CLOSED SIGNUPS Vampire: the Masquerade - Visions

Red Thunder

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Chapter 1
Isolation​

Heavy fog was settling on the city, a portend of torrent promised by a wall of black clouds overhead. Visibility was a valued commodity in this environment, and few left the safety of their homes on whatever task may, or even perhaps may not, wait for daylight. Even had the sun been shining, it was likely it's golden beams would have failed to pierce the clouds, failing to expose those for whom anonymity was a valued commodity. Thugs. Thieves. Murders. Cons. Prostitutes. All did their work best in the darkness, away from the prying eyes of the law.

A crack like thunder echoed through the alleyway. A muffled scream accompanied it, filtered through a cloth gag. Downtown Houston was peppered through with small getaways such as this. Perfect for conducting business. Perfect for … an interview.

"Stop crying; tell me, and you will live long enough to regrow your arm."

Lance Bringham hoisted the shotgun onto his shoulder, too ambivalent to bother with reloading it. Before him, laying some fifteen feet away, and quite noticeably partially disarmed, a form stared up at him in terror. The figure's right shoulder was a gnarled stump, already healing through the power of the blood within. The left arm was pinned awkwardly behind, formerly tied to a right arm that was now dissolved into ash. Left hand finally unfettered, the Kindred reached around and yanked the gag free.

"You fucker!" Tense and twisted in pain, he nevertheless spoke in quiet tones. Better to die quickly at the hand of this maniac than to break the Masquerade and suffer long decades in the Prince's torture rooms. The damned Sheriff, for his part, would likely have his shortsighted firearm discharge overlooked. "It was one Childe! One Embrace! Let it fucking go!"

"And what: let a whole pack of you Gypsys running about? Can't. Won't."

With a beleaguered sigh, Lance pumped the shotgun, easing it forward to point at his prisoner's face.

But the prisoner had disappeared. In his place was a girl, perhaps no more than seventeen, wearing the formal attire of a boarding school. She lounged where the prisoner had sprawled, and seemed to be closely examining her fingernails.

"Gehenna isn't too far off, you know," she teased with all the utter lack of respect for authority her apparent age belied. "The Antediluvians will come back. You'll see. And the Kuei-Jin have to be put down before that."

"That why? You actually going to tell me why you Embraced a-?"

"It doesn't matter to you. Recruitment is mostly in Asia; she was a passing fancy, one I immediately regretted. Just as I was a passing fancy to you, one you will regret yours-"

Another blast echoed between the structures, amplified by the close alley walls. But no one heard, or at least, no one worth caring about. Buckshot stuck pavement, and the girl never faltered.

Dammit. Chimerstry. Illusions. Favored Discipline of the Ravnos. Lance's eyes shifted focus as he pumped the weapon, and he felt the power of his blood surge. He had his own methods of bypassing such tricks, or he was no good as a Sheriff. The erstwhile prisoner's aura flashed into view through his use of Auspex. Without ceremony, Lance turned his shotgun to follow the figure and pulled the trigger again. This round, a 1oz steel slug, blasted from the barrel, and quicker than blinking, it ripped a hole through the Ravnos' head. Even as it fell, the body crumbled to dust, and shortly, there was nothing left. Business concluded, Lance left. He had other business to attend.

The Sabbat grew bolder, Embracing and abandoning without regard for- well, anyone, it seemed. More than once, he'd had to clean up their messes. If only he could root out their nest… In the meantime, the Childe that had led to this whole endeavor would be left alone. She was with an established Neonate who, while not the ideal teacher, would nevertheless guide her. The Anarchs did at least value the Masquerade.

It didn't mean he trusted them. Even now, with the threat that loomed over the city, Lance didn't trust them any. Even after visiting a few of their hideouts to pass along the invitation from the Prince. For the good of our city. Okay. We'll see what happens.

Prince Rick Washburn, Toreador prodigy turned politician, sat on a rotting bench that overlooked the harbor. A storm was rolling in, but it was taking its damn time about it. He wished vaguely that it would hurry the hell up; the streets could use a good wash. Just as he could use a cigarette.

They didn't do him any good, of course; for all the love of hedonistic pleasures his Clan had a reputation for, there was little satisfaction actually found in them. But the action itself as satisfying, even for a bit. Having gotten a nice smolder on the end, the Prince took a long drag from the cigarette.

"Should not be too much longer," came a familiar voice suddenly beside him. Washburn didn't bother looking; Lance had the typical tone of patience that irritated the Prince so much. How could the Muscle give so little of a damn?! "I've got a gargoyle on either side of the walk, if things get hairy."

"They won't."

The Prince answered with a confidence he didn't feel. And maybe even a confidence he didn't exhibit. Ripped jeans, black sport coat, and a short mullet was his favored look, but it did him no favors for establishing authority.

But maybe, between the rumor of a Coma Pandemic and his own reputation as a vindictive and exceptionally thorough revenge artist, maybe they'd keep the peace long enough to find a solution.

They just had to see who would show up first.

∆∆∆∆∆​

And here we go! Please feel free to create whatever circumstance is right for your character prior to arriving at the docks by 2am, as requested by Sheriff Bringham. Please also feel free, once you're there, to interact with others present, or even the Prince and the Sheriff!

As of the posting of this thread, there are still some of you who need to update your CS per my requests. Once that's done, you're welcome to reply here!
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Doctor Jax

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"Yeah, that's gonna be, like, fifteen hundred bucks."

A busted amplifier with a foot-shaped hole sat on the stage as Hanna Kowalczyk smoked a cigarette and surveyed it with a blase expression. It was a hazard of running a hot spot that was the home-away-from-home for other Anarch (and even some Camarilla) vampires. Things got out of hand. Words are said. Someone's leg ends up in the rafters. And a size-thirteen boot breaks through an amp. What're you gonna do?

Well, charge the bastard for one thing. These weren't cheap.

"For real!? That idiot had it coming to him, some no name Caitiff, and it wasn't my fault--"

The young punk, a Fledgling not five years into vampirism, complained, and Hanna cut gold-brown eyes at him with distaste and warning. She flicked ash off her cigarette, blowing a stream of smoke. Her hair was largely streaked dark blue today, to match the curtains and fittings of the warehouse, aptly named Maximum Buzz, everything decked in blue neon and industrial fixtures. She owned the space - both literally and figuratively. He was very lucky that no humans had been present, given tonight was strictly for Kindred only. It would be a lot worse than just a cleanup fee.

