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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Bullfilter

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“I … don’t remember,” Robert answered, sounding lost.
That’s the saddest thing so far. This lot are a real pestilence, even though they are our main protagonists.
“But perhaps it is enough for my Master.”
A hollow kind of mercy. He really should have let him burn.
Surprised Robert gave mercy.
It seemed a 50/50 thing, but as @El Pip implies, the thraldom is so powerful it overrides Robert’s natural desire for vengeance.

So if these are the ‘good’ guys, who are the ‘bad’ guys!? There are no good guys here of course, but you know what I mean. Darkness everywhere, even in the daylight.
 

stnylan

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So they're going after the son as well? Blood is powerful after all.
Can't let a promising young lad go to waste

Dark deeds and dirty business. Robert seems to be taking to his newfound duties rather well, all things considered, though I suppose the opportunity for revenge against the one who killed his wife and nearly destroyed him and his family as well has helped ease the transition.
It certainly helps to have a motivating factor to give one direction.

Surprised Robert gave mercy.
Well, I wanted to demonstrate something (see below).

Interesting to see more of how service works in this world from the perspective of one newly brought into the fold. Robert evidently still has much to learn, but with Martin to teach him I feel he'll make good work of his lessons. His decision to show Angelo mercy suggests more than a little nuance to his character already.
Oh Robert still has much to learn indeed, but it was not idle fancy that led Martin's Master to direct Darius to bring him into the fold.

I'm entirely unsurprised Robert showed Mercy. He is a part-lobotomised* thrall, of course he is going to do what best serves his Master's interests (keep Angelo alive for future questioning, bargaining chip, etc) rather than show any actual free will or indulge any emotion. This work is relentless darkness and grim, don't go looking for light - it will only be an oncoming train.

*He cannot remember why he tried to make sure his Son was safe and wants his child out of the way so he can better serve the Master. Sure negligent parents exist, but this is a parent who made the effort even in extreme circumstances and is now 'slightly lost' trying to work out why they ever cared about their child. That is at best some quite serious brain damage, if not worse.
Absolutely. I am very glad the nature of Robert's bond came across. In Robert it is entirely raw and untrammeled, of course, with sharp edges everywhere.


That’s the saddest thing so far. This lot are a real pestilence, even though they are our main protagonists.
It was intended to hit a certain spot.

A hollow kind of mercy. He really should have let him burn.
Was it mercy at all?

It seemed a 50/50 thing, but as @El Pip implies, the thraldom is so powerful it overrides Robert’s natural desire for vengeance.

So if these are the ‘good’ guys, who are the ‘bad’ guys!? There are no good guys here of course, but you know what I mean. Darkness everywhere, even in the daylight.
Someone once said (in fact, lots of someones) that good and bad is complicated. Far easier to go with us and them.


All
So when I first conceived this chapter there was a preceeding section detailing the meeting with Lady Parr, but I could never make that work. It just felt empty, and given I was able to condense a lot of the information into just a single paragraph I think I was definitely right to do so. That left me with this section- and again I struggled. It was only when I conceived the central vehicle of this section being Robert's servitude that I felt it had a sufficient keel about which to construct a larger vessel. I was then able to work in a little about how Martin views himself, a little on the practicalities of this world (ie, what happens to vampires in the sun), and advance the plot of this line of the story a little. All of these are secondaries to Robert though.

Technically I was not sure how best to write the vampire catching on fire. Following my source materal I do not conceive it as being an instant thing, but equally not overly drawn out.

The most "fun" thing about this was being delighted at discovering what Thermos flasks from the 1930s looked like.
 
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Le Jones

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Another compelling update @stnylan - it could be that this is because I'm putting off work by loitering on the forums but there is definitely a strong legal vibe, or, to put it more directly, the exercise of the power to administer judgment (my definition of jurisdiction in a nutshell). And all beautifully done.

