Scout’s Honor, Part 2: Chastisements

The following sequence completes the secret scene posted in 08/06/15, after Scout investigates Costco with Anstis.

Be aware that Scout’s storyline often takes a darker tones than the main storyline and deals with themes of abuse.

***

ST IGNATIUS CHURCH

After returning to the city from the Costco, Scout heads straight back to St. Ignatius church. She finds Cantor on the roof of the rectory, tending to his birds. Pigeon-keeping has been an affectation of his for years now, though as long as she had been with him, they’d rarely stayed in one place long enough for him to indulge in it. This church already happened to have a weathered coop when they arrived, maintained by an elderly deacon.

Who mysteriously went missing not long after they arrived.

Scout hesitates in the door of the stairwell before stepping onto the roof. Coos and rustling wings echo across the rooftop. Cantor crouches in the doorway of the coop, examining something in a lower nest.

Gravel crunches underfoot as she approaches. He straightens slowly, his back to her. Tonight he’s in an antique waistcoat over threadbare corduroy pants. Neither piece of clothing is one she’s seen before. She tries not to think about where they might have come from.

“What have you come to tell me, my child?” Cantor says finally, voice as gentle as the pigeons around him. A sliver of her tension eases. He seems calm today.

“I gathered some new information about the pirate,” she says.

Cantor nods, stroking something in his hands. It’s a young hen, recently-fledged. “Tell me of the pirate.

Scout’s gaze lingers on the dove-soft feathers of the bird. Cantor never eats them. He can’t. He can barely even eat humans anymore. “His name is Thomas Anstis,” she says. He appears to be Gangrel, though you wouldn’t know it from interacting with him. He acts like a Malkavian.”

Cantor traces a finger along the bird’s back. “They’re all Malkavian now,” he sighs.

“He seems to have a ship, a submarine.”

“A submarine.” Cantor looks up, dark eyes almost dreamy in the waxy, ashen flesh of his face. Bits of dried blood fleck his wispy beard. She tenses. It wasn’t there when she left earlier this evening. “To what purpose does he put it, I wonder?” he mutters, staring at nothing. “What does he want?”

His tone is hypothetical but she answers anyway. “He’s looking for what would appear to be a childe of his, but the child is actually Malkavian….” she trails off, confused.

His eyes focus on her. “A childe?”

She stills instinctively under his attention, carefully wiping all trace of emotion. “An actual child.”

“Another child. How intriguing. Is he the Pied Piper, then?”

She shrugs. “Well, he can’t find this one.”

“Is he unable to find it, or does he not wish to look?”

“He is searching, very hard.”

Cantor stares at Scout expressionlessly, then looks down at the bird. Her amber eyes blink slowly as she fidgets in his grasp. “Why does he do this? Does the…other child mandate it so?”

“The pirate claims not to have anyone directing him.”

Suddenly Cantor’s gaze snaps up. “What have I told you before? All have directors. All have direction. Does the pirate suspect you, my child?”

Every nerve sings with warning at his sudden shift in tone but she wills herself calm. “He is…interested in me.”

Cantor tilts his head like the bird in his hand. “Does he suspect…the correct things?”

She shakes her head. “Not that I can tell,” she admits.

Cantor nods, then steps out of the coop to approach her. “You must cause him to suspect the correct things. In time he will ask these questions. You must have the answers prepared. In others’ mouths, and by other means. Using the gifts I have given you.” He reaches out to trace her chin, stroking it as lightly as the pigeon. “He must know you to be what you are not. Unless you feel you are not equal to this task.”

His finger is scalpel-cold, but she forces herself not to pull away. “I can do it,” she says firmly.

Cantor smiles and steps back. “I have every hope that you can. But remember, the frantic mind is an ill-fated mind. Matters are approaching an end-point and I will not be able to shield you forever.” He strokes the bird a moment, spreading her wing to check for broken feathers. “Did the pirate speak of the other?” he says finally.

Scout blinks. “What other?”

“Your other.” He carefully rotates the bird to check the other side. “The one you search for.”

For the second time that night, the world pulls out from under her. He knows…he knows about Tom…. The years of planning, the subtle hints to bring them to San Francisco…had he known the whole time? Had he simply gone along with her childish plotting, quietly amusing himself with her pain? Her panic spirals back on itself. Does he know that her mind is her own more and more with each night? Or, worse, does he let her think that it is?

