No matter how ancient he had become, Henry still found himself slipping into behaviours by nature, becoming accustom to whatever new role he had set upon himself, before losing it to the whims of fate. Now, watching the city stretch out before him, from the luxury of Chateau Marmont, he found himself at a loss. Sunsent was no more, his life running the lounge, as much ash as the rubble on which his bar had been built. Here he stood in a new establishment, as patron, not owner.
Still, the line had been drawn, Los Angeles was his home now, and he had promised such to those who mattered. In the cosmic scale of his liftetime, his bond with them was but a whim on the wind, but to Henry, that still mattered more than his own wishes. It had been so long, if ever, that he had been free of such obligations.
Prepaerations were nearing their conclusion, soon one of LA's most exclusive locations would be prepared for two particularly exclusive guests. The usual staff were preparing the venue, while Henry himself was finalising his preperations of a different nature. It was his role to ensure the survival of the Free State of LA, and by extension, the kindred best postioned to lead it. No matter who these guests were, and the power behind them. He had a host of mortals, ghouls and kindred he could call upon, and sure enough, they were held in reserve, should matters go awry, but with the aim of no overt displays of hostility, for now, he was working on his own. The angles had been calculated, the approaches considered.
It had been some time, time that made years seem like the patter of rain, since he had taken so direct a role in the matters of mortals and immortals alike, for so long he had simply drifted through their worlds, stopping only when either empathy or curiosity forced him to intervene. Perhaps a combination of both had driven him to LA, and then into aiding the eclectic band of Kindred that had built the city, and the Free State, from the shadows. As he watched the city, he allowed his senses to slip from his bodily form, roaming on the aethric winds. While he might search through the city for potential threats, for the unkowns, that would have likely been a waste of time, as slow as any mundane approach. Instead his concious thought felt for the presence of one unconcious mind. He did not wake, her, simply watching her through the skein of his power, watching the chaos that was her mind, and the new powers it wrestled with. The death throes of a second, weaker, personality within. There were few alive, or dead, who could so obviously reach beyond the boundaries of Topor, but Henry did so, at least with her, with contemptuous ease. He did not wake her, but she would feel his presence, maybe not now, but in reflection. A reminder that someone of like mind was watching over her city, and watching over her, especially with a mind so conflicted. He hoped the two promises, to her, and the latter to himself, would never compete.
She had begun the fight he had first waged before time had ground his will to dust, the challenge against the Oblivion which was burningburning forth to meet them. The cynic in him would argue the yet further time would only result in the same fate for both of them, surrendered to their fate. Of all the things he had ever been, he'd never been a terribly good cynic.
In the next moment, he returned to his physical form in full thought, eyes flickering with the power of his form for only a moment, returning to his mundane, mock-human, senses.
He turned back into the function room, stepping back through windowed doors. The oppulance of the room was ignored as he moved to a nearby table, steadily finishing the process of dressing appropriately. A burgundy tie done up, gold tie clip in place, he paused only to examine his cufflinks before setting them. Twin stars, as was his preference. He had always been fond of the little momentoes. As he finished correct the sit of his shirt, the doors to the room opened. He felt her presence before he saw her. He had always been observant, and the aura of those with whom he was familar were traced like a breeze to him. He turned to her, smiling, although it did not quite reach his eyes.
She came into the room like a storm of sweet scents, aggitated energies, and the barely audible sound of her high heeled Prada black leather boots sounding off against the hard wooden floor of the hall below her until she hit the room carpet. Big brown eyes literally seemed to glow honey gold when she stopped under the accent lighting fixtures directly above her. The tightly fit black slacks and shimmering champgange colored silk halter hiding under a black blazer coat, the exterior of it's arms a delicate web of black lace. Chateau Marmont and it's old Hollywood glamor was a long time favorite for her, but not just her. Rock stars, actors and actresses, directors, Hollywood elite, writers, visual artists, and whoever else could buy their way in. Even on off nights anything could happen. But the Chateau wasn't a normal hotel, for other reasons, too; reasons directly related to the guest list factor. Each suite was it's own little haven, with the privacy and security to back it up. Once you passed through the main building, unless you stayed there, there was little to no mingling.
