Jason: “Give us a moment, there’s been some divergence from the plan.”
Chris: “My character is wielding two disembodied arms holding swords, so…yes there’s been some divergence from the plan.”
The lights go out.
I don’t know how, I don’t know why, all I know is that whatever Perkins has planned, I reaaaaaally don’t want to be there for it.
Confusion and panic are starting to set in in the room. I remember where the door is, since I was lurking by it before I went over to Bell, so I try to grab Paul and Georgia and drag them out with me. Unfortunately I forgot that I only have one hand so all I grab is Georgia. “This way,” I say. luckily Paul hears and follows.
Paul catches up to me in the darkness and leans into my ear. “We need to go down,” he whispers. I’m not sure what he’s talking about but right now I’ll take any plan in a storm.
Unfortunately, while I can get us out of the room, I have no idea how to get us “down.” For that, he needs someone who knows the Chantry.
Paul: “Ms. Johnson! Were’s the dungeon?”
Georgia: “…Why do you need to go to the dungeon?
Paul: “Because I think that’s where Perkins wants to be!”
Georgia: “Why do you want to be where Perkins wants to be?”
Paul: “…That’s a very good point.”
Paul hesitates, then adds, “Because if I don’t get more information, I’m dead on Wednesday.”
Our voices, though, are much more muffled than they should be, considering we’re all within arm’s reach of each other. Which means, of course, that the lights aren’t simply out; the whole room is enshrouded in obtenebration shadow.
Clarence unfortunately doesn’t remember where the door is and starts stumbling around looking for a wall. He hits one and moves along it, hoping to hit a door leading out. On his way, he stumbles over a body—dead, unconscious, or both—on the ground. He can’t identify it so he ignores it and keeps moving.
Paul, Georgia, and I reach the main doors. Paul gropes for the handle first. The moment he grips it, the handle zaps him with a bolt of magical discharge. He pulls back and yells in pain. Georgia reaches for it next, but is able to touch it without problem.
“Sorry, wards!” we hear her say, then she pulls the door open.
The hallway is dark as well. Georgia takes the lead, leading us deeper into the building.
“You say we need to head down,” I yell, though my voice is barely a whisper. “Why?”
“Cause the dungeons are usually down,” Paul answers.
“Why are we headed to the dungeons?” I ask, although my suspicion is starting to rise.
“You’ll see,” Paul says.
“We need to make a stop first,” Georgia says, and leads us in the direction of Max’s office.
Clarence is still groping around in the dark, stumbling out of the conference room and into another darkened room, when something in the darkness gropes him back. Clawed hands grab him by the shoulders, lifting him up off the ground in an iron grip.
“Come,” a deep voice says, and carrys him through the gloom. Wisely, Clarence decides to just relax and go with it.
Clarence is carried to a side room, one that does have light. Now he can see his captor: one of the Chantry gargoyles. The gargoyle puts him down, growls, “Staaaaay,” then stalks off and closes the door behind him.
Clarence looks around. The room is a small storage/coat room. There’s no other doors or exits besides the one he came from, the one filled with inky black shadow.
Clarence has a seat. He pulls out his phone and shoots some notes to his people back at the Douchehaus, requesting a car be waiting outside the Chantry for whenever he’s able to get out of here.
In the meantime, he leans back to relax and wait.
We reach a doorway that leads to another hallway, this one still lit. We stumble through. Behind us, the darkness is like a solid wall filling the doorway, but as we watch it starts to pour through like liquid. We hurriedly shut the door.
Paul: “I don’t like Shadowplay.”
(Me: “I looooooove Shadowplay!”
Jason: “You won’t when I’m done with you….”)
Georgia turns to us. “I need to get into Max’s office. It…might resist our attempts to do that, but this might be our only chance.”
“Will there be a record of our attempt to enter?” Paul asks.
She hesitates. “…Maybe.”
“Can we prank the place while we’re there?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says, much more decisively.
“Great, lets go.”
We reach the door to the office, which is of course locked. We lurk in front of it, deciding what to do. It is wood, so we briefly consider burning it, but that runs the risk of taking out the rest of the Chantry as well (basically doing Perkins’ work for him).
Which leaves only one more option: breaking it down.
Georgia can sense that it’s warded, with what she’s not sure but it’s probably stronger than whatever was on the conference room doors. I’ve already lost an arm and am not keen to lose a leg, but I don’t see any other option.
WHAM! I hit it with a forward heel-kick. The door shudders but doesn’t break, though luckily neither does it bite back. I continue to wail on it, Georgia helping, until it splinters off it’s hinges. We pull it aside and go in.
“Ok, I need to do some things, but…do whatever you want,” Georgia says as she rushes in. “If you see anything incriminating, take it.”
I look around. “How about I just find things to steal?”
“Don’t steal anything!” she yells.
I glare. “How is that different from what you’re doing?”
Georgia hurries up to a wood and glass display case on the side of the room. Apparently she is looking for the dagger, with a mind to switch it out with the duplicate dagger she got from Siegfried. The last time she saw it, Max had it in a box in this display case, but now that box is gone.
In its place, though, is a small, hexagonal box, with a flat lid in the shape of a star. Georgia has never seen it before but has seen things like it; it’s an usual type of key. She pockets it and continues to look for the dagger.
Paul sits down at the desk and pulls the computer over. It’s locked, but he fiddles around with it anyway, trying to guess the password. (“Uuum, ‘IHATEGEORGIA.’ ‘TREMERERULES.’ ‘PASSWORD.’ ‘GUEST.’ ‘12345.’ “) No luck.
Georgia comes over to the desk and rifles around it, next to Paul. There are stacks of papers on the surface, written in a language no one can identify. Georgia takes pictures of them then starts checking the drawers.
Meanwhile I’m at a loss. I mosey around, looking for anything interesting or possibly valuable, when I notice a heraldic crest over the fireplace. It’s elaborately carved, guilded and shit, but what’s most interesting are the two real swords crossed through the back. I pull one out. It’s light, long, but very obviously decorative; the blades are dull to the touch. Still, I take it with me, figuring I might be able to threaten, or maybe bludgeon, someone with it.
Georgia’s search of the drawers doesn’t turn up anything, until she hits the last drawer. It’s locked, but it doesn’t have a keyhole. She pulls out her dagger—the un-enchanted copy—and tries to pry it open. It pops open instantly, with barely any force at all. The only thing in the drawer is a simple battered lockbox, unlocked. She opens that…
…and finds another dagger, identical to the one in her hand.
