6/4/2015

Kara: “Sounds sticky.”
Jason: “And human blood isn’t?”
Kara: “I don’t normally wash myself in blood.”
Jason: “You’re not a very good Tremere, then, are you? I will remind you, Elizabeth Bathory was Tremere.”
Me: “Did she actually do that shit?”
Jason: “…Probably. I mean, it could be slander, but it’s also a ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ kinda thing, and she was fucking crazy.”
Jim: “What did she do?”
Jason: “Reportedly, bathed in the blood of virgins to restore her youth. I mean the Church did make a bunch of shit up, but why would the Church make up something that specific, and call in that many witnesses? They could have just called her a Satanist, but no, they went with ‘Virgin Blood Bather.’”
Me: “That’s totally stupid. There isn’t even any collagen in blood. I mean, if she had bathed in the blood of beef tallow, maybe, she would have been fine!” *pause* “I should go put some lotion on….”

***

LEELAND’S HOUSE

The molotov cocktail crashes against the side of the house, splashing fire across the siding. Georgia ducks back and closes the window, then leans forward to meet the attacker’s eyes again.

Run away!” she shouts through the glass. He immediately turns and bolts into the trees.

Georgia nods to herself, pleased, then squints at the retreating man. His unmarked black fatigues aren’t as unmarked as she thought, and she catches a glimpse of a gold symbol stitched across his back, like an uppercase A with no crosspiece.

#

At the front of the house, Rabenholz rolls away from the sputtering flare. He slams the legs of the gunman with his cane, knocking him unconscious to the ground.

Rabenholz gets up, braced for another attack, but no one else comes at him. He brushes himself off and searches the area. The campus security officer, the one who knocked at the door, is lying on the ground a few yards down the drive. Rabenholz goes to investigate and finds him dead, executed by a surgically-precise slice to the back of the neck.

Rabenholz scans the darkness, frowning, then goes to pick up the unconscious man by the back of his jacket and drag him into the house.

Georgia, consoling an apoplectic Leeland, looks up as he enters. “Ah! I see you have apprehended the miscreant!”

“Yes.” Rabenholz dumps the man inside the front door. “The police officer is dead.”

Leeland looks up from the ball he has curled up into. “…They killed one of my campus security?”

“It appears so,” Rabenholz says seriously.

“Maybe it’s some kind of fraternity stunt?” Georgia suggests. “There was a Greek alpha on the back of the one who ran away.”

Leeland leaps to his feet. “Why would this be a fraternity stunt!? Knifing security guards and trying to burn my house down?”

Georgia shrugs. “Have you been to San Francisco recently?”

Rabenholz, meanwhile, rolls the unconscious man over with a kick. A gold logo covers the back of the jacket. “This one is marked as well. Mr. Leeland, do you want to interrogate him?”

Leeland sputters. “Interrogate!? I don’t have a torture chamber in the basement or whatever else you people use for these things!”

Rabenholz shrugs. “We just need a place that won’t attract attention.”

Just then, Georgia’s phone rings. Bob’s voice, shaky and breathless, greets her as she picks up. “…Regent?”

“Bob! Is everything ok?”

There’s sounds of his mouth working silently. “…I..I’m so sorry! I couldn’t stop them?”

Georgia’s smile falters briefly. “Who?

“Th-the humans.”

“Which humans?”

“The ones who came,” he whispers. “To the Chantry.”

Georgia’s tone drops. “What did they do?”

“I don’t know what they’re doing, I hid! Three men, and a woman. They had robes and…strange things.”

“Where’s Jawahar?”

He’s with them!” Bob squeaks.

“Okay. You did the right thing in calling me. Good job, Bob.” Georgia hangs up and immediately tries to call Jawahar. The call rings a few times, then goes to voicemail.

Georgia puts the phone away and sighs. “Mr. Rabenholz, I would like to swing back by my Chantry.”

“Very well.” Rabenholz prods the man with his cane. “Should we interrogate him first?”

She shrugs. “We can take him with us. Leeland, are you alright with this?”
Leeland, though, is staring at the symbol on the jacket. “I’ve seen this before…or something like it, somewhere….” he mutters.

“Well, we’ll ask him a few questions and let you know what he says,” Georgia says brightly, grabbing the man by the feet.

