Arcanum

21. The Bear and the Maiden Fair

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


[Lisa, 21. 05. 17]

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

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

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

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

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

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Lauretha

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