29. Scrutiny.
Deep nonsense with all the sense.

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.

[Lisa, 13. 02. 2018]

Before the start of the circus performance, Emma apologizes to Mithras about her earlier evasiveness to his question, as she isn’t proud of the fact that her mind so easily fell back into the established pattern of rivalry between their clans, though he only seems amused when she brings up Carthage and its fate as an example. According to him, all cities eventually fall to the same squabbles that Carthage did, and he uses the opportunity to criticize her attempts to help mortals, as the last thing they need is Kindred interference. Emma’s charity will be a learning experience for her just as micromanaging a city only to see the endeavor crash and burn has been for him.

The conversation is interrupted for a moment as they take their seats, and Emma tries to lighten the mood by asking Mithras what food he thinks he would be. He turns the question back around to her, and after a moment of consideration she settles for a spicy delicacy. Should she ever find an answer to her question, the Prince asks her to let him know, and Emma wonders aloud if this counts as an invitation. After that, Mithras shares a story of somebody the young Brujah reminded him of: he describes a stoic Brujah, very outspoken about his strong opinion against the practice of siring childer, who met a girl who was very unlike him. Fascinated by her passion, he ghouled her, and in a twist of irony ended up Embracing her, despite his former protests. The childe argued with her sire as she desired siblings to help her in her quest to reshape the world, but when he would not grant her wish, she left him.

As Emma ponders the meaning of this story, Lala enters to open her show, and they turn their attention towards the performance. The majority of it seems to focus on the actors trying to kill each other, as activities like knife-throwing, weapon dancing, captivating fight scenes and the like are on display, all the while a large number of clowns attempt creative murder of each other in the background of the performers. The spectacle is thoroughly captivating, and only after it ends do the two Kindred resume their conversation, agreeing to trade questions with each other.

Mithras’ first question is what Emma would do if she knew someone with a desire to kill her was out and about in the world, and she snorts as she explains this theoretical situation is actually very real, and that she would of course try to kill them first, if only she knew where the person in question was. In return, she wants to know what he misses most in the world, and after a moment of thought the Prince explains that it is the concept of a myth which he feels has been lost in this day and age; he preferred Rome and its mortals to London. Afterwards, Emma has to explain the reason why she still eats mortal food, which he finds rather distasteful, and she says she does so because it reminds her of being human. Mithras then shares the best advice he ever received, a simple order to “get out”, and asks for her opinion on the Camarilla, which Emma sums up as being a good idea in theory, albeit with Kindred being what they are, in practice it is improvable to say the least, though she still finds the sect leagues above the Sabbat. This prompts a short discussion about Gehenna, which Emma views as a matter of little concern to herself, as she argues that even if this apocalypse were to happen in whatever form, she fails to see what she could do to stop it and so doesn’t concern herself with it in an effort to not waste time on things she cannot influence instead of actually achieving results. Her next question is about whom Mithras would call the most interesting person he ever met, and after a moment of thought he settles on his brother, who he says he would advise to seek professional medical advice if he were born today. There is a longer pause in the conversation when he asks what her greatest regret is, and she finally says that it is leaving London the last time she did. At his incredulous reaction, she admits that it is a simplification, as the last time she left Letho died during her absence, and she feels responsible for not being present to at least try and save him. For her last question, Emma asks Mithras if he believes Kindred can change, to which he replies with a yes.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the city, Marcus stumbles upon Chris, who is dressed up for what appears to be an opera and preparing to leave the mansion for the night. He asks if him if his lady is in town, to which Chris gives an evasive reply before his sire asks him how he knows if he likes a lady. When Chris points out that he believes this is the wrong question to ask, Marcus drops the word attraction, and he starts to talk about feeding before Marcus stops him once again, very confused, to attempt to clarify the issue as the question about the difference specifically between friendship and attraction. Chris thinks that he isn’t the best person to ask about this topic, and believes that Kindred friends are closer to better acquaintances or merely people one has known for a long time. According to him, attraction is unnecessary for any form of intimacy, especially since Kindred have no physical impulses anymore, and closes with a claim that desire is the most sincere form of measuring a person. Still unsure, Marcus asks whether there is a boundary for Kindred between friendship and romance, but Chris claims the two are not in any way related. In an attempt to rephrase the question, the Malkavian then wants to know what romantic engagement is, and Chris just replies that it involves romance, and that he finds both mortal and Kindred ideas about it interesting, though his sire disagrees as he dislikes the idea of mutual blood bonds and finds it unnatural. His fretting about being boring is interrupted rather quickly as Chris simply states that what he does is anything but boring, and upon his sire’s insistence he provides him with the address of Esme, who he says is a much better person to talk about this topic with, before both of them split up for the night and head their separate ways towards London.

Their conversation finished for the moment, the two Kindred at the circus visit the leader of the troupe to compliment her on her performance, and Lala uses the opportunity to invite herself to drinks in the city. She mentions her Asian heritage and says that despite Mithras’ complaints there is a lot of variety in her home, though her Chinese performers are eager to return from their travels. With the show behind her, Emma finally indulges her curiosity in petting the most dangerous of the special animals, and through the use of her supernatural speed, she manages to quickly stroke it and get out of its reach before its defense mechanism hits her with full force. Despite her speed, the vapors the little creature produces still utterly bamboozle her senses and cause an elation like no other, immediately boosting her mood through the roof with enjoyment and excitement. Lala beams at the younger Brujah and congratulates her on her success before Mithras escorts her away from the circus, leading both of them to an Irish pub with a party in full swing that provides an excellent opportunity for both of them to feed and dance for the rest of the night. On the way back home, Emma thanks him for the enjoyable evening, though she asks him one last question, wondering aloud whether he has trouble shaving or cutting his hair. Confused by the jumbled explanation the Brujah gives, he has trouble following her, and Emma quickly loses herself in a discussion about hair styling for fighting and a new endeavor to figure out whether one can intimidate one’s enemies with a Celerity hairdo.

With the list of books he extracted from the tome Emma sold him, Marcus enters the British Library, though he quickly finds that every single book he is looking for is missing. His investigation, aided by his clan’s gift for insight, leads him to open a volume on philosophy at random, upon which he is greeted by garbled text that is utter gibberish in a fake language. He decides to look for further clues in the basement storage of the library, where he senses a vague presence as he wanders around looking for a certain tome. Behind him, a diary suddenly falls from a shelf, written by a woman named Hannah with its last entry dating back roughly 15 years, though before he can read it thoroughly a noise as if from wind from the entrance area startles him. Retracing his steps, he finds an envelope on top of a ledger which contains an unfinished letter addressed to a person named Jeremy. The author of the letter describes his intention of taking a holiday by the sea for the improvement of his sanity, and Marcus quickly concludes that he might have been the subject of Kindred pranks.

As neither documents provide any concrete clues, he continues wandering about the enormous basement and stumbles upon a part of a wall which is built from stones that look slightly newer than the rest of the building. Upon closer examination, he concludes that an opening is hidden here, though the lever seems to be inaccessible on the other side of the wall. After knocking politely and asking for help in finding the philosophy section, a heavy book tumbles to the floor behind him as if it had been thrown, though it also provides no further clues. With his frustration ever increasing, Marcus finally snaps and dissolves into mist, slithering through a crack in the previously insurmountable obstacle of the wall in question, only to find the entire philosophy section on the other side, which appears to be in the process of being thoroughly cataloged. He manages to locate the book he is looking for, which turns out to be a volume of Plato that is thicker than it should be.

Unfortunately, when returning to his solid form to take the book, the Malkavian gets stuck in the shelf, and only manages to disentangle himself after assuming the smaller and much more bendable form of a flamingo. With unprecedented grace, he catches his prize in his beak and races off, though not without noting a slack-jawed Nosferatu from the corner of his eye as he pushes open the fake wall. The Nosferatu is no match for his power to disappear in plain sight, though, and he quickly leaves them behind, tutting to a bird that is no longer in their basement.

After such a daring escape back to his mansion, Marcus examines the book in more detail. It turns out to be a historical-mythological collection of Kindred lore, written in Latin, with a large number of general tales, though anything detailed mostly relates to Ventrue. The stories only date back to a time before Carthage, however, thus the contents are restricted to tales of the First, Second and Third city, the Great Deluge, and a commentary which mentions other books as well as the names of Dracon and Constancia the Cappadocian. The author also laments that his attempts to acquire a publication of his own clan’s history, which appears to be that of clan Ventrue, were thwarted since no official version exists, despite a lot of stories being in circulation, as if somebody were purposefully obfuscating the history of the clan.

28. Ahoy, Adventure!
You... disappointing lady, you.

[Lisa, 09. 01. 2018]

During the night of the 7th of August, Emma drops by the second Elysium only to find it completely deserted except for the Keeper and Mithras, who is dressed in what looks like most of a simple, modern suit, with an aura so muted that it is easy to mistake him for a mortal. Clearly intending to take her out for the pre-arranged rendezvous, he asks if she is ready to leave, though Emma asks him how she should address him during the night. He leaves the choice up to her, though he becomes impatient when Emma takes too long to decide on a new name to give him, and links arms with her, calling her darling and pulling her along out of the Elysium. She responds cheerfully with a similar term of endearment and waves to Caroline as they leave.

Mithras explains that he’s taking her to see an old friend of his, but as the walk on foot will take a little while, he leaves the topic of their conversation in the meantime up to her, allowing her to pick between being told a story about family drama, historical drama or war drama. Emma’s choice promptly falls on war drama, and he talks at length about how he first came to England as part of a Roman legion, the Kindred custom of assuming godhood among mortals in the past, and how he talked to a sacred tree, which turned out to be a slightly awkward proposition as his being the god of fire offended the tree in question quite a bit. With a glance towards his companion, he asks her whether she would enjoy being a goddess herself, as she is close enough to Caine to easily take on such a position, and Emma laughs, saying that it might be something she would do if only she had enough time, as being a goddess of war hardly fits into her current schedule. The conversation turns toward Kindred beliefs, in particular the Sabbat’s beliefs related to mortals, and they both scoff at the Sabbat’s claim that the Antediluvians are allegedly evil because they lost their purpose and led their childer astray as a result.

In an attempt to talk about something more pleasant, Emma asks the Prince what he does for fun, and he laughs, saying that everything can be done for fun, and bewildered, the Brujah inquires whether paying taxes could be considered fun in this case. Mithras merely waves her concerns aside, as he claims he doesn’t pay taxes since he is an old man who is retired and has nothing to be taxed, spending his time leisurely. He mentions that he reads Emma’s newspaper, which delights her considerably, and they chat about literature for a while, briefly touching on her great dislike for Dostoyevsky before somehow ending up wondering whether it would be possible for a Malkavian to dementate a Kindred’s Beast directly. Mithras muses that while he might put the idea in someone’s brain to start experimenting on this, his sire would not approve of it, to which Emma promptly suggests that this means he should do it precisely for this reason. Curios, he asks her why she would say such a thing, but Emma evades giving him a straight answer, which seems to disappoint him.

