“Any canvas, given enough care, can shine.”
Monday night, 13 February 2016, AM
GM: Jon attends Midnight Mass at Elysium. He publicly receives an ‘interim’ grant of permission to remain within the city, per his earlier discussion with the sheriff and seneschal.
Accou’s herald approaches Jon after he has left the event, and states that her domitor has procured “a potential assistant” to “help facilitate the success of your and my master’s project.” If Jon is amenable, Accou and the ‘assistant’ can meet the Tremere tomorrow evening to discuss the details. Cloe can also be present, if the surgeon would find it useful to personally inspect and interview the elder ghoul.
Alternatively, Jon and the assistant may meet tonight on their own time, away from Accou. The ghoul supplies the assistant’s identity and contact information: Jade Kalani, one of the Toreador primogen’s many grandchilder. Jade is an esthetician, plastic surgeon, and skincare specialist who has extensive experience in this area.
Jon: The surgeon is polite enough to hide his skepticism in front of the elder’s ghoul, but is amendable to meeting with the elder’s grandchilde. Another pair of hands could be useful if they’re steady.
And it would be rude to turn him down cold.
He doesn’t need to speak with Cloe until he has set up for it—further down the line, but has availability this evening to meet with Miss Kalani. The Elysium may be over, but he expects to remain for some time yet: he has plenty of others to speak with.
GM: Rachelle coordinates the details of the meeting with the number Accou’s ghoul provides for Jade Kalani. She also asks Jon where he’d like to meet her. As a member of Savoy’s bloc, the neonate will not be welcome in any of the CBD’s off-use Elysia. They’re theoretically open to anyone, but in practice, followers of the Baron and French Quarter lord are punished as intruders if they’re spotted in the CBD except to attend Elysium Primo.
There’s always the Carnival Club (“that’s new since we were last here”) in Faubourg Marigny. Sundown’s territory is often used as a neutral meeting ground between the factions.
Though its Nosferatu owner undoubtedly hears everything that passes under its roof.
Jon: The surgeon gives a wry smile. As though the rats don’t hear most things anyway. But he agrees with the suggestion.
There’s value in being seen publicly with one of Savoy’s people.
Celia: Jade is waiting for the archon when he arrives at the Carnival Club.
There are certain games that licks play with each other: making other people wait, hazing, contacting them only through ghouls. Jade has been around long enough to play these games as well, and she’s become well-practiced in getting under the skin of the other neonates. But when an archon comes calling the games are put aside. Schedules are cleared. And neonates show up to the appointed place early, so as to not make any punctual archons wait. She took the trouble of securing a pair of seats for the two of them in a more secluded area of the club so that they need not dither before getting down to… business.
And what business it is that he has with her she does not know.
Jade has kept her nose clean, has kept herself out of trouble. In the scant hours she’d had before she was asked to meet him she had done what little research on the Kindred as she could, which mostly involved speaking to Lebeaux. The archon had made a splash at his arrival to Elysium prior, and Lebeaux had confirmed with the very curious neonate that North is, indeed, the Tremere surgeon he’d once mentioned to her. She’d thought to secure an audience with him through Lebeaux himself, but her phone had rung to summon her to this and now… here she is.
“Watch yourself, kid,” the grizzled detective had told her, “he’s friendly with your sire.” Lebeaux hadn’t had to explain which sire it is that he spoke of.
Surely if her sire had a problem with her it wouldn’t result in sending some faceless lick to deal with her. Surely their dispute could be settled more cordially, or at least more personally. She tries to think of anything she has done to offend her sire recently, of any mistakes she has made in her domain or with the Masquerade, and comes up blank.
She wouldn’t be facing the executioner’s block if it were something personal, would she? Has her sire tired of her? Has she been an embarrassment? Or—and her dead heart does that useless skipping thing it does sometimes—had her sire sent someone else to put her down for some hypothetically inflicted wrong, because that was too painful a thing to do personally?
The fact that she can clearly imagine her final death at her sire’s hands, that she would come if called even knowing what awaited her…
Surely she is mistaken. She has done nothing wrong. And if she were being punished for some transgression she doubts the archon would invite her to a neutral meeting ground.
