I should clarify that I was the one who ran the game, so I did not give my initials in the list of people involved. As such, I will embellish and expand upon the events that happen in this and the following chapters because there was more going on than the group (save one) ever realized.
Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire: the Masquerade. The characters found within belong to their respective creators.
(February 17, 1992)
Aram leaned against the door leading into The Club, and his presence seemed to dissuade the humans on the from trying to enter it. It was probably a good thing, since any kine that walked through that door without a patron would be drained faster than a keg of beer at a frat party. Efren watched him from across the street as Aram smiled at some young female passers-by, and he huffed as they giggled at him. That Malkavian could coax a smile from a dead woman with those eyes of his, and not because he was using some parlor trick!
It was rather unfortunate that there were so many damned kine running around the street, Efren thought as he glanced over the crowd of partygoers and tourists, because the greetings he would have given Aram were inappropriate for anything but a Kindred audience. Of course, he would not have been able to greet him properly anyway. He was a "Toreador". Aram was a Malkavian. The other Toreador would shun him if such an association came to their attention.
Then again, how does a predator greet another predator?
It was nearing Mardi Gras, and the streets were decked with lights and streamers and all manner of party favors. Street vendors had set up their displays an hour or two before dusk to catch the crowd, and if their loud calls were anything to go by, they were doing well for themselves. Efren stopped at one and paid for a few strands of beads, which he shoved deep into his pockets. His fans would love them – and him, for giving them away.
Efren was a DJ at an up-and-coming trance club a few blocks away from Canal Street, near The Club. Trance was not yet popular in New Orleans, but he knew it would be. He had spent too much time and enough of his resources on appearances for it to not become widely known. In the city scene in particular, he had made it a point to be memorable, both with his music and with his looks. It was the only reason he constantly wore black. Not too many people wore nothing but black clothing this close to Mardi Gras.
Well, that, and black looked good on him.
And this would be the point where Aram makes a comment about how fashion sense is the first thing to go after we die, he thought with some amusement. After all, how many of us wear black as a daily staple? 'Yes, of course, sir. I only need three things to survive, sir – BBC. Blood, black, and cover. What's that, sir? Oh, no, thank you. Just a little more black.' He laughed aloud, startling a nearby couple. The man, who was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts, merely looked startled. The woman, dressed similarly, glared at him as they both scurried away. He heard their voices trail after them – "The nerve of these punks! Dressing like that in public!"
He glanced down at himself. Black leather pants, boots, and a shirt made of black netting that left little to the imagination. Well, it could not be helped, and he could not care less. It made catching breakfast in the evening easy. It would also be very fashionable in a few years, and he preferred to be called a trend-setter over a poser.
The paper sticking out of his belt drew his attention as he raised his eyes again. He would have wadded it up and thrown it away had it not been from the Prince – and from the Gangrel Justicar. Why would a Justicar from London be involved in something in New Orleans? he wondered. We have nothing to do with them. Someone here must have done something very interesting for a person like that to have business here.
To say that he was curious would have been an extreme understatement.
Damn. He had had to leave the trance club early for this midnight meeting, and his fans would be disappointed with him, but it could not be helped. When the Prince beckoned, one obeyed – a 'royal summons', so to speak.
Or else what? he wondered as he crossed the street. Well, one might lose a limb, or their status in the city. One might be permanently disfigured, and here he suppressed a shudder, as Toreador tended to be very vain, or given over to the Tremere, I suppose, if there were any in the city. Oh, well. At least the summons would enable him to enjoy a higher status among his peers, for the time being. They would enjoy grilling him for details about the strange gathering.
He had no more time for reflection, though, because he was standing before the club's entrance and Aram was smiling at him. He winked at him as he felt the back of his mind itch slightly, and the Malkavian returned the wink. Then Aram opened the door and walked in. He held it open for the other man and said, "I am the escort today. Wrench has business elsewhere."
The words tumbled from Efren's mouth almost before he finished thinking them. "Where else would our Keeper be?" he asked. Then he cursed himself mentally for his lapse.
"Damned if I know," Aram replied, "but I'm sure it's important enough. Not like the time when Marilee started screaming about Sabbat on the waterfront. False alarm and all that. Nothing we could do about it. She almost got us all in trouble for that one." 'All', of course, meaning the city's Malkavian population, both permanent and transient. Just because the Prince also happened to be Malkavian did not mean that the rest of the clan made off with lighter punishments…
Efren could almost see the Malkavian's thoughts reflected on his face, and he wisely interrupted them. "Shall I see myself in?"
Aram shrugged and looked over the Toreador's shoulder, at some face in the crowd. "Yes," he murmured, as if he was transfixed. "You know where her door is. Knock first. She was not in a good mood earlier."
Efren winced and slipped by him. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it. No, seriously. Don't. And keep your head on your shoulders."
He would have questioned the Malkavian further, but Aram had already slipped out the door. He sighed as the door closed and rounded the corner of the entryway into the room.
Once more, Efren found himself wondering if the Prince had planned the entrance to be in the corner of the room on purpose. He felt like he was making a grand entrance even though he was nobody important.
The Club was not a large place. It was meant to cater almost exclusively to Kindred and serve as a permanent Elysium, an idea the Prince had brought with her from overseas when she had first come to the New World. As a fixture, it was easy for non-local Kindred to find, and within its walls there was no fear of discovery by the kine. It even had a bar, and it served more than just strong spirits. No, it was not a large place, but it was comfortable. It could almost be called safe.