Before long, they reach their destination of a circus and make their way to the performers’ tents to greet its host, a woman dressed overly exotically, whose appearance betrays her immediately as a Gangrel due to the numerous animal features she possesses. She introduces herself as Lala, explaining to Emma that she went to see the world and collect the most interesting things she could find while doing so, among which are also some creatures from a friend in the Carpathians, which she is happy to show the two visitors privately at Emma’s request. These creatures turn out to be the most adorable, cute creations she has seen in her life, and are happy to let her pet them to her heart’s content, though Lala cautions her from getting too close to the smallest one of them, as it is what she calls defensively problematic. Intrigued and feeling a challenge for herself, Emma makes plans to return after seeing the show to try for herself, as neither Mithras nor Lala want to go into great detail as to what the small creature’s exact abilities are, and they leave to let Lala prepare for the show and take a walk around the circus grounds. While her mouth is glued shut due to a delicious candy that Mithras recommended, Emma listens to him telling a story of one of Lala’s adventures, in which she broke into a temple that was restricted to men, only to find it full of traps and quite difficult to break back out of, and she managed to escape only after sustaining quite a few burns.

On the other side of the city, Sinead continues her interviews with performers from the city, and once again a lot of musicians are among those applying, the first interesting of the evening being a choir of sailors singing shanties and other rather impolite songs, followed by a man with a dancing bear, and then an Asian girl with her grandmother playing a strange string instrument while the girl performs a sort of narrative dance, accompanied by English lyrics describing her actions. The next group consists of a man leading some younger and quite drunk fellows who asks Sinead to sign a waiver before they begin, though the reason for their drunkenness becomes apparent when they start dancing with torches and spitting fire. After they are thoroughly doused with water, the stage is taken by a group of Middle Eastern women who begin belly-dancing, though halfway through their performance Sinead realizes that their long veils obscure not just their faces, but also the fact that except for the woman introducing them, none of the performers are female.

The following performer is a man who skillfully constructs scenes and pictures with shadow theatre, and though his face never betrays his intentions, the figures always end up somehow suggestive right up until he reveals the final, entirely innocuous image. He is followed by a man with a table and a suitcase, out of which he builds a small scientific laboratory to accompany his scientifically accurate lesson with practical demonstrations; he explains everything with a kind of honest enthusiasm, and upon further questioning, says that he is a teacher whose dream it is to start a school of his own. As the last act of the evening, Sinead listens to the performance of a man playing a harmonica to accompany his tap-dancing horses, after which she decides that she has seen entirely enough for the night and leaves to drown out the dozens upon dozens of musicians lacking any talent in alcohol.

However, when she arrives at the third Elysium to put this plan into motion, she is dismayed to find it newly remodeled and its bar missing entirely. Her mood doesn’t improve upon finding Miranda giving a lecture on proper time management and how she mastered her inner anger to become a new person, nor does the Keeper’s insistence that Jupiter and Saturn aligning were the cause of the changes provide a sufficiently satisfying explanation. When she voices her opinion that she needs to petition the Prince for a temporary fourth Elysium, Miranda looks offended, though.

With nothing else to do, she makes her way through the place to join the small circle of Kindred passing around a pipe, among whom is a new face, a Nosferatu woman who introduces herself as Ilara. The conversation is relaxed and not very focused, and Miranda uses the opportunity to explain that it is her intent to take her clan back to its roots of philosopher-kings, and even if she doesn’t succeed, she believes she will be richer for having undertaken the journey regardless. Another newcomer joins the group, whom the others address as Mr. Yakamoto, and he wholeheartedly agrees with Miranda’s sentiment, stating that he enjoys the atmosphere of the Elysium and hinting that he may previously have been a Keeper himself. After a few twists and turns, a discussion comes up over whether snakes would eat foxes or the other way around, which swiftly leads to questions of whether snakes have the physical capability to barf, and a listing of animals which definitely do not.

In an attempt to circle around to a more pleasant topic, the Kindred present discuss their travels to other countries, and Bob speaks up, telling a story about a Malkavian he met in Greece about 50 years ago who wanted to create a Malkavian utopia on an island by Embracing all of the mortals present on it, an experiment which according to him lasted about five months before failing. Sinead recognizes the description of this Malkavian as being eerily similar to Ariel, pressing Bob to continue, and he comments that she must have met him in person to have such a strong reaction. He drifts off into a rant on how Kindred aren’t beneficial to mortals and that if the ancients can’t live in harmony with mortals, they should die, only realizing too late that he had been saying more than he originally intended, and promptly redirecting the conversation quite ham-handedly to a less controversial topic.

After verifying with Vilmos that Stepano is not at considerably risk from the actions of the entity possessing him so long as the entity in question is competent, and speculating about whether it would be possible or even a good idea to invite the spirit Virgil he had met while lost in the spirit world to live in his fire place, Marcus approaches the entity and its guardian and offers to allow it to perform the ritual they had interrupted the night prior. Together with Taliah, they return to the ritual chamber and watch as the entity prepares the ritual and the pyre it needs to perform it, into which Stepano’s body unfortunately falls face-first as the entity possessing it leaves the body. Marcus manages to drag him out of the fire in time to save most of his face and hands the now-limp body over to Taliah. He accompanies her to the docks where she intends to take ship and much to his surprise, the owner of the ship she intends to travel on is Meire, who greets him in an overly friendly manner. The two of them make a bit of small talk and Marcus allows Meire to persuade him to buy a fabulous pipe made of rainbow-colored glass from him before the two part ways.

27. The Hunt
Of entertainers, Assamites and madness

Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.

[Lisa, 09. 01. 2018]

Emma spends the night visiting Ophelia in her graveyard, whom she finds decorating a grave. The two women chat amicably about this and that for a while, and the topic of Gabriel comes up inevitably, who unfortunately has been his stubborn self in regards to the love letters that Ophelia wrote him. Disappointed with his lack of a reaction, the Malkavian declares that she is going to look for what she calls quality drama elsewhere, perhaps by searching for the city’s Setites something may come her way. Before leaving to go drowning for the night, though, she asks Emma if she wants her future foretold, which the latter agrees to. Being as vague as the Brujah expected, Ophelia only tells her that both love and war are coming for her, though not from the direction of Mithras, which was Emma’s first guess, and she leaves after passing on Mr. Johnson’s advice of attaching grammar lessons to her charity.

Elsewhere, Marcus is contemplating Chris’ questions about his sister by using his more enlightened means of deduction, though the end result of this attempt only leaves him blinded for the rest of the night. Undeterred, he attempts to let his intuition guide him to an answer, listening to the faint voices he can hear, which unfortunately seem to be speaking only nonsense. A particularly spooky voice, sounding as if the speaker was standing just behind his back, warns him that “He’s watching you”, but all attempts to gain further information come up empty.

After regaining his vision without issue at the start of the next night, he meets with the unlucky Brujah Bill, who explains his stepsister’s predicament that left her entire family dying of various accidents except for one last remaining granddaughter. Marcus wonders if Bill had previously met Anthony, but he only seems confused at the description of the Malkavian and denies it. After drawing a family tree and marking the deaths and their causes on it, Marcus inspects it and tries to find a common link among the deaths, but he only sees a black shadow passing by, like a film being laid over his vision for a brief moment. Even literally mapping out where the various family members died provides little in the way of information, and the Malkavian primogen sends his visitor away without either of them having made progress in the matter at hand.

Back in London, Sinead spends her time interviewing various performers of greatly varying degrees of talent for her new establishment. Among the myriads of singers, a few otherwise talented mortals stick out, like a ventriloquist trying to teach a business class on theatre with a puppet held together with bits of string and hope, or Marvellous Mortimer the Necromancer, whose summoned spirits insult all those present instead of replying to his questions, or the duo of acrobats that juggle and throw a variety of weapons, not just at each other, but also in the direction of the audience. A differently exciting show is performed by a graceful ballet dancer in a partially-transparent dress, and the man calling himself the “Professional Swallower” who sticks all sorts of weapons down his throat without injuring himself draws attention for wholly different reasons, as does the following performer, who sits on a bed of spikes playing a flute to charm a group of snakes into doing all sorts of dances and acrobatics. Upon listening more closely, the Ravnos finds that the snakes are thoroughly enticed by the promise of tasty chickens for their cooperation. The snake charmer’s brother attends as well, though as a hypnotist, and the person he hypnotizes to run around like a chicken on stage promptly attracts the snakes’ attention.

After they are shooed off-stage, a guitarist sits down to play a few very catchy songs in a lively, modern style of music that are accompanied with biting political commentary, the subject of which finds itself mocked on stage immediately afterwards by a ventriloquist with a menagerie of animals who take on the personas of political figures and discuss the issue of raising taxes. Intrigued, Havoc jumps on stage to investigate the animals, and is promptly turned into a member of the group, and afterwards the ventriloquist tries to either buy him from Sinead or hire him for his show. Slightly less exotic is the next duo of singers, who perform various feats on stage like imitations of famous political figures or voice projection around the stage.

The theme of music continues with a whole group of singers from the slums of London performing as an unironic religious choir, who are followed by a man who brings a box on stage that he proceeds to unfold and unfold and unfold, until he steps inside and disappears entirely, not even bothering to stay to hear whether or not he has been hired. The closing performance is given by a group of ladies of various ages sitting down over tea and providing the most vicious gossip about everything and everyone, including Sinead’s fashion sense, before Sinead reties from work for the night.

As arranged beforehand, Sinead meets with Marcus during the next night to go searching for Stepano, but after he explains what happened with the basement and that the Assamite went missing, the two of them are interrupted by Charles, who announces a visitor. The woman in question, who is dressed in foreign-looking clothing with a long veil, turns out to be an Assamite sent to retrieve Stepano’s body and introduces herself as Taliah in rather broken English. Marcus brings her to Sinead, who acts as a translator for her, and the Assamite explains that Stepano woke up when she approached him to take him with her and went “poof” like the clan’s sorcerers do, after which the basement’s ceiling collapsed. Since she couldn’t find him afterwards, she went into the city to befriend some of the locals and learn English, as the fetch mission she was sent on didn’t originally require a knowledge of the local language.

After questioned as to what will happen to Stepano after they find him, she only says that the clan elders will talk to him once he gets better. She also shows them the special chain she has for catching him, which is supposed to entirely prevent him from escaping using supernatural strength, but otherwise seems content to defer to the decisions of Marcus and Sinead, who decide to set up a few Obfuscate traps and summon Stepano. This plan is abandoned after nothing happens despite the summoning, and a few questions directed at Incitatus point them in the right direction, as the horse helpfully explains that Stepano always left in the same direction after his previous visits, which Marcus identifies as being in the direction of his burned-down mansion.

