34. Trifle
Of playthings, revolutionaries and raccoons.

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.

33. Dilemmas
Of Ethics, dilemmas and ethical dilemmas. And also Jukka.

A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.

[Lisa, 07. 03. 2018]

Neither the investigation of the line of inheritance nor that of the mistress for whom Bill’s grandniece works turn up any useful information, and Sinead is still pondering the connections in the case when Emma arrives to hand her a copy of Plato, as requested by the Ravnos a few nights earlier. Still confused about her sudden interest in philosophy, Emma inquires once more as to the significance of the book she gave her, and Sinead only cites Robb as the next piece required to puzzle everything together. Unsure what her companion is up to, but with an inkling that it is fueled by the same kind of insight bestowed upon Miranda recently, Emma leaves to attend to business elsewhere with a promise to keep an eye out for Robb.

Outside the city proper, Marcus sits down with Christopher to reveal the information he has learned about his sister, and after processing it for a moment, Christopher admits that his desire is to talk to his sister, to ask her whether she enjoys her Kindred nature, though he is well aware that arranging for a conversation will be a difficult matter, and is thus pondering whether he should simply send a letter. Marcus offers his help once more, citing a contact of his who might be able to assist with delivering a letter, and they discuss different courses of actions and their outcomes, as Chris wants to remove her from her sire’s influence despite seeing no ideal or even attainable path to this result. They are briefly sidetracked when Marcus mentions that he thought about acquiring a staked and boxed Lasombra master for Christopher to use as learning material, though they eventually circle back around to the situation involving his sister. When he suggests hiring Assamites for a kidnapping, Marcus brings up the fact that Stepano owes him a life boon that could be called in once he recovers from his unfortunate condition.

Frustrated with the lack of options, Christopher complains that even should they manage to free her from her sire’s influence entirely, there is still the matter of her having spent the last three centuries with the Sabbat, and kidnapping her just so Christopher can feel better seems an entirely selfish endeavor. Marcus advises him to calm down when he claims the situation has been specifically engineered to be unsolvable, and he uses the opportunity to excuse himself and spend some time on sculpting, or, as he calls it, smashing things, to occupy himself.

Meanwhile, Emma drops by the third Elysium and is surprised to find it not only open, but also entirely redecorated to resemble a tavern once again, though the furniture is much more expensive and not very durable. The walls are also decorated with a variety of posters, ranging from communist and suffragette propaganda to monsters taken from tall tales told by sailors. Walking up to the bar, she notices a sign informing visitors that they have to pay for everything they damage, and she strikes up a conversation with Annabelle, who is tending to the place. It turns out that Atticus decided to send Miranda on a journey to find herself, and the clan has taken over the Elysium in the meantime. Emma compliments the new design choices and, when Annabelle mentions that she is organizing a protest for better pay for workers and voting rights for women, she promises to lend a hand by print additional leaflets for the event. Annabelle mentions a Toreador designer who lives in Oxford and whom she intends to persuade to lend his talents to the cause for a longer period of time, but when Emma inquires as to what kind of persuasion her younger clanmate has in mind, the two women end up in a discussion of ethics in business relationships, as Emma fervently disagrees with Annabelle’s underhanded tactics. They fail to reach a conclusion, however, and since she wanted to head elsewhere during the night, Emma bids Annabelle goodbye and heads out once more.

After leafing through the new copy of Plato she has been given, Sinead makes a brief detour to follow a rather uncooperative Havoc whom she has caught stealing large quantities of food from the kitchen of her establishment. She trails him to a small building nearby a warehouse at the river where she finds that he has passed the food on to the special menagerie of Lala’s circus. With a promise to Havoc that they are going to discuss this matter later, she leaves the animals to their small party and continues onward to the house of one of Bill’s deceased relatives she intends to investigate. After a very thorough search, she discovers a secret stash of valuables in the kitchen area; it consists of stocks, some jewelry, a box of old pictures, a bible with a handcrafted cover and a half-broken silver knife. None of it immediately catches her eye, and well aware that removing a cursed object might harm herself, she leaves the items at their original location. On her way out, a pile of unopened letters catches her eye, one of which is from a real estate agency that the old woman had contacted to sell a house she had inherited from the first person to disappear.

