“I’m not fixin’ to start a war, but to prevent one—and a whole lotta somebodies are tryin’ to start arguments in an empty house.”
Cletus Lee Boggs
Saturday night, 19 September 2015, PM
Cletus: A few hours before the midnight chimes announce the soiree’s invocation, a militarized escort consisting of a M706 Commando, an amphibious armored car stocked with a half-dozen guards of stark Boggs ancestry, greets Jacob Grunewald at the obscure bayou coordinates provided by Pervis. Once Jacob is safely inside the old Cadillac Gage juggernaut, the vehicle traverses the swamp, away from prying eyes and public roads, before surfacing and conveying him to the plantation’s Big House. During the ride, the guards are strangely silent, their eyes glinting electric blue in the moonlight.
“Paw’s a’waitin’ side fer ya,” a gunner says, helping Jacob exit the old Vietnam relic before it creaks off into the night.
Jacob: Jacob has a hard time taking the escort seriously, looking around at all the guns and metal and money. Weren’t he and Cletus Embraced around the same time? Yet here he is in business casual, dress pants and white shirt, suspenders, and an old coat from the ‘40s. He holds a large casserole dish of cabbage rolls and a bouquet of flowers. Cletus has quite the financial step up on his guest and it’s rather impressive. But it just makes him hope old Southern hospitality from when they were both alive still counts for something. He climbs into the vehicle and feels rather silly across from those glinting eyes.
Cletus: Armando, the Boggs’ Afro-Nicaraguan butler, awaits his master’s first guest at the pillared entrance of the maison principale. “Master Grunewald,” he says in his high-educated Hispanic accent, “we are so very pleased at your arrival. Master Boggs is awaiting you in the Beautillion Salon. Shall I convey you hence?”
Jacob: Soon enough, there he is, standing in front of the estate and the butler. Christ.
“Yeah—I mean yes. Please.”
Following along with the servant, he scrambles internally to remember his old manners. Food for the party, check, flowers because the food technically can’t be eaten, check. Sunday best, check. Okay, ready. He just hopes he hasn’t made a fool of himself already.
Cletus: The butler bows with requisite deference and smiles, though the expression never touches his sanguine eyes. Unlike his usual attire of imported polos, pressed slacks, and Italian leather loafers, the Afro-Latin ghoul wears the full evening dress of his station, his raiment painting him in cold chiaroscuro. His white-gloved hand motions for a similarly liveried footman to emerge from the shadows and carry Jacob’s gifts.
Unlike Armando, the footman is rather obese, with a dull, vacant gaze whose drool must have been freshly wiped away. A nasty scar runs across the man-thing’s brow, as if something burrowed through the skull and performed a feral lobectomy. The thick-armed, rednecked brute obediently extends its brick-sized hands for the dish and flowers, if Jacob will part with them.
“I will see that your gifts are taken to Chef Majorie,” the butler says with another humorless smile, “and that Master Boggs is made aware of your magnanimity.”
Jacob: Nothing surprises Jacob anymore, but seeing the sudden entrance of the larger lobotomite gives him a bit of a start. He looks down at the footman’s impressively large hands and shifts around to hand him the dish. “The dish only, please. It’s only polite to give flowers in person,” he says, looking the lobotomite in the eye and giving him a polite nod before turning to the ghoul. “Not to be a difficult guest for you. First impressions just make a relationship, and I’m rather nervous for it.”
Giving the larger footman another curt nod to say farewell, Jacob starts down the hall once again, cradling the the flowers like he’s in church. They’re from his own garden as well, and he wants to see them to Cletus out of a bit of sentiment.
“Do you mind if I ask you about my invitation? I’ve not exactly been in the limelight of politics, I’m curious as to why I was on the guest list.”
Cletus: The flaccid hillbilly lobotomite makes no gesture of recognition, save to take the dish and shuffle down and away from Jacob’s view. Meanwhile, the butler bows again, “Of course, Master Grunewald, we are at your service and that of all our honored guests.”
So escorted inside the maison principale, Jacob is swallowed by the mansion’s antebellum charm and genteel opulence. Medallion ceilings soar, supported by towering Corinthian columns. Broad staircases, elegant archways, and massive wooden doors with hand-painted porcelain doorknobs and matching keyhole covers provide access to the manse’s labyrinth of uniquely-tailored debutante ballrooms, formal banquet halls, beutillion card-parlors, and other epicurean leisure chambers.
Above such entrances and along the ceilings are exquisitely detailed plaster-frieze moldings and modillions interspersed with paterae made from Spanish moss and clay from the Bayou Bonfouca. Handsomely curtained windows guard against the now-absent sunlight while glittering, globed cchandeliers fashioned of imported Baccarat crystal and brass engulf the luxury-replete interior with pale gold radiance.