Hunting for tracks reveals that foot prints lead through the rose garden and also towards a large rock that resembles a headstone. Despite having no visible mechanism for lifting it, they find a spot that smells faintly of blood, and after Taliah pours her own blood on it, the rock disappears and reveals a staircase leading downwards. Chains of Arabic writing, translating into protective charms, decorate the walls, though they have been disturbed, and pressing onwards, the group hears cheerful whistling from behind a door left slightly ajar. Stepano’s voice sounds from within the room, asking them to step in, and when they push open the door, it turns out to be an ideal circle full of candles, with diagrams and pentacles painted onto the walls and floor. Marcus recognizes some of the occult symbols as being related to the astral realm, and establishes a telepathic connection to Stepano, who is working on chalk drawings. He finds that Stepano’s mind is torpored inside his body and inaccessible, though there is a different conscience controlling his body which feels strange, though not immediately hostile.

The entity cheerfully explains that it is borrowing Stepano’s body to do some unnamed things since it is lacking a body of its own, but it offers to talk with the group instead of turning hostile. Apparently, it made a deal for this body with what it calls a being of a different plane, and it plans to use Stepano to send its own conscience back through the astral plane to return to its own body. The entity seems confused and has almost no memories of who or what it is, though there is neither untruth nor hostility in its words. Still, Taliah attempts to capture it, and though her first attempt fails, with the help of Marcus and Sinead she manages to restrain Stepano with the chain she has at her disposal. Further questioning only reveals that the entity used Stepano’s knowledge to build a road through the astral plane back to its body, and that it doesn’t intend to harm its host as it isn’t necessary, and it tries to plead with them to just let it finish its ritual.

During their journey back to Marcus’ mansion, the Malkavian haggles with Taliah for a few nights of time so he can investigate the entity further and see if he can help it. Taliah seems reluctant and asks for his word of honor that she can leave with Stepano in three nights, but Marcus only promises to hand him over if he can’t at all remove the entity from his mind; otherwise, he admits that he wants to try and remove the spirit from his body. Without commenting on the conditions he puts on his offer, the Assamite agrees that she will take Stepano back in three nights’ time. Back at the mansion, she also requests that she be allowed to stay guard over Stepano’s body in the meantime, which Marcus acquiesces to before leaving her to her duty and making contact with one of the spirit experts he is acquainted with.

26. Rose (II)
Love. (And?) Madness.

[Lisa, 09. 12. 2017]

Curios as to the reaction to the love letters she helped print, Emma visits the second Elysium to hopefully hear some gossip going around. Instead, she finds a blonde woman sitting at the Elysium’s bar, a huge tankard in front of her and quite distressed about something that she claims is her fault. After introducing herself as Cassandra, she explains that her sire visited her unexpectedly, and she took him to the third Elysium so he could enjoy himself a bit, in the hopes of lifting his mood and showing him that social interaction can turn out fine. Unfortunately, it turned out everything but fine, as he left a lot of people behind that he tried to help after his visit, which turned out differently than she had hoped. Close to tears, she laments that she is sure Miranda will blame her for bringing her sire along or all of clan Malkavian as a result of what happened, and shortly afterwards starts crying.
Emma spends some time doing her best to console her, and tries to steer the conversation towards a different topic, asking about other recent events, but Cassandra seems stuck in a melancholic mood. She complains that she spends a lot of time at court and hates every second of it, and that she finds the Prince quite boring, who throws her quite literally out of windows with high frequency in what seems to be an attempt at teaching her Fortitude. As a last attempt to salvage the conversation, Emma brings up Gabriel and asks whether Cassandra has seen him recently, and she mentions he has been skulking around with a shovel.
As the other Kindred seems inconsolable for the time being, Emma offers to talk with Miranda again to make sure everything is fine after her meeting with Cassandra’s sire, and urges her to talk to Marcus for help, as it is his job as primogen to assist his clan members, as she puts it. This seems to improve her companion’s mood at least somewhat, and the Brujah leaves for the third Elysium afterwards.

Outside the city limits, Marcus visits the Gangrel primogen with Incitatus. While his horse has a brief kerfuffle with Wolfie, the two elders share stories about Florence and the gossip of Anthony’s frequent mishaps, who made an appearance in the city recently. As Incitatus returns to hide behind Lilian, his master asks her to translate some questions to his horse, mainly related to the military drills he has been running with the whole stable of horses. After listening for a moment, the Gangrel recommends that Marcus find a way to speed his horse’s passing to horse heaven, as she thinks the horse more mad than him for claiming to build a funeral pyre on the orders of a literally heartless man roaming his property. Incitatus describes the man as both majestic and wise, though he left the property recently and only returned once to give instructions to him. Marcus, via translation, instructs his horse to tell the man to come and see him in exchange for more soldiers for Incitatus. They also briefly discuss a business opportunity, as Marcus proposes he train one of his current soldiers to find wives for other men.
After this brief interlude, Lilian asks if Marcus had any visitors recently; when he answers to the negative, she muses that the person in question is probably still mustering her courage and that he shouldn’t look for her unless he wanted to give her a heart attack.. She also mentions Finch, who has been both remarkably quiet and remarkably absent recently, as both messengers she sent out were unable to locate him. It might have something to do with his family visiting him, and in conjunction with rumors that messages or orders could be echoed down a bloodline, Marcus appears slightly worried as he had wanted to speak with Finch. Yet when he offers his help, Lilian instead asks him to investigate one of his factories, which she says has been cutting down her forest recently, to which he readily agrees.

After arriving at the location of the third Elysium, Emma notices immediately that things have changed: not only is there a container promising fresh water for free outside the place, but when she enters, the tavern seems to have been remodeled quite a bit. The smell of fresh pine wood mingles with that of food, and she sees a number of mortals drinking tea and eating what appears to be a late dinner. Confused, she searches for Miranda and finds her standing behind the counter, which is much smaller, and the Keeper herself is dressed quite differently as well, sporting a very modern and fashionable oriental dress. Emma is quite obviously too late to intervene on Cassandra’s behalf, yet she still makes a meek attempt that is quickly shot down by Miranda, who explains that she talked with Atticus about her new experiment and that she will open a second, proper tavern so people can decide themselves which place they would prefer, and the Elysium can be moved accordingly.
Veering between slightly amused to see where everything goes and dismayed at the fact that the place looks like it was financed by Belinda, Emma listens to Miranda’s explanations of her reasoning and how excited her clanmate is to have found a Scottish guru to dispense wisdom and philosophy in the new meditation room, where a certain white powder sold by Atticus which Emma remembers from the Brujah clan meeting and various other substances are mellowing the visiting mortals. She also extends an invitation to what she calls a girls-only party for a friendship ritual of ghost summoning, though she quickly confirms that it is merely for entertainment and not to actually summon any ghosts.

The two of them share some gossip about the Malkavians experimenting with non-alcoholic beer, houses full of death courtesy of Jukka, and are drawn into a philosophical discussion about the merits of Presence versus being able to punch people and how their younger clanmates tend to specialize in one or the other, all while Emma is stuffing herself with shepherd’s pie from the newly opened kitchen in the building and only interrupted from a musical performance in the meditation room that involved the most Scottish of instruments.
Marcus, who had a meeting with Emma planned for the same night, arrives at the Elysium shortly afterwards and joins both women at the bar, slightly bewildered by the new interior of the place. While finishing her piece of pie, Emma fills the Malkavian in on the recent gossip about Cassandra’s sire and how Miranda had a revelation when talking to him. She is only too happy to explain her new business again, and after a while, Marcus suggests partaking of this wisdom that the new guru dispenses.
The meditation room is covered in fabric, pillows, dazed mortals, and smoke, in the middle of which a Scotsman sits, swapping stories with one of the sailors lounging around. He offers the newcomers a glass pipe, and Marcus accepts easily while Emma declines the offer, instead trying to talk philosophy with the man. However, what he understands as philosophy turns out to be quite different from the Brujah’s understanding of the word, and they merely swap stories for a while until she loses interest. The Malkavian, on the other hand, zones out quite happily among the pillows and uses the opportunity to gain insight from his clan discipline, which grants him a vision among the smoke, a vision of a serpent jumping into the Mediterranean sea, and somehow, Italy seems to stick out prominently.
However, this vision is rudely interrupted when Emma throws a pillow into his dreamy face, though she pretends to be entirely innocent. Startled out of his trance, the Malkavian immediately makes his way to Miranda to tell her in detail how amazed he is by his experience and purchases both a glass pipe and some of the herbs which she claims hasten sleep and don’t result in headaches the next morning. After this, Emma drags him off almost literally for the original plans of the night, which were the investigation of the list of houses with secret entrances provided by Molly.

After physically investigating a few houses and finding only suspiciously tidy rooms, Marcus tries to use his Malkavian insight to figure out why somebody would send Emma on such a wild goose chase. He is left with an impression of walking through a long corridor against a strong resistance preventing him from progressing, and realizes that he is metaphorically travelling back in time to the moment the room they are currently in was cleaned, which was before Emma received the strange story in the first place. It seems that someone pointed out places that are somehow connected, though it is not a connection to murder like in the story itself, and this is only the start of a path somebody intends Emma to walk.
In an attempt to look at the big picture more literally, both Kindred mark the locations of the houses on a map of London. None of the houses’ neighborhoods are slums, nor are they close to the Prince’s domain or in the vicinity of the Chantry, which is the only obvious correlation they can see. As more information likely won’t be forthcoming for some time, the matter is put to rest for now, though Emma decides to reach out to the agencies selling the houses to inquire about the prices, in the hopes of either gaining more information or something odd happening.

Marcus returns to his mansion to pass on the sleeping drug to a serving girl with instructions to hand it to Norton before calling for Charles, whom he asks to fetch his tools for preserving books. He explains that he suspects something to be hidden inside the book he bought from Emma and takes it apart carefully, only to find a small piece of paper inside the cover with writing he cannot make sense of. He is still puzzling over it when Christopher arrives, who takes a look at the alleged riddle and promptly reveals it to be a list from the catalogue of the British Museum’s library.
However, Chris quickly turns the conversation towards the topic of his sister, whom he has been pondering over. He wonders whether the person he saw is really his sister or a lookalike, since as far as he knows, his mortal sister lived to become a quite old grandmother and died a mortal death, whereas the Kindred he saw was much younger in appearance. He wants to close this chapter of his mortal life and move on, but to do so he has to know one way or another, and he asks Marcus if he could give him this answer. All the possible avenues of figuring out the answer that Marcus proposes get shot down by him, though, and when the Malkavian explains that his insight is not so straightforward as to provide a yes or a no to his question, Chris seems frustrated.
Marcus turns the conversation towards a different topic and advises Chris to avoid Lady Anne if possible, as he believes he stepped on her toes, whereas Chris mentions his writer friend planning a visit before the end of the month. He also talked her into a little prank involving Emma’s newspaper, and she submitted one of the two stories that caused the Brujah to start digging around for their source. When he hears that Emma came to Marcus for help with the matter, Chris offers to ask her if she knows who sent the second story, though he seems unconcerned about the houses and their secret rooms.
Marcus also informs him about the heartless Stepano wandering about the mansion and the dark-skinned woman with broken English looking for him, to which he only replies that he’ll start carrying around a sword or two just in case, and that the funeral pyre may not be a bad idea after all. Still, he says he will try to subdue Stepano before killing him, though he makes no promises if he turns out to be hostile.

