22. Of Adam and Eve

" (…)Another time, the church elder himself, who was fond of an occasional private interview with my grandfather’s brandy-glass, had not succeeded in getting to the bottom twice, when he beheld the glass bowing very low to him. “Satan take you, let us make the sign of the cross over you!”—And the same marvel happened to his better half. She had just begun to mix the dough in a huge kneading-trough when suddenly the trough sprang up. “Stop, stop! where are you going?” Putting its arms akimbo, with dignity, it went skipping all about the cottage—you may laugh, but it was no laughing matter to our grandfathers. And in vain did Father Athanasii go through all the village with holy water, and chase the Devil through all the streets with his brush. My late grandfather’s aunt long complained that, as soon as it was dark, some one came knocking at her door and scratching at the wall…."

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.

20. Tales as old as time

“Trust the tale, not the teller.”

[Lisa, 13. 05. 2017]

After Emma leaves the two elders to their own devices, Sinead prods Marcus about the priest Emma mentioned, and he gives her directions to the catholic cathedral where he met a Kindred priest himself previously, though he can’t confirm whether this is the very same man. She also asks to visit Norton, to which Marcus agrees, albeit with a warning that currently, he isn’t in any mood for conversation, and in return asks Sinead to use her contacts to the local Gangrel to inquire about medicinal herbs that he might give Norton. After their conversation, the two split and go their separate ways as well.

Marcus retires to his home, though he only has a brief moment at his mansion before Mithras summons him to the Buckingham Palace, where the Prince congratulates him to his new position as primogen of clan Malkavian, to which he has been promoted with immediate effect after his clan unanimously voted for him to replace Talbott, who has resigned and will be leaving London shortly. After Mithras informs him of the duties that come with the title and answers a few of his questions, the conversation turns towards Stepano as Marcus inquires about a method of contact for his sire, a remark that the Prince handwaves as he explains he already wrote to him to inform him of his progeny’s recent failings. The conversation then turns towards Dementation as Marcus wonders whether it would be possible to undo the effects of the discipline, which Mithras confirms, though the Malkavians capable of accomplishing this feat are not permitted to set foot in his kingdom. He also mentions that one of his brothers by blood claimed that all Kindred become mad due to outliving their natural lifespans either way, curiously asking Marcus whether he ever thinks about what it would be like to be mortal again. He replies that the only thing he misses from his mortal life is his faith, which prompts Mithras to lay out an argument that the Curse of Caine is proof of god’s existence, which ironically should have helped consolidate Marcus’ faith instead of destroying it. During a brief lull in the conversation after this topic, the Prince observes the flames flickering in the fireplace attentively, which Marcus notices. He attempts to search for a pattern in the fire, as it caught his attention, and finds some unexpected knowledge about the Prince by observing it – which doesn’t escape Mithras’ notice.
With a nagging feeling that he just volunteered for something, Marcus engages the Prince in conversation once more, inquiring about whether the effects of Presence could be stopped prematurely, to which he receives an answer in the negative; the discipline may even leave an aftereffect once the original application of it fades, but there is no way to stop it without killing the one affected or letting it fade naturally. They continue for a time until the Antediluvian Lasombra is mentioned and his childe in the Camarilla, which Mithras confirms to be Montano, who has a habit of being the sole survivor of most missions he is sent on, as everybody working together with him seems to die during their cooperation. As conversation comes to a halt once more, Mithras advises Marcus to keep his eyes open, and the new primogen leaves to return to his mansion once more, where he is greeted by Christopher, who congratulates him on his new position. Marcus feels that a celebration is in order, and Chris suggests going on a hunt for a dragon, or, in lieu thereof just going on a more ordinary hunt in the woods north of London.

In the meantime, Emma makes her way to Gregory’s library, where she is greeted by the Nosferatu who offers her a cup of hot milk with honey, which she happily accepts, sipping from a mug while observes her curiously. She presents him with the Russian book that had been sent to her and asks him to translate its title as well as the handwritten note in it, and Greg confirms the book to be “Despair and Loneliness”, a first edition of the novel by Dostoyevsky, which is signed by the author himself and contains a handwritten note addressed to a friend of his. The conversation turns towards Russian literature as Greg has a fascination for it as well as for Russian history, and as Emma notes that she unfortunately knows very little about either topic, he shows her an art book about Russian Orthodox churches and explains the similarities to Byzantine architecture, to which Emma listens with only modest interest. The Brujah explains that unlike her sire, she is unfortunately not very academically inclined, and after offering his condolences for Letho’s death, whom the Nosferatu didn’t know well, Greg gives a few subtle stabs at Emma. She tries her best to remain unfazed and thanks him for the translation, while also offering the book in exchange for money or a small boon, as she is of the opinion that with his appreciation for Russian literature, he would be in a better position to appreciate it than her. As Greg says he has little to offer in the way of boons, he would prefer to take her up on the offer of buying the novel from her, and mentions a fair price for it, which Emma accepts. He also wonders whether she might not want to take a few other books with her, and mentions that if she is looking for recommendations for something more appealing to her tastes, she might want to ask her clanmate Miranda for details.

While Sinead is on her way home, she listens to her animal companions bickering and throwing insults at each other and tries to keep them both placated. She makes her way through the building looking for Albert, and asks him to refrain from visiting the house for the time being and stay somewhere else; immediately after this conversation, she notices that doors open and close on their own, and decides to take her advice to heart as well, leaving immediately to find the cathedral that Marcus mentioned. Upon arriving, she discovers that she is out of luck as the church is closed and nobody answers her knocks on the nearby living quarters, so after making note of the church’s opening hours, she travels through the city to Belinda’s brothel, finding the Ventrue just returned from a ride and still in her riding clothes. She inquires about Julian, and Belinda confirms that the fledgling did indeed visit her brothel, but she refuses to give up any more information regarding his business. Despite Sinead’s affirmations to the contrary, Belinda says that Julian claimed to be independent already when he dealt with her, and that she was asked for assistance, which she granted, though she says that it isn’t Julian who would be paying for the debt. Upon further prodding, she says that she won’t reveal the identity of the indebted party and recommends that the Ravnos instead find an Auspex master if she would like to locate her childe.
With immense frustration, Sinead gives up her attempts to extract further information from Belinda and returns home once more, walking into her living room and finding herself bathed in sunlight immediately, with the noises of birds singing and children laughing off in the distance. She notices that while the layout of the room appears to have stayed the same, the furniture seems outdated; after exploring the house further, this is consistent with every room she enters, and the house seems to be full of life and light wherever she goes. Upon entering the attic, she discovers that her collection of weapons has vanished as well, though she walks over to where they used to be hung and reaches out to grab the empty air, cutting herself on one of the blades. As her blood coats the sword, the mirage fades from her mind, but when she grabs the handle of the weapon it turns into a snake and immediately bites her hand. She shakes off the illusion, though blackness begins to spread from the twin wounds as steps echo behind her, coming up the stairs and closing in on her. Sinead races downstairs without seeing the source of the sound, though while looking out of a window she discovers Incitatus marshalling an army of women in her yard while a similar armada of squirrels throws nuts at the horse. As she leaves the house, she runs face-first into a great swarm of bats and hears a laugh behind her that sounds like it came from a mixture of hyena and human. Trying hard to ignore the continuing barrage of illusions, she scoops up her fox and her raccoon, and asks the animals to look at her hand. Neither of them can see the snake’s bite, though even after shaking off the other illusions, the wounds persist for Sinead. She decides to retire for the day in one of her temporary havens and finds that the snake bite has started to itch terribly after her journey.

18. Lessons Learned

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."

[Lisa, 25. 03. 17]

When Lambert returns to Emma and Hawke after trying to find the rest of the Sabbat in the city, he reports that most of them are gone by now and that he couldn’t find anyone. Hawke asks him if he could find any Setites in this case, and shares some gossip with Emma that Mithras allegedly had a Setite lover a few centuries back, but Lambert can’t help with that either. He proceeds to ask the two of them for help decluttering the church’s basement, which turns out to be full of torture equipment which they break down before putting it on the street outside, up for grabs for the Nosferatu or anybody else interested in it, though Hawke takes the Iron Maiden for his own house. The priest asks Emma to drop by again on Sunday for the help she offered him, then the two Brujah make their way back to Emma’s haven as the sun draws nigh. With a little time left on their hands before sunrise, they chat a bit and Hawke shares the story of Letho and him crashing a lord’s wedding back in their crusading times, where they met a servant girl who was the lord’s mistress and unhappy with his treatment of her; she proceeded to poison the food and drink of the party and stabbed the lord to death. As she tried to make her escape, Hawke stopped her to offer her the Embrace, which she declined aggressively, instead opting to leave on her own. Looking back on it, Hawke regrets that the woman didn’t accept his offer, since they just don’t make humans like her anymore, and he asks Emma if any mortal caught her eye yet, to which she answers in the negative.

