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Tiptoes

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Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:45 am

The city was silent. He could still feel the day's heat leeching from the concrete, an aching reminder of the sun's absence, and the pale mirror the moon was in its stead--a liquid crescent floating in a sky swept of any but the most luminescent stars by the brightness of the city underneath it.

Strange, that a city called dark could be so bright at night.

The moon and the heat was not what held his attention, though, nor was it the distant droning of the night's vermin, soothing though sussurating ensemble was to his aching mind; it was only the estate, in the distance, that occupied his thoughts at the moment. What did the walls know? Did they remember what the city used to be?

Back in town, and every time it wracked his nerves to leave, and he shuddered to remember. High dudgeon, like a horse with sharp teeth and a wicked temper, a boon but also a dangerous thing. His hands flexed in concert with his thoughts at the remembered pain, but even that could not distract him.

"Where did you go, Capricia?" Langstrom murmured into the night, "Why didn't you stop him?"

The house held no answers, or at least none it was willing to divulge, and he knew that the Prince had proclaimed the Corsetti estate off-limits. Still, as his mother would have said a lifetime ago, it doesn't cost anything to look. Especially from a safe distance.

He glanced down, starting slightly at a scraping sound, but it was only a stray dog, mangy with neglect, foraging for some missed morsel in the gutters. Langstrom straightened his tie, pushed his glasses up with the heel of his hand as his eyes skittered around cautiously, then he squatted down on his haunches and held a pale, trembling hand out to the mongrel.

It looked up balefully at him, but Langstrom wasn't afraid. He knew animals didn't react to him the way they did to other kindred, and sometimes they spoke to him. Sometimes it was useful, and sometimes it was just useless. After a few moments, it slunk closer, and he patted the mutt's head obligingly. "Do you know where she went?" he asked the dog, "Are we all going to die?"

The dog cocked its head to the side enquiringly, a canine shrug, and slunk away when no food was forthcoming. Langstrom sighed and dusted his hands off as he straightened back up, his eyes drawing back on the shuttered manse. He willed the black void to open, for his thoughts to slip sideways into the litany of voiceless screaming, but it did not oblige. It would have been a relief.

"You're all going to die," a voice said, and Langstrom's head whipped back toward the scrofulous thing, eyes widening slightly, "Because of him," the dog, glancing back over its shoulder, speaking doom. Langstrom rolled his eyes and snorted at the specter.

"You're just a dog, and not even a real one. Go away." The mongrel slunk into the city streets, and Langstrom sighed wistfully, chewing on a ragged fingernail.

"Maybe Jack would know what to do...," he mused.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Justin Cline on Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:30 am

Aydin leaned hard, knee nearly scraping the asphalt and took a sharp left at the intersection by habit. Since the Prince had declared the territory around the Corsetti Estate off limits, he always had to take a left at that intersection. It was but a minor inconvenience, not something worth being concerned over. The city was massive, the largest in the south. A few blocks being quarantined off by imaginary caution tape did not diminish his ability to hunt, nor hinder his patrol patterns. If anything, the curiosity of the location made him more likely to run into other Kindred, something he always looked forward to doing.

He leaned back to his right to straighten his bike. As he did so, he scanned left and right with his eyes, checking for other beasts nearby. He had a feeling that tonight he’d run into someone, especially here, on the border of curiosity. As he looked to his right he caught the feeling of someone familiar; A very well dressed man crouched down peering into the forbidden area. Aydin applied his brakes and brought his bike to a silent stop.

He watched the Kindred for a few moments before kicking out the kick stand and leaning the bike onto it. He took off his helmet, and stepped off the bike. He placed his helmet gently on the seat of the bike, in the exact position and orientation he did every time. He looked around for people watching, and when he was sure he was not being observed, dropped his perception field on him and his bike, making them visible to the rest of the world.

He casually walked up to the Kindred. Those who did not know him would assume he was trying to sneak up on this individual, but in fact Aydin walked silently everywhere he went, he was burned into his muscle memory. He got all the way up to this other Kindred without being noticed, how dangerously unobservant of him, or perhaps decades of practice on Aydin’s part made it not a fair matchup. After a moment, he remembered who this man was, and their brief interaction at the last gathering.

“Greetings Lord Langstrom. What brings the Master of Elysium out this way?”

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Chris Alexander on Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:33 am

The red light district, aka "The Rack". To the kine it's a place for the carnal appreciation of the finer sins in life. To us it's not much different. We just occasionally use it to grab a late night snack too.

For jack it's also a hub of useful information. The city has more to say in areas laden with vice than those raised in virtue.

Take for instance this night ... Jack was minding his own business, patrolling a couple of blocks away from the Madam's "Church", when who might he find but a wandering Langstrom. So conspicuous there, talking with that mutt and looking off in the distance.