While on her way to her charity, Emma has to return a purse stolen by her squirrel Amber, and when she arrives a little later than planned, she finds people arguing with her personnel. She shoos them off with some coins and listens to her manager’s complaints and suggestions before Father Lambert arrives for their meeting- The two of them brainstorm ideas for improving the efficiency of the charity before retiring to a nearby park for a private chat. As she struggles to find words to open up, Lambert observes Amber climbing up a nearby tree and mentions that he had a chat with Hawke about his squirrels stealing things and later on people, and that he thinks keeping animals as ghouls is both cruel and unnecessary.
Amongst some stops and stuttering, Emma talks briefly about her mortal life, fiddling around with her wedding ring all the while, and explains why she keeps it before starting to share her more personal beliefs. Lambert comments that he admired her sire for being a philosopher with ideals the likes of which her clan used to be famous for and which he misses. He talks at length about Carthage, the history behind the city, and the equilibrium in the mortal sphere that had been achieved in it, only to come back around to current times: while the work in London may seem an endless and daunting task, this is precisely why projects like Emma’s charity are needed, and he explains that the goal is not to fix the world but rather to make the world believe it can be fixed, as this is what gives people hope.
Still, despite her work being important, Emma wonders aloud if what she does is enough and not merely a drop in the ocean. Lambert tries to shift her perspective to seeing her task as inspiring mortals to her work so they themselves can continue and expand it, which is the only way it can be made to last; her task is to provide the bare-bones structure and hope, a foundation on which mortals can build, though she disagrees when they veer into the territory of souls and the saving thereof. The Brujah doesn’t care about souls, citing Florence as an example of exactly what she doesn’t want to do, and instead insists that her aim is to lessen the more tangible suffering of the still living in the city.
In the end, they don’t come to any agreement in their philosophical discussion, though Emma is neither unsure about her purpose nor does she flinch back from continuing the daunting task she set for herself.

25. Rose
Of Damned Souls. And hearts.

“If I say your voice is an amber waterfall in which I yearn to burn each day, if you eat my mouth like a mystical rose with powers of healing and damnation, If I confess that your body is the only civilization I long to experience… would it mean that we are close to knowing something about love?”

[Lisa, 2. 12. 2017]

During the hot summer nights, Marcus continues his endeavor of paying visits to the other members of the primogen council by arranging for a meeting with Atticus, which is held in the first Elysium. The two gentlemen chat amicably about the newest fashion trends for a while; Atticus complains that most changes only affect female fashion and are thus boring to him, and Marcus offers to pass the challenge of incorporating the trends into male fashion to his tailor. The Brujah declines, stating that he wasn’t going to have his clanmates run around saying he was dressed by the Malkavian primogen. The conversation turns towards the Brujah party and the respective elders’ clan members. When the two eventually run out of small talk, Atticus inquires as to the purpose of the meeting, and Marcus reassures him that it is solely for the purpose of introduction and promoting future cooperation among council members.
After a short lull in conversation, Atticus brings up a young, dark skinned stranger who had been inquiring about Marcus’ house a while ago. He describes her as a bit of a ditz, with a south-eastern heritage. Marcus claims he hasn’t seen her yet, though according to Atticus she is still in the city. Taking the opportunity, the Malkavian asks whether he has seen a different visitor to the city, a raven-haired woman, and the other primogen replies that while he doesn’t know her, he suspects she must have been looking for her mistress, a Ventrue named Morrigan. The conversation turns back towards more ordinary matters as Atticus expresses interest in buying one of Marcus’ horses should he ever plan to train them for fetching prey like Incitatus is doing for him now, and after a bit more chitchat the two of them part ways.

Emma spends her evening in the third Elysium where she meets Florence, whom Molly seems eager to get away from for some reason. It turns out that the neonate is questioning others regarding the afterlife, as she claims to have had an encounter with a “damned soul”, as she puts it, which prompts Emma to take her to the bar to buy her a drink and hear the whole story.
The spirit that Florence met claimed to be eternally damned, and she is quick to confirm that while she did indeed have this meeting in Sinead’s house, which seems to be quite thoroughly haunted, it is not the same Banshee-like spirit that Emma met while out and about in London earlier during the year. Florence claims that despite a suspicious lack of details from the spirit and people disappearing in the house, allegedly eaten by it or its supernatural residents, the damned soul should be helped and set free so it can cease murdering mortals. She expresses disappointment that Fabio was not interested in helping her un-damn the trapped souls, and since nobody else provided her with information, she is now gathering signatures for a petition to the Prince in hopes of convincing him to assist her. Highly amused and only slightly worried, Emma freely agrees to put her name on the list as well, and the conversation turns towards the other neonate making news, a Toreador who started writing about Kindred history and was promptly put under house arrest by his primogen.
Florence also points out that a curious number of Kindred have been extremely sad recently, though Miranda chimes in, saying that this is probably because they have been asked to pay taxes. Florence mentions that Miranda has plans to stop selling alcohol in her tavern, and after some prompting from Emma, the Elysium Keeper explains that she thinks alcoholism is increasingly problematic for the people of the city. As she doesn’t quite believe her ears, Emma tries to logically explain that Miranda cannot run a tavern without selling alcohol, and asks her how she got that idea in the first place. Miranda weakly defends herself by saying she heard a sad story about a family being torn apart by alcoholism, but after being pressed, she admits that the person who told her that story was a charming, nice Kindred, whose name she cannot remember, nor his appearance, only that he was in the city to visit his daughter. Emma tries to convince her that whoever this was, the whole thing is very shady, but all she achieves is that Miranda becomes increasingly confused.

Later that night, Sinead comes across Florence in the second Elysium where she is gathering signatures as well, and she promptly takes her to one of the private rooms upstairs to talk with her, surprised that she is even still alive. Florence takes the opportunity to thank her as allowing her access to her house made her a hero in her mind, since she will be the reason the neonate got started down her path, and while Sinead starts pacing around the room irritably, the young Kindred admits to her confusion at the elder’s unhappiness. Sinead asks her point-blank if Florence really wants to die, to which she just cheerfully replies that the spirits already tried to kill her and were unsuccessful. The Ravnos is having none of her talk, however, and brings up the matter of the demon in the city in an attempt to give her a lesson, and Florence accuses her of never being young and not understanding why telling her to just listen to her advice and not doing something doesn’t work.
In the end, Sinead presents Florence with a choice between either dropping the investigation entirely or being given time to think about it thoroughly, a thinly veiled threat that doesn’t have the effect she hoped for. She warns her not to let word get out of what they talked about as gossip is already going around, but when Florence expresses her wish to help and her disbelief that there really is nothing she can do in that regard, the elder finally has enough and tells her in no uncertain terms to drop the matter or else. Florence agrees halfheartedly and unhappily, and the two of them part ways.

Meanwhile, plastered on the walls all throughout the city and in every daily newspaper, a love letter appears and begins to cause some gossip. For now, only Ophelia and Emma are aware of the fact that thousands of copies of this very same love letter have made their way to Fabio as well, and his reaction to this gift is still unknown.

The next night, Marcus sits down with Norton over tea and scones to talk, and tries to convince him once again to get in contact with his family; he also arranges for a serving girl to overhear their conversation in case he would accept the offer coming from her more readily. However, Norton continues to decline and explains that he is officially dead in the city and that he has no family left, nor would anyone believe he was still alive regardless. The conversation stalls for a while until Norton mentions having read an article about a man with paranoia who was calmed down by talking about his childhood, and he admits that he tried to visualize the river, an important part of his own childhood, in an attempt to calm himself down, albeit unsuccessfully. Marcus proposes going for a walk near the Thames, but Norton declines, stating that he never wants to go back to the city and is too exhausted for an excursion anyway. Curios, the Malkavian examines his aura and finds it mostly muted, with the only major emotions being love and hatred, which are strongly intertwined among minor patches of a feeling most closely resembling annoyance.
The conversation circles back to Marcus’ earlier offer, who explains that he wanted to give him money in case anybody depended on him, and Norton proposes giving it to charity as well as a couple he calls the Smiths, for their garden, as he puts it. He also asks for a thick book, not really caring about which one, and settles on the Bible as the easiest example. Not wanting to bother him further, Marcus excuses himself and promises to arrange for both the monetary donations as well as the book to be brought to him.
On his way through the mansion, he finds two servants giggling to each other about Incitatus, who is running what appears to be a military drill outside among the other horses. The servants readily explain that all of the horses have been bringing flowers and piling them in the garden, as if trying to get the other servants to plant them, which they find amusing.
After observing the procession for a moment, Marcus calls the serving girl who overheard his conversation with Norton into his office to talk with her about the man. Milly, the maid in question, tells him that Norton doesn’t seem to sleep or eat properly, and that he asked her how she could work for a monster, a question she shrugged off easily. Suspicious of her easygoing demeanor, Marcus probes her to see if she is hiding anything, and the girl merely blushes and tells him that he has pretty eyes. Before he sends her away, the Malkavian asks her to keep an eye on Norton and let him know in case anything extraordinary were to happen.

Outside the city, Emma pays Hawke a visit, and notices a new plaque on his door, ‘Salesmen Will Be Eaten’. Amused, she makes her way around the house to the garden where she finds him digging a ditch. She offers to help, but as he is almost finished anyway, he just shrugs and explains that he wants to experiment with a new material called concrete; once the ditch is deep enough, he plans to fill it with some Sabbat and see if they can break through the concrete on their own. Even if they can’t, he still thinks a private stash of Sabbat might come in handy some time, whether for amusement or practice for firearms, the latter of which he intends to experiment with as well, as they would make hunting more difficult and thus more fun, and he feels he needs to keep with the times.
Emma asks him if Florence already paid a visit, and he confirms that he signed the list in exchange for a funny hat, which he is hoping she will bring by soon, since he would have to kill her otherwise. Not really impressed by the threat, Emma turns the conversation back to firearms and expresses doubt at their efficiency, but accepts his offer of practicing with him in the future, as she admits to not knowing how to use them herself. The elder also mentions his plans of going for a vacation to Africa to see some ‘real’ elephants, as he considers the one in the Ventrue zoo cheap fakes, or to India which is a great vacation spot for killing nasty things like Assamites, Ventrue, or Ravnos, as he puts it. With so many people coming to visit him these days, he feels a break from all the social interaction would benefit him.
As the conversation comes to a lull, he offers another practice match, and Emma gladly accepts, though he comments she does more poorly than he had expected of her by now. Her mood doesn’t have time to sour, though, as she notices her newspaper lying around nearby, and Hawke freely admits he loves reading it because of the ghost stories she prints. A recently printed story about aliens in particular struck him, and he wonders idly what kind of monsters could be found on the moon, and whether it would be worth it to send a Tremere up to check if they’d make for good hunting. Before she returns to the city, Hawke also offers Emma to tell her some stories for the paper himself, an offer she is happy to accept.