With this newfound information, the Ravnos visits Bill at the hospital, who seems a lot more manical than previously; as it turns out, he had an encounter with Owen that left him slightly worse for wear. After some questioning, his grandniece reveals that her uncle, who was the first person to disappear, had debts due to loans he took out for his business of renting and his misfortune of investing money into stocks before the exchange burned down. With nothing more to gain, Sinead leaves the two of them to search for Stanley, whom she finds in a rather annoyed state, and he is quick to promise her whatever help he can give as long as it means the matter is resolved sooner and both Bill and his grandniece leave the hospital.

To give Christopher some space to process everything, Marcus leaves him be and heads downstairs, where he is informed that a visitor is waiting for him, who supposedly has been called by him. The mysterious visitor turns out to be a very agitated Sir Franklin, who storms into the room in full plate armor and proclaims his intent to rescue Marcus from the terrible monster of migraines, ready at his liege’s call to arms for an assistant. Waving his sword around, he asks where the dragon migraines currently is, and it takes Marcus a good deal of effort to calm his clanmate down and assure him that the monster has already been defeated. He tries to escort him out again, stating that he is needed in the city itself to keep watch for greater dangers, but despite promising to call on him if there ever is a beast to slay or a battle to fight, Sir Franklin seems reluctant to leave. To keep the situation from escalating, Marcus redirects his attention with tales of heroic deeds and fights of both of them. Unfortunately, after Sir Franklin explains that the devil himself lives in Germany and invented bureaucracy, Marcus makes the mistake of mentioning that Mithras allegedly was the person to invent bureaucracy.

Once more it falls to the primogen to dissuade his clanmember from rushing out and foolishly throwing himself into a fight as he now believes London to be ruled by the devil himself. He manages to change topics to Sancho, who as Sir Franklin says had trouble keeping up on his trusty donkey and should be arriving soon regardless, though he needs to wait for his squire before he can set out again. Their conversation turns towards art when Sir Franklin explains that the only time he sat for a portrait, a battle erupted and the artwork in question was destroyed before it could be finished. Lamenting the fact that there are no epics composed about his grand deeds, Marcus offers to contact a friend of his to rectify this terrible injustice, and Sir Franklin happily accepts after being reassured that the friend in question is very talented and would do him justice with her work.

Finally, Emma arrives at her intended destination for the night, which is the second Elysium. She makes some smalltalk with Caroline for a while, then comes back to her previous offer of taking care of the Elysium for a night so she can visit the circus in town. As they hadn’t previously discussed any details, both women agree on the next evening for the endeavor. When she returns the following night, she finds Caroline with a clanmate of hers, whom Emma recognizes as Zac. The Keeper advises her to ask Steven for anything she doesn’t know about the place itself before leaving with her companion. The first three Kindred to show up are all female Malkavians, and Emma greets them as instructed and chats with them amicably. The fourth person to enter the Elysium is Joshua, and Emma strikes up a conversation with him to request a meeting with primogen de Worde. After learning that the Nosferatu need a hand with some boxes at the library, Emma offers to help, which Joshua accepts; he tells her to visit the library on Monday to help out and afterwards meet with the primogen, then shares the story of how they were robbed of a work of Plato by a flamingo. Emma reacts baffled and mentions that she has seen a flamingo at the circus currently in the city, which gives Joshua an opportunity to complain at length about what he perceives to be the foolish new habit of Kindred to keep too many animal companions. He explains that the Nosferatu are currently looking into holding a seminar about proper animal handling, but their conversation is interrupted when Emma notices that Jukka snuck by her without greeting her and is attracting both of their attention with his attempts at being fabulous, which both Emma and Joshua agree are rather horrible failures.

32. Flux
All things flow.

“Sit still with me in the shade of these green trees, which have no weightier thought than the withering of their leaves when autumn arrives, or the stretching of their many stiff fingers into the cold sky of the passing winter. Sit still with me and meditate on how useless effort is, how alien the will, and on how our very meditation is no more useful than effort, and no more our own than the will. Meditate too on how a life that wants nothing can have no weight in the flux of things, but a life the wants everything can likewise have no weight in the flux of things, since it cannot obtain everything, and to obtain less than everything is not worthy of souls that seek the truth.”