Sinead, who managed to drag Stepano’s body out of sight to the river bank, summons Molly and asks her to fetch a carriage she could use to transport the unconscious Kindred, as well as to pass a message to the Tremere to arrange a meeting the following night with a specialist for teleportation magic. She also offers to the sheriff that she could accompany her, though she declines this offer as Molly doesn’t want to take credit for something she didn’t do. Disappointed with the sheriff, Sinead lets her go to get the carriage and spends the time until its arrival in conversation with a street dog, leaving for Marcus’ mansion hastily as soon as she can.
Marcus spent some time giving one of his stable boys an errand, namely to fetch four beautiful girls from one of the local brothels for the beginning of the next night to prepare breakfast for Chris before he is interrupted by Sinead’s arrival. She presents Stepano’s body to him, though she said she couldn’t find his heart, and shares news of the demon’s demise. After he thanks her for bringing Stepano back, Marcus asks about Norton, who as he mentions would like to stay with him, an idea to which he isn’t averse, and Sinead agrees that for now this would be best for him. However, when pressed for details about his dormitor, Sinead stays vague and only says that she bought his freedom and promised to hand it back to him, at the same time offering help if there is anything she can do for the man. She also asks about the woman she saw together with Marcus in a photo at the Sabbat’s lair, and he explains that she was an envoy from Rome who visited to get a signature from Incitatus. The conversation turns back to the events of the previous night as Sinead explains that Marylyn has left the city with the rest of the Sabbat and Marcus shares a few details about the Salubri. Sinead mentions that she is thinking about leaving London for a while herself, and they discuss sect politics for some time until the approaching morning forces them to rest.

After the sun sets, Marcus receives news that Incitatus ran off during the day and came back with a blue dress, which the servants find amusing; pondering whether this is a sign that his horse would appreciate more fabulous items for itself, he checks on Norton, whom he finds “painting”, or more accurately coloring a canvas entirely in black. He corrects his grip on the brush, showing him how to hold it properly, and leaves the room again only to see Sinead racing outside after she walked in on Chris having his breakfast and barely staving off frenzy long enough to make it out of the house. He follows her quickly and finds her wrestling with Incitatus, feeding on the horse after she calmed down again. Using the opportunity, Marcus asks Sinead to inquire with the horse as to why it brought a dress, and he learns that it was for Marcus’ wedding; Incitatus tried to bring a woman as well, but the lady in question resisted successfully. They both leave for the city of London, but separate on their way.

In the meantime, Emma spends the beginning of the night by checking up on her contacts in hopes that they can provide her with more information about Julian’s son, but much to her disappointment, she comes up short. With nothing much to show, she drops by the second Elysium briefly and pens a short note to Lady Anne which she asks Caroline to send to the first Elysium for her. She doesn’t stay long, seeing how the place is almost empty, instead opting to spend the night in the third Elysium. She chats with Miranda briefly and asks her to send one of her ghouls with a few messages; one to Marcus and Sinead each, asking them for a private meeting at their earliest convenience, and one to the Nosferatu, directed at the clan’s librarian, to meet with one of them who speaks Russian and could translate something for her. After that, she sits down in the tavern, working on her paper and the penny dreadfuls she intends to sell.

When Sinead reaches the Tower bridge, she finds a man waiting there already who is throwing stones into the river and turns around when she approaches, recognizing her as a friend of Marcus’. She leads him to the barred door behind which the portal to the Sabbat lair is hidden, and he destroys it to gain access. After throwing a few stones through the portal, he deems it safe enough to enter, and both of them step through. While Dennis examines the room they find themselves in, he asks the Ravnos details about how the demon exactly died and what happened afterwards; he also warns her that while she is free to do so, she explores the place at her own peril, and that he will soon move the portal’s exit directly into the Chantry. Sinead uses the opportunity to ask him if anything can be done about her ring, which she can’t take off despite the demon being banished, and he tells her that the easiest way to get rid of the contract is to fulfill it by wearing it for the remainder of the time necessary, unless she wants to kill herself or leave the contract unfulfilled, which could have consequences of its own. The effects of the ring could be blocked by a talented enough Tremere, though none remain in England who would be capable of doing so. Not quite happy with the answer, she asks him to keep an eye out for Stepano’s heart, though Dennis brushes her off as he thinks the demon probably ate it already, and he points out that the Assamite might be possessed as well, which Sinead asks him to tell Marcus before venturing forth to explore on her own. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find Stepano’s heart, though she acquires a key to an unknown lock, a letter to a “Camille” in what looks to be Italian but seems to be encrypted, a medieval longsword, and a curved blade with an Arabic engraving, which she deciphers to be a well-wishing charm.

In the meantime, the Malkavian in question arrives at the mental hospital where his horse was being examined by a Gangrel psychologist named Stanley. He sits down for a chat in Stanley’s office, thanking him for his efforts but inquiring why his horse believes he needs to marry. The psychologist explains that he couldn’t cure Incitatus’ mania, only shift its focus, and that he attempted to shift it in a direction that would lead to the horse trying to be more helpful, though how this is expressed is still entirely subjective. He mentions that a clanmate of Marcus’ is staying here of his own volition, a man who appears to currently be obsessed with Russian literature and Dostoyevsky in particular, though the doctor is unsure if he actually wants to get help for his madness or just have a place to live for free. After wondering whether this was the person who sent the books to Emma, Marcus asks for medicine for Norton to help soothe and calm the ghoul down. Stanley explains that the most effective recommendations like opium or vodka are highly addictive, and that other medicinal herbs will have a reduced effect, though he acquiesces after a bit of pressure and provides him with a list of herbs and the correct dosages for stronger sedatives in case they might become necessary, though he points out that they will become less and less effective with each application and should only be used in emergencies. He also says that while an application of Dominate could be overriden by a more talented practitioner of the discipline, no equivalent exists for Presence, which is usually unbreakable. As a gesture of thanks, Marcus offers a generous donation to the hospital to be used at Stanley’s discretion and borrows a few books on the subject of psychology to peruse at his leisure. On the way out, he also requests to meet his clanmate, who greets the two men curtly and then immediately slams the door to his room in their faces.
With some more time to spend, Marcus leaves a message to Lady Anne in the first Elysium about Stepano and a message to Dennis at the Chantry which he addresses to “the attractive blonde gentleman” before dropping by the second Elysium. What he finds surprises him, as a group of Kindred, among them the Malkavian and Toreador primogen, seem to be having a private tea party with actual tea; he is invited to join and tastes the brew curiously, which tastes like herbal water and makes him feel more awake and refreshed. It also appears to have a calming effect, as those gathered have a very pleasant conversation, which is unusual for the Kindred in question. They critique Raymond’s latest novel, but the topic soon shifts towards erotica in general, which bores Marcus who excuses himself and leaves to return to his mansion.

The night is slow for Emma, who spends it working until Molly shows up with an unknown black gentleman. She waves the two of them over, and Molly’s companion introduces himself as Solomon Jones, coming from the southern US and in London for about one and a half decades now. Emma asks Molly about what happened in the first Elysium after she left, and her clanmate shares the nights events. Pleased at having avoided another encounter with the demon, Emma steers the conversation towards more pleasant matters and listens to Solomon for a while, who mentions that he is trying to work towards justice for black people in particular and also has an interest in workers’ rights. When he mentions communist leanings in addition to that, Emma perks up and offers to publish writings of his in her own newspaper if he has anything that needs to be reported, which he accepts. The three of them continue to discuss social issues until the relaxed atmosphere in the room is disrupted by Mithras, who walks in and asks Miranda for a private chat. After the two of them return, the Prince makes rounds among the Kindred present to make small talk with everyone. When he reaches the table at which Emma, Molly and Solomon are sitting, he asks Emma if there is a Brujah revolution in planning, to which she replies that it’s the first she’s heard of it and that she finds it scandalous and terribly rude that her own clanmates wouldn’t keep her in the loop about such matters. Mithras asks them not to set the city on fire and seems greatly amused, and Emma reminisces about the time she spent in France during the French Revolution, to which the Prince replies that he remembers it quite well. She asks him if he would care to join her in singing a tune from this period, as while revolutions are a terribly unpleasant business overall for everyone involved despite being a necessary evil, they do produce very catchy songs. He declines, though Emma doesn’t let it nor her awful French stop her. When the song doesn’t have the desired effect, she thinks for a moment, switching to something from the War of the Roses which Letho taught her, and Mithras appears nostalgic while he listens. Still, her efforts aren’t sufficient to get him to join her, and before she finishes her performance, he slips out of the Elysium.