So Jade had dressed in clothing she thought would not offend, skipping her flouncy skirts and long gowns in favor of something more utilitarian: leather leggings, black cami, and charcoal quasi-pinstriped blazer that can swiftly be removed to transition from work to play. The look is tied together by a leather belt and stiletto booties. A ring adorns her finger, the same opal sun ring she wears most every night.
Mel, Savoy, Lebeaux—they had all warned her to be careful of what she says in this place. The Nosferatu’s ears are everywhere. So Jade is still as she waits for North to arrive, keeping her fidgeting to a minimum. All the better to dwell.
Only her thoughts betray her inner turmoil.
GM: Of course, they’d also said the sewer rats have ears everywhere else, too. Almost everywhere else.
At least here you know they’re listening.
And the Carnival Club is probably the most neutral ground there is in the city. It’s been Elysium for decades. The parish’s regent is deliberately politically neutral and also the club’s owner. Anyone and anything is welcome here, except for trouble. That stays outside.
It’s the oldest of Sundown’s clubs, and the sole one in Faubourg Marigny to be declared Elysium. Jon remembers it from the ‘20s as a jazz club and speakeasy that opened with enough splash and fanfare to make many people think the then-mysterious owner, who’d popped seemingly out of nowhere and without a sire to name, was a Toreador.
To Jade, though, it’s always been what it is: one of Marigny’s premier nightlife spots.
The line isn’t as long on a Sunday night as on a Friday or Saturday, but lines don’t matter to Kindred patrons. It’s been a subject of some speculation how Sundown does it, when the bouncers are seemingly kine: perhaps some unseen ghoul watches from the shadows, perhaps monitored cameras crap out at giveaway times, or perhaps the sewer rats just know every vampire’s face in the city. Whatever the answer, there has yet to be a Kindred patron who was made to wait in line, face a cover charge, asked for an ID, or who even had their hands stamped. They’re simply ushered directly inside, past the typical throngs of jealous and impatient kine.
Inside, the Carnival Club has all the amenities of a modern nightclub with retro-themed decor. It’s a dark, velvety space filled with a museum’s worth of curios, from antique water spigots presented in a kind of shrine above the bar to a series of stunning and tasteful seminude photographs (a gorgeous woman cloaked in giant leaves) that greet visitors at the door. It has a sort of timeless feel, blending old with new as confidently as the bartenders mixing up drink orders.
The music beats hard on Jon’s and Jade’s bodies. As they push through the sweaty, twitchy throng on the dance floor, it feels like sound, not blood, gives animation to their corpses. The insistent violent rhythm makes them (or at least Jade) more aware of their insides than ever since their Embraces. They’re just two more bodies, and in the darkness nobody notices if they breathe or not.
The Tremere may see it all as a distraction, but the Toreador may never want to come down. It’s a perfect-feeling moment, unsullied by hunger, a perfect chemical high. This is what eternal life means. Freedom to dance, to party every night, all night, forever, never getting old.
Jade is swiftly greeted by Sundown’s herald, who’s variously referred to as Kaia or KKV (an abbreviation of her full name Kaia Kimberly Võ). She’s a beautiful and slim-figured Vietnamese-American ghoul with smooth pale skin, breast-length rich black hair, and smiling dark eyes. Tonight she’s dressed in a leather jacket over an off-shoulder babydoll top, black leggings, and tall silver heels. The sewer rats’ ghouls are supposed to inherit some share of their domitors’ ugliness, but KKV either hasn’t or simply hides it well.
The crowd’s din seems to muffle in the ghoul’s presence, who is friendly but unobtrusive. Jade can make her way to any one of several Kindred-reserved quiet corner spots (the club’s acoustics are well-designed), the upstairs VIP lounge (where the atmosphere is more relaxed), or simply enjoy herself on the dance floor. Back rooms are also available for a variety of purposes.
“And if there’s anything Sundown can do to make your stay more enjoyable, ma’am, just ask. Having a bad time isn’t allowed at his clubs!” Kaia smiles.
Celia: This is the kind of place that Jade couldn’t not enjoy, even if she tries. Perhaps as a breather she might have been turned off by the loud music and large press of bodies, but here and now she is a wolf among the sheep. And what titillating sheep they are, she can’t help but notice on her way across the floor. If only they were within the French Quarter, Jade might find a dance partner or two and swap more than simply fumbling hands.