She switches them out, replacing the box and closing the drawer. “Guys,” she says, standing up, “Let’s go.”
Paul gives up on trying to break into the laptop. I heft the sword in my only existing hand. We both follow Georgia out of the room.
Clarence has been chilling in the coatroom—probably playing something douchey on his phone, like CandyCrush—when suddenly the door to the room swings open.
He looks up. There’s no one there, but the shadow has dissipated from the room on the other side of the door. Now that he can see, he can tell that it’s not the conference room we were in when Perkins first appeared, but from where he’s sitting he can’t see anybody or anything in it.
Moments later, though, someone appears. It’s the gargoyle who brought him into the coatroom. He stumbles into view, totters, then collapses face-down a few feet from the door.
Unnerved, Clarence remains steadfast in his seat.
(Jason grumbles. “Urg, I tried….”
I turn to Jim. “If you don’t take a hook you’re gonna get an Assamite, son.”)
Someone else appears, behind the body of the gargoyle. A pitch black shadow, vaguely in the shape of a human, but so dark it’s without definition. It’s more like a human-shaped hole cut out of the fabric of reality. The shadow bends over the gargoyle, then hesitates. It seems to turn toward the open door of the coat room. Clarence remains still.
The shadow undulates around the gargoyle and rushes forward, apparently headed straight for the doorway. Clarence still does nothing.
(Jason: “Hi, I’m in the middle of an apocalypse, I’m going to sit in the coatroom and do jack shit!!!”
Kara: “Well, he is the one who let the apocalypse in.”)
It moves very quickly, but as it approaches, Clarence gets the sense it’s angled to the side of the doorway, rather than directly at it. There’s a flash as someone in the room beyond dashes past the doorway.
The shadow hits the figure, and they’re both gone.
Clarence leans back in his chair, but still refuses to leave it.
Someone else walks into the room, walking very calmly and casually. It’s Perkins. He walks up to the dead gargoyle and taps it with his boot. He looks up and sees Clarence through the open doorway.
Clarence simply nods to him.
“Well,” Perkins drawls, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Indeed,” Clarence says.
Perkins looks around the room. “Things didn’t go exactly according to plan, I’m afraid.”
“They rarely do.”
“Yes, especially when the Tremere are involved. Thank you for…playing your part, though. Tell me…” Perkins says, stepping around the gargoyle, “Where…is the vault?”
“I…honestly don’t know.”
“Really. Are you sure?” Perkins is slowly approaching the doorway, a faint smile on his face.
“How…would one find out if one knows?” Clarence asks, puzzled.
Perkins smiles larger. “Come with me and I will show you.”
Clarence considers this. “…Very well,” he says, and gets up.
(Chris: “Oh my god it’s like Alejandro and the car all over again….”)
Perkins leads him back to the conference room where Flagg/Perkins had been imprisoned. Bodies are strewn about, mostly random Tremere peons and some ghouls. No one of importance that Clarence recognizes. A few have been obviously exsanguinated and crushed against the walls.
Perkins ignores the bodies and walks to the edge of the ritual circle in the middle of the room. He gestures to the middle and smiles. “If you would, please.”
Clarence…does as he says.
(Jason: “…Oh boy….”)
Perkins walks around the circle, chanting in an unknown language. He pulls out a knife and slices his palm. Blood wells out. He kneels down and smears it onto the edge of the circle.
(Jason: “He’s performing some kind of piacular-oracular ritual. Meaning sacrificing something for atonement and trying to see the future.”
Jim: “Like…he’s sacrificing me to see the future?”
Jason: “I don’t know, maybe!”
Jim: “…Yeah, well saying no might be worse!”)
Clarence continues to stand there politely while Perkins completes the ritual, his voice rising in intensity as he builds to the crescendo.
And then, for Clarence, everything goes black.
Georgia leads us to the entrance to the dungeon, or at least the entrance she knows about. It’s in a small library room off the main antechamber, hidden behind a false bookshelf. Normally there is a gargoyle guard on staff in the room at all times, but right now there is no one.
Although there are signs that someone was here recently. The books on the shelf have all shifted, as if the door was recently opened and jostled them out of place. Additionally, all the candles in the room are blown out and all the lightbulbs shattered.
Georgia grabs the trigger book. The shelf swings forward a few inches, then stops, grinding mechanically. We try to force it open, but even the combined forces of all three of us aren’t enough. Something is blocking the mechanism on the other side.
Paul sticks his phone through the gap and takes a video clip of the interior, showing us that, indeed, a wrought-iron rod has been shoved through the gears that move the shelf. We jiggle the shelf, trying to knock it loose, and even reach through with my sword to try and pry it out. No luck.
Once again, it seems the only option is to rip it bodily out of the wall. We all grab on and throw our full body weight into pulling it. Again, no luck.
Georgia tries the dagger, figuring that its enhanced strength from the primium metal might be useful. She plunges the dagger into the wood, trying to cut the door off its hinges. It works, but very, very slowly. The metal is strong, but it’s obvious she’s not getting any magical help from it.
“This is going to be a matter of brute force,” she grunts.
“…Brute force, you say?” I step forward and take over the sawing, but it’s obvious it’s going to take awhile.
Paul and Georgia are debatig going to find some fire axes or something, when the door leading into the library opens behind us. We turn.
It’s Clarence. Standing calmly, composed. Just like his normal douchey posture. Only now his eyes are a solid, pitch black. And he’s carrying a sword.
“Oh that does not look good….” Georgia mutters. “That is not Clarence.”
“It might be an improvement, though.” I add, stepping away from the bookshelf and picking up my decorative sword.
Paul reacts first, grabbing a decorative bust from a plinth nearby and smashing it over Clarence’s head. (Chris: “Also note that I pick up the ugliest statue to smash over his head. I go Full Toreador!”) Clarence dodges the strike and whips his sword around at Paul’s head. I lunge forward with my sword and slice at his arm. It’s a shitty sword but I’m hoping it will slow him down at least.
So imagine my surprise when my sword cuts through Clarence’s arm like butter, severing his arm at the shoulder. His arm lands on the ground, still gripping his sword.
(Jim: “Do I feel any of this?”
Jason: “No. You’re asleep. Sorry you’re going to be out of this awhile. …Don’t look at me, you’re the one who stepped into the ritual circle!”