The most "fun" thing about this was being delighted at discovering what Thermos flasks from the 1930s looked like.
I do think that you're mixing the historical and supernatural very ably.
 

roverS3

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Another chilling chapter. Loving the little details, and the way you condensed all the information and emotion into one powerful scene from the two initially planned ones.
 

stnylan

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Another compelling update @stnylan - it could be that this is because I'm putting off work by loitering on the forums but there is definitely a strong legal vibe, or, to put it more directly, the exercise of the power to administer judgment (my definition of jurisdiction in a nutshell). And all beautifully done.
Interesting that you should say that. Very interesting, and I can see what you mean in retrospect. I suspect this has something to do with having a systemising mind, but also with one of my hobby interests which is law. Mostly US law I must admit - which is courtesy of my best friend who is now a US appellate lawyer. Been reading US legal since 2002/3. Indeed my "Xmas present to me" last year was a US legal texbook on constitutional law. I try not to neglect the profession in my native land though. I will say this for my US priming - it gave me the confidence to read through all the judgements in the Article 50 and parliamentary recess cases, for which I was most grateful. And some others that have perked my interest when I had sufficient time.

I do think that you're mixing the historical and supernatural very ably.
Thank you very much. I do try to tie it together.

Another chilling chapter. Loving the little details, and the way you condensed all the information and emotion into one powerful scene from the two initially planned ones.
Yes it was definitely the right decision to make.
 
Chapter 2.4 - Albert X

stnylan

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Chapter 2.4 - Albert X

I wake.

It is an instant transition from repose to active alertness, but without that added urgency of danger. I remain still, eyes closed. It never does to betray awareness. I sense Ariadne near, and none other. I am most likely safe.

I open my eyes and see the ceiling above me. I swivel and rise, drawing back a cover. Ariadne stands before me. “Master,” she greets.

There is something different about the cabin and it takes me a moment to notice the absence of the engine’s hum. “We have arrived?”

“Yes Master. We berthed maybe not that long ago.”

I nod in acknowledgement, and she stands waiting. I feel a sudden weariness at the theatre to come. The cavalcade of motions to perform, the lies to listen to, the functions to attend, the false smiles and the real smiles, and the deep whispering of the dark within: let it all go. To sink into the deeper sleep and let the world forget me, and to forget the world. Not even Mithras would blame me …

No.

I stand. “I need to change,” I say. Ariadne nods. She has laid out some options, all entirely acceptable. I force myself to actually make a choice - a not-quite casual outfit that should offer no insult to the Prince, but is not actual evening wear. She takes the rejected garments away as I quickly change, discharding the clothes I have worn on the voyage. I put my chosen attire with purposeful acts, as I might once have girded myself in nights past for struggle on an unfamiliar field.

call Ariadne back into the space. “Destroy them,” I say, pointing to the clothes I have strewn on the floor.

“Master,” she says, “Rupert has a message.”

I nod, and walk to the other room, where Rupert is now waiting. “A message?”

“Yes Master,” he says. “Transportation has been sent for you, and I believe an escort. They sent this note aboard.” He hands me an envelope.

I draw out the card, and read the simple writing. Welcome to America - Theo.

Theo.

I take a moment to quell the sudden flush of feeling. It must be nearly fifty years. “All is done here?”

“Yes Master,” Ariadne confirms. “This the last luggage.”

I do not wish to wait longer. “Lead on,” I say to Rupert. He leads us - carrying his burdens - through the ship to our egress. We wait a moment for another passenger to debark, and from the air that passes through the open hatch I sniff the scent of this strange city. Much like any other, and like all others still its very own. The officer waves us through, and onto the gangplank with a muttered courtesy I barely acknowledge. It takes me but a moment to see Theo standing at the quayside, as tall and as broad as when I first saw him...


The two American visitors stand together in the gallery observing the painting of a drowned woman, but I find the two men a far more interesting study. Both are tall, but the Spanish gentleman has a thinner frame. The other is altogether broader, with shoulders and a back well used to hard labour, and scarred. Also, he is black.

Don Cerro and his negro childe have caused quite a stir since they arrived in London several months ago. They have been in demand, feted and hosted in a frenzy of social engagement. Tonight is more set: a formal gala of the Domain, with its own rituals they can only observe.