She opts for the corner spot on the first floor. North can request they move if he prefer a less busy ambiance, but Jade is all too happy to watch the writhing figures on the floor. Perhaps when this is over she’ll join them. She always enjoys adoring kine. And what part of Jade shouldn’t be adored? She’s a perfect specimen.
She thanks Kaia with a smile of her own and a comment about meeting someone; she asks if the girl can show him over when he arrives to save him the trouble of the search.
GM: “Sure thing, ma’am. And can I say you look Flawless as ever tonight,” the ghoul declares with another smile.
Celia: The rats sure know how to treat a guest. Jade all but preens under the praise. She favors the ghoul with a word of thanks and a wink, then sits back to wait for her companion.
Jon: She sees the archon’s arrival before she see’s him, the bow-wave created by his movement through the crowds of dancing kine. It he’s that his head peaks out among the crowd. The archon moves unhurriedly but purposefully through them, the kine seeming to break against him and part like the red sea behind the predatory confidence of a creature that was taking lives before their great-grandparents were born.
He’s wrapped in stark colors—a dark suit offset with a startlingly bright white blazer. It might be a little overdressed for the club, but would fit right in at the Primo Elysium. There’s a statement in that white blazer among Kindred: it says that he doesn’t need to hide his mistakes because he doesn’t make them.
The suit strains against the raw power hidden beneath it, against the slabs of muscle across his shoulders and chest, the tensioned cords welded to the bone of his arms.
The second lick in is almost swallowed in his shadow, everything he is not. Petite, shrouded in black, her dark hair held back in a complex braid and her dark eyes searching the room, seemingly taking in everything.
He pauses on his approach to her—his unerring approach to her, almost from the moment he came through the door—to lean into his shadowing lick’s ear, and she nods once before slipping away as he resumes his approach, eyes the color of open skies set on Kalani’s.
GM: Jon is greeted when he arrives by Sundown. Faubourg Marigny’s regent appears as a racially indistinct gentleman of considerable good looks—not so attractive as to be threatening, but more than handsome enough to put everyone around him at ease. He’s dressed in a dark blazer and slacks, nice leather shoes, and a white dress shirt.
Like any good host, the Nosferatu doesn’t linger overlong. He simply says hello, invites the Tremere to help himself to a vessel, and to avail himself of any of the club’s accommodations for his meeting.
“I’ll look forward to this one’s release,” he smiles at Kyrstin. “Your sire’s and great-grandsire’s names are still talked about a lot, here. It’s a pleasure to see any worthy bloodline grow.”
“Thank you, Regent,” Kyrstin offers with a bow of her head.
“Give a holler if your party needs anything, archon. Enjoy your stay.”
With those last words, the sewer rat melts back into the dancing throngs.
Jon: Jonathan is gracious with the Nosferatu host, offering, “The last time I was in New Orleans there wasn’t much opportunity to sample the finer things that others have built since I was last here. I was told I’d be remiss if I passed on the opportunity when it was available.”
He thanks him for his generous offer and assures Sundown he’ll call if they need anything, before continuing on to his meeting.
Celia: Jade rises to her feet as the Kindred struts towards her following his brief interlude with the club’s proprietor, gaze flowing down his body in a way that is nothing short of assessing. Dark eyes framed by darker hair finally return to his face, and she tucks a stray curl behind her ear in a move that turns her comely face younger yet.
“Good evening, Archon North. It is a pleasure to be asked to join you.”
Jon: He studies her for the briefest if moment before replying, “Your manners are superior to your sire’s, Miss Kalani. I dare say cut more from the cloth of your grandsire.”
Celia: She wonders idly what Veronica has done to offend the archon, and how much of this meeting will be an uphill battle fighting against the preconceived notions he must have of her. She offers him a smile all the same.
“Thank you, sir. I endeavor to be on good terms with my grandsire despite the gap between the pair. I am sure he will pleased to hear that his courtesies have been well replicated in me.”
She extends an upturned hand toward the seat across from her, a silent invitation to join her.
Jon: The archon slides into the chair with the grace of a jungle cat, taking care in the deliberateness of his motions, as though concerned he may break something with a careless touch.