In contrast to the locally predominant French or Early Louisiana design, the Boggs’ mansion follows the colonial English floorplan of a massive central hall running the house’ length. The main hall, which aligns with the seasonal breeze, is decorated with block-printed wallpaper imported from Venice, its delicate black and gold pattern depicting a stately, if disturbing danse macabre. Twin elliptical staircases of Honduran mahogany rise to the second and third floors, each carpeted in dark green velvet carpeting.
“Right this way, Master Grunewald,” Armando intones with a grand gesture, escorting the vampire down the left wing of the main hall. “As for the nature of your invitation, such weighty matters are far above my station, though I have been informed that you are a great guest of honor whose presence graces us—and to whom we should impart the full measure of hospitality.”
Jacob: Jacob has to stop after a bit and just take everything in. Is this the kind of place he would have been able to afford if he’d led a different Requiem? Eventually, as he searches around, he gives a mental sigh and rubs his chin. Too much. After a point one has to wonder whether or not Cletus actually lives in this house, or if he keeps it as a way to show off how much he’s worth to the world. Because if that’s the case, this mansion in the sticks screams the more modest Kindred down into the probably imported flooring. But it seems he enjoys himself making the place up, and it is a beautiful house.
“Above your station? You don’t have to talk to me like that, you know. I’m not exactly important. In fact, this is all kind of overwhelming, Mr. Boggs seems like the finer of the finer things in life. He… this house wouldn’t happen to have a study, or a library perhaps? I’m a trader and collector of rare books and tomes, and as you probably know, the clan your masters belong to are famous for their sorcery.”
That is definitely quite the thing to ask, but since the moment he was picked up, he’s had the inkling that he was brought here to do something. Someone wants him here. He isn’t a pretty doll you’d stick on a pedestal at a fancy party to show how amazing you are. Jacob is a blood mage of Prince Vidal, a devil in the corner with fire licking out of his maw, and a hermit in his haven with mountains of books about things that’d pale an elder more than he already is. But right now, he’s here feeling like a pauper and an idiot, being led to a Kindred he’s rather scared of for more than one reason.
Cletus: The butler smiles again—and once again the angle of his lips never touches his eyes. “Of course, Master Grunewald, if you will permit me, I shall lead you to the Doppio Sanguee Studiolo, or as it more commonly rendered in the common tongue, the Dunsirn Study.”
Armando then leads Jacob to the studiolo. He opens a wide, door of dead-black wood carved with panels of negro slaves flensing away their own skins, embalming their own organs, and finally casting their own bones into flames, as if to transcend the last vestiges of mortality. The heavy door groans, but yawns eagerly like a maw, admitting Jacob inside.
Jacob: Something about that smile kind of twinges the Tremere. Must be a manners thing for the ghoul not to smile with his eyes. Then again, the prince rarely smiles either, especially these nights. Most Sanctified gatherings carry the tone of their prince, if naught but to pay him respect. Jacob wonders if he’s the only one who just wants Vidal to relax these nights.
Having a fake smile on a mortal (or ghoul?) is just a touch saddening to see. But he still lets himself be swept after the servant’s pace. “Shouldn’t we see Mr. Boggs first? Going into the study without asking him first is—well, if someone entered mine without my permission I couldn’t guarantee their safety,” he suggests, but then the doors open.
Cletus: Within is a well-appointed, if antique study. The floor is entirely inlaid in intarsia of ebony and aged ivory, rendered in striking trompe-l’oeil. Resting atop this cold, complex foundation are chairs, footstools, portable desks with slanted surfaces for writing, tables bearing a book-rest with a weighted ribbon of black silk, and a pair of golden globed chandeliers that cast strange, roving shadows into the corners. Shelving runs around the room at the length of the fine plaster-frieze with its incorporation of the Giovannini seal.
On it, are curiso, specimens blurring the lines among the botanical, zoological, geological, and the supernatural. A massive grimoire, clad in black-stained manskin, rests open atop one the tables. Other tomes lay atop the shelves. Oil paintings adorn several walls, depicting the ‘ascendancy’ of Dunsirn cannibalism, their family’s immigration to the Americas, and the founding of Slidell and the Boggs’ dynasty. However, one wall is bereft of paintings, consumed by several towering, open-faced cabinets of precious wood. Within these furnishings, glass-cased fetuses float in preservatives, their deformed features further marred by repeated dissections and experimentations.
The black door shuts. A voice cuts the echo of moaning portal. “Well I’ll be a grinnin’ possum chewin’ on a tater, it’s Jacob Grunewald!” The speaker of course is Cletus Lee Boggs. He sits at one of the desks, but immediately rises to greet Jacob.
