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Sara Murray
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So MRI scan. That was certainly an experience for my claustrophobia! Took a bit longer than expected as the poor guy had to spend a good 20 mins trying to inject the IV contrast. He ended up going into the back of my hand after stabbing about painfully and unsuccessfully in my arm. All over now, back to work :(
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Nice wee jolly along Portobello promenade and a catch up with +Steve Clapton​ putting the world to rights.

Now sleepy time.
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A collaboration between myself and +Malcolm Campbell​ on Ash (formerly Barrett) and Alder's background in Requiem.

Belfast, around 2005. 

It was open mic night in a smoky dive off Clifton Street, the sort of place that doesn’t care who sings as long as they don’t have to pay you. Alder Stormcrow was alone with her guitar on  stage, singing some navel gazing rock with hints of Irish pagan poetry and mysticism. It was a slow night, the crowd much more interested in their pints than the stage.  A tall man standing at the bar caught her attention, he seemed to be listening intently, and Alder’s thoughts turned to feeding, imagining she could feel his pulse even from here.  Her last song seemed to drag, but she maintained eye contact with the attractive stranger, who returned her gaze until her set finished to some muted applause. She stepped down and made her way to the bar, knowing that the stranger would approach her.

 “I like your lyrics”, he commented over her shoulder. “I’m Barrett – studying poetry and Celtic lore at the Seamus Heaney here in town, and I think I recognised the origin of some of your metaphors.”. She turned to engage him, and let him do most of the talking. Alder always felt inept at socialising generally, save some learned flirting skills to pick up men she wanted to feed on. Like this one.  As his words washed over her, she was making a plan to lure him out somewhere that Mahon and her pack can share him. She remembered the social cues to feigning interest instinctively – brush hair back, smile and nod, pretend you’re listening. But actually, she was listening. He was interesting, and sweet. His observation on her lyrics were apt, and amusing – gently mocking occasionally, but in a friendly way. A flirtatious way. “Stick to the plan,” she scolds herself. “No feeling remorse, don’t attribute feelings to the prey. He's another man, probably just wanting to get his end away, prey and victim to his base desires.” 

A large man, somewhat the worse for drink, leered over Alder’s shoulder at Barrett. “Get lost, college boy. I’d like to buy the lady a drink, not bore her with whatever crap you are spouting.  - She wants the company of a real man". The drunk stepped around Alder and squared up to Barrett to intimidate him into backing off.  “Oh well, this one will do just as well”, Alder thought to herself. 

Barrett stood up, and said a few words to the man, in what sounded to Alder to be Welsh. The man looked confused, "What the fuck did you say"? Barrett smiled. "It's Old Welsh. Means 'the smallest pricks have the biggest mouths'. The lady can decide who she talks to. I'll fuck off if she asks me to, but I'm not hearing her ask" The drunk man scowled, but turned and walked away. For a moment, it seemed like he'd backed down, but he returned with another man – slightly less drunk, and carrying hostility in his posture. "Insult me again poetry boy, I dare you".  

Barrett bowed, smiled, and said something in what sounded like archaic Irish. "Oh, and before you ask, it was a compliment" The man frowned. "What?" "I said your balls were bigger than your sense. But since your sense was pissed out after that last beer, maybe that doesn't mean much" Alder had to stifle a snigger. Either way, this was becoming entertaining.

 "I don't start fights where I drink, boys".  Barrett looked at the barman, then back at them. "But if you start one, he won't mind me finishing it." Barrett glanced to Alder as the drunks continued to look both angry and confused, with no sign of backing down.  "I think these boys might be asking me to dance. Hope you don't mind them cutting in on our chat. Might have to oblige them" Alder raised an eyebrow at Barrett and shrugged. 

“This boy is crazy”, she thought to herself. He cut a tall, lithe figure – but didn’t look like a fighter in the slightest. Despite the alcohol providing a handicaps to the two drunks’ abilities, she was not convinced he could take one, let alone both of them. It appeared to her that it is he that has the big balls- perhaps he was wishing to outsmart them, and hoping that by being swift of tongue they will back off, but she was wondering if he might be actually spoiling for a fight. The poet, the man who looks like he would be more at home hunched over a mound of books in a dusty university library, instead spoiling for a drunken brawl with two relatively heavy-set men. She had to admit, inwardly, she was a little impressed. “He's either very stupid, or very special”, she mused. She would wait to see which of those it would be. 