Henry had set them up in the kind of posh, catered, room that their two visitors would be most used to. Yanci Carolina couldn't have loved the man more, loved him enough to have regrets for the first time in a long time. Still the decision had necessitated a change. That was easy enough when Eva controlled the site since the original owner first sold it. Eva hadn't been there, of course. That was old West Hollywood, afterall. Yanci had been sent in her place, but even then Yanci hadn't been the front woman to that pow-wow. That had been their ghoul front; Albert E. Smith. Alby, as Yanci overjoyed in calling him playfully. She even recalled how much they purchased it for: $750,000 cold hard USD. And at the moment all she could think about when her eyes looked this way, then that, was.....how much more furniture they'd put into this room since the last time she was in it. That had been a while, if Yanci remembered correctly.
Bar Marmont, on the other hand, she had been to more recently. And often. Even Brujah can act a little Hollywood in this town. As she stepped up to him, she finally spoke. "This hotel is where James Dean jumped through a window to audition with Natalie Wood for Rebel Without a Cause, Elizabeth Taylor nursed Montgomery Clift post car crash, Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through the hallways and John Belushi took his final breath...these two don't rank that high, so I moved us."
When his eyes caught her's as he process that, she smiled. Big. "C'mon. They're probably waiting on us." She knew they were. Through the wide halls she led him, out the back, through the balcony and down the stairs that led to the exterior aft courtyard. The Spanish Bungalows, even the pool, weren't originally even part of the Chateau. All of that was added later, by someone too unwilling to wait for a deal to be done to buy the Chateau. Eva. The Chateau bought the pool, and bungalows, a few years after she purchased it.
"She saw it. I don't know how." As they walked, she looked back from the lead to see him blink. It made her chuckle. "She looked at a failed apartment building and saw a legendary Hollywood location. I told her she was crazy, back in the 1930s. When they turned the hotel into a state historical site in the mid-90s, she celebrated. I happily took that 'told ya so' from her."
Throughout their walk Henry made sure to take in her words, to visibly do so, nodding to the analogies, the stories, the information of her past, the past of the city and her past with Eva. Some of it her already knew from other sources. The feeling behind it? Eva's motivations, her dreams for the city, that he knew in its totality. Henry had connected with Eva in a way that he had not with another since what felt like the dawn of ages. He did everything he could during moments like this to not remind Yanci of that. Let Eva be her's, he cared for them both too much to open those wounds, and their work was too important.
They walked by a few tables tucked away behind shrubs and trees; there was no main line of sight in the back of the Chateau. Paths spide-webbed out from the back entrance of the hotel main building, the roofs of the bungalows peaking out in the slight distance, all of it hidden behind the thick, tall, stone walls covered in ivy--and the electronic security everywhere the walls weren't. Yanci knew the people at the table; low level Hollywood execs "trying to make it happen." But her focus was on the second bungalow, the white wooden door opened as they got close by a young man with a wide smile, tight cropped brown hair, and pretty blue eyes.
Inside were white stucco walls with wooden beams above and the wooden ceiling further above that. Taller ceilings than most might consider, the main room of the bungalow in use--closer to the door was where their guests had been seated, on the other side of the room was a man flanked by a small group of other men, tailors, to be exact. The blonde man in the middle kept turning before thick mirrors brought in, giving feedback, shaking his head, even drawing chuckles. Seated close to the group was a man with salt and pepper hair, and a handsome face. It was the slightly older man, the one seated with salt and pepper hair, that turned his head upon their entering.
"Your friends are nice. I think we settled on dark blue."
Yanci's eyes bounced to the man in front of the mirrors. "Yeah, yeah I think the dark blue works. It's not Navy, but it's not gaudy. It'll work for the opening scene."
"Wonderful. Thank you, gents."
The older man stood, the blonde man trailed off into another room to change. Yanci brought Henry over to their side of the room, so Henry could shake hands with the older man. Even close up, he didn't look as old as he was. People joked the man was a vampire; Yanci knew better. "Henry, George Clooney. George, this is my friend Henry."
