“Not my best side, I’m afraid.
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.”
At the beginning of the night, Marcus meets the Regent in the Chantry to talk with her about the scene he found at Stepano’s manor. He mentions that he suspects a demon may be involved and drops some hints about a visit to Wales where he avoided making a deal with an entity that claimed to be a demon, of which he regained some memories during the last night. The Regent decides to investigate the matter immediately with the help of Alexander and sees Marcus out of the Chantry, who returns to his mansion where he has a meeting with Emma.
The Brujah asks him a few questions about ghouls and the properties of Kindred vitae, citing her newly “acquired” ghoul as the reason for her curiosity, and afterwards offers to assist him with the funeral bills for the murdered servants. The conversation turns towards the subject of money and finances, which helps to distract Marcus from the situation at hand for a while. When Emma mentions that she is looking for an accountant for her newspaper and filling in for a mortal herself at the moment, he offers to look over her books and tutor her in the arts of finance if she cares to learn more, which Emma accepts after a moment of hesitation. Shortly afterwards, their conversation is interrupted by Christopher, and Emma excuses herself to give the two enough privacy to talk. After she has left, Chris makes a few snide comments about the summon he received to Stepano’s manor. His sire uses the opportunity to urge him to be especially careful because he might become a target of the demon’s due to his involvement with Marcus, which doesn’t seem to faze him much. He also reminds him that he agreed to leave an envelope with his approximate location when he leaves, and asks him to notify him should he hear anything about the matter or if anything happens. Chris looks unimpressed despite his sire’s serious words and leaves on whatever business he had in mind for the night.
Meanwhile, Emma makes her way to the second Elysium and finds it full to the brim with Kindred; gossip abounds about the Tremere burning down Stepano’s mansion after the investigation and the Regent accusing the Ventrue primogen of putting the city in jeopardy since they knew Stepano was an Assamite scholar, who is suspected to be a spy by her, which led to an immediate meeting of the Primogen council being called. Since reports of the missing servants had made their way to the mortal police, the manor was burned down to protect the Masquerade after the investigation was finished, and the Regent was apparently livid after she found out that she wasn’t told immediately about the massacre. There are also rather precise reports of the manor itself going around that hint at somebody who was there in person spreading the information.
Emma manages to find Lionel, whom she asks for a private chat. She passes along detailed information about what she saw at the manor, excluding the fact that she was there with Marcus and Sinéad, and she takes the opportunity to subtly remind him of the agreement which they had reached. While he points out that this information is not directly related to the search for the old Sheriff and Sabbat involvement seems unlikely, Emma mentions that the Sabbat could still use this opportunity of most Kindred gathering in Elysium instead of being out and about in the city as a distraction for their own plans whether they had a hand in it or not. She doesn’t stick around for long, as she doesn’t want to talk about the matter at hand further, and instead opts to go to the third Elysium for the rest of the night, since many Kindred usually gathered there are currently in the second Elysium.
Sinéad had a chat with her childe Julian at the end of the previous night, where she noticed that he seemed troubled and tells him she regrets coming to London. After a bit of prying on her part, Julian admits to having agreed to a favor for John Malone in exchange for making an unnamed admirer disappear. During the next night, Julian has to perform the duties of a squire for a Malkavian, and though he is reluctant to provide more details, he invites Sinéad to tag along, to which she agrees.
Both of them meet at a clearing in the woods after “borrowing” a mule on their way for Julian’s costume, which consists of peasant clothing, a straw hat, a long chain and a wooden sword. They meet an armored man on a horse after a short wait, who introduces himself as Ser Franklin the Dragonslayer, who calls Julian “Sancho” and allows Sinéad to tag along after some persuasion. He tells them that he goes dragonhunting every year after St. George’s, but he is distressed since he noticed there are currently two black dragons in the woods – and while one dragon is just fine, two are definitely too many, so he has set out to hunt the upstart dragon who is setting himself up as competition to his own dragon. Sinéad poses as bait for the dragon and conjures a realistic illusion of a black dragon when nothing happens at first. They quickly flee deeper into the woods from the mock dragon, at which point Sinéad finds herself surprised by an unknown man who politely asks her if she would mind being abducted, to which she happily agrees.
Marcus keeps himself busy with more paperwork, but he has an odd feeling which prompts him to check his mansion for intruders, though he doesn’t find anything – until his butler interrupts him with a horseshoe that had been left at their doorstep. It’s made of a strange kind of metal, and as Marcus inspects it with his supernatural senses, he notices that whomever left it was very purposeful and thoughtful, whereas the previous handler was bewildered, and its maker seemed annoyed and in a grumpy mood. Marcus notices some herbs and leaves woven throughout the horseshoe, which he recognizes as commonly being used to ward off the evil eye or other evil forces. He decides to leave the item somewhere nobody would pick it up and then leaves his mansion for a ride in the city.
