There are a million and two rules in war. The first hundred or so are about survival. The rest are about how to kill.
She could hear the faint clicker-clack of sharpened nails as they sliced their way past thick padding and plush weave of costly carpet into the solid oak below. A pause. Quinn's mind filled in the image of a chinchilla as it stopped to groom its pink frosted fur. A shuffle. The animal's prey was in sight. It was on the move. She calculated the outcome based on noises alone. The break between key strokes that bespoke of a sudden caution in the air, the slide of a chair as weight shifted out of it, the scratching swish of movement and the inevitable grind of metal as filing cabinets opened and then clicked shut again. Any moment now the inevitable cry of dismay would come followed by a groaning sneer of disgust.
"Against the first..." came the muttered baritone used only in the privacy of empty rooms.
It was like an old fashioned marquee flashed a thousand watts in her head, arrows scrolling towards the door. A grin malicious as sugar is sweet crawled across her lips.
"The first what?" came the exasperated gruffness of a gear switching mind.
Ding, ding, ding! Quinn burst thru the closet door, refusing to shield her eyes from the unaccustomed brightness of the stately law office. An entrance should never suffer from the glare of the stage lights.
"Tradition, Rivington. Tradition. Try to keep up."
His blue eyes narrowed in heartless reproach. "You cannot make a legal missive that vague. Poor form."
Quinn yanked her mind away from images of the ventrue dressed as cartoon pirate. "Why? If they can't uphold the first they should suffer for it."
"It allows too much wiggle room," he explained.
"Oh." The lawyer regained his seat as a flicker of bemusement caught in Quinn's expression. She desperately reached for some clever verbal parry. "Well..." she struggled, fingers wiggling as if winding invisible threads until they stopped at the touch of a solid object. Sadly, the realization that no amount of spin would give her a defense against his hammer's blow of logic crumpled Quinn into the chair opposite the golden haired lawyer. "But it seemed so ruthless..."
The glimmer of triumph in Rivington's eyes was at once wicked and triumphant. Out maneuvering Quinn was a pass time that could wreak havoc with a weaker mind. "Are you talking suspected breach of the first or just proven breach?"
"Well proven of course," she scoffed. "Suspected is to have the scourge tail that fool and bring me proof so I can make an example of this idiot. You know your legal sensibilities won't let me do anything less."
Rivington chuckled. "You know me so well." Drawing close parchment of a ghastly yellow, he began to scribble out notes, the glide of his silver nibbed pen a hypnotic specter across the page.
"So, this is what I think you should send out," he drawled while looking over several sheets of paper that Quinn could have sworn were blank just a moment ago."Any proven breach of the first Tradition will be punishable by starvation or death. Length of starvation and/or sentence of death is determined based on size of breach, and number of previous offenses." Lowering the document Rivington rested his steady gaze on Quinn and waited.
The light in the room was different. When had Rivington took off his jacket? "Isn't that what I said?" she asked, unable to keep her confusion hidden. A quick glance about the room showed time had shifted. Again. Damn him and that pen! He knew better than to show such a lovely piece of elegance to her and expect to hold any binding conversation. The traditions were important!
Rivington dismissed the outrage in her eyes. "Yes," answering her question and suspicion at the same time, "but this is more specific, and less rambling. Also, it doesn't mention shoes." Then he grinned his charismatic smile. It was a smile that never failed to sway the most despondent juror to his side. Quinn's glair didn't falter so he dropped the facade. "Trust me, it's a lawyer thing."
Determined to respond just as eloquently, Quinn stood with dignity and poise before hissing out a guttural "BAH!" and shoving everything in reach off the mahogany desk. Show of force achieved, she turned to storm from the room only to trip over the gawd awful tennis shoes she was trying to get used to. Heals rarely had traction. Laying there with her dignity in shambles, muttering something that sounded like 'flamboyant cheese' but was in actuality a tinny tirade about how unpoetic legalese is, Quinn let the anger flow out of her. This is what she got for needing immediate results. Even she was not immune to her impatience.
Rivington took a moment to hide the laughter in his voice. "Flamboyant cheese?"