"You don't have it, do ya," she drawled meanspiritedly.

The punk sneered, but it was obvious. Another drag off the cigarette, this one nearly a whole thirty seconds. A long breath created a wreath around her as she shrugged.

"You tend bar? Sling drinks?"

"...Yeah, yeah I had a liquor license before--"

"Good. Consider this your interview, you're hired. Work it off, we forget this happened," Hanna stated, shrugging. "First things first... move this amp to the trash, would you? Thanks, baby."

The punk seemed likely to protest until seeing the eyes of several other vampires on him, regulars, Anarchs themselves who were friends with the Neonate. He rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck before turning to do as told. Hanna walked off the stage at that, looking at the clock behind the bar.

1:15 AM. She recalled the Sheriff and his distasteful look as he gave her the invitation to the docks. She could just.... not go, of course. Stick it to the Man. Lift that middle finger high with a good old no-show. But even she recognized that the Prince had power - in numbers, mostly, in organization, not because it was something he wielded like a scepter, an object in and of itself, but because other Kindred had given him that power. Even illegitimate, it existed, as much as an illegally procured firearm still shoots. She sighed to herself through her nose, blasting smoke, before putting out the cigarette in an ashtray, half finished.

"Hey, Dan!" she called, and another Kindred turned his head to look at her. "Let Iz know I'm headed to that shindig at the docks. If she wants, she can meet me there. I'm headed out."

He answered with a thumbs up, and she walked outside. The sky threatened rain in Damocles' fashion, the weight of heaven's load hung by a seeming thread. She took the city bus, and an umbrella.

Her arrival was with next to no fanfare, a woman in harem pants and a mandela t-shirt exposing bare abs, covered by a garishly loud yellow raincoat. Her gait was relaxed, cavalier, as she strolled past two gargoyles without another glance to the dock. She did spy the Sheriff and the Prince down at the end, and with familiarity she had no right to, she stated, "Ah, hello, my dudes. Looks like I'm first to the punch. How're you doin', Lance? Work hard these days, huh? Miss you over at the bar."

She cocked her head, biting her lip. Real stick in the mud. Not a bad dude, just... uptight. The fact he didn't like her only spurred the mischief of acting chummy.
 
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Applo

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Isabel Webb


Familiar smells swirled around room. Fragrant garlic. Salty clams. Rich, thick buttery cream. Stood in front of her crappy electric hob in her shitty little apartment, Isabel smiled. Clam chowder. If she stood perfectly still just for a moment she could imagine she was back home in Marblehead. Any minute now her mom would come through the door, take a big sniff of the heady aroma, and ask what was cooking as if it could be anything else. Together they’d set the table before her mom would call the rest of the family down to eat and drink the evening away. Just for a moment Isabel was there and Houston and everything that had happened in the last three months was just a terrible nightmare. And then the acrid smell of burning cream filled her nostrils and horrid reality came rushing back to the fledgeling vampire all at once.

Opening her eyes, Isabel scooped the pan off the stove and poured the contents into a waiting tupperware. She knew that clam chowder wasn’t what she desired but that wasn’t why she had cooked her favourite childhood meal. The action of cooking in itself was calming for Isabel. The motion of chopping vegetables or stirring a pot soothed her. Some people were stress eaters; she was a stress cook. Her freezer was testament to just how stressed she had been lately.

After filling the slightly scorched pan with water and dumping it in the sink, Isabel sat with her head full in the gently rising vapours from her creamy concoction. Hoping to snatch whatever fragments of fantasy she could from it before it cooled too much, Isabel gently lowered a spoon into the gloopy mixture before slowly raising it to her lips. She hesitated.

Ten minutes later, Isabel was curled up on her couch clutching a bucket to her body. Every time she moved she could feel the urge to vomit swell before gradually receding. In her mind the fledgling kept asking herself why she kept doing this. Two spoonfuls of the chowder had been enough to reduce her to a shaking wreck and she had known it would and still put them in her stupid mouth. Why? Why? Why? WHY?!

The reason why was as obvious to Isabel as what she should have done with the spoonful of chowder. This summons to the docks. It had been weighing on the young vampire’s mind ever since the sheriff had notified her that she was going. While Hanna had explained to her how vampire society worked, nothing explained why the Prince of Houston had included her in his summons. The only consoling part of this whole ordeal was that Hanna had been told she was going too. That made more sense to Isabel. Hanna owned a bar that was a hub for kindred life in Houston. She was important, even if Isabel was certain her friend would never admit it. Had she been summoned because she was Hanna’s ward? But that didn’t make sense either.

To distract herself from several more hours of self inflicted mental and physical torture, Isabel gingerly rummaged in between the sofa cushion until she found the tv remote. Flicking the device on, the purple haired vampire settled down to catch up on her regular dose of crap tv and dry heave.



Just after one in the morning, Isabel stirred herself from a rerun marathon of Cheers. Placing the still mercifully dry bucket down, she pulled on her boots, shoved the congealed chowder in the freezer and set off for Maximum Buzz. The bar was only about a fifteen minute walk from her apartment but Isabel still wished it was closer. The streets were normally so full of temptations. Fortunately tonight the leaden sky meant that most people were staying inside or getting cabs but everytime someone did pass her she could feel the beast inside her straining to get off its leash. It was a horrible feeling to know she was probably the most dangerous thing roaming the sidewalks and a relief to walk inside Hanna’s bar where she wasn’t.

“Hey Dan.” Isabel pulled down her hood as she hopped up on one the bar stools. There was some punk heaving trash through the door that led out back that diverted her attention for a moment but as the door swung shut behind them Isabel turned back to the bar man who was part of her surrogate family. “Is Hanna about? We should be going to this thing.”

“She left a while ago Izzy. Told me to tell you to meet her there.” The look of worry must have been obvious on Isabel’s face because they quickly added. “If you hurry, you should catch her I’d guess.”

“Err yeah, yeah I guess.” Sliding slowly off the bar stool Isabel started chewing the end of her purple braid. The barman sighed. He knew Isabel well enough by now.

“You got cash on you honey?”

“Um yeah, I think about forty bucks?”

“Then sit you backside back down, and I’ll call you a cab. One of ours.”




