Arcanum

37. The Lady is the Tramp

She gets too hungry, for dinner at eight (I am starving)
She loves the theater, but she never comes late
I never bother, with people that I hate
She doesn’t like crap games, with barons and earls
Won’t go to Harlem, in ermines and pearls
And I definitely won’t dish out dirt, with the rest of those girls (Thank-you)
That’s why the lady is a tramp


[Lisa, 13. 05. 2018]

On the grand opening night of Her Majesty, Sinead welcomes her guests in the foyer, handing out ribbons to the Kindred guests so that the servants can recognize them and explaining the rules for the venue, especially since it is open to the mortal public and only parts of it are exclusively accessible to Kindred. She directs Kindred visitors to one of the rooms with her memorabilia on display, where a private performance will commence shortly, separate from the events scheduled for mortal visitors.
This private performance is given by Sinead and accompanied by Sinead as well, who created a mirage of herself to play the piano while she herself plays the lute, performing an eternally popular tune in different variations throughout the musical genres of the ages. Once she reaches modernity, the music stops and the doppelgänger disappears as Sinead welcomes her guests to her celebration on occasion of reaching a new milestone in her life, which she wants to mark by sharing entertaining stories of her life. With a gesture to the room, she explains that the objects on display, which range from weapons to maps, figureheads from a ship, and various other items, all hold stories she would love to tell and invites her Kindred visitors to browse and ask about anything that catches their attention.

As the guests scatter around the room, examining the objects on display and asking Sinead to tell the stories they hold, they are interrupted by a gunshot. Hawke, who just dropped a gun, apologizes for the noise and picks it back up. His companion, a rather overly well-dressed woman, draws attention away from the incident by prompting Sinead for another story. During this time, Emma excitedly gestures towards Hawke, indicating to him that he should shoot her, and he happily obliges. The shot goes wild, however, missing Emma by a few meters and hitting Elias, which promptly breaks his Obfuscate and leads to an awkward situation as Sinead apologizes for the incident and asks Hawke not to shoot while others are nearby. Not really bothered by what happened, Emma gestures once again to Hawke as soon as the attention is back on Sinead resuming the story she had been interrupted in telling, and he pulls the trigger on the gun with no effect. Annoyed and unsure why no shot resounded, the Brujah gestures to her mentor to throw the gun her way so she can examine it, which he promptly does. Realizing a moment too late that she might not be able to catch the projectile safely, Emma sidesteps its path, which causes it to crash into a weapon display behind her, sending glass shards flying.

While Sinead calls for someone to clean up the mess, Emma pockets the gun, which is out of bullets, and notices that Jukka looks suspiciously guilty. The storytelling is resumed once more, but tempted by the now easily accessible swords, Emma asks her companion Ophelia for help in getting her hands on one of them. Ophelia happily acts as her cover, and Emma snatches a zweihänder, sitting down with the blade on one of the chairs and producing a whetstone from her bag to sharpen it with without a care in the world. Once Sinead finishes her story, she notices the blade in Emma’s possession and approaches her to chat, informing her that she doesn’t like using this particular blade anymore since Milan. While the two women talk, the other Kindred rearrange the chairs around them to make space for a duel, which Sinead promptly offers Emma, who happily accepts it. As the two contestants agree to fight until forfeiture and Sinead selects a blade for herself, Mia and a few other Malkavians walk among the spectators to take bets on who wins.

The fight commences with Sinead performing the first attack, which Emma parries before whirling around her with supernatural speed to land a few blows on her opponent. Sinead tries to defend herself by using her powers of illusion, which only deter the Brujah for a short moment before she returns to her merciless assault. However, as Emma is about to strike the final devastating blow to end the duel, Sinead disappears in a blur and avoids it entirely, which causes the fight to come to a halt immediately. As both women observe each other attentively, each waiting for the other to strike first, Emma breaks the silence in an attempt to convince Sinead to forfeit, as her intent had been to end the duel quickly before either can inflict serious harm on the other. It takes some persuading, as Emma refuses Sinead’s offer to continue at a different time, but with some honeyed words from Emma that allow her to save face in front of her guests, Sinead finally relents and declares her forfeiture.
Unfortunately for the aforementioned guests, since Marcus bet a ludicrous sum on Emma’s win, he ruined the odds of the game, which leads to none of those who bet money winning anything. After the spectacle is over, the group scatters, with some Kindred leaving the room to see what the mortal performance is about, as Marcus and his companion Finch do, while others take the opportunity to feed, which Emma takes gladly, or mingle with the mortals.
Sinead stays with her guests for a moment before visiting the public showroom, where she stumbles upon Hawke and asks him for a dance. He accepts, though his idea of dancing turns out to be mostly to stomp around while clapping, though he does grab Sinead to spin her around for a bit, calling her too skinny for his tastes. She asks him for help in sharing stories related to history, though he declines as he claims it would only lead to people dying of boredom before he excuses himself to hunt for something to eat.