With Rabenholz’s help, they drag him out to the van, and head back toward the city.

#

BERKELEY RIDGE

Flagg steps toward Anstis and the pack of Nosferatu, glowing Bible held high. “Tell me my brother, have you found Jesus? Have you found Redemption, and washed with the blood of the Lamb?”

(Kara: “Sounds sticky.”
Jason: “And human blood isn’t?”
Kara: “I don’t normally wash myself in blood.”
Jason: “You’re not a very good Tremere, then, are you? I will remind you, Elizabeth Bathory  was Tremere.”
Me: “Did she actually do that shit?”
Jason: “…Probably. I mean, it could be slander, but it’s also a ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ kinda thing, and she was fucking crazy.”
Jim: “What did she do?”
Jason: “Reportedly, bathed in the blood of virgins to restore her youth. I mean the Church did make a bunch of shit up, but why would the Church make up something that specific, and call in that many witnesses? They could have just called her a Satanist, but no, they went with ‘Virgin Blood Bather.’”
Me: “That’s totally stupid. There isn’t even any collagen in blood. I mean, if she had bathed in the blood of beef tallow, maybe, she would have been fine!” *pause* “I should go put some lotion on….”)

Anstis eyes him cooly. Flagg takes another step forward. “Are you a Christian man?” he drawls.

“Aye,” Anstis growls.

Flagg chuckles. “You’ve been lapse, my brother, you’ve been lapse.”

Anstis smirks and grips the lapels of his coat. “We all have, in this age.”

“Not all. some of us have found Redemption.” Flagg licks his lips, face glowing sickly in the light of his book. “Some of us are ready for the Lord!”

Rocko shifts his gun and spits. “Is there a reason we shouldn’t rip this guy in half?”

In response, Anstis pops his claws.

Flagg’s grin widens and he spreads his arms. “I shall not hold my peace because thou hast heard. Oh my soul at the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war.”

(Jim: “…I’m trying to come up with a quippy remark but I can’t.”
Me: “It’s really hard to find comebacks to his evangelical bullshit, isnt it?”
Jim: “Yeah, it is!”
Jason: “That’s one of the reasons I like him so much, he kinda shuts you all up.”
Me: “I’m soo glad he’s bothering someone else for once.”)

Anstis grins and steps to the side, gesturing grandly at the Nosferatu. Gunfire explodes across the hillside as they unload every gun they’re carrying, blowing Flagg backwards and down into the dirt. The Bible falls from his hand and the light goes out.

Silence falls. Anstis stares at the body, sniffs disdainfully, and continues walking down the road. The Nosferatu turn to follow.

Yaaay, for though I shall walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me….” echoes a voice through the dark. The group stops, then, as one, turns.

Flagg is sitting up, grin unwavering. Holes dot his dark coat, but there’s no blood. Anstis blinks, and then suddenly the holes are gone too.

Anstis growls and steps toward him. “What are you?”

Flagg lifts a hand in supplication. Somehow the book has reappeared in it. “I am the piper who plays. I am the shepherd that collects the stray.”

“Not who are you, what are you?”

“But I have told you, my brother. I am he who is here to usher you into the Kingdom of the Lord….”

Flagg’s voice trails off in an unnaturally deep resonance. Moments later, movement flickers in the shadows lining the road. Armed men in dark clothes step out of the trees on both sides. The Nosferatu tense and lift their guns.

Anstis turns back to Flagg. He’s now on his feet, both arms spread. “Do you wish to wash in righetousness, or slither in filth?”

Anstis snarls and summons fire, thrusting one hand forward to blast the man in a targetting gout. Flagg takes a staggering step back, but the flames wash around him like water around a rock. Before the spell dies out, Flagg lifts his free arm. The fire swirls around it in a tempest, writhing up to collect in his hand overhead.

“Do you see?” Flagg drawls, “Do you see the miracles of the Lord? Shall you witness his Righteousness?” Flagg bellows the last word and throws the flame back.

Anstis instantly hits the dirt, as gunfire and flame erupt around him.

(Jim: “Witness of Death!”
Jason: “What’s that going to tell you?”
Jim: “If there’s anything weird going on in the spirit realm around him!”
Jason: “Oh! Well! Okay! Go for it!”)