"Very nice to meet you, Henry." After the hand shake, his arms crossed reflexively over his chest, his blue eyes focusing anew on Yanci. "What happens if I need to talk to her?"
Uh. "You haven't heard?"
He looked pained, suddenly. "I had. I was hoping once I saw Gwen, or yourself, I'd learn it was all bad gossip. She's coming back?"
She nodded, firmly. "Absolutely."
A shrug, and the smile audiences knew so well showed itself. "Well, okay. Let me see about Matt. Thanks."
The tailors were already gone by then, leaving Yanci to motion for Henry to sit at one of the two seats across a white wooden coffee table with an ice bucket and champgange chilling inside, glasses resting next to it. They were untouched. She wasn't surprised. Finally, finally, Yanci regarded the Cardinal and the Ventrue. "Hello, welcome to Los Angeles. Please say nothing to seriously piss me off. Shall we start?"
The most unusual thing about the two men sitting patiently for Yanci and Henry was felt more in their similarities than their differences. These were two of the most prominent members of rival ideologies, the two great warring sects of the Kindred world. Yet both were here, dressed in fine, modern clothes. They would not have been out of place atop the spires of Downtown, or on a home counties private estate, networking and planning the rise and fall of business.
Instead, one was a Cardinal of a cult set on bringing about the end of the world as all had come to know, and the other a global conspiracy to hide the existence of vampires from all humanity. Cardinal Charles Delmare was the slightly more ostentatious of the pair, jeweled rings bedecked his hands and the cut and style of his suit was notably more flamboyent, but far from the realm of ridiculous. Despite his generally softer appearance, he seemed to have taken the wait worse, offering both Yanci and Henry little more than a curt nod for now.
Hardestadt had been eyeing his opposite intently, but was alive the moment Yanci regarded them both. To say he was warm would be inaccurate, the paragon of Ventrue capability, he was efficient, cut and dry. But his power of personality was almost overwhelming, it stirred even Henry's supernatural senses as he made to shake his hand.
"A pleasure to be here, and to enjoy such fine company." His hand graced Yanci's the next, just as firmly, but if the presence of the Ventrue was tantalising, his touch was all consuming. There were few kindred alive who could claim such a mastery of the vitae-fuelled presence. Despite this, his smile did not quite reach his eyes. "I shall endeavour not to offend you then, Baron." The edge of contempt touched his words as he spoke her title. It was a fine enough moniker, but it wasn't prince. "Shall we begin then." It was anything but a question.
"Indeed, Los Angeles has been abuzz of late." It was Charles Delmare who spoke next, his eyes flicking to Henry, but focusing on Yanci as the power in the room. "Is this wise to bring us both to your door, when you hardly have a handle on the fires spreading across your house?" He was calm in tone, but direct, with the assured quality of a man of great faith. "Mayhaps your Sheriff can advise you on such matters." He raised an eyebrow in Henry's direction, waving a loose hand.
"Get out. Now."
Moments went by, and no one moved, but shadows appeared on the otherside of the door, darking the sunlight that had been shining through the imperfect glass windows bordering the front doorway. The back was worse; it was all glass. All of it. There were good reasons that the Chateau was surrounded by so many walls, tangible and intangible. Yanci wasn't inviting the two back to the bedroom with it's back glass wall; probably for the best considering she wasn't entirely sure George and Matt were done and gone. When the two ancients finally moved, it was to look at Henry, then each other...never Yanci.
"What up, Yance?"
The voice belonged to CJ; thick rimmed black sunglasses, Raiders hat backwards over dreadlocks, dark skin so dark it was near purple in certain light. CJ wasn't a big guy, around 5'6. He didn't have to be what with the auto-shotgun held tight, at the ready, in his small hands. Yanci had a feeling the two ancients knew the rounds loaded in that shotgun, and the shotgun carried by every one of CJ's friends. The Bloods had been at the Chateau for days, spotting, security. The moment Yanci stepped onto the property, their number increased three-fold.
