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Prologue: A Matter of Soul, Scene I (Lauren)

   
"I'm used to having a much better working relationship with the Arrow and the Mysterium." Seth said "I feel like I'm operating with a hand tied behind my back. Sure, I could go to them on my own, but the ties between the Ladder and the Veil here color their responses. You're kind of a polarizing figure, Civitas." Seth said, with something of a smile.

"Legally, I could go to my order and say "I need this this and this". But practically? Kore scares the piss out of me in ways I lack the words to properly articulate using English, Kurdish, the High Speech, and Minoan Linear A." He shrugs "Don't get me wrong, she definitely radiates cool old lady, but it's coupled with "Does Betty White have to choke a bitch?""

"And this situation..ugh. I get back from Ibiza and then it's "Oh wow, thaumaphage summoned by vampire group committing soul theft with their own dimensional barrier breaching room, who are more or less responsible for setting in motion events where entities of unknown spiritual provenance possessed not one, but two Mages, and if left unchecked might have ushered in a non-localized apocalyptic event." Seth had started talking with his hands right around the words Oh Wow, and if one worked on the principles of found objects in regards to rote construction some of his more flamboyant motions would probably make for some rather effective mudras for the arcana of forces, prime, and life.

"And it feels like Nobody was making a big deal out of this. When I brought in Ludwig and was all "Oh my god, something should be done about this." I kinda expected the response of "Oh, already in progress, the Arrow is doing X, Y,and Z, and if you want input..". Instead it felt like "Oh, huh, someone brought it up, should probably do something about that." "

Seth's gesticulations had hit the point where they might be forming rote mudras for imperial arcana, or he could just be talking with his hands to the point that put Italians to shame. "I felt...ugh. Like first day back on the job, and here's a stack of paperwork that can be seen from orbit, and here's a new filing system and the guy who is supposed to teach you it is out on vacation, but mail room bob kind of sort of read the introduction to the guide once, so he can teach you, and we expect it all done by 3, and there's no overtime. Did I handle things well?" Seth asked, rhetorically it seemed, though then he shook his head.

"**** no. But at the same time, there's a lot here that's kind of out of whack. Not irrevocably...but it needs to be worked on."

She decided to kick her shoe at him anyway, though she (intentionally) missed. Seriously? Here?

"Yeah." Lauren frowned. "Well, they'd have to answer to Vincent if they did anything to us. But... I wish they'd just let us leave." She'd heard plenty of rumors about mages' capabilities, and they were not terribly comforting. Especially so when they were negotiating her sire's punishment while she sat in one of their magical rooms. All she really wanted right now was to be far away from this place.

Seth

"You are entirely correct, Lictor." Civitas said after a moment, waiting to see if Seth was done. There was a tendency towards speech-making among the Thearchs, which one just had to be used to. "Even if you persist in naming an abyssal manifestation, which is worrisome in and of itself."

"And yet..." The Hierarch said, steepling his fingers together. "I suppose it is to be expected, given that Lictors do not traditionally settle down in one location, that you would be unfamiliar with how we do things here. Listen carefully then, Lictor, as I will not explain myself again."

"The reason that nothing was done is because I made a decision not to pursue them. You may disagree." Civitas said, folding his hands and looking very steadily at Seth. "This is your right. Many of my enemies -- let us not mince words here, I am not a polarizing figure, I am hated -- would disagree. I felt that, given the risks involved, this was not the best use of Consilium resources."

"You yourself said that a middle-aged Tremere caused more damage to the local soulscape than what the Golden Room does. Fighting them, I judged, would have caused too much damage, too much disruption, and been an unacceptable risk to the veil. I am well aware of Vincent Moon's philosophies towards the Masquerade. Fighting for his life, would you judge him likely to honor it with more than a token effort?" Civitas said, taking a breath. His voice grew cold, cold and furious and deadly. "Was I pleased to make this decision? I was not, but someone had to. You have seen conflict in New York. I will die before I see war and exposure visited upon London."

"You arrived, and you persuaded me that some things cannot go unpunished." Civitas said. He sighed. "Shamed, I agreed. Now however, we come to a final disagreement. Moon is willing to accept significant restrictions, and offer us significant resources, in exchange for peace, quiet, and prosperity. We can temper the worst of his impulses, without spending lives. Think of what we can do then."

