Philadelphia By Night
Grant approaches Deep Throat about an ambitious project. He wants to host an Elysium with Deep Throat and Tyler, with the premise being a sort of symposium on Brood and Sabbat.
He wants this to be a strictly Dove-run event. “The goals are two-fold: 1) inform the city of the Sabbat and Brood- the differences, the practices, the tactics, …this sort of thing… so they can better prepare and defense against their influence and attacks 2) and this is just as important to me: to underscore the work that the Doves and the Carthians have been doing, as well as a handful of other allies (William Blake, Sophe, etc.) and to subtly underscore the selfishness and impotence of other kindred like Ambroise, Welles, Koin, Bergstrom. This would not be a direct social attack. We would simply be demonstrating who’s gone out of their way to help us in times of need, how important this work has been, and what’s being done now (and by whom). We’ll let everyone draw their own conclusions about what that means about those other kindred (they don’t know squat) (they are in cahoots with the enemies) (They are petty and selfish and so also untrustworthy) (they are ineffectual)”
Grant is very clear that the second goal is in reality the main one, but that he does not want this to degenerate into name-calling or boasting. I should make it clear though, “I don’t want the Carthians swept under the rug on this. They’ve been on the frontlines, along with the Doves, since the very beginning, and they’ve taken the heaviest losses for it with none of the credit so far (unlike the Doves, who did get some acknowledgment).”
“I want to conduct this in January’s Elysium. Luchesi has agreed as long as I get a couple co-sponsors of more notable and neutral worth than myself. Tyler has agreed. He wants you to be the other person. If you agree, I’ll help the three of us sit down and coordinate this. Tyler has a couple ideas for the symposium to have maximum effect in both goals.”
Deep Throat consider, moving his glass around to swirl the drink Grant provided, a rather poor substitute to what he was used to be provided at business meetings. “Grant, I would be glad to participate in the forum. I could introduce the two of you and discuss some of the intelligence information I have gathered on the Brood and Sabbat, though I should probably discuss with Blake first about what should be included and what must remain classified. Perhaps I might even mention Goulet’s “visit” to my haven, since his statements there did offers clues as to his plans.”
“Is your goal at all to spur the uncooperative parties into action? Because as far as the unhelpful Invictus are concerned, they will only do so if they feel it is in their best personal interest. I wonder how Ambroise would react if he knew that Goulet was plotting to become Prince.”
“Oh, and one thing I wanted to add — I do not want this forum to turn into a Carthians = good, Invictus = bad message. Some of the Carthians you mention as having been helpful against the Brood have brought their gang warfare into Invictus territory repeatedly and blatantly (Victor Flores is probably the worst offender). I cannot support offering them unmitigated praise without some sort of qualifier. If more help is expected, it has to be a two-way street.”
Grant looks at DT for two or three seconds. Several thoughts and emotions cross his face fleetingly. His eyes turn to flint, then soften to reflection. The corners of his mouth tense subtly; then he leans forward slowly. His voice is measured and even when he speaks, betraying neither anger nor excitement, but perhaps DT detects a little warmth. “Deep Throat, do you really mean to say that the Invictus will not support the efforts against the Brood and Sabbat without more acquiescence or submission from the Carthians? Then the Black Doves should say we’re very sorry to Ambroise and crown him king. We’ve overstepped many boundaries as well. Carthian efforts against the Sabbat had better get unmitigated praise. We’ve lost half our number, and half of those were fighting to defend the city. For those who have survived- their individual problems with these arbitrary barons have nothing to do with their efforts. Similarly, the lack of action, and in fact, the countermeasures of Ambroise, Koin, Welles, and Bergstrom have everything to do with the Sabbat situation. If there’s a two-way street here, the Invictus have some paving to do. I am now pretty sure Ambroise won Hank Masons over, then used the Sabbat invasion to weaken the Carthians by putting Lindra down. And you made it clear a year ago that Ambroise can’t so much as wipe his ass without Welles or Tokoff or Koin- or did you forget they were the Inner Circle?”
“Victor is an ass, and we rarely agree on anything, but that has nothing to do with his work for Tyler against the Brood. If you’re looking to lay blame about territories crossed at the Carthian doorstep- look to me. I’m the worst offender in the Collective.” He gives DT another measured look and waits for your reaction. DT frowns but says nothing for the moment.
