16. Wit's end

“God is the God of the people who are at their wits end, who are right up against it with their backs to the wall, and He delights to come to our help when we need Him most.”

[SleepyKoala 26.02.2017 – ???]

Vanity was emptying really fast. Two parties went out to fight Sabbat – one of which included both Nosferatu and Tremere primogen. The third one, consisting of Emma, Molly and Marcus was preparing to leave when Sinead approached them. She was getting more and more anxious, seeing as everyone was going to fight Sabbat. She asked Marcus what are they planning. Marcus said they are going to inspect some of his warehouses for potential Sabbat presence, as reported by Emma. Sinead, rememebering meeting with Rob, asked her directly if they are going to check for the rose box place. Emma confirmed and invited Sinead to join.

Molly was in favor of taking as many people as possible. Marcus openly voted against taking Sinead with them. He said she poses the same threat Emma’s sword does and cannot be trusted herself. Sinead jokingly said that she should feel offended at that and asked the Elysium Keeper to keep a package for her – meaning her finger with cursed ring – but knowing that Caroline will check its content, she decided against it. Before leaving, Emma decided to summon Hawke in case they run into Sabbat.

They hailed a cab and went for the warehouse. Molly sent her people to watch the area earlier and they still were on the lookout. They reported not seeing anything out of oridinary… except for everything seemed out of oridinary for Marcus and Sinead. The place seemed dead and as they came close, Marcus experienced extreme uneasyness. As if he went on a path starting with disappointment, going through bitterness into despair, getting closer to the warehouse. Sinead on the other hand noticed absolute lack of animals. She connected it with each situation in which she met Moira. At that moment she told Emma and Molly to run.

Emma instantly turned around and bolted away, but Sheriff asked why should she. While the Ravnos was trying to hint that the demon is coming, Molly started pondeing existence of hell and consequently, of God. Sinead tried to cut the decision short, but Molly was reluctant to do so. Annoyed, the Ravnos decided to enter the warehouse while Molly send her people to fetch a carriage big enough for the rose box.

The building was full of crates, tools and furniture. Rose boxes which Marcus commited were stacked in the corner. Sinead suggested that they should inspect their weight. It turned out three of them are light – supposedly empty. Other three of them were distinctively heavier, with one of them being much more heavy than the others. Out of the heavy ones, two stood out for Marcus – one was pinpointed during astral travel, the other he determined as a source of the foreboding feeling. After some discussion they decided to check on the heaviest one, which, as it turned out, contained mashed remains of two people, forced into the box. The lighter ones were empty.

When the carriage arrived, they decided to move four boxes into it – both the cursed and real one, the one that contained the corpses (for future burial) and an empty one as a decoy – and move them into one of Sinead’s temporary havens. Upon arrival they left the corpses in there and decided to visit the First Elysium, taking a small detour passing through city borders, at Sinead’s request.

Inside the First Elysium they’ve met only two people: Gilbert, the Elysium Keeper, and Raymond Montgomery. Seeing the boxes brought, the Keeper summoned a few people – without any immediate effect. After a moment his servants informed him of commotion going upstairs, so he left check on the matter. Suddenly Hawke entered Elysium, mad at Emma for summoning him for no reason. He casually inspected the boxes, rattled the ones that contained something, and left to have some fun when his protegé told him battle with Sabbat is still taking place in London. At that, Emma decided to leave, after making sure that her help covers the boon she owes to Sinead, and joined Hawke, although a bit late.

Hawke didn’t wait for her at all, although he didn’t cover his tracks. Emma followed him into sewers and started calling for him. He found her, annoyed, and explained he has an opinion. Her mentioning his name could cause the Sabbat to run and hide. They went further into the tunnels, following traces of battle – the walls were charred and splattered with blood, clearly marking thaumaturgy at use. Suddenly they run into Giovanni sheriff, battered and singed. Hawke instantly charged into the direction Fabio was escaping from while Emma stopped to ask him about events of the night. He told her that the prince has made an appearance during the initial fight with the Sabbat, but he simply passed through them, killing only the ones that were in the way, and left. The real fight started later on and it was so severe it moved to the streets. He left saying he doesn’t care any more about the traitors and backstabbers. Emma followed Hawke and found him among corpses of some shovelheads. Since the fight was over, they decided to go for some drinks. The matuzelah had so much fun he wanted to overstay for the day, but Emma dragged him to one of her havens.

Meanwhile in the first Elysium Sinead and Marcus were debating if they should check what’s inside the rose box. Montgomery was getting ready to leave, but curiosity made him stay. The Ravnos and the Malkavian opened the box. They saw a tiny woman with three eyes wearing crusader tabard over a curaiss inside. Marcus recognised the Salubri – it was Marylyn, whom he met in Vienna, now known as Flora. They didn’t have time to ponder it, because the other box burst open. Moira, who was losing her patience, waiting for the rose box to be opened, walked out of it. Montgomery tried to run this instance, but the demon stopped him with a wave of a hand. As she was sizing the surroundings and throwing quips, doors to the Elysium opened and Aaron entered.

Marcus connected with Flora mentally and tried to wake her up from torpor, hoping she will help them in fight against the demon. He channeled all the pain caused by her proximity into through the mental link. She woke up from torpor, hungry for blood. Sinead jumped back reflexively, but seeing as the next closest person was Montgomery, who still was rooted, she came closer and allowed her to feed of herself, calling others for help. Molly, at first baffled, helped to stop the Salubri from diablerie. Marcus told one sentence:

“She is not your enemy and there are people in here that need your protection.”

Marylyn went back to her senses. She was surprised to see Marcus, but grasped the situation immediately. Moira gave her brutal and brief summary of what what happened during couple of centuries – how her clan was destroyed by the Tremere and how she is going to the people that oppose them. Sinead chimed in, saying that Moira is going to lead her to the very same Tremere. Flora looked at her odds and decided to follow the demon. Moira wanted to clean up the place, as the dawn was nigh. She wanted to kill Montgomery, but Aaron said Raymond stood up for his clanmate when Camarilla wanted to dispose of him, so he should be spared. Then she turned to Molly and looked deep into her eyes, at which the sheriff flinched in terror. As they were leaving, they turned to Sinead, telling it’s her time to pay her debt. At that, Marcus asked about Stepano’s whereabouts. Moira told him that the Sabbat Tremere know where to find him, but soon they will be all dead. She also mentioned Sinead might help him with finding him if she wants to. While leaving, Sinead asked Marcus to take care of Norton while she was away. He in turn asked her to find Stepano. The Ravnos promised to do her best before leaving with Aaron and Moira.

The moment they left Elysium Keeper came back. He was equally miffed by his mortal guests frenzying upstairs and doors refusing to let him back after the situation was dealt with, even after beeing chopped to pieces. He siezed the situation downstairs and offered Montgomery and Marcus rooms for the night.

Sinead on her way to docks learned that Victoria Harlow died tonight and discussed briefly what is waiting for her in Sabbat’s den. Then she turned to talk with the Salubri and gifted her one of her swords, but the discussion went sour as she insulted Flora unwittingly. The crusader kept the sword the Ravnos gifted to her.

15. Consanguinity

“Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars.”

[Lisa, 20. 02. 17]

Marcus’ meeting with his new Tremere acquaintance Dennis the Demonologist is interrupted when Chris returns to the mansion; he explains to him that the Tremere is here on behalf of Lotharius before going to fetch the pendant he found at Stepano’s after his abduction. Dennis examines it and explains that it was a very powerful protective charm which has been burned out and originates from an eastern school of magic. Marcus excuses himself and Chris for a moment, taking him outside to communicate via Auspex, an opportunity which Chris promptly uses to ask if the new guest is going to “help” in the same vein Riina did, which prompts Marcus to go on a long, rant-like lecture about Riina, amusing Chris to no end. When he finally calms down, Marcus points out the problem with the wards Dennis wanted to put up which would cause significant discomfort to Chris. The latter mentions the possibility of moving out of the house, as he doesn’t want news of his clan to become public knowledge, especially to the Tremere, which Marcus protests though he agrees not to share any information regarding his clan with the newcomer.
Chris also shares his worries about the Sabbat, saying that he’d prefer to simply hand them the box just to get rid of them and avoid a full-scale war with the city’s Camarilla Kindred. Before he leaves, Marcus asks him if he thinks whether Gabriel could figure out if a certain Kindred has met their Final Death, which Chris can’t answer. The Malkavian then returns to Dennis, inquiring for more details about his plans for warding the house and citing certain acquaintances he would prefer were not inconvenienced by the wards. Leo’s apprentice waves off his concerns, stating that he won’t ward the mansion against Kindred themselves but rather against unspecified things, which will be made visible and slowed down once they cross the wards.
Marcus leaves him to his devices after showing him a guest room and pens messages to Montgomery, Gabriel, Annabelle, Jukka and Molly; while writing to Jukka, he has a vision of a house full of death and seems to answer the questions he wants to pose to his clanmate by himself. After this dialogue-letter is finished, Marcus returns to Dennis to ask him if purely hypothetically speaking he could make him suffer great physical pain in controlled circumstances; this question seems to catch the man unprepared, who promptly flubs his work. After a moment of thought, he replies that since pain is experienced purely in the realm of the mind and not technically physical at all, using Auspex for this matter might be the easiest way to achieve the desired effect, which seems to satisfy the Malkavian, who leaves him for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile Sinead requests that Norton stays with her, to which Emma acquiesces, and they carry the snoring man up to a guest room. Sinead leaves a note to Albert about her new guest and requests that he be helped with anything he needs, but not allowed to leave the house for the time being, while Emma goes to put out word for her contacts to look for Julian’s son and whichever ship he may have taken to leave. Startled by noise coming from upstairs, the Ravnos checks her attic only to find that her raccoon had been playing with her weapons. She talks with it, offering to fetch it some fish for the next night, and the raccoon explains that its master, a blonde man even taller than Sinead, has left and is far from the city. In an attempt to bond with the animal, Sinead tries to brush it, which the raccoon is unhappy with; it proceeds to call her fox ugly and useless and tries to bite the hand brushing it. She briefly considers sending it to check the village in which she saw the red-haired girl, but thinks it might not find the place.