A moment later, unbidden, a pale and dark-haired woman in black gloves appears to deliver a pair of drinks for them. North’s is a mint julep, recognizable by both the crushed mint and spring of the same. She places a martini in front of Kalani and elegantly slides away at the archon’s nod.
“It’s unfortunate when sires and childer are estranged, but there’s no reason that should affect grandsire’s and their grandchilder,” he agrees.
“One could do worse than to model off of your grandsire’s successes—in many cities he’d be prince. But then, your sire has had their own successes.”
“The future is open to you, Miss Kalani. I would not dictate what you would become, only express that it would be a poor reflection on both for a scion of their bloodline not to become something.”
He takes a casual sip of his drink.
Celia: A drink. Of course. She should have supposed that some frothy concoction would be pushed on her in an establishment like this. Is it rude to refuse a drink from an archon? She makes no move to touch it, though she thanks the girl who dropped it off with a dip of her chin.
Their, though. The word gives her pause, so too do the following lines. Has he been sent her to tell her she’s a disappointment?
She chooses her response with care.
“I would do them both proud, of course, and my great-grandsire as well. Roses do not bloom hurriedly; like any masterpiece, we take time to blossom. But, ah, I suppose you did not seek me this evening to hear me wax poetic about cultivation.”
Jon: Do the woman’s eyes linger just a moment too long on the archon as she departs? Does it matter?
The hint of a smile on his face is there at Kalani’s reference to roses, and gone just as quickly as she tries to move on from the topic. “A rose for the Rose Clan? I’ve often thought Shakespeare’s line inspired by one of you.”
“A flick of the nose, a bit of nuanced one, in blue blood-dominated London.”
Those blue eyes continue to rest on her. Seeing through her. Perhaps into her.
Celia: “All of the great wordsmiths and artists were blooded or bedded by our clan, to hear my grandsire speak of it. How would they have ever turned aside from such a muse?” Jade leans forward in her seat, tapping a finger against the stem of her martini glass. She is not afraid of him. Let him look. Let him stare. Jade Kalani is a stunning upwardly mobile young lick. The smile that she gives him—dazzling, truly—is fraught with nothing.
“What’s in a name,” she agrees.
She reaches, finally, for the drink. Brings it to her lips to take a sip. Jade had died before she ever was of legal age; she only has distorted memories of cheap whiskey and too-sweet rum to compare this to.
As if there is comparison.
As if this dry martini does anything but taste of ash and garbage sludge and worse, besides.
Still, she swallows it.
Jon: The Tremere says nothing of her drinking the foul mixture.
“How indeed? I would not gainsay him,” he agrees.
“Are you your own artist, Miss Kalani?” he asks, leaning forward as he takes another sip of his drink.
Celia: “True art touches souls, Archon North,” Jade replies as she sets down her drink. There is no flash of disgust, nothing to give her away. “I would not presume to make such a claim. As to being my own artist—I suppose I can admit that I have been compared to the gods of old, Aphrodite and her like, and I am confident enough to admit it has to do more with my deft skill with a brush than something bequeathed to me by birth. Any canvas, given enough care, can shine.”
Jon: “And what are your brushes of choice, Miss Kalani? Your canvas of choice is clear enough.”
Celia: “Do you wish for technical specifications, sir? Artis Elite, Pat McGrath, Fenty, M.A.C.?” Jade smiles at the archon. “Armani Luminous Silk, NARS, Anastasia Beverly Hills?” She lists brushes then brands, never once giving in to telling him what he truly asks.
Jon: “I’d hoped you were familiar with something with more of an edge,” he answers, his voice deep, crisp, and precise.
Celia: “A scalpel, you mean. Of course, archon; why didn’t you say? I am adept at lifting faces that need an extra touch, and sculpting bodies as if they were naught but clay. If your inquiry is whether I have been beneath the knife myself… well, sir, we roses do not kiss and tell.”
Jon: “It takes particular set of skills to make such things stick in a troublesome canvas like the Damned,” he answers.
Celia: “It does,” Jade agrees. She lets the words linger between them.
Then, “Do you have a particularly troublesome canvas, sir?”
Jon: “I might,” he answers. “More so than most, at least. Your grandsire believed you might have value in the matter.”
Celia: “I will admit to some skill in the area, archon, though if you were to be more specific I would be able to provide more insight.”