Further away from London, near the sea, Sinead arrives at Montgomery’s mansion for a meeting, and finds the primogen in a peculiar mood. He seems slightly tipsy, and when she inspects the refreshments offered to her, she notices that the blood is both still warm and slightly alcoholic. After exchanging some pleasantries, Montgomery mentions Florence and her petition towards the Prince, and claims he had no idea it was about Sinead’s haven until she brought it up. He also refuses to take any responsibility for her actions, shrugging the matter off quite nonchalantly. Sinead directs the conversation towards Henry and his questionnaire about Kindred history, which piqued her interest, and the primogen reassures her that the matter has been dealt with already. It appears that the neonate had been inspired by a Malkavian, who is an old friend of his, and that he will talk with Marcus about the matter and has already written to the offending Kindred in question.
When Sinead expresses interest in taking Henry under her protection for some time, Montgomery immediately dismisses her since according to him, the Toreador of the city have decided to give him absolute authority over them, which puts the decision what to do with Henry in his hands. If she decided to interfere with his clan members regardless, he could make no promises for her, a barely veiled threat in his words. Seeing as she won’t have success with the primogen and he doesn’t seem to be in the mood for chatting either, Sinead takes her leave shortly afterwards, heading back to the city to send some rats to the hospital in which Bill’s niece is being treated. However, the rats refuse as they are forbidden from entering the hospital. Unsure of why, the Ravnos leaves to figure it out in person.
It turns out that the hospital in question is under the care of Stanley, whom Sinead finds assembling skeletons for teaching purposes. Stan explains that Atticus asked him to take in Bill’s niece and keep an eye on her, but he doubts anything occult is involved in the Brujah’s streak of bad luck. Since his family seems to be comprised exclusively of ordinary people and Bill isn’t local, with neither friends nor enemies in the city, there is no obvious reason for a supernatural entity to meddle. He suggested that Bill ask Molly for help and to launch an investigation with the police, as there is little he can do himself, though setting a trap would also be an option, albeit a much more dangerous one.
Sinead asks the doctor to notify her in case anything happened to the girl, as she intends to investigate the matter herself, and has a short talk with Bill himself to ask him for permission to go through his family’s personal belongings in case any hints could be found. He grants her permission almost without a second thought, but stays with his niece to watch over her in the most literal of senses.

After finally having asked around for directions, Emma decides that the time has come for her to pay a visit to the Gangrel in their forest. She makes her way through the fake ruins from the Romanticism era that she was told the Gangrel use for their own purposes now, all the while being pelted with walnuts by other squirrels who are trying to provoke Amber, who accompanies her and angrily chirps back at them. After following the menhirs throughout the forest for a while she notices a huge shape passing ahead of her, weaving through the trees and obviously following her.
At the end of the path, the shape turns out to be a huge wolf, growling at her and getting ready for a jump; while she is wary, her squirrel answers its growls with chirps of her own, and Emma quickly manages to duck out of the way before getting pounced. With her supernatural speed coming in handy, she manages to outrun the beast and slows down when she hears it puffing behind her and finds herself at a pond full of lilies, next to which the Gangrel primogen sits and observes them. Lillian comments that Wolfie is getting too fat to be able to keep up, and Emma makes her way over to talk while the wolf settles down to catch its breath.
However, the first thing that Lilian comments on is Amber’s foul language, causing Emma to defend herself weakly that she is sure she didn’t teach her any swearwords. It turns out that Lilian knows of Hawke’s pets, as she made a bet with the elder Brujah that he couldn’t turn them into killer squirrels, though she seems surprised that he kept them around after winning it. She muses that the old man seems more sentimental than he lets on, which Emma laughs at and agrees with easily.
The conversation turns towards a new visitor in the city, an Assamite woman who seemed to have plans for her visit but little knowledge of how British society operated, nor did she know enough English to do much in London. The Gangrel gave her some language lessons, but she doesn’t give more information regarding the newcomer and changes topics towards Letho, who Lilian says she knew as he went drinking with her own sire often and both of them hunted vikings together. While they are discussing sires, she also mentions that Henry’s sire was diablerized in France, and that Atticus’ sire was offered the position of Brujah primogen first, but turned it down due to the large number of Ventrue in the city. When Atticus accepted it in his stead, however, his sire disowned him for it.
After a short, shocked lull, the conversation quickly moves on to the city’s pollution, however, and they both commiserate over the fact that not enough is being done to change it. Lilian mentions she asked several oracles outside of the city if the problem would get better in the future, who confirmed it, but she doesn’t seem very reassured by that fact.
When they brush on the topic of the recent Brujah party, the primogen mentions that her clan meets monthly under the new moon, a tradition they imported from the new world, which seemed a very promising place but nowadays is full of Ventrue and Sabbat, and has been thoroughly tainted by the both of them. For the next meeting, however, they plan to have a guest since Lilian invited Florence, both to give her a chance to gather signatures for her petition and to expand her horizon. She also wants to give her a chance to talk to the local guardian spirit, which might turn out interesting. Suspecting that the primogen knows something about spirits, Emma mentions her encounter with the banshee, and Lilian explains that it is an omen of death, though it was not necessarily an omen for Emma. Regardless, the Brujah may want to keep an eye out in case she meets it again, as multiple meetings with a banshee are cause for suspicion.

24. Sunflowers

I stand tall
As gracious as one could be
Blooming to my best
As slender as it touches my being
Everyone else is facing the sun
Bending towards its unfathomable galore
They and I are both undoubtedly
Grown on the benevolence of life’s essence
The brighter side mercilessly feeding desires unbound
By daunting the “courage to know” with each spin
Though, I am not able to face the sun the way they do
Yet, I learn from the knowledge bred within me
Beyond achievement markers, but an adverse ability
An opportunity to exercise my special self
From the cherubic attire of my blessed soul
To the unfathomable mystery the drape of this world hides
That I, by not facing the sun
Hunt the gems in the milieu of the human existence

[Lisa, 19. 11. 2017]

Before leaving London to travel for a few weeks, Sinead seeks out Florence to talk with her about a proposal she has. She finds the performer in a tavern surrounded by men after one of her shows, and the crowd immediately welcomes her with attempts at flirtation that soon devolve into complaints about the French, the source of all evil. Florence, who had been watching with some interest, chimes in that she is French but actually agrees with all of the complaints before she takes Sinead into a more private storage room upstairs to talk.
The Ravnos mentions her upcoming trip and Florence immediately asks cheerfully if she needs a house-sitter for her haunted mansion; the neonate seems quite excited at the thought and mentions that she actually tried to get her own house infested by demons to no avail. When Sinead declines this offer, Florence says that she would prefer not to take care of Havoc, if this is the favor asked of her, as he didn’t just bite her previously but actually laughed at her when she tried to explain why he shouldn’t do this again. Once more Sinead declines and lays out the proposal she has: as she newly acquired an establishment in the city, she is looking for someone to take care of the artistic side of her project. She explains that she feels out of touch with modern music and art, as her taste still lies in bygone eras, and is thus looking for a long-term partnership to make sure the establishment flourishes.
At first unhappy about the ambiguous terms laid out, Florence points out that she would happily perform once or twice, but has no interest in doing any work behind the scenes. She demands something interesting as compensation and rejects money, exposure and favors, as she would prefer something that is not an object but rather a trigger. When Sinead has trouble finding suitable recompense, the young Kindred impatiently tells her that her offer is not satisfying but that she could find a mortal replacement if all she needed was a manager, though she would take no responsibilities for this person’s work performance.
Sinead then offers a special kind of gift that can’t be gotten anywhere else in the form of lessons in her clan’s specialty discipline under the condition that Florence ensures both her establishment and the time spent in lessons be interesting, though this too falls on deaf ears. The neonate explains that not only is this too ambiguous an offer from an elder for her taste, but also seems like a waste of both their times, not to mention a bad business practice. Hearing that Florence would rather make a deal with a devil than with an elder, Sinead warned her that she might let that one slip, because the neonate obviously does not know what she is talking about. With her patience thinning rapidly and Florence refusing to back down, Sinead finally gives Florence permission to visit her demonically haunted home, something the young Kindred gleefully and seemingly naively accepts.

In a different part of London, Emma has a meeting with one of her newspaper’s editors who shows her the latest offers of publication, most of which were sent in by readers describing their own “supernatural” encounters with all sorts of creatures, most of which are ghosts. As her paper has quickly taken on a reputation for publishing all sorts of highly entertaining supernatural stories, informally even called the “Quarterly Ghost” and other nicknames, her accountant already proposed riding this wave of enthusiasm by expanding the business into spinoffs like cafes, museums and other such establishments, which the Brujah has so far declined to act upon.
However, tonight one story sticks out from the rest like a sore thumb, as it is so impeccably well-written and highly disturbing that Emma immediately recognizes it as the work of a professional writer, unlike the average reader who sends in their stories. The story centers around dead people who aren’t aware of the fact that they are deceased, and is written much more like a mystery than the usual formula for ghost stories; the naively written narrator drops hints that the story itself is also set in London, though by the end of the typewritten piece the mystery remains unresolved. Her curiosity piqued, Emma inquires with her editor whether there are any other pieces like this one, and he produces a second typewritten piece that is even more disturbing than the first. He explains that he knew it wasn’t something they could publish due to the content, which is why he didn’t bring it to her attention until now, half a week after it arrived.
This second story is unmistakably set in London, as the author gives several London addresses in the piece, which describes a series of murders with detailed information as to where the bodies were hidden. Once again, the style is markedly more professional than the usual letters the paper receives, and though written on a different typewriter and with a noticeably different style of prose, Emma has the impression that both were sent by the same person. Neither of the stories came with a return address or even a note attached, and after telling her editor that she wants to be informed of anything unusual received via mail, even if it doesn’t seem noteworthy to him or can’t be published, she sets out to investigate. When she comes to the first address, she finds a small home which is put up for sale. She breaks in quietly, taking a look around the ground floor, and notices that there is neither dust nor a feeling of abandonment usually associated with empty homes. In fact, she finds food in the kitchen, including a cake, that would easily spoil if left for too long, yet seems fresh. With an uneasy feeling and a weapon in hand, she searches the basement where a body is supposedly bricked into one of the walls, and finds a hollow wall in the pantry. Before tearing it down, she decides to check the other rooms, and notices the sound of people breathing in their sleep when peeking into a bedroom.
As tearing down a brick wall would undoubtedly create enough noise to cause a commotion and she went without anybody to watch her back, she decides to leave the building instead and heads straight for the police headquarters to find Molly and ask for her help in investigating the case.
While the Sheriff agrees to send the police, she returns with curios news: none of the houses had any bodies buried at the locations mentioned in the story, though it turns out that all of them had secret entrances and were up for sale currently. In addition to that, when Molly tried to buy one of the houses immediately, the agent she contacted stalled for time as he refused to hand over the key no matter how much money was offered, and only return a day later with a price for the place. Molly concludes by agreeing that she finds this odd, she proposes that it is the Prince’s way of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for Emma to follow to their date. At this, Emma only huffs and loudly proclaims that she finds this sort of foreplay very tiresome and recommends His Highness to acquire a better sense of romance or humor, as she doesn’t particularly take any pleasure in being led on a wild goose-chase for dead bodies as a prelude to a date. With no juicy details to share yet, Emma steers the conversation towards Ophelia’s attempts at getting a date for herself as well, and while she doesn’t reveal what exactly is going to happen, she promises that Molly won’t be able to miss it and that it will be highly entertaining.