Anstis peeks up from under his hat to peer at Flagg, then freezes. The road fades away into the mists of the realm of the dead, but Flagg stands clearly before him, pulsing with green light bright as a supernova. Around him, spiraling in a maelstrom, are souls, over a thousand of them, chained to him like a carnival ride. Flagg’s arms are spread in joy, but the souls are screaming, loud enough to drown out the sound of battle.

Anstis snaps his vision back. “We need to go! Now!” he yells to the Nosferatu.

There is nowhere to run,” Flagg growls, the sound echoing directly in his mind, over the gunfire and echoes of ethereal screams. Anstis shoves to his feet and bolts down the road, leaving the Nosferatu battling behind him. As he runs, he passes one of the dark-clothed gunmen, dead and facedown in the road. Some sort of Greek symbol is emblazoned on the back of the fatigues, stitched in gold. Anstis pauses long enough to tear the symbol from the rest of the jacked with his claws, then continues running.

The gunfire starts to die away, but Flagg’s voice drifts after him, clear as if he were right behind. “You cannot run from your sins. You cannot run from the Lord.

#

SAN PABLO RESERVOIR

Time passes unmarked in the cold next to the reservoir. After awhile, I become distantly aware of automatic gunfire echoing from higher on the ridge. I ignore it.

Not long after that, I hear more gunshots: the sharp repeat of a pistol, and much closer. I lift my face from Sophia’s jacket and peer around the trunk to see the shape of a horseman clearing a ridge to the south, descending the slope to disappear behind the trees.

(Me: “That’s some Gandalf shit right there.”)

Slowly, I carefully lay Sophia down in the leaves and draw Glitch. I stand over her, drawing new shadows to cover us. The gunshots stop. Hoofbeats continue to approach, then suddenly stop. I wait in the silence, facing south, braced to defend.

Until I feel the barrel of a gun pressed to the back of my neck and hear a hammer click. “Mr. Lytton,” Doc’s voice says.

I freeze and spread my hands slowly. “…Doc?”

He removes the gun. “You can turn around.” Keeping my hands visible, I turn to see him holding two silvered Colt revolvers, one pointing directly at my forehead. He looks me over then lowers it slowly. “Forgive me. Not everything is what it seems to be tonight. But then, when is it?”

I glance around nervously. “Do…you wanna ask some questions to confirm my identity?”

Doc holsters one of his guns but keeps the other out. “I am no conjurer of cheap tricks.”

(Chris: “Again with the Gandalf shit.”)

“This is your compatriot, then?” Doc kneels next to Sophia and carefully examines her one-handed. “…Goodness. She is not in a good way.”

My throat clenches as I watch him prod her pale skin. “No,” I mutter.

“May I ask what transpired here?”

“There was a missile, the explosion blew her into the water.”

He rests his hand on her chest a long moment, then sits back and looks up at me, tipping his hat back. “Mr. Lytton, I do not mean to alarm you but this werewolf is dead.”

I stare at him a long moment. “…So!?” I finally blurt. “She’s been dead before! She had her chest blown open by silver!

“Werewolves live, Mr. Lytton. They may be tougher than the average, but they breathe, and they live and they die.” He eyes me coolly. “What will you do now?”

I gape. “Wha…? What will I do now!? That’s why I called you!!!”

He sighs and gets to his feet. “Mr. Lytton, I do not know what you think I am but I am not Jesus Christ.”

In a flash, I drop Glitch, grab his collar, and pull him close, ignoring the gun still in his hand. “I know you do some crazy shit, man,” I hiss.

He stares back calmly. “I cannot raise the dead, Mr Lytton.”

“You’ve raised us!

“You are dead, Mr. Lytton. Are you suggesting I embrace this werewolf? Do you have the first conception of what will transpire if I do? If we are very, very lucky it will merely kill the three of us.” He eyes me a moment, then pulls out of my slack grip. “I will not inflict the embrace on a werewolf, not for you or anyone else.”

He glances around as he straightens his shirt. “And I would lower your voice, sir, there are creatures in the woods.”