A short while later, most Kindred reconvene in the Kindred-only part of Her Majesty, and when Emma returns from her own hunt, Sinead presents her with a kriegsmesser as a reward for winning the duel, saying that she killed her first Sabbat member with this blade, and Emma thanks her profusely for the gift, promising to put it to good use. Afterwards, Sinead acts as a showrunner for a few select mortals who are performing exclusively for the Kindred audience in the room. Once these performances are concluded, she returns to telling stories, this time telling a single story for each Kindred clan, related to people she met of that specific clan as much as she is able to.
This second round of storytelling is interrupted by a servant, who tells the Ravnos that a woman jumped from a balcony in the main hall to commit suicide, and that a doctor was called who confirmed her death. Sinead leaves to investigate the matter and finds the corpse wearing a dress she had seen Ophelia wear a short time ago. Once the supposed corpse is moved to a private room, Ophelia reveals herself, laughing heartily about the matter and telling Sinead that it’s going to be great advertisement. In an attempt to control the consequences of this unplanned Malkavian performance, Sinead reassures the guests that the event was planned and part of the performance before the show is resumed and she can return to her Kindred guests.

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36. What Comes After
It follows.

That’s what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays.


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35. Cailín Óg a Stór

“Good men and true in this house who dwell,
To a stranger bouchal* I pray you tell:
Is the priest at home, or may he be seen?
I would speak a word with Father Green.”

“The Priest’s at home, boy, and may be seen;
’Tis easy speaking with Father Green.
But you must wait till I go and see
If the Holy Father alone may be.”

The youth has enter’d an empty hall;
What a lonely sound has his light footfall!
And the gloomy chamber’s chill and bare,
With a vested Priest in a lonely chair."


[Lisa, 13. 05. 2018]

Busy with her many investigations, Sinead spends some time staking out Max’s mansion, where she learns from residing animals that birds avoid the place as they tend to be shot down. With nothing further to gain from observing it, she moves on to looking into the properties of Bill’s mortal family, most of which were somehow related to scandals and bought cheap to be rented for rooms or businesses. The books she has access to show that a lot of transactions were made off the record to avoid taxation, lending more credence to the fact that the husband was a very creative and ruthless business man, which leads Sinead to suspect he may in fact have been Embraced by a Ventrue or someone of a similar mindset and not have died. To verify this fact, she sets up a meeting with Gabriel, asking him if he can summon a person to prove their death. Before examining the business logbook and demanding a written list of questions from her, he demands a favor as payment, as he wants Sinead’s help with a family issue. A clanmate of his has moved to London as an official ambassador, whom he wants convinced to leave the city again, since Mithras unfortunately didn’t kill her on sight. Sinead tries to haggle with him unsuccessfully, and after she agrees to the favor, he promises to send word once he performed the summon. Unfortunately for her, it turns out that Gabriel is unable to summon the spirit, which either means that the person isn’t dead, that they have magical protection from summoning or, which is very unlikely, that they are beyond reach.
With this new information, she meets with Bill in the asylum to talk in private and tells him that the business man who disappeared is most likely still alive and that he should look for him, starting with any Ventrue neonates, to solve the mystery. Surprisingly, Bill shows little interest in pursuing this avenue of investigation, as he explains he only wants to keep his niece safe, to which Sinead replies that he can’t keep her locked up in the asylum forever. Unsure himself of what to do, Bill asks Sinead to stay with the girl for a few hours so he can visit the city, and she agrees, settling down with her to make some smalltalk. This quickly turns into betting what grand solution Bill comes up with, and when the niece confidently raises the stakes to a thousand pounds, Sinead starts to prod her for an explanation for this confidence. The girl soon reveals her grand plan of moving up in the world by marrying a rich lawyer for his money and to use him to destroy lives, as she claims to have a long list of grievances she wants avenged, starting with her uncle and his stupid children, whom she mercilessly criticizes. Unlike her own family, she plans to marry a smart husband to have smart children, which she can use to build a small empire for herself. The two of them are still haggling about the conditions for the proposed bet when they hear a commotion outside.