[Lisa, 06. 03. 2018]

When Emma visits the third Elysium in the docks to socialize at the beginning of her night, she is surprised to find it closed down entirely with a notice at the front door reading “out of order”. She knocks, but receives no reply, then leaves to head to the second Elysium of the city, where she is greeted by a rather bored Caroline. As the two make some small talk, Emma brings up the circus visiting the city and recommends the Elysium Keeper visit it. When the Ventrue points out that she needs someone to take care of the Elysium in her absence, Emma offers to hold down the fort in her stead for a night.

While the two women are chatting, a couple enters the venue and heads to the Keeper to greet her. The two introduce themselves as Jukka, the inventor visiting the city, and Megan, who has been assisting him with her expertise of chemistry in his endeavor to build houses full of death for the Malkavian primogen. Jukka happily takes the opportunity to talk about his current project and when he mentions that Atticus has challenged him to put every kind of death into the houses that are suggested to him, Emma offers up the idea of killing a person with Dostoyevsky, which fits neatly with the Nosferatu suggestion of killing a person with knowledge.

Another Kindred soon joins their circle, as Sinead made her way to the second Elysium after also finding Miranda’s tavern closed and after a short fight with Havoc about his habit of searching for what he calls treasure in what Sinead calls trash. She finds the group talking about tyrannical governments operated by squirrels in life-sized mechanical dolls and throws the idea of raccoons being contenders for world domination into the conversation. Shortly afterwards, Jukka drags the four of them except for Caroline outside to see Havoc in person; after a short search, they find the raccoon being dragged by his tail by Amber, who promptly absconds up a tree with the treasure Havoc found in the trash. Jukka takes the opportunity to measure Havoc with a tape measure from head to toe and inquires with Sinead whether she could procure him a hundred more of his kind, as they would make for great test subjects for his current project. Sinead agrees and asks for instructions in one of Jukka’s field of expertise in return, then invites him to visit her to finalize the details of the deal. As she borrows a bucket of water and soap from Caroline to give Havoc a much needed bath, Emma leaves for a meeting with Marcus.

Marcus finds her in the ruin of the tavern she owned as a mortal as she is throwing out the remainders of old, rotting furniture from the second floor windows. When she comes downstairs to greet him, she interrupts a staring contest between him and Amber. Marcus asks why she chose this place for their practice meeting, and she explains that she intends to clean up and renovate the building to turn it into a ghost-themed cafe to expand upon the popularity of her newspaper. While cleaning, she chats with him about her recent visit to the circus and mentions meeting Finch and Lillian there, which seems to pique Marcus’ interest. In turn, he shares a story about one of his friends, who had a bear as an animal companion, though it sadly died during his friend’s time in torpor. The conversation returns to Emma’s plans for her cafe, and Marcus proposes featuring the place in a story or two in her newspaper for advertisement. Emma ponders the idea as her companion starts sketching in his notebook while walking about the place. She interrupts her cleaning to take a peek at his drawings, then asks him whether he’d like to paint the interior of the place in the same style, as she finds it befitting of the atmosphere she had in mind, and he accepts the proposition eagerly, offering illustrations for the accompanying stories in her newspaper and suggesting painting the staff as creatures from her tall tales on the walls.

The two Kindred finish their business with some budgeting for the cafe before once more turning to teaching each other, and Marcus’ efforts finally bear fruit as Emma finds herself captivated by the details she can suddenly detect in the Malkavian’s clothing, then quickly becomes horrified as she sees the myriads of spiders still remaining in the room, waiting to be cleaned out. They are rudely interrupted by a crash outside, where they see Incitatus holding down a bucket with one of his hooves over what turns out to be a trapped Amber. After freeing the squirrel, Emma hurries back inside to bite into an apple she carried in her bag. She is fascinated by the texture of the food, though also slightly repulsed by the lead she can suddenly taste in it. With Marcus’ help, she messes about with her newly enhanced senses for some time before the two of them end their meeting and go their separate ways for the night.