I walk quickly over, timing my motion to brush past the Latimer woman - who fortuitously happened to be standing in just the right place. She begins to exclaim, and that stops her retort - but it serves its purposes, not least letting the Americans know of my approach so they turn as I near.

I stop and place my hands splayed on my chest, one atop the other, and bow from the waist. “Don Cerro, may I have the pleasure of introducing myself,” I say.

Don Cerro’s eyes crinkle, perhaps with humour. His childe regards me without obvious emotion. “Satrap Albert, I had wondered if you were avoiding us,” he says, a trace of a smile twitching lips.

I smile in return. “You have been rather under siege since your arrival. I thought it polite to wait for a quieter moment. Practically, we are less likely to be interrupted.” Though, of course, eyes are on us. I have a message to deliver here, and it is not to the two before me.

“Well, you need not introduce yourself to me, but let me introduce you to my childe, Theo Bell.”

“At your service,” the large man - larger than I - holds out a hand. I take it, a firm handshake both ways. “I trust you are not finding your time here too onerous - all these social niceties,” I say directly.

The young one’s eyes tighten slightly as he draws to retain his impassive view.

“London is a fascinating place,” he says after a moment, having chosen his words. We are still gripping each other’s hands.

“I hear your Sire has had you exhibiting your scars - I wondered if you like to see my own?”

“Satrap,” Don Cerro says, and I release his childe’s hand.

“I mean no insult,” I say, “to you or your childe. It is just,” and I loosen my shirt and let it slip from my back, “your childe is not the only one here who was once a slave.”

I speak the words clearly, loudly, to be heard - and I hear the ripple of gasps and sudden movements as those long ago afflicted mortal marks are seen. I turn around slowly, fixing each of those who stare at me, and they all look away - apart from my Lord who has a smile on his face. My circle complete I re-set my shirt, and I feel like for the first time I have the childe’s full attention.

“How did a white man become a slave?” he asks, supremely politely given the roiling thought playing out in his eyes.

“My history here is known, though maybe your Sire knows it not - but I am sure he can make a reasonable deduction.”

“Barbary,” Don Cerro says in a quiet tone.

“Let us just say I know how to row.”

For the first time I regard them both with my full sight, and though I might misjudge the flickering colours it seems like Don Cerro accepts my tale. Theo Bell is altogether harder to read, a turbulent tempest whirling in his aura.

“I do apologise for the theatrics, Don Cerro.”

He is now smiling again, “Oh it is quite alright Satrap. To be included in such a display from an Artist of your calibre … I think I shall consider it an honour.”

Sharp. Very sharp.

I look to Theo. “There was a time when pirates from Barbary would raid the coasts of Europe, including these Isles. People were one of the commodities they took.” I shrug. “And now you know how I bear the mark of a slave-whip.” Or so I hope.

I turn slightly to fully face Don Cerro, “I also have an offer for your childe - an excursion outside the city. I thought he might find it interesting how certain things are organised here in Avalon, and you might like a report of it.” I turn straight back to Theo, “And I thought perhaps you might appreciate some time away from the Court, to relax.”

Theo looks to his Sire, who regards me still that same smile and a curious eye. “I think you should accept the Satrap’s offer Theo.”

“Then I do,” the young American says quickly.



… I stop. Theo looks all the world like some sort of household servant, or maybe a hotel minion, a footman. He is standing next to a motor car, clearly intended for our use. America. I should have known. Ships, even if they are built of iron, are still ships. Trains I have become reconciled to, but these newer contraptions I still find troublesome. I force myself to start walking again. It is just, I try to convince myself, a carriage without a horse. Just like a ship I am leaving has no sails (but ships kept sails for so very long, it made the transition easier).

I concentrate on Theo, and the thrill of seeing him again sparks up once more, just a little muted. Enough. Leaving the gangplank I stride towards him, faster than I might have, smiling broadly, hands out. “Theo,” I greet, and he grips my arms as well, studying me. “I had no idea you would be here. Does that mean your Sire is too?”

Now he smiles, “No, not at the moment. Though he’ll be travelling when I wire him you have arrived. And you Albert, are you well?”