After creating leaflets about Julian’s son and spreading them around the city, Emma briefly drops by the third Elysium, where she finds Miranda and Florence cleaning up and closing down the bar. She talks with Miranda about Atticus, who is upstairs and drunk beyond reason but apparently didn’t cause any troubles. Emma asks her to pass along the news that she is looking for Molly about an official matter in her position as Sheriff, and considering the dawn is approaching fast, Miranda offers her a place to sleep in the Elysium if she needs it, which the Brujah thanks her for but declines since she can just make it back to her own haven before dawn.

The next night, Sinead finds that Norton has a bad hangover and can’t keep food down; she decides to leave him be for now, instead opting to hunt and sending a message to Chris, asking for an urgent meeting. He shows up quickly enough, and Sinead asks him if he has any way of contacting Julian, which Chris denies; he claims not to know where he went and suggests contacting Belinda, since he sent the fledgling to her when he asked for a favor. As he considers family important himself, he understands what’s driving Julian. He does point out that the Ouroboros Julian mentioned in a message might either be related to the Old Clan Tzimisce or to a Toreador who thinks herself a prophetess and whom Julian might have met. Chris was approached by Julian for access to contacts, but he cannot share more information than that. Sinead thanks him and leaves for the second Elysium.

In the meantime, Emma arrives at the third Elysium, stopping for a chat with Annabelle once she saw that Molly wasn’t there yet, who asked her about Marcus since he had shown interest in one of her messages. They talk about the Malkavian for a while until Molly enters the bar, upon which Emma excuses herself and leads Molly to a corner of the room where they can talk more or less privately. As her clanmate mentions that apparently Marcus wants to set the city on fire with boxes full of death, she brings up the matter of the rose box and that she has new info on what might be either its location or a trap; however, she insists on meeting with Marcus first after learning that he created copies of the box that contain explosives. They argue for a moment and Molly agrees to meet with Marcus, but leaves for half an hour to have watchers put into position around the location to be notified in case anybody else shows up there. Emma stays at the Elysium, where just a while later Sir Franklin bursts in, wearing full plate armor and yelling loudly about having found the dragon in the sewers. While he is trying to recruit people to his hunt, Emma spots a very confused Molly directly behind him in the door and swoops in, dragging both the hunter and the Sheriff off to the meeting with Marcus. When Emma mentions their destination, Sir Franklin interrupts them saying that Marcus isn’t at his mansion and proceeds to direct the driver of their cab little by little to the second Elysium.

Marcus decides to begin the night by dropping by the second Elysium, where he finds a surprising amount of Tremere he doesn’t personally know; however, he also sees Bethany with an unknown man and decides to introduce himself to what turns out to be her sire. They chat for a while, and as the Elysium fills, the Malkavian notices a certain tension lying in the air. He spots the Nosferatu primogen and introduces himself, once again talking amicably with the man for some time until de Worde mentions that there will be an unplanned show soon, the nature of which are the subject of a competition in his clan; they speculate about who will end up with the box, when the Tremere are going to have a fire show, what the fate of the demon is, and why the box itself is so valuable. De Worde himself suspects that the whole matter will be over before the end of the week. The two of them are joined by Joshua, and the topic turns towards Mithras as Marcus asks whether the primogen thinks that the Ventrue has changed during his time in the city, which de Worde denies, saying that Mithras merely adapts very well although he seems rather tired currently.

Their conversation is interrupted, as are all others in the room, when Sir Franklin bursts in, waving his crossbow and once more shouting that he found the dragon in the sewers and attempting to recruit others to join the hunt. Emma immediately tries to disarm him, joined by Caroline, and while they manage to convince the Malkavian to put down his weapon, Sinead slips into the Elysium as well. When Sir Franklin finally agrees to their demands, Emma drags the hesitant Molly over to Marcus and de Worde, introducing the two of them and apologizing for the inconvenience as they need to talk with Marcus in private urgently.
While they leave for a private room, Sinead approaches Lionel to ask him to pass onto a message to Belinda as she wants to meet her, and he suggests Sinead directly visit her establishment instead, as it’s open to all and she could easily find her there. He passes her the address, and Sinead continues to socialize with the Kindred present in the Elysium.

Meanwhile, Emma explains that she has information on what might be the location of the rose box or a trap and asks Marcus to confirm that the address is the place where he stored his decoys, which he does; she then asks whether he could identify his fake boxes to make sure that the real one is indeed at this location. Once again, he confirms that this is possible but excuses himself for a few minutes to do so, which the two Brujah spend chatting about Emma’s newspaper while Marcus astrally travels to the location. He spots the people Molly put in place to watch for any activity but sees nobody else. As he examines the boxes, he finds that he can travel through them without being obstructed and that they look uncannily identical. However, when examined with Dementation, he finds that one box stands out from the others, though he can’t pinpoint why exactly this is the case. When he returns, he says that there is indeed one extra box among them and that one of them is somehow peculiar, but before they leave, he stops Emma and asks her if she talked about this information near her sword, since the Sabbat can observe her through it. Emma says that in this case, the Sabbat would know the address but would have no idea about the ruse Marcus put into place or their plan for getting the box during this night. Molly asks them to wait for her to fetch Gabriel before they leave, and the three head back downstairs to find the Elysium almost deserted. Caroline explains that two groups left recently to hunt the Sabbat and took most of the Kindred present with them, one led by Sir Franklin and one by Gabriel.

14. Bad Apple (II)

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

(SleepyKoala, 01.02 – 25.02.2017)

Sinead was in a dark corridor. Somewhere at the edge of her view there was a light, but when she turned to it, it moved, always hiding somewhere. She tried to walk towards it, but she realised her body acted weird, as if she wasn’t it’s owner, but a passenger. It felt weirdly stiff and unresponsive, reacting to her will with a significant delay. She noticed doors all along the passage. Seeing that the light is not getting closer, she opened one of the doors. Behind them she saw sunlight, but it didn’t scare her. She walked right into it without any harm.

Her surrounding changed. She was back in Ireland. She was home. Her family castle once enourmous, seemed small right now. She has went inside, following an instinct, which led her up to battlements. Here she noticed her father holding her three years old self in his arms. The child was trying to slip out of his grasp, pulling his hair, claiming she wanted to see the fishies. Sinead had more control of her body closer she get to the child. She observed the scene for some time, reminiscing life spent in this walls and reached out to the girl.

She was moved back to the corridor as soon as she touched her. She reached for another door instantly, this time entering a ship during a storm. She remembered that night. Everything played out just as she remembered it: she was trying to force her crew into submission, then lightning hit the mast, then the ship began to sink… luckily, she was thrown into herself and was returned to the corridor again.

This time Sinead took a door on the other side of the corridor. It dragged her into situation she could not remind, but that somehow felt familiar. She was in a place she couldn’t place, talking with a man she remembered as Meinred, the Tremere sheriff of Vienna. She met him back in fifteen century, at the time she met Marcus and Riina for the first time. As she watched, memories came back. Meinred offered her cooperation. She’d have a free hand as long as she wouldn’t cause turmoil in VIenna. It was tempting, but there was a second part to the deal she could not accept – the one in which she was supposed to trade Chimeristry for Dominate. The vision ended and she chose another door, which led to similiar situation. A heated discusion with someone she remembered as a Lasombra, but she could remember the arguement. She was haggling about him covering her tracks in exchange for some sunken ships. The discussion didn’t end in a fight. The Lasombra kept his part of the bargain… which explained one of mysteries of her past.

Another memory was a recent one. It was couple of years ago, back in Spain. She was dancing with Julian at the ball. She remembered that clearly, although some details were lost, mostly because she didn’t know Julian that well and didn’t pay attention. Somebody offended her in a minor way. Julian wanted to shrug it off, but she escalated it. She wanted to have some fun and shine, so she turned it into a duel, which, of course, she won. This time she was watching Julian closely. She could see the way he was hiding his disgust behind a facade of indifference. She used to cherish that memory, until now.

Emma awakened to the sound of hammering. The sound came out of nowhere… until someone knocked at her door. It was a postwoman who came with a delivery. Emma was suspicious of that, as she didn’t know anything of the package and hour seemed odd at best. Seeing the looks Emma gave her, the woman asked if she is alright. She was acting so natural in this unusual situation. She just wanted to go back home. Emma accepted the package and followed her, but she disappeared into hin air just behind the corner.

The package contained three books. “Crime and punishment” and “White nights and other stories”. Third one Emma couldn’t read because of strange alphabet it was printed with, which she guessed to be Russian. The book was signed, which saved it from the fate of its sisters – the Brujah torn each page of them, one by one, to her utmost satisfaction. She looked as they fly on the wind, almost like snow.

She decided to visit Marcus, taking Amber and Dostoyevsky as her companions. On her way she met a man looking as if he came here straight out of late romanticism midnight walk. As she accosted the man, he told Emma he is going to visit an old friend. She offered her company, but the man didn’t want to slow her down. He asked her to announce him, though he didn’t give her a name. He was speaking with a distinct accent, clearly not coming from England.

Sinead went back into the corridor, but this time it was different. She heard a cacophony of voices repeating signsongs and nursery rhymes. She tried to leave the corridor, but all the doors were closed. The voices laughed her, saying she doesn’t have to leave them when the contract runs out. Moira is not the only one she could work with… As a token of their will, they showed her another vision. Sun was high in the sky. She saw a young, scrawny kid washing the deck. He bore a striking semblance to Julian. She chased to the broadside to read the ship’s name, but her limbs went heavy again and she woke up.

It was dark in her room. She run to Julian’s chamber only to see it deserted. Albert wasn’t there as well. Seemed like Julian gave him a day off. It turned out she slept for almost three hours more than usual. Terrified by the prospect, she run to the docks to check for transatlacting ships leaving during last week. She learned that Julian – if he left – is on his way to Boston.