“Other werewolves?” I start walking back the way he came. “Good, where? Cause that might have been her pack, we should–”

“Other Spiral Dancers, Mr. Lytton. I saw no other Garou.”

I stop mid-step.

He eyes me from the shadows of his hat. “Why would you have her compatriots return? You know what they would do. Their packmate is dead, and if they find her in this state, they have one response to that.”

I stare to the distance. The distant lights of civilization lights the low overcast beyond the hills. After a long moment, I pick up Glitch, shove it through my belt, then stoop to scoop Sophia up. “Was there a road back the way you came?”

He tilts his head and the shadows deepen. “What do you intend to do?”

“Figure something out.” Carefully cradling Sophia, I climb over the charred edge of the crater and start walking, stumbling through the dry grass.

Crunches follow me after a few minutes and Doc paces alongside, still eying me curiously. “What is this werewolf to you?”

I glare at nothing. Many have asked me that over the last few nights, and I’ve generally come up with a quip or deflection in response, but I’m beyond that now. “She’s my friend.”

“Do you have many friends?”

My throat clenches. “No.”

He nods. “Neither do I.” We walk quietly a few moments. “If I told you the werewolves would return here, restore her to life, and rip your head off, would you have me call them back?”

I stop. “Her werewolves? Or other werewolves?”

“Possibly. I may know of a couple.”

I stare into his worn face and brown eyes, bright beyond his years. Finally I set Sophia down and fold my arms. “Call them.”

He lifts an eyebrow. “And kill myself in the process? That’s an interesting proposition.”

“You have time to run, you have whatever horse you rode in on.” I look around. Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen it, even though we’re clearly out in the open….

“And what of you?”

I shrug. “Well I gotta tell them what happened don’t I.”
“If  you get long enough. You are a vampire, they will kill you on sight.”

I stare at him, then sit down next to her in the grass, folding my legs deliberately.

Doc watches me a long moment, then chuckles once, shaking his head. “I cannot call these werewolves. But I do know where you may find them.” He jerks his chin east. “Devil’s Mountain.”

It only takes me a moment to translate that as I follow his gaze. “Diablo….” The overcast obscures the mountain at the moment, but I can visualize it clearly. My memories of daytime life in the Bay are filled with its dark, pyramid-shape looming high on the eastern horizon.

“Yes. Near the summit, on the eastern side. There’s a cabin. You will find them there.”

I nod thoughtfully, then haul back up to my feet and lift Sophia again. “Whelp, we’d better go find ourselves a car, then.” I continue walking south.

“You’ll not make the road in time, Mr. Lytton. You need another method?”

I stop and scowl at him. “You got a helicopter in your pocket?”

“No.” He gestures behind me. I turn and almost fall backward in surprise. A horse is there, a behemoth with the build of a thoroughbred but the size of a clydesdale. He stares at me unsettlingly, ignoring the low grass and weeds scattered around his dinner-plate hooves.

“This is faster than walking, yes,” I say carefully, “But I don’t see a horse getting me to Mount Diabolo in the next hour.”

He smirks. “If it were any horse you had ridden before you would be right–”

(Chris: “This is Shadowfax.”)

“–I have friends. Friends who have, shall we say, certain pastures. This horse won’t go near the Garou, but he will get you close enough. Do endeavour not to fall off, he’ll do the work.”

“Sounds like my prom night.” Hope floods through me as I lift Sophia’s body up onto the saddle. None of this makes any sense but dammit, I’ll take it. My rising joy flickers, though, as Glitch bounces against my leg mid-mount.

I pause and stare at the sword. Walking into a werewolf den is bad, but walking in with a sword that can turn into silver is probably imminently worse.

“That is an interesting sword, Mr. Lytton,” Doc says nonchalantly.

“It is.” I draw it slowly, sigh, and hand it over. “Can I entrust it to your care while I am away? It can be a deposit for the horse.

(Me: “So now I have…no weapons on me.”
Jim: “A Brujah with no weapons?”
Jason: “This is a weird fucking night.”)

“I believe that is an equitable agreement.” Doc takes it and examines it. “Fine craftsmanship. Tremere, if I guess correctly.”

“So I’ve heard,” I mutter, settling myself in the saddle and gathering Sophia against me. The horse doesn’t so much as twitch the entire time.

