PREVIOUSLY ON V:TM:
Chris: “Why are you nervous? You are Tom! Killer of Sabbat Bishops!”
Me: “I didn’t kill Alejandro!!!”
Chris: “Fighter of Marcus!”
Me: “I didn’t fight him!!!! …Or, well, except for that one time….”
We open with most of us still at Elysium. Chris/Paul has left, but Kara/Georgia, Jim/Clarence, and I are still milling around. Over the weekend I realized there were some things I probably actually should talk to Bell about so I rather gingerly approached him.
Until now he seems to have forgotten about the existence of Sophia, which I was glad for, but she gave me info that Im pretty sure he will need, so I begrudgingly bring it up. He says yes, what is it? And I tell him that she mentioned something about “the Talons” coming to town, and something about “empergium.” This…gives him pause. Which in Theo Bell language is basically the same as shitting his pants. He says that he would very much like to speak with Sophia (aka, “this will happen”) “if and when” I get back from Berkeley. I sigh and agree. I then try and get more info about what happened with him and Marcus. He says some things about how despite Marcus being a high-powered methusula, Bell, quote, “taught him a thing or two” and “will continue the conversation” the next time they meet. I glance at his dragonsbreath-loaded shotgun, nod, and take my leave of him.
Georgia and Clarence then go up to Bell, all smiles and politics and looking to garner more brownie points I’m sure. They start talking about the Berkeley mission.
Now, note that out-of-game, we’ve been talking about this plan all weekend. The four of us started firing emails around to brainstorm ideas on how to get into Berkeley when passage through Oakland and the bridge is blocked. We talked about renting boats, renting helicopters, renting doods to protect us as we drive the long way around through Marin. Things got a little more complicated as we threw out ideas like climbing across the underside of the bridge or simply walking across the bottom of the bay (since vampires dont need to breathe, we cant drown). Things got progressively more and more complicated until we finally landed on a plan that would involve Paul setting up a Tesseract Inc publicity stunt wherein a bunch of professional skydivers in wingsuits would dive onto campus in the early evening to promote some new product or such thing, but that would be a distraction because MEANWHILE we ourselves would ALSO be skydiving in in wingsuits to a DIFFERENT part of campus (and after we landed Clarence would unzip his suit to reveal a full tuxedo underneath).
So as they stood around, trying to think of ways to bring this up to Bell, from out of nowhere Georgia suddenly suggests, “Maybe we can CALL Oakland and ASK for passage through?”
IRL there’s shocked crickets from the rest of us. In-game, Bell summons for someone to bring her a phone. They get ahold of the Sherrif of Oakland, who is grumpy and at first refuses (me: “Probably some hipster homesteader worried we’re gonna disrupt his canning”) but a brief conversation with Bell shows him the error of his ways and we secure passage. Georgia then suggests we contact the leader of the Berkeley vampires to let him/her know we’re coming, but apparently the Berkeley vampires are a rabblerous anarch baronry and their leader, a guy named Leeland, refuses to use modern technology much beyond the invention of the wheel. So Georgia arranges for someone to send him a LETTER to let him know we’re coming anyway, just in case.
Meanwhile, I roll out of the Pyramid, mentioning that I need to “do some shopping.” In reality, though, despite the fact that I still need curtains and, oh i dont know, maybe an actual GUN or two (cause they keep getting taken away from me) my first order of business is to try and look for Marcus. Its a long-shot, of course, because obvs if he doesnt want to be found he WONT be found, but I had been thinking about it all weekend. I outlined my thought process to Jason and proudly announce that I have decided that I am going to look for him in the most passably-Roman looking place in the city, the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
I get out there round about 2 am. It’s quiet and empty, but I look around and discover…a rather destitute dude passed out under a bush. I check him out. He’s alive, but barely conscious, and….pretty pale. I call 911 and then hide nearby. An ambulance comes by, finds him right away, and I hear the EMTs mutter something about lots of strangely anemic people being reported around the area tonight. They leave, and I start searching harder. I eventually see a shadow, darker than the surrounding shadows, and it resolves into a very small figure walking away from me. I hesitantly call out, “Boss?” and the figure stops.
He asks why I came to find him. I am….very cognizant of the fact that I have to choose my words carefully with him, being a Roman with a Napoleon complex and all, so I simply say that I was “concerned.” I ask him what happened. He turns…to reveal terrible deep burns across half his face and a good portion of his chest. He says some things that are understandably pompous and angry, but really at this point it’s obvious what happened. But I still don’t know *why* it happened.
In a soft voice, I ask what happened to Aitor. He stares at me a moment, expressionless.
“Aitor is dead.”
I shuffle my feet uncertainly. “How?”
