Tea and Travelers

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Maltese Brownstone: Front Yard - Ashland Avenue: Bucktown

Modest in size, the yard is surrounded on three sides by a high, wrought iron fence and the brownstone on the fourth. Tall shrubbery run the length of the fence providing privacy. Four wide, marble steps lead up to the front door of the house, providing lounging space for the residents.

To the left and right, well-tended lawns, albeit modest in size, are lined by lamp-posts. To the left, a covered swing bench stands beneath the spreading branches of an oak tree, a marble fountain pouring clean water into a small, stone-lined pond. To the right, a picnic table has arranged on the lawn, a large, gas grill tucked neatly against the wall of the brownstone.



There's been a knock on the brownstone door, where Jack and Marcus are at, and Jack's bolted to answer.

A man with a top hat- he's rather bland looking -is standing with a tanned curly haired man. They have their arms crossed. The man with the top hat is smiling charmingly toward the doors as he waits for them to be answered.

Truly sharp ears might pick up the sound of really, really fast footsteps, but the door opens at an only-slightly-faster than normal rate to reveal a pale-looking Jack. "Evening, sir."

Marcus is standing behind Jack, or rather appearing there a moment shy of the other man, and at his back. He doesn't say anything.

Pierce would be halfway up the path at this point; she's bundled up in a black coat with just the top of her cowl-neck sweater visible. Her face is pinched, worried, and right about when she looks up, she already has herself almost to the steps of the house. The minute she sees the man in the top-hat, her face pales and something suspiciously like a Cantonese exclamation or supplication is bitten off.

The man turns toward Pierce and says, "Aah, there you are, sweet. Shall we go inside? You wanted to meet with me. And my love here could use a nice drink of tea."

Pierce -jams- her hands into her jacket pockets so tightly the strain is evident. "…Certainly sir," she says, bowing slightly with more than a touch of old-fashioned courtesy. "…Jack?" Her eyes find Jack's, and she puts her foot on the steps, and ascends them. Chin up, back straight, pale as a ghost, but determined. "I…yes tea is a good thing."

"Come on in," Jack says to the two men, stepping back and opening the door wider for them. There's a touch - just a touch - of his fear in the air as he gestures politely for them to enter.

Marcus steps back from behind Jack, putting his back to one of the hallways so the guests can pass through.

The man smiles even more charmingly and follows the others into the house.

Pierce bows once the two guests have come in; she's still white as a ghost under her dark skin, but she behaves at least like a hostess. "I will get some tea," she says, just the faintest touch of a quiver in her voice. "Please sit down, I…thank you, sir." Fear? Oh yes; she's scared. "I…hope this is not an imposition but….but I had questions and…I couldn't get answers that made sense."

The man folds his hands over his stomach and he says, "Hm. Well first thing is first." The curly haired man will sip at his tea not saying anything. The man with the top hat continues, "I have handed over the city to Lillith, the brunette. Showed so much promise." A Gallic shrug is given and he says, "She's told the vampires that whichever vampire brings her your King's head shall be rewarded." A pause and he says, "And the other vampires think that it is a wise decision to attack en masse."

Jack, having closed the door, goes utterly still for a few moments before remembering to breathe again. "Thanks for the headsup," he says politely. "I take it you don't approve, sir?"

Marcus crosses his arms back over his chest, standing stoically as he watches the visitors, unapologetic for the attention given them.

Having boiling water in the kitchen at all times is a -good- thing; tea has never been made so fast in a lifetime and with so much -swearing- in multiple Chinese dialects, mixed in with supplicatory wishes and Tang dynasty poems. Pierce brings it out in record time, handing it over to the curly-haired man with hands that shake enough to make the china rattle slightly. But that last though - the top-hatted man's words - makes her face -blanch- even further. "…what is the use of making a truce, if a truce is made to be broken?" There is a touch of despair at that, even anger simmering under the surface. "I gave my word - I -gave- it, and tien de -pi-, it was not meant to have broken or taken lightly. I wanted to know how such alliances or truces are made, because you have mentioned, sir…other cities. But…this!"

Traveler turns his gaze onto Jack and says, "Approve, disapprove. The vampires of Chicago are nothing but children. Children who even those most politically capable show that once they are given power they do not know what to do with it. War will wage in this city. I see it very clearly. You are like the Islams and the Jews, the Protestants and the Catholics, the Montagues and the Capulets. There is only hate and deceit within this city. Even worse than in Paris. You spoil away your freedoms, your rights. There is a special relationship between shapeshifters and vampires. But this city has forgotten it. Let the city burn."

Jack visibly winces, but stays silent now. He reverts to being a quiet presence off to one side, worry etched into his features.