Jack opened his senses to try and hear his mutterings, when he heard him mention his name. Curiosity almost made him reveal himself from his shadowed alley. Then, came Sadik, all stealth and black clothing.

Jack held back, kept his beast in check so as to not reveal himself too soon. He didn't trust the new Mehket Priscus, not yet. Of course, Jack didn't trust much of anyone. It was safer that way. So he'd sit back and listen a minute ... See what the two have to say before letting them know they have an audience.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:04 pm

The back of his neck prickled slightly, ripples of uneasiness passing through the dead marble of his flesh like flystung horseflesh, and he glanced around suspiciously. There was nothing concrete to put a fear to, but Langstrom had been around long enough to trust to his sixth sense for danger and not ignore it.

It did not, however, preclude him being startled, and he jumped mightily upon being snuck up on, whirling around immediately. A snarl twisted across his lips, a hiss of intaken breath--something inside furious at being intruded upon, demanding that this interloper be torn limb from limb, a paroxysm of primeval instinct.

But he knew this one.

He fought down the gorge of violence and bit-by-bit drew himself under control. "Master Sadik," he muttered, smoothing his lapels, trying to go back to the unruffled, lambent curiosity, but failing, "I didn't hear you coming."

Langstrom glanced up uneasily at the house in the distance again, though now it didn't seem to him like a place where answers could be found. There was only an association of alarm. Gunshots. Destruction. Hungry eyes in a small face. Maybe there was no chance, after all.

"There are still a few who remember, those who remember might tell, if they might. What would she do, if she showed up?" words, words, and there was the sideways slipping, his thoughts sinking into blissful annihilation. But...this wasn't the time. "Fight it..."

Another moment to seek composure, the beastliness prickling on his skin. They were everywhere, now, he had gotten too used to just a handful. There and gone...someone else was closeby, but who? Who else was watching? With an effort, he raised his mind back out of the muck and looked at Aydin, a rictus contorting his face, though perhaps it was supposed to be a friendly grin. It only looked predatory, though.

"I was looking to see what can be seen. Trying to remember all the stories. I thought maybe the place would jog some memories loose, remind me of a thing that I forgot. About them. About the Corsettis. About her. About him. It wasn't always such a mess, you know...," Langstrom trailed off, hugging his arms tightly around himself and looking away from the building, eyes wandering.

"They killed him on hallowed ground, violated the traditions--stuck a knife in their host's heart after he named his price for recognition and extended his hospitality. Murdered his childe and took his city for their own. That's why that part wouldn't work, that's what they would say, but now I'm not sure. This new one is different, the circumstances have changed."

He looked at Aydin dolefully, eyes focusing on him, "What do you think will happen when Capricia comes back? The dog said we would all die."

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Justin Cline on Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:50 pm

Aydin paused, thinking for a moment on what to say to this strange person. This topic would certainly be one that cause color the perceptions of him depending on who heard and the words he used. Before speaking he used this gifts of his clan to heighten his senses to look around for eaves droppers. Once he was sure that those who were spying were ones he didn't not consider his enemies, he spoke.

"While, I don't know if I'd value the opinion of a canine" Aydin said in a thick middle eastern accent "But I'm fairly certain I'm not going to meet my final death. I was no involved in the destruction of Oberon, nor do I have any specific knowledge on this dynasty that was broken. What I do know is that if Capricia comes back and claims Praxis, the same thing will happen that has happened every time there are two Princes in a domain. One will fall, the other will rise. It's not a new concept... and yes, I'm sure at least one Kindred is going to die during the struggle, it's practically inevitable when Princes go to war."

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:42 pm

A figure in a tastefully demure dress is walking towards the odd group that has assembled on the streets of Dark Ridge. Hair, make-up - everything in understated. She looks decidedly out of place in this part of town, but otherwise unremarkable. Unless one can feel the Beast that rests within her.

She stops a few paces back, not wanting to intrude on a potentially interesting conversation.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:17 pm

Langstrom cocked his head slightly to the sued as he listened to the man, in a weird echo of the dog he had been speaking to, but didn't respond immediately. His eyes unfocused, as if listening to some interior voice.

One...maybe two...now three or maybe two. Sneaky, so sneaky.

"There. No. But maybe. It's not what always happens. Sometimes, yes. One storm hits another and eats it, but sometimes they just collide. Then we all pay, because we're caught. One makes destruction. One plus one equals hell."

Langstrom scratched his chin thoughtfully, considering. This man, this thing, this Arabian thing. Which side? His eyes cut cautiously to the side, hands flexing and thoughts coiling. This one too? Which side?

"Is it right to worry? Is it better to run? Or is it like a sacrifice? Expiation, please kill us not. Blood washes blood. That's sometimes true too. Blood from a stone. How much can you squeeze out from a dead thing on the earth?"

