Arcanum

12. The Queen's Gambit

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?


[Lisa, 1. 1. 2017]

During the time that Sinéad and Emma spend in confinement, Marcus sends out messages to the Elysia and key individuals in the city to organize a search for the Sabbat. One of the Kindred receiving such a message is Julian, who answers the call promptly but appears to be rather irritated and curt, though he agrees to help in the search for his sire. Shortly after the neonate leaves, Christopher returns to the mansion and fills Marcus in about his recent activities in the city: just like many others, he and a friend of his (whom he claims is a Giovanni who has his family against him) were looking for the Sabbat in the city. The pair had suspicions about Francis and watched him from a distance to see who contacted him; however, their observations were interrupted when Blanche foolishly tried to “save” the man and attracted too much attention, and they were forced to move earlier than they had planned. Still, they succeeded in capturing Francis, who was handed over to Montgomery and turned out to be a Tzimisce spy, and saving Blanche, who was sent to France by her primogen immediately. While Chris is confident that this success will help his friend take the position of Sheriff, he doesn’t have any new information regarding the rose box.

The pair breaks up as Marcus investigates rumors among his servants that the house is haunted, with windows opening on their own constantly – while he is taking a closer look at these windows, he notices Chris outside who sneaks away in the direction of the city on foot. Marcus follows him and sees him enter a carriage not far from the mansion which was apparently waiting for him – and shortly afterwards, he is seized by a strong urge to travel to the city himself. He assumes his flying form of a flamingo and makes haste towards the force beckoning him, only to smack face-first into a church tower. The church itself looks unremarkable – old, moldy, a bit ugly – and he keeps walking circles around it, dazed and drawn to a point he cannot reach, while dawn approaches quickly. He manages to break the compulsion and find shelter just in time.

In the meantime, both Sinéad and Emma are haunted by terrifying dreams: Sinéad dreams of unknown places and people that are somehow still familiar to her, agonizingly so even though she cannot remember most of them shortly after waking, while Emma has more chaotic dreams; accompanied by the impression that they are trying to rip her in two or make her explode, she hears a cacophony of sounds like from a funeral home, with strong bursts of emotions that leave her with a splitting headache as she wakes – and catches herself sniffing, which confuses her just as much, if not more than the dreams.

The two of them find that during their sleep, somebody has changed the books available for their perusal; the shelves seem to contain nothing but Dostoyevsky’s works, which enrages Emma, who promptly makes herself comfortable next to a huge pile of these new additions and starts tearing out their pages one by one, all the while cussing creatively – and without noticing it, switching into Cockney, which Sinéad promptly asks her about. Emma waves her concerns away, claiming that she doesn’t notice anything and that this is hardly a noteworthy occurrence, more worried about her nightmare, which she shares with Sinéad after some prodding. The pair is also visited by Aaron, who tells them that they will soon have a chance to leave and regain their freedom.

As Marcus awakens the next night, the urge drawing him to the church has faded, and as a short investigation of the building doesn’t reveal anything else, he returns home and finds himself paranoid about whether anything was stolen or moved in his absence; as a matter of fact, something was added to his belongings, as he finds a vase full of fresh flowers and herbs from the person who sent him the horseshoe; he recognizes some of them as having magical properties and being used in complex bindings, a combination which he links to wards from evil spirits. Strangely enough, none of these herbs are in season right now, which makes him wonder how the anonymous benefactor has acquired them. Otherwise, the night passes rather uneventful, and at the beginning of the next night, he finds a package waiting for him: it contains a painting of an old church tower with a flamingo slamming into it, along with a note that reads “very majestic”. Auspex reveals glee and excitement from an unfamiliar person, and as a skilled painter he realizes that it must have been a Celerity-assisted work for it to be finished in such a short time. Once more Marcus sends out several messages and takes the opportunity to write a Last Will, copying it twice, for Chris and Bianca.

One of the messages is answered swiftly, as during the next night, he has a spontaneous visitor: Maul, a Nosferatu, who apologizes profusely for showing up unannounced and proceeds to inform Marcus about the underground buildings in the city. The Nosferatu know about most of the bigger underground levels, which is why they suspect the Sabbat is not in the city proper – with Tremere, they do not need to be, at any rate – and he makes a point of politely asking him not to explode the sewers as they just finished their work there, during which they also found a Roman aquaeduct below the city. He presents him with a new map of London with some more information regarding the sewers and invites him to a guided tour of the new Roman-style sewer system should he ever feel so inclined, as he is rather proud of the work his clan has poured into it.

Emma and Sinéad find themselves hounded by nightmares in their sleep once more, which appear to increase in intensity; they awaken from these hellish visions to find the door broken into the room by Moira, who tells them that the time for their escape has finally come and that she is here to explain the plan for the night. Sinéad interrupts her to ask her whether she can hear her via the ring, which Moira denies, claiming that she is very limited in her abilities and freedoms and unfortunately cannot get out of her deal without Margot dying or the contract itself being damaged. She explains that her own superior is the Lord of the Crossroads, who oversees contracts, and that it is thus unlikely that the second copy of the contract will get destroyed, as the deals with Sinéad and Margot are special due to the position of power and despair they involve.