Kara: “I think he’s hoping he’ll get abducted and taken to Hell and reforged into something more evil.”
Chris: *gasp* “He could come back as Carlos!”)
Unfortunately, though, a possessed Ventrue still has Ventrue High Douchery powers. He barks at us with Majesty, commanding us all to fall to our knees and obey him with a voice like onto God.
Paul’s hit hard, falling to his knees immediately. Georgia also sinks down, but struggles to resist. I stagger, but am able to keep my head. For the moment, at least.
(Jim is grinning at me from across the table. “What level of Brujah are you going to go on this?”
For a brief moment, I steeple my fingers, tapping them against my chin thoughtfully. Then I snap and shoot him with double pistol-hands. “FULL!” I shout, grabbing every available die on the table.)
My sword flashes, slicing through Clarence’s neck in one clean strike. Black ichor fountains out, splashing onto the floor around him. We all back away. The body slumps to its knees and falls over, oozing across the floor.
I throw some bro-arms and lean over the body. “Thanks for the bike, douche!!!”
(Jason: “Uuuum… So for reasons that have nothing to do with what’s going on right now, Jim, what is your backup character? And…you wouldn’t happen to have it on hand, would you?”
Jim: “I DO, actually!!”)
Paul and Georgia search the body, carefully avoiding contact with the ichor, but they don’t find anything of note. I go back to chopping at the shelf, now using the sword. My first strike cuts a huge rend through the wood.
“I’m keeping this shit,” I mutter and continue to work my way through.
Despite the noise, Georgia says that she can hear someone else approaching down the hall and advises me to chop faster. She leans down to pick up the sword from Clarence’s severed arm so she can help.
The moment she touches the hilt of the sword, though, it grows a mouth and bites her hand off.
She shrieks and jumps back, but there’s nothing she can do. The hand is gone. She backs away, holding her wrist in shock.
At that moment, the person approaching the library from the hall appears in the doorway.
It’s Clarence. With eyes black as pitch. And holding a sword.
(Me: “WHAAAAT. THE. FUUUUUUUUU—“
Chris: “Yay, it’s Groundhog Day!”)
We all stare. “Tom, maybe you should start with a decapitation strike this time,” Paul mutters.
“Right,” I say, pulling my sword out of the bookshelf and coming at Clarence again.
(Jim: “Fast forward twenty minutes and there’s a pile of dead Clarence’s in the doorway….”)
This time, though, Clarence ducks the swing (Me: “Oh my god!! He’s like the Borg, he’s learned!!!”) and comes at me with a disembowling strike. I dodge, spending blood to do so, putting me dangerously low and dangerously close to frenzying. (Jason: “You DID say you wanted to go Full Brujah.” Me: “Yeah, I guess there are two sides to that sword….”) He doesn’t slice me in half, but he does run me through. I lunge forward and chop off his arm above the elbow. It flops down, hand still gripping the sword stuck through me.
Paul, meanwhile, has picked up Clarence 1’s severed arm, still holding the sword that ate Georgia’s hand. He holds the arm to avoid touching the hilt and starts hacking at Clarence 2, slicing his back open and knocking him to the ground, incapacitated.
Paul then steps forward and pulls Clarence 2’s arm-and-sword out of me. So now he’s dual-wielding Clarence Arm-Swords.
(Jason: “Never say I never gave you anything.”)
Paul looks at the arm-swords in his hands. “My life has taken some very unexpected turns,” he mutters to himself.
(Jason: “Wait…how is it that you once again have a collection of body parts??”)
While we fought, Georgia was chopping at the bookshelf with the dagger, using her left hand of course. She finally breaks a hole through and is able to reach in and pull out the iron rod blocking the gears. The door groans and swings open. We pile through, closing the door behind us. Georgia shoves the bar through the gears again.
A short flight of stairs leads down to a long, narrow concrete hallway lit by hanging bulbs. Heavy stainless-steel doors line the hall, three on each side, before the corridor turns further down.
“What are we looking for, Georgia?” I ask, suspicious. She ignores me as she and Paul start investigating the doors.
Paul opens the first room. It’s a medium-sized lab room, lined with cabinets and filled with four large operating tables. The tables are clean, but the floor is stained with old blood, concentrated around a drain at the center of the room. Besides that, though, the room is empty.
“Right, yes, that’s not interesting, let’s go,” Georgia says, shuffling us out a little too eagerly. Frankly, though, I could care less about whatever creepy bullshit the Tremere are getting up to down here so I let her lead me out.
The door to the room across the hall is also unlocked. This room is filled with cages of varying sizes, all of which are empty. The back of the room, though, is filled with a large mechanical contraption covered in a dark sheet. Georgia repeats her “These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking For” routine. I scowl and brush past her back into the hallway.
The next door is locked. Since the handles on the remaining doors are all unlocked, Georgia assures us that this is the one we want.
But opening it is easier said than done. Georgia pulls out her star-shaped key, but there doesn’t seem to be any lock to fit it. In fact there doesn’t seem to be any lock at all. We wail on it with all the strength and weapons we have, but it doesn’t budge. We stand and contemplate our options.
(“Paul, we’re gonna need an army to get through that door!” “Quick, give me a hand!”)
“Guys,” Georgia says, “We need to move faster. If—no, check that, when—we get caught, the Tremere will kill all of us.”
“Yes, but if there’s no Tremere left alive in the building….” I say.
“He’s got a point,” Paul says.
Georgia studies the door more closely, looking for signs of wards. Paul hesitates, glances at Georgia, then waves me over to him. I frown and lean in. “We think Marcus is behind that door,” he whispers.
I tense. Part of me had been suspecting something like this since Georgia and Paul said we needed to go to the dungeons, but it’s still a shock to hear it confirmed. My mind reels through confusion and other emotions, then settles on anger. I glare at Georgia’s back.
Fucking Tremere. Fucking Max. If that asshole is still alive I’m going to track him down and shove his face through a table myself.
Footsteps echo down the hall, coming from the stairs. We freeze momentarily, then dash further down the hall, past where it turns a corner. We find another door that’s unlocked and duck through (although, in reality, we argue about who has to open the door, since all of our hands—such as they are—are full. I make the comment that we all have either too few or too many hands) and close the door behind us.
