The Hollow Crown

The Sign of Four

Chapter 6

Time frame – two months from the Gaveston death and nine months from the loss of Lady Arabella Stuart

Gwendolyn and Eleanor ran some errands.

  • The mysterious tarot cards burst into non-dangerous flame when discovered not to originate from their source.
  • Hawthorn and Tyrone both confirmed there were multiple ways to achieve this – including garou, fairies, mages and Tremere. In fact the only group not implicated were wraiths.
    Hawthorn also reacted poorly when dragged from bed by Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn’s pole may have shifted.
  • The new scourge visited Concord. His aura indicated a series of dark blues, purples and browns, whilst muted by his kindred nature, these suggested a highly methodical and meticulous observer.
  • As a courtesy he identified that the glass clearer was skimming funds and that their wine supplier was supplying sub-quality goods. A quick investigation indicated that
  • The busboy had been working with one of the bar staff to mis-charge customers. The impact of this hadn’t been noted as the loss was within expected margins and the barman had been able to ring through changes as customer returns.
  • The wine supply, believed to originate from a holding company of the Ventrue Bartleby had in fact seen European wine substituted for American wines of a lower quality. It wasn’t instantly obvious, with only a wine aficionado picking up on it.
  • When Gwendolyn investigated this with Konrad he suggested that Bartleby was unlikely to be doing this ‘to rip-off’ the kindred, more as a test of how quickly they identified it. Konrad suggested he’d had a similar issue when first opening his bar.
    Gwendolyn was presented with an invitation, noticeably late, to the event to honour the passing of the Lady Arabella and Gaveston. She was also introduced to Julia Ward Howe – a Boston Brahmin snob who made reference to her caitiff heritage. On leaving Gwendolyn noticed someone had defaced the side of Konrad’s bar with spray paint reading ‘ vampire hq’.

Night of the event

  • For once Hardcastle was in a munificent mood. Malcolm confirmed before the event that he was going to defer to him, leave for Chicago and start again. The event was well attended, clearly Hardcastle had used prestige to lure toreador from other towns including Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia. This latter clique showed themselves to be relatively snobbish on breeding. An unfortunate lull in conversation had Howe make a specific point about lack of breeding and class just as the new scourge, Silas and Cartwright arrived.
  • A number of newer kindred to the city were introduced, including Dove a Malkavian associate of De Luca’s who seemed to be a woman of negotiable virtue, able to take on the emotional persona of whoever she talked to.
  • Hardcastle managed to smooth over the poor behaviour, and the party continued to move along – until Jogger turned up with some human bikers. They destroyed the main piece, an exquisite Ice Sculpture honouring the fallen and then a group of them made to move on Dove, triggering De Luca to forcefully eject them. Jogger seemed to consider taking issue with this and backed down when he sized up De Luca. Hardcastle looked surprised they had even turned up – but clearly Jogger had an invite.
  • The evening didn’t get much better from there, at least for Hardcastle and Howe.
    Howe decided to do her set piece, a surprise to Malcolm and Hardcastle who had expected it to be a piece of poetry the former had written. The piece was ‘interesting’ to say the least. It became clear that the clothing Dove and Howe were wearing were intended to stand for the clothing Gaveston & JvB were wearing on the night of their duel. They unveiled a pair of ‘lava lamps’ before proceeding to stage a mock duel which climaxed with them simulating feeding on each other. The response of everyone in the room was varying degrees of revulsion at what was in effect kindred porn. Flood eventually ended this – where Howe stomped out into the night annoyed at no-one understood her art.
  • Hardcastle decided to try and recover the position, with several people questioning the poor taste Gaveston had shown in embracing a quasi anarch. He moved to unveil another major piece, a work he’d had commissioned in honour of his sire. He seemed initially surprised to find the piece was not as he expected the artist to make. The artist, Steven Hughes, normally worked in wood, linking reclaimed wood with nature & spirituality, an apt design for Arabella’s reputed sanctity. The artwork unveiled was in fact a heavy industrial style piece, whilst Hardcastle extolled its symbolism and toreador made passing remarks, other kindred were more suspicious. De Luca in particular asked why a grist mill from a Distillery, referred to as ‘Deanston 12 yr old’ turned on its side was art? When he tapped it and remains of grist fell out, the non-toreador kindred tried hard to avoid smirking. Gwendolyn attempted to mount a defence that this might be ready-made art ala Duchamps or Claes Oldenburg. But it became clear that Hardcastle had totally mis-read the work…
  • He tried one last attempt to rescue the position, by unveiling a new piece he’d discovered from an up and coming artist, Jeanette Peterson. The piece was striking – in a Futurism / Vorticist style. The piece appeared to show a striking still life of a dinner party, with Hardcastle and the other poseur Toreador noting the symbolism of the spades under the apparent table. Merisi and Doyle and both looked at it askance, before realising it was actually a copy of a Malevich work –as demonstrated by the small black square that was meant to be on the bottom left, not top right of the painting. At this point Hardcastle lost it, entering a frenzy, unfortunately a flabby harpy wasn’t really going to start much chance against a Roman street fighter, and Merisi sidestepped and impaled Hardcastle headfirst on his grist mill. Merisi closed proceeding – with the Prince instructing De Luca and the Sheriff to unfix Hardcastle in due course.

