Logs:Lady Luck Take The Wheel

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Lady Luck Take The Wheel

Characters: Mingzhu, Jacob, Nikola and Seth
Date: 2020-06-06
Summary: Mingzhu and Jacob visit the Regas, the Band of Savages' riverboat casino and Elysium, and Nikola greets them. Seth shows up shortly after, and they trade favors over a game of Texas Hold 'Em.

The Regas Strabuloj is a happening place to be this evening, and every evening since its soft opening. Men and women, in the dashing uniforms of a casino - black dress shirts, vests, friendly smiles - make their rounds, some pushing wheeled carts of poker chips, others bearing complimentary cocktails for the high rollers. And black-suited security guards, hulking, with unobtrusive flesh-toned earbuds running down to radios beneath their jackets, amble through the crowds of tourists and professional gamblers. The clicking of a roulette wheel can be heard, alongside the serious conversations surrounding several poker tables.

In the midst of this all, maneuvering through the crowds with the suave ease of a politician, is Nikola Senjan. He's dressed for work tonight, in a custom-fitted tuxedo, replete with bow tie. The Vampire is glad-handing, stopping by several of the tables to greet gamblers by their first names, slapping shoulders and exchanging jovial remarks. He seems remarkably happy in this environment, his dark eyes sparkling and his teeth on full display -- fangs retracted, fortunately.

Into the casino come another pair of beautifully attired and probably deep-pocketed guests. Mingzhu, dressed in a white suit and with her skin a much paler shade than the last time Nikola saw her - now the hue of a sheet of white paper - accompanied by Jacob in a darker suit. They make an attractive pair, walking in close company and talking quietly amongst themselves. Just to the side of the entrance the Telluric pauses to look up and around, admiring the decor - sure, a little gaudy perhaps, but that's the right note to strike for a place like this, and so it is well done. To her companion she murmurs, "And so, here we are."

Jacob strides in with Mingzhu, that dark, depthless gaze scanning the room quickly but expertly. His expression indicates that he's sizing it up, judging it, comparing it. He gives a slight nod of approval, mostly to himself, then turns to Mingzhu with a smile, "Indeed we are. And we have three very important tasks." His voice is even, relaxed, his accdent decidedly British.

"We must locate your associates. We must locate drinks. And we must play some of the delightful games." His smile widens and, for a brief moment, there's something almost boyish about him. He does love games. It's gone in a heartbeat, however, and the Fairest is back to his usual, rather amused, often smirking self.

The beauty of doubling a casino with an Elysium is that there are always drinks to be had, always games to play. And always a gracious host to greet you. Mingzhu and Jacob have barely set foot aboardship before Nikola touches a hand to his own discreet, flesh-colored earbud and turns away from the table where he's been trading jokes with an oil baron from Texas. His gaze is directed toward the entryway, and it doesn't take him long to spot the pair. He sets off through the crowd like a shark, gliding between conversations without a word, his attention fixed on the pair of Lost.

When he reaches them, however, the shark-like expression is subsumed beneath a gleaming smile. "Ah, Mingzhu. You actually came! Alice, could you come take my friends' drink orders?" A cocktail waitress approaches, empty tray held at shoulder-level, as Nikola turns the charm-offensive on Jacob. He looks the other man up and down in friendly appraisal before offering his hand. "Captain Nikola Senjan. Welcome to my ship." Gaudy though the Dome of Sin may be, Nikola is evidently very proud of it. Perhaps it's the lively rock of the Mississippi through the hull, reminding them all that they truly are afloat.

"Naturally," Mingzhu agrees with a smile for her companion, reaching a hand over to touch his arm briefly, before turning to try and spot where the bar might be. Fortunately, Nikola's approach and commandeering of a waitress means she doesn't need to fetch her own drink, and she turns a polite smile on the Captain. "Nikola," she greets quietly, bowing her head slightly out of respect for his title. Sure, she might _technically_ outrank him in the praxis - something she's still not comfortable with given she's not Kindred herself - but this is his ship, he's the Captain, and so he's getting the bow.

"Please let me introduce my companion, Jake Ramses," she adds as the Captain offers his hand to her friend, then glances to Alice to request, "An Old Fashioned, if you please, and a glass of bourbon."

Like his companion, Jacob is obviously Lost as well. It's obvious from those black, slightly alien eyes, from the way he seems slightly blurred, as if he's not quite /fully/ in this reality, from the hint of those fangs. He's obviously one of them, and while his mien is more subtle than some Lost, it's strong. Looking at him too long might cause some folks a headache.

He turns towards Nikola as the man approaches and introductions are made. He smiles. "Nikola. Thank you for your invitation. I do love a good gaming house." He looks around again, then back to Nikola, and then Alice. "Bourbon. And a lemonade." There's a glance towards Mingzhu as she orders an Old Fashioned, his lips twitching slightly. "And the recipe for an Old Fashioned."

There is a large double-door made entirely of thick, tinted glass on the second deck of the Dome of Sins, connected to a free-standing metal staircase. The doors itself seem to lead to some kind of large, blackened glass sphere the size of a cottage that overlooks the whole of the room. These doors swing open and from within the sphere, a man dresed in dark blues emerges. Seth, tonight, is wearing a cleanly pressed navy blue dress shirt with short sleeves, and dark blue jeans over brown leather boots.

Clearly having already spotted the group on the floor of the casino, the vampire brushes a curl of brown hair from his face as he descends the metal staircase, crossing over to the group of three that's assembled within the Casino at a brisk but still leisurely pace. He's looking around the rest of the room thoughtfully, keeping an absent-minded eye on the goings on as he proceeds towards his destination. "What a pleasant surprise," Seth's vaguely French accent is loud enough to carry the group as he approaches into earshot. "You've come to visit us already, Mingzhu," the Ptolemaic man remarks as he approaches, his green eyes turning towards Jacob. "Seth," he introduces himself simply with an incline of his head as he comes to a stop only two paces away from Nikola.