Grant leans back, "I hope the Invictus have not blinded you to the reality. I have always valued your objective vision – even if you associated with a covenant that is mostly comprised of the power-hungry, the greedy, the petty, and purely inhuman. I’m not saying this to offend you. I have seen you as one of the few exceptions to this rule, counting Gerald and William Blake among other exceptions- and probably a few others I don’t know so well. "
“But all of this is beside the point. Something for you to think about. This symposium doesn’t need to bluntly state Invictus = bad, Carthian = good. Actions speak louder than words. Let’s be clear though, we are not there to discuss the actions of dead and living Carthians, and then cravenly say that they have also done bad things like break territories. Nor are we there to say that these other Invictus have somehow been trying to do their part- unless it’s said incredibly sarcastically. If there are Invictus fighting the good fight, let’s hear about it. I know of William Blake and you.”
Grant looks at DT for another moment and adds, “I know that must put you in an uncomfortable position. Betray those who hold the keys to power, subtly but they’ll recognize the betrayal, or refuse a friend. Refuse truth. But you might also think about this: Who are the Invictus really? Are they the inhuman monarchs the Carthians make them out to be, or that I say they are? If so, what are you doing with them? What do you think they are going to do with those you consider your friends – not just the Carthians in general, but Rowana, me, and even some in the Ordo Dracul with too much of an independent brain. Or maybe, just maybe the covenant has been hijacked by imposters who use it for their own ends? And if that’s the case, could you be a part of what remakes it into something worth keeping? Gerald tried, and he only half succeeded. But he half succeeded. He needs us to finish it- and I’m only Carthian, as we know.”
“Don’t be a fool, Grant. This is politics and no one gives up something for nothing. And I can tell you from my conversations with Philadelphia Invictus that territorial incursion is likely to be high on their list of complaints. They will say, “How can we be expected to contribute to this effort against the Brood/Sabbat when we must constantly deal with gang warfare brought onto our territory?” And this gives them cover because Carthian violence has gotten progressively worse and worse since Gerald’s death.”
DT continues: “I know many Invictus members have not done enough and am willing to ask the members of the First Estate to do more during this forum. The members of my covenant are perceptive and will see the slight that is occurring here, so it is better to directly ask for their help. Coming from me they might at least pay attention. But I will also say, without naming names, that territorial gang warfare weakens our ability to combat our external enemies because it does. If these activities had occurred during Prince Gerald’s reign, the perpetrators would have received at least some form of punishment for their activities.”
“If the gang warfare was stopped, the Invictus have no excuse for their inaction. But that is very unlikely to happen even if you wanted it to stop which, let’s face it, you don’t. And spare me any sanctimonious denials turns on aura perception, remember who you are talking to. Even if an agreement was reached, your covenant is notoriously poor at keeping to agreements.”
“And since you asked, The First Estate is a political organization. It is not a brotherhood where everyone swears a blood oath to one another. Just because we agree on certain political principles does not mean that we are friends. Of course, the Carthians are also a political organization and have their share of ‘the power-hungry, the greedy, the petty, and purely inhuman.’ What distinguishes them is that they are also usually weak, unsuccessful and disorganized.”
Grant listens, with the same occasional flashes of anger that stir in the eyes then settle back in them as soon as they come. His face is a mirror- smooth, still. DT checks with aura perception and finds that Grants speaks the truth, and there is not even a hint of deception in the colors. There is however the dark pulse that swells in his aura, reminding him disconcertingly of Grant’s Sabbat blood or his cursed nature.
“Deep Throat, it’s only going to get worse but don’t think for a damned moment I want it that way. When I settled into Chinatown I found a dozen cultures and its people huddled – scared to live and to share their culture. Koin’s Tong had murdered their loved ones, sent them back in boxes, extorted their money, took their daughters into child slavery- the list goes on. You might not care, but I damned well do.” He says this clearly, without the characteristic firey voice of a movement’s leader. “When she left I took the streets back from her. Some of the storekeeps thought they were paying just another Tong family, or maybe even the same family with just another head. They know that monsters lurk in the shadows, commanding the Tong. Where they come from, this is normal. What they didn’t expect, however, was that this Tong wasn’t here to traffic drugs or guns. It was here to take the community back, and it was made of its own. …I’ve been hard at work this past year Deep Throat. Now Koin wants Chinatown back. She’s sat herself into the docks district and she extends her reach from there. The more I learn about her, the more I learn she’s no friend to me or to any of the Doves.”