“He met the sun.” His anger is palpable, the words practically spat out. I stare back, confusion and horror on my face. He continues. “Bell…Summoned him to come to the Pyramid. He couldn’t disobey it. But his summons clashed with his blood bond to me. His…was stronger than yours. His only way out was to answer the summons…in the morning. By the time I awoke the next evening it was already too late.”
My mind is reeling. His frenzied rage the night before now makes more sense. Marcus has…an unusual relationship with the people who work for him. I remember that one of the first things he said to me, back when we made our failed attack on his hideout in Marin and he captured us, was to berate me for storming in and “murdering” his men, many of whom had worked with him for decades. Not simply killed, murdered. That’s a word that doesn’t often get thrown around vampire society, especially in relation to human and/or ghouled subordinates, so it stuck with me. Aitor was his most trusted lieutenant and had been with him for going on 70 years now, so losing him must have been a significant shock.
More to the point, though, I too am reeling with anger and grief, but it is with myself. It is *my* fault Bell learned Aitor’s name and *my* fault Marcus’s presence got outed to vampire society in the first place. This…man? Kid? Creature?…had spared my life, given me a second chance, and I had done nothing but a series of well-timed mistakes ever since. Hell, right after the attack on Bayshore, Aitor has suggested I come up to Marin to meet with Marcus and report but I brushed it off, saying I would just meet up with him when he was next available in town. Not long after that, I got called in to speak with Bell. If I had gone to Marin, maybe my cover wouldn’t have been blown, Bell wouldn’t have found out about Sophia, and Aitor might still be alive.
“Why are you here, Tom?” Marcus snaps at me, knocking me out of my reverie. I struggle to regain composure and tell him what Sophia told me, about the Talons coming, and this thing called Empergium.
Marcus sighs and chuckles to himself. It’s not a happy sound. “I never should have come to this city,” he mutters, staring off across the park. “I am here to search for a certain man, and I will continue to do so. If you have any sense, you will take the werewolf’s advice. Leave this place, and never return.”
My grief twists tighter. San Francisco is the only place I’ve ever been able to call home, a place where I found community, as brief as it might have been. All of my friends and lovers have gone–most taken by the disease that even my own supernatural death would not let me escape from–but the city, and all it represents, still remains. If I left the city, yes I would survive, but…what for?
I shake my head. “I can’t. I have…interests that keep me here as well.”
He regards me for a moment. “I have a present for you,” he announces suddenly. He pulls a small vial out of a pouch on his belt and tosses it to me. I catch it. It’s blood, deep and dark. The last time he did such a thing, I was his captive in Marin and he was initiating the blood bond. I was frustrated, but as my very survival depended on it, I really didn’t have a choice.
He doesn’t say anything, just watches me. I examine the vial briefly, then pop the top and drink it down.
“That was foolish,” he says, eyes narrowed. “That could have been anything. Poison. More of my blood.” I shrug.
I don’t…feel very different. There’s a subtle change that I can’t put my finger on, but besides that everything seems normal. “What was it?” I ask.
He takes a breath. “The Sabbat…have a ritual. You may or may not have heard of it. The essence of it involves the participants pooling their blood together and drinking it to create a sort of group blood bond. It is called the Vaulderie. What is notable, though, is that anyone who walks into a Vaulderie with a previous blood bond walks out with it removed.” He nods at the vial. “That vial is very, very old. The vampires who contributed to it are gone, but the magic of the ritual remains.”
I suddenly understand the subtle change that I felt. My blood bond to him is gone.
He hands me another, identical vial. “If you see the Businessman, give this to him.” He stares off into the distance again. “I am done with blood bonding,” he mutters, “and the thralls it creates. Limited men who can’t think independently.”
“What about the boat job?” I ask, bringing up the other major task he had set out for me to do some days before. He had talked about some scepter he wanted that had been stolen from the Asian Art Museum. He indicated it was an object of some power and was going to be moved via cargo ship in two weeks’ time. We discussed a plan for me to lead a mercenary team to capture the ship and retrieve it.
He stares at me, anger and frustration across his face (or, well, half his face). “It is a bauble,” he barks. “Pretty, but useless. The ‘job’ wasn’t about the scepter, it was a test to see if you could follow orders and not be tempted to try and grab the scepter for yourself. It’s pointless now.”
I stand quietly, crestfallen. I had actually been looking forward to the mission. I was gonna have resources funneled to me, be in charge of a team. I’m not a great swimmer–a fact I brought up when he first mentioned it—but I liked the implication that in all other respects, it was an important job that I could handle.
He makes a frustrated gesture and turns from me. “You’re free now. Do what you will. Leave the city, stay in the city. I don’t particularly care.”
He starts to walk away from me. Sad, bewildered, overwhelmed with feels, I still manage to call out, “Well, if you have any other jobs you need done, you can look me up and let me know.”