Isabel got out of the taxi a couple of blocks away from the container terminal. She had more than enough time to walk the final short leg and the sidewalks seemed deserted here. More importantly she was suddenly wondering if this was meant to be a clandestine meeting even by vampire standards. She didn’t want to piss of the prince by being driven right to the door. Or any other way come to that. Isabel started to jog.

Once in the port proper, finding the meeting place was easy enough and it was made easier by Hanna being Hanna. The woman was practically a beacon in the gloom. One who Isabel was more than happy to stand ever so slightly behind as she sidled up to the meeting spot in jeans and her burgundy Boston University hoodie.

“Hey.” Tapping her friend on the shoulder Isabel leaned closer to their ear and whispered. “Is that him?”

 
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Ariel

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A slender form drifted in through the doorway, seeming little more substantial than the mist that appeared to shroud it. Fingers as delicate as porcelain waved absently, and the mist dissipated.

Blue eyes cold as the waters of Baikal gazed indifferently at the gathered company. A voice, low and smoky as a peat fire, with an oddly flat cadence and gentle, strangely-shaped consonants, spilled from pale lips.

"Anna of House Malkavian responds to her summons," it said. "What business requires her studies to be disturbed?"
 

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Amélie



Happy’s Lounge devalued what it gave in its name. The one night a week that Amélie played for the club made her all the more aware of it. In the shadowed bars and haze of marijuana smoke that lingered throughout the large venue, through the powdered drugs and secretive red room in the back, Happy’s did not make one happy so much as it gave them euphoria; euphoria in its wicked, carnal liberation of the soul.

It was unabashedly hedonistic. Humans and Kindred alike came to push the very fabrics of their morality, to tease the beast that strained at its bonds within. There was something inherently primitive about the experience; a wildness lay in the people, in the dancing, in the sounds...Rock music was all about pushing boundaries and accepting the devil within, and tonight Amélie embraced that sensation. She craved it.

There was a savagery in her appearance. Dressed in a black leather jumpsuit and a gaudy fur coat, a studded neck collar bold against her skin, she prowled about her stage as she sang, a tribal beat keeping her boots stomping and her body rocking. It kept the club going; one song bled into another, and soon she had a large portion of the club-goers in the pit, bodies rhythmically dancing along with her.

It was an older audience tonight. More muted in reactions, sure, but no less entertained. She knew how to work a crowd. Her grittier songs were pushed to the side in favor of old hits, stuff the regulars would recognize. Certainly nothing in French was sung. Americans tended to tune out when no English was involved; the accent was fine, just not the language. Or so Aymard kept telling her. The older Tremere always seemed to attune to societal changes so much quicker than she did. Sitting off to the stage at the bar, the darker-skinned vampire’s jeans and jean jacket blended well with the street styles of the city. It was Aymard she had in mind as she took up the mic once more, nodding her head at the last applause.

“Again, thank you. Thank you all for coming.” She breathed in, the smell of smoke and marijuana flooding her senses. “I’ve got one last song for you guys...An old one, but a good one. An ode to the end of an era.”

She set down her guitar. There was a dramatic pause as she dragged her stool forward, leaning in close to the people gathered at her feet. She found Aymard’s eyes in the crowd, returning his smile as he raised his glass to her. He knew what was coming.

The stage lights dimmed to mauve. Bathed in soft purple, her voice went up in pitch as she crooned, “I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray…”

The crowd came alive. Dozens of voices joined her own as she belted out the 80s hit. Five minutes later, in the wake of raucous applause, Amélie reluctantly detached herself from the stage, hastily dodging calls for an encore. She was already late for the meeting; she couldn’t afford anymore dalliances.

Aymard was waiting for her as she sauntered backstage.

“Jammin’, baby. You just straight jammin’.”

“You say that every night.”

“Yeah, but tonight was different. Shit.” He leaned back against the wall, eyes bright as he watched her pack up her guitar. In the foreground, the calls for more music continued, and he gave her a sly smile. “One more song?”

“I’m late enough as it is.”

“Word? Well how ‘bout tomorrow night?”

Amélie straightened, rocking back up onto her platform boots. “Non. I play at Maximum Buzz tomorrow.”

“Non? Damn, that’s cold.”

“Oh, hush. I’m always here.”

Cool air pressed against her skin as she exited out the back door. Madame always called a taxi for her departure, and tonight was no different. Aymard’s light footsteps trailed behind her as she approached the waiting vehicle, his skin flush against her own as he helped her into the car.

“As always...Thanks for coming,” He said, his eyes warm as he leaned in for a peck.

“Aymard.” She smiled into the kiss. “Tout le plaisir est pour moi.”

The pleasure is mine.



What a sad little motley crew they were.

Amélie raised a perfectly arched brow as she came near the docks and saw what was...what, three, five peoples? This was what came of the Prince’s summons? If more were coming, they needn’t bother now. She herself was fashionably late, but anything later crossed into flippant disregard. Perhaps there were far more vampires out there like Madame than she had realized: too old, stubborn, and prideful to give a damn. She heaved a sigh as she came upon the small gathering.

There was the Prince and his Sheriff, looking much aloof as he always did. There the wispy form of Madame Anna hung to the right of another waifish figure, one who was familiar enough to catch her eye. Some other girl hung by the Neonate, with a particularly nasty looking scar...

“Good evening. Sorry I'm late.”

She looked at the Prince briefly, then at Lance. Deciding against an overblown show of deference to the two, she instead drifted closer to the petite bar owner, her curiosity piqued by a new face.

“Hanna.” Amélie stated simply in lieu of a greeting. There was an unsettling intensity in her eyes as her focus shifted to the orphaned Childe. “And this must be the one I’ve heard about. Isabel, no?”

Introductions were in order. Amélie extended a hand out towards the young girl. On each finger was a black ring.

“I am Amélie.”

 
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Red Thunder

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Sheriff Bringham had shrugged dismissively, giving Hanna as much a noncommittal answer as he felt like. Her approach had been monitored beneath the stoney gaze of the gargoyles, ensuring that she wasn't a threat. Absent any alert from them, Lance had remained just as stoic, arms crossed in relaxed comfort. The Prince smiled warmly to her, ignoring the overly familiar mannerism, matching it with an upward head tilt in acknowledgement. Ah, the neonate who ran, and maybe even owned, the Maximum Buzz, the popular nightclub down… whichever street it was. Lance apparently knew; hell, there wasn't much he didn't. Absently, Washburn wondered if his Sheriff might have made a better Prince than he. The sudden appearance of new party shifted his attention, and his gaze shifted to Isabel. Her appearance didn't garner so much as a blink from Lance, but Washburn chuckled at the young one's awe and uncertainty. It was … cute, he supposed; it reminded him of himself when he had just been Embraced.

