Transcript – Misericorde

[The Pensive Tower theme plays]

Scroll & Dagger presents
The Pensive Tower
Episode Twenty Five: Misericord

[A click, and the strange whirring of the venoscribe begins]

And you’re sure it’s alright for me to do this?

Well, of course, why wouldn’t it be?

Well, I mean, this place has a reputation and, you know, given what I do, I thought you might not be-

Ah, I see. But, then, why did you come all this way? If you thought we’d turn you away, I mean.

I don’t know. I guess I just thought if I could find answers anywhere, it would be here. And I thought that was worth the risk.

I see. Well, you needn’t have worried. Any and all are welcome to make a donation, no matter their background or their career.

[relieved] Okay, good.

Though, I’m still unclear why you’ve brought that in with you? Are you sure you don’t want to put it into storage while we-

[panicked] NO! No, sorry. I know it’s a strange thing to ask but… I need to have it with me. It makes me feel safe.

Alright. But I hope you know that you’re in no danger here.
[slight chuckle]
Certainly not from me.

[amused] That’s good to know. So, how does this work?

You just speak into it, tell your story. I just need to do the forward. This is the memory of Laurel G’Vier. Human, aged twenty-three, identified as female. Memory regards…?

Oh! Um… I guess my meeting of Uri Grandell, a man who turned out to be a vampire.

I see. Memory inscribed directly by the donor on the ninth of Chillintine, 730.

We Begin.

Alright. So, one thing I guess is important for context in all this. For the past four years, I’ve made my income as an escort.

I started doing it while I was studying at Brana University. A way to make some extra money, you know, so I wouldn’t leave completely impoverished by debt.

And, when I finished my degree, I just kept doing it. There didn’t really seem to be any reason to stop. The money was good and there weren’t exactly many other high paying jobs for someone like me. A lot of people I knew at school are really struggling.

I mean, I knew the risks. You hear horror stories about escorts, especially when your friends find out that that’s what you’re doing.

And, yes, those things do happen. I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a risk to this job, but there’s a risk in any job. Firefighters can get burned, doctors can catch serious diseases, cab drivers can get involved in collisions.

The fact is, if you’re careful and make sure you conduct your work sensibly, the chances of an escort getting involved in something bad are very small. Like… one in a thousand chance, really.

But there is always that one. And that turned out to be me.

So, I tended to set up shop in the Noontide Cafe, this nice bar and restaurant in the upmarket side of Brana. It was a friend of mine, Szimeon, who said that-

Sorry, could you use full names?

Oh, yeah sure; Szimeon Kal-Tein. Anyway, he recommended working the place when I was first starting out. He’d been working there for about a year and he said the people who went there were generally rich and busy. Which is exactly the sort of people you want to be meeting as an escort.

So I put on my nicest dress and went along to the Cafe. Szimeon introduced me to the owner, a taurox woman named Illiara Odell. She told me the rules for working in the Cafe, which were: I had to order at least one drink or dish an hour to pay for the table, and I couldn’t solicit. She wouldn’t have me bothering her customers, she said.

I was a little nervous of that rule. In my mind, at the time, if I couldn’t approach anyone, how were they going to know I was available? It’s not like I could put up posters in the street.

But Szimeon gave me this encouraging smile, so I agreed. See, what I didn’t know then, that I know now, was that people who were interested in the services of an escort would go to Illiara because they knew that she knew who the good ones were.

I see. And, what did she get out of it?

Well, like I said, most people who went to the cafe were rich and busy. Business owners, merchants, bankers, the kind of people who thought nothing of buying the most expensive thing on the menu, especially when they were looking forward to my private company later on.

There were plenty of times I didn’t even need to follow Illiara’s rule about buying drinks because my companion for that evening was buying them for me. So Illiara made out very nicely on the arrangement, as did I.

It was weird at first but, by the time I met Uri, I’d become a lot more comfortable with the whole process.

That all started about a month ago.