He stops, then slowly turns back. “I was speaking English just there, wasn’t I?” he hisses. “Or have you gone deaf? The blood bond is GONE. You are FREE. You don’t HAVE to be in this city, you don’t HAVE to work for me. Why can’t you just LEAVE?”
He’s right, of course. My instinct says to run. It always has. Just like when I ran from my abusive father, leaving my mother and sister behind to suffer under his wrath. Just like when I tried to run from my disease, when I was tricked into thinking that vampirism would be a cure but only ended up being a curse far, far worse than my original fate entailed. My life was one long series of running away while my worlds collapsed around me.
I shrug at him. “Well, if it’s true what they’re saying—the werewolves coming, or even these ‘end times’ everyone is always going on about—then there’s really no escaping things either way, so I might as well find a fun place to stand so I can watch the view.”
His eyes narrow. “And when Bell finds out? I can assure you, whatever he would do would make this,” he gestures at his face, “look simple by comparison.”
I shrug again. “Well, I’m not exactly thrilled about Bell breathing down my neck—no, wait, I take that back, there are certain circumstances where I would be, but, um, nevermind—but he, and the rest of the city, already are, so again I don’t have much to lose there.”
He regards me for a moment, then starts talking. He brings up the scepter again, says that it was something that belonged to him many years ago and was taken from him. Losing the scepter wasn’t that big a deal, but what was the fact that some of his people—some important people—were killed in the process. It was taken by a man known as “The Collector,” a Portugese Lasombre Sabbat currently going by the name Accio. The whole point of the boat job wasn’t the scepter, it was to get revenge on Accio. The original plan was for me to capture the boat, get a pat on the back from Aitor, and then once I left Marcus was going to bring justice down on the man. He doesn’t care about the scepter, but he still cares about the justice. If I really want to “do a job” for him, then I can still try and pull the plan off and kill Accio when the shipment goes out in two weeks time. If I succeed, I should bring the scepter to Marcus the night after, at the abandoned watchtower at the top of Mt. Tam.
I listen quietly, but inside I’m writhing in anxiety. The plan before was to send me with mercenaries organized by me and Aitor. This time I have no resources to plan such a thing, and there’s no question that if this Accio guy is an enemy of Marcus then he is waaaaay out of my league to deal with on my own. And I don’t exactly have any many other friends in town.
Still, I say I’ll give it a shot. He nods and says that he still has some, ah, discussion he needs to have with Bell, and asks me when the next Elysium is. I say Thursday, three days hence and the day after the Berkeley mission. He says that that might be a good night for me to stay away from Elysium. I smile wryly, saying that I don’t know, I could use a good show. He says that well, it’s up to me; it should be a very good show indeed.
With that he takes his leave, wrapping himself in a cloud of shadow and disappearing into the night.
For the next two nights that we covered this round, my plot moved fairly slowly. I mostly got shopping done. Monday night was my appointment at City Arms in Pacifica (Me: “Wait what time is it?” Jason: “Uh, 8pm?” Me: “DO I HEAR DRUM MUSIC COMING FROM NEXT DOOR??? ” Jason: “Um, I don’t know, do you?” Me: “HELL YEAH I DO!!!!”) They aren’t able to set me up with a new load of white phosphorous (DAMMIT!) but they show me a lot of other exciting lethal options. Unfortunately, unlike EVERYONE ELSE IN THE GAME who is an elite businessman, a well-connected power, or all of the above, I am suffering from a severe lack of funds. I decide on a Desert Eagle with some seriously heavy slugs, but have to pass on the party mix of shotgun shells.
Before I leave, though, I ask about sourcing some…unusual rounds. They ask what type? Silver, I say. They seem confused, but willing to look into getting such a thing ordered, but it would cost a bit. I nod and say that I’ll have to get back to them on that. I then go back to the city, to a small leather shop in SOMA that I declare to be a common resource for Tom. I pull out my heavy bullwhip (which is the *only* weapon I haven’t had taken from me, throughout the game. I first chose the whip for Tom because it was in character and awesome, but I have since written backstory for it.) and lay it on the counter.
Me: “You remember my good whip, right? The one that Rob made for me?”
Guy: “Ah, yes, very good workmanship. Do you need some repair work?”
Me: “No. I, ah…am looking for some new modifications. Im thinking about getting some of the tail-length of it rebraided….with silver chain.”
Guy: “Jesus, why would you want that?”
Me: “Im looking for something with….more sting.”
Unfortunately this work, while feasible, would also cost me more than I have, so I leave, frustrated, to try and figure out a way to scrape together some more resources.
But before I go home I swing by Anna’s Linens on Mission and get some shitty curtains for my shitty apartment.