"Jake Ramses. Welcome aboard." Nikola's smile is briefly wider as he studies his newest acquaintance, his eyes narrowing subtly. The grip he offers Jacob is carefully considered, firm without becoming overbearing. The Ventrue avoids that crass grip-as-manhood test. "You're always welcome here, Jake. And you as well, of course, Mingzhu." Alice, without a word, is already turning to fetch the cocktails. Nikola turns as well, but just to look over the Dome. "Yes... it's magnificent, isn't it?"

He pivots slightly to look toward Mingzhu, smiling at her. "Can I offer the two of you some chips? A thousand dollars, perhaps? I'd be delighted to set you up with a game... oh, blackjack?" After making the offer, he looks over to Jacob. "Old fashioned, old fashioned. Let me flip through the rolodex..." The Ventrue -- who doesn't really look old enough to know what a rolodex is -- mimes flipping through a series of cards. "Sugar, bitters, water, bourbon, and an orange peel garnish -- for the traditionalist."

And then Seth emerges from the VIP Lounge, and Nikola half-turns as the Ptolemaic-featured man draws nearer. It may be subconscious, but he positions himself so that he and Seth are shoulder-to-shoulder, a united front as Nikola carries on the conversation. "With the four of us, we might consider a game of poker. Maybe in the VIP room?"

"You _can_ just Google it, Jake," Mingzhu remarks to her fellow Lost, her smile amused, and then her brows raise as Nikola recalls the recipe seemingly from memory. "Impressive - you've done bar work before?" she wonders with curiosity of the Ventrue. She can't /imagine/ the man working a bar, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been done.

Seth's approach causes Mingzhu's smile to warm a tad, and she murmurs, "Of course; games of luck and chance are my weakness." 'Weakness' may not be the most accurate word - catnip might be more like it - but she's not clarifying further. "I was curious about your new venture, in any case. It looks beautiful."

Jacob's dark gaze, lacking whites or irises, shifts towards Seth as he joints them. While Seth's accent is obviously French, his own is very clearly British as he smiles as responds, "Good to meet the two of you." His own handshake is firm but not overbearing. Confident, and although he radiates wealth, his grip and his hands indicate that he's no stranger to work, either.

When the recipe is recited, he smiles, glancing over at Mingzhu. "Why would I Google it when I can simply ask our friend here?" He smirks, amused and slightly playful, then looks back at the others. "I believe Mingzhu and I are cut from the same cloth. I would be delighted to play a game. But..." There's always a but. "We should mix it up a little bit. Chips are so... /ordinary/. I don't believe any of us are lacking in wealth. Perhaps we could play for some non-traditional stakes."

He smiles, then adds, "Your establishment is quite impressive. I look forward to playing here." He glances at Mingzhu, offering his arm. "It looks like the game is afloat." Yes, he just went there.

"I'll have a table set up," Seth offers by way of understated agreement with Jacob's statement about the cards, briefly unhooking a compact short-wave radio from his belt and speaking into it in French before replacing it by his hip. Anyone fluent in French would also note that he has the recently-ordered drinks for Mingzhu and Jacob also sent up to the VIP area while he's doing this. Seth glances back towards the sphere that he emerged from at the mention of the VIP lounge, before offering a languid smile to the group.

"I was just doing paperwork in our quiet area, so it's already cleared out. If you folks would like to sit down while we wait..." he raises up one tattooed forearm, palm facing up, in a point towards the distant second-deck lounge. "I may have designed the place with my own comfort in mind, but I prefer a spot away from the bustle," the Mekhet confesses, a faint grin tugging up one corner of his mouth as he pivots on heel to begin leading the group towards the VIP area. The staff that's on duty is waved away, and a 'Room is Occupied' sign is placed on the host's pedestal to deter further visitors after they've passed through.

"Oh, no, I never tended bar, no." Nikola smiles slightly and pulls out his own iPhone, pressing a few buttons. He holds up his screen, displaying the app he's just pulled up. 'Hey Bartender,' apparently. "See? Five stars. I study it, now that I am a participating manager in the ship." A grin aside to Seth, somewhat smug, as though he's proud of his modest technological achievement. Slipping the phone away, he continues "A weakness for games of chance? Well, we can oblige. And if you do want to play for...interesting stakes...well, I think we might be able to oblige that desire as well, within reason."

As Seth leads the way toward the VIP area, Nikola makes an 'after you' gesture to both Mingzhu and Jacob, bringing up the rear. When they enter the lovely lounge, Nikola steps out of the way of the departing employees, tapping one lightly on the bicep and murmuring to him about a certain Texan down on the main floor. Something about keeping him happy. That done, the Ventrue turns and saunters toward one of the coffee tables. "So. What stakes did you have in mind, Mister Ramses?"

Following the pair up to the VIP room, Mingzhu looks around the glass-and-gilt of this spherical enclosure, her smile amused. "I'm not sure, but I feel like I've just stepped inside a Christmas tree bauble," she remarks, though it isn't intended unkindly. Just amused and a little enchanted by the decor. "Ah yes. Always good to improve oneself," she then confirms to Nikola and his study of the bartender's playbook.

Seeing that their drinks have been delivered up here, she crosses over to pick up her Old Fashioned and also the glass of lemonade, returning to Jacob to offer the latter to him.

She doesn't comment on interesting stakes, likewise curious as to what her companion has in mind, the ever-present faint silvery glow around her rippling and flickering with her thoughts.

Jacob smirks faintly at Seth's admission of designing the place for his own comfort. "Why would you design it otherwise?" There's some humour, some playfulness there, but beneath that it's an actual honest question. He simply doesn't understand why anyone would design something for anyone other than themself in mind. He's working on that.

In the meantime, he turn shis attention towards Nikola. When she holds up the phone, he waves a hand at him, "Put that away, you'll encourage her. I personally find the /best/ recipes come not from the 'internet'," he speaks the quotes, "but from personal experience. And the best way to learn them is by talking. With another person, not a..." he gestures at the phone.