Planting her toes and using her core mussels to shift the bulk of her form into a graceful if slowly rising image that called to mind old caskets and horror flicks, Quinn sniffed. "Do you know why I don't like legal things? There's no passion in it. No story." Dusting herself off, she guggled, "Passion causes law. Law is a reaction to it. Murder? Well what now? Guess we make a law. Cold. Clinical. And what's wrong with shoes?!" she outraged, a twitching at the corner of her eye.
Rivington knew there was no talking to her when the insanity took hold. Reaching serendipitously into a small drawer to retrieve a set of quality earplugs and rising as he fixed them into place, he threw open the closet and walked into the darkness on the other side.
Quinn's tirade about the stagnation of law on the imagination and the inevitable question of 'what would have happened to Shakespeare if he'd been dogged down by the legal system' lasted twenty minutes. As she ranted he'd brewed a fresh pot of coffee, completed three dispositions and waited until she began to wind down. Slipping a hot cuppa into her icy hands he watched the haunted, fanatical look fade into an unspoken apology.
"Law is supposed to be black and white, as it is blind. Passion has no place in it or else we couldn't render fair judgment."
Quinn's claws threatened to shatter the sturdy ceramic couched in her grip as her eyes began to blaze with renewed fever. This time Rivington was ready. With two fingers he guided the cup to her lips while his free hand pressed down on her quivering shoulders. The cup was refilled twice before she spoke again.
"Fine," she groused before gulping down more of the potent brew. Then more calmly, "Fine. I am a benevolent tyrant. It is the goal of all sociopaths."
Rivington could not keep the incredulity off his face as he returned the empty pot to its resting place. Mouthing 'benevolent tyrant' with a shake of his head, he acquiesced. "If you say so my dear. Now," he said as he regained his seat, "did you have any punishments for the other Traditions or just the first?" The click of a ball point pen ricochet off Quinn's hearing like the shot of a gun. "Also, would you like for me to make the announcement, or would you like to do it yourself?"
"No announcements. Make the document and hang it in Elysium where only the kindred can access it. They need to learn to pay attention. Our threats are real and clever, not always given to announce themselves or play fair." Sipping her coffee, Quinn seemed to settle into an intelligent madness as she eyed her foot wear. "I was considering the other Traditions. Domain violations should be brought to light formally and the violated should be allowed to weigh in on punishment." Glancing up to catch the half disgusted, half outraged look on the lawyers face she blinked. "Too much?"
"I wouldn't allow them to weigh in. However..." Rivington began to write.
Ink flowed over the pages in a strong, masculine hand that, though Quinn tried, she could find little fault in. His script was clear and his verbiage immaculate. He made the whimsy of her prattling seem so solid, indisputable. There was magic in this. Blade sharp his voice cut across her thoughts as he pronounced himself satisfied with this latest draft.
"The severity of the damage and suffering of the victim that is brought to light will determine the severity of the punishment inflicted."
"So like... they come bitching and I decide if they bitched enough to kill people?"
"If you wish to oversimplify. But, they must have proof."
Quinn pondered that long enough to down a few more swallows of the dark brew."So basically the golden rule; don't get caught."
Rivington jabbed a pen towards her with vitality; delighted that she understood, and could put voice to, the subtle undercurrent of the edict. "Exactly!" Clearly the coffee had kicked in. "Go ahead and give me the punishments that you have for the rest of them and I'll convert them to, as you call it, legalese. I'll strip the poetry right out of it."
"Progeny. No. None. I'll fucking kill you and your bastard off spring. You come to me first and I better be impressed. Frankly," Quinn sighed as she eyed the empty cup, "this city can only hold so many. I can't have fool children running around mucking up what is already a delicate situation. The right has to be earned. Honestly, if they get out of hand with this, I'll limit ghouls too."
With barely a flicker of mental taxation, Rivington began to translate. "Due to the current situation and size of our domain, there will be no rights given to create new progeny unless the intended progeny has traits that the Prince feels are necessary for the advancement of the Domain."
"Maybe there is some poetry in your law."
"Well," Rivington puffed up his chest with a roguish wink tossed Quinn's way, "I have been told I have a silver tongue."