It was the last day of the month, payday for the people I try to cater to so obviously I’ve set up shop in the cafe. I didn’t go there every night, there’s not a lot of call for an escort in the middle of the week, certainly not the kind I’d be interested in working for anyway.

But the end of the month, at the end of summer? Yeah, I made sure I was there. I’d have been crazy not to.

I remember I put on a new dress I’d bought for that night, perfect for the cafe, alluring but sophisticated in midnight blue silk with a pale blue shawl against the evening chill, and I made my way to the cafe.

I wasn’t the only one working that night. There were about twenty other escorts who used the cafe as a base, though it was very rare to see all of them there at the same time. I’d actually become good friends with a few of them.

There was Szimeon, of course, and another guy Jerard SinKorra. Then there was Fionna C’Terr, she was human like me and Jerard, and a taurox girl called Jorra Odell.

Odell? As in-

[laughing a little] Yeah. I mean she never admitted it but we all figured she was Illiara’s daughter or niece or something.

My word.

So, last day of the month and the cafe was busy as expected. Normally, any other evening there’d be maybe four or five other escorts in the place when I went, maybe a couple more if it was the weekend. But today, I saw all of them.

And I arrived quite early in the evening, but most of the tables were already taken. Szimeon and Jerard were sitting together with a good-looking guy in a really nice suit who was clearly happy to throw his money around.

I admit I let myself enjoy the mental image of what they’d be doing later. I mean, I don’t really like Szimeon in that way and Jerard is really not interested in people like me, if you take my meaning. But even so, it was a fun image.

Jorra was getting cosy in the corner with an orklin in a very smart outfit. We tend to let her take on any orklins that come looking for company in the cafe. Without getting too graphic, uh… it wouldn’t really be safe for me or any of the others to try.

And Fionna was getting a drink with a short haired woman who had this weird looking pin on her lapel. She was clearly a good catch. I personally cater to any and all but, the nature of the business being what it is, you do tend to get more men than otherwise looking for company.

The women I see who are after companionship tend to go for Szimeon or one of the other guys.

I wasted no time and began heading for my usual table. Despite how busy the cafe was, Illiara had kept it free for me.

On the way, my eye was caught by a man standing at the bar and my step faltered.

He was… well, there’s no other way to put this, he was gorgeous. He had pale skin, so I guessed he was Gell, or at least part Gell.

But his hair was dark, so dark that it almost blended into the shadows behind him. And he wore it loose so that it fell to his shoulders. His beard was trimmed short and elegantly groomed.

Like nearly everyone else in there, he was wearing a pristine suit, though his was smoke grey, accented by a burgundy cravat.

The one thing about him that seemed strange was that, despite how warm it was in the cafe, what with how many people were in there, he was still wearing a travelling cloak. I mean, it was definitely stylish and he wore it well, but I had already removed my wrap given how hot it was in there.

He smiled at me and, without thinking I smiled back.

Then, remembering what I was there for, I went to my table and sat down. I couldn’t let myself be distracted; I was there to work after all.

Even so, I couldn’t help but steal a sideways glance towards the edge of the bar where I’d seen him. But he was gone.

I was a little disappointed but also relieved. It would have been difficult to turn on my usual charms if I was being constantly distracted.

So, I turned to look at Illiara, to give her the signal that I was “open for business.”

And I froze in my seat.

The man in grey had moved through the crowd like it wasn’t even there and was now talking with Illiara. I saw him, smiling as he spoke, gesture in my direction.

I then saw Illiara nod and say something in response.

My breath caught in my throat. I thought there was no way I was going to get that lucky.

But the next thing I knew, he was walking towards me. I didn’t even notice the other people in the room anymore. It was as if the cafe was suddenly empty except for me and him.

The cloak had gone from his shoulders, though I hadn’t seen him take it off and it didn’t appear to be on any of the coat hooks.

He took the seat opposite me and asked me my name.

