Olivia sat back in the couch in Dante’s office, the green leather more comfortable than it had any right to be. Closing her eyes, she fought back the whispering panic that had become so familiar in the months since her Embrace.
Don’t look into his eyes, he’ll mesmerise you, he’ll bend you to his will.
She caught a flash of him standing over her, his careful mask broken, his fangs bared.
“Hush,” Dante, still at his desk, tamped tobacco into his pipe, and Olivia felt a wave of numbness descend, her body limp on the couch. From her depths, a small voice observed calmly, unflattened.
Look how easily the elder takes you, holding your psyche in the palm of his hand. He could crush you on a whim. You were a fool to come here.
She hugged herself, breathing slowly, and Dante smirked at her affectation. “You’re coping,” he remarked. “Better than some. Tell me about your vision.”
He lit his pipe, puffing on it as Olivia spoke, smoke pungent and dreamy.
It had been two days since Harvey’s death and they were no closer to finding the killer. Their captive sniper could only gibber, mind scarred by the trauma that Shen had wrought upon his flesh. A search of Harvey’s house had yielded no clues, either; no signs of forced entry, no unusual phonecalls. Perhaps more worryingly, the Curse no longer resided in Harvey’s body, and the Tremere had concluded that the killer would be the new bearer.
Finally, Dante nodded, putting down his pipe. “Well, that’s certainly an interesting vision,” he said. “They tend to recur if they’re important, tell me if you have another.”
Olivia considered this. “But what does it mean?”
Dante shrugged cheerfully. “No idea.” Deftly, he tapped out his pipe into a jar on his desk. “Come on now, there’s Elysium tonight. With a real live Justicar, no less.”
“A Justicar?” Olivia trailed behind Dante as he plucked his jacket from its peg on the back of the door and strode purposefully from the room and into the clubhouse.
“That’s right,” said Dante, cracking his knuckles. “Everyone gather round, I want to lay down some rules.”
The malks rushed to assemble, some popping up from behind furniture and climbing out of cupboards, some putting down books or playing cards. He seemed to survey them with a critical eye, and, as Olivia watched, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and stooped to wipe a stain from the mouth of one of the smaller kindred, who giggled as he did it. As one, the malks looked up at him with rapt attention.
“We are expecting a Justicar at Elysium tonight,” said Dante. “And so I expect everyone to be on their very best behaviour.” He waved a finger in the air. “That means no fires- absolutely no fires. No firecrackers, either, no superglue, no paper animals, no unwanted hugs, no tea parties, no running with pencils, no shouting, no climbing out of windows-” he gave Olivia a pointed look, and she felt her cheeks flush. “-no fidgeting, no standing directly behind the Nos and following them around then denying that you’re doing it-” there were groans and cries of “spoilsport” from the malks, and Dante sighed.
One of the others, a short and plump malkavian with tangled hair, spoke up. “So what do we get?”
Dante raised an eyebrow. “What do you get?”
“Yeah.” The short malk folded her arms across her chest. There were murmurs of assent from the other kindred, and the word puppy was mentioned and repeated.
Dante loomed over the group for a moment, then appeared to relent, putting both hands up. “Okay, okay. A puppy. A cute puppy. Some kind of spaniel? Fine. Good. If you are all perfectly behaved tonight, then I will get you a puppy.”
The malkavians for the most part were happy enough with this arrangement, and began to wander off in twos and threes. Their auras seemed to glow with trust and adoration for the primogen, and Olivia felt a pang of sorrow in not sharing their feeling. Hands in her pockets, she headed off to feed for the night.