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.


Emma: Where did all my time go? I feel like I’m rushing from activity to activity these nights, and barely have time to do anything else. Not only did the charity I set up for Lambert explode in popularity so much I can barely keep up with what is going on, but now I’m also getting letters from Kindred trying to play mind games with me? Since when am I so popular that somebody would do this? I really want to figure out what is going on, though I am admittedly a bit relieved that there aren’t actually dead bodies hidden in these houses. It’s still very weird and very creepy, of course, and maybe in the end I’d prefer if there had only been dead bodies hidden and not whatever it is I might find, but for now … I’m hoping it’s just a very elaborate Malkavian prank. I don’t know any Malkavian who would find it funny to play it on me, but with them, you never know.

Marcus agreed very readily to help me investigate the matter, even though he has no personal stake in it. I wonder about that, actually. I asked an awful lot of help from him during the last meeting, and yet he didn’t seem to hesitate to agree to all of it. Is there going to be a catch to all of this assistance, or is he just bored? Considering he’s the Malkavian primogen now, I find the latter to be very unlikely. Does he have a personal interest in the houses or the stories, or is he just curios? I’m not sure which one of those I would prefer…

At least my newspaper and other publications are doing well enough for now. They certainly turned into the opposite direction of what I had originally intended and expected, but considering they are both profitable and I still owe Atticus a lot of money, I’m not going to complain about it. Once my debt is paid back, I will set aside money to split the paper into the so-called “Quarterly Ghost” that people so latched onto and a more … well, politically motivated paper. With things in it that I actually intended to bring to the public’s attention. I’d feel bad for offering my clanmates a platform to publish in if it wasn’t for the fact that nobody took me up on that offer except for Annabelle. All bite and no bark, that lot, it’s no fun.

24. Sunflowers

Sinead: How I missed travelling… I needed to let my feet and thoughts wander aimlessly for a while. I missed both people I met in the past and the novelty.

The time spent in London has shaken me to the core and split me apart. I don’t know what I want to anymore in this day and age which is no longer mine. I decided to follow the line to find what anchored me in this existence until now. It’s funny, I have never given these things much of a thought. I haven’t found an answer yet, but maybe a direction? Time will tell.

It seems a century passed in London, not barely couple of weeks. I don’t know who exactly had his fun with Henry, but I will keep an eye on him. He came into contact with things I can’t yet understand, but I know he isn’t simply mad. There is truth in what he said, I know that for sure. I know enough of Kindred history to know for sure someone or something spoke through him. I wonder if he will ever recover… if I will ever recover? Maybe this is why the entity behind this all spoke to me?

I was surprised to learn a little bit about Molly. I wouldn’t think that the dead roses reminded her of her mortal life. I wonder if there is something more to it. The girl isn’t very smart, but maybe she will learn. For now it’s better to have her on my side. I will need her in case of my other activities will require someone’s blind eye… if she even can turn one. If not, I can try to force her to stand down. There must be some way to reason with her.

And then there is a queen of fools. There are layers and layers of stupidity I would have to mine through to get through that thick skull of hers. To have an audacity to try to force her rules on me… to try to do “business” when I offer her something much better… finally, offending me like this. For a second I sincerely hoped she will never return, but now I hear she is trying to save the world! She is teaching people that the hell is real! Pfft. Moron. I regret sending her inside. Now I won’t be sure if she is really her or if she has done something else, even more stupid. That one will not get it easy with me anymore.

What happened to this city… here I thought I will be able to just rest a bit after the affair with Moira and Margot…

24. Sunflowers

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