17. In Her Wake

Earth, stream and tree encircled by sea
Waves sweep the sand from my island.
My sunsets fade.
Field and glade wait only for rain
Grain after grain love erodes my
High weathered walls which fend off the tide
Cradle the wind
to my island

[Lisa, 5. 3. 17]

Sinead spends some time talking with Marylyn and manages to alienate the Salubri slightly before turning to Aaron to discuss their strategy for the upcoming fight. They are interrupted when their carriage comes to a halt in the harbor, and as Marylyn goes aboard a ship waiting for her, Sinead recognizes a Kindred among the Sabbat near the vessel as a woman whom she had previously seen in a photograph at Marcus’ mansion, where she posed together with him. She doesn’t get a chance to talk to this person, though, as both she and Aaron are taken back to the Sabbat’s lair by Moira, who states that they have to wait for the following night to act. Using the brief window of time they have before the sunrise, Sinead inquires about Stepano, and Moira tells her that he very romantically gave his heart to her for all eternity. After another brief discussion about their plan for the next night, they are forced into slumber as the sun rises.

Back in London proper, Emma wakes up to find Hawke busily barricading the door to her haven, using the floor boards and whatever else he could scrounge to fortify their defenses. After a brief lecture on the lack of safety in her haven, they decide that they might as well try and look for any Sabbat still left in the city to get rid of and make their way towards a church in order to climb its tower, though Emma requests they stop by the second Elysium on their way, as she wants to pick up her blade before any fights ensue.

In the first Elysium, Marcus awakens and finds it empty except for its Keeper, who is reading a newspaper and mentions that while the Sabbat fought in the market square and city center, the media appears not to have reported anything about it. Langley informs him about the results of the attack: the Tremere primogen died and quite a few other Kindred were injured, including Atticus, though it appears that the majority of the Sabbat or at least what was still left of it has retreated from the city.
When he returns to his mansion, he finds Incitatus prancing about outside and a very drunk Christopher having a pity party by himself. After some prodding, he reveals that during the Sabbat raid, he saw his mortal sister among the Sabbat Kindred and had to forcefully prevent Gabriel from attacking her when they came to blows. He seems hurt, disheartened and confused, and while Marcus does his best to change that, first by distracting him with the story surrounding the box and the Salubri they found inside, then by trying to console him and offering help in his quest for vengeance against his sister’s sire, his efforts show very little results. In the end, Marcus escorts Chris to one of his rooms so he can rest for a while and inquires with Charles about the guest Sinead asked him to pick up.

At the second Elysium, Emma and Hawke find only a few people discussing last night’s events, whom they quickly join in conversation; Emma also notices five Malkavians sitting together at a table and silently staring at a coin, and wonders aloud what they could possibly be doing. As it turns out, the Nosferatu helpfully explains that they are trying to decide their new primogen. While Talbott didn’t die during the events of the last night, it appears they believe he will resign from his post soon. The conversation soon turns towards last night’s dragon hunt, and they learn that de Worde was injured in the fight when the Tzimisce opened a crater full of lava in the sewers, and that the Tremere primogen died in the scuffle. They also learn that at least two Ventrue died during the night, one of them in a spectacular fashion as his mansion was completely burned to the ground. Hawke then decides that before they leave, they should have a drinking game with stories being told, which he uses to sneak in questions about the previous night that seem innocuous enough but provide more details on the events that transpired. All of the Nosferatu were involved in one way or another in the fight, the Prince made an appearance in the market square to talk to Joshua about something before leaving again, and it seems to have been an objective-related fight. This leads to the conclusion that the Sabbat have achieved some objective, and that neither the Prince nor the Nosferatu really seemed to mind this fact, as apparently their own objective didn’t conflict with the Sabbat’s, which makes it likely that the whole affair was not a Sabbat-Camarilla conflict at all, but something entirely else.
When they have learned all they can, they excuse themselves and make their way to Emma’s haven, where she writes a curse to the demon and the Sabbat on the wall in ink and holds up her sword to it, yelling at the weapon that the demon should take a really good look at the message. After questions from Hawke, Emma explains that the sword is cursed and allows the demon to watch her through it, to which her mentor tells her to take it with her to their destination. They also find boxes full of animals in her haven, with live rats and mice, which Hawke sets free outside, as well as a box of dead sparrows.
They finally reach the Catholic cathedral that Hawke chose to view the city from above, and while they find no signs of fires or other riots while overlooking London, they do meet a friend of his once they climb back down. Hawke introduces the priest as Lambert and asks him whether he could do something about Emma’s demonically cursed sword. After examining it, the priest proposes to conduct an exorcism on the blade, to which Emma readily agrees, and they immediately proceed with it.

Meanwhile, in the Sabbat lair, the small group makes their way through the similarly-looking corridors of the maze-like structure and find after a while that they are stuck in an endlessly looping corridor. They notice that its length is different for each of them, and Aaron comments that it must have been set up hastily and may come down crashing on them at any moment if they mess with it. Still, as there is no alternative, he kneels down at the point they determine to be the start of the loop and sets the carpet on fire by turning the stone floor beneath it into lava for a brief moment, which breaks the spell and allows them to finally approach the summoning room, where the Tremere are already waiting for them. Combat ensues, and the Tremere manage to trap Moira in one of their circles and turn her to stone, at which point Margot says that she’ll allow Aaron and Sinead to leave. However, Aaron decides to refuse this offer and charges at Margot; he is stopped by the other Tremere before he reaches her, though not before he manages to enter the circle trapping Moira and freeing the demon from her stone prison. She promptly possesses Aaron and uses him to summon an active volcano in the circle itself, which Margot manages to partially disspell before she dies.
However, before the demon can proceed to slaughter the rest of those present, a confused and surprised expression crosses the face of her host as his body disintegrates into dust – just as Lambert finishes the exorcism of the blade successfully and returns it to Emma.
The fight immediately ceases as none of those present understand what just transpired, though they agree to leave the place as soon as possible and go their separate ways. Sinead manages to find Stepano, though not his heart, and drags his body with her out of the Sabbat’s lair. One of the remaining Tremere opened a path for her to return to London, which leads her to the tower bridge and to freedom.

Back at his mansion, Marcus enters the room that was set aside for Norton and finds it empty, with the windows wide open. Before he can call for a search for the man, he follows a hunch and checks beneath the bed, where he finds him hiding away. Norton is utterly unresponsive at first, though Marcus notices the obvious signs of the kind of withdrawal only a ghoul experiences on his face and does his best to convince him that he wants to help him. After a failed attempt at persuading him to drink a cup of herbal tea, the Malkavian explains the withdrawal process in more detail and assures him that there are no strings attached to his help. Norton mentions that he cannot concentrate long enough to do anything but manual labor and asks for tasks that he could perform that include crushing things. Marcus tells him that he will find him something suitable, but excuses himself and finds that he has received a package addresses specifically to him, which contains a painting. It’s a landscape of London, though in a different style and hand than the paintings he previously received, and he finds a strong impression of smugness when he examines it using Auspex, as well as a not quite successful imprint of a memory from the long-ago past which hints at something ugly lying in store hidden within the painting.

16. Wit's end

“God is the God of the people who are at their wits end, who are right up against it with their backs to the wall, and He delights to come to our help when we need Him most.”

[SleepyKoala 26.02.2017 – ???]

Vanity was emptying really fast. Two parties went out to fight Sabbat – one of which included both Nosferatu and Tremere primogen. The third one, consisting of Emma, Molly and Marcus was preparing to leave when Sinead approached them. She was getting more and more anxious, seeing as everyone was going to fight Sabbat. She asked Marcus what are they planning. Marcus said they are going to inspect some of his warehouses for potential Sabbat presence, as reported by Emma. Sinead, rememebering meeting with Rob, asked her directly if they are going to check for the rose box place. Emma confirmed and invited Sinead to join.

Molly was in favor of taking as many people as possible. Marcus openly voted against taking Sinead with them. He said she poses the same threat Emma’s sword does and cannot be trusted herself. Sinead jokingly said that she should feel offended at that and asked the Elysium Keeper to keep a package for her – meaning her finger with cursed ring – but knowing that Caroline will check its content, she decided against it. Before leaving, Emma decided to summon Hawke in case they run into Sabbat.

They hailed a cab and went for the warehouse. Molly sent her people to watch the area earlier and they still were on the lookout. They reported not seeing anything out of oridinary… except for everything seemed out of oridinary for Marcus and Sinead. The place seemed dead and as they came close, Marcus experienced extreme uneasyness. As if he went on a path starting with disappointment, going through bitterness into despair, getting closer to the warehouse. Sinead on the other hand noticed absolute lack of animals. She connected it with each situation in which she met Moira. At that moment she told Emma and Molly to run.

Emma instantly turned around and bolted away, but Sheriff asked why should she. While the Ravnos was trying to hint that the demon is coming, Molly started pondeing existence of hell and consequently, of God. Sinead tried to cut the decision short, but Molly was reluctant to do so. Annoyed, the Ravnos decided to enter the warehouse while Molly send her people to fetch a carriage big enough for the rose box.