Discarding his typical fashion, Cletus is dressed for the regal status of his soon to be arriving guests and the soiree’s stately occasion. His eveningwear is glamorous yet refined, underpinned by exclusively-woven cloths, luxury textures, and sumptuous colors. His rose-pink cotton-flannel cocktail jacket is cut in the single-breasted Eastleigh style with a single button fastening and a rich Mogador ottoman facing on dramatic peak lapels. A perantique, 18-carot rose-gold timepiece rests in his black pin-striped, flat-fronted trousers are hemmed with bespoke alterations. His Angola cotton dinner shirt complements his Venetian leather derby shoes with their mirror-slick polish. His usually half-feral locks are pulled back into a classical tail and smoothed with fragrant pomade. His perpetual stubble is gone, replaced by a straight blade-shaved jaw and neck that is simultaneously smooth and strong. His manicured, scrubbed clean hands are adorned with a single bold ring: aged ivory sculpted into a camellia whose stamen is a skull bearing the rose-gold sigil of Clan Giovannini. His fanged smile and butane eyes, however, retain their obdurate, sociopathic mien.
Jacob: However that carving got there, it sets the scene, and the blood mage stomps a foot on the threshold, refusing to go another step forward as his eyes dart around. Necromancy. Both the bane of his existence, and a goal school of magic he wants to touch on, if only for the protection of someone important to him.
The moment she sees what they did, he can feel her against his back again, gripping his shoulders lightly in reflex to the horror she no doubt sees. But he mutters for her to “stay hidden” and checks around the room again. Casting mortality away, classic scenery of sacrifice-driven beliefs. Mundane. Feng shui of the room seems fine, the floor different colors and the corners shadowered. Though that sets him on edge as well, peeking in all the cardinal directions on the walls. Nothing. Paintings. The Durnsirn. Giovannini clan of Scottish cannibals. Interesting. But actually rather disappointing. This spells it out for him, and the Dunsirn are not known for their magic. But he doesn’t relax for it.
Cletus: Jacob’s inspection, however, does reveal another pair of presences in the room. One physical, one spectral. The former is Isabelica Calero-Pisanob, one of Cletus’ childer—and unlike the Dunsirns, the Aztec-descended Pisanobs were known for their magic. Old, ancient, dark magic.
However, her current attire appears more suited to entertaining than evocation. Tonight, she wears a Mediterranean fil coupe dress, a tonal-pink halterneck gown crafted of peony silk and covered in abstract metallic fil couple forals. A pair of pin-thin stilettos highlight the dress’ dipped hem. Overall, the romantic silhouettes tastefully accentuate the rotund blush of Sugarbelle’s undying pregnancy. The Pisanob’s raven hair cascades down her back like a moonless waterfall. She has shed her customary glasses and is instead adorned in luxurious jewelry that caresses but does not cut the line of decadence. She coughs, muriatic vapors drifting to the floor.
Jacob: This is where they’re meeting? He could swear he’d just gotten swept up in a detour he’s going to have to turn back away from. But that’s fine. What’s not fine is the other two things in the room with him and Cletus. Not to mention the fact Cletus has heavily outdressed him. Which is a little embarrassing given his reputation of dress. Switching the flowers into his left hand, he steps towards Mr. Boggs and offers a hand for him to shake.
“Mr. Boggs! It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’m afraid I underdressed a little for the occasion, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m very much the hermit, the cue of a formal event went a bit far over my head.”
Despite the greeting, the other two in the room has gotten him nervous, but he does his best to keep his back straight and keep polite. Very interesting, however, how her curse has stalled and not immediately aborted her pregnancy. Maybe that’s what the jars of embrio in various states on the shelves are looking into? Possibly. But he puts his mind back into the task at hand.
“And you’re home! I’d say it’s a bit much, but I’d be lying if it weren’t just me being a little jealous of you and your family! They wouldn’t do anything to add to it, but please. The purples are monkswood, so please be careful.”
This is all highly unusual, and he feels quite out of his element. By that he means bathrobes, but he tries his best to keep to that Texan hospitality his mother instilled in him.
“Thank you for your invitation by the way. I was quite surprised by it. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across one of your clan since the incident with Bobbi Jo. I hope she’s still well?”
Cletus: Cletus’ smile splits into a hearty guffaw as he returns the handshake with the strength of a tank.
“Why Bobbi Jo’s fine as frog hair, she is, and I’ll be sure to let ‘er know ya was askin’. But speakin’ o’ me and mine, let me introduce ya to ma other beloved childe, one far older in blood ‘n far wiser in dem ways of sorcery, ma darlin’ Sugarbelle, Isabelica Calero-Pisanob!”
