We descend into some sort of sewer complex, with long, dank tunnels and a lingering stench of blood strong enough to overpower the rot. The tunnel at the base of the ladder goes two directions and through details I don’t remember, we end up getting split (because the rule in our game is ALWAYS split the party). Georgia, Carlos, and I–oh, and Emperor Norton–go left, while Clarence goes right. Doc, incidentally, stays up top to stand guard.
I, armed with nothing but my whip and a machete, lead my half of the team through the narrow tunnels, eventually coming out on a walkway circumscribing an open cistern. Instead of being filled with stormwater and sewage, though, the bottom of the pit is filled with bodies. Fighting through our distaste (or, well, except Carlos, he prolly feels right at fucking home) we make our way around and into a new corridor.
As we move along this one, we hear chanting echoing from the distance, across the stone. Turning a corner, we see an archway lit from beyond by candlelight and torches. Slowly, we make our way forward and peer inside.
Beyond the archway is a room, almost as large as the cistern, with candles and sconces around the perimeter. A pentagram drawn in what looks to be fresh blood covers the floor, and five figures stand at each point, apparently the source of the chanting. Our eyes, though, are drawn to the middle of the pentagram, and the man standing shirtless and blood-covered there.
We pull back, discussing a plan. The whole point of the operation was to collect information, maybe find some of the missing Semtex, but this ritual looks like something we probably don’t want to let procede. But there’s five robed men in the room, and Alejandro, so stopping it won’t be an easy thing. Georgia and I debate what we should in hurried whispers, but after a few seconds the decision is made for us….
….When Emperor Norton draws his sword, screams about usurpers and vile treachery, and charges into the room.
Meanwhile, Clarence is poking around a different part of the hideout and comes across a room filled with vats. By the smell, they’re vats of blood. Strange shapes seem to move around in them, just beneath the surface. Clarence peers in sneeringly before moving on.
Beyond the vat-room, he finds a prosaic-looking office, complete with computer terminals. He immediately sits down at one of the computers and starts combing through it, smirking at his efficiency in investigating, as compared to the rest of us losers running around the place in circles.
(Jim: “The vampires are, of course, running Win95.”
Jason: “No. Windows ME.”
Element of surprise lost, Georgia and I grab whatever weapons we have available and charge into the room. Norton is battling with the robed summoners and Georgia takes one on as well. I, however, only have eyes for one man in the room: the shirtless asshole in the middle of it.
Alejandro roars at the sight of me and immediately explodes up into Costco Monster form, nearly scraping the ceiling with his bulk. He lunges at me and I dodge, swiping with my machete, reaaaally wishing I had my dragonsbreath back around now. He swipes back with claws the length of my forearm. I duck back and go with the only ranged weapon I have, slicing him across the face with my whip. He roars and wheels away, one eye bisected in a bleeding welt. Thus distracted, I take my opening, dashing forward, ducking around, winding up to make a full-powered strike–
–And practically cleave his spine in two.
(Jason: “…Well that was a lot more anticlimatic than I was hoping.”)
Alejandro falls with a thump that shakes the room. The gash in his back is massive, but healing even as I watch. Scared, pissed, and berefit of ideas, I do what any rational person would do: continue beating the shit out of him. Georgia and Norton, once they take out the robed men, join in, and soon Alejandro is reverted to normal-human form and passed-out at our feet.
Only then do I realize that perhaps I should have left him conscious to interrogate him….
Clarence’s hacking is going better than he expected. He finds his way into a bunch of files, many of them encrypted, but in the parts he can read, he keeps finding references to something called “The Dancer.” Running short on time, he decides to download as much as he can to pour over later. However, having seen this movie before, instead of trying to download a hard copy of the information, he backs it up to a private online cloud server, completely independent from all the shenanigans going on around him.
Which is good, because it’s around this time that he hears strange noises coming from the vat room; wet, organic sounding noises, undercut by growling. Carefully, he crosses the office and peers out the door.
A hideous creature is climbing out of the vats, like a balrog that’s been flayed alive, dripping blood and snarling like grinding stone. Wings, like half-skeletal dragon wings, flare over it, and it peers around the room myopically through underformed eyes.
