Tuesday, April 21, 2020

VtM: The Visit

Jack stood on the porch looking out into the night, and wondered. Inside, he could hear laughter from the Late Late Show, which Valeria had retired to watch; outside, the city was unnaturally silent. Few cars moved on the streets; nobody walked the sidewalks. He could hear no laughing, no talking.

Why are your kind so obsessed with killing each other? Valeria had asked, and he didn't have an answer; he didn't understand it himself, though he knew it was true. "We are predators," he whispered into the night air, tasting the words as he spoke them. That was also true, but like so many things it could adjusted, altered. He kept his need for blood restricted to those who could and would support him, with the blood of animals on hand for emergencies. It was, he thought, why human beings built societies: so they would have systems in place to provide for basic needs, leaving them free to focus on the things they cared about.

But the pandemic had caused him to withdraw from his usual sources of food for fear of infecting them, or passing an infection from one to another, and the need didn't go away. Even he could see that if this continued, the ones who hunted the streets and bars and clubs would turn on each other out of desperation. There would be unrest, unrest that could eventually explode into chaos. There were some among the elders who would want to take advantage of such chaos, who would encourage it so that they could. Master Brachetti had made an unexpected visit to make sure that they knew that, to remind him that their loyalty lay with the prince, and to inform him that the prince had been called away, leaving his Seneschal Amelia, who was very possibly too kind and too fair, in charge.

It was not the sort of thing that Jack would ordinarily care about. He kept himself busy using stagecraft to disguise the dark gifts and bring in mortal income; he had no personal ambitions when it came to Kindred politics. He would do as his Sire and the Clan demanded, of course, and certainly if he saw signs of sedition among the other vampires he would report it. But what vampire would display such in front of him? He was Tremere, tightly bound to a clan that was utterly loyal to the Camarilla, and he was the untrusted progeny of an untrusted sire to anyone outside of the Prince's council.

But Valeria had asked what message their master had brought, and her point was well-taken: Master Brachetti did not make casual visits unannounced. He had come with a purpose, and Jack needed to know what it was. He'd certainly felt it was important to remind them of his feelings about Prince Frost, Seneschal Amelia, and the court... but those were merely reminders, and so unlikely to merit this sort of urgency. The same was true of his command to pass along information related to any possible opposition against the prince: it had been a reminder, but an of-course-you-remember-this sort of reminder. The master could have sent a letter for that. He knew as well as anyone just how unlikely it was that Jack would get caught up in Kindred political maneuvering, or even be aware of it.

So the primary message had been the one that the master had delivered first: the Prince had been called to a Conclave. The Inner Council of the Camarilla was meeting unexpectedly. And it had to be because of the pandemic. So the obvious concern, the obvious message, was that the Elders were concerned by the pandemic and the troubles it might create for the Kindred and the Masquerade -- and that Jack and Valeria might not have thought beyond the immediate needs of social distancing and the dangers posed by difficulty in feeding. Which, Jack thought, is absolutely fair. He hadn't thought any farther than that.

But there was likely another message buried underneath the obvious one, and it was the one topic that Master Brachetti had conspicuously failed to mention. The Tremere were a strong clan, not because of physical gifts or skill with weapons, but because they had learned to conjure magic from the blood. Jack was well aware that a physical confrontation with another immortal could easily kill him; even a sufficiently determined mortal might manage it, if they got lucky. And that meant returning to the studies that had originally persuaded him to turn from the light, even if his initial talents had shown themselves elsewhere. That meant resuming his study of Thaumaturgy, hopefully in time to be able to defend himself with it if they needed to.

And that was going to be a problem, because blood magic... required blood.

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