Arcanum

18. Lessons Learned

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."

[Lisa, 25. 03. 17]

When Lambert returns to Emma and Hawke after trying to find the rest of the Sabbat in the city, he reports that most of them are gone by now and that he couldn’t find anyone. Hawke asks him if he could find any Setites in this case, and shares some gossip with Emma that Mithras allegedly had a Setite lover a few centuries back, but Lambert can’t help with that either. He proceeds to ask the two of them for help decluttering the church’s basement, which turns out to be full of torture equipment which they break down before putting it on the street outside, up for grabs for the Nosferatu or anybody else interested in it, though Hawke takes the Iron Maiden for his own house. The priest asks Emma to drop by again on Sunday for the help she offered him, then the two Brujah make their way back to Emma’s haven as the sun draws nigh. With a little time left on their hands before sunrise, they chat a bit and Hawke shares the story of Letho and him crashing a lord’s wedding back in their crusading times, where they met a servant girl who was the lord’s mistress and unhappy with his treatment of her; she proceeded to poison the food and drink of the party and stabbed the lord to death. As she tried to make her escape, Hawke stopped her to offer her the Embrace, which she declined aggressively, instead opting to leave on her own. Looking back on it, Hawke regrets that the woman didn’t accept his offer, since they just don’t make humans like her anymore, and he asks Emma if any mortal caught her eye yet, to which she answers in the negative.

Sinead, who managed to drag Stepano’s body out of sight to the river bank, summons Molly and asks her to fetch a carriage she could use to transport the unconscious Kindred, as well as to pass a message to the Tremere to arrange a meeting the following night with a specialist for teleportation magic. She also offers to the sheriff that she could accompany her, though she declines this offer as Molly doesn’t want to take credit for something she didn’t do. Disappointed with the sheriff, Sinead lets her go to get the carriage and spends the time until its arrival in conversation with a street dog, leaving for Marcus’ mansion hastily as soon as she can.
Marcus spent some time giving one of his stable boys an errand, namely to fetch four beautiful girls from one of the local brothels for the beginning of the next night to prepare breakfast for Chris before he is interrupted by Sinead’s arrival. She presents Stepano’s body to him, though she said she couldn’t find his heart, and shares news of the demon’s demise. After he thanks her for bringing Stepano back, Marcus asks about Norton, who as he mentions would like to stay with him, an idea to which he isn’t averse, and Sinead agrees that for now this would be best for him. However, when pressed for details about his dormitor, Sinead stays vague and only says that she bought his freedom and promised to hand it back to him, at the same time offering help if there is anything she can do for the man. She also asks about the woman she saw together with Marcus in a photo at the Sabbat’s lair, and he explains that she was an envoy from Rome who visited to get a signature from Incitatus. The conversation turns back to the events of the previous night as Sinead explains that Marylyn has left the city with the rest of the Sabbat and Marcus shares a few details about the Salubri. Sinead mentions that she is thinking about leaving London for a while herself, and they discuss sect politics for some time until the approaching morning forces them to rest.

After the sun sets, Marcus receives news that Incitatus ran off during the day and came back with a blue dress, which the servants find amusing; pondering whether this is a sign that his horse would appreciate more fabulous items for itself, he checks on Norton, whom he finds “painting”, or more accurately coloring a canvas entirely in black. He corrects his grip on the brush, showing him how to hold it properly, and leaves the room again only to see Sinead racing outside after she walked in on Chris having his breakfast and barely staving off frenzy long enough to make it out of the house. He follows her quickly and finds her wrestling with Incitatus, feeding on the horse after she calmed down again. Using the opportunity, Marcus asks Sinead to inquire with the horse as to why it brought a dress, and he learns that it was for Marcus’ wedding; Incitatus tried to bring a woman as well, but the lady in question resisted successfully. They both leave for the city of London, but separate on their way.