Jon: Some skill.
And where would a nice Camarilla lick learn that skill.
“Major bodywide reconstructive surgery on an elder ghoul, to include changes to the entire bone structure and numerous organs to support their new form,” he answers without preamble.
Celia: “And their new form… would be larger? Smaller?” She knows of Pearl’s disdain for her ghoul’s form, though she looks for North to confirm her thoughts.
Jon: “Smaller,” the surgeon confirms. “It goes without saying the margin for error in such a matter is zero.”
Celia: “I do not make mistakes, Archon North.”
“There’s… much to be discussed, if you’re looking to reduce. What age?”
Jon: “I think you can very well guess, Miss Kalani,” Jonathan answers.
Celia: Jade’s smile is her only answer.
GM: Celia heard the story from Veronica. Cloe used to be six and the most perfectly angelic little cherub you could have laid eyes on.
Veronica thought it was hilarious how Pearl thought she was ‘ruined.’ Served the dusty old relic that was her grandsire right.
Celia: “You wish to return her to her age prior to my grandsire’s benevolence,” Jade says finally.
“That’s difficult work,” she continues, without waiting for his response.
“To take something aged as it is and return it to a prior state. It’s… well. You cut everything almost in half. Bones, organs… everything.” She watches his face as she speaks. She’s right, but she’d like him to confirm it.
Jon: A slight nod.
Celia: Jade considers. Her brain whirls. It’s easy to see in her eyes: what it means for her.
“I can assist,” she says at last.
Jon: She can see herself reflected in his unwavering eyes.
“Can you?” His tone doesn’t change, but he sets a hand on the table. Large, scarred, weathered.
Celia: Jade’s eyes are drawn toward the hand he offers. Her brows lift. He doesn’t need her to fix such a thing. A test? She hesitates only a moment before reaching toward him.
“Shall I show you, archon?”
“I have a place with my tools nearby, should you need demonstration.” There, too, more privacy.
Jon: An unfamiliar face greets the Toreador when he looks back up from the hand, but the voice is the same.
“If you would be a part of this, yes. Certainty is required.”
“One of mine will present you with a canvas. This is your reference. Precision is required.”
Celia: Jade’s eyes drink in the face across from her for a long moment, studying its details.
“Understood, sir. And you will understand that your… patronage would do much for someone as young as I, were we to collaborate effectively.”
Jon: This time she can see it happen, more slowly, as though demonstratively. The jawline shifts, the cheeks fall, the brow thins.
In a moment the archon sits across from her once more.
Celia: Shadow dancing, she thinks, but is not quite sure.
Jon: “If your skills are sufficient, there will be glory enough to go around if we are successful,” he agrees.
GM: Every surgeon needs an assistive nurse. It’s not like there’s anyone else he can ask.
Celia: “Then I shall be flawless,” she promises.
Jon: “I hope so. If we fail, I don’t expect New Orleans to be very welcoming thereafter.”
“This is a project for the entire city, the restoration of a priceless piece of its history.”
Celia: “You have my word, Archon North. I will not let you down.”
Jon: His gaze lingers.
Finally, “You are wise to keep your abilities quiet. Many of the fiends do not care for the sharing of their skills outside of their bloodline.”
Celia: Jade is very, very quiet for a moment. She is still, her eyes on him.
“Very few know of what goes on behind closed doors.”
It’s not a confirmation, though he can see it in her eyes. She does not try to hide it from him at this point. Apparently, he knows.
“Should you like to discuss further, archon, you know where to find me.”
A code that’s not a code: she’s happy to discuss when the ears are not turned their way.
Jon: There’s a low chuckle this time. “Two hundred years walking the earth, Miss Kalani. One thing I’ve learned with some certainty: don’t assume the Hidden Clan doesn’t already know any secret you’ve ever uttered aloud.”
He waives off further comments on the matter. “And what do you want, Miss Kalani? Other than…. patronage.”
Celia: Her eyes close for a brief moment, only slightly longer than a blink. She should have known. Naive, to think that there are any secrets in this society. At least this is one of her lesser ones. And if it’s assumed she learned it from an archon… no one will have any cause to doubt the rest of her ruse.