Marcus spends the next night on a visit to Montgomery, claiming that he wants to forward the items that the priest had given him for Francis, and is told that the spy may be transferred to the Gangrel psychologist to investigate the methods the Sabbat used to craft his personality, which apparently involved a combination of Dominate and psychology. He is introduced to the Toreador poseur, who appears as a very handsome man with the aura of an artist, though he seems to be entirely cut off from the outside world, or so extremely deep in contemplation as to give no attention whatsoever to his surroundings. The primogen approaches him, asking him in French to play the piano for Marcus, to which Francis wordlessly acquiesces; he plays a piece by Chopin and gives an outstanding, heart-wrenching performance, from which the Malkavian judges that what he is playing has some personal significance to the man. He passes along the envelope as had been asked of him and talks with Montgomery for a while, who mentions that the upcoming primogen meeting is going to be open for all Kindred to attend, before Marcus excuses himself and leaves.

The next visitor to Marcus’ mansion is his clanmate Jukka, who brings with him a painting that is addressed to Marcus; it’s an erotic painting of Marcus with pink feathers, apparently from the same person who sent the painting of a flamingo, and Jukka mentions that Cassandra also received a package addressed to Marcus. Previously, he had also found a pink feather inside the mansion, which was from Chris – who had received it from the person who created both of the paintings. While the new painting is being hung in a way that Christopher is unlikely to be able to avoid seeing it sooner or later, Marcus leads Jukka into a private room and asks him about a device with which to spread fire from a distance. Though Jukka doesn’t have anything fitting the description and requirements, the conversation soon turns towards the completely theoretical pursuit of building a house full of death, which the technologically minded Kindred finds utterly fascinating.

Meanwhile, Moira outlines the targets for the night’s raid, which are Ventrue with business in trading companies whom she nicknames Max, Nick and Teddy. Moira will be dealing with Max, who has been in the city for a long time and already had his warehouses and childer go up in flames; Nick is a friend of Max with two male childer at the stock exchange, which she wants burned down with one of the childer in it; Teddy is a special case as he is not a culprit but has a very close friend who is an elder Ventrue, a relationship which he should be discouraged from, which is why a zoo that he owns will also be hit as part of the night’s proceedings. Emma and Sinéad are supposed to help with Nick, and Moira asks them to spread the news of what will happen far and wide if they could, before inviting them to follow her through a door that leads into darkness. With nothing else to do, the Kindred follow suit and find themselves in a warehouse, rid of their shackles, and meet Aaron, who is setting up a fire with some chemicals.

As the building starts burning around them, the three of them make their way to the stock exchange, joined by a group of obviously freshly embraced Sabbat cannon fodder, and discuss their options. They agree that Emma is going to sneak up on the unknown Ventrue, to keep an eye on him as the rest of the group approaches and nail him down as necessary, which works out well at first; however, as the Ventrue is alerted to the sound of the less stealthy group approaching, Emma jumps him to prevent his escape and attempts to feed on him, as she is starving after the stay with the Sabbat. He manages to keep her at bay until Sinéad tries to intervene and accidentally sets the room on fire, after which Emma promptly frenzies. The shovelheads, not sure how to handle the situation, pile on top of the two wrestling Kindred, which allows Emma to finally bite the Ventrue, who is utterly immobilized under all of their weight. Aaron takes a look at the situation, facepalms and wanders off to plunder the safes of the building, while Sinéad, upon realizing that Emma won’t or can’t stop until she diablerizes the Ventrue, puts the man out of his misery and starts killing the shovelheads, a task in which the still-frenzied Brujah quickly joins her.
Once only Sinéad and Emma are left standing, the latter finally calms down and is dragged out of the burning building by her companion. At the bottom of the stairs, they find Aaron, who urges them to leave and absconds with three heavy bags of loot while the other two Kindred make their way to Sinéad’s mansion, as dawn is approaching and they need to talk in private about what they are going to do during the coming nights.

All of this has been observed by Marcus, who spent the night astral-travelling around the city, visiting the first and second Elysium only to find them blocked from access on the astral plane, and watching the havoc that is spread around London by the Sabbat. He also notices that the city is full of animals released from the zoo, which now only contains cages full of dead employees, along with an unknown symbol and a Latin message scrawled in blood which reads “be careful who you are friends with”.

Comments

Emma: Fuck Dostoyevsky.

This whole night was a mess from start to finish. To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised that I couldn’t keep my beast under control after a week of it being supernaturally subdued while yearning to break free and spread mayhem, so this frenzy had been building up for a long time now. At least I frenzied only on that Ventrue twat and the shovelheads, not anybody actually important. Still, it’s pissing me off that it played right into the hands of the Sabbat and ended up ensuring that everything happened just the way they wanted it to. If I had been able to keep my cool, the situation would have probably turned out very differently, but no use complaining about it now. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it could have been much, much worse. We got all of the shovelheads before one could escape and Sinéad stopped me before I could commit diablerie, so the collateral damage is at least manageable.

However, this was the easy part of getting out of the Sabbat. We didn’t even need to escape, they just kicked us out. Now we have to sell that story to the city, the Prince, and the Primogen … and this is going to be much more difficult than setting the London stock exchange on fire. Which, I mean, was also not the worst thing that could have happened… If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was the Sabbat who asked us to do it, I’m sure I would not feel bad about it at all.

Oh, and fuck Dostoyevsky, did I mention that already? It bears repeating.

12. The Queen's Gambit
thelibrarycat

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