"Having trouble adjusting, babe?" Smiling, he tapped the long fangs that glinted like a cat's eye in the night. "These aren't much good for anything but the red stuff, you know. Best get used to it; your stomach will thank you."

The smell of vomit was still on her breath, no matter the degree to which she'd gone to cover it, and the Toreador was particularly good at detecting the undetectable.

But a third arrival prevented further dialogue. At his side, the Prince felt Lance shift minutely as the Malkavian presented herself. Quite the flair for the dramatic, he mused, smirking at the theatrics. Anna was perhaps a wildcard, but the insight she might provide could be invaluable. And honestly: the fewer Lunatics involved, the better.

"Damn, babe, slow that train. We'll wait to see if anyone is just, like, really punctual, yeah?"

It was still a few minutes until the appointed hour, and there might still be some to arrive. Nor did they have to wait long.

"Late? Nah, babe; you're right on the dot."

Amélie, the rockstar. A cool scene, according to the rumors; to his regret, the Prince was always far too busy to go. Too busy to have fun anymore. Too busy to enjoy Unlife.

Oh well. There were more important things than Fun right now. He glanced up to Lance, who hadn't so much as bent the stick up his ass. Still eyeing the crowd as best he might in the obscured wharf lamps, the Sheriff nodded once in answer to the Prince's unasked question. Slapping his hands together, the Prince grinned and stood.

"Well, four is better than none at all. The others-" He waved dismissively. "They don't matter. Anyway, I do appreciate your coming; we have us something of an issue, and I need some help."

Hands smooth with Living years of ease and money rubbed together in contemplation, and with slow steps he began to pace. How to approach this? Ah: reward, of course.

"Oh! And of course, you'll be well, uh, compensated. Anyway, I know some of you chicks are, uh, that is, maybe you don't like getting your hands dirty. I get it. But the Masquerade has to be held up, and we all gotta pull our weight."

The Prince stopped, having meandered over to stand in front of Hanna. He scratched his chin before turning to look at Amélie.

"You're on that rocker scene, yeah? How's the dope? Bet you've tried your fair share, getting high on the kine's own lines, huh?

"Or you, Miss Buzz." He turned back to Hanna. "I'll bet you got a good ear to the ground for that. Even Madame Anna the Seer. I'd you got your connections to learn stuff you wanna know."

From behind him, Lance cleared his throat. Washburn frowned, looking over his shoulder at him. Lance was staring off into the night intently, and his nostrils flared. The Prince pursed his lips before turning back to them.

"Yeah, ok. Anyway, you chicks got the invite because you know the cats in the drug scene. And I'm looking for something I've heard that's on the street." From his pocket, the Prince pulled a small, clear bag in which was a fine, black powder. He gave it a little shake before returning it. "Dunno what it is, yet, or what it's called. I need you to figure it out. You got your own connections, but maybe check with Leon at Leon's Lounge on McGowen St. See where you get."

There was a pause as the Prince shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the four Kindred. When no one was immediately forthcoming with questions or concerns, he shrugged.

"Yeah? Nothing, or what?"

Interestingly, despite any opinion the Kindred may otherwise have concerning Prince Washburn, from the moment they lay eyes on him, they'd have felt just a little more at ease, feeling just a touch more inclined toward him.

On the water, a ship's horn echoed from the fog, deep and empty; the city never slept, and ports always stayed busy, even in the dead of a blind night.

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Kuno

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Amélie


Amélie listened dispassionately as the Prince launched into his exposition. He mentioned compensation, and the Tremere vampire scoffed. Not everything could be bought with money. Ironically, what she valued most over all things was her time, and she felt quite distinctly that it was being wasted. Especially when he pulled out a bag of what essentially looked like black-tinted dope.

"Dunno what it is, yet, or what it's called. I need you to figure it out.”

What the hell was this man even on about?

The reasoning behind how and why she should be worried about some black baby powder escaped her at the moment. And the Prince was not inclined to provide it, instead throwing out suggestions of where to look as if she gave a damn. Jesus. She’d missed out on more songs at Happy’s for this?

“So you called us out here for some fucking drug? That’s what this whole thing is about?” Her light accent managed to soften the sound of her words, though they were no less harsh. "Jesus Christ. No wonder the elders blew you off.”

Wisely, she decided to leave it at that. Whether the summons were pointless or not didn’t matter; she was still beholden to the Camarilla, and by extension, the Regent. The compulsion to do as she was asked trumped all feelings of contempt.

Her eyes flashed with annoyance as she reached out a hand palms-up towards the Prince.

“I want to see it up close. May I?”

 
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Red Thunder

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Rick smiled, cheeks pulling taut to such a degree that his expression resembled more of a grimace than a proper smile. His fangs glinted in the utility lights that washed across them. Unmoving, Lance glanced at him but remained silent.

"Sure thing, babe," the Prince replied, tone unchanged from before, and he tossed the bag to her; her venomous comment went ignored.

It was heavier than it first appeared, its half a teaspoon amount belying what was likely a full 6 ounces in weight. Upon closer examination, aided possibly with a Kindred's naturally enhanced eyesight or with a specialized Kindred's Auspex, the powder was actually crystals more akin to salt than baking powder; it smelled strongly of wormwood and some unidentifiable sweet odor, with a hint of copperish tang. Out on the water, the ship's horn sounded again, louder now, seeking an answer as it felt its way across the blind waters; there was as yet no reply.

Hands in his pockets, the Prince looked on, apartment ambivalent, save for the tight grin he'd never dropped.

"Satisfied, babe? Keep it; I got more."

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Doctor Jax

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Hanna was this close to pushing poor Isabel into the spotlight, give her a grand entrance, but she was interrupted by Amelie arriving. The rocker was a somewhat regular at Hanna's, an acquaintance of sorts. She was Camarilla, Hanna was Anarch - eh, there were odder bedfellows. Whatever the case, she wasn't surprised to see her make an entrance, flashing a lazy peace sign at her as she slung an arm around Isabel's neck and shoulders, hauling the girl into her side with a rough hug.

