“I know from long experience that all my men have the artistic talent of a cluster of colourblind hedgehogs. In a bag”
[Lisa, 18. 10. 17]
As May draws to a close, the night of the Brujah clan meeting is upon London, with Emma arriving earlier than Sinead. Atticus chose a mansion located a few miles away from the city as the location for the festivities, which looks spacious and is lit by several large bonfires full of pieces of furniture. The primogen himself greets Emma surprisingly warmly, and soon reveals that his high mood is in no small part due to a suspicious white powder, which he offers to his guest as well. Upon inquiry, he explains that the powder comes from India and is allegedly used by Assamites in their rituals to enable warriors to enter a kind of fighting rage. When Emma points out that handing this around at a Brujah party might not be a great idea, Atticus assures her that the effect is linked to the ritual and without it, the powder only produces a kind of euphoria. Still, she declines and ventures off to talk with some of her clan members; she finds both Solomon and Bill, a Welsh Brujah, watching a group of Scottish Brujah, which are visiting the city for a performance, gathering trees for a log-throwing contest later in the night. The trio chats for a while about the city and its living conditions, Emma’s trip to France to observe the revolution, and briefly touch on politics when Sinead arrives.
The Ravnos arrives in an eye-catching white carriage, bringing a guitar and a large, heavy box with her, and is immediately greeted by the gathering’s host. Unlike Emma, when offered the white powder, Sinead accepts gladly. She makes her way to the mansion itself together with Emma to stash her unwieldy box for the time, but when they open the double doors, smoke and the smell of all kinds of burning narcotics and opioids hit them immediately. While Sinead isn’t terribly bothered by it, Emma feels dazed and closes the doors, requesting that they remain outside for the time being, so Sinead scales up to one of the balconies on the roses that grow along the walls, leaving the unwieldy box there safely. She examines the soil of the rose bushes and finds it still wet, as if they had recently been watered, yet the smell is metallic, hinting that they have been watered with blood.
The two Kindred stroll around the garden for a while, finding Molly standing above a dead rose bush all by herself, and are soon distracted by a commotion near the trees which the Scots have gathered. Margie, a small older lady, is complaining loudly that these logs are useless for a throwing competitions since there are not enough oaks among them, and hits one of the heaviest logs with her cane, shifting it slightly in place. The commotion attracts the interest of many other guests, as well as Atticus, who is promptly asked what kind of prizes there will be for winners of the contests, except for bragging rights. He explains that everybody who participates in one of the contests contributes something of value, and the winners can choose from this prize pool, as well as announcing that except for the log-throwing, there will also be fire dancing, and that other contests can be arranged if enough participants are found. Emma promptly scrambles to get enough people together for a singing and storytelling contest, and a drinking contest is quickly confirmed as well. Sinead, feeling disappointed with the lack of more physical competitions at the Brujah party, suggests a fighting competition and immediately proceeds to challenge Atticus to a duel by drawing a blade on him.
Challenged like this in front of almost his whole clan, Atticus responds the only way he could, and immediately attacks Sinead bare-handed. The fight is short and much less spectacular than the onlookers hope for, ending with Atticus as the victor who throws Sinead into the dead rose bush and completely ruins her dress. Shortly afterwards, the drinks for the party arrive, drawing attention away from the pair, which allows Emma to help pick thorns and leaves out of Sinead’s dress and hair to help her appear presentable again before they separate for a bit. Emma leaves to explore the house before the competitions start, while Sinead goes looking for a conversational partner.
Sinead joins a group consisting of Margie, a younger-looking woman, Annabelle and Ophelia, the latter of which is loudly badmouthing Herodotus and his subpar ortography skills. The conversation quickly turns to Ireland, Sinead’s home, but becomes quite uncomfortably tense for her when Ophelia dismisses the country and proclaims it doesn’t exist in her mind. Emma, who snuck two bottles of wine and some spices from the mansion’s kitchen, tries to defuse this tension by asking Ophelia about Mr. Johnson and trying to get somebody to bet on whether or not she can eat an owl whole. A modified version of the bet, with a boar promptly summoned by Sinead, is finally accepted by Ophelia, who offers a boon from her clan in exchange if Emma wins, who takes up the challenge.