He knelt back down, cradling his head in his hands and sighing dejectedly. So much to be fixed, so few ways to fix.

"Dogs might be smarter though. They follow, they obey. They don't think, and if their master dies they die with him. He did. I don't know if it was worthy. Only one came back. Not a dog though, just a stray. Those might be worse, they don't know loyalty. Just hunger. Hunger is what will kill us, not fighting. How hungry are you, and what hunger wins? Vengeance? Or power? Or something else? Is there something else?"

Langstrom paused, looking perturbed Was it the dog speaking or him? He looked unsure as to whether there really could be something else. He bit his fingertip hard enough to draw a welling ruby droplet from the pad of it, and licked it off his finger, letting the taste soothe him.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:45 pm

The female Kindred walks forward, towards Langstrom. Those who look closely will realize that it's Baroness Hollinshead, Seneschal of Dark Ridge, but she's barely recognizable without the elaborate attire that she normally wears to Court.

"Lord Langstrom. Trust in the power of His Grace and the First Estate. If our enemies come, they will be dealt with. You are better than a dog, who follows any master, no matter how unworthy. You are Unconquered. You follow the best that Kindred society has to offer. You support them, and they protect you. This is the way of the world."

She comes closer, conviction guiding every step and filling her voice. Each word is spoken in her crisp, clear British accent.

"Trust in yourself. Trust in those that have dedicated themselves to protecting what we will build here. The worthy will be given their rightful place. The unworthy will cast out, as the chaff from the wheat. Prove yourself to be on the right side, and you have nothing to fear."

The strength of her personality belies the simplicity of her appearance. It could be that she pulls strength from her powerful Beast, or that the Beast itself pulls strength from her.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Chris Alexander on Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:49 pm

Hmmm ... Too many gathering together in full sight. Best make a distraction and see if we can move this along to some place more friendly to our kind.

Stumbling out of the alley those on the street would see a filthy man dressed in rags. His face covered with a hood his hands bound in wrappings. He sways and stumbles toward the waiting party like a lush after another drink.

Jack likes to keep the appearance of human even to the sight, but in this case he slowly lets up on his control to reveal the beast within. Fearing he might start another round of mutterings from langstrom jack decides to stumble into Sadik to get this going.

"Hey bud, spare some cash for a brother?" Hey says in a slurred voice. However, in a more hushed whisper he says, "Perhaps we should move this party to the church up the way. At least there we aren't so exposed or conspicuous."
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:55 pm

Jeanette turns to the newly arrived figured and takes a brisk assessment of his appearance.

"As you wish." She pulls a small bill out of her handbag and drops it at the 'lush'es feet.

She turns to Langstrom.

"Will you be so kind as to escort me to a more civilized location, Master Notary?"

It's clear that Jeanette is trying to guide Langstrom's thoughts from whatever is haunting them into the present.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:16 pm

Joints tightening defensively as the other approaches, but it is her. One of the Unconquered. An anchor.

The change wrought in Langstrom by the Baroness's presence is immediate and visible, the moping penitent vanishing in the blink of an eye as Langstrom unfolds his spine, as if finding solace in her words.

"Madame Judex...you are correct, of course. We are Unconquered. We will stand. We will weather. Unbent, unbowed. Blood calls to blood," his voice, suddenly so much steadier, a well-bred murmur, deferent but confident. His arm extending at just the right height, his neck bent in respect.

No matter how he felt about them, the Invictus would always be an anchor he understood.

His eyes lifted slightly to Hollinshead, darting to the "homeless" man. Yes. Plans and plans. The hole in his mind wasn't yawing now. Jack. Jeanette. Things he knew, and always better the devil you know.

"Of course, Madame Judex. I have a few new prospects to discuss with you, and I wish to pick your brain on the more intricate aspects."

Smooth. From ragged and vulnerable to an armored mask of waxy courtliness.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Chris Alexander on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:30 pm

Jack, in an attempt to maintain his "cover", leans forward almost a bow before unceremoniously falling on his ass. He snatches and holds it up to his hooded face. He then calls out to the retreating kindred, "Hey, thanks babe. You're good people."

Jack then stumbles upright, turns in a dizzying circle, looks towards the alley then back to the kindred and thinks ('Do I follow, or do I go back to my own business?')
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:34 pm

Jeanette gives a satisfied smile at seeing the change in Langstrom. Now he appears to be someone worthy of being called Unconquered, unlike the cringing, cowering creature that he was mere moments ago. She places her hand delicately on his extended arm.

"Indeed. We have weathered much in the past. We will weather much in the future. It is what we are. Strength."

She inclines her head towards Langstrom and allows him to lead her towards the Church, or a different, more secure location. She glances behind them both at Aydin, raising one eyebrow in question to see if he intends to follow. As befits the ruse that Jack has chosen to play, she takes no notice of his fall and ignores him completely after dropping the money on the ground beside him.