I see one of the dockworkers cast Theo an appalled look. Seeing me notice he spits on the ground. “Fine, fine. A good voyage.” I have, I realise, not really looked at the vehicle, and I force myself to. “Our transport?”

“Yes, your servants can load up,” he said, waving to Rupert and Ariadne. The vehicle’s driver, standing un-noticed moves to assist. Theo opens the door to the back, “After you,” he says courteously. I stare a moment at the open door, and the plunge forward. It is, I grant, a comfortable seat in the back.

Following behind me Theo closes the door shut. “I realise you might prefer a horse-drawn carriage, but Prince Schureman would only countenance the best. The driver is from the Prince’s own household.”

There are thumps from the luggage being secured.

“So, to what do I owe the pleasure of you coming to see me. I had expected maybe the Domain’s seneschal, or a favoured childe, but not a friend.”

“Thank my sire for that. When he heard about the invitation he decided to keep an eye on it. You know he doesn’t want any ill will between Avalon and us. And I argued to the Prince here a known face make things easier all round.”

“Well, it is a pleasure to see you again,” I repeat.

“Well it’s great to see you too Albert - but -” he glances to check the driver is still outside, “I think this whole situation stinks, just so you know.”

I nod, but say no more as at that point the driver opens his door and slides in. I beckon Ariadne in with us - and let Rupert ride alongside the driver. “A woman not in the back would be conspicuous,” I say to Theo, who seems amused.

“Perhaps not as much here as in London, but still a good idea,” he agrees.

“What’s on the table tonight?” I ask.

“Well, off to see the Prince first of course. Get the Presentation out of the way. Then to deliver you to the place they’ve got for you. Too posh for me, but it’ll do. Nothing else tonight. In a few days’ time a welcoming gala, and then sometime after that the Conclave occasioned by your visit.”

“And the Prince.”

“Prince Henry Schureman, as perfect an example of a mercantile Patrician as you will ever meet.” Theo grins as he speaks, and I get the message.

It is true, I realise, I have missed the former slave.
 
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Bullfilter

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We get into more of the diplomatic substance now, but also with a bit more background on Albert.
I take a moment to quell the sudden flush of feeling.
He still has them! That is somehow comforting. Though probably in the same manner as the comfy chair ... :eek:
“Destroy them,” I say, pointing to the clothes I have strewn on the floor.
Is there any practical ’tradecraft’ reason for that, or is he just being ostentatious?
“Let us just say I know how to row.”
“There was a time when pirates from Barbary would raid the coasts of Europe, including these Isles. People were one of the commodities they took.” I shrug. “And now you know how I bear the mark of a slave-whip.” Or so I hope.
Hmm, maybe ... I’m still betting on a Roman galley, but who knows?

I wonder if the vampiric hierarchy will align similarly to how the conventional (OTL or HOI4 game) one did in WW2? Axis, Allies, Communists etc.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Thank my sire for that. When he heard about the invitation he decided to keep an eye on it. You know he doesn’t want any ill will between Avalon and us
Hmm. Let's notch up the power of this organisation a little more. Even if he is being flowery and the name isn't serious.

Is there any practical ’tradecraft’ reason for that, or is he just being ostentatious?
Many terrible things can be done with anything a being wears, posses or leaves behind so...probably. And yes, probably a bit ostentatious. I certainly don't buy his slave story. He would never speak of something so blatantly in public if it were true.

Then again, he definitely is a slave now, so at least some of it could be based on true events. When you've lived that long and have a master that powerful (and bored), they've probably gone through phases of torture for the hell of it. But if he was a roman slave they probably wouldn't have chained him up so extensively. You only needed to tie them to their oar (which were the length of several men). Not like they could escape with that.

Obviously still unpleasant, but comparing galley slave scars to 18th century chattel slavery is a little mean for Albert. Unless he wasn't just whipped but had his back torn off (it did happen). Maybe he was captured by pirates after all...

Even then, that must be horrible for Theo (if he does come from such conditions) to be immortal and have eternal scars around his wrists, ankles, neck and (if under a typical master) brands on his face.
 