Once her eyes open again she turns them to look upon his face. He’d give her status from the sheer fact of being seen with her, from their success on this project, but that… that is nothing compared to what she really wants.
GM: After all, there’s been one job that’s yet remained beyond her abilities.
Celia: “Show me,” she says bluntly. “I would learn from you. Assistant, protégé, tool; whatever you wish to call it.”
Jon: The Tremere pauses in contemplation before he finally speaks.
“I do not make idle promises, Miss Kalani, so I will promise this: if you prove talented, if you prove meticulous, if you prove dedicated to the craft—if and only if these things are true, I have room for a protégé.”
Celia: It’s hardly the promise of power that she wants.
And yet… if things go well, how high will her esteem rise in the eyes of her clan? How much will her grandsire value her then, she wonders, and her great-grandsire besides? To add knowledge atop the bump in status…
“My work is nothing short of exemplary, archon. I daresay you will have no room for complaint.” A true smile stretches across her face for the first time since this meeting began. “I look forward to our lessons.”
Jon: There is no smile on the dead face before her, but his voice is not unkind when he speaks after a moment. “I have hope for you, Miss Kalani. Prove me right.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head toward the archon.
“Thank you, sir. I shall.” A moment passes, her eyes flitting toward the dance floor before returning to his face. “It means much to me that you would seek me out for such a venture. Was there other business you had with me, or shall I leave you to your evening?”
Jon: The surgeon follows her eyes. There’s a hint of amusement in his own. “Is there other business between us, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: “I wouldn’t presume to know the business of what brings an archon to the city, who knows enough about my station to reach out to me in so neutral a place.” There’s amusement in her eyes and voice. “Did you have a message for my master, perhaps?”
Jon: “You have a master, Miss Kalani?” More amusement. “Tell me, who do you serve?”
Celia: She exhales briefly through her nose. It might be a laugh.
“Don’t we all serve some higher power? The lord who presides over the Quarter, of course.”
Jon: “Some, I’m told, call him ‘Lord Savoy,’ away from the prince’s Elysia,” he observes.
Celia: “Is that a question? We do indeed. I believe even the prince sees to it that he’s due his proper respect within Elysium, despite all their differences.”
Jon: “He does indeed, though ‘lord’ is a rather unique honorific, at least in this city. I wonder, did he choose it, and if so, why?”
Celia: Jade does laugh at that, though it contains no trace of irony or mockery. “He’s from France,” she says with a wave of her hand, “do they ever explain why they do anything?”
She leans in.
“If you’ve no missive I can pass along to the lord, then perhaps you’ll favor me with a dance?”
Jon: Jonathan’s mirth seems to dim. “That would be a favor.” He looks out into the crowd of kine.
Celia: “I’m young,” Jade reminds him, “I still partake in the sort of frivolity those of your age and status might deem unseemly.” She lifts her shoulders in a half-shrug, as if it doesn’t bother her if he turns her down.
The look she gives him, though, asks that he not.
Jon: He seems to reappraise her, but if he reaches a conclusion it is not apparent on his face. “There is a fine line between presumptuousness and meekness. Stray too far into one and your wings may melt. Stray too far into the other and you’ll never leave the ground.”
He rises, extending one hand to her.
“As in kine, as in kind, one is unlikely to receive what they do not seek.”
Celia: Jade shrugs out of her jacket before she takes the offered hand. It leaves her arms and shoulders bare, and the black top she has on beneath it is more club-like than the stiff formal wear she donned for their meeting. Her smile is all-too satisfied, as if she cares not one whit what he has decided about her. She does not follow; she leads him to the dance floor, parting the kine around her as if they were some sort of sea that crests upon the sand. They give where she flows, and where she flows he follows, if only for the hands that they have clasped together.
The music is not the sort of ballroom waltz or refined band that he might be used to, and yet Jade seems at home on the floor. It washes over her, lets her body move in a sensuous, promising way, though always her hand, hip, or chest remains flush against his, and she pays no attention to the horde of kine that look at the pair of them cutting their way to the floor.
She has some training in dance, it would seem, if her spry dips and pivots and shimmies are anything to judge by; that or she has taken to the learnings of her clan with gusto. What is dance if not art, after all, and what is art if not a display of skill. In this, as in most things, she is skilled.
