Once upon a time, when I was 16 or 17, I went into a bookstore and opened Vampire the Masquerade (2nd ed.). I’ve never been the same. I’ve done some writing since then. Fast forward. There is a new book available that I’ve contributed to: Lore of the Clans. You can listen to Eddy Webb talk about the development of my two chapters at the following links (the Followers of Set and the Tzimisce respectively).
I’ve done the math. I’ve been reading White Wolf books for longer than I have not been (yikes!). Since the beginning, if you crack open one of those books, you’ll find, in the opening credits, a little Special Thanks section. Contributors and other people involved are given thanks via little nick names. Even if I didn’t know the context of these inside jokes, the section always added a little warmth. So now, all these years later, of all the things I’ve done in this fictional world I’ve played in, I find this little bit tickles my inner teenage fan the most… Getting my own nickname.
You can read the intro fiction to my Tzimisce chapter HERE.
Below, is the opening fiction to the Follower’s of Set chapter. Have you heard the legend of Haint Blue?
The Poison Tree
I’m rolling down the outer-roads, somewhere near the Okefenokee Swamp, edging on the static of “Black Snake Moan,” when the phantom signal comes in.
The car radio croons, “Mmm-mmm! Black snake crawlin’ in my room.” Then it says, “Zzzzzzzshhhhhhhhhh!” Then the music. Deep. Bottomless. Filled with the primordial blues of reptile sex. Music that taught people new ways to revel and kill. The music of Haint Blue.
The fuel needle does a heroin shiver over E. Sold my homicide badge to some kids for gas money three truck stops back. It was just the relic of a dead religion. My lost history. The cult killings—the gaudy headlines—crime scene photos—the screaming eyes of cadavers—the dead eyes of interviewees—the tendrils of conspiracy—the warnings from above—my lost vocation—lost marriage—lost. Empty context. An amphetamine stew of memories.
How long had I been chasing Haint Blue?
Static. Lost the music. My knuckles form a row of white tombstones on the wheel. I jerk left. Right. The music crackles back, filling my brainpan with sizzling eel afterbirth. His music.
Haint Blue. The Conjure Man. The walking mythos. Everyone knows somebody who knows somebody who heard his music live. Did a deal with the Devil at a crossroads, they say. His music shows you things, they say. His coffin-shaped guitar case holds secrets. For a trade, he’ll show you wonders. When the six-string priest plays, the dead dance.
In all of the twisted paths of the investigation—from prostitutes to deacons to drug dealers to government officials—the one constant was Haint Blue. Georgia truckers will vomit apocrypha about the rogue radio signal that comes in the late hours, Mesozoic lyrics you can’t quite make out. The sound virus.
No leads. Nothing left. All I had was the music. I don’t know how I know, but I know where to go. All roads lead to Haint Blue.
Just like that, he appears in the cyclopic glare of my last headlight. A dapper holocaust with his coffin guitar case. I’m out of the car, gun drawn. I aim for his heart. Gators bellow and eyes gleam in the dark off the road. Under the brim of his hat, Haint Blue smiles at me the way mushroom clouds smile at the sun. I drop the gun. Bullets are just an unnecessary rudeness.
All the terrible things I saw to find him, the things I did, just rungs down the ladder. Every clue teasing the ultimate secrets of the cosmos, like humming a song you can’t quite remember.
“More,” I say through the tears, “please show me more.”
He nods. His pale blue tie glows in the black, like a river of souls dribbling down his chin to his belt. He offers me a straight razor. I cut along, not across.
Frogs croak prayers to the void. The smell of rotting peat. The feverish crossroad pavement.
When did I lay down? That’s when I notice the bottle trees—small, dead trees with blue bottles stuck on the ends of the bare branches. Used to see them in yards, when I was a kid. Mama’d say some hoodoo about the bottles trapping roaming night spirits until the morning light destroyed them. The wind blows piping music through the stained glass branches.
A cold palm presses my mouth. Baptism tastes like unlucky pennies. “See you on the other side of Duat,” Haint whispers like a kindly psychopomp. Then he strangles his six strings down to revenant whale groans. He sings, but I can’t catch all the words.
“…I was angry with my foe—I told it not, my wrath did grow—and I watered it in fears—night and morning with my tears—and I sunned it with smiles—and with soft deceitful wiles—and it grew both day and night—till it bore an apple bright…”
The gators become crocodiles. The sky opens wide, showing the convoluted pantheon that is its teeth. The godmonster menagerie—all perched in the branches of the Poison Tree of Souls. Before the river of death carries me away, I hear the breaking of blue glass. Haint cackles, “Come out! Come out! Meet your new sibling.” Funny thing, as the bottles break, the mad piping does not quiet. It grows louder.