"The Cardinal is leaving."
CJ blinked, looking at the two visitors. "Which one is he?"
"The one that looks like a bad imitation of a Mexican pimp."
CJ smiled. "A'ight. C'mon, El Cardinal." Card-in-aleee, was how CJ said it, emphasis on the end of the title. A playful emphasis. "Stand ya self on up, and let's escort you out homeboi."
"...you know," Yanci's right hand appeared at her chin, her other arm folded against her midsection, as she retreated to a deep ponder. Or at least, gave the exaggerated pretense of doing so. "Nah. Let him stay. But let's get something clear..." She didn't sit. Instead, she stepped closer to the Cardinal. She bent at the waist, lowered her eyes until they were riiiight at level with the Cardinal's, maybe an inch away. "You can't even take shitty San Diego and you want to tell me about the state of LA? You don't have the first clue of what's going on in this city. If you did, you wouldn't have accepted this invitation. And I know this isn't an act...you really DO think you're that important, you're that special...you're not. Not here. Got that, Chief? So piss me off again and that 'state of LA' you're so uncertain about you'll see first hand, reallllllllllll fuckin' quick. Awesome."
She smacked the back of the Cardinal's shoulder in a friendly gesture, before moving her hand away and her body went towards her seat. Her eyes had already moved on, as did her focus: they were on the Ventrue. "Can we stop fucking around now? Maybe you've mistaken this for the annual meeting of your European financial institution tight-ass club, but this is Hollywood." Then, only then, did Yanci sit beside Henry. Quickly, comfortably, casually. Smiling big.
"So let's talk. I'm not who you wanted to talk to, but I'm who you're stuck with. If you're curious, she's watching, she's listening. She's PROBABLY holding her face in her hand right now, or whatever the equivilant--I'm not that old, I've never had to go full on fucking hibernation. I should be more polite...but I warned you not to get uppity and piss me off. It's the first thing you both did. No one's going to put up with your shit, here. Doesn't stop you from rolling up Sunset thinking you own the place, like any rich VIP who comes to Hollywood. They find out the same lesson: this won't be a pleasure, the company in Hollywood is as fine as it wants to be to you." A direct retort to the Venture's earlier line.
"She wanted this to be friendly. She was hoping for honest communication. So let's be honest: we know both of your clubs are gonna keep coming for us. Now you finally know who's really in charge. Now you finally know who to aim at...but she built Southern California. Damn near literally. Either of you ever do something so profound? Ever create something that changed the world in so many ways, time and time again? Generation after generation? Either of you two have a skin on the wall as big as SoCal, or Hollywood? Why NOT consider working with us? We maintain the traditions; shit, I'd say Hollywood has done more to turn vampirism into a myth, to directly help the Masquerade, then anything your club's ever done. I'll stop so you can tell me I'm wrong."
Both the Ancients responded to the tirade sent their way with something akin to amused surprise, although they wore it in different ways, Charles, as the primary focus of the ire, was cold steel, regarding the scene with little more than tense restraint, relaxing only slightly upon the end of Yanci's words. He may have been leadership, but he was Sabbat, he dealt with more fiery personalities daily, just not so very focused.
Hardestadt wore a more visible reaction, a raised eyebrow and the hint of a grin. It was unusual for him to be spoken to in such a manner, unusual in a way that could either entertain or enrage him, for now he picked the former, allowing himself a nod of agreement at Yanci's final words. Despite all this, it was neither of them who spoke next.
"You can take the girl out of the Brujah." If Hardestadt's enjoyment was restrained, Henry was smirking in full, watching 'his' Baron go to work. While he may have teased her, it was clear, at least between the two of them, that his amusment was at the expense of the Ancients, and not her. "Eva's accomplishments were grand, yes, as I'm sure many of both the Camarilla and the Sabbat can claim to be, but as much as we aren't here to fuck around, we're not here to trade nicities either. Business, gents." There was something of the London gangster there, hidden beneath the carefully crafted neutrality which Henry wore to cover the habits of countless mortal lives across just as many nations.
