Viviane's speech

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    Lenora Minogue

    Viviane Asselin stood in front of the lectern, disregarding the aegis of its protection. She placed herself directly before the assembly, nothing between her body and them, unafraid.

    The usual laughter evaporated from her eyes as she silently swept a look over the wolfish gathering. Her eyes were knife-sharp, limpid pools; her hair tumbled over one shoulder like a fountain of molten obsidian cut with silver.

    The whispers died; it is as if everyone was settling in for dinner theatre.

    Viviane traced the buttons along her Cimmerian dress in a vertical stroke, and they clicked together lightly in a rhythmic thrum like the distant sound of war drums. Her voice cut through the silence, the tenor of it resonate, strong, and beguilingly English.

    “It takes a very long time to become young. I heard those words the night I was embraced and did not fully comprehend them truly then. Most elders would, in fact, balk at the notion. Age is the aspiration, the brass ring for which so many strive. It’s security, power, strength. And yet old, unchanging ideas stagnate, fester, and rot.”

    There is a short burst of seat pounding from the Anarchs. Drumdrumdrumdrumdrum!

    Viviane clasped a hand into a fist at the side of her hip, and continued, “They lead to death, torpor, lack of purpose, wassail, and nothing to do but show a set of blood-besotted fangs to this rival or that one.”

    Wisps of her silvery hair played across her neck, a pale, worn smile creeping across her face like a moonlit shadow. She relaxed the fist she had drawn into a tight ball, opening it, and her face rearranged so that her age crept into her countenance and said, “I am very old now…”

    Her expression shifted again, and there was a blush of youth, a smolder of embers in her eyes, her voice lifting up, “Old enough now to be young again.”

    Viviane’s skirt hissed as it touched the stone beneath her feet as if filled with whispered secrets.

    “Do not pity the Tremere for the blood that’s been burned away. It is not carrion but afterbirth you see. It was necessary, deliberate….”

    She said more softly now, drawing out the word into a hiss, “satisfying.”

    “We are better for it. We are reborn.”

    She had a glint shining in her eyes that grew and ebbed in the intensity as light undulated over her face.

    “And so find we must sever the rest of the umbilical cord from the dying, old, and inutile institution which no longer serves us and abort it accordingly. I, Viviane Asselin, on behalf of Clan Tremere, do hereby break from the Camarilla under the terms reached during the Convention of Thorns.”

    She spoke with an authority, a curious sense of power and finality saturating her words.

    The assembly explodes into gasps, some exclamations and shouting. A Toreador screams over the chaos, “By what authority!”

    Viviane stood there steadily, a still figure in the tide of disorder, not a statue, no, a beacon.

    Hardestadt is perfectly still, all but his head that slowly, terribly turns to her.

    A Brujah begins to heckle him, then another, a Gangrel, a Ravnos, a Ventrue neonate. There is clamor, Cainites rising, turning to each other gaping, blathering.

    Viviane interlaces her fingers together, and now it was all reversed. She was the one watching the dinner theatre.

    Katerina von Verden smiled, an all too toothy grin. It gave her but one joy to see this, the breaking of a hollow covenant.

    Heinricus von Verden does not smile, or exult, it would be undignified, even as he enjoyed the match that had been thrown against dry kindling. “One,” he whispered to himself. One of the pillars that had supported the Ivory Tower pushed and toppled in a ruinous display.

    A missive then appeared before every single kindred gathered simultaneously. The parchment and hand that wrote the letters were both wholly unremarkable. Some could not help but compare the moment to the arrival of their invitations. Though nondescript, each note contained a secret, an opportunity, a warning unique to every individual recipient. It was enough to cast a shadow of potential ruin on the enemies of the clan or to exalt its allies. A hushed silence fell over the assembly as their many sets of eyes turned up to meet a singular pair belonging to Viviane Asselin. While in their hands, they held those pages dripping with lifeblood made print, they recalled fully whose childe truly stood among them.

    And as she stood before them, they saw she was no longer alone, Hector Asselin flanked her, his third eye opened roving over the crowd briefly.

    The sound of rumpling cloth cascaded down then. And the tapestry of the Tremere vanished as a new one fell into place, incorporating both the pyramid and the third eye.