This room is huge. It has two wings: the space in front of us, and one to the side in an L-shape, back along the hallway in the direction we came. It’s lined with more operating tables, cabinets, and random lab equipment. One of the tables has a large figure on it covered by a sheet.
“Don’t touch that,” Georgia says, stepping cautiously into the space.
“Why, what is it?” Paul asks, frowning. “It is a prisoner?”
“I don’t know,” Georgia says, then hesitates. “Actually…might be a gargoyle….” If it is a gargoyle—specifically, one in the process of being created—it is too tempting a piece of evidence for her to use against Max. She steps forward and pulls the sheet off.
It’s not a gargoyle; a gargoyle might have been prettier. Instead we find large, grizzled, naked guy, with long hair and a beard, out cold with a stake through his heart. None of us recognize him, nor is there any indication why he’s here. We decide to leave him for now (Georgia: “But let’s remember this in case we need a random really-upset dude.”)
We turn the corner of the room, to the other wing pointing back the way we came. There’s another door on the left wall, which is probably the 6th door we saw in the main hallway. This wing is empty, but the far wall has another door in it, likely connecting to the room we think Marcus is in.
The wards and spell markings covering the door help confirm our suspicions.
Georgia rushes up and finds a keyhole shaped like her star-shaped box. She cheers and pulls out the key to apply it.
At the same moment, the door to our left, leading to the hallway, swings open, and Clarence 3 steps into the room.
(“Son of a BITCH!!”)
And now that the door is open, we can hear more footsteps coming down the hallway behind him.
(“SON OF A BITCH!!!!!”)
“Hey, maybe now’s a good time for that random really-upset dude!” I yell. Paul runs back to the guy, drops his arm-swords on a table nearby, and rips the stake out.
The guy bolts upright immediately, staring around the room. His gaze settles on Paul next to him. “Yaaaar, who be ye??!?” the man yells. Paul takes a step back. The man looks around again and stares at the lights hanging from the ceiling. “What sorcery is this??” he barks.
“Kill those guys!!” Georgia yells from across the room, pointing at Clarence 3, still standing in the doorway with his sinister, pitch-eyed expression.
(Kara: “You guys! The whole party is together again!”
Me: “Oh my god, and we’re all on the same side for the first time in the whole fucking game!!!”)
The man glares at Clarence. “Me murderous crew!” he yells. He grabs at the sword from one of the sword-arms, going straight for the hilt before we can stop him. Shockingly, through, the hilt does not bite his hand off. He hefts the sword and vaults off the table. “Betrayer!!!” he yells and dashes at Clarence 3.
Georgia turns back to the door. The key slots in easily. She rotates it home with a heavy chunk. The wards on the door glow and it swings open.
This room is small, the floor almost entirely taken up by a ritual circle. This one is far more elaborate than the one in the conference room upstairs and has been inscribed in the floor in gold. In the center of the circle is a stone sarcophagus, also carved with elaborate wards and sigils. Georgia steps into the room. The air here is chilling, but it is something more than simple cold. It’s a chill that drives straight to the bone.
Georgia steps in, followed by Paul. They discuss ways to break the ritual circle, but Georgia is at a loss. They decide to try cutting at the gold wards on the floor with the dagger. The circle isn’t affected, but the moment Paul touches the circle with the dagger, the air in the room chills even further and the air seems to darken. Figuring that it’s something to do with the fact that he’s not Tremere, he hands the dagger back to Georgia and steps out of the room.
Back in the lab room, I have joined Captain Jack here in the fight against Clarence 3. Now that I’ve seen this movie before, I have a plan of attack:
Step 1: Chop sword arm
Step 2: Chop neck
Step 3: Profit
I swing at his sword arm but this time I embed in bone without slicing all the way through the arm. Captain Jack decides to bring some novelty to the situation, though, by slicing Clarence in half. Vertically. He doesn’t get all the way through, but I gotta say, I like his style.
Georgia is still struggling with the ritual circle but nothing seems to affect the markings in the floor. Frustrated, she gingerly presses her right hand—or, rather, the stump of her wrist—against the enchantment wall.
The moment she touches it, the blue light in the room shifts to red and an actual klaxon starts echoing through the building. But she’s able to push her arm through, unaffected.
Georgia steps through completely and rushes to the sarcophagus. She throws her weight at the lid but it’s sealed shut. She gropes around and feels another star-shaped keyhole on one of the sides. Shaking, she pulls out the key and slots it in.
Captain Jack and I are still grappling with Clarence 3. Paul steps past us and looks out the door into the hallway…
…Where he sees Clarence 4-16 descending the stairs.
All with haunted dead eyes. And all carrying swords.
Paul…backs into the room and closes the door.
I finally get a decent shot in and slice off Clarence 3’s arm (bringing us up to three sword-arms). Captain Jack swings again and this time splits Clarence in two to his waist. More ichor spills out as the body falls to the floor.
“Tom….” Paul says, “There are twelve more Clarences coming down the stairs….”
I sigh. Son of a bitch….
The key slides home. The lid eases with a chunk, then slides off easily. Georgia shoves it off and looks inside.
A small husk of a figure lies there, dressed in a tunic and desiccated almost beyond recognition. A large stake protrudes from the chest. Georgia hesitates only a moment, then leans in and pulls the stake out.
(Kara: “…Does he frenzy?”
Jason: “I don’t know, we’ll see….”
Me: “You do have the Time-Out Dagger….”
Kara: “That’s true, but I’m kinda hoping he doesn’t notice I have it.”)
The corpse stirs. The flesh of the body swells, returning to its normal, semi-alive pallor. Mere moments later, the eyes open. And see Georgia.
“I’m here to rescue you,” she says hurriedly.
(Kara: “Just so we’re all on the same page, this is Marcus, right?”
Me: “Ha! That would be such a Jason thing to do. ‘No, no you’re looking at a Hell-Beast….’ “)
Marcus’ hand shoots up and grabs Georgia’s arm in a grip like steel. He pulls it down into the coffin, dragging Georgia off her feet. She doesn’t resist—largely because she can’t—but, fortunately, he only takes a few levels of blood before he lets her go.
In the outer room, we hear the cracks and thumps of shattering stone. We turn just in time to see Marcus kick his way out of the sarcophagus. He rolls out of the debris, but doesn’t get up off the ground.
“Boss?” I yell. “Boss, she’s with us!”
He lifts his head and looks around, disoriented. He says something in a language none of us recognize, something not even Latin. Georgia leans down and helps lift him to his feet. She grips him under the arms and pulls him out of the circle.