Marcus’ servants moved his menhir to the garden. After his suggestion they decided to redesign the hedge maze to house the rock. In a meantime, the Malkavian himself found Chris rearranging the library. The boy decided to move his personal books there and wanted to make sure they will be put in order. It was impressive collection of contemporary literature, all of it signed by their authors. Marcus’ interest perked up, since he was suspecting that Christopher took up a new hobby. Chris saw through that and invited Marcus to his room to satisfy his curiosity. The Lasombra mentioned he was thinking of acquiring life insurance, by which he meant employing means that would take out anyone who would manage to kill them… preferably a shadow demon. When Marcus pushed him, worried about his well being, he said he went on his first astral journey and discovered a special aura emitted by the mansion and how he feels oppressed by it. Marcus was happy for his childe, but it didn’t lift Christopher’s spirit. He admitted he feels he is losing control, being unwelcome in his own haven. Still, Marcus used the opportunity to slip into Chris’ room. It was organised in a spartan, pedantic way, looking almost like a museum of his past interest, including jewelry, painting, sculpting and most recently, chemistry.

Emma reached them shortly. The men retreated to the guest room as soon as Charles annouced her. Emma apologised for not warning before paying them a visit. She mentioned the visitor coming their way, but Marcus couldn’t recognise him. Then she passed information she was trying to deliver for a long time, but her being captured by the Sabbat stood in a way of that. It was the list of people killed at Stepano’s mansion. She also gave him information acquired from mortals hired to guard the rose box. They were all working class, but there seemed to be nothing else in common. The box was so intriguing for mortals they simply couldn’t forget about the assignment.

Amber was contantly trying to escape, but Emma’s Celerity prevented that, to Chris’ amusement. Emma added locations in which the box was hidden in the past to the map. Marcus used it to look at the map once more. He established the pattern is reactionary, based on responsible’s person cautionous nature.

Then it came time for Emma to ask questions. She showed him the book. She almost frenzied when he inquired if she is a fan of Dostoyevsky. Declining in the most respectable manner she could muster at the moment, she asked him to examine her sire’s sword. She was afraid that Sabbat could have cursed the weapon. Marcus was reluctant to do that at first, but when she told him about the reason, he checked it with Auspex and said he does not sense anything unnatural about it, but the curse may be conditional. The doorbell rang at this moment. Emma decided to leave Marcus with his guest and headed for Ebb and Flow.

Sinead went ot the third Elysium and found out that the Brujah party is in full swing. Miranda, Atticus and some other Brujah were playing poker and grumbling over Ventrue. She joined them promptly, but didn’t play the game. The primogen was already tipsy and on his way to get utterly drunk. He found a willing drinking partner in the Ravnos and a dedicated booze provider in the Elysium Keeper. The night was joyful despite Sinead’s dark mood and Atticus’ moping. He went on a banter about his life as a Primogen, the suffering she feels when he has to deal with the council and lack of gratefulness from his clan, interrupted by Miranda’s quips. At some point he even proposed to her. Sinead joined the litany of complains, unwittingly insulting clan Nosferatu in presence of Joshua, secretary of Richard de Worde, who decides to join the game. The Ravnos decided to help Atticus with the game as he got more mopey and drunk.

On her way, Emma met a messenger, who delivered a short note (“Don’t open it!”), but she paid it no mind for now. She entered the room too late to witness Sinead testing if Atticus is a Nosferatu by grabbing his hand and trying to help him end his misery by putting him in chokehold, or rather more of a hughold in their condition. The primogen forced Emma to join the game and explained to her what is at stake – running naked around the docks. Molly appeared as well, accompanied by Willow, her Tremere business associate, and landed in the same shoes as Emma.

Sinead asked Emma is she could talk with her ghoul, so Emma dragged her out of the Elysium. When taken out of the company, Sinead broke down almost instantly. She sat down on the street and started crying… at this moment it turned out someone was waiting for her outside. It was a man who introduced himself as Rob. Emma remembered him from Ebb and Tide. She saw him in there with Julian. He stated he was looking for them, but on different situation. He claimed to be sympathetic to Anarch cause, which made Sinead suspicious. She switched language to Portugese and asked him couple of questions to judge his affiliation. He spoke in large of French revolution and its ideals and how it went awry. Then he switched back to English and adressed Emma. He rambled about a Malkavian project in a rather incoherent way, mentioning five boxes with rose emblem stashed in a warehouse and suddenly, a sixth one appearing among them while he was watching. At some point, Sinead asked him about his involvement with Julian. His answers were not to his liking, which made her frenzy in no time. Robert left while Emma was holding Sinead down.

The guest turned out to be former prince of Strasburg, childe of Valerianus and sire of Konrad of Vienna. He visited London incognito. Currently he was looking for a new playground and wanted to deliver a message to his brother, Dermont, so he visited the only person he knew that could contact him. Marcus warned him that delivering it might take time, but the man didn’t mind. They chatted for almost whole night, topics ranging from Ventrue politics, practical applications of the Tremere and badmouthing the Brujah and their ideals. The thing that interested Marcus though was the past. The man hints that Valerianus might still be alive and still cares for Vienna. Marcus also asked about local Ventrue. He learns only some vague stories before the man leaves, enough to satisfy curiosity, not enough to provide information.

Marcus read Annabelle’s pamthlets and penned her a message, when suddenly an unannounced guest walked into his room. The man seemed oddly familiar. He looked like a man Caspar killed in Touluse. Somehow, mysteriously, he has found his way into Marcus’ abode. He was outraged. Protective spell he put on the house was ruined, because Marcus brought a demonically tainted item inside before it was complete!

He explained he was there because Lotharius sent him to have an eye on Marcus. The man owed life to both the Malkavian and the Tremere. He was the killed man brother, embraced by the Sabbat Tremere. Marcus wrote about events of Touluse to Lotharius. Using that information Vienna managed to counter Sabbat opperation and free the man, still a fledgeling at the time. Lotharius took him under his wings and taught him in the arts that he practiced as his side project – demonology.

The man refused to give a name, prefering to remain nameless while a demon dwelled in the city. He has also mentioned that his clan asked for an expert on demons only to learn there is one in the neighbourhood already. Marcus told he knew about the demon, starting with Wales and Sinead’s involvement in the case. While telling the story, he noticed the man flinching as he mentioned the writing he copied. Suspicious, he pushed the Tremere to tell him more about it. He learned that the archmage told his student to take care of Marcus if anything happens to him – and locked himself in a study to examine the writing. He hasn’t left since, as he was found to be in torpor. Hearing that, Marcus broke down at that. To comfort him, the student told him some stories about Lotharius, including rumors of his personal interest with demonology. There are rumors he met demons while he was still a mortal and bears a personal grudge – one that led him to devoting all of his personal time to study.

Emma brought Sinead to her haven and summoned Andrew Norton. The man arrived very tired and very angry. Sinead asked him to share when did Julian’s son board the ship. Norton was uncooperative and openly insulting towards her. She tried to convince him using his honesty and appealing to his empathy in conscience, going as far as begging him. She realised it has no effect on him, as he didn’t believe a word she was saying. He simply considered Kindred to be inherently evil. When he was looking for an escape route, she asked Emma for favor of setting him free.

The Brujah was getting more and more down during the exchange. Norton patted her, saying “Don’t cry”. That was a final straw. She broke into tears. She hugged him and released an endless stream of apologies. At that, he reacted started crying as well. Emma smeared bloody tears all over him and he, starved, started licking it. Sinead got startled. She asked what Emma done to him. She fetched a bottle of brandy and a bucket of water and poured him a drink. Seeing that, he grabbed the whole bottle, while Emma treated herself to what was left.

Sinead asked for a moment alone with Andrew. When Emma went to the kitchen, Sinead asked him if he really want to be free. He was distrustful, but as he got more and more drunk, he admitted he’d jump on a ship to Australia if only that would mean getting free. Then he passed out. She left him sleeping in the living room and went to talk with Emma. She was filled with righteous rage fuelled by her blood. She pressured her to let him go, insulting her for indecisiveness and not doing anything to set him free if she regrets blood binding him in the first place.

13. Bad Apple

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

Having just regained their freedom, Emma and Sinead stop at the mansion of the latter to catch a breath and plan their next steps, though they find the building completely abandoned. A layer of dust covers the surfaces, and while Sinead investigates the absence of her servants and childe, Emma catches a glimpse of a mysterious figure out of the corner of her eye; she draws her sword, which is quickly covered by frost, and calls for Sinead, but neither of them discover the source of what appears to be a haunting before they have to leave again. Pressured for time, they discuss the story they want to tell others on their way to the first Elysium, which is filled to the brim with Kindred, as the Primogen meeting is still in progress – though it is interrupted as Atticus catches sight of Emma, flips the table the Primogen are sitting at, and immediately frenzies.

Sinead wastes no time and asks two Nosferatu to clean up the mess at the zoo, which Talbott already warned them about, though she draws considerably more attention when she then requests they take care of the stock market, which she notes has been hit as well. After prompting by the Ventrue Primogen, Sinead lays out the story that she agreed on with Emma – that she found the Sabbat Tremere’s warehouse, was joined by Marcus and Emma, the latter of whom got caught, and allowed herself to be captured together with her to gain useful information, among which is the location of the Sabbat’s base, which is a death trap. She also notes that the Sabbat knows how the Primogen council operates and has discarded their Tzimisce spy, and in the same breath withdraws her candidature for the position of Sheriff. As the Primogen withdraw to discuss the news in private, the two Kindred are informed about the new Sheriffs – Molly and Gabriel – and are thoroughly questioned by those present, though Emma notes that their story is accepted without quite as many questions as expected.

Later that night, Sinead meets Julian at home, who explains that the house was briefly vacated at his insistence, since he thought it prudent to stay with a “friend” whom he owed a favor while she was abducted in order to avoid the Sabbat, if at all possible. He shares the city’s gossip about an Antediluvian in the city and the fact that quite a few mortals associated with Kindred have been killed, and mentions in passing that he unfortunately had invested heavily in the stock market and lost all of Sinead’s hard currency due to it burning down. Before he vacated the premises, he was also visited by a young blonde man, who dropped off a gift of a German book for Sinead, which isn’t the only one; a gift from the Gangrel is still roaming the docks and annoying the Brujah there. After a bit of prodding, Sinead also learns that Chris caught a female Lasombra and handed her to the Sheriff, that Raymond protected Francis from execution, and that Blanche left for Paris.