"If you so choose, I would wish you to represent us at the negotiations tomorrow night, alongside Kore and my grandson. Afterwards, someone will need to administer this arrangement." Civitas said, turning to practical matters. "If you wish to pursue this affair to vengeance, then it is not within my power to persuade you otherwise. But you will do so without the Visus Draconis's resources. Perhaps the Arrow or the Mysterium will prove more congenial."

"In either case, perhaps it is time for you to consider taking on an apprentice."

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Lauren

"Then let's leave." Oleander said, smirking as he sat up in the bed.

Lauren grinned and hopped up. She quickly retrieved her thrown shoe and attempted to open the door.

"See, this is the thing I loathe about you." Seth said. It was that friendly way of saying you loathe someone. "You can call me on the carpet, verbally dress me down, and make it completely reasonable and rational. And I give it a name to put it on a level I can deal with. Alien horror summoned without aid of the arcana is terrifying. Ludwig is not so much."

Seth paused, considering the current situation. "Without Silver Law backing, I'm not willing to pursue this to terminal sanction. Do I disagree strongly with the precedent that this sets, and do I think it'll have repercussions down the line that neither of us see right now? Yes. " It was one of those yeses that had a but attached to it.

"But honestly, you are right. If Moon's backed into a corner, he would turn this into the Revolution in Revelation, and then EVERYONE is screwed. And not a localized everyone, but a global everyone. I can overclock myself beyond a sad lemon, and even then he's probably got a contingency, or a weird ally on dimensional shard Beta Phi Broccoli that gives him a way out. We get him, there's Sophie. We get here, there's god only knows how many others."

He stretched a bit, and ran a hand through his turquoise hair. "We got the souls back, and he's at the bargaining table. Precedent or no, I guess I can call it a victory on principle."

Seth looked down "I saw too many friends die in New York. People I cared about, people who I loved, people who my city just wasn't my city anymore without. I kinda jumped into this both feet first and guns blazing because I wanted to be doing something to convince myself that I wasn't running from responsibility because I was scared of bad shit happening again, and because of that nearly created a situation where, yeah, bad shit would happen again and people I like would die, and I was ignoring my own brain going "Wait, wait a sec" because I didn't want to be scared."

Seth was introspective. Somewhere, a pig was discovering that it could in fact fly in defiance of all natural law, an Exarch was regretting their actions, and a used car salesman was adopting a truly heartfelt strategy of absolute truth in all things. "I like London. I like the scene, I like the people, I like that to me people drive on the wrong side of the road. I like that it's not routine throwdowns with Vampires for Evil Fangy Jesus, or "No Rules are wonderful! Democracy is a functioning undead government!" Yet again, Seth proved that for all his rather liberal ways, in some regards he could be EXTREMELY conservative.

"And I almost screwed it all up royally because of a stupid stress response and a ton of crap. Would I like to take on an Apprentice? Honestly, yeah. Do I trust me to take on an apprentice? Once negotiations are done, I'll think about it. My head will be clearer, and the first thing that drops into my lap won't be this whole mess. Territorial disputes, reasonable spirit court shenanigans...that kind of thing would be nice. Probably too much to hope for, but nice." Seth said with the sort of wistful look that suggested that he knew the likelihood of that happening was statistically close to being zero.

"Now, we have another question in front of us." He said, picking up the pencil again. "We've got his starting offer. How much DO we gouge for what would ordinarily be considered death worthy crimes, and how do we handle the financial aspect? Because that IS a great deal of money, just from his baseline offer alone."

He then shrugged. "Plus, when this is all said and done, we have to figure out a way to PR blitz you. You have enemies who despise you, but if we can throw out enough positive spin, we can maybe keep them from creating new ones. We might not be able to sway the current Mysterium and Adamantine Arrow, but future members are an untapped resource."

Lauren

The door was open, and there was no one in the marble-lined corridor of the mausoleum. Due to the unusual space-time organization of the Highgate Citadel, Lauren had only to poke her head out the door and look down the long corridor, and she could see the brass entrance at the far end.