The third Elysium is practically deserted, with only the regulars on the mortal side plus Miranda and three men, two of whom are Kindred Emma doesn’t recognize and the other being her ghoul, Andrew Norton. He is playing chess with one of the Kindred, a Nosferatu, but immediately finishes his game with a checkmate when Emma waves him over. He still appears pale and bitter, and she quickly notices that he seems to be emotionally numb and bored out of his mind. Emma tries to organize her thoughts unsuccessfully and keeps jumping from topic to topic, telling him what she calls some basics including the concept of the Masquerade and that he mustn’t tell anybody anything about her unless expressly permitted. While she talks, she plays a game of cards with him, since Andrew started fidgeting around. She wonders whether he could take up his work as a private investigator again, which he doesn’t think to be a good idea. As he is itching for something to do, she asks him to figure out the names of the servants who were murdered in Stepano’s manor, but tries to impress upon him several times to be extremely careful about it and to not dig too deep lest he get into trouble, and she advises him to start carrying a weapon, preferably a knife, for his own protection from now on. She also probes him for his network of contacts, wondering whether he knows anybody who could do her books, and after he mentions that he did his own financial work, she asks him whether he could help her with the matter, at least until she finds someone else, to which he agrees.
Seeing as how she can’t properly concentrate and the Elysium is too quiet now, she drags Norton into her favourite tavern for a drink, which he accepts purely to make her happy, where she hears stories of a beast in the woods that one of the men hunted and killed, which is described as a dog-boar thing with scales as well as fur and huge, tusk-like teeth. Her mood quickly improves as she spins the wild tales even further, at some point hearing that a dragon is rumoured to be living in the woods around the city. She amuses herself for a while by adding fuel to the fire, and when the crowd turns its attention wholly toward dragon-hunting for the rest of the evening, she leaves to go on a walk with Norton in tow. Since her companion suddenly looks to be rather feverish, she asks to see him off safely, and notices that he is dragging out the way considerably. When she asks for his exact address, he weasels out of giving it, claiming that he is currently looking for a more permanent living quarter while he tries to lay low for a while due to tax reasons. With the sun rising soon, she decides not to push the matter further and leaves him be to get to her own haven safely.
While this happens, Sinéad suggests to her unknown captor that he should take her to a ruined tower nearby, which he finds a splendid idea, grabbing her and taking her there on the mule while she screams at the top of her lungs for theatrical effect before pretending to be gagged. She chats quietly with the stranger, who claims not to be from the area and to have come here only to oversee a person overseeing a project that he hopes will crash and burn. He introduces himself only as Hail and makes sure that she doesn’t have a chance to see his face while carrying her up on the tower as she is slung over his shoulder – and opportunity that Sinéad uses to its fullest, pretending to be steadying herself and grabbing his butt while doing so. Unfortunately, it turns out to be quite bony and reminds her of scales somehow, but before she can investigate further, Ser Franklin arrives with “Sancho” in tow. Hail throws Sinéad down at the knight, and both go tumbling down the tower while Julian facepalms in the background. The supposed dragon uses the opportunity to escape on Franklin’s horse, which leads to another chase to the river. They notice the temperature drop rapidly as they approach, ice appears on the water and the rain turns to frost – then a hailstorm starts. Franklin finds his horse left at the water, which has had its teeth elongated to tusk-like fangs, much to its owner’s horror. The hail stops after a while, and they notice that it has fallen in a very specific pattern over the city, forming the shape of a white dragon.
Franklin commends Sancho on his good work but departs shortly afterwards to find a dentist for his horse, while Sinéad and Julian make their way back to the city where they split up. Sinéad heads to the second Elysium which is still full to the brim and buzzing with the same gossip that Emma has heard. She is asked directly by one of the Gangrel about her involvement in the matter and admits to having been there and shares some details about what she saw.
Marcus’ ride takes him to his study where he decides to paint something to occupy himself and lets his thoughts roam freely, which results in a rough painting of a mountain with a knight fighting a dragon and a person with a straw hat and a red-haired woman in a white dress. He titles it as “Don’t Ask” by putting a note on the frame before continuing, and he discovers that the dragon seems pretty bony with a rather short tail. At this point he leaves it to dry, unsure what to make of it, and makes his way back into the city to feed. While looking for suitable vessels, he notices two well-dressed women laughing and suspiciously out of place; he follows them out of curiosity after noticing they are mortals, and makes a mental note of the place they enter and the specific knock they use to gain entrance there. He continues, but quickly finds the city’s rain turning into a hailstorm with unpleasantly large hail; after it finishes, he discovers the shape of the dragon over the city by using his clan’s unique discipline and decides to drop by the Chantry once more.
He is immediately shown to Harlow, who tells him that Stepano is still alive and an Assamite, which Marcus denies having had any knowledge of prior to her telling him. She seems incredibly unhappy with how events unfolded, since she claims somebody else was at the mansion before the Tremere could investigate it. Marcus gives her a detailed account of when he himself investigated it, which leaves little room for anybody else to show up there, but the Regent quickly turns the conversation towards the Prince, on whom she puts a large amount of blame as he chose not to inform the Tremere of the presence of an Assamite in the city.
After Marcus inquires about the horseshoe, which Harlow doesn’t have further information on, he tells her about the suspiciously dragon-shaped hailstorm, which leads her to the conclusion that a Tzimisce has arrived in the city. She informs him that the Tremere will be unavailable for the next seven nights due to clan matters and that she unfortunately cannot help him with finding Stepano currently.
With this new knowledge weighing on him, Marcus leaves for his haven where his butler informs him that Chris sent a rose to a lady, whom he called the “fairest of them all”, and he doesn’t return for the night.