The moment they cross the threshold, the alarm stops and the light goes back to blue. Strangely, Clarence 3’s body disappears. In fact, all the sword-arms disappear, and there’s no more sound of footsteps from the hallway.
“What the devil be going on here,” Captain Jack growls, staring at the floor where Clarence’s body was.
Marcus staggers out of the room, still visibly disoriented and muttering in the same unknown language.
“Marcus Sertorius Posthumus,” Paul says forcefully. Marcus looks around at the noise but doesn’t seem to recognize Paul or his name.
I’m growing more and more concerned. Captain Jack here had obviously been staked in torpor for a good period of time and came out of it in fighting shape. Marcus, though, has only been out of commission for a few days, yet now he’s barely able to stand.
My anger rises. What the fuck did those fuckers do to him….
“We need to get the hell out of here, maybe get some more blood into him,” I say.
Paul frowns. “Where can we get that much blood?”
Team Marcus goes into a huddle. Georgia suggests the Nosferatu, hoping that they’ll shelter us in exchange for her evidence against Max. There’s probably no route to the sewers here in the Chantry but if we can get out we’ll probably find one nearby.
There’s a lull in the discussion. We turn as one to look at Captain Jack, who is standing bemused in front of the door. Still naked.
Paul extends a hand. “Paul Stewart,” he says.
The captain takes the hand. “Thomas Anstis. A debt I be owing ye.” We continue the introductions all around.
“Oh, and this is Marcus,” Georgia says, gesturing at him. Marcus hasn’t improved over the last few minutes. His shoulders are slumped and he’s looking vacantly around. “He’s a friend. Or, well, of theirs…. I’m really confused.”
“We’ll figure it out, we’ll get team jerseys or something later, but right now we gotta get the hell out of here,” I say.
“Will we be expecting more enemies?” Anstis asks.
“Probably,” Georgia says.
Anstis smiles and extends his arms. Six-inch razor sharp talons erupt from his fingers, with an almost-audible Wolverine-like snick. I grin. I definitely like this guy.
Marcus suddenly stumbles next to us. He falls to one knee, one hand pressed to his head, the other gripping the floor.
I hand my sword to Paul and try to pick him up. As I kneel next to him, though, I see that his hand isn’t just gripping the floor, it is gripping into the floor, digging into the stone like clay. I hover one hand gingerly over his shoulder. “Boss?” He mutters something in the same language, his voice very tense.
Paul takes out his phone and holds it out to Marcus. I frown at him. “What’s that for?”
“I’ve been teaching him to play Angry Birds. Maybe this will help jog his memory.”
(Chris: “This was part of the conditions of my release. I’m trying to teach him about whimsy in the world. He needs to be young again. ….Wait, don’t phrase it that way—“)
Before Paul can explain further, Marcus takes the phone and stares at it for a moment. In one motion, he sticks a finger in his mouth and slices it open on a fang. Blood wells out immediately. He holds the phone in his other hand and smears the blood over the screen.
(Me: “I don’t know how Paul feels about that but I know that Chris would haaaaaaate that….”
Chris: “Actually it’s not that difficult to clean. It’s got the standard oliophobic coating.”)
Marcus draws a clean finger through the blood, muttering something under his breath. We watch, perplexed.
“He’s trying to locate something,” Georgia says.
Sure enough, through the sheen of blood we can see a mapping app come up on the phone. It zooms in on Russian Hill, then the grey shape representing the Chantry building itself, with a dot indicating our relative location.
“Yes, that’s where we are,” Georgia tells him. “We’re trying to get you out of there.”
Marcus stares at the map, then stands up, dropping the phone to the ground (everyone in the room, IRL, lets out an instinctive sharp intake of breath). He takes a few steps to the hallway door, then stumbles and falls. I help him back to his feet.
“Look at the phone,” I say over my shoulder. “Is there anything else there or was it just centered on the Chantry?”
Paul picks it up and wipes off the screen. Now that it’s zoomed in all the way, it’s clear that there are actually two dots; one representing us, and another one that is distinctly separate, but very, very close-by.
“I think it’s locating something back down the hallway,” Paul says. Marcus steps to the hallway door. Despite his weakened state, in one movement he kicks it off its hinges, sending it clattering to the other side of the corridor.
Anstis, meanwhile, has been ignoring our ministrations over Marcus and has been investigating the room. He finds a labcoat draped over a table and puts it on. He leaves it unbuttoned, though, so as an attempt at modesty it’s largely a failure. He then investigates one of the hanging bulbs overhead by swiping at it with his claws. The bulb shatters, dropping a full quarter of the room into darkness.
“What are you doing?” Georgia asks him. “If you destroy all the lights it will be dark in here!”
He nods. “Yar, I be seeing that now.”
Meanwhile, Marcus lurches into the hallway. We gather what wits and hands we have left and follow. He stops in front of the first set of doors in the hallway, closest to the stair, looks at both, then turns and enters the room with the cages and the covered contraption.
We peer through the doorway. Marcus walks toward the structure in the back of the room, but only makes it halfway before collapsing to his knees. One hand presses against his head while the other slams into the floor, hard enough to crack the concrete. His whole body is braced in obvious pain.
I step into the room, walk up to the structure, and pull the sheet off of it.
It’s an elaborate rack, designed partially for function and partially for display. Right now it appears to be used for display.
Because Aquilifer is spread and bolted to the middle of it.
I stumble back. She’s arranged like some sort of museum mount, but a crude one. Greasy blood mars her feathers, dripping down from the bolts in her wings and smeared across her breast. Her chest has been sliced open vertically, along the line of the sternum. Her head lolls to one side, eyes closed.
But as I peer closer, I can see her body rock slowly back and forth with breath.
I’m speechless, shock overriding any other emotion as I try to process what it is that I’m seeing.
Paul steps up behind me. “Is this Aquilifer?” I nod without turning around.
“What is that?” Georgia hisses behind us.
Anstis points a claw. “A bird, that be.”
Marcus is still kneeling on the ground, gripping his head in pain. He doesn’t seem to have seen Aquilifer yet.
Paul steps forward and tries to remove the bolts. Aquilifer doesn’t react as he brushes against her. He grunts and tugs but the bolts are far too tight. They’re more like welding rivets than hammered nails.
“Do you know this bird?” Georgia asks us hesitantly.