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Then again, he definitely is a slave now, so at least some of it could be based on true events.
An interesting point to ponder here. Certainly both men have been bound in one way or another through much of their lives (and un-lives), but one might wonder if someone who has been both bound and powerless might find a certain sense of freedom in the chance to exercise power in a way that few others will ever realize themselves, even if in a sense they're really only trading one set of fetters for another.
 
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I enjoyed that a lot. Albert showing feeling (on some level at least) does a great deal for his character. Lord alone knows (and which one?) whether any of it is in the slightest bit true – but touching all the same in an incredibly warped sort of a way. Theo is an intriguing addition to the cast. I have my initial theories for why Albert is so pleased to see him again, but I don’t think I’ll risk venturing any quite yet. :p
 

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The opening does very much highlight that the Vampires are mostly just existing for the sake of it at this point, if it were not for Albert's sense of duty I have little doubt he would give in to the whispering dark. Given that said sense of duty comes from his bond with his master, that adds yet another layer of grimness to the organisation.

On which note, of course Theo thinks the situation stinks. Everything else in their world stinks, why would this be any different?
 

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The opening does very much highlight that the Vampires are mostly just existing for the sake of it at this point,
Well that's a little grim. I don't think we can say that everyone here is still alive just because of the slave-master 'bond'.
 

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Well that's a little grim. I don't think we can say that everyone here is still alive just because of the slave-master 'bond'.
For starters I don't think any of them are really alive. Still moving certainly, thinking (to a limited extent for most of them) perhaps, but not really alive.

But whatever you call their miserable state, they remain in it because the various senior Lords and Ladies find it amusing and/or convenient for them to remain so. You say it's a little grim and I agree, because absolutely everything in this world is grim, certainly we've not been show anything nice. Yes thralls and servitors may get pleased at doing the bidding of their master, but when that is a compulsion in a bond it doesn't really count. People get saved from grim fates, but only so they can be inducted into dark machinations. Albert has a friend, but misses him because he never sees him. And frankly I'm half expecting Albert to have to betray or kill Theo before this story is over, because as previously stated everything is awful in this world if you think about it for more than a couple of minutes.
 

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For starters I don't think any of them are really alive. Still moving certainly, thinking (to a limited extent for most of them) perhaps, but not really alive.

But whatever you call their miserable state, they remain in it because the various senior Lords and Ladies find it amusing and/or convenient for them to remain so. You say it's a little grim and I agree, because absolutely everything in this world is grim, certainly we've not been show anything nice. Yes thralls and servitors may get pleased at doing the bidding of their master, but when that is a compulsion in a bond it doesn't really count. People get saved from grim fates, but only so they can be inducted into dark machinations. Albert has a friend, but misses him because he never sees him. And frankly I'm half expecting Albert to have to betray or kill Theo before this story is over, because as previously stated everything is awful in this world if you think about it for more than a couple of minutes.
This is the problem with vampire societies in general. The monster works as a solitary tragic figure, but lots of them together and not actively trying to cure their condition or kill themselves is always at least a little...nihilistic? Pointless? Absurdist scenario much like Waiting for Godot.
 

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We get into more of the diplomatic substance now, but also with a bit more background on Albert.He still has them! That is somehow comforting. Though probably in the same manner as the comfy chair ... :eek:

Is there any practical ’tradecraft’ reason for that, or is he just being ostentatious?

Hmm, maybe ... I’m still betting on a Roman galley, but who knows?

I wonder if the vampiric hierarchy will align similarly to how the conventional (OTL or HOI4 game) one did in WW2? Axis, Allies, Communists etc.
Oh Albert still has "feelings". After a fashion at least.

As for the clothes, there is a reason for it. A very clear reason in my head. But from the point of view of his two thralls? Just one of those things one has to live with in service to someone like Albert.

Hmm. Let's notch up the power of this organisation a little more. Even if he is being flowery and the name isn't serious.

Many terrible things can be done with anything a being wears, posses or leaves behind so...probably. And yes, probably a bit ostentatious. I certainly don't buy his slave story. He would never speak of something so blatantly in public if it were true.