Still, he's smiling, obviously enjoying himself, more teasing than he is serious. He has people who use computers and he knows how useful they can be. There's another smile, "Within reason, of course. Just a friendly game. But you don't get to know one another with just chips, and we wish to know you. And you us." He follows the others into the VIP room, taking a look around. At Nikola's question, he smiles, "Jake is fine, please. And I'm thinking... small favors. Nothing that would put any of us at risk, or threaten our standing or connections. Just for fun." He glances at Minzhu as she brings him his drink, smile widening.

He accepts it, "For instance, I am not wearing this suit because of one such challenge." He winks at Mingzhu, then lifts his drink. "To new friends. And games."

"I agree, being a gracious host definitely begins with drinks," the Mekhet offers aside to his coterie-mate on the subject of alcoholic recipes with a nod. Seth smiles aside towards Mingzhu at her comment about the ornamental nature of the VIP lounge, releasing a low laugh as he walks over to the bar and turns off the camera underneath it. "Jake has the right of it. When I put in the plans for the Regas to be constructed a few years ago, I specifically designed this room to be something different for myself. I'm always in need of quiet places to take care of business, I find."

Ah, there's going to be a toast? No sense being rude, then. A small refrigerator behind the bar, with a lock on it, receives the treatment of Seth's key ring with a quiet 'snick,' before he's producing a modern-looking glass pitcher, a bit like one of those fancy filtered water pitchers... except this one has blood in it... and a few additives to keep it palatable despite the chill. He's casually setting out two short glasses on the polished dark walnut bar-top, before filling them up and pushing one towards Nikola.

"To new friends and games," Seth agrees, picking up one of the glasses of blood and raising it towards Jacob and Mingzhu before taking a drink from it.

Here in the privacy afforded them by that steel door and the disconnected camera, some of Nikola's vivacity begins to slip away. He stops pretending to breathe, for instance, a subtle difference that nonetheless demands attention. There are none of the involuntary muscle twitches that a truly living creature might experience, none of the small tremors. Nikola smiles at Jake, an expression made tepid by the lack of beating blood. But there is genuine amusement in his eyes, a glimmer that hasn't faded. "Yes, I do see your point," he murmurs in that Eastern European accent. "Phones have ruined this latest generation." He accepts the glass of blood, raising it in turn.

"To new friends and to games." Lifting his glass to his lips, he takes a small sip, holding the infused blood in his mouth. Letting it warm, savoring the bouquet. He swirls it around briefly in his mouth before swallowing. "So. Favors. Small favors, you say. Such as, perhaps, the loan of a tuxedo?" He reaches up, plucking at his bow-tie. "This is Calvin Klein, you know. If you want to borrow it, Jake, you're welcome to."

"To new friends and to games," Mingzhu echoes the toast, lifting her cocktail and then sipping from it, a quiet 'mmm' following. "My compliments to your bartender," she voices in Nikola's direction, apparently the Old Fashioned has been mixed perfectly. "Oh, no. Phones are not ruining anything. How can it be a bad thing to have the sum of human knowledge in your pocket?" It seems her opinion may be in the minority, but then again she's the youngest creature in the room, probably.

"Small favours seems appropriate. Also, Nikola - I can recommend an excellent seamstress if you want something that isn't off the rack. She designed and created the suit he /is/ wearing." With the terms agreed, she takes a seat at one of the tables, placing her drink down beside her. "So, which variant of poker?"

Jacob nods to Seth at his acknowledgement, smirking faintly. As the man turns to find himself and his partner a drink, Jacob watches him thoughtfully. It's difficult to read his expression - those somewhat alien eyes and the blur around him don't help - but he seems mostly curious. And slightly ponderous. He looks over at Nikola as Seth retrieves their drink, his smirk widening into a grin. "It's not the phones that ruin it, but the security that such an object can hold all the answers."

He turns back towards Seth as he returns and drinks are sorted out. He lifts his own, then takes a sip. As he lowers it, he laughs at Nikola's offer of the suit. "Mmm. I will have to pass on that. Only one man should ever wear a suit - the man it's fitted for."

Technically, Jacob was born later than Mingzhu, but as they are changelings, that means very little. He grins when she mentions the seamstress. "That's /modiste/, or /couturier/." His tone is amused, as if he's relaying a fact he only just learned himself. "Don't let her hear you call her a seamstress. She does, however, do fantastic work." As she asks about which variant of poker, he looks back at the vampires, lifting a brow questioningly.

"I've played in enough bars and saloons here to prefer Texas Hold 'Em now," the Mekhet responds to Mingzhu's question as he briefly collects the two blood-drinks that the Vampires have, refilling them before placing them under the bar and out of sight. The reason for this becomes apparent a moment later, as he buzzes a few of the casino staff into the room with a card table, chips, and a few of the premium decks of playing cards that the casino uses for its house games.

"There in the middle," Seth points to an empty patch of room for the table to be set up in, and once the professional staff have done their assembly and departed, Seth presses a button on the bar and the door locks with a thud behind them. Then Seth returns the blood-drink to Nikola and picks up his own as he walks out from behind the bar.

"It is a very nice suit," Seth agrees with a turn of his eye over Jacob's attire. "I wouldn't mind a few outfits made by such an expert hand myself, if your artiste is taking commissions." His smile widens, briefly showing fangs as he glances side-eye to Mingzhu. "I seem to be offering up a lot of commissions lately," he observes as he picks up a few of the scattered chairs and brings them into proximity with the green velvet-covered card-table. "Of course, the combat equipment comes first, but looking fancy for parties is just as good as armor, in some cases. Better, in others." Seth is silent on the subject of favors, but his facilitation of the game implies his agreement clearly.

"Texas Hold 'Em it is." Nikola smiles as he surrenders his glass of blood to Seth, watching the others as the card table is set up. "I would love the name of your.. Couturier, Mingzhu." He lets the exotic word fall trippingly off his tongue, relishing it, his eyes ablaze momentarily. "Words, words, words. Modern English, though so very new, has such a rich flavor to it. To your point, Mingzhu, that is what I find to be ruining the new generations. Did you know that children view punctuation in texts as microaggression?"