She turns back to Langstrom with a smile. "I look forward to hearing it. I am sure it will most illuminating." Her demeanor is the honed perfection of one who has been playing the game of the Kindred courts for well over a century.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Justin Cline on Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:19 pm

Having verified that the young unconquered was not possessed, just insane, Aydin's stance relaxed slightly, and just a moment later it appeared that the crazed Lord suddenly became lucid. Aydin was unsure if this person was an excellent actor or truly possessed of shattered faculties.

He began to speak, but held his tongue, watching the play unfold in front of him. Once Jeanette nodded towards him, he nodded slightly back and immediately began scanning the area for kine and kindred alike, in case they were followed to their new location.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:50 pm

It felt like running wax, hot but soothing, filling the dark crevices in his brain with a stopgap of blandness that checked the slope. He repressed the urge to nuzzle the hand touching him in gratitude--that would be a little too.

He walked as if unaware or unconcerned with the scrutiny he was under, speaking quietly and politely to Jeanette of the exegesis he was preparing on the Corsetti estate, the trips he had been taking to Raleigh to comb his sire's personal records. As he went, though, he cast a look over his shoulder at the sheriff. It was a supremely bland look, devoid of any particular interest or meaning to most, but Langstrom, who kept himself to himself for the most part, mentally begged Jack to understand the look by dint of knowing him better than any of the other kindred.

Please don't abandon me. I don't trust them. I'm scared.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:59 pm

Jeanette continues a pleasant, polite discourse with Langstrom.

She expresses reservation about doing anything with the Corsetti estate at the present time, given that the Corsettis are still a potential threat to the Praxis. Far better to let His Grace handle the Corsetti estate and its holdings once the threat has been summarily dealt with. Some of the most capable people in the city are currently working on the issue.

Jeanette hopes that Langstrom's visit to Raleigh was both pleasant and informative.

Jeanette, herself, has been bending her efforts to deal with the Corsetti issue, as well as the betterment of the city as a whole, and the latest issues with Barrows.

Her hand remains lightly on Langstrom's arm, her posture poised and her step graceful. Anyone watching would think that nothing had happened, that she hadn't seen Langstrom's pitiful display from earlier.

All scrutiny of her person is disregarded with the ease of one who has been under constant scrutiny since birth. Anyone looking might not realize that she is aware of such scrutiny at all. Those with more insight would realize that she simply accepts it as part of the way the world works.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Chris Alexander on Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:06 pm

Jack noted Langstrom's "casual" look, and took it's meaning. It's odd to think that he might know Langstrom as well as he does. Somewhat like knowing the Necropolis, you can spend time getting to know one corner of it well but the rest is a mystery that slowly reveals itself.

He nodded to Langstrom that he understood and thought to himself ('You lead the way Langstrom. I'll follow for now.'). Jack slipped into the shadows out of observation so as to cloak himself from sight. He followed the others in secret cause the kine would fine our crew motley indeed if I were to join them now as he is.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:26 pm

A wracking shudder passes through Langstrom's body at the further mention of Raleigh.

"Informative? Always and every time. Pleasant...," he shrugged, another tremor passing through him. He couldn't help it, he still keenly felt pain, didn't see how others could shrug it off. "I am intact," was all he would further state.

He did a good job of hiding it, but Jeanette's cool disdain and effortless poise infuriated and repulsed him in turns, enflaming with jealousy one moment and cold dislike the next. As if she was any less inhuman than the rest of them. Too, he raged inside that she seemed so intact and whole. Why? How was that fair?

Always landing with both feet on the ground. The seneschal now, the treasurer, judex, and her seamless faith in the Unconquered. Who was she, really? A monster made of ice and blood. The thought gave him satisfaction to think, and he licked his lips unconsciously at the idea of how it would taste.

"I have been curious, though, of the situation," he murmured as they approached a relatively quiet cafe, open to late night custom, and pulled Jeanette's seat out for her, "The whole idea is perturbing. First she up and vanishes, then he's run to ground. I wonder what it portends..."

The Church would be too busy, too occupied, to discuss anything truly. There was value in hiding among the herd, true, but there was also appeal in a quiet place. Someone tapping away on an open laptop and a disinterested waitress.

He pushed Jeanette's chair in, comforted by the knowledge of Jack's proximity, and considered as he seated himself across from her at the table and ordered coffee they would not drink. He waited a moment to see if the Shadow would join, but his thoughts drifted.

"It's remiss, I think. They are the dogs, the ones who serve, and bite the hand that feeds. All we build, all we plan, and the ingratitude. It's galling," he made a show of decanting cream and spooning sugar into the cup when the waitress brought the drinks, and conscientiously set one in a place for the Mekhet.