The building was full of crates, tools and furniture. Rose boxes which Marcus commited were stacked in the corner. Sinead suggested that they should inspect their weight. It turned out three of them are light – supposedly empty. Other three of them were distinctively heavier, with one of them being much more heavy than the others. Out of the heavy ones, two stood out for Marcus – one was pinpointed during astral travel, the other he determined as a source of the foreboding feeling. After some discussion they decided to check on the heaviest one, which, as it turned out, contained mashed remains of two people, forced into the box. The lighter ones were empty.

When the carriage arrived, they decided to move four boxes into it – both the cursed and real one, the one that contained the corpses (for future burial) and an empty one as a decoy – and move them into one of Sinead’s temporary havens. Upon arrival they left the corpses in there and decided to visit the First Elysium, taking a small detour passing through city borders, at Sinead’s request.

Inside the First Elysium they’ve met only two people: Gilbert, the Elysium Keeper, and Raymond Montgomery. Seeing the boxes brought, the Keeper summoned a few people – without any immediate effect. After a moment his servants informed him of commotion going upstairs, so he left check on the matter. Suddenly Hawke entered Elysium, mad at Emma for summoning him for no reason. He casually inspected the boxes, rattled the ones that contained something, and left to have some fun when his protegé told him battle with Sabbat is still taking place in London. At that, Emma decided to leave, after making sure that her help covers the boon she owes to Sinead, and joined Hawke, although a bit late.

Hawke didn’t wait for her at all, although he didn’t cover his tracks. Emma followed him into sewers and started calling for him. He found her, annoyed, and explained he has an opinion. Her mentioning his name could cause the Sabbat to run and hide. They went further into the tunnels, following traces of battle – the walls were charred and splattered with blood, clearly marking thaumaturgy at use. Suddenly they run into Giovanni sheriff, battered and singed. Hawke instantly charged into the direction Fabio was escaping from while Emma stopped to ask him about events of the night. He told her that the prince has made an appearance during the initial fight with the Sabbat, but he simply passed through them, killing only the ones that were in the way, and left. The real fight started later on and it was so severe it moved to the streets. He left saying he doesn’t care any more about the traitors and backstabbers. Emma followed Hawke and found him among corpses of some shovelheads. Since the fight was over, they decided to go for some drinks. The matuzelah had so much fun he wanted to overstay for the day, but Emma dragged him to one of her havens.

Meanwhile in the first Elysium Sinead and Marcus were debating if they should check what’s inside the rose box. Montgomery was getting ready to leave, but curiosity made him stay. The Ravnos and the Malkavian opened the box. They saw a tiny woman with three eyes wearing crusader tabard over a curaiss inside. Marcus recognised the Salubri – it was Marylyn, whom he met in Vienna, now known as Flora. They didn’t have time to ponder it, because the other box burst open. Moira, who was losing her patience, waiting for the rose box to be opened, walked out of it. Montgomery tried to run this instance, but the demon stopped him with a wave of a hand. As she was sizing the surroundings and throwing quips, doors to the Elysium opened and Aaron entered.

Marcus connected with Flora mentally and tried to wake her up from torpor, hoping she will help them in fight against the demon. He channeled all the pain caused by her proximity into through the mental link. She woke up from torpor, hungry for blood. Sinead jumped back reflexively, but seeing as the next closest person was Montgomery, who still was rooted, she came closer and allowed her to feed of herself, calling others for help. Molly, at first baffled, helped to stop the Salubri from diablerie. Marcus told one sentence:

“She is not your enemy and there are people in here that need your protection.”

Marylyn went back to her senses. She was surprised to see Marcus, but grasped the situation immediately. Moira gave her brutal and brief summary of what what happened during couple of centuries – how her clan was destroyed by the Tremere and how she is going to the people that oppose them. Sinead chimed in, saying that Moira is going to lead her to the very same Tremere. Flora looked at her odds and decided to follow the demon. Moira wanted to clean up the place, as the dawn was nigh. She wanted to kill Montgomery, but Aaron said Raymond stood up for his clanmate when Camarilla wanted to dispose of him, so he should be spared. Then she turned to Molly and looked deep into her eyes, at which the sheriff flinched in terror. As they were leaving, they turned to Sinead, telling it’s her time to pay her debt. At that, Marcus asked about Stepano’s whereabouts. Moira told him that the Sabbat Tremere know where to find him, but soon they will be all dead. She also mentioned Sinead might help him with finding him if she wants to. While leaving, Sinead asked Marcus to take care of Norton while she was away. He in turn asked her to find Stepano. The Ravnos promised to do her best before leaving with Aaron and Moira.

The moment they left Elysium Keeper came back. He was equally miffed by his mortal guests frenzying upstairs and doors refusing to let him back after the situation was dealt with, even after beeing chopped to pieces. He siezed the situation downstairs and offered Montgomery and Marcus rooms for the night.

Sinead on her way to docks learned that Victoria Harlow died tonight and discussed briefly what is waiting for her in Sabbat’s den. Then she turned to talk with the Salubri and gifted her one of her swords, but the discussion went sour as she insulted Flora unwittingly. The crusader kept the sword the Ravnos gifted to her.

15. Consanguinity

“Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars.”

[Lisa, 20. 02. 17]

Marcus’ meeting with his new Tremere acquaintance Dennis the Demonologist is interrupted when Chris returns to the mansion; he explains to him that the Tremere is here on behalf of Lotharius before going to fetch the pendant he found at Stepano’s after his abduction. Dennis examines it and explains that it was a very powerful protective charm which has been burned out and originates from an eastern school of magic. Marcus excuses himself and Chris for a moment, taking him outside to communicate via Auspex, an opportunity which Chris promptly uses to ask if the new guest is going to “help” in the same vein Riina did, which prompts Marcus to go on a long, rant-like lecture about Riina, amusing Chris to no end. When he finally calms down, Marcus points out the problem with the wards Dennis wanted to put up which would cause significant discomfort to Chris. The latter mentions the possibility of moving out of the house, as he doesn’t want news of his clan to become public knowledge, especially to the Tremere, which Marcus protests though he agrees not to share any information regarding his clan with the newcomer.
Chris also shares his worries about the Sabbat, saying that he’d prefer to simply hand them the box just to get rid of them and avoid a full-scale war with the city’s Camarilla Kindred. Before he leaves, Marcus asks him if he thinks whether Gabriel could figure out if a certain Kindred has met their Final Death, which Chris can’t answer. The Malkavian then returns to Dennis, inquiring for more details about his plans for warding the house and citing certain acquaintances he would prefer were not inconvenienced by the wards. Leo’s apprentice waves off his concerns, stating that he won’t ward the mansion against Kindred themselves but rather against unspecified things, which will be made visible and slowed down once they cross the wards.
Marcus leaves him to his devices after showing him a guest room and pens messages to Montgomery, Gabriel, Annabelle, Jukka and Molly; while writing to Jukka, he has a vision of a house full of death and seems to answer the questions he wants to pose to his clanmate by himself. After this dialogue-letter is finished, Marcus returns to Dennis to ask him if purely hypothetically speaking he could make him suffer great physical pain in controlled circumstances; this question seems to catch the man unprepared, who promptly flubs his work. After a moment of thought, he replies that since pain is experienced purely in the realm of the mind and not technically physical at all, using Auspex for this matter might be the easiest way to achieve the desired effect, which seems to satisfy the Malkavian, who leaves him for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile Sinead requests that Norton stays with her, to which Emma acquiesces, and they carry the snoring man up to a guest room. Sinead leaves a note to Albert about her new guest and requests that he be helped with anything he needs, but not allowed to leave the house for the time being, while Emma goes to put out word for her contacts to look for Julian’s son and whichever ship he may have taken to leave. Startled by noise coming from upstairs, the Ravnos checks her attic only to find that her raccoon had been playing with her weapons. She talks with it, offering to fetch it some fish for the next night, and the raccoon explains that its master, a blonde man even taller than Sinead, has left and is far from the city. In an attempt to bond with the animal, Sinead tries to brush it, which the raccoon is unhappy with; it proceeds to call her fox ugly and useless and tries to bite the hand brushing it. She briefly considers sending it to check the village in which she saw the red-haired girl, but thinks it might not find the place.

After creating leaflets about Julian’s son and spreading them around the city, Emma briefly drops by the third Elysium, where she finds Miranda and Florence cleaning up and closing down the bar. She talks with Miranda about Atticus, who is upstairs and drunk beyond reason but apparently didn’t cause any troubles. Emma asks her to pass along the news that she is looking for Molly about an official matter in her position as Sheriff, and considering the dawn is approaching fast, Miranda offers her a place to sleep in the Elysium if she needs it, which the Brujah thanks her for but declines since she can just make it back to her own haven before dawn.

