Etienne de Vaillant: “Can’t I just have one crisis at a time?”
Sarah McCullough: “You’re a pontifex now, my lord. You’re supposed to be able to multi-task.”
Well, there was the infamous Marionette Incident….
Milan, 1490 – The Dragon’s Masque.
Etienne de Vaillant, then merely a Tremere apprentice, conspired with the Lasombra priest Francesco Dantini to deceive his Tremere brother Antonio about the real origin of a certain vial of blood used in a hostage exchange (Antonio thought it was Father Dantini’s, but it was really Etienne’s own). Of course, because Antonio thought it was Lasombra blood, and because the Tremere elders demanded it be kept “secure” during the period of time it was being held, he sent it out of the city—where it was intercepted and stolen by parties unknown. Which was really NOT a good development, especially when the rest of the Lasombra (including Dantini’s powerful sire and hot-headed younger sibling) discovered this, there was diplomatic hell to pay.
Etienne, of course, finally had to admit it was his blood, not Dantini’s, which didn’t make Antonio any happier (because someone clearly had that vial of blood who shouldn’t), but it at least meant that since it was Etienne’s blood, it should be possible, using the laws of contagion and some blood-sorcery rituals, to scry for the blood and find out where it had gone and who had it.
In the hopes it would give them some advantage, they enacted their ritual fairly close to dawn. Etienne acted as ‘seeker’ – which meant he used his magical connection to his own blood to send his spirit out of his body, floating out into the ether, tracking down that missing vial.
It took a while, but he finally found it—and in a worrisome place, splashed on the tunic of a wooden marionette, which was as good a likeness of himself as a skilled craftsman could make. As it happened this marionette—as well as numerous others representing all the Cainites of Milan—had been crafted by a master indeed, the crazy Malkavian court jester and playwright Petrucchio. Petrucchio had been complaining that some of his ‘cast’ had been missing rehearsals, so it was very likely the marionette had been stolen—and in any case, between the likeness and the blood, it was too good a magical link for Etienne to allow it to remain in enemy hands.
But at that moment Etienne was just a spirit, non-corporeal and intangible. The only way for him to move the marionette was to… well, inhabit it, possess it temporarily, and hide it somewhere until he and Antonio could get out there in person to recover it.
So Etienne willed his spirit into the doll’s body. That part of the plan worked like a charm. He was easily able to possess and even animate the wooden figure, moving it to as good a hiding place in that room as he could manage, with dawn coming on.
The problem came when he tried to depart—he couldn’t. His spirit was stuck fast in the doll. He had become the doll for all intents and purposes—a wooden replica of himself standing about sixteen inches high. Meanwhile, Etienne’s physical body lay in a torpor-like state back in the Tremere chantry in Milan… twenty miles away. And apparently Antonio, who was supposed to be monitoring the ritual, had already fallen asleep. Merde.
It took several nights for Etienne to finally get back to his body again. In the meantime, he was walking around (and flying, as he had Movement of the Mind at sufficient level for that) as a scaled-down wooden effigy of himself. He could use some of his Disciplines, but he couldn’t speak (there’s a limit to how much a painted mouth can do—he could only converse with those who had enough Auspex to use telepathy), and he couldn’t feed, so his body back in the Chantry, while kept safe enough, was unable to replenish itself. He tried to fly back to Milan, and got captured in mid-air by an owl (the animal-servant of the local Tzimisce, who fortunately was not his enemy). He got to ride in Francesco Dantini’s hood, which was very cute (however hard it was on his Dignity). He got lectured by Petrucchio for missing rehearsals and not knowing his lines. Petrucchio also repainted part of his face when it got damaged, which did improve his vision, and kindly carried him up one flight of stairs. (Petrucchio always did have a hard time telling the difference between real people and his wooden actors in any case….)
Considering the circumstances he was dealing with, he was surprisingly creative and versatile (not to mention VERY stubborn and determined). He actually got a lot done!
He also inserted a “Will NEVER EVER be turned into a marionette again” clause into all future character story contracts. Go figure. I had to come up with something really creative to beat it the next time.)