The question on everyone’s lips was who was responsible with the suspicion falling squarely on Concord.

The following night

Imaad Al Qasim donned the cloak of shadows to hide from sight.

The group proceeded to investigate the two artists. Steven’s gallery was slightly disorganised with an open studio at the back of the gallery. Each piece had been considered, time spent on it and clearly had a personal and spiritual connection to the work. It became clear when he discussed the piece at the Hardcastle event that he lacked the same connection. Gwendolyn and Eleanor were convinved that the artist had been dominated to produce the work. A check of the visitors book suggested that both Arabella and Hardcastle had visited the diary under an alias in the past two years. It also showed that a company named Firkin Logistics had moved the piece into & out of Hughes gallery.

Gwendolyn acquired some pieces from the artist, and the group noted that Doyle & Kingston had also tracked down the artist. They entered the studio using the alias of Ernest and Martha Hopper, a newly married couple, to the coteries amusement. It wasn’t clear how seriously they were trying to investigate the events. His style of work looks like the Bath Abbey Diptychs=_ and similar ones here=_

The second artist was radically different. Her agent met with the group, and had clearly had a falling out with Jeanette. The reason for this became clear, the artwork was largely soulless, prepared with the retail value in mind. Unlike the first artist, the location and studio was professional and clear. Whilst intelligent work, the pieces were more clinical than heartfelt.

The artist had created an image to go with the media and ran the risk of ruining the gig with the piece at the gallery. Michael Quincy-Adams arrived, apparantly for a pre-arranged viewing, he was considering acquiring some works across his portfolio of companies. He discussed matters cordially with the group, considering who had a goal to strike against the Toreador and Konrad in one movement. Gwendolyn asked who might have let an old grudge slip, and he looked thoughtful, concluding that Hardcastle had been of benefit to a number of other Kindred and only seemed to have issues with Langrishe. He did however confirm that the artist had been dominated and that the painting wasn’t her idea. As an aside it seemed Michael did have some culture, recognising that the artwork was commercial.

The group still had not worked out who was behind this. Suspicions ranged from the Sabbat, Johannes, the Prince and then the Tremere. The group then moved off to Skulamus to meet with De Luca and Dove.

On entering the establishment they notied Natasha Devereaux with a pale aura behind the cooking area. Her aura looked similar to De Luca’s. The discussion with De Luca and Dove did not yield much.

De Luca and the Prince’s Childe discarded the consideration that the Sabbat were behind this, it lacked the subtlety of their normal intervention. De Luca was also suspicius of the fact that the Sabbat sent in relatively weak packs to probe defences and to date had not taken serious actions. When asked why the Prince was doing nothing, De Luca indicated he had continued to maintain the borders, with Messier indicating the Prince had once again fallen into a lassitude. During this De Luca had left an origami crown on the table.

Dove was calm, slightly curious and neutral when meeting with the group. She confirmed that she had no interest in the ‘art’ and was simply interested in the pay-off. Howe had apparantly come up with the idea herself. Dove was relatively dismissive of Howe – and how easily she coud be flattered.

Following this the group dropped into Silas bar, hoping to gain information from the Nosferatu. Unfortunately it was the closing games of the 2001 Baseball pre-season, and Silas was far more interested in the outcome of the pre-season match and whether or not the new signing was of value.