Then again, he definitely is a slave now, so at least some of it could be based on true events. When you've lived that long and have a master that powerful (and bored), they've probably gone through phases of torture for the hell of it. But if he was a roman slave they probably wouldn't have chained him up so extensively. You only needed to tie them to their oar (which were the length of several men). Not like they could escape with that.

Obviously still unpleasant, but comparing galley slave scars to 18th century chattel slavery is a little mean for Albert. Unless he wasn't just whipped but had his back torn off (it did happen). Maybe he was captured by pirates after all...

Even then, that must be horrible for Theo (if he does come from such conditions) to be immortal and have eternal scars around his wrists, ankles, neck and (if under a typical master) brands on his face.
Well, he isn't a slave now. That does not mean he does consider himself under obligation, of course. The strongest bonds being the ones we make ourselves.

In terms of slave treatment - 18th century would be a little late for a British person to be captured by barbary - the strength of the Royal Navy by the latter 17th century was such that they basically forced the Barbary pirates to bother other people. Pre-English Civil War and in the Tudor period was a different story though. In general ... the earlier you go the worse it gets to be a galley slave. During the height of Mediterranean conflict (say between teh siege of Rhodes and Lepanto) it could be very bad indeed. Not that there weren't survivors - there were. But there were many who did not. Being beaten to death in a plantation or at a rowing bench ... I don't think there is a choice in that.

Later on the barbary pirates, rather than just taking slaves got into the business of ransoming them back, so treatment that would kill the slaves became rarer because they didn't want to (needlessly) kill the ransom. Also there was an added element of religious zeal to the wars of the 16th century that made the treatment of religious opposition much worse than in later years, when the ardour was generally cooler.

As for the scars - in the source material your body is frozen at the point of being turned into a vampire, (mostly) less the wounds you received at the time of being embraced. I do not entirely follow the source material in all aspects regarding vampire physiology, but broadly speaking I have retained this. If you had scars at your embrace, barring certain specific 'options' you shall always bear them.

An interesting point to ponder here. Certainly both men have been bound in one way or another through much of their lives (and un-lives), but one might wonder if someone who has been both bound and powerless might find a certain sense of freedom in the chance to exercise power in a way that few others will ever realize themselves, even if in a sense they're really only trading one set of fetters for another.
I agree - and I think in a world where one is always obligated there is a curious freedom in choosing your obligation.

I enjoyed that a lot. Albert showing feeling (on some level at least) does a great deal for his character. Lord alone knows (and which one?) whether any of it is in the slightest bit true – but touching all the same in an incredibly warped sort of a way. Theo is an intriguing addition to the cast. I have my initial theories for why Albert is so pleased to see him again, but I don’t think I’ll risk venturing any quite yet. :p
As for Theo see below. As for truth, well, I will follow the Vorlons in B5 "understanding is a three-edged sword"

We learn something of Albert's past but we still do not know much. I gather that Theo is not just a passing character but someone who will have some impact.
You are quite correct, and see below.

The opening does very much highlight that the Vampires are mostly just existing for the sake of it at this point, if it were not for Albert's sense of duty I have little doubt he would give in to the whispering dark. Given that said sense of duty comes from his bond with his master, that adds yet another layer of grimness to the organisation.

On which note, of course Theo thinks the situation stinks. Everything else in their world stinks, why would this be any different?
For older vampires - yes. After a while what is truly new? In the source material there is a state whereby older vampires can sleep for years (and the older the longer). Not all succumb, not if they have something keeping them going. Albert is holding on.

As for it stinking, I suppose it is all a matter of degree.

Well that's a little grim. I don't think we can say that everyone here is still alive just because of the slave-master 'bond'.
For starters I don't think any of them are really alive. Still moving certainly, thinking (to a limited extent for most of them) perhaps, but not really alive.