In the meantime, Emma spends the beginning of the night by checking up on her contacts in hopes that they can provide her with more information about Julian’s son, but much to her disappointment, she comes up short. With nothing much to show, she drops by the second Elysium briefly and pens a short note to Lady Anne which she asks Caroline to send to the first Elysium for her. She doesn’t stay long, seeing how the place is almost empty, instead opting to spend the night in the third Elysium. She chats with Miranda briefly and asks her to send one of her ghouls with a few messages; one to Marcus and Sinead each, asking them for a private meeting at their earliest convenience, and one to the Nosferatu, directed at the clan’s librarian, to meet with one of them who speaks Russian and could translate something for her. After that, she sits down in the tavern, working on her paper and the penny dreadfuls she intends to sell.

When Sinead reaches the Tower bridge, she finds a man waiting there already who is throwing stones into the river and turns around when she approaches, recognizing her as a friend of Marcus’. She leads him to the barred door behind which the portal to the Sabbat lair is hidden, and he destroys it to gain access. After throwing a few stones through the portal, he deems it safe enough to enter, and both of them step through. While Dennis examines the room they find themselves in, he asks the Ravnos details about how the demon exactly died and what happened afterwards; he also warns her that while she is free to do so, she explores the place at her own peril, and that he will soon move the portal’s exit directly into the Chantry. Sinead uses the opportunity to ask him if anything can be done about her ring, which she can’t take off despite the demon being banished, and he tells her that the easiest way to get rid of the contract is to fulfill it by wearing it for the remainder of the time necessary, unless she wants to kill herself or leave the contract unfulfilled, which could have consequences of its own. The effects of the ring could be blocked by a talented enough Tremere, though none remain in England who would be capable of doing so. Not quite happy with the answer, she asks him to keep an eye out for Stepano’s heart, though Dennis brushes her off as he thinks the demon probably ate it already, and he points out that the Assamite might be possessed as well, which Sinead asks him to tell Marcus before venturing forth to explore on her own. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find Stepano’s heart, though she acquires a key to an unknown lock, a letter to a “Camille” in what looks to be Italian but seems to be encrypted, a medieval longsword, and a curved blade with an Arabic engraving, which she deciphers to be a well-wishing charm.

In the meantime, the Malkavian in question arrives at the mental hospital where his horse was being examined by a Gangrel psychologist named Stanley. He sits down for a chat in Stanley’s office, thanking him for his efforts but inquiring why his horse believes he needs to marry. The psychologist explains that he couldn’t cure Incitatus’ mania, only shift its focus, and that he attempted to shift it in a direction that would lead to the horse trying to be more helpful, though how this is expressed is still entirely subjective. He mentions that a clanmate of Marcus’ is staying here of his own volition, a man who appears to currently be obsessed with Russian literature and Dostoyevsky in particular, though the doctor is unsure if he actually wants to get help for his madness or just have a place to live for free. After wondering whether this was the person who sent the books to Emma, Marcus asks for medicine for Norton to help soothe and calm the ghoul down. Stanley explains that the most effective recommendations like opium or vodka are highly addictive, and that other medicinal herbs will have a reduced effect, though he acquiesces after a bit of pressure and provides him with a list of herbs and the correct dosages for stronger sedatives in case they might become necessary, though he points out that they will become less and less effective with each application and should only be used in emergencies. He also says that while an application of Dominate could be overriden by a more talented practitioner of the discipline, no equivalent exists for Presence, which is usually unbreakable. As a gesture of thanks, Marcus offers a generous donation to the hospital to be used at Stanley’s discretion and borrows a few books on the subject of psychology to peruse at his leisure. On the way out, he also requests to meet his clanmate, who greets the two men curtly and then immediately slams the door to his room in their faces.
With some more time to spend, Marcus leaves a message to Lady Anne in the first Elysium about Stepano and a message to Dennis at the Chantry which he addresses to “the attractive blonde gentleman” before dropping by the second Elysium. What he finds surprises him, as a group of Kindred, among them the Malkavian and Toreador primogen, seem to be having a private tea party with actual tea; he is invited to join and tastes the brew curiously, which tastes like herbal water and makes him feel more awake and refreshed. It also appears to have a calming effect, as those gathered have a very pleasant conversation, which is unusual for the Kindred in question. They critique Raymond’s latest novel, but the topic soon shifts towards erotica in general, which bores Marcus who excuses himself and leaves to return to his mansion.

