Theatre d'Obscurite: Theater - Cermak Road: Crimson District
The theater itself is large and breathtaking, capable of comfortably seating just under one thousand visitors. The floor is of ebony wood, neatly polished and complementing the dark crimson of the velvet upholstery on the three hundred seats on the orchestra level. From the floor, the walls are impossible to see due to the heavy drapes of crimson velvet that hang from the balconies until seating begins for a show, hiding those additional seats from view. The mezzanines themselves have rails made of gilded wood that match the gilded columns that support them. When the curtains are raised, more of the crimson chairs form neat rows on each level from the front of the balcony to the mahogany-paneled walls at the rear. Brass sconces provide light to the balconies, resembling gas lanterns, though electricity is what powers them now.
Near to the stage on the second and third stories of the theater, three boxes rest on either side of the stage, reaching a grand total of twelve boxes to be purchased for special seating. The pit directly in front of the stage holds comfortable, but moveable chairs, music stands, and various instruments too unwieldy to be taken out at the end of each performance. The stage itself, when the crimson drapery is pulled back from it, is large with the wooden floor painted a non-reflective ebony. The backdrop changes depending on the show and the scene, rarely static for long.
Overhead, gilded arches define the circular ceiling with each panel between those golden spokes hand-painted to show a different ring of Hell. At the center of the ceiling where the spokes come together, an enormous crystal chandelier is depended from thick steel chains plated by brass.
The atmosphere in the Theatre d'Obscurite tonight is… interesting. The place is quiet, closed for a private meeting and only open to a certain clientele; it seems to be between shows, with the boards outside advertising something that ended last week and something else that starts in two weeks' time. A doorman - human, most likely - opens the door for Euric and escort, with a politely murmured, "Sir." The man gestures towards the auditorium door. "You are expected."
Inside, things are quiet. The stage curtains are open, revealing a haphazard of scenery - a few wallpapered flats leaning despondently against each other, waiting to be removed - and a few people conversing quietly.
As is fashionable - although perhaps not altogether necessary - in a month such as November in Chicago, Euric arrives wearing a long, thick coat and a pair of supple blac leather gloves, along with a black-with-grey-trim fedora over his normal suit. When he comes inside the theater, he is followed by Emily just behind and to the right. Once inside, Euric moves down the center aisle, hard-soled shoes clicking distinctively on the floor. When he reaches the stage, he very simply lifts from the ground without anything so vulgar as leaping, and as he alights on the stage, the light level in the room drops ominously, dimming and flickering as if the electricity were on the fritz - or as if shadowy shapes moved erratically over the bulbs that provide illumination. "Vampire Grayson," he calls out, "I assume you are here somewhere, as you purported to wish to speak with me."
Grayson steps out of the group as Euric makes his entrance; the others move back to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, leaving the white-haired vampire standing alone at their fore. "Euric of Gaul," he replies calmly. "Good evening, and thank you for accepting my invitation." He doesn't seem worried by the changing of light and shadow - not worried at all; his power remains behind its usual light veil, but tonight there are odd flickers and sparks within it.
There's nothing particularly notable about Emily's presence except maybe the gun holstered to her torso that seems to go right along with the femininely tailored suit that she wears. A uniform. Her hair is pulled back into a tight plait and her attention only wanders away from Euric enough to familiarize herself with the Theatre. She moves to vault after him onto the stage in one easy motion and resumes her position near him.
"Your invitation sounded quite a lot like a challenge, Vampire Grayson. You challenge my right to do as I will in this city, as if you have authority, and signed your reply to my simple, cordial note with a title that no longer exists. A title granted by a master who abandoned his post and his city, who abandoned his Kiss. You claim I do not have the right to grant protection to those who wish it, and claim that you are the one with that right. But I do not see before me a Master of the City, nor do I see a Kiss. I see vampires without a Master. I see self-righteous anarchists who claim false authority backed by a Master whose power is worth something less than a Zimbabwe dollar bill. By what right, Vampire Grayson, do you challenge my claim of protection? By what right do you challenge my right to accept an oath of fealty from any who wish to give it?" As Emily joins him on the stage, he shakes his head, slowly. "I know by what right I -grant- my protection to those who wish it. By right of power and of age. By my Call I claim the pack. By my status as Master I grant my protection to Vampire Lissa and her business endeavor. With what do you contest?"