I finally break out of my shock. “Yes. We have to get her out, Marcus won’t leave without her.” I shove my sword through my belt and dash across the hall to the lab room, looking for some tools or something that might help Paul get the bolts out. I run to the cabinets lining the room and throw them open.
They’re filled with bottles. Row upon row of bottles.
And they all appear to be filled with blood.
(Chris: “How many are there?”
Jason: “Dozens and dozens.”
Chris: “Are there…99?”
Jason: “…Possibly, yes! 99 bottles of blood. …On the WALL, no less! Pirate, are you going to take one down and pass it around?”
Jim: “I will!!”)
I’m staring at the blood, weighing the risk-benefits of drinking unknown blood that I found in the Chantry, when Anstis brushes past me and grabs a bottle. Before I can stop him, he pops the lid and downs it. “Yarr, this be good stuff!” he says and grabs another bottle.
He doesn’t fall down dead, at least, so since I’m running dangerously low I grab a bottle and start drinking too.
Paul has appeared behind us. He grabs a bottle and takes it back to Marcus. Marcus takes the bottle without looking up. He sniffs it, takes a tentative sip, then downs the entire thing. He crushes the empty bottle in his hand and throws the shards away. He’s still bent over on the floor but he looks a little stronger. Paul runs back to get more bottles.
We all binge, healing as much as we can (and temporarily buffing stats for the hell of it). After two and a half bottles (each bottle being almost a liter in size), Marcus finally seems to regain his strength. He pushes himself to his feet and looks up.
And sees Aquilifer.
“Uh-oh,” I say, and freeze.
Anstis stumbles back into the room, holding an armful of bottles in various levels of empty. “99 bottles of blood on the wall….” he’s singing giddily.
I grab his arm. “Not now,” I hiss, keeping my eyes on Marcus.
Marcus staggers forward, face awash in something I’ve never seen in him before: horror. He stops in front of the rack, staring up at her.
“Boss….” I say. He doesn’t respond.
“Marcus Sertorius,” Paul says, drawing on his Commanding-the-Boardroom voice. At that Marcus turns around. He stares at us in near-uncomprehension.
“Do you know where you are?” Paul asks.
Marcus blinks a few times. “No,” he says. His voice is calm but we can hear the rage starting to boil just under the surface.
“This is the Tremere Chantry in San Francisco.”
Marcus seems to process that a moment. “Why am I in the Tremere Chantry in San Francisco? And what…happened here!?!” The rage boils a little higher.
“When you were attacked by Perkins and everything went dark, Max got you out before Perkins—“
“Who is Perkins?” he barks.
“Do you know someone named Jeremiah Flagg or the Man of Wind?” Paul asks.
Marcus goes still. “…Who told you about the Man of Wind?”
“Maximillian von Strauss.”
“Why does Maximillian von Strauss know about—Where is Strauss??”
“Upstairs, assuming the Man of Wind hasn’t…done anything with him yet—“
“Did Strauss do this?” Marcus asks, gesturing at the rack.
I yell, “Yes!” at the same time that Georgia says “No!” We glare at each other.
Marcus turns back to the rack. “Tom, give me your sword,” he growls. My stomach clenches in fear at what he’s about to do, but I pull the sword out of my belt and hand it to him.
He hefts the sword. “This must be done right,” he growls. “I will be back.” He pivots on his heel and strides past us toward the door, leaving us behind, bemused.
(Jason gives a short history lecture on how, ideally, in Roman society, revenge-kills were done before the person you were avenging died, so that you could prove to them that you avenged them. Seems efficient.)
(Kara: “So…he’s going to kill Max.”
Jason: “Oh yeah. He’s going to kill Max and everyone he sees on the way to Max.”
Kara: “Ah.” *turns to me* “Can I get that team jersey in size small?”
Me: *pistol-hands* “Already ordered it, sweetheart!”)
Marcus gets about a foot from the door and stops again, hand pressed to his head. He drops the sword and collapses to his knees. I rush forward and hand out an extra blood bottle I had stowed in my jacket, but he brushes it away.
“What…happened….” he gasps.
We look at each other. “What…happened…with….?”
“What!!! HAPPENED??” he roars, still crumpled in pain.
Everyone starts yelling at once, shouting about Max and Aquilifer and Perkins and daggers. Paul and I get in a shouting match with each other, both trying to regain control over the situation. Paul gets frustrated and leaves the room to head to the hallway.
And finds Perkins standing at the top of the stairs.
“…Mr. Perkins,” he says.
Perkins smiles. “Hello there, Mr. Stewart.”
“You…haven’t seen Mr. von Strauss have you?”
“…How’s he doing?”
Perkins puts on a fake pout. “This is…not the best day of his life.”
“I…imagine that’s true for a lot of people here….”
“Well, it’s about to be one of the best of mine.”
“Oh.” Paul shifts uneasily. “Well, it’s good to keep an optimistic perspective, isn’t it?”
Back in the room we haven’t heard any of this. We’re still trying to explain the dagger and kidnapping situation to Marcus, but he still looks confused. Finally he waves us off and gets back to his feet, muttering about looking for Max. He stumbles through the doorway into the hall. He comes up behind Paul, tries to brush past him, but looks up and sees Perkins at the top of the stairs.
And stops. Like he’s been petrified.
Georgia, Anstis, and I crowd into the hall and stare at the scene before us.
Perkins smiles in a sickening, oily, almost-giddy grin. “Marcus….” he sighs. He spreads his arms in a welcoming gesture. “Come here,” he says gently. Like a parent would to soothe an upset child.
Like……….Oooh, oh FFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU—
Marcus’s mouth is agape. “No,” he says softly. “No, you’re dead….”
Perkins just smiles wider. “I can’t die, Marcus, you know that. Now…why don’t you and your little friends come with me?”
Everyone stands frozen for a moment. Paul—as the one closest to Perkins—acts first. “Tom,” he barks over his shoulder, “Get them out of here!” He grabs the sword out of Marcus’s limp hand behind him and charges at Perkins.
No one expected this, least of all Perkins. He doesn’t even have time to react before Paul runs up the stairs and slashes at him with the sword.
(Chris rolls his admittedly-low dex-melee roll….
.…And ends up with successes on all five of them.
Jason gapes at the dice. “I sweartogod if you actually kill this guy I’m going to be FURIOUSLY angry, I’m going to punch things in real life….“
Jason rolls the soak roll for Perkins. It’s…not great.