But whatever you call their miserable state, they remain in it because the various senior Lords and Ladies find it amusing and/or convenient for them to remain so. You say it's a little grim and I agree, because absolutely everything in this world is grim, certainly we've not been show anything nice. Yes thralls and servitors may get pleased at doing the bidding of their master, but when that is a compulsion in a bond it doesn't really count. People get saved from grim fates, but only so they can be inducted into dark machinations. Albert has a friend, but misses him because he never sees him. And frankly I'm half expecting Albert to have to betray or kill Theo before this story is over, because as previously stated everything is awful in this world if you think about it for more than a couple of minutes.
I have to say thank you. There are no right or wrong ways to play a World of Darkness ttrpg, so long as the entire group is on board with the chosen playstyle. But as presented the setting - well, the clue is in the name. Our world, or rather a darker reflection of our world. In some parts the groups are more or less screwed over (but all are fundamentally screwed), but vampires definitely tend towards the "more screwed up" side imo.

Now, a word of caution. My two primary characters are an older vampire in service to an ancient vampire, and a thrall to that ancient vampire. This is not "typical" of most player characters in the ttrpg, who are more akin to Nathanaels, Daras, and Theos of this world. But, as you note, saved from grim fates to be abducted into dark machinations, or come out on the wrong side of an elder like Nora did.

This is the problem with vampire societies in general. The monster works as a solitary tragic figure, but lots of them together and not actively trying to cure their condition or kill themselves is always at least a little...nihilistic? Pointless? Absurdist scenario much like Waiting for Godot.
Certainly all of those can be true. There may be other adjectives one can choose.


All
So the introduction of Theo Bell marks something of a first for me. As mentioned previously I am making use of some of the characters White Wolf established itself in its world, adapting them my own way. Theo is the first of the so-called "signature" characters I am so using. To be honest I intend to do so with very few, but Theo's history has a trip to London with his sire in the 1880s - Don Cerro is likewise "canon". It was an opportunity I could not resist. Theo is mostly covered by the "modern-day" material in VtM - so at least 60-70 years later than my portrayal of him.

It has made me face to up to trying to write a "known" character. I have a couple of arrows in my quiver - this is an 'unknown' portion of Theo's life according to the canon I know, and he is yet to be the quite imposing (and cool) figure he became by around the year 2000 in established canon. It will remain a work in progress, but Theo is important to Albert as can be seen.

The bit about the scars was inspired by the source material as well. In canon Theo's sire did have him exhibit his scars to European vampires in the vampiric courts they visited in late 19thC Europe. This scene in memory was formed very early on the story. Not precisely like here, but the basic outline. It was just a question of where to put it. I didn't want to introduce a brand-new timeline - that would be just filler - so it would have to be a memory. The solution of having the memory trigger when meeting Theo for the first time seemed to be the best fit.

I also wanted, in this update, to show a little about how Albert 'wakes up' at night, a little more interaction between him and his thralls, and a reminder of where he is technologically.
 
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Well, I’ve read through your five prologues thus far and I must say this is delightfully mysterious.

I’ll definitely keep following, although I’m thoroughly mystified about where the narrative is headed.
 

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Well, I’ve read through your five prologues thus far and I must say this is delightfully mysterious.

I’ll definitely keep following, although I’m thoroughly mystified about where the narrative is headed.
Welcome. I hope you enjoy
 
Chapter 2.5 - Martin - Later that evening

stnylan

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Chapter 2.5 - Martin - Later that evening

Lady Parr’s personal servitor entered the side-room where Martin and Robert waited. She was perhaps five foot high, neat, fond of lists, and called Sophie. Martin had known her almost his entire service, and they often crossed paths. She frowned at him, and even more so at Robert’s scruffier appearance. “They are ready for you,” she said, refraining from further comment. Robert looked nervous - anxiety Martin had only partially soothed.

Lady Parr’s office had little ornamentation, but lots of wallspace to pin … information. There were two desks, some chairs, shelves. It was a room with focus. Nearby, Martin knew, was a room where interrogations took place that was considerably less ordered. In truth, this room with its lists and notes and diagrams intimidated him more.

Lady Parr was waiting, and so was Master Darius. No one else … which was a relief. Both Masters were standing in front of the desks, so it was to be, in the scale of such things, informal.