The cave-in scheduled by Christopher for the express purpose of sealing off the part of the basement where Stepano was kept reveals a surprising twist, as once the debris is cleared there is no hint of the Assamite’s body, his clothing, or even his coffin. It seems that he has vanished entirely. Marcus, highly disturbed by this turn of events, tries to speed up digging through the cleared debris for any sign of Stepano by using his Malkavian insight to figure out where in the pile of trash he could find any clues. However, his insight only provides the enlightening feeling that the trash pile itself pleases him. Not quite as happy by this new appreciation for trash as one would think, Marcus spots a shattered, black volcanic stone in the trash which definitely hadn’t been there before. Unsure what to make of that, he takes it to Christopher, who recognizes it as one of his own stones, though it shouldn’t have been in this part of the basement and appears to be shattered quite unnaturally. Christopher mentions that obsidian wouldn’t have been necessary to stake Stepano due to his lack of a heart, so he is unsure what to make of its appearance there.
Unable to find any answers, Marcus leaves for the time being to a meeting with Lady Anne. She assumes Marcus is here about acquiring the “special” property, but at his surprise, she explains that a town outside of London with a sizable domain attached to it is currently on offer. As the Seneschal points out, purchasing a sizable chunk of property in a certain district of the city would also come with similar responsibilities as this property, and she hints that she is aware why Marcus is purchasing land erratically all over the city. A subtle hint of annoyance in her demeanor piques the Malkavian’s interest, though, and he once more turns to his clan insight to understand the reason for it. He is rewarded with a vision of misty pools in the midst of a not-space, not unlike a source of light, which consolidates into ice. Cracks begin to appear on it, which turns black, and the ice starts pulsating.
As quickly as the vision came it fades as well, leaving him to try and downplay his short loss of attention. The conversation turns towards the city, as Anne explains that the Tremere have failed totally in their duties of protecting the city during the recent incident with the Sabbat and its demonic assistance, and their lease of stay has been renegotiated, though the Prince hasn’t yet revoked their right to stay in the city. Marcus brings up the topic of Setites, and Anne dryly informs him that in the past century, clan Malkavian has reported 147 sightings of Setites, none of which have been confirmed. Thinking aloud, the primogen proposes a hostile takeover of the antiquities market that the Setites find very attractive to get rid of them before asking Anne what she is annoyed about. She deflects the question, though Marcus is left with a bad Auspex feeling, as if he had made a mistake somewhere this evening.

During the next night, Emma uses the chance of meeting Marcus for her regular finance lessons to show him the book of magical weapons gifted to her by the former Malkavian primogen. She explains that she made copies of it but doesn’t have any desire to keep the original, and as Marcus seems to be a collector, she wanted to ask him if he would like to acquire it from her. He declines, but follows by offering to ask Christopher who might be more interested in the book, and Emma agrees to borrow it for his childe to examine in person.
While working on her books with his guidance, she makes conversation and eventually mentions the stories that she received as letters to her newspaper. Her work comes to a halt as she lays out the details and the information that Molly found, before she presents Marcus with the original letters and asks him to assist her in investigating this mystery. With his curiosity piqued, he agrees and examines the papers using supernatural means. It turns out that the first letter was written and posted by a rather unemotional Kindred, who did both for amusement and to prove a point, while the second letter was handled entirely by a mortal with a very singular purpose in mind, almost as if supernaturally forced to oblige. Both of them agree to investigate the houses in person to see if Molly’s law enforcement missed any clues, and before they wrap up for the night Emma brings up one last matter.
She hows Marcus the books for her new charity, and explains that the response was much more overwhelming than anything she could have anticipated, which means she asks for one last act of assistance in making sure that she is using the money as efficiently as possible. With the pressure of feeding all of those in need steadily rising, she can barely keep up with the demand and logistical challenges she didn’t anticipate. While he points out a few areas she can cut costs in, he impresses upon her the importance of figuring out a permanent solution, as she can’t possibly handle feeding all of the city’s needy. Still, after she asks if he would like to contribute financially as well and shows him that she does indeed only use her money for the charity itself, he hands her enough money to continue work for another month; enough time to figure out how to run the food donations in a way that makes the charity viable in the long term and less likely to simply collapse immediately.

Two months after meeting with Florence, Sinead returns to the city and takes the first opportunity she has to examine how her new establishment fared in her absence. While all the works she ordered to be done were organized and completed, some of the things she ordered have been damaged due to what appears to be carelessness, the stage she wanted built turned out rather unspectacular, and some of the purchased objects seem rather tacky to a knowledgeable eye. Satisfied for now, she sets out again, sending a tulip from Amsterdam to the Chantry with a note saying “thank you for the show” before going to the third Elysium with a second flower. She presents it to Molly as a gift and inquires with the Sheriff what happened during her absence.
Molly mentions that not only are people not paying their taxes which are funding her police force, but many Kindred seem to have their mind set on saving the world: Emma opened a charity and immediately got overwhelmed, Florence started a fund for damned souls, the Tremere primogen is calling for education for all Londoners including mortals, and Bob thinks that taxes are evil and started to call for the redistribution of wealth. With a last thanks to Sinead for bringing her the flower which she makes no promises to keep alive in the police station, Molly leaves her to the rest of the people in the Elysium.
Spotting the familiarly depressed face of Bill at the bar, the Ravnos makes her way to him to inquire how his search is going. He informs her that he learned nothing new, though his sister died by falling down the stairs and breaking her neck, and his niece is currently in the hospital. He seems as hopeless and clueless as ever, and while she doesn’t succeed in cheering him up, she pushes him to talk to Marcus to see if he can’t help him out. After dispelling the rumors he heard that the Malkavian primogen was supposedly a fake and a Ventrue bloodbound to the Tremere, the Brujah wastes no time and takes off immediately to go find him.
Sinead stays at the bar for the time being and chats with Miranda, who complains about being forced to pay taxes for the Elysium and being sad tonight, just like everybody else she met so far. She also touches upon the rampant alcoholism in the city and how wrong it is that alcohol is cheaper than most foods, and adds Henry to Molly’s list of people trying to save the world, as he has been asking folks around about Golconda. While she rejects a hug from Sinead as she feels it inappropriate to be hugged by a fellow woman, she soon goes off to search for a hug and a snack among her customers.
Once more alone, Sinead searches the room for Henry and finds him quite drunk. Despite this, he gladly explains that he is writing Kindred history because a Malkavian with a moustache told him to do it, and he thought it was a good idea. He asks Sinead about anything she can tell him about the history of her clan and presents her with one of his questionnaires which has swollen to 279 questions. All of those who have any questions to add to it are free to do so; in fact, the Prince has already added over a hundred questions to it, and Sinead wastes no time to add question 280, “What are you doing with your life?”, though she agrees to fill it in regardless.
Henry mentions that he heard of a Gangrel researcher of Kindred history also being currently in England, though he cannot remember the man’s name. After that, he drifts into talking about a party full of mortals he went to at the end of May who all told him about how great Caine was, and Sinead probes him with questions for a while until she pushes him to remember which party he mentioned. Henry seems confused and out of his mind all the while, and waves her question away by claiming that he has no sense of time anymore, and that his primogen actually forbade him from leaving the house until the new moon, which he clearly didn’t obey. Just seconds after this, he has no recollection of their conversation anymore and happily points to the questionnaire that Sinead still holds, asking her once again to fill it out before utterly denying to remember what they just talked about.

23. Atticus Goes Forth

“I know from long experience that all my men have the artistic talent of a cluster of colourblind hedgehogs. In a bag”

[Lisa, 18. 10. 17]

As May draws to a close, the night of the Brujah clan meeting is upon London, with Emma arriving earlier than Sinead. Atticus chose a mansion located a few miles away from the city as the location for the festivities, which looks spacious and is lit by several large bonfires full of pieces of furniture. The primogen himself greets Emma surprisingly warmly, and soon reveals that his high mood is in no small part due to a suspicious white powder, which he offers to his guest as well. Upon inquiry, he explains that the powder comes from India and is allegedly used by Assamites in their rituals to enable warriors to enter a kind of fighting rage. When Emma points out that handing this around at a Brujah party might not be a great idea, Atticus assures her that the effect is linked to the ritual and without it, the powder only produces a kind of euphoria. Still, she declines and ventures off to talk with some of her clan members; she finds both Solomon and Bill, a Welsh Brujah, watching a group of Scottish Brujah, which are visiting the city for a performance, gathering trees for a log-throwing contest later in the night. The trio chats for a while about the city and its living conditions, Emma’s trip to France to observe the revolution, and briefly touch on politics when Sinead arrives.

The Ravnos arrives in an eye-catching white carriage, bringing a guitar and a large, heavy box with her, and is immediately greeted by the gathering’s host. Unlike Emma, when offered the white powder, Sinead accepts gladly. She makes her way to the mansion itself together with Emma to stash her unwieldy box for the time, but when they open the double doors, smoke and the smell of all kinds of burning narcotics and opioids hit them immediately. While Sinead isn’t terribly bothered by it, Emma feels dazed and closes the doors, requesting that they remain outside for the time being, so Sinead scales up to one of the balconies on the roses that grow along the walls, leaving the unwieldy box there safely. She examines the soil of the rose bushes and finds it still wet, as if they had recently been watered, yet the smell is metallic, hinting that they have been watered with blood.

The two Kindred stroll around the garden for a while, finding Molly standing above a dead rose bush all by herself, and are soon distracted by a commotion near the trees which the Scots have gathered. Margie, a small older lady, is complaining loudly that these logs are useless for a throwing competitions since there are not enough oaks among them, and hits one of the heaviest logs with her cane, shifting it slightly in place. The commotion attracts the interest of many other guests, as well as Atticus, who is promptly asked what kind of prizes there will be for winners of the contests, except for bragging rights. He explains that everybody who participates in one of the contests contributes something of value, and the winners can choose from this prize pool, as well as announcing that except for the log-throwing, there will also be fire dancing, and that other contests can be arranged if enough participants are found. Emma promptly scrambles to get enough people together for a singing and storytelling contest, and a drinking contest is quickly confirmed as well. Sinead, feeling disappointed with the lack of more physical competitions at the Brujah party, suggests a fighting competition and immediately proceeds to challenge Atticus to a duel by drawing a blade on him.

Challenged like this in front of almost his whole clan, Atticus responds the only way he could, and immediately attacks Sinead bare-handed. The fight is short and much less spectacular than the onlookers hope for, ending with Atticus as the victor who throws Sinead into the dead rose bush and completely ruins her dress. Shortly afterwards, the drinks for the party arrive, drawing attention away from the pair, which allows Emma to help pick thorns and leaves out of Sinead’s dress and hair to help her appear presentable again before they separate for a bit. Emma leaves to explore the house before the competitions start, while Sinead goes looking for a conversational partner.