Christopher informs Marcus that he invited the Sheriffs and Sinead and tells him about the council meeting after his return; there was no decision made regarding the box the Sabbat is looking for, as the Tremere want to send it to Vienna, the Ventrue want to hand it over to Mithras, the Toreador want to burn it and the Brujah generally seem not to care a great deal about it. He also mentions that apparently, all the Ventrue who died as a result of Sabbat attacks belonged to the same faction within the clan.

After Julian passes a note to Sinead which reads “Love from Clan Tzimisce” with a return address in the Czech Republic, she asks him to pick up the ritual supplies she stole from the Sabbat in order to pass them on to the Tremere. Since her currency has gone up in flames with the stock exchange, Sinead then has a chat with the rats in her basement to persuade them to bring back her gold and valuables; as they are displeased with not being fed for over a week, she has to organize food for them before they agree to return what they hid.

Emma uses her time to visit Hawke, whom she finds cutting down a tree in a surprisingly cold night for the end of May. They chat for a bit before the conversation turns towards the Sabbat, as Emma talks in detail about her stay and is questioned thoroughly by her mentor; she doesn’t lie to him but sticks mostly to the story she already told, and Hawke mentions that he is waiting for a good opportunity to present itself to kill some Sabbat. He also presents a gift to Emma; a skinny squirrel that, as he claims, is always hungry, which she is supposed to use as a scout for dangerous situations before running headfirst into a trap again. She is delighted and thanks him effusively, petting the squirrel tentatively as she turns the conversation back to more serious matters and asks whether he could recognize a curse placed on Letho’s sword. Hawke answers to the question in the negative but suggests simply testing the matter by killing something with the sword, wandering from the subject and telling Emma about the Baali bloodline before she says her goodbyes and leaves for the city proper.

The meeting between the new Sheriffs, Marcus, Chris and Sinead is about to start when Sinead pulls Marcus aside to inform him about Stepano’s fate and ask him about the location to which she summoned him while in Sabbat captivity; she also tells him that Riina is dead and that Aaron is her childe, though the two of them quickly rejoin the Sheriffs to discuss business. As it turns out, the Primogen council believes there to be a traitor either in the council itself or with access to their intel; the conversation turns towards the rose box, which originated in Egypt and according to Gabriel is surrounded by a rather romantic story. The group speculates about the Sabbat’s methods and what the Prince’s course of action could be, though they can only agree on wanting the box out of the city. When Sinead brings up that it is guarded by Assamites, Molly recounts an urban legend that Mithras had friends among the clan, whose founder had allegedly visited London in the Middle Ages. Gabriel suggests smuggling an item with a spirit of his into the Sabbat base, which he asks Sinead to do, who points out the heavy fortifications once again.

Amidst snow falling, Emma returns to London, making her way to the address that Norton had given her, and finds both her ghoul and Julian arguing outside of a bankrupt shop. With her patience stretched thin after the recent events, she slaps the fledgling and demands to know why he is harassing her ghoul. He refuses to tell her anything beyond the fact that Norton was supposed to deliver a message and instead sent the intended mortal recipient out of the city. Unhappy with being denied more information, Emma tells Julian to get out of her face and talks to her ghoul in private, learning that the Kindred was looking for one of Norton’s young employees, an orphan whom he told to get the first ship out of the country he could possibly catch when he learned that Kindred were interested in him. He also passes her the information he gathered about the box, which he traced to several mortals paid to keep it for a short time before passing it on. Shortly afterwards, Emma finds herself summoned to Lady Anne and hastily leaves.

Since the conversation has stalled, Marcus uses the opportunity to fetch several maps which show information about the Sabbat attacks from 1860, the sewer system, and mortal London, and points out the location to which Sinead summoned him. The group agrees to look for the box and its guardians, spreading misinformation in the meantime and putting out word for the guardians. Gabriel claims that the box has a spiritual resonance that makes it impossible for him to track it with any more accuracy than whether it is within a hundred kilometer of his position. They are interrupted when Marcus is informed that a package has arrived for him, which he leaves to unpack. A closer investigation with Auspex reveals the smell of pinecones and moss coming from the box, which turns out to be an apparently entirely mundane menhir, which Marcus has placed in his garden before returning to the meeting; he finds that the Sheriffs have been arguing with each other, and Sinead excuses herself and leaves after a moment to fetch the gift she received from the Gangrel. In her absence, Marcus outlines his plan to deploy decoys of the box around the city, trapped with explosives, and Gabriel recommends him a skilled carpenter who can be discreet and, after Molly takes her leave as well, asks the Malkavian privately whether it would be possible for him to rent a room at his place, as he has noticed the mansion’s positive qualities on the astral plane.

Lady Anne greets Emma at the palace, clearly annoyed as Julian brought his personal grievance to her to sort it out; Emma is given the task to gather as much information about the mortal’s whereabouts as she can and to pass it on to her so it can be relayed to Julian, and Lady Anne makes a point of reminding her that the tensions in the city are plentiful already, asking her politely to have patience and cooperate with the other Kindred to avoid unnecessary aggravations. Emma apologizes repeatedly, but immediately makes her way to Sinead’s, who has found her gift to be a raccoon with whom she made a deal to receive gifts in exchange for food. After Emma relays the events of the evening, Sinead apologizes for her childe’s behavior and summons him, trying to pass the time until his arrival by talking about their time at the Sabbat’s, though an unfortunately phrased comment from her causes Emma to burst into tears just as Julian, dripping water everywhere, shows up. Sinead pulls him out of the room to talk with him in private, trying to slap him and yelling at him for going to the Prince with this problem instead of coming to her first, at which he snaps back that unlike the Prince, Sinead never showed any interest in his business; an argument breaks out in which Sinead accidentally antagonizes him further before Julian explains that he is looking for his mortal son, who could stand to inherit after his father’s recent death if only he could manage to find him. His sire warns him that he is unnecessarily making enemies of people more powerful than him, though he brushes her off by saying that he would prefer to die if he can’t live the way he wants, becoming increasingly more angry towards her and trying to end the conversation as he claims he has nothing more to say to her now or ever. At this, Sinead asks if he would prefer to be presented to the Prince and freed immediately to leave for good, which Julian scoffs at, pointing out that the sun is rising soon and there is no time for that now, though Sinead insists that she will make it happen if it is what he wants. After the argument finally dies, she tries to hug him, though it does not seem to make matters any better, as Julian leaves his sire standing in front of a closed door, both metaphorically and literally.

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”.

11. Margot and the Devil
Sabbat hospitality makes nights blur...

“What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? After all, shadows are cast by objects and people. There is the shadow of my sword. But there are also shadows of trees and living creatures. Would you like to denude the earth of all the trees and all the living beings in order to satisfy your fantasy of rejoicing in the naked light? You are a fool.”

[SleepyKoala 16/10/18-16/12/11]

When the fight was concluded, The Sabbat lead shackled Emma and Sinéad into a warehouse. The building was hiding a ritual place, designed to move objects inside their base. With a flash of light they were transported into completely new place. The captors decided not to throw them into dungeon, but to allow them to keep company to another of their guests. The Toreador lead them into their room through same looking, rich, but boring corridors.

The room was big, opulent and very victorian and even more pretentios. There was no candle or a lamp inside, but the room was covered with cold, blueish light, showing a elderly gentleman hanging from the roof instead of chandelier. His chest was torn open, showing empty cavity where heart should be. Sinéad recognised the man as Stepano, Marcus’ ghoul back from Vienna, currently a missing unofficial Assamite ambasador to the city. She told Emma who he was, but kept his origin story to herself, hidden behind “That explains a lot”.

And so the women, one surrounded with faint smell of cinders, the other with throat ripped to shreds, were locked with Stepano as only companion. Within seconds they jumped to accusastions. The arguement favored Sinéad strongly, as the one with vocal cords intact. After using up their ammo, they they resorted to silence. Sinéad started rummaging through the room. The Ravnos attempted to dislodge Stepano from the chain and redecorated the room to her liking, Emma turned her attention to books. She chose Dostoyevsky’s “White nights” at random. Just couple of sentences caused her to throw the book with and go on a tirade his writing. Meanwhile, Sinead found ivory chess set, which seemed to be the only other source of entertainment in the room.

They spent long nights playing chess, squabbling over Dostoyevsky and playing cards (for which Emma sacrificed “Romeo and Juliet”). Talking was painful for Emma, so Sinead decided to fill the silence with tales of her deeds and misdeeds. On evening of third night they were visited by Aaron, who was carrying two goblets full of blood. Before he even said a word she asked him to remove the shackles, which he refused. That caused Sinead to jump at him and try to break his neck with the very chain she wanted to remove. By that time Emma was already chugging the blood he brought, a sight which made Sinead reconsider her decision. Only after sating her hunger she asked if his answer came from lack of will or lack of power to do it. Making it clear that it isn’t him that is holding them captive, she stood down and listened to what he had to say.

He acted differently from what they remembered. He was much more composed and controlled his gimmicks despite still being moody. He went out of his way to ignore Emma. He said it’s time to pay the debts. Sinéad, with the most heartfelt smile, declined, quoting her contract from Wales: she was bound to help Riina when she calls for it. Aaron produced the script of the contract and pointed out that in case of Riina’s demise, the boon is inherited by her chosen childe…

Sinead was shaken. She inquired about Riina’s demise and how Aaron got tangled up with her. He shared a very cynical story in which he compared himself to a toy presented to a kid by a clever parent. The kid got sent away, pernamently, when it got naughty, and the toy had to take over the responsibility for the kid’s actions… He left after short time, promising to come back tomorrow with more blood, when nobody will be able to eavesdrop.

He kept his word and picked up where he left. He told how her misdeeds finally caught up with her and how he followed her advice and found the one she called her master. Meeting Ariel was mind opening, as he described it, though aftereffects were still visible. Despite his bitterness about his position and disillusioned stance about reality, he understood why Riina did what put him in this peculiar place and that it was as much of a blessing as a curse.
He expressed loathing for the people he was forced to work with. He was caught in a trap and waiting for his opportunity to pay his debt and disappear. It meant he had to wait until the Tremere leader, Margot, and the demon settled the score. Moira, as they called her, owed two favors to Margot, according to the contract, afterwards she was supposed to go free. One of them was related to the reason why Sinéad and Emma were kept in custody.