"I don't know about the vampires, sir…" Pierce's voice shakes from a mixture of her fear, and a passionate that edges her words, however carefully she is choosing them. "And I don't know about Chicago. But I know my people, my -family-. And I don't want them to be caught up in a war that isn't of their choosing - most of them, they haven't even a thought in their heads to want anything more than live peacefully. Jack and I…we saw one war. We won't see our people thrown into another one, we can't. If the city burns, we do too. What is this relationship sir, -please?- I…I am very new to being a shifter, new to Chicago. I don't really understand, yes. But I…I know Chicago deserves better, I know the other rats, they deserve -so- much better than a war they don't understand. If there's a way to stop it, if there's a way to -do- something…we need to know. Otherwise…how can this city ever be anything -else-? City of steel, on the outside, but it can't be if things are in pieces inside."

"Every Master has an animal to call." The Traveler says, while considering Pierce. He continues, "But most Masters believe that they are meant to be the kings of those animals. They forget so easily. That vampires need shapeshifters just as much as they need humans. If not more." The Traveler leans forward and looks into Pierce's eyes and says, "We are family. Two sides of the same coin. Once human. But either by choice or accident or against our wills we are something more. Touched with magic and power. Shapeshifters are *life* and vampires are *death*. Two halves of the same soul."

Marcus speaks up now, looking to the Traveler. "Is it your hope that we will all learn this lesson in the events of the Chaos that is sure to break out of this, or merely that in our eradication better trained, wiser people will take our place? On both sides."

Jack nods slowly. "Are there any vampires who didn't want to solve their problems by killing people?", he asks quietly, "Or is that information I'm not going to get?"

Pierce inhales a sharp breath at the gaze; she has to blink several times hastily and lower her eyes, the pupils wide and dilated. "Balance…" she whispers. "It's like…the Neijing. Balance. In yin, in yang. No wonder…no wonder we could be called that one day…" A gulp, another unsteady breath. "We want to live too. I've been hunted before, in Hong Kong, both as a human and as a rat. That shouldn't be how it is. A word given is a word -given-, or perhaps I am too old-fashioned, too stupid to understand anything more than what I say, I will do because it is honour. And honour sometimes…is all we have in a life. It's more than money or fame, it's a good name that goes so much further. How do we make a bridge over a city in fire?"

Traveler stands, curling his arm around the man with him. The Traveler shakes his head and says, "I do not know." A glance to Jack and he says, "I cannot tell you. There are too many voices within the city screaming for your King's blood. And they do not realize the King is the people." Back to Pierce he says, "If talking will not work, do what you must to survive."

He and his man turn to leave, pausing at the door to say, "I do not wish to see the city burn. I much prefer it if people live. I prefer balance. Life and death together in balance. But this city is about to explode. Good luck." He dips his head and then slips out with the man with him.

Jack salutes the departing Traveler, then grabs for his phone. "Ohshitohshitohshitohshit. Eric, pick up. Pick the hell up."

Marcus shakes his head. "We've extra room at the mansion, I think. It's now known as a rat hangout, si? So it might be safer than here, or the sewers, si?"

Pierce goes mechanically to shut the door, and when she does, she leans against the frame, trembling for a moment. "We can't let that happen…" she breathes in her singsong, slightly accented voice with the oddly stressed syllables. Then she stands up, tossing her head, her face still pale. "Where is Eric gone?" she asks sharply. "If he won't answer, I'll go find him. Do I need protective gear?"

Jack snarls, listening to his phone ring. Eventually he stops the call and starts prodding a text message into it. "For fuck's sake, Eric…"

Marcus goes back to leaning against a wall, mostly clueless and not quite sure what he should be doing.

Jack's phone pings at him a few seconds after his message left. "Eric says to tell the rats to lay low. Okay. Let's get calling."

Pierce turns at once. "Jack, there's a rope in the store room that I knotted up with silver barbs. If he won't answer, I'll have to go dig him out before everything explodes —" She casts a quick glance over at Marcus, pale face quirking into a strained half-smile. "I'm so sorry, I'm Pierce, I never got to introduce properly before all this suddenly went boom…" At Jack's words however, she lets out an -expletive- in Cantonese and some other languages worthy of the guttersnipes. "Bak chi ma puki mak tin fong PEI! All right, I'll get A to M, you get N to Z, Jack?"

Marcus nods to Pierce. "Marcus," he returns, just before her explosion of expletives. "I'll go take my laying low now." He stands up, turning for the door.

Pierce is text-messaging at a speed seen usually in conjunction with teenagers and cellphones after she yanks her own device out of her jacket pocket. "I say less rude things when I'm less stressed," she adds rather contritely. "It's good to meet you Marcus, though I understand if you don't return the sentiment! —ahhh, tungkwa, come on SEND…"

Marcus nods to Jack. "I'll be at the old Merrick place, then. If Lex lets me in. If you need anything, you at least know where to find me." He starts loping for the door.

"Cheers, mate. Hell of a homecoming, I know. Good luck!" Jack grins, and then he's busily getting in touch with the Rodere.

Pierce floods out her own series of text messages before she starts from M upwards to call everyone on her Rodere contact list. She only pauses to ask, "Sewers?" once or twice.

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