The next night, Sinead finds that Norton has a bad hangover and can’t keep food down; she decides to leave him be for now, instead opting to hunt and sending a message to Chris, asking for an urgent meeting. He shows up quickly enough, and Sinead asks him if he has any way of contacting Julian, which Chris denies; he claims not to know where he went and suggests contacting Belinda, since he sent the fledgling to her when he asked for a favor. As he considers family important himself, he understands what’s driving Julian. He does point out that the Ouroboros Julian mentioned in a message might either be related to the Old Clan Tzimisce or to a Toreador who thinks herself a prophetess and whom Julian might have met. Chris was approached by Julian for access to contacts, but he cannot share more information than that. Sinead thanks him and leaves for the second Elysium.

In the meantime, Emma arrives at the third Elysium, stopping for a chat with Annabelle once she saw that Molly wasn’t there yet, who asked her about Marcus since he had shown interest in one of her messages. They talk about the Malkavian for a while until Molly enters the bar, upon which Emma excuses herself and leads Molly to a corner of the room where they can talk more or less privately. As her clanmate mentions that apparently Marcus wants to set the city on fire with boxes full of death, she brings up the matter of the rose box and that she has new info on what might be either its location or a trap; however, she insists on meeting with Marcus first after learning that he created copies of the box that contain explosives. They argue for a moment and Molly agrees to meet with Marcus, but leaves for half an hour to have watchers put into position around the location to be notified in case anybody else shows up there. Emma stays at the Elysium, where just a while later Sir Franklin bursts in, wearing full plate armor and yelling loudly about having found the dragon in the sewers. While he is trying to recruit people to his hunt, Emma spots a very confused Molly directly behind him in the door and swoops in, dragging both the hunter and the Sheriff off to the meeting with Marcus. When Emma mentions their destination, Sir Franklin interrupts them saying that Marcus isn’t at his mansion and proceeds to direct the driver of their cab little by little to the second Elysium.

Marcus decides to begin the night by dropping by the second Elysium, where he finds a surprising amount of Tremere he doesn’t personally know; however, he also sees Bethany with an unknown man and decides to introduce himself to what turns out to be her sire. They chat for a while, and as the Elysium fills, the Malkavian notices a certain tension lying in the air. He spots the Nosferatu primogen and introduces himself, once again talking amicably with the man for some time until de Worde mentions that there will be an unplanned show soon, the nature of which are the subject of a competition in his clan; they speculate about who will end up with the box, when the Tremere are going to have a fire show, what the fate of the demon is, and why the box itself is so valuable. De Worde himself suspects that the whole matter will be over before the end of the week. The two of them are joined by Joshua, and the topic turns towards Mithras as Marcus asks whether the primogen thinks that the Ventrue has changed during his time in the city, which de Worde denies, saying that Mithras merely adapts very well although he seems rather tired currently.

Their conversation is interrupted, as are all others in the room, when Sir Franklin bursts in, waving his crossbow and once more shouting that he found the dragon in the sewers and attempting to recruit others to join the hunt. Emma immediately tries to disarm him, joined by Caroline, and while they manage to convince the Malkavian to put down his weapon, Sinead slips into the Elysium as well. When Sir Franklin finally agrees to their demands, Emma drags the hesitant Molly over to Marcus and de Worde, introducing the two of them and apologizing for the inconvenience as they need to talk with Marcus in private urgently.
While they leave for a private room, Sinead approaches Lionel to ask him to pass onto a message to Belinda as she wants to meet her, and he suggests Sinead directly visit her establishment instead, as it’s open to all and she could easily find her there. He passes her the address, and Sinead continues to socialize with the Kindred present in the Elysium.

Meanwhile, Emma explains that she has information on what might be the location of the rose box or a trap and asks Marcus to confirm that the address is the place where he stored his decoys, which he does; she then asks whether he could identify his fake boxes to make sure that the real one is indeed at this location. Once again, he confirms that this is possible but excuses himself for a few minutes to do so, which the two Brujah spend chatting about Emma’s newspaper while Marcus astrally travels to the location. He spots the people Molly put in place to watch for any activity but sees nobody else. As he examines the boxes, he finds that he can travel through them without being obstructed and that they look uncannily identical. However, when examined with Dementation, he finds that one box stands out from the others, though he can’t pinpoint why exactly this is the case. When he returns, he says that there is indeed one extra box among them and that one of them is somehow peculiar, but before they leave, he stops Emma and asks her if she talked about this information near her sword, since the Sabbat can observe her through it. Emma says that in this case, the Sabbat would know the address but would have no idea about the ruse Marcus put into place or their plan for getting the box during this night. Molly asks them to wait for her to fetch Gabriel before they leave, and the three head back downstairs to find the Elysium almost deserted. Caroline explains that two groups left recently to hunt the Sabbat and took most of the Kindred present with them, one led by Sir Franklin and one by Gabriel.

14. Bad Apple (II)

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

(SleepyKoala, 01.02 – 25.02.2017)

Sinead was in a dark corridor. Somewhere at the edge of her view there was a light, but when she turned to it, it moved, always hiding somewhere. She tried to walk towards it, but she realised her body acted weird, as if she wasn’t it’s owner, but a passenger. It felt weirdly stiff and unresponsive, reacting to her will with a significant delay. She noticed doors all along the passage. Seeing that the light is not getting closer, she opened one of the doors. Behind them she saw sunlight, but it didn’t scare her. She walked right into it without any harm.

Her surrounding changed. She was back in Ireland. She was home. Her family castle once enourmous, seemed small right now. She has went inside, following an instinct, which led her up to battlements. Here she noticed her father holding her three years old self in his arms. The child was trying to slip out of his grasp, pulling his hair, claiming she wanted to see the fishies. Sinead had more control of her body closer she get to the child. She observed the scene for some time, reminiscing life spent in this walls and reached out to the girl.

She was moved back to the corridor as soon as she touched her. She reached for another door instantly, this time entering a ship during a storm. She remembered that night. Everything played out just as she remembered it: she was trying to force her crew into submission, then lightning hit the mast, then the ship began to sink… luckily, she was thrown into herself and was returned to the corridor again.

This time Sinead took a door on the other side of the corridor. It dragged her into situation she could not remind, but that somehow felt familiar. She was in a place she couldn’t place, talking with a man she remembered as Meinred, the Tremere sheriff of Vienna. She met him back in fifteen century, at the time she met Marcus and Riina for the first time. As she watched, memories came back. Meinred offered her cooperation. She’d have a free hand as long as she wouldn’t cause turmoil in VIenna. It was tempting, but there was a second part to the deal she could not accept – the one in which she was supposed to trade Chimeristry for Dominate. The vision ended and she chose another door, which led to similiar situation. A heated discusion with someone she remembered as a Lasombra, but she could remember the arguement. She was haggling about him covering her tracks in exchange for some sunken ships. The discussion didn’t end in a fight. The Lasombra kept his part of the bargain… which explained one of mysteries of her past.

Another memory was a recent one. It was couple of years ago, back in Spain. She was dancing with Julian at the ball. She remembered that clearly, although some details were lost, mostly because she didn’t know Julian that well and didn’t pay attention. Somebody offended her in a minor way. Julian wanted to shrug it off, but she escalated it. She wanted to have some fun and shine, so she turned it into a duel, which, of course, she won. This time she was watching Julian closely. She could see the way he was hiding his disgust behind a facade of indifference. She used to cherish that memory, until now.

Emma awakened to the sound of hammering. The sound came out of nowhere… until someone knocked at her door. It was a postwoman who came with a delivery. Emma was suspicious of that, as she didn’t know anything of the package and hour seemed odd at best. Seeing the looks Emma gave her, the woman asked if she is alright. She was acting so natural in this unusual situation. She just wanted to go back home. Emma accepted the package and followed her, but she disappeared into hin air just behind the corner.

The package contained three books. “Crime and punishment” and “White nights and other stories”. Third one Emma couldn’t read because of strange alphabet it was printed with, which she guessed to be Russian. The book was signed, which saved it from the fate of its sisters – the Brujah torn each page of them, one by one, to her utmost satisfaction. She looked as they fly on the wind, almost like snow.

She decided to visit Marcus, taking Amber and Dostoyevsky as her companions. On her way she met a man looking as if he came here straight out of late romanticism midnight walk. As she accosted the man, he told Emma he is going to visit an old friend. She offered her company, but the man didn’t want to slow her down. He asked her to announce him, though he didn’t give her a name. He was speaking with a distinct accent, clearly not coming from England.

Sinead went back into the corridor, but this time it was different. She heard a cacophony of voices repeating signsongs and nursery rhymes. She tried to leave the corridor, but all the doors were closed. The voices laughed her, saying she doesn’t have to leave them when the contract runs out. Moira is not the only one she could work with… As a token of their will, they showed her another vision. Sun was high in the sky. She saw a young, scrawny kid washing the deck. He bore a striking semblance to Julian. She chased to the broadside to read the ship’s name, but her limbs went heavy again and she woke up.