I was so flustered that I did something stupid. I told him my real name. Usually with clients, you give a fake name, it’s just a good idea to protect yourself. I’ll be keeping that name to myself, if you don’t mind.

No, not at all, I understand.

But, that wasn’t the name I gave him. I can’t explain it, in all the time I’d been doing this job, I’d never given anyone my real name.

But when he looked at me, I just became lost in his eyes. They were so deep and dark. And they sparkled in the cafe’s candlelight, like they were full of diamonds.

So I just blurted out my name. I think the shock of doing that snapped me out of the daze I’d been in and I did try to correct myself, use the name I usually go with but I knew that that would already be too late.

As I was stammering, he gave me this smile. And all the anxiety just melted out of me. He introduced himself as Uri Grandell. His voice was so deep and soothing, all I wanted was to listen to him speak. He said he was a businessman from Hy-Braelyn, in town for a few days and was looking for someone to keep him company. He asked if I was available.

I managed to pull myself together then. This was the business part, I knew what I was doing here. So I told him I might be but that depended on what he was offering. We negotiated times and fees. Honestly, I think I sold myself for a little less than I usually do but… I couldn’t help myself. I had the chance to spend time with this person, and get paid for doing it. I thought if I charged too much, he might go elsewhere. There were at least two girls in the cafe giving me envious looks. I was determined not to let him slip away.

We agreed on a price. He said he had to leave but he left me a down payment and asked me to meet in the cafe the following day for lunch. He got up to leave. I was ecstatic. I had money in my purse and the promise of more to come. And, bonus, I’d get to spend more time with him.

I watched Uri until he was out the door. His cloak was once again around his shoulders, though I don’t remember seeing him put it on.

Jerard looked over at me, gave me a wink and a quick applause before returning his attention to his own client.

And I relaxed back in my seat, feeling a little bit smug, and gave Illaira the signal that I wasn’t taking any more customers that night. I had to be at lunch with Uri the next day so, I couldn’t risk anything that might make me late.

I won’t go into too much detail about the next few days. They were wonderful. We ate in expensive restaurants, talking and laughing for hours, we toured museums and art galleries. I was able to impress Uri with my knowledge of early Federation artists and their work and he would talk about history with such a passion and enthusiasm, you’d have thought he’d lived through it all.

In the evenings we went to the theatre or other restaurants and once to an elegant party hosted by Sir Alard DuVent. I was nervous about going there until we walked into the hall and I saw no fewer than fifteen familiar faces on the arms of other guests.

The thing that really surprised me about Uri was that he seemed in no rush to take me to bed. Normally that’s all my clients seem to be interested in, but Uri was different. We kissed several times, with a passion that curled my toes, but it never went any further than that.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded but, with Uri, I grew more and more disappointed and frustrated every time he took me back to my own home and bade me goodnight.

Then came the final night. The night that it all… went bad. Uri had told me he would be leaving the following day, going out of town for a few weeks, and he took me out to an incredible dinner at The Wolf House, one of the most upscale restaurants in the city.

The food was delicious. Then, after a cup of caff, it finally happened. He said he wanted to spend that night with me, and asked if I wanted that too.

I had to restrain myself from answering too enthusiastically that yes, I would love to.

I was actually nervous when we approached the door. I don’t even know why, it wasn’t like this was my first time doing this. Maybe I was nervous because it was him. And there was a part of me, even if I didn’t want to admit it to myself, that was completely infatuated by Uri. I might even have said that I was falling in love with him.

We walked in, and Uri gave me a tour of his home. It was a truly magnificent place. Portraits and beautiful paintings lined the wall, the windows were hung with velvet curtains. The one thing that did seem odd to me then was how empty the place was.

I’ve not been to many big houses but the ones that I have seen have staff working there, servants and the like. And a house like this, there was no way that Uri could tend to it alone. At the time I thought everyone had just gone home for the night.