“Robert,” Lady Parr began, “I note Angelo yet survives.”

“Yes, my servant, why not kill him? I thought you wanted vengeance,” Master Darius said.

Robert bobbed his head. “Master,” he said, “I hoped he might yet be of use … and I did not leave him unscathed.”

From behind them Sophie snorted. Well, she had taken delivery of the charred mess after they returned to London earlier that day. Master Darius looked to Lady Parr.

“So I understand,” said Lady Parr, and Robert glanced her way, but his eyes were drawn back to Master Darius. Lady Parr studied him for a moment, and then turned to Martin. “Sophie tells me you had information.”

“Yes Lady,” Martin said, making his own quick obeisance. “Firstly he claimed with his last conscious words that the person who sent him here was called Genievieve. Before that he claimed he was told to stay at Robert’s house for five days, and then flee to Liverpool, and after that to Bristol.”

“Do you believe it?” she asked.

Thinking back to Angelo’s terror Martin said, “I believe that is what he understood. The name - could well be false. But perhaps now when he is .. able to speak .. he will tell us more?”

“Perhaps. That might take a while.” Lady remarked in a level tone. She looked again at the infatuation on Robert’s face, and the curious gaze he received in return from Master Darius. She moved to steps so that they were somewhat behind her, and she looked straight at Martin.

“They knew your new colleague worked for us,” she said, flatly.

“Yes. Or had a very good supposition, my Lady.” She nodded quickly at this detail. “I think they underestimated how long it would take to draw attention. It seems the flight to Liverpool and Bristol were meant to be a lure … to draw our attraction elsewhere maybe?”

“Perhaps Martin. Or perhaps he was meant to be caught ... “

She stopped and suddenly twisted about. “You two - pay heed!” Her voice cracked. “You can discover your future relationship in your own time, not on mine!” Master Darius went very still for a moment, and then sketched a quick bow. Robert looked mortified.

“My apologies Lady Parr, you are of course, correct,” he said.

“Sorry,” Robert managed, flushed.

Lady Parr fixed Master Darius a moment longer. “You are here to learn and to aid, so learn. What do you think - were they trying to draw our attention elsewhere - or was it a deeper ploy, expecting to be discovered, so that our attention is kept here whilst they make mischief elsewhere?”

Master Darius did look a little uncomfortable, and he did not look at anyone but Lady Parr. After a moment he admitted, “I don’t know.”

“Exactly - we can’t know.”

“Italian .. do you think?” Master Darius half-asked.

Lady Parr cut him off. “Perhaps, but it is dangerous to draw unsupported conclusions. What?” she said to Robert, who had actually raised his hand.

“Lady … there must be someone here, else how would they have known to target me?”

Lady Parr smiled brightly at him. “Very good, Robert. Darius - your servant will go far if you don’t mismanage him.” She repositioned herself again so she could address them all. “There are two parts of this. Liverpool and Bristol … that must be looked into, but not by us. I will inform the High Sheriff. We look to London. Robert and Martin - supported by you Darius - should follow up on how Robert was identified. I think, Robert, it is time you return to your own old job.”

Both Master Darius and Robert seemed surprised, but Martin had more experience in this game. “Lady Parr?” At her nod he continued. “I suppose his house is still usable, and might make a reasonable base on the Island. There will need to be a proper story, otherwise we may have too many nosy neighbours. I believe Bartholemew had put about Robert and his family being attacked due to a smuggling gang.”

Lady Parr nodded. “It will take a day or two to arrange, and we can work out the details. I also expect you both to be ready in case you are needed in any other matters.” She tapped her fingers on the edge of her desk. “When you go back, Robert, be quite open about trying to find out more regarding the ones who attacked you. Then, in the spring, we will spread a rumour your investigations were successful, and you are going to be transferred to a special unit of the Port Authority. If our game will consent to be blushed, that is when they will oblige us.” Lady Parr smiled. “And if they do not, we end up with you in a position that will allow you to snoop.”

Martin was careful not to sigh. It was not so much a plan as an intention - there were too many details that needed to be worked out for it to be a plan. He had a lot of work to do.
 
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