There’s a moment when the music brings them together. A moment when her knee bends, hip lifts, and her body curls against his on the floor. They are closer together than they have any right to be. Jade doesn’t seem bothered by it. She pays no mind to the Beast who detests such physical displays. No, she comes even closer, her hands looped around the archon’s neck. She leans in. Up.
Her lips find purchase on his ear. A gentle tug with her mouth and the flats of her teeth; more forward than she has any right to be with someone she hardly knows.
And yet there must be reason.
Jon: The Tremere moves more easily than she might have expected. There’s raw power there, slabs of muscle across his shoulders and taunt steel cords up and down his arms. He carries himself like a freight train. Like he couldn’t care less about anything in his way.
But there’s an almost unnatural fluidity behind it. No, not almost. Nothing that large should move that smoothly.
No matter the source, he moves like a jungle cat, powerful, fearless, and with an almost lazy grace.
There’s some skill there too—he’s no professional dancer—but there’s more than the average club-goer behind his motions.
And the Beast. The Beast all but swims under his skin, a shark in a sea of minnows, an overbearing presence.
She swims among sharks, but it’s rare that a terror from the deeps swims this close to the surface.
Her nip finds no purchase, sliding across flesh as hard as kevlar.
Celia: And yet she does not shy away from him. This slip of a girl—a plastic surgeon, if Poincaré is to be believed—she seems at home as close to him as she is. Perhaps she’s waiting for some display of actual power, not the play of muscles beneath skin and cloth or the bandied words exchanged in a booth. Her eyes meet his; her smile is nothing short of appreciative. Form, grace, poise; he lacks for nothing, and she is a shadow to the moves he makes across the floor.
She does not bite to claim or wound; no, her teeth seek a different purchase, and she nibbles again at his ear. A message, if only he would listen.
Jon: The surgeon doesn’t react to her nips, and while his hands are on her, hard, powerful, they don’t explore so much as handle.
If she’s expecting him to show off, she’s disappointed. She’s equally so if she expects him to react to her advances.
After several of her nips he finally leans in close, his words intended for her alone.
“You are quite lovely, my dear, and I’m not adverse to mixing business and pleasure. But you’ll have to show me that what’s inside your mind is as intriguing as your flesh.”
He slides away as the music changes, his finger tips trailing across her palm.
Celia: A thrill runs through her at the insinuation. She hadn’t been interested until he’d said it, but now that he has… her eyes sweep his form once more, wondering at the power he hides behind that crisp suit jacket.
She’s not so easy to get rid of as all of that, though. Inside her mind, is it? That’s what she wanted anyway; it only took him long enough to figure it out, though perhaps if she’d tapped his temple rather than his ear it would have sped things along. Not that she didn’t enjoy the dancing, or his hands on her, or their closeness. Not at all.
Her fingers curl around the hand he sweeps along her palm. She doesn’t presume to tug him to a stop, but she does flit after him as he begins to slip away, and she rises high enough to whisper into his ear, “Why don’t you look and see.”
Jon: Dark, cool, cold. Meticulously ordered. The mind whose thoughts slides across hers feels so much like a house of glass and steel. His mental touch is much like his physical one—hard and firm without rising to rough.
:: Rarely without permission. ::
Celia: Ice. Like someone has caught her mind in a steel trap, and if she moves the wrong way or thinks the wrong thing it will snap shut around her and snuff the light and (un)life from her eyes. Tightness coils in her chest.
Jade is cognizant of the gazes upon them, the rats who chitter-chatter, even as the iron jaws clamp down around her brain. She will not be the one to give up the ruse. Her steps do not miss a beat of the music, even as her focus slides inward to the presence within her mind.
:: My thanks for your restraint then, archon. I have a message for you alone. ::
Her hand stays in his, steadfast, leading him or letting him lead her through the dance to keep up appearances.
Jon: He settles into a comfortable lead with her, his eyes locked on hers.
:: You have my undivided attention, Miss Kalani. ::
Celia: That’s how she likes it.
:: The lord of whom we spoke earlier wishes you to know that there are Salubri within the city. ::
Jon: There’s a moment of pause.
:: That’s a very interesting statement, Miss Kalani, and a particularly interesting one for him to pass through such a young lick as yourself. ::
Celia: She smiles for him and lets him draw his own conclusions.