A ridiculously adorable giggle escaped from behind cupped hands as Quinn sat back. "Okay, okay. Silver is your thing. Next," her smile more easy and her tone congenial, "Accounting. Well that's straight forward isn't it? Learning mistakes happen, but we can't afford them now, so any mistake will be dealt with severely. This is why we can't have childer. It always takes a decade or more for the glamour of being what we are to wear off. Someone always goes for flashy and we all pay for it."
"Additionally," Rivington reworded, "if you are granted the right of progeny, and your childer violates any of the traditions, your childer is forfeit and your punishment shall be twice as severe as normal."
That gave Quinn pause. "What is normal? I mean... if the violation is severe enough don't we just kill the sire to for being a dumb ass?"
"Yes," Rivington agreed with an elegant nod. "Normally, we do. The punishment as indicated in the section of the individual Tradition violated."
His vocabulary was lost in lawyer land. Quinn tried again. "Normally we make the sire pay for the breach, and that usually gets the sire to beat the ever loving bejebus out of the kid so," her mind began to wander. "I guess? I dunno. Seems a lot like a ... what's it called... um..." Fustration began to grab hold as it always did when answers were not forthcoming. "Oh it was in that magazine!" With a flick of her hand and a well placed treat, Grendel the chinchilla was summoned from his playful lolling about in the large bowl of dust tucked behind one curtain. "Fetch that thing I was reading," Quinn commands as if the animal would understand her imperious demands. Without skipping a beat it skittered off in a flash of punk spikes and tinny backpack.
"So anyway," she continued, "Hospitality. That sounds like the domain thing should go here. But you can punch them. No killing. Only I may grant killing and Only I. I may revoke and..." pulling her rampage short, she smiled coyly. "Well that's the next one. Oh! My magazine," she cooed as Rivington's ghoul presented it then slipped away thru the closet. Maybe, the ghoul's expression read, she could get that paw print leaving fur ball back in its cage. Quinn paid it no mind. There were rules.
"I got this in a subscription bundle with my architectural digest. It sounded interesting. Well, at first it did. I thought it was all about making leather goods like hand bags and shoes but, well..." Sliding a copy of LEATHER, a bsdm magazine towards Rivington with a thoroughly perplexed expression, she asked "Why are things so misleading?"
Rivington couldn't stop the groan that escaped him. Pushing the publication aside with the edge of his pen, he hissed, "What have I told you about trying new things without asking me first?"
"I didn't get it from the Gangrel!" she protested. "Tony, that Brujha back home with the leather jacket recommended it. He's always so nice."
It happened before he realized it had started. One moment he was eying the magazine in disapproval the next he'd smacked himself in the face so hard he was sure a red mark would remain. Some nights Quinn needed a babysitter. Most nights.
A small voice pierced the colorful haze before his eyes."He jerked my chain, didn't he?"
"Remember," Rivington returned with a half hidden growl of exasperation, "how I told you about phrasing?"
For a moment she sat there, her mind shifting thru layers of age and otherworldly countenance until an odd mix of expressions slid into place. The look was a terrifying mix between truculent child about to cry for being teased and the very reason Hell hath no fury. Quinn took the publication into her grip and began to shred it, paper cuts and snagged cuticles be damned. Glossy images and partial articles about butt plugs, lubes, crops and the casually placed ad for home aid kits littered the office floor.
"Now, now," he chided, both amused and with a mind to vengeance against Tony. "There's no need to get upset." Letting the toreador smooth her ruffled feathers, Rivington measured matters. Tony was not tonight's problem. He had other issues to press. "I think we should give Katla loyal." Quinn's sharp gaze swiveled towards him with predatory intent. Straitening up, Rivington clarified the point. "For giving up the Princedom to follow the orders from the Archon. I don't think very many Princes would do that instead of just having their Seneschal rule as proxy."
Still in a rage at the trick Tony had pulled on her, Quinn punched the wall hard enough for her body to resonate and immediately regretted it. Pouting as she sucked on the wounded aria she dropped into the chair again. "Why? That's not loyal. That's not wanting to be seen as disloyal. It's also a promotion. What prince is fool enough to not want that? And on her first mission out she gets seen by the hunter and that hunter traces her number so as to call her in a Gather. That phone call could have been traced to that very location and... oh!" Her eyes bright with clarity, "Someone tell Door to eat hunters who come calling but are not Ava or her envoy." Reclining comfortablly, she shook her head. "No, I'll need a better reason that that, but it is a big step towards getting it."
