Chapter LVII: ManipulationWhat is eternity? You may have considered it, late at night, an idle thought, a drunken conversation. If you had eternity to live, top of the world's food chain, little to fear so long as you had the sense you were fucking born with, what is there to existence? Eternity is a long time. You'd imagine that when every year was like a blink of the eye in your story, a second in the day of your unlife, that the petty little moments would be quickly forgiven, that when you gazed into infinity, grudges became meaningless.
Wrong. Your grudges are all you have left.
Manipulation was the unlife. Manipulation, powerplay, intrigue. It kept the sane, sane. It kept the Malkavians from chewing on the furniture. The life of mortals is fleeting. Imagine you kept in touch with loved ones somehow, or watched over your kin. To see each one slip away. That you would live long enough to see your country fade away. To see your civilisation or culture swept away by the centuries, or brutally ended in a day's bloodshed. The mortal world is fleeting. The Kindred are forever. They plot. They create alliances, pledge allegiance. They betray without thought, destroy another vampire's aeon of work in a moment of vile humour. They do this, because there is nothing else.
Was the Regent's comment so misspoken, so thoughtless, uttered in a second of relief? Or was it carefully orchestrated, to appear as such, so that in learning my origins, I may curse the Anarchs for my rebirth, despise the Prince for orphaning me in a single instant? Had Maximillian been involved in my siring, or merely seized upon the chance to cause chaos in the French lord's court? The pawn had been moved, but the pawn was being played by three players. Perhaps more. Which hands guided the hands of the board, which hands made pawns of the players? Such things are unfathomable. What parts of what were happening now were new? What parts were the next moves in a game the antediluvians had been playing since the fall of Babel? To the fledgling, should such things matter? My unlife so far had been one of survival, reeling from crisis to disaster like a drunken fratboy in Soho, scraping by on more luck than I should have. Everywhere, they smiled, called me friend. How many were smiling to my face, while pulling the strings that bound me? How many were smiling, while sharpening the stake?
Perhaps I was beginning to understand what Nines was getting at. Why was unlife governed by a series of ancient laws and regulations which served only to ensure that the ones in power kept that power, that the ones at the bottom would be so scared of their own fucking shadow that they'd burrow so deeply underground that they were no threat. Toreador played off against Nosferatu, Brujah against Ventrue. Nobody liked the Tremere, that much was clear. Where were my allegiances? Not to the Prince, who had sent me to die in a pointless suicide mission, an unimportant warehouse in the middle of a rundown part of town. To my clan, those who had deemed me unworthy for entry into their ranks? Or was my loyalty to the Anarchs, who made it clear they didn't trust me, but had made no move against me, willing to help me where needed. To Nines, and to Jack, each taking me under their wing when no-one else would?
There was much to think about. Play the game. Be the pawn. Perhaps the players themselves had forgotten.
Push that pawn far enough, and that pawn could be any piece on the board.