He pauses and swallows, as if to digest a thought. It surprises DT – appears to be a conscious decision, but until now he never noticed just how mortal-seeming Grant is. It’s no wonder he gets along so well with mortals. “There are no territory boundaries Deep Throat. There is no Prince. There is no justice. There is only hunger. And Koin will not stop until she’s put Chinatown under her thumb again. I’m not letting that happen.”
Grant looks at DT and squints, perhaps in pain, perhaps in sadness, perhaps in effort to think clearly since he is Gangrel. “I worry that lately you are becoming colder…more Invictus. Have they convinced you that the Deep Throat of last year was too weak? Have they bought you with promises or money? Or are you really that foolish to think that this gang warfare is weakening me. It’s the very thing keeping me alive. If Koin had her way, her new lieutenant would drag me out and leave me in the sun so she could swallow her chunk of Philadelphia. And if you think otherwise you are a total fool. Remember who it was we were dealing with last year. You talk to me about territorial warfare” his anger flares up for a second, then he bites it down mid-sentence, with hardly a pause, “and yet you don’t say a single thing about Ambroise’s attacks on Victor’s gangs, about Koin and her attacks, about Sophe and how she’s done away with her Elysium out of fear, about Ambroise’s use of Hank, and how he’s likely the one who used the Sabbat to attack Lindra.” You sense just the slightest bit of doubt in that last part. “You don’t say a word about Cecil’s gang who perished fighting Brood for the city – all except Pink. You don’t say a word about Schmee’s collaboration with Tyler, and the wolf pack who lost three of their five and turned to the Carthians to take them in. And most notably, you didn’t deign to answer me when I asked do you know something I don’t Deep Throat? Do you know Invictus other than William Blake working against the Brood? No. No you don’t, do you. But you have the nerve to speak like Ambroise or Marcus Revelle, and say that my covenant is bad at keeping its end of the bargain. No, history has shown, we’re quite good at keeping our end of the bargain. It’s the Invictus that don’t keep their end, and they profit by that.”
“What distinguishes the Invictus from the Carthians is not strength or organization. If that were the case, all Carthians would be lowlevel Invictus, learning from the elders and benefiting from the organization. You’ve never been that simple-minded, so you can’t possibly believe that. You’re speaking as an Invictus again. Do the Carthians have sons-of-bitches too. Yes, of course. Few of those are left though. They’ve been culled by betrayals and their own stupidity. We have a handful left, and what’s left is the trustworthy core. I still have my disagreements with it, and probably some will die in the next year- but look at it clearly. You can’t tell me Edee is just like Ambroise. You can’t tell me Sophe is just like Welles. You can’t tell me Lindra is Koin. You can’t tell me Pink is Revelle. You can’t tell me Schmee is Beloved. You can’t even tell me the wolf pack is Bergstrom – if we’re comparing Crone associates to Crone associates. I’ve just named almost every remaining Carthian. And every Invictus I named is an enemy – not just to the Carthians- to you Deep Throat. To you. To all the Doves. They proved that last year. Do you really think they’re going to turn a new leaf? No, you can’t possibly believe that. One or two might eventually change their tune in a completely different city, but for that to happen some of their Invictus are either going to have to die or get real. If you’re holding out for a golden seat amongst those monsters, it’s a good thing you’re already dead- you’d be holding your breath for a very long time. They’ll do you like they did Lisa Brodow and Sarah Haversham. Your indentured servitude will never pay off Deep Throat. That’s the great farce they want us all to believe in. Call it freedom, power, safety, friendship, security, whatever…you won’t get what you’re hoping for by waiting for this world to change. I’m hoping you can help me change it.”