With that, she listened with surprising intent to the words that Rick stated, the Prince producing a drug. Her eyes finally narrowed behind her glasses as she tilted her head, fingering her bottom lip pensively. Amelie took the black bag, and she plucked it out of her palm post-haste to get a feel for its heft, once, twice a shake, then putting it right back into Amelie's hand. She smiled at her winningly, before looking back to the Prince.

"Aaaand why the hell should we care about the newest dope? What's the matter with it? And you got more?"

She eyed the black crystals, clear and cuboid, like salt - just black. Her eyes cut back to the Prince again, lifting an eyebrow.

"Enough to.... test? I know that your boy, Lance, said that this was about the, uh.... Catatonia. Sorry, Anna, baby," she said in reference to their other counterpart of House Malkavian. "I'm guessing that this is... connected? I'd rather not take a drag off some Kine who's been sniffing this and then end up Sleeping Beauty."

That ship, in the distance, blasting a horn like that... It was honestly a little annoying. God, couldn't they have picked a Denny's or something? At the least it would smell better.
 
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Applo

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“How do you take it?”

Isabel surprised herself with the question. From the safety of Hanna’s embrace she had been watching proceedings quietly until now. Internally she had been cringing at how it had taken her two attempts to produce anything more than a squeak while shaking Amelie’s hand and wondering once again why she had been invited. At least she had been until the prince had produced the bag of strange black powder. Then her curiosity and an unjustified sense of security had gotten the better of her.

“I mean, um.. do kine-” It still felt so strange to use that word to refer to normal people. “um do they snort it like blow or is it like heroin where you got ta cook it and inject it or i dunno smoke…”

Isabel spluttered to a stop and bit her lip. She had an uncomfortable feeling that she was sounding stupider with each word that passed through her lips. With her one good eye, Isabel began to inspect the ground beneath her feet more thoroughly then likely anyone else ever had.

“I just thought that maybe we could rule some spots out or something I dunno.”

 
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Red Thunder

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The Prince held his peace and his grin a full second longer than necessary, eyes still on Amélie. Blinking slowly, he turned his gaze away, the expression returning to his show, amiable one. Hanna and Isabel, at least, were asking the pertinent questions.

"Dunno how,; dunno what. If I did, maybe I'd've wrapped it up already. How it's taken is a fuggin mystery, yeah? All's we know it's popular with the Lun- the Seers, babe.

"Hence the … the catatonia, yeah. There seems to be that connection." He chuckled underneath his breath, as if pleased with his chosen vocabulary. "At least, that's the running theory."

The Sheriff, eyes still locked on the swirling white miasma above the ocean, slide a hand into his coat, and his nostrils flared. The Prince snapped his fingers.

"Anyways, that's all I've got. See what you can make of it, and I'll owe ya: and that ain't no small thing, a prince owing a bunch of Neonates. But yeah: ask around, stick a gun down somebody's throat, figure it out. Hell, experiment if you wanna: ain't my ass. Anything else?"

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Ariel

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Anna's smile was, as always, faultlessly polite.

"You call me a Neonate, my Prince?" she said, her voice a whisper like the wind across the tundra. "I shall let the insult pass. Your request intrigues me."

She extended a hand, palm up. "Cross my palm with silver, and listen to a beautiful lie. Cross it with gold, and hear the ugly truth. As with all things, you get what you pay for; nothing less, and nothing more."
 

Doctor Jax

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Hanna whistled low as Anna coldly drew up in arms, more about her age than the subtle dig at the Malkavians - and their bad habit of spreading their particular brand of crazy. Catatonia... A never-ending sleep. For their kind, it honestly wasn't the worst way to go, but death in any of its forms was abhorrent when one possessed the potential of eternity. She glanced over at Izzy with an appraising raise of the eyebrows, nodding with interest. True, true - method of delivery was important. And even more important - who was taking the drug anyhow? Kine? Kindred? There was no reason for Kindred to take a drug - as far as she knew. But one of those age old pieces of advice her old man had given her....

Never make assumptions. Always be aware of your bias.

Hanna's eyes cut to Lance, his nervous posture. So there was possibly something else out here, watching them, waiting. For all her nonchalance, she hadn't missed that they had brought two gargoyles with them. That was not firepower you drug around for looks.

"Hey - if you'll get a bag for me, for, uh.... some more forensics, I'll sniff something out of it. I know a couple of street pharmacists," Hanna stated, for once affecting a far more amenable, serious tone. "You said Leon's? I'll stick my nose around."

Her eyes, however, were on the Sheriff, even as she clapped a hand on the back of Izzy's neck and shook her playfully.

"Come on, kiddo, we got places to go, things to see, minds to expand," she stated. She gave a salute to the Prince, a two-finger mockery with a slight purse of the lips, and a slightly - though only slightly - more respectful nod to his Sheriff. "Don't work too hard, ladies, I hear it'll turn your hair gray."

With that, she began to walk back towards the bus stop, making her way out. The night was still young. She did love her a good mystery.

Time to head to Leon's, then. She pulled out her phone and shot a quick text to her night manager not to expect her back any time too soon.
 
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As Hanna began to walk away from the small gathering Isabel stayed rooted to the spot, solitary emerald eye still fixed on the Prince. In her mind the same question rolled back and forth on a churning sea of indecision. The one that had been bugging her ever since the taciturn sheriff had instructed her to come to the docks tonight. Why her?

The other made sense. Anna, strange as she seemed, well she was one of the afflicted groups. Scientifically it made some sort of sense to have one of the Malkavians investigating what was causing those of her ilk to fall asleep and not wake up again; a dark part of Isabel couldn't help but feel a little jealous of the seers, it sounded quite nice in away. Hanna and Amélie also made sense. Both lived and thrived in the shadowy backstreet world where drugs were just another commodity. To an extent, Isabel knew she did too, but only because she most of the time she wasn’t in her apartment hiding in one bar. She wasn’t sure she could reliably score human drugs if she wanted to. All things considered, Isabel couldn’t make any reason for presence fit in her mind. She had to ask. She had to know.