On third day, he warned them about a guest they will have soon. After he left, they were visited by a man with appearance of bank clerk. He man was as dull as his countenance. He stated up front that they have a reason to trust Sinéad will fulfill her task to the best of her abilities without, but why should they let Emma live? Her blood could be very precious to some of talented members of Sabbat, a fact he knew well from experience. He didn’t pass on opportunity cast doubt on Emma’s ability and conviction “using her sire’s unique perspective”.

Emma was shattered. Every aspect of his being seemed to be an insult. While she was dumbfound, Sinéad vetted for her. She claimed the Brujah is necessary for the mission. She promised to keep an eye on her and dispose of her if necessary. FInally, Emma came to herself and mentioned she already is doing what the man has asked them for – looking for the box with Rose emblem – using her resources.

The man disagreed hesitatedly, mocking Emma even further for her lack of conviction, meanwhile, Sinéad has stated her demands. If Sabbat wanted her to work for them, she had to emerge from the captivity as hero so she could become a sheriff, therefore saving Emma, Blanche and preferably retreiving Stepano’s corpse, maybe even gaining something else out of it… The man declared that it won’t remove suspicions, but they will offer them a chance to escape. He has stated that Blanche isn’t Sabbat’s prisoner and that barely anyone heard about her existence. Their agent, the one that used her, has outlived his purpose. He offered him as a scrap for Camarilla… as any other agent Sinéad deems obsolete for fulfilling the sect’s mission in London. He has also laid out his prediction for Primogen Council vote over fate of the agent, which put Brujah and Ventrue as only forces willing to dispose of him.

Some time after he left the doors to the chamber opened violently. Three drunkards were thrown inside and the doors shut again. The men were barely aware what happened to them. Emma immidiately lost her cool and bit one of them, feeding from a living being for first time in a week. Sinéad, who wasn’t nearly as starved, was worried about their reaction. They spread all around the room, not sure if fight or flight is better. One of mortals has decided to grab chair and crack Emma’s skull. Sinéad gracefully deflected the blow and caught him in stranglehold, carefully putting him to sleep. Final one went catatonic after Emma drank blood from him. She didn’t want to kill them, but Sinéad convinced her there was no other way. Being less wounded, the Ravnos drank one of them dry and left him by the door, paying her respect to the dead. She has talked Emma into ending the mortals, something Emma didn’t take lightly. When the mortals were cold and dty, Sinéad attempted to turn the rage against the Sabbat.

Aaron returned every night, always bringing blood for the captives. He talked less about himself, more about the quest and the situation they got themselves in. The box originated from Alexandria and travelled all the Europe before reaching London. It contained someone Sabbat called Flora. It was guarded by the Assamites, but who hired them remained a mystery. Aaron pointed to them that individual agendas of Sabbat operatives can be exploited for their own goals.

On third night a different man appeared. He was a guide sent to lead them to Margot. Despite Sinéad’s best attempts, he didn’t want to talk with her, so she decided to put her best chatterbox performance to use. He lead them through a maze of identical corridors – a perfect countermeasure to any intrusion – into thaumaturgical study behind sturdy metal doors. Inside there were two women.

One of them, an attractive redhead. dressed scandalously, was sitting on a chair. Pentacle and multiple layers of wards surrounding her left no doubts towards her nature. The other’s identity was obvious as she was wearing very unorthodox and very feminine robes. She sat in an armchair on the opposite side of the demon – who was constantly mimicking every single pose, gesture, mannerism and even tone of her voice, which visibly annoyed the Tremere.

The demon expressed joy seeing Sinead, which annoyed Margot even further. It seemed that was the only source of entertainment Moira had on a day to day basis and she excelled at it. Margot didn’t waste time on courtesy. She immediately informed the guests what is expected of them. Time limit: until the end of the year. Deliver or have Moira deal with you. There wasn’t much choice in that. While Emma was quietly accepting, Sinead used every opportunity to insult Margot.

Margot wanted to force a geas on Emma and Sinead. Emma agreed to that, but Sinead promptly refused. Moira said it won’t be a problem, so the ritual commenced with Emma as the only participant. The geas was supposed to disallow them to summon anyone they met while imprisoned, meaning Margot, her student Marianne, Malkavian Jean, the one that diablerized Letho, their quiet guide Wilbur, and of course, Aaron. After that they were returned to their chamber, to await the mission which they were supposed to join. It was meant to be their opportunity to escape.

10. Endless Night
Thursday, the 3rd of May and Friday, the 4th of May

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night.

[Lisa, 08. 10. 16]

Sinéad starts investigating Blanche’s absence, as the neonate hasn’t been at her house for a few nights in a row now; she learns at the second Elysium that Blanche had been there previously, but had left with a man she has been seen with before after a while. The Ravnos then makes her way to the third Elysium and runs into Julian. Her childe proves to be unhelpful as he excuses himself rather hurriedly, claiming he has somewhere to be, and Sinéad starts a conversation with Miranda, who hasn’t seen the Toreador but tells her about her musician friend who has not been seen for a while, either, and is rather unpopular with his own clan – and may be in trouble as well. With few ideas on where to turn to, Sinéad decides to pay a visit to Marcus, who spent the start of the night asking his servants to be especially careful, keep the entrances of the manor secure and fetch some holy water, while he himself writes a message to the Gangrel primogen Lillian and prepares everything needed to perform an exorcism.

When Sinéad arrives, she shares the gossip she heard previously in the second Elysium about the Tremere primogen’s accusations and the rumours surrounding Stepano’s disappearance, as well as the fact that she met a Tzimisce recently. The conversation soon turns towards Dementation, especially its sources of information and power, but is briefly interrupted when Marcus notices a draft and finds one of thewindows opened. After a short investigation with Auspex, he concludes that no other Kindred or mortals are present in his house, and hre returns to Sinéad and tries his best to explain his clan’s unique discipline. He then announces his plans of looking for Stepano and asking for help and information among the city’s Kindred, as he feels partly responsible for what happened. He confirms the locations of the rose box for Sinéad as well as giving her a detailed description of it, then the two part ways for the night.

Sinéad turns to animals in her search for Blanche and is led to the warehouse district by a group of rats who claim to have seen a lonely lady going there. She doesn’t find the neonate, but she decides to snoop around for the rose box while she’s there. Instead of the box, she finds a container full of an Irish herb with magical properties used as an offering to fae and for getting certain things to look at you as well as a box full of earth. Sensing that these could be excellent bargaining chips, she absconds from the warehouse with both of the containers as well as other random boxes she finds nearby and spends the rest of the night spreading them around her additional havens in the city.

Marcus visits the second Elysium, where he makes the acquaintance of the Ventrue Leopold and his clanmate Mia O’Connor and joins their conversation about business. Mia has a vested interest in trade deals in India about tea in particular, since she has a liking for it, and Leopold knows a lot about the geography of the country. After he mentions that Belinda is supposed to prepare for the return of her sire who is currently still in India, where unrest is stirring recently, Leopold excuses himself from the conversation when it turns towards fashion for a while. Mia also claims that her inspiration on ways to conduct business has been taken from Marcus, who extends an invitation to his home in case she ever wants to talk about business with him in the future. He leaves a message for the Nosferatu asking them to contact him, as well as for his primogen to schedule an appointment and drops by the first Elysium to pass a message to the Elysium Keeper for Lady Anne, which she is supposed to hand to Mithras; it contains information that Stepano has disappeared but is not dead yet.

Meanwhile, Emma pays a visit to Hawke, whom she finds building a wooden fence around his house which is decorated with occult symbols and among which he has planted new saplings of plants foreign to her. They chat for a while and as it turns out, Hawke is aware of the situation with the demon and invites Emma to stay with him for a while if she feels unsafe in her city, which can hardly be as well-prepared as his own home in the woods. She declines, but asks him a few questions about demons, and he shares a story of Letho and himself fighting against the Tzimisce in Transylvania who were able to conjure nature spirits, as well as a rather unfortunate meeting with a spirit or demon who was possessing mortals anew every time he was cut down, which is why Hawke cautions her against fighting spirits directly and recommends outrunning them instead. The conversation turns towards the Sabbat, who Hawke claims have set up shop in a town to the south, and he uses the occasion to complain about the Prince, who used to be a warrior in the past which was why he settled near London in the first place, but both the Prince and his lands have changed from the tales he had heard before coming here. The two of them spend the majority of the night sparring with each other, after which Emma drops by the third Elysium for another hour and sees Molly dragging the Nosferatu Elias with her after emotionally blackmailing him into helping. Florence, who was present for the whole scene, then shares that Molly has apparently found a group of children which have been ghouled by the Sabbat and used as spies, and needed help with the matter as her Tremere helper is unavailable at the moment.

At the beginning of the next night, Marcus sprinkles holy water on all windows and thresholds of his house, and he uses the opportunity to examine the window which had been opened during the last day with his supernatural senses. He finds the same thoughtfulness as on the horseshoe he examined. His servants complain that multiple windows kept opening on their own for the past day or two, and when he hears this, he asks them to pay conscious attention to when and where this happens. Chris left him a message that reads “Met with a priest, went to save a lady” which Marcus examines with Auspex, upon which he notices that Chris was distracted and left the message as an afterthought, though he also felt opportunistic … and a slight pang of conscience, as if he were at fault for something. He remembers hearing about a Kindred priest and leaves for the second Elysium to ask around.

Sinéad starts off her night by gleefully telling Julian about the stuff she stole, who in turn tells her that Blanche got into trouble and has two knights in shining armor looking for her, one of whom hopes to become Sheriff by finding her. She correctly guesses that the pair includes Christopher, who is helping a new friend of his, and Julian puts the blame on Chris since it is due to his actions that nobody else would care to look for Blanche. Sinéad leaves the city and ventures to the ruined tower where she last saw Hail and tries to summon him unsuccessfully before heading back to the city and the third Elysium in particular.