The second Elysium slowly fills with people, and while Emma greets everyone and makes an effort to be a polite host, she slowly becomes nervous when the majority of Kindred arriving turn out to be Malkavians. She has her hands full with her unsuccessful attempts to keep eyes on all of them at once, and can’t prevent them creating a throne out of stacked chairs, flowers and brocade, nor from taking down all of the decorative curtains in the Elysium to use for their magnificent new piece of furniture.
The cause for all of this excitement soon shows up to the Elysium in the form of Marcus and Christopher, who are greeted at its doors by Angelina and Franklin sprinkling flower petals in their way, which is only outperformed in extravaganza by Angelina throwing a firework into the Elysium itself as the four Kindred enter, accompanied by a battle scream. Thus the Malkavian clan meeting official commences, as the numerous Malkavians present in the room rise to their feet, clapping for their Primogen’s arrival as he is handed a live peacock and escorted to his prepared throne. A rather exasperated Emma watches, torn between annoyance since Caroline didn’t inform her of the clan meeting and amusement at how it proceeds.
While they are provided refreshments from the Elysium’s staff, the clan makes conversation among itself, which mostly centers around business and the current plans of those present. In the meantime, the few Kindred not of Malkavian descent sit off to the sides, either watching the spectacle or entirely ignoring it in favor of their own affairs. Not long after, however, the clan collectively departs from the Elysium after Angelina announces that their procession should commence shortly, and Marcus hands the peacock off to Emma, thanking her for her gracious hospitality. Before they leave, they ask Emma for a tune their procession could march to, and after a moment of thinking, she teaches them the refrain of an early Communist march, which is happily spread among those present.
Emma starts to clean up the remainders of the clan meeting, handing the peacock to Shrew and Tom, who promise to return it to the royal garden in exchange for drinks at the third Elysium, and spends some time talking with Reuben Wright, a Ventrue whom she asks to explain the principle behind taxes to her. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have answers for all of her questions and advises her to ask the city council directly, turning the conversation to her newspaper to ask about her local submissions program, as he has a business relationship with an institute studying literary and scientific writing whose students might be interested in the program. Emma happily answers his questions, telling him he should encourage the students to submit whatever they would like, though she explains she personally approves everything that gets printed, so not all submissions actually end up in the paper. The two of them spend some time talking about hauntings and silly ghost stories before Reuben excuses himself for the night and Emma returns to her duties as Elysium Keeper. Luckily enough, the rest of the evening passes quietly, and when Caroline returns in a good mood, Emma shares gossip about the night’s events and persuades the Ventrue to make a donation to her charity in return for the favor of babysitting the Malkavians for a night.

The clan itself has moved on in a colorful and extravagant procession, travelling through the city accompanied by music and attracting attention all the way to the asylum which is managed by Stanley. The inmates greet them with cheers, and Marcus is forced to improvise a speech as they arrive, during which someone throws a live chicken out of one of the windows. Before the group heads inside, they carry a chained and lavishly decorated box from their procession to the building’s wall, raising it to a certain window and securing it. The noise attracts the attention of Sinead and her ward, who observe from a window and notice that the Malkavians proceed to enter the ward one is supposed to stay away from. On their way, the clan passes by the room, and Marcus explains to Sinead that they’re having a clan meeting.
Inside Owen’s cell, the inhabitant of which is gagged and bound to a chair, the group lifts the box inside and opens it to reveal the hatter sitting in a workshop and, seemingly without a care in the world, continuing to work on his creations. Once everyone has settled down, they untie Owen, who promptly complains about the number of visitors but begrudgingly sits down among them to listen to Marcus, who addresses his clan collectively to introduce himself formally as their new Primogen and describe some of his travels, weaving them into a story about the dichotomy between high and low clans during times before the Camarilla’s formation, trying to impress upon his clan members the power they wield and their potential as a clan and painting himself as a mentor to them for all things Malkavian. After this, those present start to scatter in the asylum, either to feed or to have a proper party with the other inmates.
One of the clan’s members stumbles upon Sinead and the niece she is watching, who are discussing whether to join the party or not, and when Sinead asks the woman for her name, she acts hurt by the question and introduces herself as Ophelia before making a dramatic exit to return to her clan members and promptly scheming on ways to prank the Ravnos in retaliation. Since she promised Bill she would keep an eye on his niece, Sinead tries to convince her not to join the party for fear of her mental state, but when she opens the door to leave the room, she finds herself face to face with the real Incitatus and is immediately surrounded by a group of Malkavians who harmlessly but nonetheless unnervingly prod fun at her. Finally giving up as the niece already stole her way out of the room, Sinead joins in their shenanigans as well.

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34. Trifle
Of playthings, revolutionaries and raccoons.

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.


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

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


[Lisa, 07. 03. 2018]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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32. Flux
All things flow.

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


[Lisa, 06. 03. 2018]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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31. "Fun".

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

[Lisa, 25. 02. 2018]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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30. Gloomy Friday.
Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

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


Chirp.

Chirp.

…chirp?

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29. Scrutiny.
Deep nonsense with all the sense.

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

[Lisa, 13. 02. 2018]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Lisa, 09. 01. 2018]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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