Sinead joins a group consisting of Margie, a younger-looking woman, Annabelle and Ophelia, the latter of which is loudly badmouthing Herodotus and his subpar ortography skills. The conversation quickly turns to Ireland, Sinead’s home, but becomes quite uncomfortably tense for her when Ophelia dismisses the country and proclaims it doesn’t exist in her mind. Emma, who snuck two bottles of wine and some spices from the mansion’s kitchen, tries to defuse this tension by asking Ophelia about Mr. Johnson and trying to get somebody to bet on whether or not she can eat an owl whole. A modified version of the bet, with a boar promptly summoned by Sinead, is finally accepted by Ophelia, who offers a boon from her clan in exchange if Emma wins, who takes up the challenge.

The group is interrupted while listening to Margie complain that the Scotsmen are sellouts for performing for rich bastards in London, since the log-throwing contest is about to begin, in which participation is mandatory. First up is Ophelia, who asks for an empty bottle from Emma. She places it on the ground, then takes out a hairpin, pushes it into one of the smaller logs, and puts the cork on the other end. She then proceeds to lift the log and throws it so that the cork lands in the bottle’s neck before it is shattered, to much applause from those watching. Sinead, meanwhile, positions Emma before throwing her log, then uses the Brujah to get a lift into the air, gracefully somersaulting on top of the log just as it lands. Before Emma can throw her log, however, the boar which Sinead summoned earlier causes a commotion among the ghouls present. Emma seizes the opportunity, grabs one of the heavier logs, and sends it spinning into the air, squashing the boar’s skull as it lands. While the rest of those present proceed, Emma asks one of the ghouls to roast the boar over a bonfire so she doesn’t have to eat it raw.

Next are the drinking and singing contests, both at the same time; Emma opens with a performance accompanied by Sinead’s guitar, and the tavern song she performs finds so much acclaim that most of those not busy guzzling alcoholic blood soon join in. Sinead is next after fetching the mystery box which turns out to contain a harp, though she cannot gather as much approval as Emma. Meanwhile, the Tremere primogen who was invited by Atticus empties the rest of the white powder into her drink before sitting down next to the dead rose bush. She closes a hand around the roses, then drinks up and concentrates for a moment, after which all flowers in the garden start blooming, though they curiously change their colors throughout the rest of the night.

While the attendants are still busy with emptying the provided casks full of blood into their wooden tankards and then their mouths, half a dozen people, among them Sinead, Vivienne and Atticus, participating in the fire dancing prepare for this competition. All but one of the bonfires are extinguished, and everybody soon gathers at a safe distance to watch as the dancers leap around and through the flames while music pounds in their ears. Due to Sinead’s soft spot for extravaganzas, the performance itself is enhanced by colorful bursts of the flames, lending it an eerie, otherworldly and most fascinating quality for any onlookers.

The evening winds down afterwards, and the last contest for storytelling is held. Atticus starts, with the fairy tale of the seven swans, followed by Emma, who tells an original tale of two tragic lovers before absconding to dig into the grilled boar, which she seasons with spices from the mansion’s kitchen. However, it is Sinead who steals the show with her story about a Brujah methuselah’s tragic fate. Just as she ends, Ophelia pipes up, complaining that this story hasn’t ended yet, and those present are briefly baffled before the clan meeting is officially dissolved and the attendants wander off to talk among smaller groups.

Emma briefly talks with Ophelia, chatting about spirits, their unwillingness to move on, and the fact that she has never met the ghost of a Kindred; she pushes Emma to inquire about this with Fabio, as he refuses to give her straight answers. The Brujah only gives a noncommittal response to it before informing her that she will soon be able to print her love letter and promising that she will be in touch before she leaves the party. Sinead stays a bit longer and has a lengthy conversation with Bill, who complains about his family’s misfortune: his only reason for staying in London is his mortal, adopted sister, whom he knows from the orphanage he was sent to while still alive. Her niece is in need of protection, as the sister claims that evil forces are after her, and it seems that most of the family has met unfortunate ends, with the husband going missing and all other children dying in freak accidents. A pattern soon emerges, showing that only the youngest daughters in the family ever seem to live for any length of time, but Bill claims that he went to both the Giovanni and the Tremere, and neither were able to find any cause for the bad luck, claiming they were perfectly normal as far as supernatural things went. Sinead, stumped herself though knowing enough about curses to suspect one, suggests that Bill himself might be cursed, and though he offers plenty of evidence of his own bad luck, he insistently denies ever having had any. It seems that this is truly an unsolvable mystery.

22. Of Adam and Eve

" (…)Another time, the church elder himself, who was fond of an occasional private interview with my grandfather’s brandy-glass, had not succeeded in getting to the bottom twice, when he beheld the glass bowing very low to him. “Satan take you, let us make the sign of the cross over you!”—And the same marvel happened to his better half. She had just begun to mix the dough in a huge kneading-trough when suddenly the trough sprang up. “Stop, stop! where are you going?” Putting its arms akimbo, with dignity, it went skipping all about the cottage—you may laugh, but it was no laughing matter to our grandfathers. And in vain did Father Athanasii go through all the village with holy water, and chase the Devil through all the streets with his brush. My late grandfather’s aunt long complained that, as soon as it was dark, some one came knocking at her door and scratching at the wall…."

21. The Bear and the Maiden Fair

BERTIE: Touch of indigestion, Jeeves?
JEEVES: No, Sir.
BERTIE: Then why is your tummy rumbling?
JEEVES: Pardon me, Sir, the noise to which you allude does not emanate from my interior but from that of that animal that has just joined us.
BERTIE: Animal? What animal?
JEEVES: A bear, Sir. If you will turn your head, you will observe that a bear is standing in your immediate rear inspecting you in a somewhat menacing manner.
BERTIE (as narrator): I pivoted the loaf. The honest fellow was perfectly correct. It was a bear. And not a small bear, either. One of the large economy size. Its eye was bleak and it gnashed a tooth or two, and I could see at a g. that it was going to be difficult for me to find a formula. “Advise me, Jeeves,” I yipped. “What do I do for the best?”
JEEVES: I fancy it might be judicious if you were to make an exit, Sir.
BERTIE (narrator): No sooner s. than d. I streaked for the horizon, closely followed across country by the dumb chum. And that, boys and girls, is how your grandfather clipped six seconds off Roger Bannister’s mile."

[Lisa, 21. 05. 17]

On the following Sunday, Emma arrives at the Roman Catholic cathedral to which Lambert invited her, and finds it full of people waiting for the mass to begin, despite the late hour. She finds a seat for herself among those present and listens to the priest’s sermon, which turns out to be quite Catholic indeed, much to her displeasure. Some time after the mass has started, Sinead joins the congregation as well, sitting further in the back, intent on talking to the priest despite Emma’s insistence that she refrain from seeking him out.
After the mass ends, Emma finds Lambert surrounded by churchgoers engaging him in conversation, which she joins after a subtle invitation from him. Most of them seek advice or a sympathetic ear, and while talking to mostly older folks, Emma notices that Sinead is present and slowly making her way over to the two of them, though she stays at a distance while the two Kindred are talking. Lambert asks Emma her opinion of the sermon and invites her to attend the mass again next week, as he tries to provide it at a time where the Kindred of London may attend it if they wish, though the lack of supernatural visitors speaks for his success with this endeavor. Before they leave the church to wander its grounds for a bit, the priest also points out Mr. Jenkins in the crowd, with whom Emma is supposed to work together for the help she offered, and the topic turns towards Emma’s mortal life. After making sure that there are no eavesdroppers, she briefly touches upon her death and subsequent murder of her husband, causing Lambert to inquire how she dealt with this experience, to which Emma replies that she dealt poorly at best. The conversation turns towards marriage after the Embrace, though by this point Sinead is approaching the two of them, and Emma uses the opportunity to warn Lambert about her without going into detail before she comes within hearing range. The small group heads to the priest’s living quarters for some privacy, and at Sinead’s request Emma leaves the two of them alone to make herself a cup of tea and talk to one of the mortals for a while.

The first thing Sinead does after her companion leaves is to thank Lambert for saving her life, which he waves off as he cannot take credit for the deed. She also warns him of the danger to himself and his community that he might find himself in as a result of his assistance, a warning that doesn’t seem to concern the priest much, and reveals that she is suffering under a curse, which she hoped he might help her with. After careful consideration, he informs her that neither her nor anybody in her immediate vicinity ought to travel to the Astral Plane any time soon, as she has some powerful anchors and some form of “company” around herself; he mentions three links, one to an object, one to a place and one to something following her, which doesn’t seem to be a demon. These anchors might be removed, though they won’t wane with time and, for example, burning down the place she is linked to would not help matters at all. The act of removing them would only be undertaken by somebody very foolish or very crazy, and he cannot help with the matter as he doesn’t believe he has the necessary skills or knowledge. Unlike with Emma’s sword, the place she is linked to cannot simply be exorcised, as the corruption there spreads from an object, though if she were to gain access to this object he might perform the same ritual used on the sword, which is all the help he can offer her. Sinead thanks him once again and inquires how she could pay him back for saving her life, and Lambert suggests a donation for his church or additional funds for Emma to spend on her project; while the Ravnos thinks this would be too easy, the priest disagrees and says that more funds are always needed, even if money is something trivial to her.
The conversation stalls, and after a few more moments Emma returns to the room, after she had to kick out Amber for making a mess in the other priest’s living quarters and aggravating his lazy cat, which kept her busy for some time. The three of them talk about philosophy for some time before Sinead excuses herself and leaves, and Emma inquires once again if there is anything more she could do, since she has plenty of time on her hands, despite her limited monetary resources. Lambert thinks for a moment before suggesting she visit some of the lonely elderly people she met during the night who are hurting for company and sympathy, to which she happily agrees. For a time, their discussion circles back to matters of faith, especially the Curse of Caine and its nature as a curse, which confuses Emma before she too takes her leave.

