I didn’t see the dog in or near my territory again. I have recently learned, and perhaps should already have realised, that means precisely nothing. The appointed hour of the summons approached, so I made my way to Cardiff. It was as big a city as I had ever seen, with its keep and outlying town. It was nowhere near as squalid as many places I have visited. Presumably a result of the construction of a Cathedral and library annex. The Prince, Emrick of the Brujah and Lord of Cardiff (according to his summons) was residing in said Cathedral. I believe it is his library attached. Certainly, the construction is of a more exotic design, and there is something about it that those in the know don’t want me to find out. This makes me more curious. The library had Gargoyles and Grotesques, in the shape of animal heads all around its construction. I wonder if they are magical. Or some form of concealed guardians?
Cathedral Guards met me at that gates. Identifying myself to them, they treated me with reverence one that looks like me is unaccustomed to. Commendable politeness on their part, though possibly born from fear of their master? They led me to a guardhouse where I met another vampire awaiting his presentation.
He wasn’t particularly talkative, but revealed his name was Ettori of the Lasombra. He was also a priest. He wore armour and a mace swung from his hip. I suppose wielding wood and metal as a club is more honest than wielding dogma. I don’t recognise the name Ettori, though I don’t believe it is Irish. His accent was. But not his name. Interesting.
We didn’t have to wait long. Another priest, a Vampire of the Brujah Clan, by the name of Dandrain met us. He appeared young, healthy and humble. More than most I understand the power in a name, or in this case a title. Perhaps he is a humble man of the cloth. Perhaps he is a tyrannical priest in disguise. Or perhaps he is something else. He greeted us, told us we were expected and brought us to one of the cathedral annexes, which served as reception room for Lord Emrick. I asked him about the animal carvings, and he informed me they were simply gargoyles and grotesques. There was something about the twitch of his face, the look in his eyes. He was not entirely honest with me. The carvings are more than they appear. Best to not let on that I know. Intriguing. Perhaps not a threat to me, but intriguing nonetheless.
After leaving us with refreshments, he departed allowing us to view the members of the court and be an object of curiosity for them. There were two well dressed and groomed individuals, a muscular man and a courtly woman that I suspect hail from the aristocratic clans of Ventrue and Toreador. We were unworthy of anything but her disdain and his fleeting curiosity, it seems. Lurking in the shadows was a gaunt man in a robe of black and purple. His head was longer than is natural, and he had red eyes which made me think he might be of my blood. But then I remembered a cautionary tale of the Old Man, about Fiends and their ability to make flesh and bone compliant under their ministrations. He called them Fiend for good reason, though never to their face. The name of their bloodline…Tzimisce. Those of my blood, the Nosferatu, are the reason mortals fear the dark and the unseen. We are monsters. I tell you this to help you understand where I am in the food chain. I tell you this because he makes this monster shiver.
At the front of the room stood a dais with an empty chair (throne?); a cream and blue banner with a golden cross embroidered on it hung above. To one side of the dais, there was a tan skinned acolyte wearing a white smock trimmed with blue, holding a staff with a blue crystal atop it. I have no idea from where he might hail or of what blood. When he spoke, his voice was hard to place. Flanking the dais on the opposite side, a fierce looking woman garbed in armour and cloak. She stood, allowing natural shadow to conceal her. I wonder what her secrets are.
Ettori advanced on the dais and offered some blessing or prayer whilst we waited. We were not waiting long. Dandrain returned shortly, leading another priest of more regal bearing. He too had tanned skin, and supported himself with a staff. At a glance, I judge he was feigning weakness so that his enemies might misjudge him. I judge both legs to be stronger than in his mortal life. These Brujah are cannier than I realised. His entry into the room drew the eyes of everyone present. The Old Man told me of the arts of other blood that sway and overwhelm emotion. He told me such arts would help me navigate vampiric society, and that it would be needed should I wish to learn some of our stranger arts.
The prince took his seat, with the staff wielding acolyte assuming position behind him. Perhaps a senseschal or chamberlain?
The Prince welcomed us. “Greetings, we are here on this eve to celebrate a happy occasion, the arrival of two more kindred who currently reside within my domain.”
I am fairly sure his focus shifted to me on that point. His summons did read ‘Prince Emrick of the Brujah, Lord of Cardiff Domain’. I had hoped he would not attempt to claim dominion over the wilderness where I live. On the other hand, the powerful often claim as much as they feel they can hold whether by right or not.
He continued, “Present yourselves.”
Ettori stepped forward. “I am Ettori of Clan Lasombra. I present myself to you, your Majesty.”
Ettori left room for me, which is kinder than his ilk are often want if I recall the teachings of the Old Man correctly. I advanced. “Greetings, your Majesty. I come as requested,” he smirked at that, “I am of the Nosferatu, and you may call me Ethan.”
The prince was quite gracious, which was heartening. He had passed my first test; he had told me with a smirk that he was perhaps worthy of my respect. I may be a novice at courtly games, but that does not mean I am an idiot. He claims dominion over the land I consider mine. I told him, publicly with a word that I did not recognise his right to command me. However, I told him with my presence that I was not here to defy him. We were in a political dance, and I had made a bold first move. It was based on something The Old Man told me about. He had a book that referred to something called ‘The Melian Dialogue’. It happened over a millennia ago, when Athens, at war with Sparta, invaded the neutral island of Melos. Athens tried to convince Melos to surrender to their superior force, whereas Melos countered with an appeal to their sense of decency and fear. They told the Athenians that to attack them would be to alarm the other Greek States, and leave them in a weakened position were Sparta to retaliate. Ultimately, the Athenians conquered Melos, but the principle was sound and applicable here. I knew that even a city vampire like a Brujah, if sufficiently old, could claim my territory should he wish. He would ultimately win, but my knowledge of the terrain and survival would even the odds a bit, enough for him to realise I could weaken him. Which would expose him to the caprice of his court. There was a fiend skulking, and possibly a Ventrue and/or Toreador.
He accepted us both with grace, and I dared hope he respected the gambit. He thanked the court, and then asked that we attend upon him in his private chambers. Apparently, he had a task for us.
The Mycroft Journals is a serialised fiction, written in response to a roleplaying game I play in. It serves multiple purposes. It acts as a permanent reminder of what happened in the story (so, it helps us players), it acts as an advert for the game, and I think our Games Master has provided us with a compelling story, which other people should get to experience.
Featured artwork is by Barry Martin. Check out his page