"Probably time for spooky-powers." Oleander's voice said behind Lauren. "Don't turn around for a minute, alright?"

*******************************************************************************

Seth

"Excellent question." Civitas said, once Seth had finished his latest speech. One cause for concern having been averted, the Hierarch moved smoothly to the question that stood before them. He coughed delicately. "It would be better all around, I believe, if the Consilium at large does not learn of this. Avoids having to set it as a precedent."

"As for the negotiations themselves." Civitas considered this. "Financially, we should be able to double his initial starting offer, perhaps more if we're willing to accept it over a longer term. The Jeffries Foundation can do with another endowment, so I am inclined to re-invest whatever settlement we get and look at the income that it can produce in perpetuity. With regards to arcane resources, those are more the Mysterium's specializations than ours. If you can get at least something with clear title, we can use it when we next need to negotiate with the Mystagogues."

We can probably finish Seth's part in the Prologue here, any further details we'll handle in the chat.

Well, no one around so far, but she was certain that someone would notice if they tried to leave. They might try to sneak out, or--spooky-powers? That could mean a lot of things. But Lauren did trust him enough not to spin around immediately, so she waited a moment.

"Can I turn around now?" she asked as she moved to do so.

"Not yet..." Oleander said, and Lauren's preternatural hearing picked up the sounds of rustling fabric and gliding zippers. It did not take a great deal of imagination to understand just what Oleander was doing. Though they hadn't been together very long, nor was Oleander a terribly talkative person, Lauren had picked up that there were some unique considerations to being a werewolf. For starters, you almost never wore more layers than you had to. You also learned to dress and undress at breakneck speeds.

There was a single, silent moment, and then Oleander's voice said. "That's good. Grab my things before we leave, though?"

Turning around, there was a small pile of clothing on the bed, and seated at the foot of it was a large, grey-furred wolf. He was big, Oleander, with grey fur frosted with white, and the same ice-blue eyes. Hard to imagine anyone thinking of him as something other than 'a wolf'. And yet, he'd be stealthier now, on padded feet, and lower to the ground.

"Ready?" Oleander said. The wolf said. It came from the wolf's throat, and it sounded odd, gravelly, though it was understandable. Apparently Oleander had learned some tricks for talking as a wolf.

Lauren briefly wondered why she had to be turned around while he undressed. It wasn't like there would be anything new to see... And then she turned around and had an answer. Perhaps he hadn't wanted her to see him shift.

"Wow."

He was far larger than she'd expected, and there was nothing left to recognize him as "Oleander" except for the eyes. It was incredibly strange to hear his voice coming from the wolf.

She picked up his clothes and put them in her bag as neatly as she could manage. She was close to him now, and all that fur looked very tempting... Lauren reached down to run her hand through it.

"Ready." She grinned and walked out the door,
cloak of night with 2 successes
vanishing from sight along the way.

It was rough fur, long and shaggy and wild. It was apparent upon even the first glance that this was no one's pet dog. Which may have explained why Oleander so rarely changed shape, at least when Lauren was around to see. It had its perks, the ability to run wild, but it was also so damnably inconvenient here in the city.

"You can play with it later." Oleander said, his growling voice making the words come out harsher than he'd intended. "Let's go."

Now, a wolf is not inconspicious, but werewolves have their own magic, and it was now that Oleander used one of those black-magic spells he knew. He leapt into the air, and then he dove down, and he dove into his own shadow. It was still there, a pool of darkness in a roughly canine shape.
Dexterity(5)+Stealth(7)+Willpower(3):
Dice Roll:
15d10s8e
d10 Results: 2, 2, 9, 8, 9, 3, 2, 1, 10, 1, 9, 6, 8, 10, 7, 6, 3 (Total Successes = 7)
Stealthily, the shadow slunk along the ground, moving without a sound. Where Lauren went in for psychic invisibility, clouding the minds of anyone who might see her, Oleander attempted to reach the reality as closely as he could.

Up ahead, the plants on either side of the brass doors twitched, and Lauren could see emerald creepers reaching blindly to block the center of the door and hold it shut. They would reach it in a few moments.




 

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