It was dark in her room. She run to Julian’s chamber only to see it deserted. Albert wasn’t there as well. Seemed like Julian gave him a day off. It turned out she slept for almost three hours more than usual. Terrified by the prospect, she run to the docks to check for transatlacting ships leaving during last week. She learned that Julian – if he left – is on his way to Boston.

Marcus’ servants moved his menhir to the garden. After his suggestion they decided to redesign the hedge maze to house the rock. In a meantime, the Malkavian himself found Chris rearranging the library. The boy decided to move his personal books there and wanted to make sure they will be put in order. It was impressive collection of contemporary literature, all of it signed by their authors. Marcus’ interest perked up, since he was suspecting that Christopher took up a new hobby. Chris saw through that and invited Marcus to his room to satisfy his curiosity. The Lasombra mentioned he was thinking of acquiring life insurance, by which he meant employing means that would take out anyone who would manage to kill them… preferably a shadow demon. When Marcus pushed him, worried about his well being, he said he went on his first astral journey and discovered a special aura emitted by the mansion and how he feels oppressed by it. Marcus was happy for his childe, but it didn’t lift Christopher’s spirit. He admitted he feels he is losing control, being unwelcome in his own haven. Still, Marcus used the opportunity to slip into Chris’ room. It was organised in a spartan, pedantic way, looking almost like a museum of his past interest, including jewelry, painting, sculpting and most recently, chemistry.

Emma reached them shortly. The men retreated to the guest room as soon as Charles annouced her. Emma apologised for not warning before paying them a visit. She mentioned the visitor coming their way, but Marcus couldn’t recognise him. Then she passed information she was trying to deliver for a long time, but her being captured by the Sabbat stood in a way of that. It was the list of people killed at Stepano’s mansion. She also gave him information acquired from mortals hired to guard the rose box. They were all working class, but there seemed to be nothing else in common. The box was so intriguing for mortals they simply couldn’t forget about the assignment.

Amber was contantly trying to escape, but Emma’s Celerity prevented that, to Chris’ amusement. Emma added locations in which the box was hidden in the past to the map. Marcus used it to look at the map once more. He established the pattern is reactionary, based on responsible’s person cautionous nature.

Then it came time for Emma to ask questions. She showed him the book. She almost frenzied when he inquired if she is a fan of Dostoyevsky. Declining in the most respectable manner she could muster at the moment, she asked him to examine her sire’s sword. She was afraid that Sabbat could have cursed the weapon. Marcus was reluctant to do that at first, but when she told him about the reason, he checked it with Auspex and said he does not sense anything unnatural about it, but the curse may be conditional. The doorbell rang at this moment. Emma decided to leave Marcus with his guest and headed for Ebb and Flow.

Sinead went ot the third Elysium and found out that the Brujah party is in full swing. Miranda, Atticus and some other Brujah were playing poker and grumbling over Ventrue. She joined them promptly, but didn’t play the game. The primogen was already tipsy and on his way to get utterly drunk. He found a willing drinking partner in the Ravnos and a dedicated booze provider in the Elysium Keeper. The night was joyful despite Sinead’s dark mood and Atticus’ moping. He went on a banter about his life as a Primogen, the suffering she feels when he has to deal with the council and lack of gratefulness from his clan, interrupted by Miranda’s quips. At some point he even proposed to her. Sinead joined the litany of complains, unwittingly insulting clan Nosferatu in presence of Joshua, secretary of Richard de Worde, who decides to join the game. The Ravnos decided to help Atticus with the game as he got more mopey and drunk.

On her way, Emma met a messenger, who delivered a short note (“Don’t open it!”), but she paid it no mind for now. She entered the room too late to witness Sinead testing if Atticus is a Nosferatu by grabbing his hand and trying to help him end his misery by putting him in chokehold, or rather more of a hughold in their condition. The primogen forced Emma to join the game and explained to her what is at stake – running naked around the docks. Molly appeared as well, accompanied by Willow, her Tremere business associate, and landed in the same shoes as Emma.

Sinead asked Emma is she could talk with her ghoul, so Emma dragged her out of the Elysium. When taken out of the company, Sinead broke down almost instantly. She sat down on the street and started crying… at this moment it turned out someone was waiting for her outside. It was a man who introduced himself as Rob. Emma remembered him from Ebb and Tide. She saw him in there with Julian. He stated he was looking for them, but on different situation. He claimed to be sympathetic to Anarch cause, which made Sinead suspicious. She switched language to Portugese and asked him couple of questions to judge his affiliation. He spoke in large of French revolution and its ideals and how it went awry. Then he switched back to English and adressed Emma. He rambled about a Malkavian project in a rather incoherent way, mentioning five boxes with rose emblem stashed in a warehouse and suddenly, a sixth one appearing among them while he was watching. At some point, Sinead asked him about his involvement with Julian. His answers were not to his liking, which made her frenzy in no time. Robert left while Emma was holding Sinead down.

The guest turned out to be former prince of Strasburg, childe of Valerianus and sire of Konrad of Vienna. He visited London incognito. Currently he was looking for a new playground and wanted to deliver a message to his brother, Dermont, so he visited the only person he knew that could contact him. Marcus warned him that delivering it might take time, but the man didn’t mind. They chatted for almost whole night, topics ranging from Ventrue politics, practical applications of the Tremere and badmouthing the Brujah and their ideals. The thing that interested Marcus though was the past. The man hints that Valerianus might still be alive and still cares for Vienna. Marcus also asked about local Ventrue. He learns only some vague stories before the man leaves, enough to satisfy curiosity, not enough to provide information.

Marcus read Annabelle’s pamthlets and penned her a message, when suddenly an unannounced guest walked into his room. The man seemed oddly familiar. He looked like a man Caspar killed in Touluse. Somehow, mysteriously, he has found his way into Marcus’ abode. He was outraged. Protective spell he put on the house was ruined, because Marcus brought a demonically tainted item inside before it was complete!

He explained he was there because Lotharius sent him to have an eye on Marcus. The man owed life to both the Malkavian and the Tremere. He was the killed man brother, embraced by the Sabbat Tremere. Marcus wrote about events of Touluse to Lotharius. Using that information Vienna managed to counter Sabbat opperation and free the man, still a fledgeling at the time. Lotharius took him under his wings and taught him in the arts that he practiced as his side project – demonology.

The man refused to give a name, prefering to remain nameless while a demon dwelled in the city. He has also mentioned that his clan asked for an expert on demons only to learn there is one in the neighbourhood already. Marcus told he knew about the demon, starting with Wales and Sinead’s involvement in the case. While telling the story, he noticed the man flinching as he mentioned the writing he copied. Suspicious, he pushed the Tremere to tell him more about it. He learned that the archmage told his student to take care of Marcus if anything happens to him – and locked himself in a study to examine the writing. He hasn’t left since, as he was found to be in torpor. Hearing that, Marcus broke down at that. To comfort him, the student told him some stories about Lotharius, including rumors of his personal interest with demonology. There are rumors he met demons while he was still a mortal and bears a personal grudge – one that led him to devoting all of his personal time to study.

Emma brought Sinead to her haven and summoned Andrew Norton. The man arrived very tired and very angry. Sinead asked him to share when did Julian’s son board the ship. Norton was uncooperative and openly insulting towards her. She tried to convince him using his honesty and appealing to his empathy in conscience, going as far as begging him. She realised it has no effect on him, as he didn’t believe a word she was saying. He simply considered Kindred to be inherently evil. When he was looking for an escape route, she asked Emma for favor of setting him free.

The Brujah was getting more and more down during the exchange. Norton patted her, saying “Don’t cry”. That was a final straw. She broke into tears. She hugged him and released an endless stream of apologies. At that, he reacted started crying as well. Emma smeared bloody tears all over him and he, starved, started licking it. Sinead got startled. She asked what Emma done to him. She fetched a bottle of brandy and a bucket of water and poured him a drink. Seeing that, he grabbed the whole bottle, while Emma treated herself to what was left.

Sinead asked for a moment alone with Andrew. When Emma went to the kitchen, Sinead asked him if he really want to be free. He was distrustful, but as he got more and more drunk, he admitted he’d jump on a ship to Australia if only that would mean getting free. Then he passed out. She left him sleeping in the living room and went to talk with Emma. She was filled with righteous rage fuelled by her blood. She pressured her to let him go, insulting her for indecisiveness and not doing anything to set him free if she regrets blood binding him in the first place.

13. Bad Apple

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

Having just regained their freedom, Emma and Sinead stop at the mansion of the latter to catch a breath and plan their next steps, though they find the building completely abandoned. A layer of dust covers the surfaces, and while Sinead investigates the absence of her servants and childe, Emma catches a glimpse of a mysterious figure out of the corner of her eye; she draws her sword, which is quickly covered by frost, and calls for Sinead, but neither of them discover the source of what appears to be a haunting before they have to leave again. Pressured for time, they discuss the story they want to tell others on their way to the first Elysium, which is filled to the brim with Kindred, as the Primogen meeting is still in progress – though it is interrupted as Atticus catches sight of Emma, flips the table the Primogen are sitting at, and immediately frenzies.