Rivington raised a golden brow, "Would you rather strip some status for getting caught like that?"
"No. To be honest, I think it balances out. It was a huge blunder, but she did do what was best for the city. I call it a wash, but a knife's blade of a wash."
"As you wish." Gathering papers and straitening his desk, Rivington pressed in several places that would be unobserved by most. With a final click, he pulled from a secret drawer a neatly compiled list of who's who and what's what. Running his fingers down the cover with a proprietary air, he spoke. "Now, are there any other status changes that you've heard of while out and about?"
Quinn thought carefully over every tidbit and horror she'd heard while doing her thing. Ponchos were making a come back. Mohair was still unfashionable, as it should be. No new super models or socialites to consider crossed her mind. "Only you have more status than me, which while I was lesser I didn't worry about, but as Queen... Well, I need to make sure it is me who stands tall. So tell me Harpy. Who do I need to look at?"
His smile was wickeder than the Mohomb sun. "Currently, Finn and Katla have more personal status than you. You and Finn are tied in positional status, and you are correct I, as Harpy, have more status than anyone."
"Katla is fine," Quinn said with a dismissive flick of her fingers. "She's not an issue. Finn might be. Just keep a close watch on him. Mommy and Mother," referring to his own cutthroat sire, "are watching us closely. We'd be fools to think otherwise. We are all of fiveish years from finally being more than just children in their eyes."
This got a grimace from the ventrue. But business was business and so he pressed on. "We are tied in regards to personal status. You are the highest ranking member of the Toreador clan, in regards to rank and status. I am second highest in regards to clan Ventrue. When I get ambitious, Finn may be taken down a peg or two."
Quinn gave Rivington a knowing smile. "So... Tuesday then?"
His glair was tempered by the Cheshire grin that curled his lips.
"Now," Quinn's tone told him well that she could not tolerate any more business this night. Not unless something pressing changed. "That party for Christmas will be seen to by the torries and donated to by Finn, but it was my idea. Keep that in mind when they come sniffing about for status. This Halloween thing. I'll have guest so I suspect an ambush. Make sure you're prepared."
"Of course," he sniffed as the book was slipped away. "I'm always prepared. Just make sure that the ones who are allowed to enforce things are prepared."
"If they aren't it won't matter. I'll rip out their lungs. Enforcers should always suspect the Spanish enQuazishion!"
At that flair for the dramatic, Rivington sighed as he rose to put away the files for Court in the safe. "Indeed. Also, I may have made it sound to the Gangrel that I was convincing you to make her Keeper, and implied that I was doing her a favor. Just so you're aware." That juror winning grin again.
"Did you?" as if this were a thing she'd expected. "Trying to make her warship your wingtips?"
"They should always be worshiped, but a little encouragement never hurt."
For a few moments Quinn just stared and then began to burble with laughter. "And you wanted to toss them in the 70s. Now then," she clapped her hands as enthusiasm returned, "this hunter. What cha got on 'em?"
"Not much," he admitted as he leaned against the wall with a sneer of disgust. "He is part of the Mossad & is pretty much untouchable. I can't get anything else without drawing attention."
Rivington's frustration was clear. Quinn rose to sooth his scales. "Then we use the media against him," she cooed as she tickled the hair at the nape of his neck. "Get video feed on him doing these illegal and shady things. Then publicly release them. The outcry will bring him low. NCIS says so."
Despite his great disappointment at the source of Quinn's most common legal adviser, he smiled. She would always need him to keep her from the deep end. "That's not how it works." He shrugged dismissively. "Besides, we don't have any more media influence available at this time."
"Dahling," Quinn purred. "I am the media." Then deciding that what Rivington needed was a dose of fun, she dragged him out to watch Hotel Transylvania 2 which caused her to spend the rest of the week going 'Blah-blah-Blah!' at random intervals for no apparent reason.
Rivington is probably going to kill this Adam Sandler fellow for this outrage invested upon his sanity.