The night is slow for Emma, who spends it working until Molly shows up with an unknown black gentleman. She waves the two of them over, and Molly’s companion introduces himself as Solomon Jones, coming from the southern US and in London for about one and a half decades now. Emma asks Molly about what happened in the first Elysium after she left, and her clanmate shares the nights events. Pleased at having avoided another encounter with the demon, Emma steers the conversation towards more pleasant matters and listens to Solomon for a while, who mentions that he is trying to work towards justice for black people in particular and also has an interest in workers’ rights. When he mentions communist leanings in addition to that, Emma perks up and offers to publish writings of his in her own newspaper if he has anything that needs to be reported, which he accepts. The three of them continue to discuss social issues until the relaxed atmosphere in the room is disrupted by Mithras, who walks in and asks Miranda for a private chat. After the two of them return, the Prince makes rounds among the Kindred present to make small talk with everyone. When he reaches the table at which Emma, Molly and Solomon are sitting, he asks Emma if there is a Brujah revolution in planning, to which she replies that it’s the first she’s heard of it and that she finds it scandalous and terribly rude that her own clanmates wouldn’t keep her in the loop about such matters. Mithras asks them not to set the city on fire and seems greatly amused, and Emma reminisces about the time she spent in France during the French Revolution, to which the Prince replies that he remembers it quite well. She asks him if he would care to join her in singing a tune from this period, as while revolutions are a terribly unpleasant business overall for everyone involved despite being a necessary evil, they do produce very catchy songs. He declines, though Emma doesn’t let it nor her awful French stop her. When the song doesn’t have the desired effect, she thinks for a moment, switching to something from the War of the Roses which Letho taught her, and Mithras appears nostalgic while he listens. Still, her efforts aren’t sufficient to get him to join her, and before she finishes her performance, he slips out of the Elysium.

Comments

Emma: This was a very slow night … I’m not complaining about it, far from it, but I’m suspicious whether the quiet will last. And it feels like things settled down a bit too quickly overall. I wonder whether the city is more quiet because of the appearances that Mithras has made directly after the attacks, because it’s not exactly peaceful per se, just … it seems that people are keeping the noise down, is all I’m saying. It’s not a bad thing, feels a bit odd, though. I know that folks say there is a calm before the storm, but one directly after it? Shouldn’t feel so tense, should it?

I haven’t seen Mithras personally in what seems like forever, and after all of the rumors abounded whether he was even here or not, it’s interesting to see that he actually is in the city currently. Sure, he could be gone by tomorrow night and nobody would be the wiser. Doesn’t really matter to me. I have to wonder at what he was up to, making the rounds in the Elysium like this, though I suspect it was more for personal amusement than anything else. A pity I didn’t get him to sing, but let’s be honest, I didn’t really expect I would. It wasn’t about that, of course it would have been fun if it had worked, but he must have noticed that I was doing it more out of curiosity than any other reason. He’s not stupid, after all. This night, he found it amusing – next night, he might not. I don’t want to push my luck, though it’s thrilling to try and poke the metaphorical lion without getting mauled.

18. Lessons Learned
 

Sinead: I am still shellshocked. I am battling my own thoughts about the whole affair with the demon… What the Tremere said was a heavy blow. I lived with hope that now that the demon is gone, I can get rid of this curse somehow. It turned out it’s out in the public and I am even more of a leper than I thought. I don’t think I will come close to any chantry within couple of decades. It’s sad that the almighty Tremere could not help me with that (or didn’t want to), even if I didn’t care about the cost.

I helped Marcus and will continue to help him if I will be able. I can’t easily describe why, but the way he is attached to his friends… I am jealous of them and I am attracted to it. I wish I could build something like this with someone, but who can I trust? Marcus was pushing me to really leave London for a time being, to visit Francis and Hal… right now I don’t think I would find many friendly faces in Amsterdam. They enjoyed safety I provided, for sure, but they won’t be happy to see me… as long as they will think I will stay for good.

It will be the same in London. They will be happy without all the trouble I provided, but next time the trouble will arise, they will wish that there will be someone who is willing to go neck deep into it, risk like I did when I went into the Sabbat lair… twice. And I will be back when it happens again… I just don’t know if I will be willing to take a fall for them anymore. I don’t know what I stand for anymore, what is worth it.

18. Lessons Learned
thelibrarycat

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