As we approached one set of doors, Uri started getting particularly excited. I thought, perhaps, that it was the bedroom and I got a little excited myself. But instead, when the door opened, I saw a collection of armour and weapons and trophies.

I suppressed a sigh. I shouldn’t have been surprised. A lot of the men I’ve been with have some kind of trophy room. I’ve never found that stuff particularly interesting but I am paid to make them happy so I’ve been able to get pretty good at pretending to be interested.

So I smiled and nodded along as Uri took me through his collection. Pointing to a mounted head, huge and cat-like with teeth as long as my arm, talking about where and how he’d killed it. He gestured at some armour and talked about who it had belonged to.

The wall was decorated with skins. Animals I guessed, though they’d all been scraped clean of hair and fur, apart from one which looked reptilian. Each had been marked with a number, written in red ink, one through to eight.

There was only one thing that really caught my notice and that was only because it had been given such a place of pride in the collection, right at the centre of the room, on a mounted plinth. And it seemed strange because it just looked like a wooden sword. It was long and thin and the wood looked quite silvery.

Uri caught me looking at it and explained it had belonged to an old friend of his and he had taken it into his possession when that friend had died.

I asked why he kept it in the middle of the room. Uri said, it reminded him of the old saying; “Beware of the warrior with a wooden sword.” That he should never underestimate anyone or anything that came his way.

I’d never heard the expression before but I smiled and nodded again.

Then Uri took me by the hand and I forgot all about the sword and everything else in the room apart from us. He led me out into the corridor. Through the window, I could see the sun was starting to set now, the last crimson rays filling the hall with red light.

Uri took me into his arms and held me in a warm embrace. He told me he had enjoyed the past few days in my company. I told him I had too. He asked me how I felt about him.

I tried to act coy but I couldn’t help myself. I had to tell him how I really felt, that I had fallen for him and I wanted to be his and his alone. And, as I tilted my head up to kiss him, that was when I saw his face.

The pale skin was now drawn and gaunt, deeply shadowed by the evening sun. His eyes, that I knew to be dark and deep were suddenly… glowing, shining with some strange light that came from within him. His mouth was stretching, extending and his teeth were growing, becoming thin, needle-sharp.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was unreal. The sort of thing you hear stories about but doesn’t actually happen. And yet, it was happening. It was real. Uri was a vampire.

His embrace suddenly felt less warm. I was trapped, held against him, unable to move anything but my head.

So, I did the only thing I could think of.

I do a good job at dressing nicely and acting all demure and innocent. That’s what my customers tend to like. But I grew up on the streets of Brana and I learned a thing or two about fighting dirty.

I headbutted Uri, right in the nose. There was a satisfying crunch and he let me go, screaming.

I ran. But I must have gotten turned around because, when I pulled open what I thought was the front door, I found myself back in Uri’s trophy room.

I could hear him coming after me, moving faster than should have been possible.

My heart pounding in my chest, I looked around in search of something, anything I could use as a weapon. There was a spear by the door. So I picked it up and levelled the blade towards the door just as Uri came in.

His cloak was unfastened, and I now realised that it wasn’t a cloak at all. His wings fanned up behind him as he entered the room, his eyes fixed on me. They were so full of light now that I couldn’t see anything in there but whiteness.

I told him to stay back, that I’d kill him if I had to.

He just laughed. But it wasn’t the deep, throaty laugh I knew. This was a harsh, clacking sound.

He went to grab for me, and I lunged at him with the spear. The sharp tip pierced through his shirt and then snapped, leaving his skin without so much as a scratch.

I dropped the spear in shock and backed away. He advanced on me, showing more of those thin, pointed teeth as his smile widened.

“Don’t be afraid, my dear,” he said, his voice had become as harsh and grating as his laugh. “I promise, you’ll barely feel a thing. You might even enjoy it.”

A wave of fear and nausea swept over me. How had I ever thought this man, this thing, was beautiful?