He reclaims his blood drink as Seth hands it over, taking another sip. "I agree with you," he replies to Jacob, inclining his head gravely. "A suit, like a sword, can be either bespoke or... as your friend says... off the rack. And a bespoke suit, like a bespoke sword, should never be loaned out. The balance would be quite off, in so many small ways. Yes?" He approaches the table, looking aside briefly at Seth as the other man mentions combat equipment, interest flaring in his expression. Settling into a seat, lounging with one arm over the back, the Ventrue sailor flashes a cheshire smile. "So. Who shall deal?"

The Telluric makes a dismissive gesture to Jacob's correction, amused rather than irritated. "Modiste, sure, whatever the word is." She moves to the new table, taking up position and setting her drink off to one side, out of the way of where condensation might mark the table. "I understand, and I'm making enquiries discretely for you," she promises to Seth once she has settled, folding her hands on the table in front of her.

"Also, and I suggest this out of respect for our hosts, that there be no use of powers to influence the game. If we were to use those, I could bankrupt the house on a good day if I was so inclined, so I think it only fair for us all to refrain. Agreed?"

Jacob nods as Texas Hold 'Em is suggested. He doesn't seem to have a preference to which version, himself. As preparations are made, he doesn't even bat an eye. He's used to having an efficient staff, after all. Not does he bat an eye at the mention of combat equipment. It's to be expected, in their world. For those that require it. He does smile, however, and offer, "She is worth every penny." Seemingly talking about the seamstress. Who he didn't actually pay, himself.

So far, he hasn't paid any mind to the blood drinking. Someone who is particularly good at reading people might notice that he never looks long at it. It's subtle - only those truly skilled might catch it.

He looks towards Nikola and smiles. "Deadly Threads is the name of her shop." He then nods as the man continues, comparing suits and swords. His smile broads. "You, my friend, understand." He clearly approves of Nikola. He turns towards the others, then, as they begin to settle down for the game. "We each draw a card and the higest deals, hmm?" When Mingzhu speaks, he looks towards her and lifts an eyebrow, amused. "You tell that to her."

As she continues, he nods, "I accept that. I wouldn't want to be fleeced outright." He grins at Mingzhu, who would know that he's just as good at luck-spinning as she is.

Seth's hands are quick with the cards: it's a brief flourish of Celerity, a joking smile in the direction of Mingzhu at the mention of not using powers accompanies the expression. "Please. If you bankrupt us so early, I won't be able to afford any further adventures." The deck of cards is splayed out against the green velvet with a brush of Seth's hand atop the card table as he sits down to take his seat, waiting for each of the others to draw a card before he, himself, picks last. He's listening to the conversation quietly, finishing the blood drink rapidly and setting the empty glass aside on a nearby small table. He doesn't seem to relish it, but the hunger and the need for courtesy aren't things that he avoids skittishly, either.

"No rush," the Vampire assures Mingzhu with a brief smile and a nod on the subject of her inquiries. "My apologies for placing so many requests on you in short order. Once the proper introductions are made, I'll be happy to do the legwork myself. I've just been busy, these nights," he gestures with a slight wiggle of his fingers that encompasses the VIP lounge, and more broadly the whole of the ship. "Always something, it seems like. That's why I had this place made, really, my own little get-away. The actual Elysium theater is a hundred times larger and far more grand, but... I have come to savor my slice of solitude."

.oO( Seth rolls 8 Dice )Oo..................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Detecting Lies + Blood Potency
 Result: Success (3) -- (8 3 1 7 9 5 4 8)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

"Ah, yes, no cheating. I have yet to encounter a supernatural card sharp, but we do have rules about that sort of thing." Nikola wags a finger teasingly in Mingzhu's direction, then dips it down to slide a card out of the deck and draw it toward himself. He doesn't even look down at the tabletop, much less his card. Unlike Seth, Nikola at least appears to be relishing his chilled blood. He looks across the table to Jacob, inclining his head gravely. "I do understand. Deadly Threads -- for those situations wherein social cutting is far more deadly than a cutlass, mm?"

"Seth, I would say that you work yourself to death, but..." A slight waggle of his eyebrows at the other Vampire. "In any case, I too am looking forward to quieter nights. Adjusting to our new joint role has taken a great of time in itself." Not to mention investigations into supernatural serial killers, establishing a floating casino, and a thousand other tasks. Fortunately for Nikola, his own role is often one of looming quietly in the corner, waiting for the violence to ensue.

.oO( Nikola rolls 6 Dice )Oo................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Investigation.Body Language
 Result: Success (2) -- (8 4 4 1 9 2)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

Eyes widening slightly, Mingzhu turns her best innocent expression towards Nikola at that finger-wag, though she can't really pull it off. Innocent isn't her forté.

As the cards are dealt she considers her fortunes, meeting the bid at the start and after the flop, then folds when the turn is flipped. Sitting back she watches the rest of the hand, lifting her drink for a sip. "Presumably working himself into an early grave simply means he's going to sleep a little early?" she remarks to the two Kindred, a thread of amusement in her voice, the Telluric seeming quite relaxed.

.oO( Mingzhu rolls 7 Dice )Oo...............................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Half Truths
 Result: Success (1) -- (3 7 6 8 3 6 7)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

Jacob watches as Seth deals, which means he sees that flourish of Celerity. He glances up and smiles, "Of course, that means no tricks performed by /any/ of us. Just a friendly game." He reaches forward to draw a card for himself. His own drink has been largely untouched, other than the toasting sip, but it's nearby, waiting for him. He doesn't /need/ to drink, and can be whimsical about when he does. Instead, he watches the interaction between him and Mingzhu. He doesn't interrupt - it's there business and not his - but his curious nature takes note.

