“If I say your voice is an amber waterfall in which I yearn to burn each day, if you eat my mouth like a mystical rose with powers of healing and damnation, If I confess that your body is the only civilization I long to experience… would it mean that we are close to knowing something about love?”
[Lisa, 2. 12. 2017]
During the hot summer nights, Marcus continues his endeavor of paying visits to the other members of the primogen council by arranging for a meeting with Atticus, which is held in the first Elysium. The two gentlemen chat amicably about the newest fashion trends for a while; Atticus complains that most changes only affect female fashion and are thus boring to him, and Marcus offers to pass the challenge of incorporating the trends into male fashion to his tailor. The Brujah declines, stating that he wasn’t going to have his clanmates run around saying he was dressed by the Malkavian primogen. The conversation turns towards the Brujah party and the respective elders’ clan members. When the two eventually run out of small talk, Atticus inquires as to the purpose of the meeting, and Marcus reassures him that it is solely for the purpose of introduction and promoting future cooperation among council members.
After a short lull in conversation, Atticus brings up a young, dark skinned stranger who had been inquiring about Marcus’ house a while ago. He describes her as a bit of a ditz, with a south-eastern heritage. Marcus claims he hasn’t seen her yet, though according to Atticus she is still in the city. Taking the opportunity, the Malkavian asks whether he has seen a different visitor to the city, a raven-haired woman, and the other primogen replies that while he doesn’t know her, he suspects she must have been looking for her mistress, a Ventrue named Morrigan. The conversation turns back towards more ordinary matters as Atticus expresses interest in buying one of Marcus’ horses should he ever plan to train them for fetching prey like Incitatus is doing for him now, and after a bit more chitchat the two of them part ways.
Emma spends her evening in the third Elysium where she meets Florence, whom Molly seems eager to get away from for some reason. It turns out that the neonate is questioning others regarding the afterlife, as she claims to have had an encounter with a “damned soul”, as she puts it, which prompts Emma to take her to the bar to buy her a drink and hear the whole story.
The spirit that Florence met claimed to be eternally damned, and she is quick to confirm that while she did indeed have this meeting in Sinead’s house, which seems to be quite thoroughly haunted, it is not the same Banshee-like spirit that Emma met while out and about in London earlier during the year. Florence claims that despite a suspicious lack of details from the spirit and people disappearing in the house, allegedly eaten by it or its supernatural residents, the damned soul should be helped and set free so it can cease murdering mortals. She expresses disappointment that Fabio was not interested in helping her un-damn the trapped souls, and since nobody else provided her with information, she is now gathering signatures for a petition to the Prince in hopes of convincing him to assist her. Highly amused and only slightly worried, Emma freely agrees to put her name on the list as well, and the conversation turns towards the other neonate making news, a Toreador who started writing about Kindred history and was promptly put under house arrest by his primogen.
Florence also points out that a curious number of Kindred have been extremely sad recently, though Miranda chimes in, saying that this is probably because they have been asked to pay taxes. Florence mentions that Miranda has plans to stop selling alcohol in her tavern, and after some prompting from Emma, the Elysium Keeper explains that she thinks alcoholism is increasingly problematic for the people of the city. As she doesn’t quite believe her ears, Emma tries to logically explain that Miranda cannot run a tavern without selling alcohol, and asks her how she got that idea in the first place. Miranda weakly defends herself by saying she heard a sad story about a family being torn apart by alcoholism, but after being pressed, she admits that the person who told her that story was a charming, nice Kindred, whose name she cannot remember, nor his appearance, only that he was in the city to visit his daughter. Emma tries to convince her that whoever this was, the whole thing is very shady, but all she achieves is that Miranda becomes increasingly confused.
Later that night, Sinead comes across Florence in the second Elysium where she is gathering signatures as well, and she promptly takes her to one of the private rooms upstairs to talk with her, surprised that she is even still alive. Florence takes the opportunity to thank her as allowing her access to her house made her a hero in her mind, since she will be the reason the neonate got started down her path, and while Sinead starts pacing around the room irritably, the young Kindred admits to her confusion at the elder’s unhappiness. Sinead asks her point-blank if Florence really wants to die, to which she just cheerfully replies that the spirits already tried to kill her and were unsuccessful. The Ravnos is having none of her talk, however, and brings up the matter of the demon in the city in an attempt to give her a lesson, and Florence accuses her of never being young and not understanding why telling her to just listen to her advice and not doing something doesn’t work.
In the end, Sinead presents Florence with a choice between either dropping the investigation entirely or being given time to think about it thoroughly, a thinly veiled threat that doesn’t have the effect she hoped for. She warns her not to let word get out of what they talked about as gossip is already going around, but when Florence expresses her wish to help and her disbelief that there really is nothing she can do in that regard, the elder finally has enough and tells her in no uncertain terms to drop the matter or else. Florence agrees halfheartedly and unhappily, and the two of them part ways.