"It sounded like a challenge because I am indeed challenging you, Euric of Gaul," Grayson replies calmly. "There is no Master of this City. One will be made here, tonight. I am the only officer of the former Kiss remaining, and it is my duty to those under my protection to either prove myself your better and accept your Oath - or proclaim you Master of the City and offer mine with good grace." He doesn't look towards Emily, but there's little doubt he's aware of her presence. "Either way, there cannot be two Kisses in a single city. That would mean war, and I'll not have it."
Saying nothing and making no motion to gain any sort of attention from any of the people in the room, Emily maintains her position near Euric. She watches Grayson but not exclusively, keeping a certain awareness for those behind him as the two vampires speak.
"Vampire Grayson," Euric says, his lips curling into a small, amused smile. "What you are saying is that you are claiming the mantle of Master of the City, and challenging me to drive me out of your city. You are hiding your power - but I think, nevertheless, that there is no question between us who is stronger. I've had enough suicide for my short stay in Chicago, I do not wish to watch you die for some pitiful display. I will not take up the mantle of Master even if I defeat you. In the last fifteen years, Chicago has seen more Masters than winters. The title is -meaningless- for this Kiss. The only war that exists is of your making. Let me give you -my- theory." Euric floats forward, drifting across the stage, shadows gathering about him dramatically as he moves to alight so softly on its edge that one doubts he's allowing gravity to truly take hold of him. He crouches on its edge, bending down to rest his elbows on his knees as he looks at Grayson standing among the others. "With Mr. Poe, you sought chaos and conflict.
Not because his insults forced you to defend your power or your rank…but because you -enjoyed- it. You wished he would give you an excuse to hurt him. To hunt him. To make him suffer. You are cruel, Mr. Grayson, and you enjoy the chaos and the pain. I make no judgements. I do not care, one way or the other, about your moral leanings. But I do not believe for one second that you care one whit whether or not I take a vampire under my wing. I don't believe you want to be Master of the City. Indeed, I think you are trying to force -me- to claim the title. You are bored. You want the conflict. And you will force it." He glances back, over his shoulder, at Emily. And then forward again, at Grayson, watching, waiting.
Grayson's fangs bare in a grin, one with overtones of predatory amusement. "I don't think you quite understand the situation, Euric of Gaul," he says. "I didn't offer to commit suicide. I'm not interested in that. What I'm interested in is… something rather different. But there are some things you're right about, and I'll not deny my love of the hunt, of the chase, of the agony and of the kill. But Poe's attitude was - is - a symptom of a greater problem, and I rarely do things for just one reason." And then another smile. "I am bored. I do want the conflict. But I'd rather see my city and my people in the hands of a man who believes in the responsibility that power brings, than in the hands of a fool who doesn't understand respect." And then his gaze goes beyond Euric to Emily, and he offers her a polite, formal inclination of his head. "My lady."
The energy of her beast crackles, albeit muted in her attempt to keep it as quiet as possible. She may be comfortable enough with the vampire that calls her but that doesn't mean hanging around others is all that fun. Emily stays relaxed, though, ready to react if necessary. She avoids looking into Grayson's eyes but returns his niceties with a slight acknowledging inclination of her own head.
"My Housecarl," Euric says, quietly, "Emily, of the Lukoi. Emily, this is Mr. Grayson." A pause, after that introduction, and a slow intake and exhalation of unnecessary breath punctuates the moment of thought that comes in that pause. "I agree, Mr. Grayson, that Mr. Poe's attitude is a symptom of the sickness that runs through the heart of your Chicago. Mr. Poe, however, is now my - and my Ulfric's - problem. If he steps out of line again, you will let me know, and he will be punished. Just as it is with Vampire Lissa. And any other who see fit to give me their Oath in return for protection. Protection that will have meaning, because it will be a personal pact, based on respect and responsibility. I will not have that relationship sullied by the mockery that the title of Master of the City has become. If you wish protection, offer me something worthy of it in exchange, and I will grant it. I will offer the same to any here." He looks out, momentarily meeting the eyes of all those near Grayson who are willing, one by one. "I am not Master of the City. I am not leading a Kiss. None who come under my protection will receive it as a basic right of existence. Everyone who wants it will seek it, and will earn it with something worthwhile given in return. In this way, that protection will be valued, respected. I will not suffer challenges from those with no right, responsibility, authority, or ability to question my actions. Explain what you wish to occur this evening, Vampire Grayson. Or I and my Housecarl will be on our way."