Clarence carefully steps back. He hasn’t had specific interactions with these creatures before, but he’s been around long enough to know what it is: gargoyle, or rather, a half-formed gargoyle.
Carefully, quietly, Clarence closes the office door and barricades furniture in front of it.
As I am standing there over Alejandro’s prone body, trying to figure out what to do next, darkness falls on half the room. As in, literally half the room has been bisected by a wall of black so thick it’s like a hole in reality. I stand in the candlelight, machete loose in my hand, staring in awe, before I realize: Georgia was in the half of the room that is now absorbed.
“INFIDELS!!11!1!111” Norton screams, hoisting his sword, then he too disappears into the black. I stare, frozen in indecision, simultaneously wanting to help Georgia, not wanting to leave Alejandro, and really not wanting to stumble blind into whatever the hell just cast this shit.
Moments later, Mr. Tails chimes in to help the matter, “She’s heeeeeeeere,” he whispers in a sing-song voice. “She’s heeere to eat her soooooul….”
Inside the darkness, Georgia is struggling with the complete lack of sight and sound, when suddenly something grabs her from behind in a grip like iron. A woman’s voice whispers in her ear, creepy-(-yet-vaguely-homoerotic-)-shit about surrendering, how easy and blissful it would be, and then moves to bite her.
Georgia ruins the moment by stabbing her assailant in the gut.
A struggle breaks out, with more slashes and stabs, but finally comes to an end when the unseen assassin–whom I’m sure you can guess is Isabella–decides she has had enough of this shit and stabs Georgia repeatedly with something that leaves her unconscious on the floor, wounds boiling green and smoking.
Outside the darkness, I’m fighting my anxiety and passing the time by trying to decide what to do with Alejandro. (Out of game, it’s pointed out to me that now would be a perfect time to diablerize him, but I balk. As a high-generation character, I’m worried about “eating above my station,” so to speak, and there’s nothing a Tzmitsce has that I would particularly want anyway. I soon incorporate these rationale into my character by saying that Tom had heard of such “soul bites,” but is weirded out by the concept and has little interest.)
But that doesn’t mean I can’t still have fun with him. Thus, I pull out my sharpie left over from the Slayer prank, draw a bunch of dicks all over his face, and take a picture. I figure that this is actually better than killing him cause now he’ll lose face with Andre, or something. Course, he’ll probably be even more pissed at me, but…whatever. Fuck this guy.
I don’t have too much time to gloat, though, before the darkness suddenly boils over and envelops the entire room, cutting out sound and light like a heavy cloth dropped over reality. I stumble to where I remember the doorway was, making my way through to find more darkness in the hallway. I run down it, groping at the walls, until I reach clear air once again. There I stop, staring at the abyss behind me, waiting for Georgia, or Norton, or anyone to come out of it again.
You might be wondering what happened to Carlos in all this, and you, dear reader, would be a lot more intelligent than we were at the time. The dark cloud–Nocturne, as I know know it’s called–was cast by Carlos as cover for Isabella the Assamite to make her move, then expanded to drive us out of the room. Once we do, he goes in to investigate.
And finds Alejandro, beat to an unconscious pulp, ready for the taking.
Which he, unlike myself, does.
But, just as I feared, the generation-gap is a little too wide, so the moment he finishes consuming Alejandro’s soul, he frenzies.
I am waiting in the hallway on the far side of the cloud, waiting for Georgia or Norton to reappear, when suddenly something does, rushing out of the darkness and toward me like a talon-tipped freight train. It’s Carlos, and by the look on his face, he is out for more than just blood. I have just enough time to whip up my machete and slash at him before he dives at me with his claws, tearing open my chest (and instantly causing three levels of aggravated damage). Wounds healing before my eyes, he comes at me again, so I (wisely)decide to noope! the fuck out of there, dashing down the hall, toward the way we came in. Carlos isn’t as fast as me but I can hear him following behind, snarling and scraping against the stone. I reach the cistern and make my way around carefully, mindful of the slick footing, but something draws my eyes away from the walkway to the open pit next to me.