"Of course. As I've come to be aware, Los Angeles has shed the Anarch Free State, a wise move, if you ask me, consolidation without dragging the old divides and motivations of the Anarchs with you. You may strike out on your own, I believe that to be the cause you are set on, but I would reintroduce the offer of the Camarilla." Hardestadt was the first of them to speak directly, the trace of a German accent adding to the imperious nature of his tone. He was, of course, breezing over that the last Camarilla 'offer' had been nothing short of an invasion. "Nothing so dramatic this time, LA would maitain it's current structure, and control of the region. You could even still call yourself Baron, if you so wished." Hardestadt's final smile. before he was interrupted, was smaller than his last, but in a way more genuine. He was being generous, but he was also under no misgivings that the offer would be rejected, at least at this stage.
"The Camarilla are weak out here, as well you know, as well do they. He seeks LA as a bastion in a land he has failed to tame." The Cardinal spoke, his gaze flicking from Hardestadt to Yanci. "We control San Fransisco, they have failed to stop us there, they will fail to stop us here, should the time come." The Cardinal spoke more intensely when the matter of the Final Nights came to the fore, he may have been intelligent, modernising and put together for a Sabbat, but he was still one of them, still bore the title of their religion; "The signs are strong out here, and that time is approach, whatever the specifics of the date. Caine rises." Charles had never been one of the Sabbat to place too much faith in the specifics of prophecy, the fact they had been wrong according to a modern, kine calander bothered him not, but it was still a public failure of the Sabbat that he had to reference, or allow as a free weapon.
Whatever the effect of his words on the others, Henry tensed, inperceptible to those who did not know him. A roll of his joints hidden as a stretch, the tiniest flexing of a fist. The Sabbat may have been wrong, but they would be right when it counted.
The voice that came from Yanci Carolina was different, now; different in tone, different in intensity, different in every aspect except the feminine, but there was no mistaking the voice for Yanci's. The voice was Eva's. "Gehenna will come. I know this now. I see this now. Thank you for accepting my invitation, however this new information changes the very nature of the world of darkness. I suggest speaking to your elders."
There was a blink of Yanci's long eyelashes, and when her eyes opened anew, they were closer to auburn than their usual brown. One blink turned to a flutter of lashes, as Yanci adjusted to the sensation that she had been a passenger in her own body, and no more. When her lashes stopped, she knew she was back.
It did little more than inspire a sad smile on Yanci's face. "...I imagine, uh..." Her tone was fit for a Church now, her face looking more like she'd just woken up than the half-Brujah that was present just minutes prior. Her right index finger came up to rub the inside of her left eye, her mind straining with focus. "You know how to contact us should you have questions, or desire to speak to us. But, um...the Anarchs were never in charge, here. The Kid was, letting the Anarchs believe what they wanted, Eva kept him sane...until she stopped being able to, and then he forced us public, and SoCal errupted. That's the honest story. "
"Of course not, the Anarch movement is a sham, even on the shining sea of the West Coast, the younger of us need the guidance of the Elders, even if those elders hide away." Hardestadt was serious in tone when he spoke, looking at Yanci, but as if he spoke through her, to the voice that had only just retreated back away into the darkness. He smiled, once again, gently. It was not a comforting sight.
"And it is to the oldest of elders to whom we must suplicate, if we are to survive." The Cardinal spoke next, although once again his focus seemed to shift between his Camarilla counterpart and Yanci, again, not truly to the woman who was actually there.
Only Henry remained focused on her, actually her, impassive visibily, but bleeding concern behind his mask. It was disconcerting, that feeling, to have one's body driven by another, through the power of your bond alone. It was several moments after he realised he was staring before he refocused on the matter of the meeting.
"How long will you gentlemen be staying? I can provide direct lines of contact back to us, should you be leaving soon." A mundane question, but it distracted him, as well as serving a true purpose.
"I believe I will be leaving," The Cardinal spoke, already rising as he did so. "The warning has been given, and likewise, received. We shall see how these Final Nights play out." He nodded to all those assembled, including his Camarilla rival, before making his way to leave. A true Lasombra, door's opened before him and he was soon lost in the shadow.