Meanwhile, plastered on the walls all throughout the city and in every daily newspaper, a love letter appears and begins to cause some gossip. For now, only Ophelia and Emma are aware of the fact that thousands of copies of this very same love letter have made their way to Fabio as well, and his reaction to this gift is still unknown.
The next night, Marcus sits down with Norton over tea and scones to talk, and tries to convince him once again to get in contact with his family; he also arranges for a serving girl to overhear their conversation in case he would accept the offer coming from her more readily. However, Norton continues to decline and explains that he is officially dead in the city and that he has no family left, nor would anyone believe he was still alive regardless. The conversation stalls for a while until Norton mentions having read an article about a man with paranoia who was calmed down by talking about his childhood, and he admits that he tried to visualize the river, an important part of his own childhood, in an attempt to calm himself down, albeit unsuccessfully. Marcus proposes going for a walk near the Thames, but Norton declines, stating that he never wants to go back to the city and is too exhausted for an excursion anyway. Curios, the Malkavian examines his aura and finds it mostly muted, with the only major emotions being love and hatred, which are strongly intertwined among minor patches of a feeling most closely resembling annoyance.
The conversation circles back to Marcus’ earlier offer, who explains that he wanted to give him money in case anybody depended on him, and Norton proposes giving it to charity as well as a couple he calls the Smiths, for their garden, as he puts it. He also asks for a thick book, not really caring about which one, and settles on the Bible as the easiest example. Not wanting to bother him further, Marcus excuses himself and promises to arrange for both the monetary donations as well as the book to be brought to him.
On his way through the mansion, he finds two servants giggling to each other about Incitatus, who is running what appears to be a military drill outside among the other horses. The servants readily explain that all of the horses have been bringing flowers and piling them in the garden, as if trying to get the other servants to plant them, which they find amusing.
After observing the procession for a moment, Marcus calls the serving girl who overheard his conversation with Norton into his office to talk with her about the man. Milly, the maid in question, tells him that Norton doesn’t seem to sleep or eat properly, and that he asked her how she could work for a monster, a question she shrugged off easily. Suspicious of her easygoing demeanor, Marcus probes her to see if she is hiding anything, and the girl merely blushes and tells him that he has pretty eyes. Before he sends her away, the Malkavian asks her to keep an eye on Norton and let him know in case anything extraordinary were to happen.
Outside the city, Emma pays Hawke a visit, and notices a new plaque on his door, ‘Salesmen Will Be Eaten’. Amused, she makes her way around the house to the garden where she finds him digging a ditch. She offers to help, but as he is almost finished anyway, he just shrugs and explains that he wants to experiment with a new material called concrete; once the ditch is deep enough, he plans to fill it with some Sabbat and see if they can break through the concrete on their own. Even if they can’t, he still thinks a private stash of Sabbat might come in handy some time, whether for amusement or practice for firearms, the latter of which he intends to experiment with as well, as they would make hunting more difficult and thus more fun, and he feels he needs to keep with the times.
Emma asks him if Florence already paid a visit, and he confirms that he signed the list in exchange for a funny hat, which he is hoping she will bring by soon, since he would have to kill her otherwise. Not really impressed by the threat, Emma turns the conversation back to firearms and expresses doubt at their efficiency, but accepts his offer of practicing with him in the future, as she admits to not knowing how to use them herself. The elder also mentions his plans of going for a vacation to Africa to see some ‘real’ elephants, as he considers the one in the Ventrue zoo cheap fakes, or to India which is a great vacation spot for killing nasty things like Assamites, Ventrue, or Ravnos, as he puts it. With so many people coming to visit him these days, he feels a break from all the social interaction would benefit him.
As the conversation comes to a lull, he offers another practice match, and Emma gladly accepts, though he comments she does more poorly than he had expected of her by now. Her mood doesn’t have time to sour, though, as she notices her newspaper lying around nearby, and Hawke freely admits he loves reading it because of the ghost stories she prints. A recently printed story about aliens in particular struck him, and he wonders idly what kind of monsters could be found on the moon, and whether it would be worth it to send a Tremere up to check if they’d make for good hunting. Before she returns to the city, Hawke also offers Emma to tell her some stories for the paper himself, an offer she is happy to accept.
Further away from London, near the sea, Sinead arrives at Montgomery’s mansion for a meeting, and finds the primogen in a peculiar mood. He seems slightly tipsy, and when she inspects the refreshments offered to her, she notices that the blood is both still warm and slightly alcoholic. After exchanging some pleasantries, Montgomery mentions Florence and her petition towards the Prince, and claims he had no idea it was about Sinead’s haven until she brought it up. He also refuses to take any responsibility for her actions, shrugging the matter off quite nonchalantly. Sinead directs the conversation towards Henry and his questionnaire about Kindred history, which piqued her interest, and the primogen reassures her that the matter has been dealt with already. It appears that the neonate had been inspired by a Malkavian, who is an old friend of his, and that he will talk with Marcus about the matter and has already written to the offending Kindred in question.