Nikola's words draw his attention, then, and he laughs. "You haven't been in the business long, then." His tone is amused, and he continues, "Mmm. I'm sure you'd have to ask her where the name originates, but I will say..." He glances at Mingzhu and then lifts a hand, stage-whispering to Nikola, "Don't call her a seamstress." He winks, then settles back, waiting for cards to be dealt out. When they are, he glances over them, then glance sup at the others, one by one. He's not so much reading them as challenging them. A subtle difference. He toys with certain cards, while making eye contact there and there. A risky technique. There's a smirk at Mingzhu's joke, amusement.

.oO( Jacob rolls 8 Dice )Oo.................................................o.

 Roll: Intelligence + Intimidation.That Smile
 Result: Success (3) -- (6 1 1 6 4 1 3 10 10 10 1)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

--- Roll Off for the tie

.oO( Jacob rolls 8 Dice )Oo.................................................o.

 Roll: Intelligence + Intimidation.That Smile
 Result: Success (1) -- (1 7 2 1 1 10 7 2 6)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

.oO( Seth rolls 8 Dice )Oo..................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Detecting Lies + Blood Potency
 Result: Success (3) -- (9 9 9 7 5 1 2 6)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

Seth's OOC Note: Jacob had to leave for RL reasons here without posing out, but he gathers his things and departs.

"An early grave... hah. I'm taking that. It's mine now," the Mekhet deadpans aside to Mingzhu as he sets the cards back into a stack and places them in the center of the table as the group determines the dealer for this hand. Seth is entirely relaxed at the table, almost attuned like an antenna. Even though he's not directly looking at them, his passively heightened Vampiric senses take a sweep of their idle gestures, their heartbeats (those that have them) and their habits. Seth offers up an easy smile as he plays through the first hand of cards, raising up a placating palm in Jacob's direction on the subject of trickery at cards. "I know, it'd be terrible form for the owners of a casino to cheat at cards. Just a little stage magic to get the blood pumping." Seth does have an odd sense of humor, after all, and he makes no qualms about it.

Playing through the hand, Seth waits until the end before revealing a flush of diamonds, leaning back against the chair without much of a flicker in his expression. "No, we've not been at this long. The preparation work, yes, a while. I had some proxies handle all of the paperwork and the acquisitions while I was still in Cairo, but... as far as our arrivals, no, it's not even been two weeks yet. I timed things so that we'd get here just as the Regas was ready for her maiden voyage."

.oO( Seth rolls 8 Dice )Oo..................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Detecting Lies + Blood Potency
 Result: Success (4) -- (6 8 2 9 3 8 7 10 7)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

With cards before him on the table, Nikola seems in no hurry to actually glance at them. Instead, he watches the others as the River is dealt. "Yes," he replies to both Seth and Mingzhu, "I've never heard that one before." His tone is utterly relaxed, deadpan, mimicking Seth as he so often does. But there is a glint of sharp humor in his eyes, an incisive note to his tone as he continues. "It gives new meaning to the expression 'dirt nap', as well, for those who like to burrow down for their sleep." He finally glances at his cards, sighs, and tosses them into the table without even waiting for the river. "Fold," he murmurs.

And then, watching Seth complete his hand with a flush, the bearded Ventrue groans dramatically. "Of all the people," he moans in mock-outrage. "I am not," he tells Seth, still dripping false umbrage, "scraping barnacles from the Regas's hull. I'm certain we have a SCUBA diver for that." He smiles suddenly, dropping his act, and adds "I've captained ships before now," for the benefit of Mingzhu and Jacob, "But never a steamboat casino. My most recent vessel was a forty-foot power yacht. Part of a flotilla, of course."

.oO( Nikola rolls 6 Dice )Oo................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Investigation.Body Language
 Result: Success (2) -- (3 9 7 10 1 4 6)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

Taking up the cards, Mingzhu shuffles the deck and then deals out the initial two to each of them, waiting for bets - but folding on her own. The minor benefit of not being a blind. Then she burns a card - metaphorically of course - before turning over the flop, considering the two men remaining after Jacob has excused himself to take a call. "So many jokes, so little opportunity to use them until now," she murmurs to Nikola with a wry smile, taking another sip of her cocktail.

She continues with the turn and the river after each round of betting, assuming both the Kindred are still in, wondering, "So what other kinds of ships have you captained?" of the Ventrue, and then sidelong to the Mekhet, "And did you serve with him on any of them, Seth?"

.oO( Mingzhu rolls 7 Dice )Oo...............................................o.

 Roll: Manipulation + Subterfuge.Half Truths
 Result: Success (1) -- (3 6 10 3 7 6 3 5)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

"Boats have never been my thing. Building them, yes. Funding them, owning them. That's how I crossed paths with Niko to begin with, as it happens." A brief but sincere laugh emerges from Seth, here. "He attacked one of my boats, a nice merchant vessel hauling valuable cargo and a little something extra for myself. I was so incensed, I went out to fetch my things and ran into him." His dark green eyes briefly flick towards the Ventrue, "And we managed not to kill each other long enough to come to a business arrangement. Some years later, and it's survived the test of time."

Then Seth is looking back to Mingzhu, resuming the topic at hand. "But actually being out on the water?" Seth raises up his left hand and wobbles it as he checks his cards with the right, green eyes sharply glancing downwards before he places the cards back to the tabletop and raises his hand. "I enjoy the occasional voyage, but I've always been more at home among the bustle of a city's population. I'm a bit like a dragon that way, I think. If my treasure is too far from where I sleep, I worry that thieves will creep in during the night with knives in their smiles and strive to take it from me." A slight tilt of Seth's head accompanies this assessment, as he captures an afterthought out-loud, "...although historically, that actually has been what's happened to me, so I suppose it's warranted. Or at least precedented."

.oO( Seth rolls 8 Dice )Oo..................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Detecting Lies + Blood Potency
 Result: Failure -- (2 3 5 1 3 3 4 7)

.o...................................................oO( failure (public) )Oo.