Sinead wastes no time and asks two Nosferatu to clean up the mess at the zoo, which Talbott already warned them about, though she draws considerably more attention when she then requests they take care of the stock market, which she notes has been hit as well. After prompting by the Ventrue Primogen, Sinead lays out the story that she agreed on with Emma – that she found the Sabbat Tremere’s warehouse, was joined by Marcus and Emma, the latter of whom got caught, and allowed herself to be captured together with her to gain useful information, among which is the location of the Sabbat’s base, which is a death trap. She also notes that the Sabbat knows how the Primogen council operates and has discarded their Tzimisce spy, and in the same breath withdraws her candidature for the position of Sheriff. As the Primogen withdraw to discuss the news in private, the two Kindred are informed about the new Sheriffs – Molly and Gabriel – and are thoroughly questioned by those present, though Emma notes that their story is accepted without quite as many questions as expected.

Later that night, Sinead meets Julian at home, who explains that the house was briefly vacated at his insistence, since he thought it prudent to stay with a “friend” whom he owed a favor while she was abducted in order to avoid the Sabbat, if at all possible. He shares the city’s gossip about an Antediluvian in the city and the fact that quite a few mortals associated with Kindred have been killed, and mentions in passing that he unfortunately had invested heavily in the stock market and lost all of Sinead’s hard currency due to it burning down. Before he vacated the premises, he was also visited by a young blonde man, who dropped off a gift of a German book for Sinead, which isn’t the only one; a gift from the Gangrel is still roaming the docks and annoying the Brujah there. After a bit of prodding, Sinead also learns that Chris caught a female Lasombra and handed her to the Sheriff, that Raymond protected Francis from execution, and that Blanche left for Paris.

Christopher informs Marcus that he invited the Sheriffs and Sinead and tells him about the council meeting after his return; there was no decision made regarding the box the Sabbat is looking for, as the Tremere want to send it to Vienna, the Ventrue want to hand it over to Mithras, the Toreador want to burn it and the Brujah generally seem not to care a great deal about it. He also mentions that apparently, all the Ventrue who died as a result of Sabbat attacks belonged to the same faction within the clan.

After Julian passes a note to Sinead which reads “Love from Clan Tzimisce” with a return address in the Czech Republic, she asks him to pick up the ritual supplies she stole from the Sabbat in order to pass them on to the Tremere. Since her currency has gone up in flames with the stock exchange, Sinead then has a chat with the rats in her basement to persuade them to bring back her gold and valuables; as they are displeased with not being fed for over a week, she has to organize food for them before they agree to return what they hid.

Emma uses her time to visit Hawke, whom she finds cutting down a tree in a surprisingly cold night for the end of May. They chat for a bit before the conversation turns towards the Sabbat, as Emma talks in detail about her stay and is questioned thoroughly by her mentor; she doesn’t lie to him but sticks mostly to the story she already told, and Hawke mentions that he is waiting for a good opportunity to present itself to kill some Sabbat. He also presents a gift to Emma; a skinny squirrel that, as he claims, is always hungry, which she is supposed to use as a scout for dangerous situations before running headfirst into a trap again. She is delighted and thanks him effusively, petting the squirrel tentatively as she turns the conversation back to more serious matters and asks whether he could recognize a curse placed on Letho’s sword. Hawke answers to the question in the negative but suggests simply testing the matter by killing something with the sword, wandering from the subject and telling Emma about the Baali bloodline before she says her goodbyes and leaves for the city proper.

The meeting between the new Sheriffs, Marcus, Chris and Sinead is about to start when Sinead pulls Marcus aside to inform him about Stepano’s fate and ask him about the location to which she summoned him while in Sabbat captivity; she also tells him that Riina is dead and that Aaron is her childe, though the two of them quickly rejoin the Sheriffs to discuss business. As it turns out, the Primogen council believes there to be a traitor either in the council itself or with access to their intel; the conversation turns towards the rose box, which originated in Egypt and according to Gabriel is surrounded by a rather romantic story. The group speculates about the Sabbat’s methods and what the Prince’s course of action could be, though they can only agree on wanting the box out of the city. When Sinead brings up that it is guarded by Assamites, Molly recounts an urban legend that Mithras had friends among the clan, whose founder had allegedly visited London in the Middle Ages. Gabriel suggests smuggling an item with a spirit of his into the Sabbat base, which he asks Sinead to do, who points out the heavy fortifications once again.

Amidst snow falling, Emma returns to London, making her way to the address that Norton had given her, and finds both her ghoul and Julian arguing outside of a bankrupt shop. With her patience stretched thin after the recent events, she slaps the fledgling and demands to know why he is harassing her ghoul. He refuses to tell her anything beyond the fact that Norton was supposed to deliver a message and instead sent the intended mortal recipient out of the city. Unhappy with being denied more information, Emma tells Julian to get out of her face and talks to her ghoul in private, learning that the Kindred was looking for one of Norton’s young employees, an orphan whom he told to get the first ship out of the country he could possibly catch when he learned that Kindred were interested in him. He also passes her the information he gathered about the box, which he traced to several mortals paid to keep it for a short time before passing it on. Shortly afterwards, Emma finds herself summoned to Lady Anne and hastily leaves.

Since the conversation has stalled, Marcus uses the opportunity to fetch several maps which show information about the Sabbat attacks from 1860, the sewer system, and mortal London, and points out the location to which Sinead summoned him. The group agrees to look for the box and its guardians, spreading misinformation in the meantime and putting out word for the guardians. Gabriel claims that the box has a spiritual resonance that makes it impossible for him to track it with any more accuracy than whether it is within a hundred kilometer of his position. They are interrupted when Marcus is informed that a package has arrived for him, which he leaves to unpack. A closer investigation with Auspex reveals the smell of pinecones and moss coming from the box, which turns out to be an apparently entirely mundane menhir, which Marcus has placed in his garden before returning to the meeting; he finds that the Sheriffs have been arguing with each other, and Sinead excuses herself and leaves after a moment to fetch the gift she received from the Gangrel. In her absence, Marcus outlines his plan to deploy decoys of the box around the city, trapped with explosives, and Gabriel recommends him a skilled carpenter who can be discreet and, after Molly takes her leave as well, asks the Malkavian privately whether it would be possible for him to rent a room at his place, as he has noticed the mansion’s positive qualities on the astral plane.

Lady Anne greets Emma at the palace, clearly annoyed as Julian brought his personal grievance to her to sort it out; Emma is given the task to gather as much information about the mortal’s whereabouts as she can and to pass it on to her so it can be relayed to Julian, and Lady Anne makes a point of reminding her that the tensions in the city are plentiful already, asking her politely to have patience and cooperate with the other Kindred to avoid unnecessary aggravations. Emma apologizes repeatedly, but immediately makes her way to Sinead’s, who has found her gift to be a raccoon with whom she made a deal to receive gifts in exchange for food. After Emma relays the events of the evening, Sinead apologizes for her childe’s behavior and summons him, trying to pass the time until his arrival by talking about their time at the Sabbat’s, though an unfortunately phrased comment from her causes Emma to burst into tears just as Julian, dripping water everywhere, shows up. Sinead pulls him out of the room to talk with him in private, trying to slap him and yelling at him for going to the Prince with this problem instead of coming to her first, at which he snaps back that unlike the Prince, Sinead never showed any interest in his business; an argument breaks out in which Sinead accidentally antagonizes him further before Julian explains that he is looking for his mortal son, who could stand to inherit after his father’s recent death if only he could manage to find him. His sire warns him that he is unnecessarily making enemies of people more powerful than him, though he brushes her off by saying that he would prefer to die if he can’t live the way he wants, becoming increasingly more angry towards her and trying to end the conversation as he claims he has nothing more to say to her now or ever. At this, Sinead asks if he would prefer to be presented to the Prince and freed immediately to leave for good, which Julian scoffs at, pointing out that the sun is rising soon and there is no time for that now, though Sinead insists that she will make it happen if it is what he wants. After the argument finally dies, she tries to hug him, though it does not seem to make matters any better, as Julian leaves his sire standing in front of a closed door, both metaphorically and literally.