Meanwhile, Sinead has returned to the Elysium after thoroughly cleaning Havoc and finds Caroline in conversation with Stanley, who looks overworked and upon questioning by the Ravnos explains that Owen’s mental state recently worsened and that Bill’s relative recently woke up, prompting the Brujah to request more security for her room; currently, the door sports thirteen locks, though the number is still rising. They chat for a while about the generous donation made by Sinead’s friend, the unique nature of Marcus’ horse, and the recently called Gangrel clan meeting, then Sinead uses the opportunity of a lull in the conversation to ask Caroline if she knows any Kindred who are trading in America. The Ventrue denies, though she mentions she considered moving there due to the lack of interesting opportunities in London. According to her, her clan members mostly participate in trade with the east due to the revolutions, though the Tremere primogen apparently has some stakes in America, as she talked about the matter with Atticus before.

Sinead excuses herself and, after sending a message to the Chantry asking for a meeting and purchasing some candy as a gift for the hospital patients, heads to the mental hospital to talk with Bill. She finds him trying to convince his grandniece to stay in the hospital, though she insists that she is fine and wants to go back to her work as a housekeeper before she loses her job. As she sees it, if she is indeed cursed and god is angry with her, then there is nothing anyone can do about it since god wills everything to happen; as her mistress explained to her, some people have been bad in their previous lives and are thus punished in this life. Sinead takes Bill aside to talk in private, and he explains that he wants his grandniece to stay in the hospital for a year, which he doesn’t find to be a very long period of time, though the Ravnos disagrees. He also mentions that Marcus was unable to help him, though Christopher gave him a good luck amulet that Sinead quickly identifies as a charm that makes it difficult for others to locate the wearer. She wonders whether the curse is passed on through an inheritance being passed through the family, and offers to talk to the Tremere primogen about the matter. After asking the girl a few questions about the line of inheritance in her family and offering to teach the illiterate Brujah to read and write, Sinead bids the pair goodbye to continue her investigation.

Having finished his business in the city, Marcus returns to his mansion and uses a personalized tarot deck in conjunction with his clan’s gift for insight to gain clarity on the situation involving Christopher and his sister. The cards he draws are the six of wands for the present, the knight of swords representing the past, the sun as the confirmation of the woman’s identity as Christopher’s sister, and the nine of chalices as a portent for the future. Interpreting the result, Marcus reads the cards as predicting a positive outcome for the tricky situation, on the condition that Christopher manages to find inner peace and calm his mind.

31. "Fun".

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

[Lisa, 25. 02. 2018]

After dealing with a small dispute about the scheduling for practices among her establishment’s performers, Sinead pays a visit to the second Elysium in search for information about the three Ventrue who were killed during the recent Sabbat activities in the city. The gossip she hears has little new information except for the fact that Maximilian’s estate is currently being overlooked by Lady Anne, as he left no heirs to it and clan tradition dictates a waiting period of a year and a day until a decision is made regarding the assets left behind.

Marcus passes on Lillian’s message regarding Christopher’s logging company cutting down the Gangrels’ forests, and after he agrees to his childe’s proposal to dismantle the company, he leaves for a meeting at the National Library with the Nosferatu primogen. They chat amicably for a while, as de Worde explains his clan’s preservation efforts for the library and the difficulties of finding sufficient storage for the magnitude of books available for them. The conversation briefly touches on Ophelia’s recent attempts at wooing Gabriel, and de Worde mentions that his clan members take bets on what she does next, then they turn to Incitatus as Marcus apologizes for his horse’s behavior before both joke about his new status as a self-proclaimed matchmaker. It’s not long before a more serious topic comes up, and amidst a discussion about Gehenna and the world ending, de Worde criticizes how Kindred only live for their own pleasure instead of living for those around them. Finally, they touch on Marcus’ purpose for his visit, and he proposes an exchange of knowledge and understanding between their respective clans when need be. De Worde replies that he is getting too old for young people investigating and digging around and mentions a female childer of his, though he declines giving her name, as he tries not to meddle in her affairs. Instead, he asks Marcus if he has any knowledge of one of his clan members deciding to enlighten his catalogers, who have been setting up bird snares as they claim pink birds have been breaking in and stealing books. Marcus denies any knowledge of such incidents and leaves the primogen to his own devices after receiving an invitation to a gentleman-only book club that de Worde mentioned before wishing him a pleasant night.

