Day 27: The Beast Within

Sales, Vampire: The Masquerade

Onyx Path’s Month of Nightmares features games, stories, and more to celebrate the spirit of Halloween. Count down the days with us by reading our excerpts, participating in the discussion, or by taking advantage of our special offers leading up to a haunted Halloween.

Beast Within ReduxA year or so ago, I stepped into the role as Onyx Path’s Managing Editor for Fiction. I’ve always wanted to get more books set up in digital formats and Print on Demand. It has certainly been a challenge with some books, as the original source files on certain titles have either had pieces missing or we were unable to convert them into other eBook formats. Mike Chaney has been awesome at making some magic happen with the workable files we do have, and Beast Within Revised was pretty high on my list to get updated.

So…I guess you could say this OPP version is almost a “3rd Printing” of the book. This is the first time Beast Within has been available in ePub and Mobi formats for digital and the new 6×9 PoD is different from the original printing as well.

The Beast Within Revised is a compilation that blends earlier Vampire stories with a few newer pieces from the Clan Novel series that tie into the Vampire Revised metaplot. It is one of my favorite collections of World of Darkness fiction, and I’ve been inspired by these stories. In fact, I’ve used a number of the characters in this book as NPCs to kick off plots and act as mentors/rivals to several player characters in games I’ve run over many years.

Here are a couple of excerpts from some of my favorite stories from the Beast Within Revised.

From The Scarlet Letters by Scott H. Urban

“Are you going to read tonight?”

The voice, right behind her ear, was unexpected. She gave a start, nearly slopping scalding coffee on her fingers. Cursing, she set down the mug and turned. She could have sworn there was no one behind her when she walked up to the bar, but a man now stood only inches away.

He was swarthy, stocky, and of medium height. He wore a black turtleneck sweater and loose-fitting black slacks. His hair, also black, was swept straight back from his forehead. She could see little of his eyes. They were set deep amidst his other features, where as his nose was just a touch too prominent. He frowned with concern. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s all right. I just didn’t see you there.” She began to ask him where he had come from when she caught a warning. Her palm was resting on the smooth, oak top of the bar, and she felt the message travel up her fingers, through her arms, and into her brain. Her pupils and nostrils flared wide.

She looked up at the newcomer. “Brace yourself against something,” she said breathlessly.

His brows drew together in question, but before he could ask her what she meant, a rumble — at first distant — seemed to approach at supersonic speed. The floor beneath them rippled, as if they somehow stood on the surface of a wave. Glasses and plates beneath the bar shimmied against one another, trying to see how violently they could shake without shattering, though many fell and burst. A couple of the cafe patrons screamed, but by the time their cries faded so had the tremor, the fault-line agitation flowing back into the mantle to be absorbed. Most of the audience was laughing now, releasing nervous tension. The bartender was standing up toppled bottles.

“It wasn’t the Big One, folks,” the lanky poet onstage announced, “so God must be telling me it’s all right to finish my poem.”

The man in black focused his attention on Corrinda. “You knew that was coming. You knew it before it happened.”

She nodded, using a wad of napkins to mop up coffee that had spilled from her mug. “Sometimes I … catch things. I think of it as catching because I know there are messages flying around us all the time, out here” — she used her finger to point in 10 different directions — “and sometimes I just happen to be in a position to pick them up. It’s like catching a baseball blindfolded. Most of the time you’ll miss. But if you hold your mitt just right, you might catch one pitch out of a thousand. Sometimes I learn things about the past. Sometimes I learn about the future. Sometimes I know what another person is thinking right at that moment.”

“What a gift to possess.” The stranger smiled. “You have been blessed.”

Suddenly she looked down and bit her lip. “You wouldn’t think so. Not if you’d caught … some of the thoughts I have.”

He nodded, accepting that without question. “So. As I was asking you before San Andreas interrupted, are you going to read tonight?”

She felt the blush rising on her cheeks. “I wanted to. Is it so obvious? It’s the reason I came, I guess. But now I’m not sure. I don’t know if my stuff is good enough. I don’t know if it … sings.”

“Ah.” His eyebrows rose slightly. “Are you the new Belle of Amherst?”