"Mr. Poe is indeed your problem, and the Ulfric's," Grayson agrees, with a faint smile for Euric and another nod for Emily. "Much joy may you have of him." And then he nods to Euric, the veil over his power falling away to reveal its full measure - and the flickers and sparks, random and frequent. "Very well, since you'd have me lay out my purpose here, I'll oblige you with at least some of them. I want to know that you can protect those who offer you their Oaths. I had hoped to take your measure, and let you prove to others that you're not all mouth and no trousers, Euric of Gaul. We've had a lot of Masters of this City - but we've had a few who wanted to be and failed, and I'd rather not offer my service to a vampire who can't hold up his end of the bargain. I'm getting dangerous, Euric of Gaul. Full moon is coming, my Masters are gone, and I'm left alone to try and cope with what I am."
"If you want into my trousers, Vampire Grayson, I assure you that this is not the way. And you are not my type." Euric unbuttons his coat, slowly, then shrugs out of it before turning, and moving to hand the huge, heavy garment to Emily, leaning in to press a kiss against her cheek. "What difference does the full moon make to you, Vampire Grayson? You are not a lycanthrope. We are -always- dangerous. If you suffer from a more mundane lunacy, and wish assistance in ruling it, then it is your responsibility to -earn- it, not my responsibility to prove my strength to you." He reaches one black-gloves hand into a pocket, and draws out a pearl-handled folding pocket knife. He flicks it open with a movement of his wrist, locking the blade into place with his thumb. It gleams more prettily than steel, suggesting it is silver. Not a knife for odd jobs or whittling.
A quick glance is spared Euric when he mentions the Lukoi but it doesn't linger, gaze moving back to the other vampire as the veil over his power falls away. In the moments following, her own energy bristles uncomfortably and the werewolf shifts her weight between her feet before settling again, watching Grayson that much more closely. At least until Euric hands her his coat and that brief kiss settles her energy back toward normalcy.
Grayson grins at Euric's suggestion, again revealing his fangs. "If I wanted into your trousers, Euric of Gaul, I'd have gone a rather different way about it," he points out. The loss of the coat is watched calmly, and the advent of the knife is given little consideration. With a shrug, Grayson lets his own coat fall to the stage, taking a step forward rather than standing in the new puddle of black leather. "Please don't make me angry, Euric of Gaul. Cliche'd as it may be, you may not like me when I'm angry."
"I'm still waiting, Grayson, for you to say what you must. Either you will take up the mantle of Master of the City and drive me from your city, or you will give way and admit you have no power to question whatever I choose to do." Euric holds the knife in a loose, casual grip. A close observer will note that his feet hover, a centimeter or perhaps two off of the stage. Tiny, writhing maggots of shadow crawl from the shadows of the props and scenery, from Emily's and Grayson's shadows, coalescing and enlarging Euric's own. His power throbs, low and cold and pulsing, the masking that hides his power and his age falling away. He reaches out with his left hand, running it along Emily's arm until he finds her hand, then gives it a squeeze. "You're not to kill Vampire Grayson, Emily, unless I expressly ask you to."
There's a nod in acknowledgement of Euric's order and her power brushes against the vampire briefly before drawing back. She looks past him toward Grayson, perhaps to judge his demeanor, then murmurs, "Be careful," quietly before stepping back and finding something to lay Euric's coat over without every really taking her attention off of the pair of vampires.
"I will have your Oath, Euric of Gaul, or I will offer you mine. Or you may depart Chicago if that is more acceptable to you." The words are firm, calm, perhaps even slightly amused as the shadows crawl at Grayson's feet. The tall man's fangs gleam in another of those grins as his pale eyes meet Euric's own. "You are a power to be reckoned with, Euric of Gaul. I'd be a fool to allow you to stay with the question unresolved." His hands come up and he settles into a knife-fighter's stance, albeit one without a knife. "Whenever you're ready." His own frame grows indistinct; it's not a power over the shadows to rival Euric's, but it's a measure of power over them nonetheless.