“Why…” The question died in Isabel's throat with what little that did escape her lips was carried away by the wind. The longer she stared at the face surrounded by the dirty blonde mullet the less certain she was. She felt like a schoolgirl again. All she wanted to do was what the teacher had requested of her so she’d get a gold star. Rocking the boat with questions wasn’t part of that. Outwardly this mental struggle between the desire to know and deference to authority manifested in Isabel’s fingers bouncing as if they were playing a keyboard on her palms, her left foot scratching the back of her right leg and her mouth opening and closing silently for a few moments.

Deference won out. Spinning on the spot, Isabel wordlessly made to run after Hanna only for misplaced human manners to force her to a sliding stop as she turned to face the other two summoned kindred.

“Nice to meet you.” Isabel looked between Amélie and Anna, although only for a moment at the latter, those blue eyes made her feel uneasy. “I… um… I ho… nice to meet you.”

This time the purple hair fledgling broke into a full sprint in pursuit of her friend.​

 

Kuno

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Amélie


Prince Washburn was a whole bunch of “dunnos” and non-answers; she knew he was no idiot, but he was making one helluva case for it. She wondered if he was inwardly getting a kick out of sending them on this wild goose chase. It wouldn’t have surprised her.

Thankfully, whatever criticisms she'd had left for the vacuous nonsense that spilled out of his mouth - a bunch of Neonates? Really? - was plunged by the intense curiosity she held for the new drug. Heavier than she'd thought, the granules glittered against her palm like black sand off the Hawaiin coast. After much internal debate, she pried the small bag and took a whiff, surprised to see that it was saturated with the scent of wormwood, and something else...something sweet? Something she could not pinpoint immediately, which intrigued the centenarian. In the wake of Hanna's goodbyes, the Tremere vampire hefted the bag once more, deep in thought.

Amélie was still too distracted by her quarry to properly send the young lady off. Against her better judgement, she inhaled again, nostrils flaring as the sharp scent filled her nose again. What was that sweet smell? She was afraid to sniff again, for fear of accidentally taking a hit, but the mystery of it was driving her mad. Dissatisfied, she pocketed the drug slowly, tuning in to the present conversation just in time to listen to Isabel.

“Until next time,” Amélie managed to say, though she doubted the girl heard her. She shifted, at last bringing her full attention to the three remaining vampires.

Hanna and her charge had the right idea in heading out right away. Trouble had a way of finding their kind, in more ways than one. Her focus sharpened on the sheriff, who had taken a guarded stance in the wake of their conversation, his right hand concealed by his coat. Something, or someone was on his radar. Had been for awhile, from the looks of it. She, too, looked out towards the sea, trying in vain to spot whatever Lance was fixated on. Her arms crossed firmly over her chest, hands digging into the folds of her furs.

She inhaled sharply. “Expecting something, Lance?”
 
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Red Thunder

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"Uh-"

Washburn stared at Anna's open palm blankly, stupidly. His lips pursed suddenly, and he sighed. Damn Lunatics. They were always far more obtuse and fuggin weird than was really all that necessary. A tangible, immediate reward, huh? He patted the pockets of his coat, then the pockets of his pants, seeking anything that might satisfy her.

"Ah! Here ya go, babe; gold." From the interior breast pocket of his coat, the Prince pulled a coin shining yellow in the streetlights. He flipped it to the Malkavian with a smirk. On its face was that of Lady Liberty. "They ain't made those for a long time; consider it an advance, since ya want to touch something."

Hanna and Isabel's exit had gone mostly unnoticed, save that they suddenly found their path blocked by the eight foot tall stone silhouette of a gargoyle, some halfway back up the path out. It was, as most of its kind, a monster of a creation, resembling some creative if unethical mixture of gorilla and bat. Arms easily the width of the women's torsos hung loosely at its sides, scraping the ground as it walked. Two ears like giant leaves sprouted upward from the sides of its head, and red beady eyes glared at them from above a sneering mouthful of razor sharp fangs. Yet, it gave way, moving aside to allow the pair past, before continuing on its ponderous if short journey to the meeting place once more. Should they decide to continue themselves, Hanna and Isabel would find that its brother was no longer there.

The gorilla-gargoyle approached as Amélie voiced her observation, its thudding steps a kind of non-answer to the question.

Indeed, the Sheriff himself opted to ignore her question entirely, save for a glance. Slowly, certainly more slowly than was necessary to prove it was no weapon to be used against her, he removed his hand from his pocket. In it was clasped a small flashlight. Raising it, he shone a quick, short pattern out across the water. Washburn, having given Anna what she wished, as far as he was concerned, himself turned to watch the harbor. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence and stillness, with only the white sea about the gray sea to mark any change. Suddenly a light flashed through the fog, reciprocating Lance's pattern. Replacing his flashlight, he gave the remaining two Kindred a significant look. There might have even been a hint of a smirk.

"Meeting's over. Best go, lest you enjoy the thought of seeing a sunrise."

The stone gorilla maneuvered its way to stand between the remaining women and the water. With grinding slowness, it raised a hand to gesture back the way it'd come.

"L E A V E," its voice scratched, low and gravelly. Somewhere in the fog, the sharp ting of a ship's bell cut through the obfuscation, chiming three times.
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Kuno

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Amélie


Bitch.

They didn’t have to tell her twice. Nostrils flaring, Amélie tossed her head and turned away, refusing to acknowledge the gargoyle with so much as a look. Some of the twisted creatures were still slaves to the Tremeres, and to have one dismiss her with so little regard was infuriating. She despised the grotesque beasts with a passion, and it showed; head tilted back haughtily, she walked away with a small hmph, heels clicking angrily against the ground. She would be sure to remember this in the years to come, should Lance ever come knocking again.

With some difficulty, she threw a quick goodbye in Anna’s direction. The old bat still had the gold coin in her palm, and Amélie was too annoyed to ask her what the hell she planned to do with it. Malkavians and their damn riddles. Her grip tightened on the handle of her guitar case.

She passed Hanna and Isabel waiting at the bus stop and went on, heading towards the sleek build of Madame’s taxi parked by the corner. She could see her Sire’s ghoul slumped back in the driver's seat, feigning sleep. At the sound of her approach, he cracked one eye open lazily, and then the other. He appeared annoyed to see her.

The feeling was mutual. Mood souring by the second, Amélie pried the passenger seat open and climbed in, carelessly throwing her guitar into the back seat.

