26. Rose (II)

[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

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

[Lisa, 2. 12. 2017]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Sunflowers

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

[Lisa, 19. 11. 2017]

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

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

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

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

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

23. Atticus Goes Forth

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

[Lisa, 18. 10. 17]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. Of Adam and Eve

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

21. The Bear and the Maiden Fair

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

[Lisa, 21. 05. 17]

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

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

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

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

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

20. Tales as old as time

“Trust the tale, not the teller.”

[Lisa, 13. 05. 2017]

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

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

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

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

18. Lessons Learned

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."

[Lisa, 25. 03. 17]

When Lambert returns to Emma and Hawke after trying to find the rest of the Sabbat in the city, he reports that most of them are gone by now and that he couldn’t find anyone. Hawke asks him if he could find any Setites in this case, and shares some gossip with Emma that Mithras allegedly had a Setite lover a few centuries back, but Lambert can’t help with that either. He proceeds to ask the two of them for help decluttering the church’s basement, which turns out to be full of torture equipment which they break down before putting it on the street outside, up for grabs for the Nosferatu or anybody else interested in it, though Hawke takes the Iron Maiden for his own house. The priest asks Emma to drop by again on Sunday for the help she offered him, then the two Brujah make their way back to Emma’s haven as the sun draws nigh. With a little time left on their hands before sunrise, they chat a bit and Hawke shares the story of Letho and him crashing a lord’s wedding back in their crusading times, where they met a servant girl who was the lord’s mistress and unhappy with his treatment of her; she proceeded to poison the food and drink of the party and stabbed the lord to death. As she tried to make her escape, Hawke stopped her to offer her the Embrace, which she declined aggressively, instead opting to leave on her own. Looking back on it, Hawke regrets that the woman didn’t accept his offer, since they just don’t make humans like her anymore, and he asks Emma if any mortal caught her eye yet, to which she answers in the negative.

Sinead, who managed to drag Stepano’s body out of sight to the river bank, summons Molly and asks her to fetch a carriage she could use to transport the unconscious Kindred, as well as to pass a message to the Tremere to arrange a meeting the following night with a specialist for teleportation magic. She also offers to the sheriff that she could accompany her, though she declines this offer as Molly doesn’t want to take credit for something she didn’t do. Disappointed with the sheriff, Sinead lets her go to get the carriage and spends the time until its arrival in conversation with a street dog, leaving for Marcus’ mansion hastily as soon as she can.
Marcus spent some time giving one of his stable boys an errand, namely to fetch four beautiful girls from one of the local brothels for the beginning of the next night to prepare breakfast for Chris before he is interrupted by Sinead’s arrival. She presents Stepano’s body to him, though she said she couldn’t find his heart, and shares news of the demon’s demise. After he thanks her for bringing Stepano back, Marcus asks about Norton, who as he mentions would like to stay with him, an idea to which he isn’t averse, and Sinead agrees that for now this would be best for him. However, when pressed for details about his dormitor, Sinead stays vague and only says that she bought his freedom and promised to hand it back to him, at the same time offering help if there is anything she can do for the man. She also asks about the woman she saw together with Marcus in a photo at the Sabbat’s lair, and he explains that she was an envoy from Rome who visited to get a signature from Incitatus. The conversation turns back to the events of the previous night as Sinead explains that Marylyn has left the city with the rest of the Sabbat and Marcus shares a few details about the Salubri. Sinead mentions that she is thinking about leaving London for a while herself, and they discuss sect politics for some time until the approaching morning forces them to rest.

After the sun sets, Marcus receives news that Incitatus ran off during the day and came back with a blue dress, which the servants find amusing; pondering whether this is a sign that his horse would appreciate more fabulous items for itself, he checks on Norton, whom he finds “painting”, or more accurately coloring a canvas entirely in black. He corrects his grip on the brush, showing him how to hold it properly, and leaves the room again only to see Sinead racing outside after she walked in on Chris having his breakfast and barely staving off frenzy long enough to make it out of the house. He follows her quickly and finds her wrestling with Incitatus, feeding on the horse after she calmed down again. Using the opportunity, Marcus asks Sinead to inquire with the horse as to why it brought a dress, and he learns that it was for Marcus’ wedding; Incitatus tried to bring a woman as well, but the lady in question resisted successfully. They both leave for the city of London, but separate on their way.