He motions expansively to her. Her response is rather demure, or at least subdued, in contrast. “A pleasure,” she says, coughing again, “Mr. Grunewald.”
Cletus continues to smile, “Now let’s not be so stuffy, y’all, notwitstandin’ all dis frippery,” he says motioning to his attire and that of his childe’s. “Jus’ a party, after all.” He beckons Isabelica to approach, “C’mon now, Sugarbelle, the man done brought ya purdy flowers. So let’s be a’takin’ ‘em and curtesyin’ all nice and proper.”
She coughs and remains silent, but otherwise complies, accepting the flowers with a cautious, if not clinical, eye. Up close, Jacob can tell that some of her jewelry is made from human bone. She curtsies, a gesture not altogether easy in stilettos.
Jacob: Jacob just keeps smiling, a big smile on his face. Though he hesitates a moment as she takes the flowers, bowing deeply back to her, a motion memorized from town débutante balls from his youth.
“Maddame Calero-Pisanob,” he repeats, turning back to the man afterwards and giving him another small smile. Bone jewelry isn’t an uncommon sight in his research. Having it in the modern age brings with it a few connotations, but he turns a blind eye.
“Mr. Boggs. Excuse my rudeness, but I’m rather curious. Why invite me—as your employee said—as a guest of honor? I’m not an especially important figure, never mind a Tremere and one of Vidal’s Sanctified. My existence in general is a grate to some. Is there something you needed to discuss, or are you just trying to overpower my senses with your station? The former, I should mention, you’d already achieved before I stepped into your home. That was… quite the escort here!”
Cletus: Cletus’ smile momentarily dims, but does not altogether disappear. His blowtorch eyes gleam as he responds, his arms outstretched in a placating manner. “Jacob—might I call ya Jacob?”
Jacob: Jacob heartily nods, offering the man a smile. “Of course, Mr. Boggs. I’d be flattered if you did so.”
Cletus: “Mr. Boggs?” the Giovannini laughs, shaking his head congenially, “Now dat won’t quite do, no siree. Please, I done insist, call me Cletus, or Clete if ya prefer.”
With that formality, or perhaps informality aside, he then proceeds to answer Jacob’s inquiry. “Now as fer excusin’ ya, which ye’ve done asked me twice, I must say I simply cannot—fer the fault’s all me and mine’s. I right apologize dat ma herald didn’t properly explain da situation, and I’ll be sure to give ‘im a tongue lash or two fer makin’ ya feel right uncomfortable.”
“Tonight, we have the honor o’ hostin’ a great many guests, wit a great many o’ whom are quite great in our eyes—and y’all be one o’ dem. At midnite, the seneschal himself will be arrivin’, though not quite in da flesh if yer fixin’ ma meaning. He’ll be a’possessin’ is herald, if I reckon right, and he’ll be accompanied by a might fine entourage as well as some others. The heralds of both Anarch primogen, the hound Rocco and his herald, one o’ Primogen Coco’s childer, and a representative of Savoy’s to boot. I’ve got some of mine as well.”
“Wit all dat hullabaloo, I’m fixin’ to be a’hostin’ a right nice get-together—wit da main goal o’ it bein’ to put to bed some hatchets and gettin’ some good handshakin’ to respect da Fifth Tradition. Cause as y’all no doubt are done aware, there’s been some problems wit dat. Now den, ’ere’s where I see how y’all might could be plum in da middle o’ da puddin’ sauce.”
“Sugarbelle’s witcheries has done showed us dat the Big Mama’s herald is thick as snot involved wit a plot to poison and kill the Big Sister’s herald. It’s right magical poison too if y’all reckon, one of thaumaturgy, which is somethin’ y’all and yers right know ‘bout. Seems da curtain call will happen when Opal’s herald or anyone else triggers da cue, a gesture of shooin’ a fly away from yer face.”
“Now I reckon dat yer a purdy smart fella, so y’all can be a’seein’ how her droppin’ smack dead o’ poison is gonna, if y’all pardon ma pun, poison da water hole fer sure and lead to more unnecessary conflict and chaos. Now I don’t right reckon who’s first hexed her, or why Big Mama’s herald would give her ally’s the great dirt bath—and rightly I’m a’fixin’ to be knowin’. All dat said, I’m first a’fixin’ to be a’haltin’ dat dirt bath before all the hootin’ and a’hollerin’ go plumb chicken sheet mad.” He motions towards a table and set of chairs. “Do I ‘ave yer attention, Jacob, nay maybe e’en yer interest now?”