“Nap’s over. Let’s get out of this dump.”

 
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Anna shook her head slowly at the Prince and closed her little hand about the coin, her smile as enigmatic as ever.

"All of you... so literal," she whispered, and giggled.

For those who heard it, the tiny sound seemed to make the world turn sideways. Nothing changed, but it was as if they'd started looking at the world from a point about where their left armpit was. Nothing changed, everything shifted. Just for a moment. And then all was as it was, as it should be, as it... might be.

Anna seemed to look down upon them as if from a great height.

She turned to gaze upon the Sheriff, then the gargoyle.

"Rude," she said. "Presumptuous."

A chill wind began to blow.

"My Prince," she said to Washburn, "Until you learn to value truly those who are of true value to you, you will always be left with the worthless dregs. Hold close to your breast the one who seems most like to pierce it. The subtlest knife is the one that will free you."

She opened her hand, and a fine glittering dust blew from her palm.

"I take my leave," she said. "The best of evenings to you all."
 

Red Thunder

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Washburn stared after Anna as she- well, 'retreated' wasn't really the right word to describe anything a Malkavian did. Unpredictable, there was no telling what they might do. And he hated dealing with them, as most did. But circumstances being what they were, he figured he could manage.

He'd also ignore the blatant attempt at use of Discipline on him and his Sheriff. The gargoyle still stood facing the path where it had encouraged Amélie to leave, and Washburn half considered sending the creature after the Lunatic. It was true that he hadn't established Elysium at the site, an oversight that was too late to correct. The assumption had been that the presence of the Camarilla Prince would be indication enough to dissuade any such breach of protocol, particularly on the Prince himself. He glanced to his Sheriff, whose own focus had turned an icy gaze to the fading steps of the Malkavian. But Washburn shook his head. Let her have her moment.

Besides, more pertinent events were happening, and he needed to focus. The slow toll of the ship's bell became clearer as the ship approached a nearby dock. Figures jumped to the pier with ropes, securing the ship from drifting away, and a gang plank extended from the deck to the dock. A slight figure, tall and willowy and difficult to see in more detail in the fog, began to descend. Washburn came to a stop by the ramp, Lance at his shoulder, and as the figure approached, he bowed his head in respectful greeting.

"Prince Washburn," came a voice in greeting. An unwavering alto, the voice was carefully controlled and bore an air of prestige. And its owner was shortly made clear. The woman was an almost ghastly white, though whether from Caine's curse or from a natural, pre-death pallor was unclear, a sharp and fairly unnerving contrast to the jet black waterfall that careened from her head to flow about her shoulders. A gaudy red evening dress, suited more to some dinner party than a clandestine meeting, threw the contrast into even more stark relief. As she reached the dock, she too inclined her head in greeting.

"Our thanks to the Camarilla for this meeting."

"You do us a service for agreeing to meet, Bishop." The Prince looked back up and proffered his arm. "Perhaps the Camarilla and the Sabbat can put our differences aside for a night in the interest of self-preservation."

"Certainly. It is, after all, our prime endeavor."

Smiling, fangs flashing in the dark, the Bishop took the Prince's arm.


∆∆∆​


"We're outta gin, Frank. 'Sides, even if we weren't, I'd cut you off; you need to get home."

"F-f-f-fukkofffff. She ain't there nnnno more anywaysh."

"Might be, by now. Can't know without checking."

"Yer right. Thhhanksh."

The chair creaked as it swiveled, and with a grunt, the disheveled CPA shuffled his way through the narrow path and out the front door. The boy at the door held it open and bid him a safe night, waving as he did. Marcus. Kid needed to dial back the cheer.

Leaning against the bar, Leon watched his patron leave. He'd be back tomorrow, likely, having returned home a third night in a row to the memory of his separated wife and estranged daughter. And when he did, Leon would send him back out again with an encouraging word. After having drained the man of the cost of several bottles of alcohol.

Better, he supposed, standing back up and turning to some mindless cleaning, than draining him of his vitae. There were other patrons for that, and in other clubs. Such things weren't for for a quality establishment like Leon's Lounge.

His reflection in the mirror drew his gaze, and he checked his appearance quickly. Chestnut hair, perfectly coiffed; mustache, waxed just so; white collared shirt, still mostly wrinkle free.

Satisfied with his own, he spared a glance to Marcus. Not more than 22 years old, the kid was still brand new to this whole world, and his optimistic spirit had yet to be crushed by the overwhelming weight of the cynicism of decades. But then, he was just Ghouled; the cynicism would come in time.

Meanwhile, the kid needed to present himself better. Cheerful was one thing; unkempt was another.

"Marcus!" Appropriately quiet for the environment but bearing the weight of command, Leon called his Ghoul to him. "Your hair is a mess, kid; go straighten it up. And dust off your jacket while you're at it; this isn't a zoo."

"Absolutely, boss!"

With a mock salute, if innocently given, Marcus strolled past the bar, through the tables, and intro the back room. Leon shook his head but turned to a customer, newly seated at his board.

"And what might I get you this night?"
 
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Applo

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Leaning against the pole that marked the bus stop, Isabel stared up at the dark sky. For now at least it was over. Her heart was still racing from the appearance of the horrifying stone ape thing that had momentarily blocked their exit but Isabel could feel the tension and anxiety she had been carrying for what felt like forever slowly slip away. It was weird actually, in the meeting she had felt almost fine, at least until she had opened her stupid mouth and drawn attention to herself. In those first few moments as she had run after Hanna though, all that nervous energy had come rushing back. Perhaps it had been the intrigue of the whole thing. A drug that rendered kindred seemingly permanently unconscious. That was interesting to the purple haired fledgling.

“What do you think it is like.” Looking over to where Hanna was, Isabel chewed her lip for a moment before continuing. “Do you think they dream? Never ending dreams would be nice.”

Hanna sat with a hand through her hair while a cigarette rested between her fingers. The older Kindred seemed to be lost in thought, mulling everything over.

“You would think. But who’s to say that’s what actually happens when you fall into Catatonia?” Hanna mused. “You’re assuming it’s a true sleep. Lights out. Done-zo, gone, zip, zilch, nada. It’s just as likely that you’re still aware in there, trapped, unable to move, unable to even open your eyes. And all that time…. You’re starving.”