The larger of the two men said, "Let’s take it outside then, prick. Then we can get back and.. entertain your friend here." Barrett shot a glance at the barman, who nodded. Alder noticed the exchange, clearly the two knew each other and had an understanding. The other men appeared not to notice. 

"After you, then boys", Barrett smiled, gesturing towards the door. The two of them weaved towards the door, as Barrett followed, still talking. It was hard to see the door from most places inside this bar, and Alder surmised that Barrett was aware of that. Her predatory senses suggested that he knew exactly what he was doing. She wondered if he has a friend outside. Now she had to know what was happening - she followed to spectate, out of curiosity – and to keep at least one option for her dinner open. 

As the first man opened the door, and the second paused to give him space to open it, Barrett commented quietly, "Of course, there are two of you. Before we get outside, we should.. " The second man turned to see what he was doing just as the first opened the door. As he did, Barrett hooked his leg and shoved. The man tripped, bouncing awkwardly off the open door, and hitting the floor - and Barrett stepped forward, stamping on his head as he pushed the other man outside through the door. A planned, brutal move, that at least for some time, will have him fighting only one. Barrett followed the first man outside, and the door closed to muffle the sound of heavy, efficient punches. Inside, the other drunk moaned softly from the floor, and failed in an attempt to get up. 

“Hmmm… A poet and a fighter both?”  She had not been expecting that. She was intrigued. She did admit that she would probably end up feeding on any or all of them, if came to it, but there was a sense of waste in using a man like Barrett as a walking buffet. He was attractive, and certainly very charming, if you liked that sort of thing. Maybe fodder for a toy for a while. Or maybe more. Perhaps Mahon would think the same. She knew he shared her thoughts on any new embraces - they must prove their survival, their lust to live and to fight, against the odds - that is why he had chosen to save her all those years ago. 

She followed through the door, stepping over the moaning drunk, and saw that the heavy punches weren't delivered by Barrett - it seemed the drunk actually had some boxing training and had the upper hand. Barrett didn’t seem to be a particularly well trained fighter but he was reasonably quick, took a punch well, and hit very hard when he found an opening and hit back. 

The drunk landed a heavy punch, and Barrett staggered back, stumbling. The drunk closed, laughing, "Now, we'll see how you like it.. ". He wound up a heavy punch, but as he did, Barrett suddenly seemed to recover, pushed forward, inside his guard, pushing him back an arm across the throat, while he brought a knee hard up into his groin. The drunk fell back and Barrett landed on his chest, slamming a dozen more punches into his head. Clearly now, both the drunks are pretty badly hurt, while Barrett had some cracking bruises already starting to colour. 

Barrett looked over to see Alder there. "Aww, now, you're not seeing me at my best. I was hoping you'd stay inside and I could just walk in and persuade you I'd talked these boys down. But with guys like these, once they've decided to fight you, you gotta make sure they know it was the worst decision they ever made.. or they'll keep coming back".
"I'll admit. I wasn't expecting that. You don't seem....the sort, you know, for fighting. Or being any good at it..." She walks over to Barrett, standing over him and offers a hand to bring him to his feet. She pulls him up with ease, despite her small stature, and Barrett being obviously much larger. As he stood up, they looked at each other in silence for a moment, both unsure what to say. Then she took his hand and led him back to the door of the bar. 

She was drawn to him. There was certainly something there, something lurking inside, a potential for darkness, a history, a burning for the chase, the fight, to live, to die, to feel. Would he resent her if she took him back to Mahon? Who knows. Would she care if he did? Probably not. It would be like any other recruitment for embrace. Or would it? There was an edge of chemistry here, something different. He would make a great soldier, and she imagined he would take to the kindred way of life that they offered in the Murder. Whether he would like it or not, immediately, was not her concern - they needed good fighters, and those that were worthy of embrace. She felt he was. The strength of the Murder was of paramount concern, a war was brewing. She could see the two of them fighting, side by side, with her brothers and sisters, and he would be able to tell great tales and sing songs of their glory.

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