Jacob: Jacob listens, taking everything in as he twiddles around with his wedding band. It helps him think, and right now there are a lot of things being said he’ll need to commit to memory. Anarchs. Seneschal. Possession. Coco. Territory. Savoy. Cletus. Rocco. Maldonato. Opal. Poison. Plum. Thaumaturgy. Party. Attention. Cletus has it.
Slowly pulling his coat off, he drapes it gently over the chair before he sits down, unbottoning his cuffs and pulling them up to his elbows, revealing his tattoos and sliding his fingers into each other to lock. There are things going on here, he knows. Despite being a hermit, people come to him for advice or help sometimes. Now there’s the choice to make on how he’ll word all of this.
“Cletus, politics and I have a very strange relationship. I can play the game, I’ve lived here long enough that I see the pieces and their rules. Once upon a time I played it avidly! So that I could prove useful until I gained enough power to be useful by existing.” He makes a motion as if to say ‘and here I am.’ “If there is someone at this party who is in danger, just by inviting me here, I’ll do my best to stop the poison. But.” With his finger, Jacob starts to write things on nothing on top of the desk. “Why do you think it’s thaumaturgical? Tremere guard their secrets closely. Bobbi Jo was attacked for coming too close to the chantry’s doorstep on a motorcycle.”
Jacob keeps thinking about it, puffing out his cheeks like a pouting child and writing with his finger again. “I don’t like the secrets and games so much, Cletus, so please fill me in. If you wanted me to come and help you with a magic problem you could have just said so. You can be blunt with me.”
Leaning his head on his hand, he closes an eye and tries to think this out. Cletus has Rocco, he knows that much. But the Giovannini are so involved with so many different things that it’s hard to see where this scheme is going to take him. But he knows he can’t let the ghoul die to magic poison. It wouldn’t be right. But in exchange.
“Excuse my rudeness, Cletus. When I’m hit by mysteries I often go to the place I do when reading a good book, inside myself. I’ll help you, definitely. But I’d appreciate it if you can let me in on whatever you can as to why this is happening. After all, you’re a very powerful man. If you applied yourself, this’d be a four-way war for power, and not a three-way. I wish to avoid that, and more meaningless death. Soon enough the prince’s heart will jump back to life just so he can have a heart attack and die again from the stress!”
Cletus: As Jacob expounds both his intentions and reservations, Cletus and Isabelica take seats beside him. Once the Tremere concludes, Cletus clucks his tongue loudly. “Hearin’ yer gonna ‘elp jus’ dills ma pickle.” He smiles widely. “As fer da why somebody might could spit in our gumbo, I’ve got more than a few BBs rattlin’ round ma boxcar. Misser Shoofly is one slick dick, slippin’ into all kind o’ holes and makin’ messes.”
The Dunsirn-descended vampire continues, drumming lightly on the cypress tabletop, “Maybe Big Mama’s fixin’ to take down Big Sis, fer control o’ their covenant. Or maybe dem Anarchs be wantin’ war between da prince and ma clan to get ‘im off their backs or let ’em strike ’im and ’is when he’s right distracted. Or maybe Misser Shoofly is jus’ da middle man, and it’s yer warlocks fixin’ to be da only sorcery game in town—and they be a’seein’ us as magical rivals. Maybe it’s Savoy pullin’ strings with his own lil’ slick willy. Or the warlocks and Armand might only be stirrin’ their spoons cause o’ some right confusing swappin’ and cashin’ of boons.”
He turns and regards the floating infant cadavers for a moment. “Done hard to say. As fer me ‘n mine, we jus’ want to have a right nice party and have e’embody go home grinning like ol’ yeller wit’ a catfish. Dat, and get some understandin’ ‘bout yer blessed Fifth Tradition that’s been a’needin’ some right respectin’ like Jesus loves dem little ones.”
Cletus then fixes Jacob with his butane gaze, his smile receding as his tone is all-too serious. “Jacob, I don’t want yer prince’s crown or land—I jus’ want mine to be respected. So I’m not fixin’ to start a war, but to prevent one—and a whole lotta somebodies are tryin’ to start arguments in an empty house.”
He leans back, his smile reemerging like an ivory, fanged sun. “So I can’t answer yer why’s, though I’m mighty plannin’ on findin’ em later—as no doubt Primogen Duquette and Prince Vidal will be fixin’ to as well. And that’s right as rain wit me. Now as fer why we done thinkin’ it’s thaumaturgy involved, I’ll let ma darlin’ Sugarbelle explain all the devilish details.”
He then turns to Isabelica, who after clearing her muriatic-drowned lungs, goes on to enumerate the sortilege-provided clues—or those at least pertaining to the divined poisoning and the indications of thaumaturgy at work.