The group is interrupted while listening to Margie complain that the Scotsmen are sellouts for performing for rich bastards in London, since the log-throwing contest is about to begin, in which participation is mandatory. First up is Ophelia, who asks for an empty bottle from Emma. She places it on the ground, then takes out a hairpin, pushes it into one of the smaller logs, and puts the cork on the other end. She then proceeds to lift the log and throws it so that the cork lands in the bottle’s neck before it is shattered, to much applause from those watching. Sinead, meanwhile, positions Emma before throwing her log, then uses the Brujah to get a lift into the air, gracefully somersaulting on top of the log just as it lands. Before Emma can throw her log, however, the boar which Sinead summoned earlier causes a commotion among the ghouls present. Emma seizes the opportunity, grabs one of the heavier logs, and sends it spinning into the air, squashing the boar’s skull as it lands. While the rest of those present proceed, Emma asks one of the ghouls to roast the boar over a bonfire so she doesn’t have to eat it raw.
Next are the drinking and singing contests, both at the same time; Emma opens with a performance accompanied by Sinead’s guitar, and the tavern song she performs finds so much acclaim that most of those not busy guzzling alcoholic blood soon join in. Sinead is next after fetching the mystery box which turns out to contain a harp, though she cannot gather as much approval as Emma. Meanwhile, the Tremere primogen who was invited by Atticus empties the rest of the white powder into her drink before sitting down next to the dead rose bush. She closes a hand around the roses, then drinks up and concentrates for a moment, after which all flowers in the garden start blooming, though they curiously change their colors throughout the rest of the night.
While the attendants are still busy with emptying the provided casks full of blood into their wooden tankards and then their mouths, half a dozen people, among them Sinead, Vivienne and Atticus, participating in the fire dancing prepare for this competition. All but one of the bonfires are extinguished, and everybody soon gathers at a safe distance to watch as the dancers leap around and through the flames while music pounds in their ears. Due to Sinead’s soft spot for extravaganzas, the performance itself is enhanced by colorful bursts of the flames, lending it an eerie, otherworldly and most fascinating quality for any onlookers.
The evening winds down afterwards, and the last contest for storytelling is held. Atticus starts, with the fairy tale of the seven swans, followed by Emma, who tells an original tale of two tragic lovers before absconding to dig into the grilled boar, which she seasons with spices from the mansion’s kitchen. However, it is Sinead who steals the show with her story about a Brujah methuselah’s tragic fate. Just as she ends, Ophelia pipes up, complaining that this story hasn’t ended yet, and those present are briefly baffled before the clan meeting is officially dissolved and the attendants wander off to talk among smaller groups.
Emma briefly talks with Ophelia, chatting about spirits, their unwillingness to move on, and the fact that she has never met the ghost of a Kindred; she pushes Emma to inquire about this with Fabio, as he refuses to give her straight answers. The Brujah only gives a noncommittal response to it before informing her that she will soon be able to print her love letter and promising that she will be in touch before she leaves the party. Sinead stays a bit longer and has a lengthy conversation with Bill, who complains about his family’s misfortune: his only reason for staying in London is his mortal, adopted sister, whom he knows from the orphanage he was sent to while still alive. Her niece is in need of protection, as the sister claims that evil forces are after her, and it seems that most of the family has met unfortunate ends, with the husband going missing and all other children dying in freak accidents. A pattern soon emerges, showing that only the youngest daughters in the family ever seem to live for any length of time, but Bill claims that he went to both the Giovanni and the Tremere, and neither were able to find any cause for the bad luck, claiming they were perfectly normal as far as supernatural things went. Sinead, stumped herself though knowing enough about curses to suspect one, suggests that Bill himself might be cursed, and though he offers plenty of evidence of his own bad luck, he insistently denies ever having had any. It seems that this is truly an unsolvable mystery.