The bodies, they’re moving, heaving like a tide of limbs and flesh, reaching for the walls, climbing over each other to reach toward me.
Double nooooope! I scramble around the cistern and bolt down the entry hallway, leaping for the ladder and climbing up to the safety of the surface. He follows, but before he can climb the ladder, he’s tempted by something else: the smell of blood, fresh blood, drifting from further down the hallway.
Clarence is holed up in the office–using his time to continue working on the computer–when suddenly roars and crashes echo from the vat room outside. He freezes. The sounds of battle grow louder. Finally, Clarence gets up…and starts piling more things in front of the door.
Back up in the convenience store, I lurk around the entrance to the pit, wondering what to do, when suddenly I see a pale shape ascending out of the darkness. Clutching my machete, I lurk back behind the couter, waiting to attack or run if necessary….
…Then a cowboy hat appears from the darkness, followed by Doc’s head, then Georgia’s unconscious torso, slung over his shoulder.
I sheathe the machete and hurry over to help them out. We retreat outside, where Clarence’s two cars are waiting, and discuss what to do next. While we debate, Clarence himself appears, strangely calm and mentioning something about a computer and things that may or may not have been gargoyles. That’s odd, we agree, cause making gargoyles is supposed to be illegal, and only the Tremere are supposed to know how….
We glance at the unconscious form of Georgia thoughtfully.
The last question, of course, is where the last members of our party–Carlos and Norton–are. I mention how Carlos seems to have gone berserk, and Clarence mentions the battle in the vat room, though by the time the sounds died down and he stuck his head out everyone was gone. As we debate this, someone else stumbles out of the store.
Carlos. Clothes torn up more than usual, covered in blood, but woozy and apparently back to himself.
We all freeze, watching him owlishly. In his rasping voice, he apologizes for the mess down below, saying he’s not sure what came over himself, but no lasting damage seems to have come from it. I poke gingerly at the gashes across my chest and glare.
As Carlos stumbles around, staring up at the roof of the building for some reason, we all rehuddle, debating to do about Norton, whether it’s best to look for him to get back to San Francisco before sunrise and just hope for the best.
As we debate this, Carlos skitters over to one of Clarence’s cars, overwhelms the ghoul driver through a combination of strength, Dominate, and just plain terrifying intimidation, and goes squealing off into the night.
We all freeze again, not sure we believe what just happened. Clarence curses, storms over to the other car, climbs in, and orders it to go racing after Carlos, back up to the city.
Leaving Doc, Georgia, and I stuck in San Jose, in the middle of Sabbat territory, two hours from sunrise.
Carlos has an interesting plan. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but here’s what happened. As his car raced out of sight, a few blocks away he opened the passenger door and rolled out, sending the car continuing on its way. He then made his way back toward the convenience store, perhaps to figure out what the hell happened to Isabella and why Georgia was still alive.
Meanwhile, as the rest of us figure out what the fuck to do, a heavy bass line starts approaching from the distance. We turn to see a low-rider El Camino with spinner plates and a hot-rod flame paint job, roll up next to us.
Emperor Norton is at the wheel.
He pontificates about his victory, having convinced some men to loan him the use of their conveyance. In no place to question or argue, we pile in, Doc and Georgia inside the car and me sprawled out in the open bed. With a rev of the oversized engine, we pull out, heading back toward San Francisco.
Then two blocks away we spot Carlos, walking back to where we were.
We pull up next to him, asking what the fuck is going on. He blinks at us innocently and rasps some excuse, I don’t even fucking know, but I flick my machete at him and tell him to get in the car. He does so, sitting across from me in the small bed, which I’m fine with cause I don’t want to be anywhere near him if I don’t have to be. I knock on the rear window, asking Norton to change the music from rap to classic rock, but after that I remain silent the whole ride home, ignoring Carlos’s strangely piercing gaze.
A gaze that spends the entire hour-long trip slowly and carefully studying my face.
Because, unknown to me, Carlos has now picked up Viscissitude. And he has ideas….