"How do you suppose His Grace will deal with the whole mess? And the matter of the family? I know it is impertinent to wonder, but I can't help my curiousity, and you must be privy to so many intriguing things, being his right hand. Cream?" He set the tin pitcher in front of Jeanette's place and took a feigned sip of his drink. It smelled good, though he didn't dare actually drink it. Still, all things considered it was impressive how immaculately he imitated humanity, and the deferent, chirpy manner that had vanished any uncertainty. His eyes were feverishly bright as he gazed at her across the table, too steady, too hungry.

Slantways thoughts drifted in his mind, full of guile, and his head tilted to the left, one ear cocked as he listened to the voice that only he could hear. Anticipate lies, deflections--ask questions to see what they avoid answering. See what they hide by how they hide it. This is the dangerous one, subservience and caution.

Listen, Jack, he thought to himself, I'm asking, listen. I know you're there. This will be worth it if you just listen.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:07 pm

"I am sorry that you felt it necessary to do something so unpleasant, then. If it is something that another could accomplish in your stead, you have but to ask. I am sure that something could be arranged. For a reasonable price, of course," Jeanette sits carefully in the chair, hovering delicately thanks to years of practice until he pushes the chair in for her and she is seated at the table.

She laces her fingers together, hands resting on the table in front of her without letting her elbows rest on it, as well. She lets the ebb and flow of the noise surrounding them pass over her and around her, unheeded.

Her smile is pleasant as she accepts the coffee that is offered to her. "Cream and sugar, if you please. I often find coffee to be quite strong. I suppose that's what comes from being raised on tea." She feigns sipping delicately at the cup, going so far as to moisten her lips ever so slightly with the liquid. The charade is artful.

"As I said, some of the most capable members of the city are currently looking into the matter. The first step will be locating the remaining members of the fallen family. The second step will be to question them. Determine what led to such a tragic turn of events. If they are capable of reason and loyalty to the rightful Prince, well, His Grace is a reasonable man. If they are not, their Requiems may be rather short thereafter. It is up to them." She gives a tilt of her head that, in a person with less breeding, might have been a shrug.

Jeanette rests unperturbed under his intense gaze. It's clear that she wants to maintain the appearance of normality in this setting, and she will lead by example in that. Perhaps she hasn't forgotten Langstrom's slip into such a fragile mental state after all.

"If the coffee is not to your liking, Master Notary, I am certain that I could arrange a beverage more suited to your tastes. A fellow member of the First Estate need not remain hungry."
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Thu Jul 03, 2014 12:39 am

He set the enameled cup down on the table, watching her movements, so full of preternatural grace, her words, so full of ease. Each one like a fold of velvet hiding a knife rubbed darkly with a stain of killing poison. He gently spooned sugar and poured cream before returning his hands to rest around his own cup, tracing its rim with a restless finger as he listened, his eyes focused on her, shoulders slightly hunched, like a cougar ready to pounce, the jab and riposte of conversation with an Unconquered. Ah, the chase.

He wondered what it was like, to have a sire like she did. To have such a level faith. Langstrom barely remembered when his mind went slip-slant--it was getting harder and harder to notice the difference for him, where the line was that shouldn't be crossed. He looked at her delicate hands and wondered if the prince had done the same things to her. Maybe it was somewhere that wouldn't show.

He glanced at his own hands to see if it showed there, but they looked normal. Clean, white, nails bitten but mostly trim, and maybe there was the faintest line around his knuckles, but it could be his imagination. He drifted in remembering for a moment, the gleam of the cleaving blade, blunt but narrow for cutting reams of paper, the admonishment not to forget, the rushing sound of its rusty bolt, and he flinched at remembering the sound of crunching bone, a moue of fright flashing across the facade for a moment. There and gone.

He looked back up at Jeanette and nodded in an unreadable way--conspiratorial, perhaps, or merely acknowledging that he had been listening. "No, I thank you though, Madame Judex. I have already eaten tonight," he looked listlessly at the coffee cup, trying to remember why he had ever thought it smelled good. It just looked like mud churned by boots, now, and reminded him of burning. He pushed it away.

"That he will, though I am sure," he said, picking up the thread of their conversation, "They typically have such a way, just so, of dealing with cowardice and treachery. What can be gained, there, though, I truly wonder, other than resentment. It is not my place to question His Grace, don't mistake me there, but they are clearly not accommodating. I submitted to the Cardinal's praxis, as I submit to that of His Grace, Duke Gray, but perhaps it is my own cowardice that makes me fret that force should not be met with force.