Jason facepalms. “You know, I spend all this time making these really evil, scary villains, and this is what you fucking do—“)
The sword smashes into Perkins’ shoulder, slicing diagonally down through his torso, nearly all the way through.
Everyone—but everyone—stares at the sword in astonishment. Including Perkins. Including Paul.
The moment passes and everyone moves at once. I dash forward to grab Marcus and drag him down the hallway, away from Perkins. Paul pulls the sword out of Perkins torso and hacks at him again. Anstis scrambles forward and also dives at Perkins, claws extended.
(Kara: “Wait, does my level 2 blood bond to Paul mean I can’t run away?”
Jason: “Well…. In this case you can. Cause you’re not level 2 blood bonded to Paul anymore.”
Jason: “That blood you all drank? It was all Marcus’ blood. You are all now level THREE blood bonded to him.”
Me: “…Now everyone gets Team Marcus jackets.”)
I only get a few steps down the hall before Marcus comes to his senses again. He wrenches himself out of my grip and hurls like a missile down the hallway toward Perkins.
Perkins is still visibly shocked, but staggers out of the range of Paul and Anstis’s attacks. The gouge through his torso starts to heal before our eyes. As the flesh smooths over, a crazed anger rises sweeps his face.
Perkins raises a hand above him. Green fire erupts across it. He slashes at Paul, raking burning fingers across his chest. Paul staggers back and whips the sword around to strike again. The sword gouges Perkins across the middle, spilling blood and innards onto the stairs.
Anstis scrambles up for another attack, shredding his claws across Perkins wherever he can reach. Perkins looks more surprised than anything else (Jason: “This is not a guy who has been in a physical fight in a long damn time.”).
Marcus has reached the stairs, literally launching up at Perkins. Right before he hits, though, Perkins staggers to the side, away from Anstis’s attack. Shadows erupt from nowhere, swirling around him like a tornado. An instant later they dissipate, and he’s gone.
Marcus crashes into the empty stair. The rest of us stop and collect ourselves.
Marcus climbs to his feet, looking around. We all watch him. He eventually makes eye-contact with Paul.
“…Was that Perpenna?” Paul asks.
Marcus glares. “Do…not…speak that name,” he growls. “Not in this place.”
“Was that who?” Georgia asks. Marcus and Paul ignore her.
Anstis grumbles about tracking down Perkins and continuing the fight. My mind, though, is set on one mode: GTFO.
“Boss, can we get Aquilifer out of there?” I trail off, concerned what the answer will be.
Without a word, Marcus takes the sword from Paul and walks back to the cage room. We follow. He walks to the rack and stops, staring up at Aquilifer.
“Tom? Paul?” He says without turning around. “Cut her down. I can’t reach.”
We tear the rack apart any way we can. Anstis joins in, shredding through the wood with his claws.
While we work, Marcus turns to Georgia. “Who are you?” he asks in a low voice.
“Um, I’m Georgia Johnson. Of the Tremere.” Marcus’s eyes narrow. Georgia continues hurriedly. “And…you might want this.” She hands the dagger to Marcus, hilt-first. “Don’t cut yourself on it!” she chastises, like you’d warn a child.
He glares at her. “I am not as young as I look,” he snaps as he takes the dagger. “What is this?”
Once again, she explains Perkins’ connection to the dagger, how it worked, and that it supposedly has bones of his sire enchanted within it.
We still can’t pull out the bolts through Aquilifer, but we tear out all the pieces she’s connected to and place her on the floor. Marcus turns from Georgia, then slowly walks over. He kneels next to Aquilifer, stares at the damage a moment, then takes the dagger and starts prying out the bolts. We watch silently as he slowly wrenches out all of them. This close we can all see that she’s definitely still breathing. Her outer eyelids flutter, but the nictitating membrane doesn’t open.
Marcus finishes the last bolt and throws it away. He gently untangles her from the wood, folding her wings against her body. He lifts her off the rack and lays her down on the bare floor. His shoulders slump and he stares at her, defeated.
I’m still in shock, trying to grapple with what happened to her. Somehow this is worse than if she had simply been killed, like I thought she was. “Boss….” I say gently. “Do…ghouls heal like we do?”
“Not from this,” he says softly. “Not usually…from this…”
(Out of game, now I give a brief lecture on the surprising resiliency of avian immune systems to fight infection and heal damage, mentioning my undergrad professor whose endocrinological work involved small field surgeries on wild-caught birds, all of whom were able to heal with nary a suture needed.
But vivisection is a whole other matter entirely. I don’t like the fact that the breast muscles seem to have been separated from the sternum. That might impair her breathing.)
Marcus turns to Georgia. “Max did this?”
“I don’t know,” she says softly. She is also visibly shocked at Aquilifer’s condition. Whatever the hell has been going on, it is obviously way beyond whatever the hell she thought was going on.
“You are of the Tremere?” he asks, an edge to his voice making me nervous.
Georgia answers carefully. “Yes…but I’ve never done anything like this.”
“I know the Tremere,” Marcus growls. “They are an insular bunch. Do not lie to me or it will be the last words you ever speak. Who did this?”
“I…can only assume that it was Max, but I don’t know that for sure.” She hesitates, then adds, “I’m certainly not protecting him. I wish him dead as much as you do.”
Marcus turns to Paul and I. “Who is this?” He gestures at her.
“This is Georgia Johnson,” Paul answers. “I’ve come to trust her. She was instrumental in getting you out.”
“Why?” He turns back to Georgia. “You would work against the Tremere? Have the entire Chantry come down on your head?”
“I was sent here by Tremere higher-ups to find out what Max has been up to. He has been destroying this Chantry.”
Marcus tenses. “No, my dear, I am destroying this Chantry. Root and branch, from the foundations up, I will salt the earth beneath this place, do you understand?”
“Good. Where is Max?”
“Perkins made it sound like Max…didn’t have a good day,” Paul adds.
“I can only hope,” Marcus grumbles.
Marcus is still staring intensely at Georgia. She decides to make a stronger case for herself. “My goal is to remove Max from this Chantry. Replace him with someone better.”
“Ye mean yerself!” Anstis laughs.
Georgia glares at him. “I don’t want Max’s job.”
“And who are you, Gangrel?” Marcus asks, turning to Anstis.
“Anstis. I do not know this name. What are you doing here?”
