12: YOU’RE ALONE HERE
Arthur looks at the photos and shakes his head.
“So, tomorrow night we have a party to go to. Then Reno?”
“What do we know about vampires in Reno?” Pavel asks.
“Alvarez won’t be a huge fan of you going there. As far as I know they’re pretty heavily mixed up in organised crime, and most of them are younger than I am.”
“Great.” Arthur frowns. “Because our position in this city is...”
“Uncertain,” Pavel suggests.
“Uncertain is a good word for it.”
Valia shrugs. “Well, they probably wouldn’t liberate your ghoul on general principle. They might take her hostage...”
“Ideally, I’d like to walk in, say she’s ours and go. But a ‘businessman’ will want something for his trouble. I don’t really want to spend eternity propping up a freeway.” Arthur grimaces.
“I guess we can tell them about the city going dark.” Pavel shrugs.
“Did any Kindred make it there?” Valia asks.
“Maybe...” Arthur considers this. “I got a call from one of the Circle, she said to get out - ”
“Have you heard from her since?”
Saturday night arrives, and the refugees go to the Davies Symphony Hall together, meeting Valia on the way in. Apparently this is a charity recital for the California Historical Society, supported by Davison Farmer Publishing. A black tie event, as they were warned, so they have all made an effort.
The music doesn’t actually stop as they enter the upstairs lobby bar, but heads certainly turn.
There must be nearly forty vampires in the room already.
This is about twice as many as in Carson City and its surrounding area.
And ghouls as well.
Alvarez, Davison and Leonetti sit at one table at, with an olive-skinned woman in Vera Wang. Canon Balcier, Lucio and another vampire Pavel recognises sit at another, with four more Kindred standing nearby. C sits with a youngish woman in a conservative black dress. Two groups that no-one recognises lurk around booths the walls. And there are individuals and pairs here and there - Valia goes over to greet Carrie, not immediately recognisable without skull makeup or Alcatraz guard’s hat.
They approach the “top table” first. At least the line is fairly short.
“Thank you all for coming,” Alvarez says. He introduces them to the unknown vampire at his table. “Our host for the evening, Tiberia Julius.” Pavel knows enough Latin and enough Kindred history to find the politely smiling woman rather intimidating.
Tonight, C has all her hair, and looks every inch the slightly bored society heiress who uses events like this as an excuse to buy a new dress. She smiles sweetly as Arthur approaches, offering a hand as if meeting him for the first time.
“That’s your - ”
“Of course not!” she says with a winsome smile as she takes his arm, walking with him and smiling and waving to various cliques that eye her with suspicion, before returning to the one she was with.
“You look very... different.”
“I try. And Arthur Tanner, this is Abigail Surnow.”
The thin woman doesn’t look a day over thirty, but her dress and manner suggest a matronly widow. When Arthur takes her hand, she turns his over and looks at his palm. He realises what she’s doing and lets her do it.
“Could I ask... have you ever met someone who could see the future?”
The woman smiles faintly. “Read? Possibly. See? ... Hmm. Perhaps. Why do you ask?”
“The elder in Carson City had a... friend who apparently could.”
“I should like to meet her.”
Dr. Barrow looks around, and for a moment one of the groups in a shadowed booth look like victims of deadly diseases, before snapping back to being plain unassuming nobodies. The brood mother’s human face smiles at his reaction.
Pavel and Henry greet the canon, after two of the other vampires standing nearby look to their leader for permission. This done, they return to looking suspiciously at one of the other groups of unknown Kindred.
Arthur notices this and nods that way to C.
“Oh, that’s Brother Mockingbird. One of our more... eccentric local religious leaders. The canon likes Mother Surnow better and she’s a witch.”
“What’s his... eccentricity?”
“He’s co-opted some local ideas into Sanctum teachings. Unlike the Cardinal and canon who co-opted the locals.”
Lucio speaks with Pavel at a slight distance to the other Sanctum Kindred.
“I spoke with the canon of the owls. He mentioned parables in the Testament, but he himself has never seen an owl that was not what it seems, in almost three hundred years of life. Still, we would like to know who it was that found this tablet so valuable...”
Alvarez goes to speak with the canon, Elena and Tiberia sit together, Leonetti makes the rounds in the manner of a cop expecting something to kick off at any moment. This gives Valia a chance to catch up with him.
“So, still keeping an eye on the refugees?”
“They don’t seem so bad. Mostly.”
C pauses. “There may be dancing later. Do you dance?”
Arthur admits “not well... anyone I should be dancing with? Besides you, of course.”
“Careful with the shoes, but...”
“Maybe one of the girls sitting with the canon, just to see how she reacts?”
“I knew I was going to like you.”
Dr. Barrow looks for somewhere to sit, and an unprepossessing vampire approaches him. “Leonard Barrow, yes? Russ Clarkson. Fellow traveller on the coiling path. Historian. Have you ever read about the death of Harvey Milk?”
Apart from Mr. Clarkson, most of the unfamiliar vampires and ghouls they meet over the course of the evening have questions about Carson City.
And they all pause as someone else walks in.
Alvarez stands and steps forwards. Lucio and others step protectively around the seated canon. C moves behind Arthur... she may be exaggerating, or she may not.
“Mr. Hughes,” Alvarez says.
Hughes, wearing a rather nice woollen overcoat, nods to one side, and Alvarez and Tiberia go to meet him halfway to that private corner. Leonetti walks part of the way as well, pausing near a fire exit.
On the way, Hughes glances at Arthur, Pavel and Henry.
The room splits evenly between those trying to listen and those talking in worried whispers.
“He does this every... two or three years. He’s not exactly sociable. But... is it my imagination or did he just look right at you?” C asks Arthur.
“You may be right there.”
On the way out after that brief conversation, Hughes glances at Dr. Barrow. Dr. Barrow responds to this by stepping instinctively backwards into the nearest shadow and vanishing.
Brother Mockingbird steps up behind Pavel and murmurs “you’re alone here...” Then he smiles brightly and steps away.
Alvarez waves the refugees over. Valia joins them, as does Leonetti. Tiberia steps discreetly away.
“So, er, what did Mr. Hughes want?” Arthur asks.
“Apparently he’s spoken with you about a sickness carried by our kind and others. He found another... scent today, and it led him to an alley nobody could have escaped from. I find this rather troubling. I prefer not to have such troubles, especially not to presented with them in public. What can you do?”
“We do have one lead to follow,” Pavel says. “In Reno.”
“Well. If it’s not one thing it’s another...”
Saturday night arrives, after several weeks of delaying it due to not having enough players around to cover Elysium. Dr. Barrow’s worrying and baffling meetings were covered in the next session as his player missed this one too.
I had a longish list of the NPCs present, and tried to give everyone a moment and a chance to approach whoever they liked, in order, as it was just me playing all of them. As Arthur and Pavel’s players are veteran LARP organisers, there were some comments about LARP Elysium expectations and a “10 o’clock monster”... so of course I had to have one, sort of.