Meanwhile, Sinead’s attempts at gathering information are interrupted when Emma arrives to pick her up for the surprise she promised to show her, and they catch a cab to the circus. The place turns out to be very busy, and while briefly distracted, Sinead manages to run into a camel and barely avoids getting kicked by it. Emma spots Lillian among the crowd, dragging an adult man along with her and acting like an excited child, so the two women immediately catch up to them. The Gangrel primogen keeps her act up when greeting them, obviously enjoying herself, and introduces her companion as Finchie, who looks less enthused about his fate. She promises to get Emma a birthday gift when she mentions she visited the circus on her birthday recently, and after a bit of small talk the group splits up again, with Sinead running off on her own after spotting some of her performers among the crowd, acting rather suspicious. Emma follows her, successfully blending in with the mass of visitors. Sinead startles the men, whom she recognizes as fire-breathers, and they drop a box they had been trying to smuggle out. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere as none of them had spotted her, Emma rushes in to catch the box before it can crash to the ground, sending the men running away screaming. As they try to leave without attracting more attention, the two women bump into Lala, who came to check on what the ruckus was about. Sinead apologizes for the commotion, and Emma points to where they left the box after a short greeting. As Lala leaves to make sure everything is alright, Emma leads Sinead to the special menagerie she had meant to show her, explaining the strange creatures’ origins and walking around greeting and petting them while Sinead talks to the animals.

The creatures wonder whether Sinead is part of “his” family and ask her if she can set things on fire, then proceed to call her a stupid human when she asks who they mean. Her attempts to learn more about the unknown person only earn her a linguistics lesson on how gender works, and she gives up to briefly talk to the animal which Emma labeled as defensively problematic, though she receives no reply. The rest of the menagerie are making bets on whether Sinead will actually pet it, but before she can try, Emma pulls her away to see the circus show. It turns out to be very much like the show Emma already attended, though Sinead spots Havoc who involuntarily became part of a performance with a group of monkeys. After the show, they meet up with Finch and Lillian again, the latter of whom lets Emma pick from a group of colorful balloons and hands her a bag of special Gangrel candy with a hidden surprise from India inside as well as a rainbow balloon. After congratulating Lala on the performance, the group leaves for the special menagerie again to watch Sinead pet the last remaining animal. The three Gangrel chat about animal handling and idiot handling, and Lillian takes time to talk to the menagerie about their growth, their brood, their homes and what they hunt when they sneak off. Emma pushes Sinead to go ahead and pet the little feathery ball of cuteness, and she fails spectacularly at her attempt to approach it gently. It startles and promptly vomits a quickly evaporating, rainbow-sparkly goo on her that knocks her out both literally and metaphorically. As if nothing happened, Lillian then proceeds to approach the tiny animal to feed it some leaves and pet it, without eliciting the same reaction.

With a very happy Sinead in tow, Emma bids goodbye to the Gangrel to take her companion back to the city. On the way to Sinead’s establishment, they chitchat about what they’ve both recently been doing, and Sinead asks for Emma’s signature in her efforts to be named honorary Brujah. When Jukka and his interesting plans to build houses full of death come up, Emma suggests giving him access to Sinead’s haunted property to optimize the amount of death in the house since she doesn’t use it as a haven anymore, then wonders aloud what happened to Florence and Stepano. She is interrupted by Sinead, who asks if she has read Plato as she wants some Plato for herself, which confuses Emma; however, any attempts to get Sinead to admit what she would need a complete collection of Plato’s works for falls flat. Sinead doesn’t divulge any more information and instead asks the Brujah to teach her that Celerity trick she displayed earlier that evening when catching the falling box. Emma agrees, but puts the topic off for later as she intends to take her dancing before the night is over. It turns out that Sinead knows just the place for fast dancing, so they catch another cab.