"Well, let's see... I commanded a galley in the Adriatic for a short time, against the Ottomans and later the Venetians." Nikola's expression is neutral as he looks over at Mingzhu. As he narrates his tale, his Eastern European accent grows heavier. The humor in his eyes fades somewhat as his features grow distant. Seth would feel his Beast tensing, coiling defensively around him as he continues. "And then a sloop-of-war in the Caribbean, formerly French. And then I took a Boston clipper and, as Seth says, I plied my trade off Africa for some time." Finally, he lifts his cards and glances down at them. "I was fortunate there. My particular genius complements Seth's without, in absolutely any way, interloping upon it. Most recently, a group of Somalis and I were reaping a tidy profit."

He settles back into his chair, relaxing subtly and smiling at the others. It's as though he's come back to the present from a very long voyage into his own past, though only a few seconds have really passed. Looking across the table at Seth, still smiling, he adds "If any thieves attempt to relieve you of our gains, my brother, I shall do to them as my friends and I did to the Venetians. After all, I am the only man allowed to steal from you and live."

.oO( Nikola rolls 6 Dice )Oo................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Investigation.Body Language
 Result: Success (2) -- (3 9 7 10 1 4 6)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

"Aha. I am in the presence of a genuine pirate, then?" Mingzhu seems mildly impressed, certainly more entertained than threatened by the revelation. "Somehow I thought there would be more eyeliner and rum involved." That's a dry comment, not in any way serious, and she nods to Seth's observations about his relationships with ships and cities. "Likewise. I love the sea, but from afar. I will gaze upon it with adoration, but anything more than a short ferry or pleasure-cruise is not really for me."

As Seth scoops another win, she shakes her head and reaches down from her purse. Taking out a string of pearly-white beads, she slips one off the thread and sets it in front of him, a physical token of the minor favour he just won. Then, she gathers the cards and sets them in front of the Mekhet.

.oO( Mingzhu rolls 7 Dice )Oo...............................................o.

 Roll: Manipulation + Subterfuge.Half Truths
 Result: Success (1) -- (3 6 10 3 7 6 3 5)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

The cards are shuffled again by Seth, without the extreme speed of Celerity this time. It's clear that the curly-haired Vampire has practiced his card skills... unsurprising, given the length of his years and the fact that he's running a casino in New Orleans, a capitol city of sin. "New Orleans is about as close as I get," Seth takes a brief look around the Regas, tilting his head to watch the small silhouettes of people moving around in the casino below through the see-through glass beneath all of their feet. "It's just close enough to the water to blow in the drifters and the strangers, but far enough away that I don't have to worry about drowning under the waves." Cards shuffling as he speaks, Seth sets about dealing, and then laying out the river.

"There's a simplicity to piracy that I envy, sometimes," The Mekhet offers a wry half-grin in Nikola's direction at his assurances about thieves, "You can just shoot the offenders in the head and throw them over the side, let the ocean take them. No pesky investigations, no posturing, no faction against faction. Only the strong and the weak, with the losers devoured by the endless waters." He shakes his head slowly. "Here, we have to worry about every hot-headed violent type that wants to push the envelope. Much more disruptive. Otherwise, why would Hounds be needed at all?" A Carthian calling others hot-headed? Ironic, perhaps, but the aged Mekhet doesn't seem to find anything discordant about his statements. "The sea is the master of violence when you're out on the waves. Here, we have to try and master it, to much less effect."

.oO( Seth rolls 8 Dice )Oo..................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Subterfuge.Detecting Lies + Blood Potency
 Result: Failure -- (2 3 5 1 3 3 4 7)

.o...................................................oO( failure (public) )Oo.

"I was a hero, once. And then a pirate. But always on the water." Nikola claims, without any indication of irony, that he was in fact a hero at one point in his life -- or his unlife. He smiles across the table at Mingzhu as he, too, slides his card toward Seth. "The sea is a strange thing," he murmurs absently. "I've followed it across all the wide world, you know. I've seen Chinese pirates in their junks, Greek pirates in their triremes, Turkish pirates in wind-defying galleys, British pirates in great frigates, Somali pirates in Boston Whalers..." He trails off absently as he draws his new hand of cards toward himself. "But all of them, all of them, had one thing in common. We all found the shore to be an odd, disconcerting place."

He lifts his cards, looking at them for a few moments before lifting his gaze to meet Seth's, answering the other man's smile. "There is something in what you say, but you might be surprised at the methods with which we kept discipline. All members of my crew understood exactly what share they were allowed... and any man who looted without divvying up with the rest? Well, methods of execution change over the centuries, but they were always killed. Pirates run a tight ship, Mister Lancaster." He winks, belying the sudden formality. "In a way, being the captain of a pirate ship is a perfect training for being a Hound. Order must be maintained, for the good of all."

.oO( Nikola rolls 6 Dice )Oo................................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Investigation.Body Language
 Result: Failure -- (4 6 1 2 3 3)

.o...................................................oO( failure (public) )Oo.

.oO( Mingzhu rolls 8 Dice )Oo...............................................o.

 Roll: Wits + Composure + 2
 Result: Success (4) -- (5 8 10 5 9 1 9 3 3)

.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.

"I have seen it from a great distance, the wide expanse of blue between the green and brown, under the eddying whirls of white," Mingzhu murmurs, a hint of wistfulness in her voice as she speaks - and she may not even be aware she's said as much as she has, focusing on her cards instead. This time she remains in until the end, laying down a full house without any additional commentary. Looking back up and over to the two Kindred, she adds, "It is beautiful, but so easily guided. So easily drawn this way and that."

Blinking a few times, she focuses back on the game. "I believe that's me, then." She gathers in the chips, though they're really only for ceremony given the true currency being bet.