For the first time, Anstis looks unsettled. “I do not know what I be here for either. Me crew mutinied.”
“Your crew? You’re a sailor? Aquatic Gangrel?”
Anstis grumbles and shrugs. I chime in. “We found him here, staked on a table. I assume he’s not a friend of the Tremere either.”
“What’s the last year you remember?” Paul asks.
“1723. Year of our Lord. What year be it now?”
“20XX (pronounced “two-thousand and *mumblegrumble*). We’ll catch you up later,” Paul says.
“…And get you some clothes…” I add.
Anstis looks stunned, processing the date, then collects himself and glares. “Ye lying!! Ye be explaining now!”
He argues briefly with Paul and Georgia about whether or not they’re telling the truth. Meanwhile, I find a clean sheet and gently wrap Aquilifer up in it. Just like how I wrapped up Sophia, when she too was injured on my watch. I grit my teeth and focus on the task at hand. When she’s secured, I lift her into my arms.
We discuss escape options. Georgia is sure that the danger has passed and we can just go back upstairs, but Marcus points out that the shadowstep teleport Perkins used is only short-range. He is definitely still around and definitely wont be making the same mistakes again. We decide to explore the further reaches of the dungeon hallway and see if there’s any options that way.
Around the corner, the hallway splits. One side ends in a large metal door, almost the span of the entire hallway. It’s very old and rusted shut. To the left of it, though is another stainless-steel lab-room door. Since this one isn’t rusted or locked, we try that first.
The room is small and bare except for a ritual circle inscribed in the floor, inactive at the moment. Georgia kneels down to investigate it. “It’s a teleportation circle,” she informs us.
“This be our ticket out of here!” Anstis declares.
Marcus looks at Georgia. “Activate it.”
Georgia hesitates. “I’ve been through circles but I’ve never directed one before. I have no idea where this one leads to.”
We decide to leave this as a backup and explore further. We approach the rusted door. The rust is so thick it’s practically welded to the walls around it. Paul, Anstis, and I are unable to even rattle it.
But then Marcus steps forward and rips the entire thing off its hinges with one hand.
We peer in. It looks like a facilities room, filled with pipes and plumbing-type equipment. Some of the pipes disappear through the backwall, which is bricked with bricks that don’t match the rest of the room.
We debate punching through that wall or going back down the other branch of the hallway, when a terrifying, shrieking howl echoes through the walls, coming from the Chantry above. We all turn.
“Was that a gargoyle?” I ask Georgia.
“Nooo,” she says. “…Maybe it was Bell?”
A shudder rocks the hallway. We hear the sound of breaking stone coming from the direction of the stairs. It’s followed by another crushing concussion.
As if something large is coming down the stairs.
“How the circle be sounding now?” Anstis growls. We all rush back to the teleportation room and cram into the circle while Georgia begins the incantation to activate it. She steps in last, releasing the spell just as she crosses the threshold.
There’s a blast of light. When it clears, we’re in another industrial-looking room.
Only this one is larger. Much, much larger.
It’s a room the size of a warehouse, walls made of old, crumbly concrete in a patchwork of decades’ worth of industrial paint. The smell, too, is old, like mildew and rust. We can hear a foghorn in the distance.
Our eyes, though, are drawn to what’s inside the room. Vats, huge vats, like brewing vats. Dozens and dozens of them line the walls. We can’t see what’s inside, but we can smell.
Blood. Lots and lots of blood, drifting across us like a miasma, strong enough to drown out the industrial smells of the room.
Most of us stare around in confusion, but Georgia is ramrod-straight in shock. “Oh..oh my god….” she mutters over and over again as she looks around, her face as white as Anstis’s lab coat.
(Jason: “They’re gargoyle birthing vats. They’re all gargoyle birthing vats. There are enough in this room to build an army.”)
With a shaking hand, Georgia pulls out her phone and pulls up the mapping app. It resolves on our location instantly.
A few steps ahead of us is an alcove leading off the side of the room. We walk forward to peer into it while Georgia starts taking pictures of the room. The alcove is filled with steel medical tables like the ones in the Chantry dungeons, rows upon rows of them. Each table has a body on it, covered with a sheet like the one we found Anstis under. Conveyor belts—wide enough to carry bodies—cut through the rows and circle the alcove, leading back to the vat room. Here the belts also circle the room and cut through the rows, with small offshoots that connect to hatches in each of the vats.
(Jason: *Primarily addressing Kara, who is actually staring in shock IRL* “This is an industrial scale gargoyle production center. You have never heard of such a thing in your life, not even in the throws of the Gargoyle Revolt and the Tsmitzsce War you were a participant in, when it was make gargoyles or burn. Not even then did anyone conceive of something like this.”
Kara/Georgia: “…This is horrifying….”
Jason: “This is not just illegal by the Camarilla standards, or the Tremere standards; this is the most flagrant illegality in the Camarilla that you have ever heard of.”)
“Ms. Johnson, I’m not sure what is going on here, but think you have your evidence,” Paul says, looking around.
She turns to him, eyes panicked. “You don’t understand, this is so illegal I’m afraid to tell my higher-ups because there is no way they are not in on it.”
Marcus is staring around. “Are these what I think they are?” he asks Georgia.
“I was under the impression this activity had been….proscribed.”
She scans the room again. “So…was I….”
“If this were the Sabbat, every person who laid eyes on this facility would have those eyes removed, violently, and then be introduced to the sun.”
Georgia nods and gulps. “I have every faith that will happen to us as soon as someone notices we’re here.”
“Where are we?” Marcus asks.
My eyes go wider than they already are. “Oooh, oh Leopold does not like visitors….”
“Alcatraz…the island?” Marcus asks. Georgia nods. “Are there ways off the island that are simple?” he continues.
Paul looks at me. I shrug. “Well there’s boats, but they explode.”
“Are there means of egress other than a boat?” Marcus presses. “A bridge?” We shake our heads.
“Maybe we can go back by circle,” Georgia suggests and looks around at the floor. Paul and I look too. There is no sign of a circle anywhere.
“So…this island is independent. The only means off is by boat?”
“That’s correct,” Paul answers. We trade somber glances, dread rising. There was no way we could sneak out and steal a boat without Leopold’s men noticing.
Marcus nods. We watch him silently. To our surprise, after a few moments his face breaks into a a slow smile. “Good. Then they have no way out.”
END OF NIGHT.