Exile in Byzantium

411 A.D. One Night in Byzantium

New Friends, New Adversaries, New Opportunities

• • •

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
—”Sailing to Byzantium,” William Butler Yeats

• • •

The coterie begins to settle in to the area formerly held by the now-deceased demon worshipper Josephus and his equally defunct cult. Kassandra has informed them that the narrow area that separates this land from that held by the group that brought Josephus to final justice is a pleasure district consisting of taverns, houses of ill-repute, and the like. The area is granted as feeding ground to the coterie as well as the demon-hunters across the way. They ask where they are to meet Amira, her ward, and she directs them to a relatively reputable taverna, the Lucky Siren, that abuts their granted territory.

A few nights hence they make plans to meet, as directed by Kassandra. Entering the tavern, they immediately notice one of their kind, a small woman of 25 or so years, dark skinned and haired in the way of the Persian people. Despite her slight stature and seeming youth, she radiates both calm and presence beyond her apparent years. Clearly, this is the member of the undead whom they were sent to meet.

Amira thanks them for their kindness in allowing her to haven with them. Upon inquiry, she confirms that Kassandra is not her sire—she is of the Daeva bloodline, not Kassandra’s more elevated (in their own minds, at least) Julii heritage. However, her own sire met with an unfortunate end and Kassandra was kind enough to welcome her into the local Cult of the Augurs and take over her tutoring in the mysteries of the Veneficia. “Of course,” she adds, “all that is behind me now, as we have all bent our knees to the new god.”

“Of course,” Gaius affirms, with an almost imperceptible air of distaste. “I don’t suppose you kept any of the old artifacts for, perhaps, historic value?” She replies that, in fact, she has an interest in history and has stored quite a number of ritual objects for purely personal study. In fact, she is hoping that her new chambers might have a . . . secluded area where she could display such now-discredited objects. Gaius expresses his similar interest in history, and says that can certainly be arranged.

Amira offers to show the group their new, shared feeding grounds, and warns to keep an eye out for Lazar’s favorite childe, Pyotr. This Nosferatu was attacked by monster hunters, staked out in the sun to die. He was able to escape, at the cost of terrible scarring. And he has chosen not to heal those wounds, as a reminder and warning to all. As a result of this experience, he has an obsession with privacy bordering on the unhinged. He constantly examines the city’s Propinquii for any signs that they have let slip the mask, as he calls it, and allowed mortals to glimpse their true nature. To Romans accustomed to visiting their families and others under the guise of shades and household gods, this seems at the least unnecessary and at the worst offensive. But Pyotr has the ear of his sire who is a member of the Senex, so there is little to be done but attempt to avoid drawing his ire. It’s not entirely clear, at least to Amira, whether Decimus supports this approach, or merely defers to his most ancient council-member.

The coterie split up to pursue their interests and thirsts, whether for vitae, power, information, or some combination thereof.

• • •

As Gaius prowls the streets, he is practically accosted by a seemingly drunk member of the Propinquii stumbling out of a drinking establishment with a very young mortal girl on his arm, possibly as little as 11 or 12 in age. Gaius confronts this individual with the impropriety of what he’s doing, to which the self-important creature replies, “I’m a hero! I can do what I want! The blood of Remus runs in my veins, and I have saved the city!”. It turns out that this is Jonas, a Julii and one of the local demon-hunters from across the way, drunk on blood, cheap wine, and his sense of self-importance. Gaius confronts him and wins a battle of wills, sending him into the night with the command to challenge those who outmatch him to fights for several nights to come.

When he looks back to find the little girl, she has slipped into the night.

• • •

Violia, meanwhile, searches for a properly refined house of pleasure from which to feed. She is directed to the Gemini, a nicely appointed establishment with a sign out front depicting the twins in a way not customarily seen in nicer districts. But quite entertaining. She enters with Alaric, and makes the usual request to have some girls sent . . . supposedly to assuage his thirsts.

Her own thirsts taken care of in this manner, she chats with the house manager, mentioning that she had no small experience staging amusements and events back in Rome, and that she might well wish to partner with the right locals to do something similar here in Byzantium. An enterprise that would no doubt be quite mutually beneficial. The manager, Demetrius, is intrigued, and says he’ll happily speak to the Gemini’s owner, although of course it will take a bit of . . . persuasion, perhaps. Violia, ever the astute reader of men, presses a small but heavy purse into his hand and says she’s sure he’ll be most persuasive. And that no doubt she’ll need some expert assistance from an astute manager such as himself in starting any new enterprise.

• • •

Tiberius is mainly interested in information tonight. He wants to know who these vampire hunters are, these Aves of which the unfortunate bandit Nikos spoke, and if they’ve spread to Byzantium. His hunger assuaged easily enough, he goes in search of knowledge.

He walks the streets, looking for any of the Propinquii who seem a likely source of information. He realizes he is being watched from the shadows by a malevolent-looking Nosferatu, but decides not to engage. Instead, his eye is drawn to a hard-looking Gangrel who seems to have staked out (as it were) a street corner and is watching the human foot traffic with a knowing eye. She is tall, dark-skinned, powerfully built, and dressed in what looks like her own rather personalized interpretation of Legio garb.

Tiberius approaches her, and while she is initially uninterested in conversation, she softens a bit when she realizes that he is not there to challenge her. He learns that her name is Lucretia Cana, and she is the informal investigator for the Senex, and kind of Hound of Justice. She looks Tiberius up and down and asks him if he might want to do a bit of work for her, alongside a few other hand-picked . . . candidates. She doesn’t speaks the word “thugs,” but the implication hangs in the air that some jobs are best handled outside the official purview of the Legio. He asserts his interest, and she says she’ll be in touch.

And thus, the night ends with each of the group having found something of interest. And perhaps having been found of interest as well, though by whom or what is not entirely clear.

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