She quickly shook her head. “No. Nothing like that. I write more about … the darker side of life.”

“Emily understood that as well. She knew Death would stop for her and take her to the Narrow House. But that’s beside the point. I would like to hear you read.”

“I’m afraid I’ll make a fool of myself …”

He nodded at the stage. “You couldn’t do any worse than that one. You may get some applause. You may even feel like doing it again.” He looked her up and down appraisingly, and she discovered, much to her surprise, she didn’t mind. “What’s your name?”

She hesitated. She had no idea who he was — for all she knew, he could have been a mugger, a psycho, a serial killer. She could lie, make up a name — but then she realized she would never see him again after tonight anyway. “Corrinda. What’s yours?”

He repeated her name in a low whisper. It had always seemed awkward before, but in his voice her name became something exotic and glamorous.

From Descent by Sam Chupp

“Not thirsty? How strange. I myself am never one to turn down fresh young things like this one. But I understand: you prefer a more feminine blush these days. What’s her name? Susie?” Selena motioned for the surfer to step back to her.

“Sofie. Her name’s Sofie. I thought you wanted to talk about old times?”

Selena brushed her hair aside, her green eyes narrowing. She smiled impishly, her whole demeanor changing in a second. “Oh? A sore spot for you? Don’t tell me you’ve gone and fallen in love with her?”

Anastasia returned Selena’s look with stony silence. A waiter took this opportunity to change the plates on the table: the soup went away, replaced by the salad.

Selena was first to break the silence. “Well, so. I see that’s not a topic you’re interested in discussing. Is there something beside the weather that we can discuss?” Selena’s voice was icy.

“I would imagine you’d be full of gossip from the east. How is Jeremiah, Tabitha? I’ve not heard from them in some time.” Anastasia said, picking at her salad. She was amazed at how old habits returned to her. She used to be a master at maintaining the Masquerade, especially in public and especially in restaurants. She noticed then Selena made no such pretense — perhaps Luigi’s was Kindred-owned.

“Jeremiah is doing boring Toreador things, and Tabitha is doing boring Tremere things. They’re both boring. And you would know that if you weren’t hiding in your ivory tower here in San Francisco.” She motioned to the surfer, who kneeled next to her and presented his wrist.

“Oh look, Ana. Poor boy’s got slash scars. Probably has a rough life. Poor thing. Well, you’re about to feel better, honey.” Then, there, in the balcony of Luigi’s, Selena sunk her fangs into the surfer’s wrist and began to suck deep draughts of blood. He smiled in dull pleasure, closing his eyes and savoring the feeling.

“Don’t you think you should leave him some to get home on?” Anastasia said, trying to keep her composure. Even though she was not hungry, and had not needed to feed as much lately, the smell of the rich surfer vitae was tempting.

“Oh really, Ana. You’re so very droll. The last bits are the sweetest, you know.” Selena said, smiling, licking her lips. The totally drained surfer was lifted onto a cart and taken out. A waiter stepped forward with a napkin, and Ana looked up at him in surprise.

Selena smiled, dabbing some vitae from her chin. “I wanted us to be completely comfortable this evening, Anastasia. So I took the liberty of arranging things. Don’t worry about your precious Masquerade tonight. None will be the wiser for our celebration.” Selena’s skin had grown pink, her hair shinier, her whole body more shapely.

“Oh? And what are we celebrating?” Anastasia felt a wave of nausea well up inside her, and forced herself to maintain a mask of propriety.

“Our friendship, of course. And independence. You are independent of the Camarilla, the Circle of Seven’s iron grip. And so am I,” Selena said, smiling victoriously.

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  1 comment for “Day 27: The Beast Within

  1. One Vorlon
    October 28, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I have the old White Wolf printing of “Beast Within”. Taking place in San Francisco in the aftermath of a (mild) quake, it was a good anthology – one that overlapped with anthologies from several other lines.

    It’d be interesting to see a contemporary sequel. Find out what happened to Corrinda, Anastasia, and the rest in the last 20+ years . . . particularly in the wake of the Great Leap Outward (a.k.a. the kuei-jin invasion of California)

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