Doc nods at me. “You haven’t much time. Mr Lytton.”

The feel of Sophia’s cold skin settles my resolve more than his words can. I nod back, then turn the horse east with a touch of the reins and give a gentle squeeze.

The horse takes the fuck off.

#

THE CHANTRY

Upon returning to Russian Hill, Georgia directs the driver into the Chantry’s subterranean garage. She and Rabenholz get out of the van, hauling their still-unconscious prisoner between them.

“Take him to an interrogation room while I do a sweep,” she says as they enter the underground hallway leading into the building. She points to a series of unmarked doors down the hall and runs off, disappearing into a stairwell. Rabenholz sighs, drags the man into the nearest room and stares thoughtfully at the various pieces of bloodstained furniture filling it.

(Chris: “Is there just a chair I can tie him to?
Jason: “There are many chairs you can tie him to, some of which already have things in them. Chris: “…Or maybe a table?”
Jason: “There are many tables you can tie him to, all of which already have things on them.”
Chris: “Which one looks…least hostile?
Jason: “The door you used to come in.”
Chris: “Alright. I put him on the device that looks least likely to accidentally kill him.”)

Georgia, meanwhile, moves quickly through the building, looking for Bob or any of the threats he spoke of. But inexplicably, no one seems to be around. Not even MewMew. She checks the front door, confirming that is is still warded and locked, then starts retracing her steps.

Halfway through this, she realizes she should probably Pull a Georgia and just call them. She tries Jawahar first.

“…Hello?” he answers after a few rings.

“Ah, Jawahar. Are you still in the Chantry? Where are you?”

Jawahar is quiet a moment before responding, and when he does, his tone is serious. “Yes. I am. I’m in the front atrium.”

Georgia stops and looks back down the hall. She was just in the atrium. “Is Bob with you?”

“No, it appears Bob has barricaded himself in your office.”

“Ah, excellent. Do you know why?”

“I happen to know exactly why, yes. I think if you come to the atrium it will become abundantly clear.”

Georgia hesitates. “Jawahar, is this a trap?” she asks frankly.

He sighs. “In a sense, yes, but you have already sprung it.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

“I hope you don’t mind if I tell you it isn’t up to me.”

Now she sighs. “I’ll be there presently.” She hangs up and immediately sends a text to Paul and vonNatsi: “Just as a general announcement, I may be about to die within my own Chantry. My will is in my office with Bob.”

Georgia backtracks and reenters the atrium. As expected, it is no longer empty. Jawahar is there with three other people, two men she doesn’t recognize and a woman she does: Victoria Lovelace. Lovelace is in a bustled, corsetted-dress of soft lilac and cream, but the men are in strangely-tailored outfits of red, white, and black stripes, openly bearing swords and other simple weapons. The one in front, a black man, is also carrying some sort of scepter, tucked in his belt.

Georgia stares a moment, then curtsies. “Good evening. Welcome to my Chantry. As I’m sure you know, I am Georgia Johnson, but I’m afraid I’m not familiar with all of you.”

Lovelace steps forward, gloved hands clasped politely in front of her. “Yes, good evening, Ms. Johnson. Do pardon the interruption, it was necessary for us to breach the wards you had erected.”

“I am sure we could have come to an arrangement for a meeting.”

“I have every faith, but I’m afraid we have a certain degree of protocol that must be followed when dealing with a Tremere chantry.”

“Yes, I do understand. And…who are your associates?”

“Oh, do forgive me.” Lovelace gestures to the black man. “This is Mr. Abiodun Mwange. He and his associates are here representing the Order of Hermes. Specifically House Flambeau.”

Georgia curtsies. Mwange stares at her coolly.

“And what can I do for you, Mr. Mwange?” Georgia asks.

(Jason: “…This is an accent I’m not even going to try. Every time I do, it comes out Indian.”
Cameron: “Which accent?”
Jason: “West African.”
Me: “BEEF JERKY TIME!)

“You do not want to know the answer to that, vampire,” Mwange rumbles.

Lovelace lays a hand delicately on his arm. “Mr. Mwange insisted on being present, given what this place is. And we have something of a dilemma, you see.”

“Oh?”