In the meantime, Emma spends the beginning of the night by checking up on her contacts in hopes that they can provide her with more information about Julian’s son, but much to her disappointment, she comes up short. With nothing much to show, she drops by the second Elysium briefly and pens a short note to Lady Anne which she asks Caroline to send to the first Elysium for her. She doesn’t stay long, seeing how the place is almost empty, instead opting to spend the night in the third Elysium. She chats with Miranda briefly and asks her to send one of her ghouls with a few messages; one to Marcus and Sinead each, asking them for a private meeting at their earliest convenience, and one to the Nosferatu, directed at the clan’s librarian, to meet with one of them who speaks Russian and could translate something for her. After that, she sits down in the tavern, working on her paper and the penny dreadfuls she intends to sell.

When Sinead reaches the Tower bridge, she finds a man waiting there already who is throwing stones into the river and turns around when she approaches, recognizing her as a friend of Marcus’. She leads him to the barred door behind which the portal to the Sabbat lair is hidden, and he destroys it to gain access. After throwing a few stones through the portal, he deems it safe enough to enter, and both of them step through. While Dennis examines the room they find themselves in, he asks the Ravnos details about how the demon exactly died and what happened afterwards; he also warns her that while she is free to do so, she explores the place at her own peril, and that he will soon move the portal’s exit directly into the Chantry. Sinead uses the opportunity to ask him if anything can be done about her ring, which she can’t take off despite the demon being banished, and he tells her that the easiest way to get rid of the contract is to fulfill it by wearing it for the remainder of the time necessary, unless she wants to kill herself or leave the contract unfulfilled, which could have consequences of its own. The effects of the ring could be blocked by a talented enough Tremere, though none remain in England who would be capable of doing so. Not quite happy with the answer, she asks him to keep an eye out for Stepano’s heart, though Dennis brushes her off as he thinks the demon probably ate it already, and he points out that the Assamite might be possessed as well, which Sinead asks him to tell Marcus before venturing forth to explore on her own. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find Stepano’s heart, though she acquires a key to an unknown lock, a letter to a “Camille” in what looks to be Italian but seems to be encrypted, a medieval longsword, and a curved blade with an Arabic engraving, which she deciphers to be a well-wishing charm.

In the meantime, the Malkavian in question arrives at the mental hospital where his horse was being examined by a Gangrel psychologist named Stanley. He sits down for a chat in Stanley’s office, thanking him for his efforts but inquiring why his horse believes he needs to marry. The psychologist explains that he couldn’t cure Incitatus’ mania, only shift its focus, and that he attempted to shift it in a direction that would lead to the horse trying to be more helpful, though how this is expressed is still entirely subjective. He mentions that a clanmate of Marcus’ is staying here of his own volition, a man who appears to currently be obsessed with Russian literature and Dostoyevsky in particular, though the doctor is unsure if he actually wants to get help for his madness or just have a place to live for free. After wondering whether this was the person who sent the books to Emma, Marcus asks for medicine for Norton to help soothe and calm the ghoul down. Stanley explains that the most effective recommendations like opium or vodka are highly addictive, and that other medicinal herbs will have a reduced effect, though he acquiesces after a bit of pressure and provides him with a list of herbs and the correct dosages for stronger sedatives in case they might become necessary, though he points out that they will become less and less effective with each application and should only be used in emergencies. He also says that while an application of Dominate could be overriden by a more talented practitioner of the discipline, no equivalent exists for Presence, which is usually unbreakable. As a gesture of thanks, Marcus offers a generous donation to the hospital to be used at Stanley’s discretion and borrows a few books on the subject of psychology to peruse at his leisure. On the way out, he also requests to meet his clanmate, who greets the two men curtly and then immediately slams the door to his room in their faces.
With some more time to spend, Marcus leaves a message to Lady Anne in the first Elysium about Stepano and a message to Dennis at the Chantry which he addresses to “the attractive blonde gentleman” before dropping by the second Elysium. What he finds surprises him, as a group of Kindred, among them the Malkavian and Toreador primogen, seem to be having a private tea party with actual tea; he is invited to join and tastes the brew curiously, which tastes like herbal water and makes him feel more awake and refreshed. It also appears to have a calming effect, as those gathered have a very pleasant conversation, which is unusual for the Kindred in question. They critique Raymond’s latest novel, but the topic soon shifts towards erotica in general, which bores Marcus who excuses himself and leaves to return to his mansion.