After Sugarbelle finishes her exposition and answers any related inquires, Cletus takes over again. “So, Jacob, y’all talked bout bein’ a mighty fine counselor when yer itchin’ to. So what would y’all advise. We’ve got some ideas, but I’d like to see how the horse trots on a fresh field, if y’all don’t mind.”
Jacob: Jacob misses pickles, though he hadn’t tasted modern pickles. If he ever suddenly becomes mortal again he might just have to pickle his own cucumbers to make it just right. But he turns his mind back to what they’re saying, getting back into the swing of politics fast as he can and biting down on his bottom lip taking things into account. He can’t say for Big Mama or the Anarchs, but he doesn’t really think his own clan would just use a magical poison to solve an issue. It isn’t very inventive. Then again, Kindred have their own language for things. Following the Giovannini’s eyes, he looks over the jars rather placidly. Nothing he hasn’t seen before, but this little passive-aggresiveness from Cletus is new. People must have been putting boots on his bog. Iced gray meets butane blue for a moment as he listens.
Slowly sitting back up straight, he frowns and silently rubs a nail over his chin. Even more information from Sugarbelle to take him, and despite poisons not interesting him, he eyes her almost hungrily as he soaks up the information before he turns right back to Cletus, a serious look over his features.
“Cletus, it’s possible this is my sort of magic. But whether or not that’s true, I’m confident I can cure it. Handling this however, is a lot more delicate. I can’t invocate a protection spell in the middle of a party on top of someone else’s ghoul. It’d embarrass Miss Opal and publicly anger Primogen Duquette. This would put a black mark on your hospitality as well, suggest it’s not safe in your territory. Not only that, but this may be serving as a distraction for… other things.”
Jacob effects a needless sigh and gives Cletus a knowing look. Rocco isn’t coming to the party. By all accounts he’s already here.
“The best case scenario I’d like would be to have both heralds brought to me. Miss Opal’s in restraints. Then have Primogen Duquette and Primogen Opal be summoned to explain the situation to them. So they can settle this privately. It’d be a good first impression for your estate as a location for gatherings in a less tense setting, and the Anarch Movement would be able to save face. And If I had time alone with Duquette’s ghoul I could interrogate or divine the reasons and whereabouts of whoever put her up to this.”
Jacob slowly stretches his arms forward and smooths his fingertips along the desk, a small frown forming on his face as he looks over at Isabelica. Having her and her specter so close to him makes him rather nervous. Wondering if she is aware he can feel it so clearly. Even with his wife keeping the hordes at bay, he is still a medium.
“There’s a chance this is outside interference as well, Cletus. I’ve seen too much in my Requiem to rule out anything. Thaumaturgist voodoo priests don’t sound so far fetched when you’ve seen entire other planes of existence.” Standing up out of his chair, he casts his eye for the first time on that skinbound tome. ‘Klepto verada Nicto’ is the first thing to comes to mind, but then visions of ghosts and the undead hiding beneath the bog do as well. Still, he’s rather glad for their ancestry not being so focused on their clan’s magic.
“This isn’t meant to sound like a threat, Cletus. But please don’t let this party devolve into an excuse for the factions to attack one another. This study is worth protection, and your family is especially, but I’d be forced to go to the aid of the seneschal’s party if they were attacked. Especially since they’re the ones at a disadvantage tonight.”
Cletus: “As I done said, fixin’ lil’ Miss Haley’s da whole point o’ this ’ere hootenanny,” Cletus remarks as he meaningfully swings his finger around to include the room’s occupants. “Jus’ as da main point o’ tonite’s might big hootenanny is to get da cat off the hot tin roof, not throw it in da fire.”
The Boggs’ patriarch rests back on his chair and fiddles with his formal attire like a scab he desperately wants to rip off but somehow refrains. Barely.
“So I done agreed wit ya that if we start a’hexin’ mid-spoonin’ our suppers, it’ll right cause folks to get as nervous as cats in a room full o’ rockin’ chairs. And we can’t have none of that. But clappin’ a guest, much less a high-cotton sheetin’ herald in irons is likely to do da same. Imprisonin’ two o’ ‘em and summonin’ two elders, two primogen, all willy nilly haint gonna fly, no sirree, it haint.”