There is a flash of movement. Euric is fast - faster-than-the-eye-can-follow fast, without any mind tricks. One moment, Euric is across the stage, and the next he's brushing past Grayson with what looks like a high-speed shoulder bump. In the movies, knife fights are elaborate affairs where the fighters circle and feint and perhaps even parry with sparks coming off of blades. This isn't that - it's fast, brief, undramatic and not flashy at all, just a brush past and then the smell of blood where Grayson's been cut. Euric spins in air, letting just his toes touch the stage, as if he were bracing to leap. "You could call the contest one to first blood, Grayson, and be done."
Grayson too is fast, but not quite fast enough. He stays in the fighting stance as he turns to face Euric, his lips peeling back from his fangs in a deep, rumbling snarl. The random sparks and flickers in his aura surge with strength to form a harmonious whole, and the tall vampire lifts off the ground with the sheer strength of it - and then, eyes narrowing, he tilts his head to one side, offering Euric his throat.
This could be a time where Emily lets the impending full moon and the excitement of the moment get to her but she doesn't, perhaps still settled by that contact with the vampire. She watches, staying back, out of the way, quiet and making no motion to interfere in the exchange between the vampires. They'll just have to excuse that pounding of her heart.
In those moments before Grayson offers his throat, Euric is coiled tense, tight, ready for the other to move against him. And then, at that tilt…he relaxes. It's all the sign he needs to lower his feet to the floor of the stage, and to let the shadows bleed out of the room. There's no dramatic slithering-back-from-whence-they-came, his shadow simply takes on its normal size and shape, and so do the others that he borrowed from, snapping back to normal instantly. He runs two fingers from his left hand over the blade of his knife, gathering the blood, and sucks the thick, dark liquid from his fingertips. He reaches into his pocket, withdrawing a black silk handkerchief, and gives the blade - and his fingers - one more good swipe before he tucks both knife and handkerchief away. "You want to be mine, Grayson? To give me your Oath? You said that one of us would do so to the other this night. But I was not making idle conversation when I said I am -not- Master of the City. I do not take an oath, give protection, to any who feels the need to show me their throat. If you want this, you earn it. You pay for it. What do you have that I want, Grayson? What bonds us together and makes this relationship more than a meaningless formality, as the Oaths of this city have been before, given to more vampires in a decade than I've given my Oath to in a thousand years?"
Grayson and Euric stand on the stage, with Emily at the edge of it and several vampires at the back of it. Euric and Grayson are facing each other, their power unmasked and on show to the world - and Grayson's throat on show to Euric. The scent of blood is welling out of the taller vampire, filling the air with the heavy strength of liquid steel.
Grayson doesn't speak in response to Euric's question; but he does land on the stage again, falling from a few inches up as though the rope were cut. He draws himself up to stand straight, his predator's smile returning. The flickers and sparks in his power have united, leaving something odd behind; the whole of it surges, his eyes glowing pale blue, and his fingers start to widen and grow claws.
When Grayson begins to grow claws, Euric growls, deep in his throat. He reaches back into that pocket, and once again his knife comes out, flicking open. He lifts up off the ground, and the shadows gather in once more around him. "Emily, Karmen," Euric says, quietly, "If he attacks anyone but me, you have my permission to put as many bullets as you need to do the job into his skull. So long as he attacks only me, do not fire." Euric hovers in place, watching the other vampire, eyes narrowed, that spring-coil tension remaining. "Come on then, Mr. Grayson. Let it be done with."
Emily has been keeping a distance between herself and the vampires since this turned more physical but she watches with rapt attention. The scent of blood makes her energy stir again but it's only just even with the surge of Grayson's power. She gives a nod of her head to Euric's orders whether he looks her way or not.
Karmen watches all that transpires with a neural look, though when Grayson begins to grow claws, her lips purse together as she settles her eyes on the vampire. She stares at Grayson briefly before the gun she was given by Euric on a temporary basis, is in her hand and held at her thigh. Better safe than sorry.
Grayson looks faintly puzzled at Euric's reaction, his head tilting a little to one side again - and then he glances down, to see what Euric has seen. His eyes widen in what can only be shock, the glow vanishing from his eyes in the same moment that the unity vanishes from his aura. He pulls himself together swiftly, looking up to Euric again. "I'm not going to do anything stupid, Lord Euric," he says. "You asked what I had that you wanted. Apparently that was an answer." His fingers flex, returning to normality. "Would you have me Wound one of your servants? Display the decades of training I had at the feet of my own Master, or prove that I'm the perfect gentleman's gentleman? I don't know what you want from me, Lord Euric."