Raising up his eyebrows at how suddenly his luck turned for the worse, Seth offers a genuine grin of amusement before fishing out a token of his own from one of his pockets. A black leather wallet is produced, and from among the American quarters and nickels, he fishes out something much older... something bronze. Definitely a coin, but of much stranger origin. He slides it across the table with a deft gesture towards Mingzhu, physical receipt of the favor owed likewise to the one that he received himself. "Something I picked up, back in Egypt," he notes. The likeness of Ptolemy IV is graven upon the coin, for those with discerning academic skills. Or access to a Google reverse image search, either works.

"If you ever wish an ocean voyage, Mingzhu," Seth idly casts a hand outwards to indicate the broader vessel around them, "she is seaworthy. Though she's only advertised for river cruises, there's nothing to say that we can't change the itinerary for a few days. It's not like we have anyone telling us how to run the place," Seth wryly observes, turning his idle attention downwards towards the people a few stories below them, so small under their lofty observation. "And you know I hate going by that name," he remarks of Nikola's 'Mister Lancaster' comment, an idle smile crossing his lips. "It's just something for the bank accounts and paperwork. Adopting the surname of the Lancasters was little more than willful theft, though I feel I compensated them adequately in the trade for their name. Fifty good years. Not a bad bargain."

"Oh, I know exactly how much you hate it," replies Nikola to Seth. "That's why I love using it so much." The bearded Ventrue grins wickedly, looking down at the table to note the ancient Egyptian coin sliding across the table. "Ptolemy the First was an interesting figure, wasn't he?" The question seems sincere, as though Nikola isn't entirely clear on this part of ancient history. "He was Greek, yes -- no, specifically.. He was Macedonian? The half-brother of that trumped-up tyrant Alexander. But he set out on his own, forged a new empire in a new land. Created something beautiful."

There is genuine wistfulness in his voice as he adds, "And then it was all burned. All gone." He looks over at Mingzhu thoughtfully, head canting to one side. There is something there, something within her comments, that pulls at his attention. And because, deep down, the man cannot see a wound without prodding at it, he adds "There are other fascinating points about the sea, you know. Many people have asked me why we consider it a female entity. The reason, of course, is linked to the moon." He reaches for his glass of blood, finds it empty, absently turns it between his fingers. "But that must be obvious," he continues, suddenly brightening. "And we should take the Regas out into the Gulf. A few days? Why not? A good way to christen her properly."

"Huh, I had no idea. History isn't my subject at all," Mingzhu muses on the topic of Ptolemy I, taking the coin when Seth slides it over and tucking it into a concealed pocket inside her purse for safekeeping. Seems like it should be looked after, really, for more than just the favour it represents. "I'm inferring from all that you've said, you're both rather older than I am. Which could have been assumed, but it's good to know for certain, assuming these are not pure lies and fabrication," she adds, her smile slow and amused.

Her humour fades a little when Nikola takes out his metaphorical knife, digs it in and wiggles it around inside that wound, and she shakes her head at the Ventrue. "You are right, of course." That's certainly about his statement regarding the supposed gender of the sea, and absolutely nothing else. Right? "Though I would hope that, as a man of the sea, you have somewhat more respect for the forces that shape it, than you do for me."

"We're Carthians. Age doesn't mean much to us, nor wealth, nor power. You can have them, sure," Seth reclines in the chair, looping one tattooed arm over the back of it as he considers the dialogue between the two. "But we don't measure our worth by those things. The Invictus would say, 'I am older and therefore wiser than you, so I deserve to lead.' The Ordo, they would cite their superior knowledge and secrets, their exquisite capacity for logic and reason, as their reason for being the deserving ones, the chosen. The Lancea et Sanctum, they would derive a moral authority, a dominion over the soul, as their mandate for power." Each time Seth mentions one of the covenants, an extra finger of his begins drumming upon the surface of the card table as he talks. It's a slow, rhythmic motion, rolling from pinky towards his thumb as he talks. "And the Circle would cite their superior capacity for mysticism and their ability to commune with... whatever strange spirits and rites they have mastered, an ability to see the secret truth of the world."

The Mekhet shrugs. "They all have one thing in common. They all want to be right by virtue of something more powerful than themselves, some higher authority. Logic, magic, heritage..." Seth laughs, though it's cold and humorless, finding the road of ideas he's trekked down to be unpleasant to taste on his tongue. "The Movement's only prayer is 'no, fuck you. You don't deserve anything more than I do.' And sometimes we whisper it... and sometimes," he gestures in the direction of the excessive grandeur around them, "Sometimes we shout it."

Then Seth sits up in his chair and looks sidelong at Nikola, a rare and serious expression that freezes his green eyes passing across his face. "Nikola, behave for our guests, or expect no hospitality anywhere you go." It's not a threat, just a reminder, and some of the sharpness recedes from his eyes as he leans back in the chair again. "This city is a bad place to be without the comforts of hospitality. I can find you some enemies to antagonize, if you're feeling restless. But not in my place."

"Oh, I wasn't around for Ptolemy -- for any of the Ptolemies, I believe -- but it does remind me of the story of Constantinople. That did happen closer to my own time." Just what he means by that, he doesn't explain -- perhaps he thinks it's so self-evident that he doesn't need to elaborate. He nods in subtle approval when Mingzhu pockets the ancient coin, however. And when Seth begins to speak about the various Covenants, he nods along quietly. Whatever sadistic pleasure he had taken from the inference he's drawn, it's set aside with what appears to be a fervent belief in Seth's speech. Something glitters in his eyes at the announcement of the Movement's prayer.

And thus, he's taken entirely off-guard by the sudden, albeit gently-delivered, reprimand. For a long moment, the Ventrue doesn't move. He simply gazes at Seth, his dark eyes unreadable, none of their customary mirth evident. His hands are quite still on the tabletop. And then he blinks, and turns his attention to Mingzhu. "Madam Primogen," he says very softly, "My friend is right, and more than right. I admit that I take a certain satisfaction in the discomfort of others. It is a... life-long tendency." He hesitates, and this time, he does tap a fingernail on the table. "But I must apologize. You see, both before and after my Embrace, I fought fang and claw against men, and then monsters, who would make slaves of the world. I... it was wrong of me. What I said." He seems sincere. Even his Beast, sensed by Seth, is subdued -- not cowed, but sincere.