He shakes his head vigorously. “No, what dis done called fer is a lite touch, like knockin’ up yer sister after gettin’ ’er mighty drunk passed out.” He flicks his nose, then smiles. “How’s this? Right after we’re all done playin’ croquet, we’ll be annoucin’ supper, but right afore, we done gonna excuse all o’ the ladies to use the powder room. That way, we’ll right separate Misser Shoofly from ‘is mark, and from the seneschal. Meanwhile, we have you right waitin’ in the powder-room wit ma Debutantes’ nurse and the gut-pumpin’ equipment and charcoal water I done got shipped from Tulane. Rocco’s herald will be there, and wit yer bein’ there, and not jus’ Isabelica, we’ll right have y’all as witnesses. Altogether, y’all can fix ‘er up right as rain wit Big Mama’s herald none the wiser. Y’all can then join us fer the supper and all dat follows. Which’ll right let y’all keep an eye on the tricky Dutch boy and his lily-white mark. Who knows, he might could try ‘gain, so best to keep ’im guessin’ why ‘is hex won’t work.”
Cletus leans forward, “So first, will that work fer y’all? And second, how quick can y’all perform yer sorcery? E’en da most persnickety ladies don’t fuss fere’er in da powder-room.”
Jacob: Jacob wasn’t considering just walking up to them and slapping the chains on. Most of what he’s used to is always hush-hush business. Grab someone from dark corners, trick them into meets, be horribly sneaky and never be caught. After all, that’s the Tremere’s one rule that they don’t have written down. Don’t get caught. But he’s thinking a while, caught off guard only by Cletus’ mention of knocking up one’s sister. He feels the pressure on his back almost laugh at the statement and reaches up to pat his shoulder. Only not quite. Despite trying his best to bottle them up.
“Having that equipment might not make a difference. Magical poison might even react poorly to normal methods of getting it out. My magic though shouldn’t take long, depending on the kind of magic poison. Despite being adept, there could always be problems,” he claims, rubbing his eyes and nodding slowly. “That all sounds acceptable. I would rather inform the Cabildo so no more harm could be caused by a possibly rogue or controlled ghoul. But it is your home we’re doing this in. Just one thing… why Rocco’s herald?”
Rocco is a big part of why this is all happening, if his sources are correct. Somewhere in the bayou he is being laid into by Cletus’ clan. Hopefully not too badly, but he’s starting to wonder how possible that is.
“If I can keep the magical poison, maybe in a vial, I can try divining its source. So I’ll need a thick bottle with a stopper. And after the deed is done, a vessel to get a drink to top back up of course. If I can’t extract it, I’ll have to try to destroy it. And that might mean I’d have to feed her when the deed is done.”
Cletus: Cletus turns to Isabelica. “We’ll see ya get yer supplies. As fer da medical equipment, we’ll hold off as y’all say, but it’ll be ready n’ waitin’ on standby.”
Turning back to his Tremere guest, he says, “As fer divinin’ ‘er blood, that sounds like a purdy plan. How much o’ the red rum would ya need to top off, do ya reckon? Fer yerself or ’er, dat is?”
After allowing Jacob to answer, Cletus also adds, “As fer Bella’s inclusion, what it’s as simple as shootin’ catfish in a barrel. She’s a girl, so we can’t right uninvite her to da powder room. Plus, she’s a might good witness that can vouch fer yer presence and yer detoxin’ ’elp.”
Jacob: Jacob nodds and starts to redo his sleeves to hide the ink up his arms. “If this is how we’re doing things, it’s best to not make it obvious we’re trying to cure her. I’ve seen too much in my life, Cletus, to rule out a poison that can see you coming for it. Tremere are nothing but not outside of the box thinkers,” he says, taking another look over at the shelves of old tomes as he talks.
“As for the blood I’d need, I won’t know until afterwards. You can’t count on magic for consistency. Would you mind putting it in bottles or jugs? I can hide them with me in the powder room for the cleansing, no vessels complicating things, and an emergency fuel source if something goes wrong. Oh, right, and I’ll require a knife. Something sharp like a construction blade. I left mine at home so as not to send the wrong message.”
Having Isabellica in the same room with him without her sire makes him a little nervous. What can she see of him? Why is this phantom over her shoulder being so protective? The morbid curiosity inside of him suggests it might relate to the baby bump. Anchors are tricky messy things.
“Sounds about right, Cletus. Madame Isabellica sounds like quite the diviner, I’d appreciate her help in tracking down where the poison may have come from. Two magical heads are better than one, as long as we don’t get our witch hats tangled with one another.”
Tearing his eyes away from that tome, he looks back at Cletus and gives him a small smile. “Now I just have to not find myself flustered by the rudeness of being present in the powder room. Flush as I am, I’m no woman. But I’ll get over it. So unless there’s anything else I need to know, Cletus? I’m ready.”
Cletus: Cletus smiles wickedly at the request. “Oh, don’t fret yer sweet tooth, Jacob, I’ll get ya yer drink straight from da tap. And a right menu to boot, something I think all y’all might jus’ love like skunks like stink.”