In the second Elysium, Marcus receives an invitation from the Nosferatu and manages to catch his primogen for a short conversation. He informs him that he will be looking for Stepano and asks to be passed any info about this that reaches Talbott’s ears, who thinks this plan a doomed endeavour since finding the Assamite does not mean saving him. However, he recognizes that the situation itself is very convenient for his clan due to their knowledge being in high demand and seems rather unconcerned, though he does warn Marcus to be wary of water before he leaves. Marcus then turns to Caroline for information about the priest he is seeking and makes his way to the church he inhabits.

Emma heads straight for the third Elysium at the start of the night and meets Norton there, who gives her a detailed report on the missing servants and the information he was able to find about them. He also points out that one man survived the urge to race towards Stepano’s manor, as he was hit with a frying pan by his wife and subsequently knocked unconscious. In the newspaper that he has with him are a few articles of note as well, especially one on strikes in the are and a child going missing recently. The two of them are joined by Sinéad not long after Emma finishes giving Norton something else to investigate, and the two Kindred promptly strike up a conversation about the recent events, especially Molly’s outburst last night, the information Norton passed on to her, and the fact that Blanche has been missing for some time. Sinéad also delights in mentioning her theft and plans to strike a deal with the Tzimisce she met recently, much to Emma’s bafflement and disbelief. Some time after, the two separate, with Sinéad intending to search the docks and Emma deciding to follow her after arming herself.

The information from Caroline leads Marcus to St. George’s cathedral, where he meets Lambert and asks him about Christopher’s visit. The priest shares that Chris and his companion who introduced himself as Gabriel were looking for Francis, who had been a regular visitor to the church until he suddenly stopped coming. The Toreador complained about disturbing dreams, which Marcus suspects is due to aftereffects of memory erasure through Dominate, but Lambert cannot share any more details as the Kindred’s secrets are protected by confession. However, his childe had already established that Blanche noticed something about her companion, confronted him about it and subsequently disappeared. Lambert asks Marcus to pass along a heavy envelope to Francis should he find him, which he agrees to before attempting to track his childe through Dementation. The visions he receives as a result are incredibly cryptic, so with time running out, Marcus decides to visit the Nosferatu first. He is greeted by Joshua who apoligizes for de Worde’s absence since his primogen is currently investigating Stepano’s disappearance. The Malkavian gains some information about his childe and Blanche, who had last been seen around the docks, and who the Nosferatu are sure will be found with Francis, a Kindred of a different clan than he introduced himself as, though his precise bloodline is unknown to them at the moment. Marcus immediately makes his way to the docks after he finishes his conversation.

Sinéad, who is the first to arrive, checks the warehouse from which she took the earth and herbs and promptly triggers a very painful trap that had been set there. She manages to escape the warehouse before a second trap is activated and summons a cat to ask for information on Blanche who had apparently last been seen entering the warehouse with the trap, at which point the obfuscated Marcus finds her. Emma arrives shortly afterwards and notices the door Sinéad left open. She decides to hide nearby and watch the warehouse for any suspicious activity, but is promptly discovered and flees deeper into the district, stumbling into Marcus and Sinéad just before a fireball hits the door she closed. After a short fight with what turns out to be three Sabbat Kindred, one of whom summons a flaming salamander and one of whom frenzies and nearly decapitates Emma, both her and Sinéad are captured. Marcus manages to escape and explains to the Kindred that Emma summoned – Atticus, Hawke and Lionel as well as the latter’s companions – before they were taken away what happened.

9. The Dragonslayers
Tuesday, the 1st of May and Wednesday, the 2nd of May

“Not my best side, I’m afraid.
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.”

At the beginning of the night, Marcus meets the Regent in the Chantry to talk with her about the scene he found at Stepano’s manor. He mentions that he suspects a demon may be involved and drops some hints about a visit to Wales where he avoided making a deal with an entity that claimed to be a demon, of which he regained some memories during the last night. The Regent decides to investigate the matter immediately with the help of Alexander and sees Marcus out of the Chantry, who returns to his mansion where he has a meeting with Emma.
The Brujah asks him a few questions about ghouls and the properties of Kindred vitae, citing her newly “acquired” ghoul as the reason for her curiosity, and afterwards offers to assist him with the funeral bills for the murdered servants. The conversation turns towards the subject of money and finances, which helps to distract Marcus from the situation at hand for a while. When Emma mentions that she is looking for an accountant for her newspaper and filling in for a mortal herself at the moment, he offers to look over her books and tutor her in the arts of finance if she cares to learn more, which Emma accepts after a moment of hesitation. Shortly afterwards, their conversation is interrupted by Christopher, and Emma excuses herself to give the two enough privacy to talk. After she has left, Chris makes a few snide comments about the summon he received to Stepano’s manor. His sire uses the opportunity to urge him to be especially careful because he might become a target of the demon’s due to his involvement with Marcus, which doesn’t seem to faze him much. He also reminds him that he agreed to leave an envelope with his approximate location when he leaves, and asks him to notify him should he hear anything about the matter or if anything happens. Chris looks unimpressed despite his sire’s serious words and leaves on whatever business he had in mind for the night.

Meanwhile, Emma makes her way to the second Elysium and finds it full to the brim with Kindred; gossip abounds about the Tremere burning down Stepano’s mansion after the investigation and the Regent accusing the Ventrue primogen of putting the city in jeopardy since they knew Stepano was an Assamite scholar, who is suspected to be a spy by her, which led to an immediate meeting of the Primogen council being called. Since reports of the missing servants had made their way to the mortal police, the manor was burned down to protect the Masquerade after the investigation was finished, and the Regent was apparently livid after she found out that she wasn’t told immediately about the massacre. There are also rather precise reports of the manor itself going around that hint at somebody who was there in person spreading the information.
Emma manages to find Lionel, whom she asks for a private chat. She passes along detailed information about what she saw at the manor, excluding the fact that she was there with Marcus and Sinéad, and she takes the opportunity to subtly remind him of the agreement which they had reached. While he points out that this information is not directly related to the search for the old Sheriff and Sabbat involvement seems unlikely, Emma mentions that the Sabbat could still use this opportunity of most Kindred gathering in Elysium instead of being out and about in the city as a distraction for their own plans whether they had a hand in it or not. She doesn’t stick around for long, as she doesn’t want to talk about the matter at hand further, and instead opts to go to the third Elysium for the rest of the night, since many Kindred usually gathered there are currently in the second Elysium.

Sinéad had a chat with her childe Julian at the end of the previous night, where she noticed that he seemed troubled and tells him she regrets coming to London. After a bit of prying on her part, Julian admits to having agreed to a favor for John Malone in exchange for making an unnamed admirer disappear. During the next night, Julian has to perform the duties of a squire for a Malkavian, and though he is reluctant to provide more details, he invites Sinéad to tag along, to which she agrees.
Both of them meet at a clearing in the woods after “borrowing” a mule on their way for Julian’s costume, which consists of peasant clothing, a straw hat, a long chain and a wooden sword. They meet an armored man on a horse after a short wait, who introduces himself as Ser Franklin the Dragonslayer, who calls Julian “Sancho” and allows Sinéad to tag along after some persuasion. He tells them that he goes dragonhunting every year after St. George’s, but he is distressed since he noticed there are currently two black dragons in the woods – and while one dragon is just fine, two are definitely too many, so he has set out to hunt the upstart dragon who is setting himself up as competition to his own dragon. Sinéad poses as bait for the dragon and conjures a realistic illusion of a black dragon when nothing happens at first. They quickly flee deeper into the woods from the mock dragon, at which point Sinéad finds herself surprised by an unknown man who politely asks her if she would mind being abducted, to which she happily agrees.

Marcus keeps himself busy with more paperwork, but he has an odd feeling which prompts him to check his mansion for intruders, though he doesn’t find anything – until his butler interrupts him with a horseshoe that had been left at their doorstep. It’s made of a strange kind of metal, and as Marcus inspects it with his supernatural senses, he notices that whomever left it was very purposeful and thoughtful, whereas the previous handler was bewildered, and its maker seemed annoyed and in a grumpy mood. Marcus notices some herbs and leaves woven throughout the horseshoe, which he recognizes as commonly being used to ward off the evil eye or other evil forces. He decides to leave the item somewhere nobody would pick it up and then leaves his mansion for a ride in the city.

The third Elysium is practically deserted, with only the regulars on the mortal side plus Miranda and three men, two of whom are Kindred Emma doesn’t recognize and the other being her ghoul, Andrew Norton. He is playing chess with one of the Kindred, a Nosferatu, but immediately finishes his game with a checkmate when Emma waves him over. He still appears pale and bitter, and she quickly notices that he seems to be emotionally numb and bored out of his mind. Emma tries to organize her thoughts unsuccessfully and keeps jumping from topic to topic, telling him what she calls some basics including the concept of the Masquerade and that he mustn’t tell anybody anything about her unless expressly permitted. While she talks, she plays a game of cards with him, since Andrew started fidgeting around. She wonders whether he could take up his work as a private investigator again, which he doesn’t think to be a good idea. As he is itching for something to do, she asks him to figure out the names of the servants who were murdered in Stepano’s manor, but tries to impress upon him several times to be extremely careful about it and to not dig too deep lest he get into trouble, and she advises him to start carrying a weapon, preferably a knife, for his own protection from now on. She also probes him for his network of contacts, wondering whether he knows anybody who could do her books, and after he mentions that he did his own financial work, she asks him whether he could help her with the matter, at least until she finds someone else, to which he agrees.
Seeing as how she can’t properly concentrate and the Elysium is too quiet now, she drags Norton into her favourite tavern for a drink, which he accepts purely to make her happy, where she hears stories of a beast in the woods that one of the men hunted and killed, which is described as a dog-boar thing with scales as well as fur and huge, tusk-like teeth. Her mood quickly improves as she spins the wild tales even further, at some point hearing that a dragon is rumoured to be living in the woods around the city. She amuses herself for a while by adding fuel to the fire, and when the crowd turns its attention wholly toward dragon-hunting for the rest of the evening, she leaves to go on a walk with Norton in tow. Since her companion suddenly looks to be rather feverish, she asks to see him off safely, and notices that he is dragging out the way considerably. When she asks for his exact address, he weasels out of giving it, claiming that he is currently looking for a more permanent living quarter while he tries to lay low for a while due to tax reasons. With the sun rising soon, she decides not to push the matter further and leaves him be to get to her own haven safely.