When Sinead expresses interest in taking Henry under her protection for some time, Montgomery immediately dismisses her since according to him, the Toreador of the city have decided to give him absolute authority over them, which puts the decision what to do with Henry in his hands. If she decided to interfere with his clan members regardless, he could make no promises for her, a barely veiled threat in his words. Seeing as she won’t have success with the primogen and he doesn’t seem to be in the mood for chatting either, Sinead takes her leave shortly afterwards, heading back to the city to send some rats to the hospital in which Bill’s niece is being treated. However, the rats refuse as they are forbidden from entering the hospital. Unsure of why, the Ravnos leaves to figure it out in person.
It turns out that the hospital in question is under the care of Stanley, whom Sinead finds assembling skeletons for teaching purposes. Stan explains that Atticus asked him to take in Bill’s niece and keep an eye on her, but he doubts anything occult is involved in the Brujah’s streak of bad luck. Since his family seems to be comprised exclusively of ordinary people and Bill isn’t local, with neither friends nor enemies in the city, there is no obvious reason for a supernatural entity to meddle. He suggested that Bill ask Molly for help and to launch an investigation with the police, as there is little he can do himself, though setting a trap would also be an option, albeit a much more dangerous one.
Sinead asks the doctor to notify her in case anything happened to the girl, as she intends to investigate the matter herself, and has a short talk with Bill himself to ask him for permission to go through his family’s personal belongings in case any hints could be found. He grants her permission almost without a second thought, but stays with his niece to watch over her in the most literal of senses.
After finally having asked around for directions, Emma decides that the time has come for her to pay a visit to the Gangrel in their forest. She makes her way through the fake ruins from the Romanticism era that she was told the Gangrel use for their own purposes now, all the while being pelted with walnuts by other squirrels who are trying to provoke Amber, who accompanies her and angrily chirps back at them. After following the menhirs throughout the forest for a while she notices a huge shape passing ahead of her, weaving through the trees and obviously following her.
At the end of the path, the shape turns out to be a huge wolf, growling at her and getting ready for a jump; while she is wary, her squirrel answers its growls with chirps of her own, and Emma quickly manages to duck out of the way before getting pounced. With her supernatural speed coming in handy, she manages to outrun the beast and slows down when she hears it puffing behind her and finds herself at a pond full of lilies, next to which the Gangrel primogen sits and observes them. Lillian comments that Wolfie is getting too fat to be able to keep up, and Emma makes her way over to talk while the wolf settles down to catch its breath.
However, the first thing that Lilian comments on is Amber’s foul language, causing Emma to defend herself weakly that she is sure she didn’t teach her any swearwords. It turns out that Lilian knows of Hawke’s pets, as she made a bet with the elder Brujah that he couldn’t turn them into killer squirrels, though she seems surprised that he kept them around after winning it. She muses that the old man seems more sentimental than he lets on, which Emma laughs at and agrees with easily.
The conversation turns towards a new visitor in the city, an Assamite woman who seemed to have plans for her visit but little knowledge of how British society operated, nor did she know enough English to do much in London. The Gangrel gave her some language lessons, but she doesn’t give more information regarding the newcomer and changes topics towards Letho, who Lilian says she knew as he went drinking with her own sire often and both of them hunted vikings together. While they are discussing sires, she also mentions that Henry’s sire was diablerized in France, and that Atticus’ sire was offered the position of Brujah primogen first, but turned it down due to the large number of Ventrue in the city. When Atticus accepted it in his stead, however, his sire disowned him for it.
After a short, shocked lull, the conversation quickly moves on to the city’s pollution, however, and they both commiserate over the fact that not enough is being done to change it. Lilian mentions she asked several oracles outside of the city if the problem would get better in the future, who confirmed it, but she doesn’t seem very reassured by that fact.
When they brush on the topic of the recent Brujah party, the primogen mentions that her clan meets monthly under the new moon, a tradition they imported from the new world, which seemed a very promising place but nowadays is full of Ventrue and Sabbat, and has been thoroughly tainted by the both of them. For the next meeting, however, they plan to have a guest since Lilian invited Florence, both to give her a chance to gather signatures for her petition and to expand her horizon. She also wants to give her a chance to talk to the local guardian spirit, which might turn out interesting. Suspecting that the primogen knows something about spirits, Emma mentions her encounter with the banshee, and Lilian explains that it is an omen of death, though it was not necessarily an omen for Emma. Regardless, the Brujah may want to keep an eye out in case she meets it again, as multiple meetings with a banshee are cause for suspicion.