“Well, you are a member of House Tremere, and while normally that is not a concern of mine, it is a rather large concern of the Hermetic order. This is a Tremere Chantry, this is also a rather large concern of the Hermetic order, especially given this particular Chantry’s history.”

Georgia sighs. “It does have a bit of that, yes.”

“Moreso I think than you imagine.” Lovelace raises a finger and draws up a chair before her. It pops into reality and sinks gracefully to the floor. Lovelace settles herself on the velvet cushion and settles her skirt. “Your clan didn’t build this place, you see. This is a Hermetic chantry.  I suppose in a sense they’re all Hermetic chantries, but this one was originally constructed as one. The circumstances under which it ceased to be are rather, well, gory.”

Georgia nods. “Much of Tremere history does seem to follow that pattern.”

Lovelace clasps her hands, smiling thinly. “And so you understand our dilemma.”

#

Rabenholz, meanwhile, has just finished securing their captive to the least…pointy…piece of furniture in the room when there’s suddenly a knock at the door. He strides over and opens it.

A large man is standing there in brightly-striped clothes, sword on his hip, arms folded, glaring at Rabenholz from behind sunglasses. Rabenholz frowns back. “Yes?”

“Would you come with me sir?”

“Of course, but I’m afraid this one must be attended to first.” He gestures to the groaning man tied up behind him.

The striped man leans to look over Rabenholz’s shoulder, then leans back. “This is a more pressing matter.”

Rabenholz scans his aura, masking his surprise at how bright it is. “…Do you work for the Regent?”

“No.” The mage leans in, arms still folded. “You understand now how pressing this is.”

(Jason: “Do you go with with him?”
Chris: “I guess I don’t really have a choice, unless I want to tell him no, or kill him,”
Jason: “You can try. Mages are incredibly dangerous, but they are fragile, and they’re least dangerous when you hit them by surprise.”
Kara: “They’re squishy.”
Jason: “Well, most of them are. Akashics aren’t squishy. Etherites also tend to not be squishy. Someone asked me recently, in fact, what it’s like to do battle with an archmage? And I said it’s hard to describe cause they’re so different. He was like, okay, well, what if it was an Etherite, or a Virtual Adept? I said if it was an Etherite, picture going into battle with someone wearing a shirt that weighs one pound, only it’s made of the woven fiber of degenerate matter found at the core of a neutron star and has the approximate armor characteristics of a cubic mile of face-hardened steel.  But that’s not so bad, because the Virtual Adept breaks the fourth wall and curses the players that are fighting him. I watched a guy in a Mage game rule once that someone had just been cursed by an archmage Virtual Adept and that they were going to be at negative dice in every RPG they played, from now on.”
Chris: “…Yeah, I go with him.”)

#

The mage brings Rabenholz up to the atrium to join Georgia–now perched in a second mage-crafted chair–and the rest. “Ah, Lord Rabenholz,” Georgia greets him. “This is Jawahar Singh, Victoria Lovelace, and Mr. Mwange.”

Warmaster Mwange,” one of Mwange’s lieutenants corrects her.

(Kara: “Ooo…I want to be a Warmistress.”
Jason: “You’re the Regent, you can call yourself whatever you like.”
Jim: “Bob will call you that!”
Jason: “Bob will call you that.”
Kara: “From now on I’d like you all to address me as Warmistress Kara, thank you.”)

“My apologies, I didn’t know you had guests.” Lovelace gestures and a third chair appears. “Lord Rabenholz, you’re not a Tremere?”

Rabenholz sits carefully, eyeing the men behind her. “Oh, no.”

Lovelace turns back to Georgia. “I wasn’t aware you encouraged guests from other clans.”

“Well, I’ve been attempting to change some of the policies of the Tremere clan in San Francisco. This is one of many small tweaks.”

“Yes, Mr. Singh has been telling us interesting stories about your change in policies.” Behind her, Jawahar shifts nervously, glancing at Mwange’s scepter.

“I am assuming they are all true–” Suddenly Georgia’s phone rings. Caller ID identifies it as Dr. vonNatsi. “–I’m sorry, would you mind if I take this? It’s just a friend, probably checking to make sure I am still alive.”

“By all means.” Lovelace gestures gracefully.

“…Ms. Johnson!?” vonNatsi barks as soon as she answers.