Meanwhile, in the woods outside of London, Marcus and Christopher prepare for their celebratory hunt of bears, both equipping themselves with plenty of forks before saddling their horses and making their way into the woods. Despite appearances, Marcus proves himself to be an excellent tracker and assesses quickly that while there is some game around, a bear is not among the animals that crossed nearby recently; however, the tracks he finds are strange, in a curious pattern that hints at something being out of the ordinary as too many animals were passing through in what seems to be an orderly and organized fashion than what could be mistaken for normal. He also notices that the two of them are being watched by a large number of birds sitting in one of the trees, and after greeting them, they reply to Marcus with chirps and squawks. The two Kindred continue onward still, now on foot after deciding to leave their horses behind, hearing plenty of animals about but not seeing a single one for quite a while until Marcus discovers a fox. After a failed attempt at Obfuscate in order to sneak up on the small animal, the Malkavian finds himself suddenly faced with a huge bear, and though he can see Chris sneaking up on the animal, fork in hand, it jumps at Marcus to attack before the other has a chance to stab it. Marcus evades its swipes skillfully and manages to distract and enrage it long enough for Chris to climb on its back and stab his fork into its head, stunning it for a brief moment before the bear does its best to throw the Kindred off his back. With a little time to breathe, Marcus examines the bear more closely using Auspex and finds that it behaves oddly somehow, though the finer details of it elude him as Chris realizes he is not actually strong enough to sever its head from its shoulders with a fork and uses Obtenebration to immobilize it, which barely keeps it under control as it ferociously fights against the shadow tentacles grasping and tearing at it.
Marcus watches with some amusement before he notices Finch watching the show as well, who uses the opportunity of having his attention to complain about what he considers animal cruelty, offering to train Chris in combat to make sure this situation doesn’t happen again. The two of them chat amicably for a while as Chris finally manages to stab forks through the bear’s eyes and kill it, and while Marcus suggests taking the whole body home and serving the animal to his servants as food, his childe rebuffs this request and starts skinning it immediately instead, shortly joined by his sire who lends him a helping hand. With the claim that eating an animal’s heart is supposed to bestow the animal’s characteristics upon oneself such as bravery or ferocity, Marcus throws the bear’s heart to Chris, who bites into it and promptly twists his face with disgust. The conversation turns towards the tracks they found, and Finch mentions that they are due to cleanup from the Gangrel after an accident involving a few gypsies which they hope weren’t linked to any Ravnos who might come looking for trouble, and he congratulates Marcus on his new position as primogen as well. The Malkavian uses the opportunity to ask whether Finch might know any medicine he could use for Norton, which unfortunately turns out isn’t the case, and the group splits up as Marcus and Chris return home to prepare the bear skin.

Sinead collects her animal companions and makes her way to the Gangrel’s usual gathering place outside of London where she meets Lilian and inquires about Havoc. Lilian explains that the raccoon was brought to London by her cousin who left him behind, and they gifted it to her because they knew she liked animals and thought she might enjoy its company, as she seemed quite sad for some reason. The conversation turns toward Talbott, who is hastily leaving the city and may already be on his way out of London, which Lilian claims is due to a lot of debts he has racked up with the Kindred here, and that he has made an unspecified deal with the Prince. After this topic is exhausted, Sinead remembers that Marcus asked her to use her connections and inquires with Lilian about medicine for Norton, though the Gangrel primogen says she can’t help herself and recommends a visit to an apothecary instead.

After her visit with the priest, Emma hastily makes her way to the cemetery that Ophelia frequents, making some polite conversation before asking if she has any way to locate Talbott. After some weaseling and very curious attempts at giving out the former primogen’s address plus a lot of insistence on Emma’s part, Ophelia offers to make a deal in exchange for the information: she asks Emma to find her a boyfriend for a few nights, as she has been feeling lonely. The Brujah hems and haws, obviously hesitant to accept the exchange, and after some persuasion to settle for the Giovanni sheriff as an object of her affection as the two have some things in common already, the two agree to a slightly altered deal, as part of which Emma will write a love letter to Gabriel and print 10.000 copies of it using her printing presses, though she warns Ophelia that a print of this large a number can’t be finished earlier than a few months’ time. The two of them shake hands on it, then Ophelia guides her to a hovel in one of the city’s slums, where Emma meets the former Malkavian primogen who is in quite a hurry to leave the city. Upon her inquiry, he admits that he sent her the note with instructions to not open something as he was sure she would somehow be involved in the matter and he wanted to warn somebody, at the very least. Slightly disappointed at this anticlimactic revelation, she agrees to help Talbott pack his remaining possessions, mostly books or manuscripts, and a large number of them occult in nature. They make conversation while packing, and Talbott proposes to leave her a gift of her choice; Emma thinks for a moment and suggests a stabbing device, and he offers her a sword from one of the city’s Ventrue. After some probing, it turns out that other Ventrue in the city might recognize the blade, and Emma declines, feeling that her possession of the weapon might be misinterpreted, and as an alternative Talbott leaves her a tome on the topic of magical weapons, with descriptions and explanations on recognizing them. The two of them part ways shortly after, and as Emma wishes the man good luck in the United States, he leaves her with the suggestion that she should really think of a name for her sword, which he thinks ought to be called “Bearfork” for some reason that eludes the both of them.

20. Tales as old as time

“Trust the tale, not the teller.”

[Lisa, 13. 05. 2017]

After Emma leaves the two elders to their own devices, Sinead prods Marcus about the priest Emma mentioned, and he gives her directions to the catholic cathedral where he met a Kindred priest himself previously, though he can’t confirm whether this is the very same man. She also asks to visit Norton, to which Marcus agrees, albeit with a warning that currently, he isn’t in any mood for conversation, and in return asks Sinead to use her contacts to the local Gangrel to inquire about medicinal herbs that he might give Norton. After their conversation, the two split and go their separate ways as well.

Marcus retires to his home, though he only has a brief moment at his mansion before Mithras summons him to the Buckingham Palace, where the Prince congratulates him to his new position as primogen of clan Malkavian, to which he has been promoted with immediate effect after his clan unanimously voted for him to replace Talbott, who has resigned and will be leaving London shortly. After Mithras informs him of the duties that come with the title and answers a few of his questions, the conversation turns towards Stepano as Marcus inquires about a method of contact for his sire, a remark that the Prince handwaves as he explains he already wrote to him to inform him of his progeny’s recent failings. The conversation then turns towards Dementation as Marcus wonders whether it would be possible to undo the effects of the discipline, which Mithras confirms, though the Malkavians capable of accomplishing this feat are not permitted to set foot in his kingdom. He also mentions that one of his brothers by blood claimed that all Kindred become mad due to outliving their natural lifespans either way, curiously asking Marcus whether he ever thinks about what it would be like to be mortal again. He replies that the only thing he misses from his mortal life is his faith, which prompts Mithras to lay out an argument that the Curse of Caine is proof of god’s existence, which ironically should have helped consolidate Marcus’ faith instead of destroying it. During a brief lull in the conversation after this topic, the Prince observes the flames flickering in the fireplace attentively, which Marcus notices. He attempts to search for a pattern in the fire, as it caught his attention, and finds some unexpected knowledge about the Prince by observing it – which doesn’t escape Mithras’ notice.
With a nagging feeling that he just volunteered for something, Marcus engages the Prince in conversation once more, inquiring about whether the effects of Presence could be stopped prematurely, to which he receives an answer in the negative; the discipline may even leave an aftereffect once the original application of it fades, but there is no way to stop it without killing the one affected or letting it fade naturally. They continue for a time until the Antediluvian Lasombra is mentioned and his childe in the Camarilla, which Mithras confirms to be Montano, who has a habit of being the sole survivor of most missions he is sent on, as everybody working together with him seems to die during their cooperation. As conversation comes to a halt once more, Mithras advises Marcus to keep his eyes open, and the new primogen leaves to return to his mansion once more, where he is greeted by Christopher, who congratulates him on his new position. Marcus feels that a celebration is in order, and Chris suggests going on a hunt for a dragon, or, in lieu thereof just going on a more ordinary hunt in the woods north of London.

In the meantime, Emma makes her way to Gregory’s library, where she is greeted by the Nosferatu who offers her a cup of hot milk with honey, which she happily accepts, sipping from a mug while observes her curiously. She presents him with the Russian book that had been sent to her and asks him to translate its title as well as the handwritten note in it, and Greg confirms the book to be “Despair and Loneliness”, a first edition of the novel by Dostoyevsky, which is signed by the author himself and contains a handwritten note addressed to a friend of his. The conversation turns towards Russian literature as Greg has a fascination for it as well as for Russian history, and as Emma notes that she unfortunately knows very little about either topic, he shows her an art book about Russian Orthodox churches and explains the similarities to Byzantine architecture, to which Emma listens with only modest interest. The Brujah explains that unlike her sire, she is unfortunately not very academically inclined, and after offering his condolences for Letho’s death, whom the Nosferatu didn’t know well, Greg gives a few subtle stabs at Emma. She tries her best to remain unfazed and thanks him for the translation, while also offering the book in exchange for money or a small boon, as she is of the opinion that with his appreciation for Russian literature, he would be in a better position to appreciate it than her. As Greg says he has little to offer in the way of boons, he would prefer to take her up on the offer of buying the novel from her, and mentions a fair price for it, which Emma accepts. He also wonders whether she might not want to take a few other books with her, and mentions that if she is looking for recommendations for something more appealing to her tastes, she might want to ask her clanmate Miranda for details.

While Sinead is on her way home, she listens to her animal companions bickering and throwing insults at each other and tries to keep them both placated. She makes her way through the building looking for Albert, and asks him to refrain from visiting the house for the time being and stay somewhere else; immediately after this conversation, she notices that doors open and close on their own, and decides to take her advice to heart as well, leaving immediately to find the cathedral that Marcus mentioned. Upon arriving, she discovers that she is out of luck as the church is closed and nobody answers her knocks on the nearby living quarters, so after making note of the church’s opening hours, she travels through the city to Belinda’s brothel, finding the Ventrue just returned from a ride and still in her riding clothes. She inquires about Julian, and Belinda confirms that the fledgling did indeed visit her brothel, but she refuses to give up any more information regarding his business. Despite Sinead’s affirmations to the contrary, Belinda says that Julian claimed to be independent already when he dealt with her, and that she was asked for assistance, which she granted, though she says that it isn’t Julian who would be paying for the debt. Upon further prodding, she says that she won’t reveal the identity of the indebted party and recommends that the Ravnos instead find an Auspex master if she would like to locate her childe.
With immense frustration, Sinead gives up her attempts to extract further information from Belinda and returns home once more, walking into her living room and finding herself bathed in sunlight immediately, with the noises of birds singing and children laughing off in the distance. She notices that while the layout of the room appears to have stayed the same, the furniture seems outdated; after exploring the house further, this is consistent with every room she enters, and the house seems to be full of life and light wherever she goes. Upon entering the attic, she discovers that her collection of weapons has vanished as well, though she walks over to where they used to be hung and reaches out to grab the empty air, cutting herself on one of the blades. As her blood coats the sword, the mirage fades from her mind, but when she grabs the handle of the weapon it turns into a snake and immediately bites her hand. She shakes off the illusion, though blackness begins to spread from the twin wounds as steps echo behind her, coming up the stairs and closing in on her. Sinead races downstairs without seeing the source of the sound, though while looking out of a window she discovers Incitatus marshalling an army of women in her yard while a similar armada of squirrels throws nuts at the horse. As she leaves the house, she runs face-first into a great swarm of bats and hears a laugh behind her that sounds like it came from a mixture of hyena and human. Trying hard to ignore the continuing barrage of illusions, she scoops up her fox and her raccoon, and asks the animals to look at her hand. Neither of them can see the snake’s bite, though even after shaking off the other illusions, the wounds persist for Sinead. She decides to retire for the day in one of her temporary havens and finds that the snake bite has started to itch terribly after her journey.


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