He watches her coolly, the pigeon fussing in his hands. Scout struggles to recompose herself. “He…the pirate says there was a fight–”

“Did they slay the other?”

Her heart wrenches. “No, but I don’t know why.”

“Where did they bring him?”

She racks her memory of everything she overheard tonight. “…The Chantry.”

Cantor’s face darkens. “You cannot go to the Chantry.”

“No.” Scout hesitates. “…She’s there, isn’t she?” Georgia Johnson, the Tremere she failed to kill. The first failure she’d had since her earliest nights. When she came back from San Jose she had been sure Cantor would kill her that night, but instead he used it as an opportunity to make his displeasure known in other ways.

“She is.” Cantor turns toward the north-east. “Even now, she waits within it. She trusts to madmen to shield it from us. And others. You will not go to the Chantry.” He turns back, eyeing her intently. “But you will pursue the other, will you not? Unless I forbid it. Should I forbid it, my child? Can you be trusted to go and act in your own volition, without compromising everything that must be?” He steps closer, looming over her. “If I grant you this freedom, and you misuse it, what chastisements should I use to remind you of your responsibility?”

She stares at the faded lapel of his coat. “You won’t need to,” she says softly.

“Won’t I?” Movement catches her eye and she looks down. The pigeon’s fussing has turned to struggles as Cantor’s hands slowly clench tighter. His voice drops to a whisper. “Seek the other if you would, but do not reveal what is. If you seek to, your tongue shall cleave to the roof of your mouth, your eyes shall tear themselves from your skull in disgust at the treasons you would perform. Your bones will shatter one after the next, until you are a wretched, lingering thing, unable to die, save at my whim.” He leans down, blood-stained breath washing over her. “You know this to be true, do you not? It would pain me to inflict such chastisements. Just as it has pained me before. You do not wish to pain me, do you my child?”

The bird twists her head, beak gasping soundlessly. “…No,” Scout whispers.

“I thought not.” Cantors hands suddenly relax. The bird starts breathing once again, head drooping in exhaustion. “How will you seek for your brother?”

Scout forces herself to take a slow breath as well. “There are others he has interacted with. They might have a better lead.”

“Perhaps. The Malkavian Primogen knew him. So did the Toreador scholar.”

She nods, choosing her words carefully. “Yes, I met the scholar this evening. He was…intrigued by me.”

Shifting the pigeon to one hand, Cantor tilts her chin up with a finger. She tenses as she meets his gaze. “Does he suspect the correct things?” he asks.

Politics and intrigue… She shakes her head slowly. “…I don’t know.”

After a long moment, Cantor smiles patronizingly. “You may speak with those you see fit. The Baron of the District of the Sunsets. The Malkavian Primogen. The Archbishop of San Jose. These all knew your brother. These all may speak of his acts, and his deeds, and those that laid him low. If any of them should come to suspect the wrong things, what will you do?”

“…Clear it up,” she whispers.

“Good.” He releases her. “Do not kill if you can avoid if. Do not fail to if you can’t. Is this understood?”

She nods wordlessly.

His smile spreads, sickly-wide. “Then go, my child.” He opens his hands. The pigeon explodes into the air, shedding a handful of broken, crushed feathers, and circles into a sky already starting to lighten with dawn. “Return to me when you have learned more. Of the pirate, the Regent, and the Ventrue prince. Do not slay them. Yet.”

He grabs her shoulder and pulls her close. She freezes, terror spiking, but all he does is kiss her forehead, a sign of dismissal. Suppressing the urge to scrub away the sensation of his stained beard and dry lips, she bows and turns to leave.

She’s almost to the door of the stairway when he suddenly speaks again. “Do you wish revenge for your brother?” he calls across the rooftop.

She stops, then turns back. “Depends what happens to him.”

Cantor smiles again, teeth flashing like blades in the dark. “Then perhaps, if you are good, I will give you this revenge. But not yet.”

She hesitates a long moment, then nods once and disappears into the stairwell, descending into the church to find a place for the day.

But not a safe place. As long as Cantor was here, nowhere in this city would be safe.

#

END OF ADDENDUM

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