The room was about as dark as an average nightclub could be expected to be. The lights were suspended from fixtures on the walls - also expected, as The Club's previous incarnation had been a human sit-down restaurant. The windows were tinted, thank the deities, so that no mortal could see in through them. Against the wall to the immediate left of the entrance was the bar, over which hung the legal maximum occupancy sign. Past that was the door to a conference room. Opposite the bar and across the dance floor were tables and chairs. These lined the wall.
To the right of the entryway was the large-windowed wall, in front of which were high tables with bar stools. Opposite this wall were more tables and chairs, behind which was a small divider that separated any instruments or DJ equipment from the rest of the room. This wall also held the door to the Prince's personal office.
Efren scoffed mentally at the sign as he walked by the bar, straight toward the Prince's door. There were rarely more than thirty Kindred in the room at any time. There weren't even that many Kindred residing in the city. If all the transients and residents were to suddenly descend upon the place, it might be a bit crowded, but it would not be horrible. They would run out of chairs, and that might be dreadful given some of the festivities they partook in, but it could be an improvement on the way things generally were in the Elysium.
A few of the regulars were in already, most of whom were already seated, finishing crossword puzzles and beginning philosophy debates and doing heavens knew what else. Alicia Martinez, one of the local Toreador, acknowledged his presence with a small nod of her head before turning her attention back to someone he did not recognize. One of the Ventrue elders was seated in a corner with his newest childe, patiently teaching the young man how to interpret stocks data with the day's newspaper as an example. There were others as well, but these he did not acknowledge, yet. Time enough for that later, he thought.
He ignored the bartending ghoul's greeting as he stopped before the Prince's door and composed himself. Then he reached out and knocked on the door. He heard a woman's voice bid him to enter, and he complied.
The Prince's office was very informal, set up more like a conference room than an actual office. A solid hardwood table took up much of the room, upon which was piled several stacks of papers. Eight chairs were spaced more or less evenly around it. One woman was already seated at the table – the Prince.
Prince Patricia glanced up at him from her latest daily report and smiled. "How kind of you to accept my invitation, Efren," she said. She had a nice, motherly sort of voice that had unsettled more than one Kindred who had been expecting something else, one that could give the wrong kind of impression about her – and one that belied the kind of person she truly was.
"But of course," he replied graciously as he seated himself. "Anything for my Prince."
Patricia snorted and looked back to her paper. He very quietly sighed and resigned himself to being bored for quite some time.
Fortunately for him, he was not bored for long. He heard footsteps outside the room, and then a dark-skinned man in a suit strode in the door. Efren started. One of the things he had learned in his few years of unlife was that most Kindred grew pale as they aged. Marilee, one of the semi-local Malkavians, was dark-skinned, but she was young. Her skin would acquire a ghastly white undertone within a century or two. This man was obviously not young. He held himself with too much confidence.
Efren did not want to believe it, but the man who had just entered the room was an Assamite.
Just as he was wondering why and how the Prince had secured an Assamite's contract in New Orleans, another knock sounded at the door, and a man in a trenchcoat entered the room. This man made Efren's skin crawl. Not only was he repulsive to look at, he was repulsive to smell. He was as pale as a fish's underbelly and his eyes were as black as the bottom of the ocean. The odor of sewage followed him in. As the man drew closer, he realized that the irises of his eyes were yellow and that he had no ears, merely holes that cartilage should have been protecting. A Nosferatu, Efren thought with some distaste.
The Assamite and the newcomer locked eyes, and some look passed between them. Then they both looked away from each other. They each had obviously decided that the other was not worth the trouble. A good thing, too. Patricia was giving them both the evil eye surreptitiously, from beneath lowered lashes, as she stared down at her paper.
As the tension in the air grew thick enough to cut, two more people walked into the room. They did not wait for Patricia's response after one of them knocked. Efren recognized Aram, the young man from the door, and Amy, another of the local Malkavians. Aram winked at him again. Efren groaned quietly. There were too many Malkavians in this room already, and the meeting had yet to begin…
His mental grousing was interrupted by a strange clicking. He looked over at the source of the noise and was shocked to see the Assamite pulling a strand of Mardi Gras beads from his pocket and extending them to Amy, with a sly look on his face. Obviously, the Assamite did not know she was a Malkavian, or he might have thought better of it. She was scowling at him. Had Efren's heart still been beating, it would have skipped a few. One did not openly insult a Malkavian if they wished to keep their thoughts in one piece. Of course, how would the Assamite have known how she would react?
Unfortunately, he did not retract the beads in time. The Prince's eyes lit up.
Anyone with any kind of perception would have seen a look of horror cross the faces of Efren, Aram, and Amy. They knew their Prince. Hell, anyone who knew that the Prince of New Orleans was Malkavian would have known better than to do that.
Patricia leaped from her chair, and they all were gifted with a sight none of them had ever wanted to see. She lowered her shirt after she was sure she had performed her Mardi Gras Bead Obligation properly and snatched the beads from the Assamite's hand. Then she whooped – "Woohoo!" – and ran from the room. Efren never saw her open the door. He only heard it shut behind her.
Typical Malkavian, he thought dourly, and then he dismissed the thought. There were enough Malkavians in this city that did not act like normal Lunatics that he was glad when one of them did.
The room grew silent again, this time with anticipation rather than tension, and Efren found himself wondering how they were going to have this meeting with the Justicar and the Prince when the Prince had run off. There were only a few minutes left until midnight, and the last thing this city needed was a slighted Justicar.
I should let you know at this point that I do not run a strictly canon game. Some of the names and faces will be familiar, but know that I and "JL" have twisted them a bit to suit the purposes of this story.
Thanks for waiting, and thanks for reading!