"I am deeply sorry if I offend, Madame Judex, perhaps it is merely my age telling, but I wonder what makes us different if we offer terms of cooperation-or-destruction, just as the late Oberon Corsetti did. Please, think of it as an outside observer might--Cardinal Hayes showed up, an outsider to the city, and while his intervention was timely and just, Prince Corsetti merely asked a price that was too high for recognition. Some might take that as a sign that Corsetti, rightly in this case seeing how things turned out, was politely telling the Huntsville party to move on, and by action the tradition of hospitality was broken. That we of the city were there and interfered and abetted even further might make it seem as though this was a plan, perhaps.

"Too, his childe was taken care of. You were not here then, but it was not gently done, and while it goes against my own sense of right and wrong, he who holds Praxis is given the right of progeny to hold or deny or use as he sees fit, no?

"And His Grace, the Duke. It is a gentler transition, without violence in the city, from Cardinal Hayes to Duke Gray, but it must raise further questions--what sect is moving to claimancy? From the Circle to the Sanctified to the Unconquered. Whose strings are being pulled? And by whom?

"Ah...," he finally stopped, his head hanging slightly, eyes lowered in a gesture of negation, "I worry, that is all, overmuch. It is not to me to interpret the laws, I am an amateur, only a witness. I feel that there is a blade above us all, hanging by the merest of threads, and all of us holding a sharp knife, cutting blindly, unable to know which swing will be the one that brings it down on our necks. We would sit and do nothing if it was to me to decide. It is a boon that greater and more brave men hold the reins."

He didn't feel that he could ever be hungry again. The sight of the coffee repulsed him worse than an open sewer, but he forced himself to a natural ease, to take another faux sip and set it gently back down, licking his lips as if it didn't make his gorge rise. It was like this courtly dance, sweet and soothing and easy at first, hotly intimidating, but then a nest of vipers that sickened and dismayed.

It was no wonder none of them were even close to human anymore, they couldn't remember what it was like to really fear, only an echo of injured pride and lost status. They moved as far away from the black crevasses of their own minds as possible, hoping not to slip, hoping to forget, but now Langstrom felt brave again, because he had looked. Looked, and seen what looked back from underneath. He grinned at Jeanette in a roguish way, thinking his Cheshire thoughts.

(OOC: I just want to say that this is proving very interesting, and I apologize for the spotty replies. I've been posting from my phone at work and it's not a simple task, heh.)

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:55 am

Jeanette places the coffee cup down on the table, slowly and soundlessly. Langstrom's caution combined with his questionable mental state makes it imperative that she understand what is going on in his mind so that she can plan accordingly. An unstable Kindred is a potentially dangerous Kindred, regardless of how polished a veneer it may be able to put in place. She re-laces her fingers in front of her, speaks lightly, and maintains a sweet smile.

"The difference, Master Notary, is which one of them intends to uphold the Traditions of Kindred society for the betterment of all. From what I have heard of the Corsettis, at the end of their reign - before the late Cardinal Hayes stepped in - they broke the Traditions on a whim and their tyrannical rule did nothing for anyone but themselves. We are all monsters, to varying degrees, and the rules of our society are in place for a reason. The Beast is strong. Stronger than some can fathom. The moors of Kindred society are designed to keep the Beast at bay. Breaking them in the fashion that the Corsettis did will lead to the ruination of us all."

At this, she unlaces her fingers and places her palms firmly on the table. Her tone hardens, and her smile lessens but remains firmly in place. It takes on almost a feral edge.

"I am a Judex, Master Notary. You, as much as anyone, should understand the full import of what that means. I have been entrusted with the interpretation of laws of the First Estate for decades. I place the law above all else, as I must. It is a weighty task, and I have always treated it as such. As the Seneschal and an adviser to His Grace, I will treat the handling of all the Traditions with equal care and reverence.

"I am Unconquered. His Grace is Unconquered. You are Unconquered. That is what makes us different. That is what will give the this Praxis its strength and its fairness. That is what will prevent it from degenerating into what the Corsettis' rule had become."

With that, her posture relaxes and she settles back into her chair. She picks up her coffee cup and swirls the contents gently, to all appearances savoring the scent, before feigning another sip. "Does this reassure you, Master Notary? Do you have faith in your fellow Unconquered to not follow in the tragic footsteps of the Corsettis?" Her light tone belies the seriousness of the question.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:00 am

Langstrom's eyes followed Jeanette, dreamy, wandering, curious. Really, if his flesh could still quicken, he started to feel that maybe he could love her. Such a cold beast, wrapped up in a precise and beautiful package. Like a watch that bites.

He took his time answering the question, obviously considering it, giving it due weight and evaluating. The waitress passed nearby, coffee in hand, but went along ignored--no cups needed filling here. Somewhere, something dripped, and everything felt bleak and grey, but dangerous for it, grey running on grey with teeth.

"Faith," he said, after a time, exhaling a deep breath as he did so, "There is faith and then there is faith, Madame Judex," chastened, quiet. He ignored her slight against him, clear as it was, it was, he felt, deserved. It was her place. Still, he could not quiet his eyes, and they burned at being addressed like a fledgling.