The night is slow for Emma, who spends it working until Molly shows up with an unknown black gentleman. She waves the two of them over, and Molly’s companion introduces himself as Solomon Jones, coming from the southern US and in London for about one and a half decades now. Emma asks Molly about what happened in the first Elysium after she left, and her clanmate shares the nights events. Pleased at having avoided another encounter with the demon, Emma steers the conversation towards more pleasant matters and listens to Solomon for a while, who mentions that he is trying to work towards justice for black people in particular and also has an interest in workers’ rights. When he mentions communist leanings in addition to that, Emma perks up and offers to publish writings of his in her own newspaper if he has anything that needs to be reported, which he accepts. The three of them continue to discuss social issues until the relaxed atmosphere in the room is disrupted by Mithras, who walks in and asks Miranda for a private chat. After the two of them return, the Prince makes rounds among the Kindred present to make small talk with everyone. When he reaches the table at which Emma, Molly and Solomon are sitting, he asks Emma if there is a Brujah revolution in planning, to which she replies that it’s the first she’s heard of it and that she finds it scandalous and terribly rude that her own clanmates wouldn’t keep her in the loop about such matters. Mithras asks them not to set the city on fire and seems greatly amused, and Emma reminisces about the time she spent in France during the French Revolution, to which the Prince replies that he remembers it quite well. She asks him if he would care to join her in singing a tune from this period, as while revolutions are a terribly unpleasant business overall for everyone involved despite being a necessary evil, they do produce very catchy songs. He declines, though Emma doesn’t let it nor her awful French stop her. When the song doesn’t have the desired effect, she thinks for a moment, switching to something from the War of the Roses which Letho taught her, and Mithras appears nostalgic while he listens. Still, her efforts aren’t sufficient to get him to join her, and before she finishes her performance, he slips out of the Elysium.

17. In Her Wake

Earth, stream and tree encircled by sea
Waves sweep the sand from my island.
My sunsets fade.
Field and glade wait only for rain
Grain after grain love erodes my
High weathered walls which fend off the tide
Cradle the wind
to my island

[Lisa, 5. 3. 17]

Sinead spends some time talking with Marylyn and manages to alienate the Salubri slightly before turning to Aaron to discuss their strategy for the upcoming fight. They are interrupted when their carriage comes to a halt in the harbor, and as Marylyn goes aboard a ship waiting for her, Sinead recognizes a Kindred among the Sabbat near the vessel as a woman whom she had previously seen in a photograph at Marcus’ mansion, where she posed together with him. She doesn’t get a chance to talk to this person, though, as both she and Aaron are taken back to the Sabbat’s lair by Moira, who states that they have to wait for the following night to act. Using the brief window of time they have before the sunrise, Sinead inquires about Stepano, and Moira tells her that he very romantically gave his heart to her for all eternity. After another brief discussion about their plan for the next night, they are forced into slumber as the sun rises.

Back in London proper, Emma wakes up to find Hawke busily barricading the door to her haven, using the floor boards and whatever else he could scrounge to fortify their defenses. After a brief lecture on the lack of safety in her haven, they decide that they might as well try and look for any Sabbat still left in the city to get rid of and make their way towards a church in order to climb its tower, though Emma requests they stop by the second Elysium on their way, as she wants to pick up her blade before any fights ensue.

In the first Elysium, Marcus awakens and finds it empty except for its Keeper, who is reading a newspaper and mentions that while the Sabbat fought in the market square and city center, the media appears not to have reported anything about it. Langley informs him about the results of the attack: the Tremere primogen died and quite a few other Kindred were injured, including Atticus, though it appears that the majority of the Sabbat or at least what was still left of it has retreated from the city.
When he returns to his mansion, he finds Incitatus prancing about outside and a very drunk Christopher having a pity party by himself. After some prodding, he reveals that during the Sabbat raid, he saw his mortal sister among the Sabbat Kindred and had to forcefully prevent Gabriel from attacking her when they came to blows. He seems hurt, disheartened and confused, and while Marcus does his best to change that, first by distracting him with the story surrounding the box and the Salubri they found inside, then by trying to console him and offering help in his quest for vengeance against his sister’s sire, his efforts show very little results. In the end, Marcus escorts Chris to one of his rooms so he can rest for a while and inquires with Charles about the guest Sinead asked him to pick up.