    Viviane continued as ripples of chatter swirled around the room and drifted away like blood in a storm drain, “Tonight we celebrate the return of the Salubri and are casting aside old enmity.”

    She watched, as they gawked at the Grecian Salubri at her shoulder. “We fully support their revival. And it is our great honor to do so.”

    Sascha Vykos bellowed a velvet laugh from its own seat, raising a glass to this.

    Heinricus could have smiled then, an outburst of emotion in him and it did not occur to him to wonder whether he would have smiled because Viviane had or whether she was smiling on his behalf. The Bond made it all very vague.

    “Let it be known before all of you that a transgression against them is one against us, and we will protect our brethren.”

    It was merely a statement; she did not bother to levy threats. The notes spoke for themselves as well as the cunning and reach needed to acquire them. She let them consider instead what just the right match may do to the paper in their collective hands. Though she did turn her eyes to a few papers she might not mind seeing burn.

    Hardestadt simply dropped his note as if it were a street pamphlet. There were expectant eyes on him and then shouts for him from the young Kindred.

    Throngs of undead shouted down from the overlook, the high seats and the balconies, some shaking their fists, others gesticulating every imaginable vulgarity. Some were elated, others hung back frozen with terror such a sudden outburst. Those closer to the floor, the older hands, were more contained. There were shots of laughter, braces of Kindred arguing, colluding, but there was no shortage of figures who simply could find neither the will or inclination to summon a reaction. Their hands remained folded in their laps or rolling a glass of vitae between their fingers, receding into themselves, calculating, measuring what this meant, as they watched the riotous display erupt around them.

    Hardestadt rose then, slowly, face not stern, but as if a terrible rage were being chained beneath a calm blue sea. He was a monolith thrust from the rolling chaos of disorder at his back. He was a portrait of easy tranquility, but one that you hurried past in a corridor for fear he might explode into life and throttle you if you lingered too long. His mouth was pulled at one corner into the ghost of a smirk, a wrinkle of fleeting mirth in the dip of his eyes. There was no outrage reflected in them, only the glint of cynicism as he cut his gaze to the left and by the most miniscule of gestures silenced his supplicants. They fell one by one, dropping back into their seats lowered under the weight of his presence but he remained standing while Viviane commanded the floor. He could not bear to be seated before her. Not now. Only when the shouting and admonishments had begun to crumble into clusters of whispering did he finally sit–never having said a single word himself.

    Vykos was still merrily sipping from his chalice while the Toreador and Ventrue could only just manage to keep…their jaws from hitting their knees.

    Viviane scanned the myriad faces–so like bloodstones in a bead work pattern in different layers of the same tapestry. She clasped Hector’s hand beside her own, her fingers like a pale starfish covering his calloused skin. Her voice trembled with a subdued energy from the spectacle, glee punctuating her words, “We are birthing a new order devoted to exploring the mysteries of our blood…”

    She spoke with a velvet quality, an English gravitas, which seemed to thicken the air around her, “one that will explore innovative paths to reach beyond the perceived limitations of our existence whether that falls in the realm of scholarship, the arts, combat, or the many other avenues to illumination.”

    Her expression seemed to bend and fold as light and shadow swirled across her face.

    “Everywhere we shine life and death will burn into something new.”

    She sounded akin to the phoenix which persisted a millennia only to build its own funeral pyre and burn anew.

    “It takes a very long time to become young.”

    Her tone deepened, her vision giving greater luster to the colors, the resonance of her words.

    “But we are young again. We are reborn.”

    She slowly let go of the hand held in her own, fingers parting, but the two not parting in spirit. Hector stood a statue of control; he did not relish the hungry, inquisitive eyes on him. Had it not been for her he would not do this for any earthly thing. He led her back to her seat. Viviane’s lips spread into a smile, a genuine one, as his form eclipsed everyone else here. He reached for her hand and held her eyes a moment as he kissed her hand before disappearing up one of the aisles. Viviane watched the spaces in the crowd where he vanished, resting her eyes thoughtfully on the brambles of Kindred flesh left in his wake.

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