I kept backing away and he came after me. He didn’t even rush. I think he knew I couldn’t escape and was enjoying the anticipation before… before he did what he was going to do.

Then my back came up against something hard. I’d reached the plinth in the middle of the room. And I had nowhere to go. And Uri was still coming. So my hand went back, almost on impulse, frantically looking for something I could use as a weapon.

It found something hard. It was the handle of that wooden sword I’d seen earlier.

I’d seen the spear break when I’d tried to stab Uri, so I don’t know what I thought I would accomplish with an ornament. But Uri was now reaching out a hand to grab me, his mouth widening like no mouth should be able to.

I gripped the hilt tight in my hand and swung the sword in a wild arc. I’d meant to hit Uri in the side of the head but, in my panic, my aim was off and I ended up swinging at his arm.

There was a sound like hot steel touching snow. Uri reeled back, clutching at a bloody stump. His arm was lying on the floor, its fingers twitching feebly.

I looked at the wooden sword. And It looked the same as it had before, it didn’t feel any different, no heavier or anything. I didn’t know what was going on. But the one thing I did know was that this thing could hurt Uri.

He was backing away, mewling piteously. He was begging for mercy, telling me I could go and that I’d never see him again.

I did consider it. Then my eyes found the skins on the wall, the ones marked with numbers. My blood went cold as I realised what they must really be. I was not the first person he’d done this to. And if I just left, there was nothing to stop him from doing it again.

I made my decision.

I advanced on Uri now, ignoring his pleas for mercy, just like he must have ignored the pleas of his victims. I raised the wooden sword and I stabbed it into his chest, right where his heart should be.

Uri let out an inhuman noise, I don’t even know how to put that into words, nothing in the world should be able to make a noise like that. Then he… collapsed. And I don’t mean he fell down, I mean he kind of folded into himself. One second he was there and the next he was gone. Without a trace. And I was left standing there, holding the wooden sword.

So, what happened next?

I left. Went home. Didn’t leave for a few days. I thought about going to the lawkeepers but I knew they wouldn’t believe me. And with no body to show them-

Yes, quite.

So, do you believe me?

[sigh] Well, officially, I can’t believe or disbelieve you. That’s not really what we do. We catalogue the recollections of people, maybe do some follow up research to add context or double check things mentioned but it’s not really our place to say whether a recollection is true or not.

Oh… I see.

But, on a personal note. I’ll say… yes, I believe you.

You do?

Yes. This may surprise you to hear, but you’re not the first to come in with a story like this.

[shocked] What?

It’s not always the same. I’d actually say your story is one of the most cohesive. Usually, it’s just a brief glimpse or something like that.

S-so there are more of them out there? Why isn’t the government doing something?

Well, vampires are officially extinct, you know? And there’s not much hard evidence to the contrary. Like I said, your story is the fullest account we’ve ever had. I think it’s safe to say that most people who have an encounter like yours don’t get to tell the tale afterwards.


So, where will you go now?

I don’t know. I’m not sure I can just go back to my old life. Especially after… I’ll need some time to get over that. Besides.

[Laurel’s chair scrapes, and she begins to walk away]

Maybe there’s something more I can do now.

What do you mean?

[Laurel’s footsteps pause]

Not sure yet. But I’m going to try and figure it out.

[She opens the door]

Thanks for your time.

Oh, not at all. Thank you for coming in. Good luck.

[Laurel leaves, the door closes. Paxton sighs, and stops the venoscribe]

[The venoscribe clicks, recording once more]

Final Notes; Obviously this is very upsetting. Not only for Ms G’vier, though I can only imagine what going through that must have been like, but for the world in general. Vampires are indeed officially extinct but this is the second encounter I have come across over the course of this project that suggest otherwise. And both occurred in the last two years. If there really are still vampires out there, that is cause for great concern.

Inscription Complete.

[The venoscribe clicks, and the whirring stops.]

[The end theme plays and the Announcer recites the credits.]