And again Grant looks at DT with that same squint from before. “I’m not asking anyone to do anything. Those bastards have their days numbered. They don’t see it yet, but we started something…Gerald started something. We got kindred from across covenant lines to work together and question the hardline Invictus vision. Even monsters can see what it means to have some human contact, and even monsters miss it. The rest of the city will recognize who those bastards are. And if they don’t do anything about it – or if they ’don’t want to give up something for nothing’ and they’re too stupid to realize that their world is crashing around them, let them fall. If you detect a certain willingness to see violence, it’s that Deep Throat. Don’t make the mistake that too many Invictus make and assume that just because someone is tired of being brutalized, enslaved, and cordoned that they are bloodthirsty animals. The Invictus who choose to play their usual game can sit back as their world crumbles.”
“If you think I think of these kindred too monochromatically let’s put it to the test. There’s a month between now and the January Elysium. I’m not pushing it back. Go ask them to do some work against the Sabbat or the Brood. If you get rejected, as I think you know you will be, you will know I’m right. If they give you bullshit about gang warfare and Carthian indiscretion, you now know enough to set them straight, and not eat the shit they give you. If I’m wrong, all the better. We can even include their most recent work against the Sabbat or Brood in celebration. Tyler actually argued the same thing. He’s under the insane idea that Koin is going to divert her resources to attacking a Sabbat ship. We’ll tell her about the Navigators on the Deleware River three days before the Elysium. That’s plenty of time to act. I doubt she will though.”
“Can I count on you to introduce this Symposium or should I get someone else?”
“Yes, Grant I am in. I said I would be. Make no mistake, Ambroise and Izuki Koin are my enemies and I want them destroyed. I have not forgotten their attempts to kill all of us or Ambroise’s slander of me at Elysium. Olivetti was the one with a soft spot for Koin.”
“The gang warfare I was criticizing was Victor Flores’s. I support your cause in Chinatown. But I have been watching him for some time and ‘wanton destruction’ looks more like what he is after. The violent illegal drug and weapons rackets he is involved are a scourge on the community. Innocents got caught in the crossfire. How is this better than Koin’s extortion ring? Then there are all those legitimate businesses his “crew” has hit. And don’t even get me started about his blatant Masquerade violations. Is this the “trustworthy core” you speak of? It’s hard to blow off Invictus concerns about gang warfare given what he has been doing. You are straining your friendship with me by including him.”
“There is one other thing. I hesitated at first to say it because it makes me look “petty.” I haven’t been able to identify all the mortal gangbangers under his control, but I do know of some. They’ve been a headache for my police officers and I’ve lost two of them to his forces. So this doesn’t exactly endear me to him, besides the fact he represents a facet of your covenant I really dislike."
“I’ll ignore all of the bullshit you said since I think you misunderstood my original statement.”
“I hear you Deep Throat. And just between you and me, I’ve taken him to task on that. He’s going to get himself killed sooner or later, and he’s weakening the covenant in the process. He didn’t like when I pointed that out to him in the last Carthian Dialogue. Ask Sand or Rowana if you don’t believe me. Pink didn’t like it either, and probably Schmee, though he had the grace to keep his mouth shut. I didn’t know about the police officers, but he’s a fool to stretch himself so thin, so brazenly and kick the Marble House hornet’s nest. I trust you’ll keep that to yourself though, even from Blake. If it gets out that I’m telling the Carthians to exercise more caution around territory boundaries, people on all sides are going to start thinking I’m weak. It’s already happened to Sophe.”
“Let me make this easier. I’m Carthian because they’ve got a higher percentage of people I can trust and because they exist like I prefer to. They remember debts. They don’t scrape for every boon they can. They help each other out. They think for themselves- even if that’s stupid sometimes. They generally aren’t there to enslave one another- though like everyone, they like power. I’m not Carthian because I have a blanket approval of all of them…and again…just between you and me, I’m not above letting one or two of them rot in the hell they make for themselves. It’s good to see that you think of the Invictus that way. I hold no allegiance, and if I did, it would be to my friends.”
“Thank you, Grant, I appreciate that. In retrospect, I think the original introduction I suggested is the best plan: a straightfoward overview and analysis of some of the pieces of intelligence we have collected on the Brood and Sabbat. You can take it from there.”