Arcanum

26. Rose (II)

Love. (And?) Madness.

[Lisa, 09. 12. 2017]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

Emma: That was … something. I’m not sure what it was, but something. Good grief.
I have some conflicting feelings about Miranda’s ideas of redecorating, and the fact that the place looks like something I would associate with Belinda more than with anyone from my own clan just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, despite the shepherd’s pie being perfectly fine. I wonder if she will be able to turn a profit with this long-term, and I don’t buy her claims that whatever stuff the mortals are smoking in the “meditation room” is better for them than alcohol. This has to be just as addictive, so really, it’s the same nonsense with a fresh coat of paint, quite literally. We’ll see how long it lasts. Sure, feeding may be much easier now, but is that worth it? Not that it was ever difficult to feed from somebody who is drunk… And that guru is just full of bollocks, I tell you. Philosophy my ass, he wouldn’t recognize philosophy if it punched him right in the face. Is this what people think of nowadays when they picture the clan of philosophers? Bloody hell, our reputation has really gone to shit. Not that I give a crap about this, but seriously, Miranda, you’re not helping.

The conversation with Lambert was much more like philosophy, though, and though it wasn’t as helpful or as morale-boosting as I had hoped it would be, I’m not going to waver. I’m going to run this charity for as long as I can, and I’ll help as many people as I can in whatever small way is possible. It’s like applying a bandage to an amputated limb, sure, but you have to start somewhere. If it weren’t for the fact that she’s a Tremere, I might have a sit-down with the new primogen about pooling resources, but as it stands I’ll stick to running this on my own. Plus, we don’t want the exact same thing anyway, and even if she has secondary motives, I still wish her the best of luck. Education is also a worthy cause.

As for the houses … I’ll wait and see. Marcus said this was but the first step on a path, so I’ll just have to be patient for now and keep my eyes open. I don’t like the idea of being set up for something that I don’t know where it leads, but running around like a headless chicken also won’t help. This makes me nervous, but I have other things to busy myself with in the meantime, so at least I can be productive while I wait for … whatever it is that is coming. Ugh, this sounds foreboding, I want none of that.

26. Rose (II)
Lauretha

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