He slaps his knee and guffaws loudly, only settling when he notices he has ripped his pants with the inadvertently forceful blow. “Damn,” he mutters. “Looks like the holy roller done wins ’gain.” He looks up then, and takes in Jacob’s apparel as if seeing him for the first time. “But speakin’ of new threads, ma friend, how’s ‘bout we done Cinderella up yer dress into somethin’ right purdy? Wouldn’t be wantin’ fer ya to feel might outta sorts ’fore da seneschal, hmm?” He stands, crooking an arm to escort Isabelica before turning back to Jacob. “Yessir, I done insist. Jus’ follow me and mine and we’ll git y’all all done gussied up like maw-maw’s prize hog ‘waitin’ fer its blue ribbon.”
The Aztec-descended Kindred arises and takes her sire’s arm, remaining silent save a stifled cough. Her wraith-chattel follows slavishly like a cold spot in a dark river.
Jacob: Jacob just nods thankfully to him for his hospitality, a million questions burning in his head. He wants to have a closer look at the actual tomes on the shelf. Even if he does recognize a good few of them, a couple look like new prospects. But then again, he doubts he wants to get too near that manuscript unless it’s the centerpiece. Somehow he doubts it’d like anyone but its master clan touching it. He’s seen too much to rule out books that can see you coming, as well. Downside of being a dedicated sorcerer, you start realizing anything and everything can try and getcha.
But at the sound of the rip, he puts a hand over his mouth to stop himself from cracking a smile, clearing his throat and standing up with them. “Ah, yes! That’d be greatly appreciated. I didn’t really grasp the kind of invitation I was getting before I left the house. My apologies. Business casual, not much to impress such a guest list.”
As he grabs his coat and follows them, he picks up pace and walks along beside them on Sugarbelle’s side, staring at her wraith and trying to discern its features.
“Pardon me for asking, Cletus, but I’ve been thinking. You introduced the lovely Madam Isabelica, and I’m already acquainted with Bobbi Jo. How many childer do you have? I’ve only ever had one ghoul even, and I daresay it’s a bit of a marvel to me you’ve got two childer already, being the sort I am.”
Cletus: The question causes to halt mid-stride, turning on his heel to face Jacob, his smile grown wide as a swamp cat’s leap. “No garden’s right more precious than the family a man done grows, and I might could say ma garden’s been growin’ as hot as two hares bumpin’ uglies in a wool sock.”
Jacob: What Cletus ends up saying strikes a bit of note in his gut, and Jacob gives him a rather muted smile at his enthusiasm. Maybe he just thinks of their condition differently, but at the very least they both understand the importance of family.
“That’s refreshing. Under the prince, rights to Embrace are rather strict. Seeing a large Kindred brood is different, especially a colorful one. Bobbi Jo and Isabelica seem night and day on the surface.”
Cletus: Despite Cletus’ seemingly congenial reply, Isabelica’s response instantly alerts Jacob that his words just traipsed into a social mine-field. Indeed, when the Tremere asks how many childer his host has, the Pisanob necromancer startles with the same paralytic panic as if Jacob had announced that Caine himself would be joining them for supper. She nearly barrels over as a bloody, phlegmatic coughing fit robs her of whatever composure she clung to. Even her wraith seems to quail and recede back behind the sudario.
Jacob: Slowly closing his mouth, he bites onto his bottom lip and wonders just how badly he’s fucked up in bringing this up. Isn’t it something to be proud of for Cletus? Reflexively, he leans down and puts a hand on Isabelica’s back to try and sooth her coughing, like one would do for a mortal child. After all, compared to the Kindred with his hand on her, she really is just a child. He was a hundred years old already before she was even born.
“Very sorry, I didn’t know it was a bad topic to approach. I’m quite used to just knowing the answer off the top of my head.”
Cletus: Cletus’ smile hardly falters as he replies, “Da question was might fine, Jacob. I love ma kin, each an’ e’ery one o’ dem. It’s I who mus’ beg yer pardon. Ma childe’s right tuckered out from all ‘er bone-throwin’.”
Then, with remarkable aplomb, he hoists Sugarbelle into his arms, and adds to Jacob, “But fret not, ma darlin’ Sugarbelle will be right as rain for da soiree and yer powder-room hootenanny.” He then carries her off, allegedly for some rest—though he fills in the nearby butler as to his sartorial wishes for the Tremere guest.
As Cletus carries his hacking, trembling childe up the grand staircase, Armando motions to Jacob. “If you’ll follow me, señor,” the dark-skinned ghoul says with a tight face and forced smile. A pair of armed guards and footmen follow in his wake.
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