"What have we all suffered, here, so? Through suffering, the Sanctified might say, we find purpose. The two estates are not always at odds, and power is won in the forge of tribulation. We are monsters by nature, but in deed we will not be without honor. I am not faithless, here," he brought his hands together in a submissive gesture, bowing his head to her as if to say I was weak, I put my trust in your wisdom.

"So many lost. To the hunters. To the wolves. To the Beast. But most of all lost to pride. The thorny spur that entices and impales, even as we throw ourselves upon it," he said, without looking up, "But pride goeth before a fall, and I swallow mine to temper myself to reason. The Duke will not fail here. Neither shall you, nor I. Nor any of our estate."

Looking up, he reached out, ever so lightly touching the back of her hand with his fingertips. Look, here, the gesture said, I trust you, and he pulled his hands back, reaching into some interior pocket and withdrawing a leatherbound volume, only a handspan wide, different from the ledger Langstrom normally carried. He set it reverently on the table at Jeanette's right hand, watching it for a moment before letting go, and looked back up at her. A monogram on the front proclaimed it his own.

"I put my trust in your hands. My lot is a dream, a nightmare bound up in gossamer threads spun by an unwholesome spider of a mind, a mirror reflecting a course perverted. If you fear I should smash it, seeking secrets, to curse God when I slice my fingers on jagged truth, look there and see an accounting. I am what I was made to be," he glanced down at the innocent-looking book again, eyes lingering for a moment before looking back up to her. There was no Beast in him in that moment, the Man only. Whatever fragility sundered him, there was a cold core of calculating sanity there as well, unbending and unbendable, "But if you believe I am able to keep the faith...it need not ever be opened. My life is in your hands."

Hands spread in a gesture of surrender, of acceptance, murmuring quietly, "All things must be as they are, cousin."

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Thu Jul 03, 2014 4:05 am

Jeanette returns his heated gaze with her cool one. She had measured her words carefully before speaking, and knew that he would understand their full import. She places one soft, white hand - the sort of hand that rarely, if ever, saw sunlight, even before she had died - on the book that Langstrom set on the table beside her.

"There has been much suffering in this city, Master Notary. I do not question that, nor am I trying to belittle it. What I want - what His Grace wants - is for that suffering to end, so that the city may grow and flourish under our care. The care of all our kind," she glances around briefly, looking for Aydin and Jack, should they have followed.

"As you said, the First Estate traditionally has traditionally maintained cordial relations with the Second. It is my belief that every Clan and Covenant has its place in a healthy city, and I would see they all be welcomed as befits the contributions that they are willing to make. That is why I would recommend to His Grace that as many lives be spared as safely can be. Dark Ridge needs no more blood shed; it needs unity. It needs faith. From everyone."

With that, she takes the book in one hand and examines the cover. Unless Langstrom moves to stop her, she places it in her handbag, unopened. "As much as you feel that you are putting your Requiem in my hands, the same could be said of myself. My relationship to His Grace is no secret. Those I hold dear have placed themselves at risk for the betterment of this city. Dark Ridge is still very unsettled. There are enemies of the Praxis that would see the Final Death of myself and my House. We are trusting that our strength will be enough to protect us all, and that the citizenry will stand by the Prince that they have chosen."

Jeanette rests one hand delicately on the table, within easy reach of Langstrom. "I would ease your mind further, if I could, Master Notary. I hope that my words have re-assured you in some fashion." Her other hand moves to the coffee cup, wrapping her fingers around it as if for warmth. The façade of being human is ingrained enough to require almost no thought on Jeanette's part.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:14 am

He watched her with a quiet, brooding intensity, full of desire to move but still as a statue. Langstrom let her words wash over him and wanted to believe, so deeply. He felt the old wounds tightening, a brand constricting on his heart, and unspoiled tears, so desperately did he want to find his fear soothed by the balm of her confidence.

He made no move to stop her, neither as she spoke nor as she hid the book away in her bag. Did she know what she held? Maybe. She was right in some ways, very right. The unrest would crash hardest on those who led, first. But those who were faithful would try to stop it in their loyalty, if such a concept could ever exist among the kindred.

He wanted to love her in that moment, to hold her and shelter her, but she was a Judex. The law. She would be the first one to denounce him, if she ever opened that book, and fealty and service would not prevent them from destroying him, and he knew that in the end he couldn't fight them any more than a unwanted kitten drowned in a bucket can stop what is happening.

Better to put the choice in someone else's hands, easier to let another bear the burden.

"Cousin, it is a heavy thing to bear," he said, after a long and pregnant pause, "The safety of others and to know that sometimes death cannot be avoided. You ease my mind, you do, but I cannot help you in turn. Would that I could..."