"He's just as insane as the rest. Far more dangerous, but just as insanse." Hardestadt spoke as he watched him leave, drumming gently on the table, before turning his focus back on the pair of hosts. "If we might have a word alone." He spoke to Yanci, although did not ignore Henry in his attentions. "If that is quite acceptable."
Yanci's head turned to Hardestadt slowly, as if traced his direction by some invisible fingertip just under her chin. Her words were her own, but given the slow, careful, way in which they were spoken she wouldn't have blamed Hardestadt for uncertainty in just who he was talking to. "...sure. CJ." The door was closing by the time she even named the Blood, his friends escorting the Cardinal to the Exit Tent. The Exit Tent was a really good time, as she remembered it, she doubted the Cardinal would have fun. He didn't seem the fun type.
A quick listen, and she was certain George and Matt were gone. Matt laughed, and complained, too loudly to not be heard eventually. George was the sneaky type. Clooney had a suspicion about Eva, about Yanci and Gwen, too. It didn't matter. It never did. They had their protections in place. There was a reason Hollywood helped the Masquerade, but was never threatened by it.
Her eyes didn't leave Hardestadt. Instead they studied him, briefly and with casual interest at best, before honey-brown eyes perched the brows above them. "Better?"
"It will do."
As the Venture spoke, the glamour of his presence fell away, blonde hair was replaced with brown, age lines and a bulkier form gave way to a younger one. The blue eyes remained, but they were flecked with yellow, his jaw sharp enough to cut with an edge. As he did so, the establishments security equipment began to stutter, not enough to compromise the facility, or even any surveillance of others, but Hardestadt the Younger would never be caught on camera, moving or otherwise.
"You spoke of your Sire in a manner few would speak of me, that is assured, and I can understand the precaution and care through which she has crafted Hollywood, and the Free State, I more than most." The manner in which he was speaking, in how he regarded both Yanci and Henry were palpably different. He was still Ventrue, but something of the hard extreme of his arrogance fell away.
"It is a noble work, worth saving, but Hollywood has stood for what? Pushing a century? You may think my work less profound, it may shine less bright and with less glamour, but it has stood since the Fall of Rome, and it is a work very dear to my cold heart." There were few enough that new of Hardestadt's great lie, and fewer still on this new continent. It was Henry that spoke next.
"The Younger." It was not a question, but a statement, dragged up from the memories of a man who had lived even then. It earned him a curt nod from the ancient Ventrue.
"So, you can imagine, that leaving the seat of my power is not something I take lightly, I am not here just to chat, to offer Camarilla protection, although that offer is very much real. I am here because the Final Nights approach, and most of us old, or powerful, enough to stop them are mad enough not to care." Hardestadt placed a card on the table, a number written across it, nothing more. "For matters which stem beyond our different alleigances." With that, the Ancient stood, patting down the exquisit, if simple, suit he still wore. No matter his form, whichever he wore, it seemed tailor made.
"Unlike my Sabbat counterpart, I will not be leaving your city immediately. Do feel free to drop by." Gradually the force of his presence restructured the glamour he weaved around him, the appearance of the elder Hardestadt returning to the fore.
Her eyes still never moved. They left Hardestadt sure enough; but only because he moved away and beyond her sight out the door. Yanci felt cold. The end was coming. Screw the guy who ran the Camarilla...Eva told her. It wasn't all Eva had told her, either; just all Eva wanted to share with the others. Los Angeles was about to get busy. In ways Yanci was having trouble imaging.
In ways she was certain Henry could imagine far better than she. "I need to talk to Gwen. Maybe a...supernatural apocalype movie that's bad enough to become infamous, and mocked endlessly with memes. Turn it into a pop culture fed joke. Enough actors and actresses owe us a bad movie. I'd say rush it through--but I suppose that was implied by making it 'bad' in the first place."
But that was just the rapid-fire damage control of her mind going off. Let it all process for a moment, and Yanci heard herself deeply sigh.
"Fuck. It had to be the City of Angels."