12. The Queen's Gambit

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

[Lisa, 1. 1. 2017]

During the time that Sinéad and Emma spend in confinement, Marcus sends out messages to the Elysia and key individuals in the city to organize a search for the Sabbat. One of the Kindred receiving such a message is Julian, who answers the call promptly but appears to be rather irritated and curt, though he agrees to help in the search for his sire. Shortly after the neonate leaves, Christopher returns to the mansion and fills Marcus in about his recent activities in the city: just like many others, he and a friend of his (whom he claims is a Giovanni who has his family against him) were looking for the Sabbat in the city. The pair had suspicions about Francis and watched him from a distance to see who contacted him; however, their observations were interrupted when Blanche foolishly tried to “save” the man and attracted too much attention, and they were forced to move earlier than they had planned. Still, they succeeded in capturing Francis, who was handed over to Montgomery and turned out to be a Tzimisce spy, and saving Blanche, who was sent to France by her primogen immediately. While Chris is confident that this success will help his friend take the position of Sheriff, he doesn’t have any new information regarding the rose box.

The pair breaks up as Marcus investigates rumors among his servants that the house is haunted, with windows opening on their own constantly – while he is taking a closer look at these windows, he notices Chris outside who sneaks away in the direction of the city on foot. Marcus follows him and sees him enter a carriage not far from the mansion which was apparently waiting for him – and shortly afterwards, he is seized by a strong urge to travel to the city himself. He assumes his flying form of a flamingo and makes haste towards the force beckoning him, only to smack face-first into a church tower. The church itself looks unremarkable – old, moldy, a bit ugly – and he keeps walking circles around it, dazed and drawn to a point he cannot reach, while dawn approaches quickly. He manages to break the compulsion and find shelter just in time.

In the meantime, both Sinéad and Emma are haunted by terrifying dreams: Sinéad dreams of unknown places and people that are somehow still familiar to her, agonizingly so even though she cannot remember most of them shortly after waking, while Emma has more chaotic dreams; accompanied by the impression that they are trying to rip her in two or make her explode, she hears a cacophony of sounds like from a funeral home, with strong bursts of emotions that leave her with a splitting headache as she wakes – and catches herself sniffing, which confuses her just as much, if not more than the dreams.

The two of them find that during their sleep, somebody has changed the books available for their perusal; the shelves seem to contain nothing but Dostoyevsky’s works, which enrages Emma, who promptly makes herself comfortable next to a huge pile of these new additions and starts tearing out their pages one by one, all the while cussing creatively – and without noticing it, switching into Cockney, which Sinéad promptly asks her about. Emma waves her concerns away, claiming that she doesn’t notice anything and that this is hardly a noteworthy occurrence, more worried about her nightmare, which she shares with Sinéad after some prodding. The pair is also visited by Aaron, who tells them that they will soon have a chance to leave and regain their freedom.

As Marcus awakens the next night, the urge drawing him to the church has faded, and as a short investigation of the building doesn’t reveal anything else, he returns home and finds himself paranoid about whether anything was stolen or moved in his absence; as a matter of fact, something was added to his belongings, as he finds a vase full of fresh flowers and herbs from the person who sent him the horseshoe; he recognizes some of them as having magical properties and being used in complex bindings, a combination which he links to wards from evil spirits. Strangely enough, none of these herbs are in season right now, which makes him wonder how the anonymous benefactor has acquired them. Otherwise, the night passes rather uneventful, and at the beginning of the next night, he finds a package waiting for him: it contains a painting of an old church tower with a flamingo slamming into it, along with a note that reads “very majestic”. Auspex reveals glee and excitement from an unfamiliar person, and as a skilled painter he realizes that it must have been a Celerity-assisted work for it to be finished in such a short time. Once more Marcus sends out several messages and takes the opportunity to write a Last Will, copying it twice, for Chris and Bianca.

One of the messages is answered swiftly, as during the next night, he has a spontaneous visitor: Maul, a Nosferatu, who apologizes profusely for showing up unannounced and proceeds to inform Marcus about the underground buildings in the city. The Nosferatu know about most of the bigger underground levels, which is why they suspect the Sabbat is not in the city proper – with Tremere, they do not need to be, at any rate – and he makes a point of politely asking him not to explode the sewers as they just finished their work there, during which they also found a Roman aquaeduct below the city. He presents him with a new map of London with some more information regarding the sewers and invites him to a guided tour of the new Roman-style sewer system should he ever feel so inclined, as he is rather proud of the work his clan has poured into it.

Emma and Sinéad find themselves hounded by nightmares in their sleep once more, which appear to increase in intensity; they awaken from these hellish visions to find the door broken into the room by Moira, who tells them that the time for their escape has finally come and that she is here to explain the plan for the night. Sinéad interrupts her to ask her whether she can hear her via the ring, which Moira denies, claiming that she is very limited in her abilities and freedoms and unfortunately cannot get out of her deal without Margot dying or the contract itself being damaged. She explains that her own superior is the Lord of the Crossroads, who oversees contracts, and that it is thus unlikely that the second copy of the contract will get destroyed, as the deals with Sinéad and Margot are special due to the position of power and despair they involve.

Marcus spends the next night on a visit to Montgomery, claiming that he wants to forward the items that the priest had given him for Francis, and is told that the spy may be transferred to the Gangrel psychologist to investigate the methods the Sabbat used to craft his personality, which apparently involved a combination of Dominate and psychology. He is introduced to the Toreador poseur, who appears as a very handsome man with the aura of an artist, though he seems to be entirely cut off from the outside world, or so extremely deep in contemplation as to give no attention whatsoever to his surroundings. The primogen approaches him, asking him in French to play the piano for Marcus, to which Francis wordlessly acquiesces; he plays a piece by Chopin and gives an outstanding, heart-wrenching performance, from which the Malkavian judges that what he is playing has some personal significance to the man. He passes along the envelope as had been asked of him and talks with Montgomery for a while, who mentions that the upcoming primogen meeting is going to be open for all Kindred to attend, before Marcus excuses himself and leaves.

The next visitor to Marcus’ mansion is his clanmate Jukka, who brings with him a painting that is addressed to Marcus; it’s an erotic painting of Marcus with pink feathers, apparently from the same person who sent the painting of a flamingo, and Jukka mentions that Cassandra also received a package addressed to Marcus. Previously, he had also found a pink feather inside the mansion, which was from Chris – who had received it from the person who created both of the paintings. While the new painting is being hung in a way that Christopher is unlikely to be able to avoid seeing it sooner or later, Marcus leads Jukka into a private room and asks him about a device with which to spread fire from a distance. Though Jukka doesn’t have anything fitting the description and requirements, the conversation soon turns towards the completely theoretical pursuit of building a house full of death, which the technologically minded Kindred finds utterly fascinating.

Meanwhile, Moira outlines the targets for the night’s raid, which are Ventrue with business in trading companies whom she nicknames Max, Nick and Teddy. Moira will be dealing with Max, who has been in the city for a long time and already had his warehouses and childer go up in flames; Nick is a friend of Max with two male childer at the stock exchange, which she wants burned down with one of the childer in it; Teddy is a special case as he is not a culprit but has a very close friend who is an elder Ventrue, a relationship which he should be discouraged from, which is why a zoo that he owns will also be hit as part of the night’s proceedings. Emma and Sinéad are supposed to help with Nick, and Moira asks them to spread the news of what will happen far and wide if they could, before inviting them to follow her through a door that leads into darkness. With nothing else to do, the Kindred follow suit and find themselves in a warehouse, rid of their shackles, and meet Aaron, who is setting up a fire with some chemicals.

As the building starts burning around them, the three of them make their way to the stock exchange, joined by a group of obviously freshly embraced Sabbat cannon fodder, and discuss their options. They agree that Emma is going to sneak up on the unknown Ventrue, to keep an eye on him as the rest of the group approaches and nail him down as necessary, which works out well at first; however, as the Ventrue is alerted to the sound of the less stealthy group approaching, Emma jumps him to prevent his escape and attempts to feed on him, as she is starving after the stay with the Sabbat. He manages to keep her at bay until Sinéad tries to intervene and accidentally sets the room on fire, after which Emma promptly frenzies. The shovelheads, not sure how to handle the situation, pile on top of the two wrestling Kindred, which allows Emma to finally bite the Ventrue, who is utterly immobilized under all of their weight. Aaron takes a look at the situation, facepalms and wanders off to plunder the safes of the building, while Sinéad, upon realizing that Emma won’t or can’t stop until she diablerizes the Ventrue, puts the man out of his misery and starts killing the shovelheads, a task in which the still-frenzied Brujah quickly joins her.
Once only Sinéad and Emma are left standing, the latter finally calms down and is dragged out of the burning building by her companion. At the bottom of the stairs, they find Aaron, who urges them to leave and absconds with three heavy bags of loot while the other two Kindred make their way to Sinéad’s mansion, as dawn is approaching and they need to talk in private about what they are going to do during the coming nights.

All of this has been observed by Marcus, who spent the night astral-travelling around the city, visiting the first and second Elysium only to find them blocked from access on the astral plane, and watching the havoc that is spread around London by the Sabbat. He also notices that the city is full of animals released from the zoo, which now only contains cages full of dead employees, along with an unknown symbol and a Latin message scrawled in blood which reads “be careful who you are friends with”.


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