"I have claws aplenty. Do you think I need someone to kill for me? No. I am capable of my own murder, and if I have need of it…" He gestures, encompassing Karmen and Emily, "I have my Ulfric and my Housecarl and an entire pack of werewolves. Lissa had little of -true- meaning to offer. She gave me profit, she gave me blood, but most importantly…she gave me -this-. The message of what I intend to do in Chicago. What can you offer me, Grayson?" He turns, looking at the vampires gathered in the theater, then returns his gaze to the vampire whose eyes have just returned to normal. "You say you need a Master. I will give you that, Grayson, but you must sacrifice. You want conflict? Give me peace. You want suffering? Make Chicago a sanctuary. If you give me your Oath, you will function as my sheriff, enforcing my will and my law among those who accept my protection, to the best of your ability. Because god knows, this place is full of fools and lunatics and I've little patience for it."
Grayson's eyebrows lift, and then he smiles, a genuine smile of contentment. "That is a function I've fulfilled before, Master," he says, then takes one step forward and drops to one knee, his head lowering as he offers his wrist to Euric. If he's feeling any pain from his wound, it doesn't show as he offers his Oath in a voice loud and clear enough to be easily heard in the Gods.
Like a good bodyguard sort of person under orders, Emily remains where she is and simply watches, relaxing somewhat, which would mean she was at least slightly tense, when Grayson drops to a knee and offers his wrist.
Karmen stands much like Emily, gun still to the side.
In reply, Euric's voice is loud and clear as well. "Blood of my blood. Flesh of my flesh. For your loyalty, vigilance. For your betrayal, vengeance." Euric goes down, bending to one knee, and takes Grayson's arm in gloved hands. He folds the knife against his hip and tucks it away, carefully, before lowering himself downward further. The smell of blood in the air makes his nostrils flare as he takes in a deep breath, and then presses his mouth against Grayson's wrist. There is a flash of pain as teeth part flesh without the benefit of rolling, and a small amount of blood is taken, directly from Grayson's wrist, drawn in and swallowed in a few lingering gulps before the vampire draws away, his lips and the wound clean. He draws out that handkerchief again, pressing it against Grayson's wrist. With one gloved hand, he takes Grayson's opposite wrist to place his hand against the handkerchief to hold it in place before he rises. "Any who can serve," he says, raising his voice to pitch it for the vamire spectators, "Can come under the umbrella of my protection. Think of what you have to bring our Oath. And then bring your offer to my Sheriff, who shall bring it to me. No ambiguities. No anarchy. Oaths. Vows that have meaning." Euric reaches out his hand to Emily, nodding toward his coat. "Good evening, Sheriff Grayson."
Grayson doesn't even wince when Euric's fangs sink in, but he does relax further. He rises when the time is right, standing straight and tall. "Master," he murmurs, bowing to Euric. "Word, I think, will spread - and not least because I will spread it. Thank you for your time." And then a polite nod to the other two. "Ladies."
Again Emily watches, with some measure of curiosity, and when it's over, she returns Grayson's nod politely before moving to get Euric's coat and bringing it to him.
Karmen juuuust continues to stand there, though she does give a soft, although brief smile to Grayson as well as a slight nod. That's all she does.
"Ulfric. Housecarl." When Emily brings Euric's coat, he allows her to help him into it, then leans down once more to press a kiss against her forehead, before moving to and reaching out to Karmen, placing a hand on her shoulder, letting his touch take just the barest whisper of his Call to each, his aura moving out against theirs, smoothing down the heat, bringing calm and quiet. He presses a kiss against Karmen's jaw, then, and his hand slides away. With that, Euric nods toward the door, and heads in that direction - floating down from stage to floor at the edge, before his hard-soled shoes start up that distinctive click-click-click of his brisk gait on the way outward.
Grayson watches the trio go, his hand extending behind him; his coat pulls up from the floor without apparent intervention, the vampire catching it and pulling it on before he turns away. "You heard the Master," he's informing the watching vampires as the others depart. "Think on what you can offer - and the best of luck to you all."