Any vampire who had felt that bite knew it was a sickness worth running from. The Beast, it yowled to be fed, and it would claw the mind to shreds in its search to satiate its base desires.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as just sleep,” Hanna murmured, the bus lights casting her face in red and blue lights against dark black shadow. There was a pause, just the sound of the trundle of the bus.

“You did well, by the way. Didn’t die, didn’t puke, didn’t start crying. Not bad, hotshot. What’d you think of the Prince and his lapdog?”

“Gee thanks I think.” A lone finger, illuminated by the quickly closing lights of the bus was momentarily raised in Hanna’s general direction before falling away again. “ The Prince wasn’t errrmmm… wasn’t what I expected. I guess I imagined him as more of a I dunno a Count Dracula then an out of shape Gretsky. He was OK I guess. The Sheriff guy still gives me the creeps. The way he just stood there not even looki-”

The pneumatic hiss of the bus doors cut across Isabel and she knew enough not to pick up the conversation again once it died away. She didn’t know who might hear what they shouldn’t. That was one of the first things Hanna had taught her. Instead the fledgling reached into a pocket for her purse as she stepped up into the bus. “Two for-”

The smell hit Isabel as solidly as the bus would have if she had been inclined to step out in front of it. Blood. At her side knuckles whitened as she fought the suddenly raging monster inside of her and her nostrils flared.

“Yeah sorry bout the smell doll. Some joker puked up earlier and I ain’t had a chance to stop and clean it yet.” The driver’s drawling made the veins on their neck standout to the point where Isabel had to close her eyes to stop herself watching it's every little movement. She started to rock back and forth on the spot. The hunger was so strong all of a sudden. It would barely take any effort to just…”

“Hey Babe! I know it stinks but hurry it up alright. Where you going?”

Isabel didn’t answer. She just slapped a twenty down on the drivers little table and all but ran for the back of the bus. Hanna could pick up the change. In the seat two rows behind the driver a figure was slumped, clearly the worse the wear for drink, with a thin stream of blood running from their nose and off their chin; they made a kissing face at Isabel when they saw her looking at them as she dashed past. At the back of the bus, the fledgling slid a window open as far as it would go and tried to effectively stick her head out of it.

Hanna watched the entire thing with an air of fascination. Silently, she followed, picking up the change with a nod. Her gaze lingered on the man sprawled in the seats just a moment too long. She came to sit with a graceless slump into the seat near the girl, and she lit up despite their current locale.

“Does it ever get any easier Hanna?”

“Easier isn’t the right word,” Hanna hummed. “It never gets easier breaking a bone or losing something you want badly. But you do learn to handle it. You start knowing what to expect.”

Her eyes were still on the man in the seat. Her thumb flicked her cigarette almost frenetically.

She shrugged her shoulders, eyes closing as she leaned her head back. Her arm draped over Izzy’s shoulders with undue familiarity.

“It won’t be like this forever. Trust me.”

Purple hair slide across the bus window as Isabel’s head lulled onto Hanna’s arm. “I’m scared I’ll hurt someone bad. At yours it is ok. You or Dan or even I dunno, Wes are there to watch me but like when I’m just out on the street, what if I snap and it gets loose. What if I go too far or worse.” A solitary hand hovered over Isabel’s ghostly pale and scarred eye to illustrate the point of her shakey whispers. “What if one of my sisters comes to stay and, and I… I… I... I’d rather be trapped and starving and insane than that.” A thin stream of scarlet liquid running across Isabel’s cheek was wiped into the sleeve of her hoodie.

Hanna listened. It was one of her better qualities. She fully took in what was said, drawing from her cigarette. A stream of smoke issued from her mouth, her hand rubbing Izzy’s shoulder soothingly.

“I will admit. It will not be easy here for the first few months. And honestly, it will be hard to hide your condition from your family. I wouldn’t suggest bringing them any closer than you have to,” Hanna stated, an uncharacteristic weight to her voice. “Yours is a helluva Embrace. But it’s a little bit like walking a dog. You start to figure out what sets the dog off. You know how hard to yank back. You know how to feed it. And you know to brace for it too.”

The blue-haired Brujah’s eyes were downcast behind her glasses.

“Can’t say I was in your shoes. I was a, uh… not so scrupulous. Didn’t have family I cared to know. I can only tell you what I’ve heard.”

“Pretty sure that if your dog gets loose and drinks someone's blood even once ya meant to take it out back and shoot it.” Nestling into Hanna’s arm as much as she could, Isabel stared silently at her warped reflection in the window opposite for several minutes. With the window blowing fresh air into the bus, the smell of blood wasn’t quite so heavy in the air. It was still very noticeably there, but the slight reduction in intensity and Hanna’s gentle touch made it easier to resist its siren’s call.

“Thank-you Hanna.” Slightly surer of voice than she had been before, Isabel grasped the hand that had been rubbing her shoulder and squeezed it slightly. “I know you never asked for some random fledg- some random know nothing noob to be dumped on your lap. I think I would’ve lost it entirely if it wasn’t for you. Or really hurt someone and had an entirely different reason to meet the Sheriff.”

Once again there was a silence where the humming of the bus’s engine ruled supreme. Twisting to look at her friend, the heavy look on Hanna’s face was apparent to Isabel almost straight away and a slight sense of guilt started to eat away at her stomach.

“Leon’s isn’t the kinda place where we can get really fucked up is it?”



Diesel fumes filled the air as the bus roared away. They smelt wonderful. A hundred meters down the road the neon sign for Leon’s Lounge shone through the orange haze of the street lamps; on the other side of the street a drunk made slow stumbling progress in the opposite direction.

“Oh, Leon, you trashy chic piece of garbage,” Hanna hummed with affection as she sauntered over towards it. She pulled out her phone, and with practiced fingers she texted a… different member of their crew.

wes meet me at Leon’s i need a ride. izzy w me 2. Juuuuicy gossip
hanna <3


She bypassed the doorman with ease, waving to chipper Ghoul before snagging a seat at the bar’s end. She patted the seat beside her for Izzy, and she stated, “You want something to “drink” to blend in, just order a Bloody Mary with cherry. Kind of a tip off around here you’re part of the night life. Otherwise you stand out a little in places with Kine.”

She drummed her fingers, looking around.​


A collab with Doctor Jax Doctor Jax