While this happens, Sinéad suggests to her unknown captor that he should take her to a ruined tower nearby, which he finds a splendid idea, grabbing her and taking her there on the mule while she screams at the top of her lungs for theatrical effect before pretending to be gagged. She chats quietly with the stranger, who claims not to be from the area and to have come here only to oversee a person overseeing a project that he hopes will crash and burn. He introduces himself only as Hail and makes sure that she doesn’t have a chance to see his face while carrying her up on the tower as she is slung over his shoulder – and opportunity that Sinéad uses to its fullest, pretending to be steadying herself and grabbing his butt while doing so. Unfortunately, it turns out to be quite bony and reminds her of scales somehow, but before she can investigate further, Ser Franklin arrives with “Sancho” in tow. Hail throws Sinéad down at the knight, and both go tumbling down the tower while Julian facepalms in the background. The supposed dragon uses the opportunity to escape on Franklin’s horse, which leads to another chase to the river. They notice the temperature drop rapidly as they approach, ice appears on the water and the rain turns to frost – then a hailstorm starts. Franklin finds his horse left at the water, which has had its teeth elongated to tusk-like fangs, much to its owner’s horror. The hail stops after a while, and they notice that it has fallen in a very specific pattern over the city, forming the shape of a white dragon.
Franklin commends Sancho on his good work but departs shortly afterwards to find a dentist for his horse, while Sinéad and Julian make their way back to the city where they split up. Sinéad heads to the second Elysium which is still full to the brim and buzzing with the same gossip that Emma has heard. She is asked directly by one of the Gangrel about her involvement in the matter and admits to having been there and shares some details about what she saw.

Marcus’ ride takes him to his study where he decides to paint something to occupy himself and lets his thoughts roam freely, which results in a rough painting of a mountain with a knight fighting a dragon and a person with a straw hat and a red-haired woman in a white dress. He titles it as “Don’t Ask” by putting a note on the frame before continuing, and he discovers that the dragon seems pretty bony with a rather short tail. At this point he leaves it to dry, unsure what to make of it, and makes his way back into the city to feed. While looking for suitable vessels, he notices two well-dressed women laughing and suspiciously out of place; he follows them out of curiosity after noticing they are mortals, and makes a mental note of the place they enter and the specific knock they use to gain entrance there. He continues, but quickly finds the city’s rain turning into a hailstorm with unpleasantly large hail; after it finishes, he discovers the shape of the dragon over the city by using his clan’s unique discipline and decides to drop by the Chantry once more.
He is immediately shown to Harlow, who tells him that Stepano is still alive and an Assamite, which Marcus denies having had any knowledge of prior to her telling him. She seems incredibly unhappy with how events unfolded, since she claims somebody else was at the mansion before the Tremere could investigate it. Marcus gives her a detailed account of when he himself investigated it, which leaves little room for anybody else to show up there, but the Regent quickly turns the conversation towards the Prince, on whom she puts a large amount of blame as he chose not to inform the Tremere of the presence of an Assamite in the city.
After Marcus inquires about the horseshoe, which Harlow doesn’t have further information on, he tells her about the suspiciously dragon-shaped hailstorm, which leads her to the conclusion that a Tzimisce has arrived in the city. She informs him that the Tremere will be unavailable for the next seven nights due to clan matters and that she unfortunately cannot help him with finding Stepano currently.
With this new knowledge weighing on him, Marcus leaves for his haven where his butler informs him that Chris sent a rose to a lady, whom he called the “fairest of them all”, and he doesn’t return for the night.

8. The Crow and the Rose
Sunday, the 29th of April and Monday, the 30th of April 1888

“And so you, like the others, would play your brains against mine. You would help these men to hunt me and frustrate me in my designs! You know now, and they know in part already, and will know in full before long, what it is to cross my path. They should have kept their energies for use closer to home. Whilst they played wits against me – against me who commanded nations, and intrigued for them, and fought for them, hundreds of years before they were born – I was countermining them. "

[Lisa, 3. 09. 2016]

The group’s investigations into the box with a rose and Henry Smith bear fruit; it appears that Henry is a young Toreador who hasn’t been in London for long, yet already has a reputation of being a troublemaker and a coterie of his own that is called “Club S”. Marcus meets with him in person to discuss the matter of the box, and Henry gives him a more detailed description of it, but takes his leave rather hastily at Marcus’ not-so-subtle hints at wanting to probe his mind for a picture of the box.
Marcus then spends the remainder of his night trying to figure out the sender of a note he received, using his clan’s particular gift for interpreting patterns which results in a slew of images that range from fascinating, such as a web of silvery threads all interconnecting with each other, or the sight of the city of London from above with fascinating patterns in its dancing lights, to outright disturbing, as is the case with a vision of a darkened labyrinth he is being chased through by shadows.

Meanwhile, Emma meets up with Norton, who appears pale and stressed, to receive a report she commissioned. While Norton does his best to put up a neutral facade, she prods and entrances him, to which he reacts by becoming furious for a moment. She manages to calm him down, and under the guise of fetching him some water, peeks around his office and notices that he has cleaned the place up considerably and removed all personal items and most of his files. Before she can hand him the water she spiked with her blood, he asks her what she is and audibly readies a gun. Emma manages to get the jump on him and disarm him of both the gun and a knife he held in his other hand, though not without using her supernatural powers. When he realizes that he has no way to flee, Norton slumps in her grip and reveals that he planned to close his office this very night and retire to a plot of land outside Brighton with his fiancee. Emma presents him the mixture of blood and water regardless, and he drinks, completing his bond to her. Before she leaves him for the day, she tries as best she can to pull him back from a potential abyss he might be standing on by assuring him that he needn’t worry so long as he doesn’t mention the night’s events to anybody and doesn’t do anything stupid; she gives him several ways to contact her, urging him to come to her should he need to, before helping him destroy the last of his records.

In a different part of town, Sinéad arranged a meeting with the Nosferatu antiquarian Gregory Hemmings, which took place in a library she could spend days or even weeks in just browsing its treasures. Greg, however, led her on a tour through the building’s basement, which contained interesting weapons dating from a variety of time periods, and told her some of the stories associated with them. The two of them make smalltalk about London, with the sewer system and the Nosferatu’s involvement in its inception a focus of their conversation, before they switch to his position of antiquarian and his interest for collecting objects and artifacts in particular. While they continue their tour, Sinéad notices a copy of Dracula in a section with books, which Greg lends her while pointing out that it is an entertaining read, commissioned by Lady Anne herself, which allegedly caused Montgomery’s move out of the city proper due to certain “gifts” he received from the Tzimisce for the book.

During the following night, Marcus ventures into the city to feed and pass some time before a meeting with Sinéad. He notices a very oppressive atmosphere in the city itself, coupled with a foreboding feeling about this particular night and the sensation that there is a film of darkness layered above everything he sees. After he returns home quickly, the feeling fades for a while only to worsen considerably at the stroke of midnight before dissipating completely. Before he can wonder what caused this, he hears a scream of terror and rushes towards his front door, where he finds a young servant of Stepano’s, incredibly pale and still in her nightgown, with a wound that coats her left leg crimson in blood. He sends for a doctor and brings the girl inside to patch her up. She tells him that she was attacked by monsters and that Stepano’s ghoul told her to run and get help from Marcus, which he confirms by peering into her mind. Marcus leaves a message for Christopher, telling him to be careful, before riding off for Stepano’s mansion as fast as he can.

Emma and Sinéad spend the first part of the night in an abandoned and carefully prepared building, littered with traps, where they attempt unsuccessfully to summon the Kindred that Aaron was beating on the night that Sinéad first met him. As nobody shows up even after several hours of waiting, both leave for the second Elysium where Sinéad had arranged to meet Marcus. In there, both of them notice that everybody present seems to be slightly depressed, and even Sinéad’s attempts to lift their spirits last only so long as she keeps their attention. When Marcus neither arrives himself nor sends word an hour after the agreed-upon time, Sinéad starts to worry, and both of them leave on horseback to go look for him at his mansion. While they don’t find him, they do gain information from his ghoul, who points them in the direction of Stepano’s mansion, to which they immediately leave with all haste.

The mansion itself turns out to be eerily quiet, with no animals present for miles around. All of the windows have been shattered, as if by a blast from within, peppering the surrounding area with tiny shards of glass. Marcus enters the building unseen and immediately finds a body within that has been partially splattered across a wall, though the face has been left intact – while he makes his way through the labyrinthine corridors, this sight repeats many more times, with a total of 30 corpses that appear to be leading somewhere. The victims were Stepano’s servants plus additional strangers Marcus doesn’t recognize, and they appear to have been killed slowly, painfully, after being rendered immobile. In the central room of the house, he finds what appears to be a body hanging from a chandelier; on closer inspection, it turns out to be Stepano’s ghoul … or rather, merely his skin. All across the walls, in Stepano’s handwriting and scribbled in blood, Marcus finds the words “they are coming”, which were written in a hurry, with a mixture of panic and confusion as well as a certainty about what was going to happen embedded in their emotional resonance. Marcus is overwhelmed by a feeling of wrongness, after which his mind is flooded by memories of Wales, lost for decades and finally returning.

When they finally arrive at the mension, Sinéad notices her ring warming up; she yells for Marcus as she jumps off her horse and races inside, while Emma stays with the horses and keeps an eye on the premise in case anybody else approaches. Marcus doesn’t respond to her calls and continues to make his way upstairs, where the rooms are untouched except for the smell of smoke in one of the corridors which leads him to a hidden door, behind which he descends a flight of stairs leading deep below the house. In these rooms, every single item of furniture that may have been here has been burned into ash, which strikes him as odd since there could never have been enough air to cause such total destruction. He, too, starts calling out now, but for Stepano, to which he receives no reply. Walking through the underground rooms, he only finds ash and scorched walls – until he steps on something metallic, which turns out to be a pendant that has had its chain burned off completely and which is charred black. Sinéad finally catches up to him and recognizes one of the two symbols on the pendant as belong to a caste of clan Assamite, as well as their motto written in Arabic around it.