Alison Cartwright was discussing a chess position with Ralph Tranter mentioning she had been playing a game over the last year with Nikola. The position is the 30th move in this game.

Tranter confirmed that he had been expecting the group, although was surprised not to see the dog. Otherwise the details of a message he had received three years before were exact. Imaad surmised he was a soldier, and probably not from one of the nice regiments, which he confirmed saying he had been a commando in WW2. He was open as to his background, saying he remembered nothing after talking to a blonde american on the station platform at Tyndrum shortly before he was demobbed. He handed over the two cards he had, one showing the fool tarot card and another with the world’s fair, and Nicole written in sharpy pen with a time an hours hence.

The group moved quickly to the ruins of a world’s fair. Moving quickly and steathily through the overgrown site, they realised that others had come through – most likely in two groups. They also noted sigils, most likely sabbat pack markings through the area.

the world’s least useful tschmisce Someone pretending to be Nicoletried to lure the group in. The disguise had been done hurredly, and fooled no one. Eleanor raised tendrils from multiple patch of shadow, which prompted her childe and his associates to break cover.

The battle was fierce marked by botches all over the shop with Imaad being able to strike a clan mate quickly in the first few blows, before entering into mortal combat with a Gangrel. On the other side of the central ampitheater, the rest were able to despatch the two other kindred.

Lucas fled the scene when he realised all was lost, trying to cover his tracks with flame. It seemed the pack had expected some other assistance in the area. De Luca, accompanyed by the Declan Tyrone confirmed that the area looked to have been used by the Sabbat for creation rites, and that most likely the markings had been there to indicate where sabbat had been buried. However whatever bodies had once been there, only empty graves remained. It appeared that a trap, most likely left for Johannes, had been sprung by someone else.

The group continued to investigate – minus Malcolm who seemed to be more focussed on rebuilding his theatre and putting on a new interpretation of Macbeth. He confirmed he had nothing to do with this, but didn’t particularily care if everyone else thought he had taken vengence on the Hardcastle. As the Prince had kept Hardcastle away from court, Malcolm was taking advantage to raise the attention in his works now that the critics were not being influenced. He therefore saw no benefit in actually uncovering who was behind it.

When the group returned to the artist studio it became clear that someone had expertly covered the tracks. All reference to the previous companies had been removed and the local cameras appeared to have been examined suggesting that someone had even considered that aspect.

With this Eleanor suggested that this pointed to the Ventrue. Pictou related to the ultimate destination of the Hector, the ship that had dropped Bartleby in Boston. She mentioned a rumour that Hardcastle had cost Bartleby money over an artwork some years ago giving him motive.

Whilst initially dismissive, Gwendolyn was brought round to the idea. She remembered a rumour that shortly after his embrace Konrad had been almost destroyed financially by Tobias and Bartleby, with Konrad taking his revenge almost half a century later.

The chain of companies suggested that the person planning this had not only created the initial attack, leaving an initial trail that would implicate Concord on first glance, no helped by the fact they would have been appearing to cover their tracks after the event. Anyone who was suspicious of this story, or in fact Concord themselves, would then find a second trail that linked to the Ventrue and Konrad.

Gwendolyn was persuaded by the others to at least explore this option with Konrad, but was waylaid on the way there twice.

The first time she came across the very much alive Gaveston who’d been hiding out with Johannes in the Italian embassy. The fact that a papal nucio had been in residence also meant any supernatural check would detect that they were taking sanctuary near vatican soil. With quick domination, Gwendolyn was sent on her way.

At which point she was waylaid for the second time by Michael. Whilst being charming and matter of fact, he ‘politely asked’ that the search was called off. He saw no benefit in continuing to air their dirty linen in public and asked her to let sleeping dogs lie, in fact he would subtly ensure that Concord were considered to be responsible for the action. As an incentive, he mentioned he would ensure counterweight was added against the plans for the mosque, that suitable incentives would be provided to stop further investigation into Eleanor’s role at the University and that he would seek to intervene on Gwendolyn’s behalf with his sire. The subtlety that he’d identified mutliple waysto strike at Concord, but hadn’t used them, wasn’t lost on Gwendolyn. She perusaded the others to accept the deal.



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