The place in question turns out to be an Irish pub where Sinead seems to be familiar with many of those present. Delighted by the presence of so many red-haired people, Emma is content to listen to Sinead make small talk for a while before she drags her onto the dance floor. After a moment, Sinead pushes the Brujah into the dancers so she can learn for herself, and she takes to it with surprising ease. Not content with being left to herself, however, she quickly pulls the Ravnos back for a dance with her, and despite looking quite funny due to their height difference, the two spin around for a while before sitting down at the bar for a drink. Emma once more asks about Plato, and Sinead claims to be interested in ancient history and philosophy, and wants to learn to talk about it at parties. Completely befuddled by this answer, Emma asks her whether she recently met any Malkavians. Sinead’s denial seems doubtful as the Ravnos suddenly spots a man in Roman armor with an apron and butcher knife, who proceeds to put down his helmet on their table before heading into the kitchen; as she pokes the helmet, Emma only sees her touching empty air and asks with some concern what she is doing. In an attempt to change the topic, Sinead asks her whether she knows anything about the three Ventrue the Sabbat hit in their last raid, which she denies. Unwilling to let the conversation die, Emma complains about her recent date with Mithras only to segue into a terrible pickup line that she somehow manages to deliver seductively thanks to her voice before she leans in to Sinead to follow up with another line about pirates. Sinead responds by suggesting she show her companion some piracy and debauchery, and after an enthusiastic agreement, she immediately proclaims that she has to get her hands on Plato for the piracy to proceed. Emma doesn’t take this twist very well as she loudly yells about Sinead being a tease before the other woman drags the Brujah out of the bar who is grumbling that in the end, she decided that Sinead is actually worse than Mithras.

The night after his meeting with de Worde, Marcus and Chris, well-dressed and wearing masks as instructed, leave for a party at what Chris describes to be the most decadent place in the country. The maze of rooms they enter is lit in a play of shadow and light cleverly designed to provide spotlights as well as private spaces. Vivianne approaches them as they mingle with the predominantly male guests to welcome them to her little club before calling over Lawrence to greet them as well. After a short introduction, Lawrence offers to show them around, which Marcus happily accepts, though Chris declines. While on the guided tour of the place, Marcus observes that the guests act in a very familiar manner with each other, as gentlemen dance with each other and joke like in close company. He also notices that the more private conversations seem to only be between people of the same gender. Lawrence points out some rooms and explains that Vivianne and he provide certain medical services to mortals, and notes that while it is usually a gentlemen-only club, the few women who are in attendance have rather special tastes.

At the end of the tour, Marcus returns to sit with Chris to chat and observe his surroundings for a while before they watch a performance on stage that consists of short scenes from ballet or theater as well as musical performances. In their conversation, they are joined by a taller and older man after a while, who sits with them and introduces himself as a collector of ancient Roman and Egyptian artifacts, which catches Marcus’ attention. Chris excuses himself after a moment, leaving the two of them to chat about history, art and their respective collections, and Marcus is extended an invitation to join his group of like-minded individuals, and to display his art in the gallery at the venue. Though he declines to exhibit any of his art, both men take a stroll to look at the pieces on display, which gives Marcus an opportunity to talk at length about art. When they return for drinks, they split up, and as the evening progresses and alcohol flows more freely, the Malkavian eventually becomes more uncomfortable with the undertones in conversations around him and the closeness on display. He meets Vivianne once more, and they chat as they take another tour around the building, visiting the telescope room where she shows him a peculiar painting of the night sky as seen from Jupiter that he finds interesting. Vivianne talks about her assistance for Lawrence who established this place, and mentions that she is an actress with a theater under her artistic direction. When Marcus asks for an invitation to the theater, she mentions that he declined a previous invite which Chris extended to him, for which he apologizes. He also inquires whether she knows a skilled tattoo artist, and though Vivianne declines, she promises to send anybody she meets his way.

They split up as Vivianne returns to attending to the other guests, and using the opportunity, Marcus convinces a man to leave with him to feed, though to his surprise his victim proposes continuing elsewhere when he tries to leave. After unsuccessfully trying to escape by claiming to be here for the first time, Marcus has to be more blunt as his companion offers to just show him how things are done. He eventually manages to disengage and sets off to find Chris, mulling over things in his mind as realization begins to dawn on him, and after a brief farewell with Lawrence the two of them make their way back to the mansion.

30. Gloomy Friday.
Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

“Why so much grief for me? No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate. And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you – it’s born with us the day that we are born.”




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.


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