Clarence and Georgia had yet more interesting machinations afoot. They run around talking to their various higher-order Camarilla powers-that-be, struggling with private plots and power grabs. People seem concerned about this Marcus character and what he might represent and try to figure out what to do about it. My name gets tossed around a lot, and also Paul’s. Since it’s now common knowledge that we’re connected to him somehow, its pretty much agreed that the best way to get to Marcus is through us, one way or another.
Serendipitously, in the midst of this plotting, a stranger arrives. He introduces himself as Walter Perkins and meets with Clarence. He announces that he has something that might help everyone deal with Marcus Sertorius. He pulls out a dagger, of a strange design, and says that it was specially created using the bones of Marcus’ sire. Somehow because of the magic, supposedly even a small amount of damage will incapacitate him. Theres some confusion and disbelief, since Marcus’ sire is even more mysterious than he is and is long, long gone (according to Maximillian such daggers weren’t even invented until after Marcus’ sire was supposed to have died). But they run some magic tests on it and eventually conclude that it is real. They’re still not sure how to *get* to Marcus to use it, but once again the conversation turns to me and Paul.
Meanwhile, Paul is trying to get a handle on his own life. He has an elaborate plan to run tests on himself to better understand the nature of vampirism. To this end, he has his people secure an abandoned bunker in the headlands where he can lock himself in and do things like starve himself and let himself frenzy. (Most of the actual, IRL scientists in the room are a little skeptical as to the empirical merit of such research but Chris goes along with it anyway.) On his way to the bunker for the first time, he runs into Sophia. This is the first time she’s seen him since Marcus released him and she is understandably surprised that he is alive (but somewhat pleasantly so as he is the other one of the original group that she had a rapport with). She asks what he’s doing in the headlands, pointing out that its kinda a stupid place for him to be cause its werewolf country, and he sketches out the outline of his plan. She is skeptical, and nervous:
Sophia: “You’re going into the bunkers? The tunnels?? Do you know what’s in there?”
Pul eventually convinces her that his people have things under control, totally secured, what could possibly go wrong? She lets it slide, says that she’ll do her best to keep her people off of him, then goes into her spiel about how the Talons are coming, Impergium, he should leave the city, blah blah blah. He thanks her for her advice but insists he will be ok. She leaves and he goes to the bunker to do his experiment.
Which involves him starving himself and flailing around in a frenzy until the sun comes up the next day and his people give him some (organic) pigs blood. Good science.
After this, he heads home to his penthouse in the city. He sees that he has a message from me, asking to meet with him. He agrees. I show up early Tuesday night.
I meet Paul at his penthouse as we talk a little about our individual Marcus Experiences. He’s glooming about, as a Toreador would. I listen, although secretly I’m biting my tongue because when Marcus set him free, he got picked up by a towncar and taken back to his penthouse-and-boardroom world, whereas when Marcus set ME free I got $10 for the bus and got back to the city to find that the very last fragments of my life that tied me to my previous humanity are GONE and I had to couch surf at Norton’s while I figured out how to scrape together enough resources to even keep me ALIVE.
….Aw crap, who’s the emo toreador now. Fuck.
Anyway. I give Paul the vial from Marcus (which he pockets but doesn’t take) and tell him about The Berkeley Mission and how Bell requests that we are blessed with the pleasure of Paul’s company on it. Paul kinda flips out at this, ranting about how theres better vampires to deal with this shit, why does he keep getting dragged into these things, and a whole diatribe about “A Players and B Players.”
As an exceedingly young and inexperienced vampire, Paul is always in search of more information, and along with it power. He recently came to learn that some vampires can “teach” their disciplines to other vampires not of their clan. He asks if I can teach him some of mine. I have no idea how but I say that I’ll try. He offers me $10k as a tutoring fee, paid upfront. I agree immediately, cause $10k will buy me a lot of silver-whips and acid-laced shotgun shells.
Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. We both tense. I go to investigate, but when I peer through the peep-hole all I see is another eye peering back at me. I lower my voice and bark, “Who is it?”
What answers is a wall of sound and pontification announcing the presence of one Emperor Joshua Norton, here to verify the rumors of the return-from-the-death of his previous battle-comrade, Paul Stewart. I open the door and he rolls in, filled with pomp and circumstance, and brandishing a bottle of chilled blood. Paul and I sigh and acquiesce to the inevitable party.
There was some discussion about whether the combined efforts of Paul and Norton’s yelling during the evening would bother the neighbors. We pointed that he is, of course, in the PENTHOUSE, so only downstairs neighbors would matter. Jason declares that the downstairs neighbor is Larry Ellison. We say oh, well, then, who gives a fuck. Jim suggests that maybe we should go down and Embrace Ellison. Jason responds with another great throwaway quote of the night:
“The world does NOT need an eternal Larry Ellison!!”
END OF NIGHT
This is a longer-form update so it is closer to being in its final draft but this material is still a placeholder and subject to edits before finalization.