"I understand your frustration with those who value age," Mingzhu affirms to Seth, her smile slightly wan. "Though the last three generations are American-born, my family still holds to a lot of Chinese traditions, including revering and respecting one's elders. Prior to my absence from this world, I was entirely in agreement with those traditions... since my return, not so much. After all, what can they tell really me about a world that has changed so dramatically from the one they grew up in?" She finishes her Old Fashioned, setting the empty glass off to one side and falling silent as Seth delivers his gentle reproach.

The Changeling is silent for a short time, studying Nikola as if trying to divine whether he is genuine in his remorse, and eventually she inclines her head just slightly. "I accept your apology, Nikola Senjan. And ask that in redress, you explain to Seth - not now, but at his leisure - the conversation we had in the formal Elysium, so he understands why your mention of men and monsters who would enslave the world is relevant." A very light burden for the Ventrue, and perhaps some new information for the Mekhet as a reward. Then she looks sidelong to Seth, offering him a faintly grateful nod. "I see I was not wrong in providing the Moon's blessing to you."

"I believe strongly in hospitality, especially as we've now gone into that business. Even if you had not provided me a gift, I still would not want anyone needling our guests, in our Elysium. Myself included. What would people think of us, if word got out?" A briefly sardonic smile curves Seth's mouth. "Worse than savages, we'd be then." He gets up from his seat with a languid stretch, "It's just been an abrupt transition, from outsiders to... well, fixtures of the landscape, all of sudden, hasn't it?" Perhaps there's a little bit of favoritism there, underneath, but the logic that Seth lays out above it is certainly self-consistent. The matter of information does catch his attention, but he has enough discipline to set it aside for later without comment.

"And Muse is the Harpy now, so we're especially in trouble and need all the friends we can get before she terrorizes the place," Seth contemplates idly with a wry shake of his head as he wanders to the bar fridge, getting out the pitcher of blood again for Niko as he noticed the Ventrue playing with his empty drink. "Anything for you, Mingzhu?" He's not much practiced in the ways of alcohol, having not touched it in a hundred years, but competently made drinks are only seperated by a few words and the touch of a button.

"I will, of course, abide by that request, Mingzhu. And I appreciate that you have accepted my apologies. I am not like my friend. I am not used to fulfilling a social role in a larger group. In essense, Mingzhu, I have spent too much time alone and it has dulled me." Nikola looks over to Seth as the other man moves to the fridge, then back to Mingzhu, his expression still solemn. He clears his throat softly, an oddly human expression of awkwardness. The bearded Ventrue considers for a moment, then leans back in his seat. "I know a thing about you, now. It is fair and -- I think -- hospitable to return the favor. When you get home, Google the town of Senj, in Croatia. You will know, then, all about my mortal life and what befell my people."

This may well be news to Seth as well, though the name -- Senjan -- is there for anyone with eyes and an eager Google-fu. His mood brightens somewhat as he looks over at Seth again, relaxing enough to go from slouch to lounge in his posture. "Ah yes, Muse as Harpy." He smiles to Mingzhu, inviting her to join in the joke. "Our companion. I'm not sure you've met her yet. I am quite adept at inflicting pain, but Muse? She was steeped in a culture of cruelty such as I have never been exposed to -- Southern aristocracy." He's joking, but only partially. In a rather good Lowcountry drawl, he adds "Bless my little heart."

"Not for me thank you, Seth. I need to go and check on Jacob to make sure he hasn't been roped into some stupid adventure, and also prepare some documents for one of my clients before a meeting tomorrow." Which is to say, she should probably also sleep before then too. Assuming the moon needs sleep. "Hospitality is one of our guiding principles also, it is good to know that others value it too," she adds, rising to her feet and tucking her purse under one arm. "I have yet to encounter the role of 'Harpy', and I would like to know more - but not tonight. Perhaps next time, I can ask you about it," she adds to both men, her body-language relaxed and even amused as Seth draws on the amusement value of Southern cotillion etiquette.

Pushing her chair in, she then looks to Nikola, nodding slightly as he offers that crumb of knowledge for her to expand upon through her own research, tucking that morsel away for future consideration. "I will, thank you. Good evening to you both, and thank you for the game."

A light tap of a button behind the bar unlocks the door for Mingzhu and it slides open on hydraulic hinges of its own accord as she approaches it. "Safe travels, then, Mingzhu," Seth bids the Lost ambassador farewell with a fond smile and an offered wave of his right hand, before turning his attention to cleaning his cup of blood in the sink of the bar.

Seth idly checks a bank of cameras that pipe their footage to a small security station under the bar, through his personal log-in, to ensure that Mingzhu departs the Regas safely, before turning his attention back to Nikola with a brief twist of his lips in amusement. "I'm getting everyone's uniforms tailored: if you'd prefer a piratical style, start getting the design organized before I actually commission it," the Mekhet says, back to off-hand business as their guest has departed. And then he's gathering his paperwork himself, his attention turning back towards the pressing demands of the evening as he talks.

Nikola watches the woman depart, and the door shut, before he takes a sip of his chilled blood. The Ventrue stands, idly pacing back and forth, considering for a few moments. "You know, of course, that she was a slave to a God-like being. Apparently the True Fae are... well, as the Invictus wishes it was." As they all wish they could be, if they were willing to admit it. "I questioned her about the Fae when last we met, and she recommended that I never ask what one of her kind did when they were enslaved."

There is a genuine note of regret in the Ventrue's voice, almost agitation. "Of course, I suspected it was lunar. I am not a fool. But her comment..." He trails off, sighing and closing his eyes for a moment. "I'm simply not suited to kindness, Seth. She exposed her jugular to me. I apologize for making our position less tenable." He considers a moment further, then adds "A regular uniform will be fine. But, um. Perhaps accent of something in the modern punk-rock genre. I find it to be...refreshingly Carthian."