards, out of the doorway and away from the shot coming his way. He fired back, hit her in the stomach. Her chains and rings jangled ominously. She fell to one knee, stunned from the sweet liquid pain running through her body. When she looked up again they were gone. She could hear the bikes start up in the driveway.
She followed like one of the hounds of hell itself. She stumbled down the stairs, tearing loose the banister and almost falling over, but she could already feel her body beginning to heal the damage. She burst through the front door, the old wood shingles splintering where the knob hit them. She saw the three red taillights on the bikes as they flew past her and down the street.
theyll be back back with more back with fire and more weapons and theyll take my family away hurt me hurt my family
And then she noticed the car still in the driveway, Ned on the hood, snarling, biting the air. He'd managed to slow down some of them. She turned her attention to them.
As luck would have it, it was the one who hadn't trusted her, the one who'd defiled her haven in the first place. Now, she would have her due. She leapt at the car, firing her Casul wildly at it, trying not to hit Ned. The windshield shattered and the big dog went flying into the car. She howled him on, the anger a black tide now, rushing through her, blotting out all other feelings. The car swerved out, tried to gain the street, crashed over the curb. She could hear gunfire coming from inside.
"Don't you hurt my dog!" she screamed, her voice drowned out by the squealing tires and crunching metal.
Then her heart dropped as she saw Ned slide limply off the car hood. Time slowed to a crawl as he dropped limply to the street, lying in a pile of dead leaves in the gutter. Blood tears welled in her eyes as she shook her head back and forth, not willing to believe what she was seeing.
Then she was running with all her might toward the car, toward Ned, toward the one in the driver’s seat who was now looking around, worried look on his face. She was close enough to see Ned, his injuries, the black loop of intestines and the white of tissue spouting from his stomach. And the blood, all his blood was on the pavement, on the car, running down the headlights and painting the scene red and dripping.
She knew dead well. This was what it looked like. Ned was never going to lick her face again, keep her warm in the cold light of dawn, protect her from whatever terrors lurked without and within.
Ned was gone.
Now she stood, framed in the headlights, as the car bore down on her. She stood her ground, whether because she wanted it to be over, or because she thought she could triumph, she did not know. She stood her ground, trying to dodge at the last minute, hearing the sickening thunk as the car hit her, feeling her body flying through the air, her mind exploding with the thousand crackling sounds her bones made as they broke on impact.
She landed with her back to the huge oak tree, the huge dead oak tree, in the yard. If she hadn't already been so badly injured, the pain of the broken vertebrae might have kept her down. But she had turned off the part of herself that felt pain. The only thing she felt now was the boiling, onrushing anger at the one who had caused all this, had brought her world to an end.
He was getting out of the car, and she flew on him.
If he hadn't already been so shaken, he probably could have fought her to a standstill. She was severely injured and needing blood badly by this point. But she rode the wave of her frenzy. In those last minutes she was more alive than she'd ever been, even back in her warm days. She was a living machine of rage. She was dimly aware he wasn't striking killing blows, was only trying to put her down, to get away from her fury, but she didn't care. He had ended her world, and she would end his.
She felt herself slipping further and further away from her body. She could hear the sounds of the fight, could feel the dirt under her as she was knocked down, could feel her muscles tighten as she struggled to get back up, but it all seemed so far away. Like a half remembered dream, or a memory from her youth. He was clawing at her now, using that lupine trick he'd learned from them, the claws that hurt so bad, so bad...
so bad so bad this feels so funny doesnt feel like the first time i died doesnt feel like anything ive ever had happen before feels warm never been warm since i died feels warm and warm is good so good so good
Then far away, she heard a sound. It started off small, tiny, insignificant, then it began to sweep toward her, flying over the ground and under the ground and through the air and the earth and rushing to her, to where she lay on the ground bleeding her last blood out.
She paused for just a moment, unsure of what she was hearing. Her first thought was tornado, then rain, then it suddenly dawned on her, and it took her weakened mind into its warm enfolding darkness.
The sound of wings.
She tried, very hard, in that last moment, with her mind working crystal clear for the first time since she was a very young child, to smile, to thank the young Kindred who was now drawing back in horror from her dying body. She tried to form words, to tell him it was ok, really truly ok, for the very first time since her Embrace. She tried to tell him it was beautiful, it was warm and peaceful and good, but she couldn't say the words.
She didn't have the time.
And then she was outside her body, watching it crumble to dust, seeing him turn away in disgust and horror and shame at what he thought he'd done.
And behind her, wherever she was now, she felt a hand on her arm.
"Took ya long enough, sister,” came a laughing woman's voice. She turned to see the woman, taking in in a glance the black clothes, the gleaming silver ankh, the smiling green eyes. She saw the woman's hand outstretched in friendship.
And she heard the sound of her wings.