With nothing else to be found here, the two of them return to the ground floor of the house, hotly debating their course of action when they are finally joined by Emma, who is disgusted by the sight she finds in the house. Marcus wants to barricade the place, though they don’t have the materials necessary for it and need to return to London soon ere the sun rises, and while Emma runs around frantically closing curtains in an attempt to obfuscate the carnage in the house, Marcus realizes that since Stepano bought land for miles around his mansion and thus has no neighbours, nobody is likely to find out what happened during the day, giving them another night to investigate themselves before it becomes public knowledge. Still, with pen and paper from Emma, he pens a several notes: One to Lady Anne, requesting a personal meeting with the Prince as soon as possible, one to Christopher detailing the events of the night and informing him that he won’t return home for the day, and a third to the Tremere primogen that a massacre happened suspectedly at the hands of Assamites. Emma rides ahead back to London to deliver the first two notes, and the three of them spend the day in one of Marcus’ safe havens.

At the beginning of the next night, Marcus and Sinéad meet with Lady Anne in the first Elysium while Emma waits outside in an attempt to avoid meeting the Tremere primogen. Lady Anne informs Marcus that Mithras is unfortunately not in the city at the moment, but she offers to help in his stead. Marcus calls the matter at hand of metropolitan security, since Stepano is missing, his servants are slaughtered and his house demolished; he mentions that he suspects involvement of Assamites and asks her to delay informing the Tremere for a while so he may investigate the matter first, to which Lady Anne agrees.
While waiting for the others, Emma is approached by the Ventrue with whom she went hunting for the Banshee the night she met Aaron again; he wonders about her appearance, as an armed, pant-clad woman in front of a gentleman’s club, and keeps her company with smalltalk until the other two return and the trio leaves for Stepano’s mansion, though not without sending a message to Marcus’ own manor, to check if Chris has come back to it yet.

Upon further investigation of the house, they find that some servants have dirty feet; since Marcus already pointed out that they were more servants than Stepano had, it seemed that they were summoned to the mansion, which is corroborated by the large amount of tracks they find outside the house which all lead towards it directly from the city itself, with the exception of the servant who escaped, whose tracks lead straight to Marcus’ home. The tracks leading towards the house contain impressions of bewilderment and an overwhelming need to run, as if the people had been summoned here. Sinéad also notices that her ring isn’t warm anymore, but when she points out that something about the place feels wrong, she hears a familiar voice laughing in her mind. The group is interrupted in their search by a message from Marcus’, stating that the servant who escaped died during the day and that Christopher hasn’t returned home during the night. Worried for his safety, Marcus asks Emma and Sinéad to summon him right on the spot, which they do with the result that an extremely unhappy but unharmed Christopher shows up a while afterward, much to the relief of Marcus. Christopher’s displeasure at being summoned lessens somewhat when he learns of what happened during the last night, and he takes a look around the mansion as well, doing his best to put on a mask and hide his thoughts about the affair.

7. Father, oh, Father.
Sunday, the 22nd to Tuesday, the 24th of April, 1888

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.”

[Lisa, 19. 08. 2016]

Emma invites Sinéad and Marcus to visit her mentor and Letho’s former brother-in-arms, Everard Hawke, who offered to share his information on the Sabbat raid in 1860 … though what they learn from him doesn’t seem to add up. He points out to them that the purpose of the attack, which only lasted a single night, is still unclear; the Sabbat obviously could not hold London and didn’t intend to lay siege to the city, though since so many of them were sacrificed, some kind of goal must have been behind it all. The targets hit in the raid seem random, with no crucially important Kindred being killed and no follow-up attacks despite the city’s weakened state. Heavy casualties were incurred by the Brujah and a large number of neonates were wiped out during the raid, but this still leaves the question as to the Sabbat’s goal unresolved.

Hawke also points out that the Sheriff vanished without a trace after obsessively investigating the raid and following up on every lead he could find; the fact that he disappeared is less puzzling to him than the fact that nobody found out when exactly it happened, since he was a powerful Gangrel who was hardly ever alone or without some means of communicating with his clanmates through animals nearby. The old crusader marks the locations of the attack on a map drawn by Marcus and answers their questions, though the party leaves him with a feeling that he didn’t say everything he knew or suspected.

The group reunites the next night in Marcus’ mansion, where they brood over the map, trying to find patterns in it and speculating wildly as to the Sabbat’s designs. The places of attack chosen seem perfectly logical, which strikes them as odd, since this implies a tactic straight from a textbook – certainly not something a seasoned strategist would use when attacking one of the strongholds of the Camarilla. Just as their speculation turns toward the Tremere’s participation in the raid and the conclusion emerges that they are missing some piece of information crucial to solving this puzzle, Marcus surprises the ladies by drawing a rose on the corner of the map while in an absent-minded trance. He tells them a story he heard somewhat recently, that a box with a rose just like this one on it was shipped to the city before the Sabbat raid and disappeared without a trace, including all those accompanying it, including a Toreador neonate who had taken interest in it and was killed in the raid. According to Marcus, a different Toreador by the name Henry reported spotting this very box recently. After their discussion resumes for a moment, they agree to investigate this matter further, especially the issue of the mystery box and its contents, and part ways for the night.

Having arranged a meeting prior to this night, Emma travels to the Third Elysium to speak with Molly, another of her clanmates with a striking personality, and they chat amicably for a time. It has been some time since the last official clan meeting, and Molly mentions that Atticus wants to host another one at an unspecificed time during May, in warmer yet still longer nights, and the conversation briefly turns towards Emma’s encounter with the ghostly apparition before they get to business. Emma offers to feature newsworthy stories in her paper that Molly learns about and would like to receive more attention so that justice can be served; they come to an angreement, as Molly promises to pass along interesting tidbits she hears about that she feels need to be brought to the public more directly than they currently are.

It turns out that Molly is participating in the city’s competiton for a new Sheriff, and Emma curiously inquires whether she is making significant progress in her quest to find out what happened to the old Sheriff, interested due to the fact that Letho was friends with the man. While her clanmate doesn’t offer much new information about this, she lets slip that she believes violent crime has dropped off in the city recently – and when Emma digs deeper, asking whether she noticed this drop-off before the raid in 1860 as well, Molly becomes decidedly vague. The impression that she knows more than she lets on doesn’t leave Emma after this meeting, and she decides to take this matter to a reliable private investigator she has had her eye on for some time.

Meanwhile, Sinéad notices that the missing valuables she inquired about with the Nosferatu are being delivered to her home. She leaves her home, where her childe Julian and Blanche seem to get along quite well, to meet up with Shrew. However, things don’t turn out quite as planned, as on her way to the Gangrel’s place, a figure catches her attention … her sire, who seems strangely interested in a house nearby, and sneaks around to its back door. Torn between continuing along to the meeting and finding out what her sire could possibly be up to, Sinéad decides to stop and investigate the matter further. She breaks into the house swiftly and while looking for her sire finds a sleeping girl, with red curls flowing onto her pillow and a doll tightly in her arms that looks to be some kind of warrior or pirate. The sight gives her pause, yet with her sire nowhere in the room, she turns to the window – only to find him down on the street, heading into London. Unwilling to lose his trail, the Ravnos throws caution to the wind and jumps out of the girl’s window, but to no avail. She turns a corner and her sire has disappeared, nowhere to be found. Was this really her sire, here in London, and for what purpose? Or was it a hallucination, a vision like the ones she has been seeing for some time now due to a prank by Marcus gone awry? Doubting herself, Sinéad continues on her way, the event and its potential ramifications still lingering at the back of her mind.

Shrew turns out to be helpful to Sinéad, charting the route of the Tremere party during the Sabbat raid as she can remember it, since she accompanied the Tremere primogen and her group. She also points out that only a few people are left who were part of this group, as the other Tremere have left the city some time ago; they have been replaced with others, of course, but except for Harlow, the Tremere who aided in the capture and killing of Sabbat during the raid are unavailable for questioning about it. With this lead coming up relatively unfruitful for her, Sinéad decides to pursue the other party that had survivors – the Sheriff’s – and arranges a meeting with a Ventrue who accompanied them.

Marcus is paid a visit by Belinda, who comes to request he stay his hand in a matter involving his childe Christopher; the lady claims that he violated her domain, and though the two of them have already reached an angreement about this, she feels that he should still be taught a lesson – non-lethal, as she assures his sire. She makes this request to prevent any further escalation, as she would have to involve her clan elders if Marcus decided to take action himself, which she would like to avoid. As a gesture of goodwill, Belinda offers to share information about Christopher that he himself might not be willing to share, which Marcus dismisses; how deep could this knowledge be, after all? Still, the Ventrue surprises him by describing several rooms of his mansion in great detail just from hearsay alone, and opts to share a comedical story she heard while in India about a Ventrue with golden hair who came to visit his clanmates. Apparently, the poor fellow got caught up in quite the culture shock, as he maneuvred himself into a number of embarrassing situations due to miscommunication; although both he and the locals acted with an open mind and friendly manner, their different cultural expectations culminated in the foreign Ventrue running away from an engagement he had unknowingly entered into, offending everyone else in the process. Belinda claims that this story has several different endings, wherein the Ventrue either flees, accepts his fate, or is haunted by the lady he unwittingly insulted who seeks to restore her honor.

After a short pause to think, Marcus answers in kind by sharing a story about his meeting with a Tzimisce lord whose identity he obfuscates before he switches the topic in an attempt to make small talk. Belinda proves to be somewhat unresponsive to this, so he returns to the subject of his childe with a temporary promise to stay his hand and reserve judgment of the lesson she intends to teach Christopher for a time, though he makes it clear that he would be happy to talk to her clan elders should he feel the punishment for Christopher is disproportionate to the offense. Belinda takes her leave shortly afterwards, though not before recommending Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” which is currently being performed in the city, as she finds the actors performing it at night worthy of praise.

Concerned about the matter thus brought to his attention, Marcus talks with Christopher the next night, who seems barely concerned with Belinda’s claims and barely veiled threats. He shows polite disinterest in the matter, obviously distracted by something entirely different – and beneath his facade, even traumatized by whatever occupies his thoughts.


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