:: He thought you might find it interesting. Shall I tell you the rest? ::
Jon: Amusement. Interest.
:: Please continue, Miss Kalani. ::
Celia: :: He has expressed desire to assist the Pyramid in cleansing the taint. ::
A brief pause. Her eyes, though locked onto his, take in the rest of his face as well, the minute expressions that most people don’t even realize they make, the reflexive action of muscle beneath the skin. Whatever she sees there causes her to continue rather than wait for him to prompt her.
:: He has further intelligence and physical evidence should you be interested. ::
Jon: There’s something in his eyes. Not doubt, but perhaps… consideration? Contemplation? She can almost see the gears turning with her every word, feel see the razor’s edge of the sharp focus he’s brought to bear upon every fiber of her being. It abates only momentarily with her words, replaced by… familiarity. A move back to the normal.
The warlock’s laugh is deep and rich in her mind.
:: No doubt the lord of the French Quarter lays awake at night concerning himself with the good of the Pyramid. ::
It’s bait, on a hook. The kind of bait no Tremere can refuse. Not even an archon. He wonders, briefly, how long Savoy might have sat upon such a secret, waiting for the proper moment. The proper target, perhaps? He stops that line of thought before he lets the self-aggrandizement go too far.
Celia: North is not the only one who manages to laugh at the thought. The amusement from the neonate with whom he dances echoes down the line that links their minds together; it’s almost possible to imagine her eyes flashing as she lifts a hand to cover her mouth to stifle the laughter, though of course there are no auditory sounds. Outside of their connection she does not miss a step.
:: I would not pretend to know the inner workings of his mind. :: Her agreement comes easily enough, though not in so many words.
:: He has implied that he will be happy to show you what evidence he has if you are to visit. As you no doubt realize, it is a risk to carry such things upon my person. ::
Jon: And then there is this thing before him… Veronica’s childe.
He knows the harpy better than some. Knows the viciousness of her, how far the fruit fell from the tree in that one. All the cunning of her sire but none of the manners, the refinement. That one was all venom and slyness. He’d thought her a better serpent than rose—but who was he to criticize one’s choice in childer?
What then, of Veronica’s own childer? What traits made her appealing to her sire? What exactly does he have in his arms right now?
Something sharp enough it seemed to be worthy of carrying such a secret. Considered discerning enough to bait that trap for him…
:: You can tell your master that he need not have so tempted me—I could not decline the pleasure of his company—but I would be very interested in reviewing what he might have to offer on the subject when I call. ::
How wholly must she be his creature, to be trusted with something like that? Interesting that she had it on such short notice of this meeting—at her grandsire’s suggestion. That points all kinds of interesting and disturbing directions in his minds.
Ah, New Orleans. Where the game is played unlike anywhere else in the Americas.
Celia: Is he tempted? Those are words of flattery if she’s ever heard any, though she can’t help but think it is the soul-thieves who have him all a flutter. Still, Jade offers him a smile cut with promises.
:: I shall pass that along. Thank you for the dance; you’ve been lovely company. My apologies for all but mauling you. ::
She does not allude to roles played or masks worn. He seems a sharp enough sort to figure it out on his own.
Jon: The hint of a smile.
:: Lupines maul. Having been on the receiving end of both, there’s no comparison. ::
The surgeon disengages himself from the Toreador with a smile. “This was… fun. Perhaps we’ll do it again.”
Celia: He’d been mauled by a Loup-Garoux and lived to tell the tale? Dark eyes sweep his form once more, appraising the slabs of muscle contained beneath his shirt, the chiseled planes of his body. They’re all dangerous in their own ways, but this one… Hard and cold like steel, with all the refinement that comes with age, and a sharp mind—neatly packaged, all. Intimidating, certainly some might see it that way, but she has another word in mind. Even the iron trap around her mind, the sharp jaws ready to rip into her head, had been delicate, velvet-fitted scalpels. Precise. A surgeon, indeed.
“I would like that.”
Jade is not ignorant of their respective statuses. She offers him the courtesy of leaving first, lingering alone on the floor to watch the Tremere slip away.
Jon: The archon makes no great affair of his withdrawal, moving through the crowd further into the club, rather than from it.
“Until then, Miss Kalani.”