Meerlinda studied the envelope in her hands. She ran her fingers along one edge, savouring the quality of the paper’s weave, contemplating at the same time the contents of the letter inside. Etrius had given her a lot to consider, and she needed time to think.

She did not need to use her supernatural power to sense the anguish and despair of her fellow Councilor. Etrius had devoted centuries to the care and protection of their leader and mentor, the master wizard Tremere. Etrius had finally broken their master’s curse, but instead of being reunited, he had been abandoned.

This surprised Meerlinda somewhat less. Locked in psychic combat with the soul of the Antidliuvan Saulot for aeons, Tremere no doubt needed time to gather his strength and assess the state of the world (and their House’s part of it). News of his return was not yet public, and it seemed reasonable to her that he would exploit that advantage for as long as possible. She was disappointed that her master had not yet thought to contact her directly, but she told herself that it was likely only be a matter of time.

Etrius however appeared now to be beyond all reason. Meerlinda knew that the care of their master had been a thankless task, which is why centuries ago she and the other Councilors had quickly dispersed to claim their territories in other parts of the world. Etrius alone had remained faithful, devoting all of his energies to the task. Now Tremere was free Etrius was no longer needed. From his words Meerlinda could tell that Etrius was spent, and distraught. He was now the one who was broken and in need of a caretaker.

Although she sympathised with her fellow Councilor she was reluctant to heed his call. The Fortschritt was not her home, and she was wary of becoming too embroiled in a foreign political arena. Her smooth alabaster skin and long auburn hair belied it but she was getting too old for such games. In recent nights she had felt weariness in her bones that no amount of meditation or vitae could entirely cleanse.

She was also troubled by the dilemma of her legacy: if she left America who else would counter the machinations of their rivals or the depredations of their enemies in her absence? There were few that she could trust with such a burden and the Pyramid’s strength in the New World was precarious in the aftermath of the Sabbat War. She had invested too much time and energy in her plans and schemes to abandon them now.

Meerlinda leant back in her favourite chair and studied the brass plate on her desk which, etched with magical symbols, had only hours ago delivered the letter for her attention. She concluded that Etrius would have used the arcane mechanism to deliver a priority missive to all of the Council, not just her. Therefore she would leave it to one of the others – Grimgroth or Elaine perhaps – to answer Vienna’s call.

Standing up, she moved over to the fireplace with the letter still in her hand. Although the hearth was not lit she did not need flint or matches to create a flame. With a simple thought the paper came alight at her touch. She discarded the flaming envelope into the hearth and stood still for a moment, watching it become ashes. The ultimate fate of every Kindred who could not withstand the dangers of eternity.

She walked from the fireplace to the window and peered out into the night. Somewhere out there was her master, her friend, and – ages past- once her lover. Reputedly the most powerful wizard to have ever walked the earth, no man or beast had seen his like before or since. She hoped his sojourn was short, as their clan needed him. Etrius needed him. The Clan needed him. She needed him.

She turned and settled back into her chair to wait.