Images, unbidden, in his mind's eye. A woman screaming and clutching her neck as blood welled from under her hand. Young faces, upturned and blank. Soil. Darkness.

"Ah," he made an unhappy sound, deep in his throat, his eyes locking on her hand for a brief span, but he did not reach out again, "I'm so sorry...," voice heavy with bitterness, Langstrom lapsed into silence, his hands clasped in his lap, looking drawn and tired and unwilling to be drawn out any further.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Chris Alexander on Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:50 am

Seeing the conversation finally coming to a lull, Jack decided to put his two cents worth in. So he snapped his fingers in front of Langstrom's face breaking his obfuscation and hopefully breaking Langstrom out of his current mood. "Dear God Langstrom, you're more moody than an Emo without his razor blade today."

Jack takes one of the seats at the table and turns it around backwards before setting himself down in it. "Listen, I don't have much time to play the political talky game; 1. I have to get back to some of my investigations, apparently Victoria has come into some Intel that requires my attention. 2. The waitress over there is already talking to her manager, probably to run me off. So here's the short version."

"We are predators now, and predators survive. Trust your instincts, your beast,make your peace with your sins and the sins done to you. Otherwise, you'll live in fear and die cowering in the darkness. I'm sure that's probably not an ideal preached by either the lords or the unconquered but is how I've survived. Take that however you like."

"Everyone's beast speaks differently to them. What does yours say? Does it speak with the words of a mongrel dog perhaps?"

At that jack gets up and walks away just as the manager arrives to to run him off, "Hey, get out of here! Don't make me call the cops!" The manager turns back to the table, "I'm so far folks. Your meal is on the house. Is there anything else I can get for you?"
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Thu Jul 03, 2014 2:22 pm

Jeanette smiles widely at Jack, even though such an action is at odds with the parts they are both playing. She turns back to Langstrom. "Predators survive, indeed. It could be argued that survival is the true hallmark of a successful predator. It has certainly been beneficial to myself and His Grace. The Beast can take you quite far, if you let it."

She glances at the manager when he declares their 'meals' to be on the house. "I believe we have all that we require. Thank you," then she looks back at Langstrom. "Did you wish to continue the conversation elsewhere, Master Notary? Prolonged exposure to environs such as these are not to my liking. I am a quiet person."
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Justin Cline on Thu Jul 03, 2014 2:45 pm

Aydin grabbed the seat offered and turned it around backwards to sit in it.  For a bit he just listened to the back and forth between the two unconquered. Most of it was not really topics he indulged in conversation on, but when the subject arrived at something he was familiar with he spoke up.

"The baroness is quite right.  The beast is not something to be ignored, it is something to embrace.  It makes us what we are, puts us at the top of the food chain.  It does go mostly without saying however that the beast is single minded.  Id made manifest.  While we would be wise to use it as a tool, it must not direct our actions or thoughts directly.  It is an apex predator that dwells within us.  Take its advice, use what you can, discard what you should, and your Requiem will be long and successful."

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OOC: Justin Cline
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**DISCLAIMER**
The contents of this message are fictitious in nature; a discussion of imaginary activities in a pretended "alternate reality" as part of the World of Darkness game setting; they should not be construed as relevant to real world activities involving actual locations or persons living or deceased.
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Re: Tiptoes

Post by Toasty on Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:01 pm

He drew back when Jack darted in out of nowhere, though, notably, he did not start as badly as when Aydin snuck up on him.

Consideration. He watched Jack cavorting off, unsmiling but no longer looking as self-absorbed. Listening. Considering.

He watched the proprietor moving away, then looked down at his cup on the table. Slowly, deliberately, he put the back of his hand against the cup and slid it across the table until it toppled over the edge to shatter on the floor with a satisfying crash.

He stood. "That seems reasonable to me. Survival. Yes, let's go somewhere else. This place is messy."

He bowed formally, then, his mind already moving on to other matters. Of the Beast. Of Survival. Leaving the cafe, he realized, Jack had a point, the same point Aydin had made, and, obliquely, Jeanette too: the dog had a point.

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Re: Tiptoes

Post by RowanArtemis on Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:20 pm

Jeanette raises one eyebrow as the cup smashes on the ground. Anyone looking closely at her face would see a flash of distaste at the wanton destruction. She rises gracefully and walks over the manager that spoke to them before, passing him several small bills to cover the cost of the cup. He tries to protest, but she insists.

When she returns to the group, her pleasant demeanor has returned. "Then by all means. If we wish to continue the conversation, perhaps I may recommend the comfort of Versailles? My Aunt has been working steadily to improve it. I feel that it will be quite impressive, once it is complete."

Her posture is relaxed, hands clasped in front of her, as if waiting for someone to offer her an arm. "Unless you have other business that requires your attention, of course."
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