At the second Elysium, Emma and Hawke find only a few people discussing last night’s events, whom they quickly join in conversation; Emma also notices five Malkavians sitting together at a table and silently staring at a coin, and wonders aloud what they could possibly be doing. As it turns out, the Nosferatu helpfully explains that they are trying to decide their new primogen. While Talbott didn’t die during the events of the last night, it appears they believe he will resign from his post soon. The conversation soon turns towards last night’s dragon hunt, and they learn that de Worde was injured in the fight when the Tzimisce opened a crater full of lava in the sewers, and that the Tremere primogen died in the scuffle. They also learn that at least two Ventrue died during the night, one of them in a spectacular fashion as his mansion was completely burned to the ground. Hawke then decides that before they leave, they should have a drinking game with stories being told, which he uses to sneak in questions about the previous night that seem innocuous enough but provide more details on the events that transpired. All of the Nosferatu were involved in one way or another in the fight, the Prince made an appearance in the market square to talk to Joshua about something before leaving again, and it seems to have been an objective-related fight. This leads to the conclusion that the Sabbat have achieved some objective, and that neither the Prince nor the Nosferatu really seemed to mind this fact, as apparently their own objective didn’t conflict with the Sabbat’s, which makes it likely that the whole affair was not a Sabbat-Camarilla conflict at all, but something entirely else.
When they have learned all they can, they excuse themselves and make their way to Emma’s haven, where she writes a curse to the demon and the Sabbat on the wall in ink and holds up her sword to it, yelling at the weapon that the demon should take a really good look at the message. After questions from Hawke, Emma explains that the sword is cursed and allows the demon to watch her through it, to which her mentor tells her to take it with her to their destination. They also find boxes full of animals in her haven, with live rats and mice, which Hawke sets free outside, as well as a box of dead sparrows.
They finally reach the Catholic cathedral that Hawke chose to view the city from above, and while they find no signs of fires or other riots while overlooking London, they do meet a friend of his once they climb back down. Hawke introduces the priest as Lambert and asks him whether he could do something about Emma’s demonically cursed sword. After examining it, the priest proposes to conduct an exorcism on the blade, to which Emma readily agrees, and they immediately proceed with it.

Meanwhile, in the Sabbat lair, the small group makes their way through the similarly-looking corridors of the maze-like structure and find after a while that they are stuck in an endlessly looping corridor. They notice that its length is different for each of them, and Aaron comments that it must have been set up hastily and may come down crashing on them at any moment if they mess with it. Still, as there is no alternative, he kneels down at the point they determine to be the start of the loop and sets the carpet on fire by turning the stone floor beneath it into lava for a brief moment, which breaks the spell and allows them to finally approach the summoning room, where the Tremere are already waiting for them. Combat ensues, and the Tremere manage to trap Moira in one of their circles and turn her to stone, at which point Margot says that she’ll allow Aaron and Sinead to leave. However, Aaron decides to refuse this offer and charges at Margot; he is stopped by the other Tremere before he reaches her, though not before he manages to enter the circle trapping Moira and freeing the demon from her stone prison. She promptly possesses Aaron and uses him to summon an active volcano in the circle itself, which Margot manages to partially disspell before she dies.
However, before the demon can proceed to slaughter the rest of those present, a confused and surprised expression crosses the face of her host as his body disintegrates into dust – just as Lambert finishes the exorcism of the blade successfully and returns it to Emma.
The fight immediately ceases as none of those present understand what just transpired, though they agree to leave the place as soon as possible and go their separate ways. Sinead manages to find Stepano, though not his heart, and drags his body with her out of the Sabbat’s lair. One of the remaining Tremere opened a path for her to return to London, which leads her to the tower bridge and to freedom.

Back at his mansion, Marcus enters the room that was set aside for Norton and finds it empty, with the windows wide open. Before he can call for a search for the man, he follows a hunch and checks beneath the bed, where he finds him hiding away. Norton is utterly unresponsive at first, though Marcus notices the obvious signs of the kind of withdrawal only a ghoul experiences on his face and does his best to convince him that he wants to help him. After a failed attempt at persuading him to drink a cup of herbal tea, the Malkavian explains the withdrawal process in more detail and assures him that there are no strings attached to his help. Norton mentions that he cannot concentrate long enough to do anything but manual labor and asks for tasks that he could perform that include crushing things. Marcus tells him that he will find him something suitable, but excuses himself and finds that he has received a package addresses specifically to him, which contains a painting. It’s a landscape of London, though in a different style and hand than the paintings he previously received, and he finds a strong impression of smugness when he examines it using Auspex, as well as a not quite successful imprint of a memory from the long-ago past which hints at something ugly lying in store hidden within the painting.

16. Wit's end

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

[SleepyKoala 26.02.2017 – ???]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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