“Doctor! Everything for the moment is alright, but I will call you back in an hour!”

“Vat is going on!? Zere is Science to be done!!!”

“If I do not call you back in that time, assume I am dead. Goodbye!” Georgia hangs up and turns back to Lovelace with a smile.

Lovelace is watching her, one hand resting thoughtfully against her chin. “Do forgive me, but your phone is rather loud, and I’m afraid so was he. I believe that was my esteemed colleague at the tower?”

“Yes, Dr. vonNatsi. And you will notice I told him that everything is fine and there is no need to rush over.”

“Yes, well, he would not be Dr. vonNatsi if he were not at least considering it anyway. That would complicate matters rather unfortunately.”

The women stare at each other a moment. “…Would you like to call him back and reassure him further?” Georgia asks finally.

“If you would be so kind.”

Georgia sighs and calls him back.

“MS. JOHNSON! I HAVE PREPARED A DEATH RAY!”

“Actually it looks like everything is going to be alright, for the moment, we are simply going to have a discussion and some tea,” she says hurriedly.

“…But who are you having a discussion vith?”

She glances at Lovelace, watching her with raised eyebrow.  “Oh, just old friends. You know, you and I should have tea at some point. Perhaps tomorrow night, are you free?”

“…I SHALL CONSULT ZE CALENDAR!!!” There’s the sound of the phone being put down, followed by clanging-crashing in the background and shouts in German. Finally the phone is picked back up. “I have found it! I am free tomorrow! Ve shall meet to discuss ze Science, and ze progress on ze golem!”

“Excellent!”

“Ja! Vell, I must go. My refrigerator is running.” More crashing sounds echo behind him. “GET BACK HERE!!!” he shouts, then the call cuts out.

Georgia puts her phone away and smiles at Lovelace. She smiles calmly back. The warmages behind her trade glances. Jawahar hides his in a facepalm.

Tired of the awkward silences, Georgia texts Bob to bring tea to the atrium, assuring him it is perfectly safe. He brings some a few minutes later, shaking so much there’s more tea on the hallway floor than in the pot.

“Thank you, Bob,” Georgia takes the tray to set down on a table and excuses him. She pours five cups and hands them out. Surprisingly, all of the mages wordlessly accept.

Lovelace takes a sip, then lifts her cup approvingly. “Well, as I was saying, Mr. Singh has shared a very specific set of tales about you. Although, nothing about you, I’m afraid, Mr. Rabenholz.”

Georgia nods at him. “Rabenholz is a very new acquaintance of mine and has been helping me with some investigations.”

“What manner of investigations?”

“Well this evening we were examining the nature of an attack upon UC Berkeley.”

“Yes, I heard there was a disturbance out there.” Lovelace lowers her tea to her lap, face concerned. “My understanding is the university is run by one of yours?”

Georgia and Rabenholz trade a glance. “Yes, he is. Why?” Georgia asks.

“Well, I am concerned as to whether it will be necessary to…prune back the number of kindred in the immediate vicinity.”

Rabenholz’s eyes narrow but Georgia waves the thought away breezily. “I believe the number of kindred in the immediate vicinity has already been pruned back.”

“Yes, but those those wielding the shears are rather our concern.”

“Much of the chaos recently has been caused by a few individuals, and if you would like to remove those, I would be more than willing to give you their names.”

“Ah see, there we have a slight difficulty.” Lovelace looks down at her tea. “I do apologize, this is rather awkward. We’re not here to slaughter your enemies. It’s a common misconception where we’re concerned, particularly when House Flambeau shows up.”

“So you’re here to determine whether I am one of your enemies?”

“You’re a Tremere, so whether you are an enemy of House Flambeau and the Hermetics in general has rather already been answered. The question is what do we do about that. You see, this is a rather interesting Chantry. Jawahar here felt it was his obligation to report all that was transpiring, the moment you left. Though he felt very awful about it, I’m sure.  He made mention of a hundred or so Sleepers who had been brought to the Chantry for some sort of ritual?”

Georgia glances at Rabenholz. His face is a mask of cool innocence. “Yes, getting the wards back online,” she says.

“Yes, the wards. We encountered them on the way in, they were quite comprehensive. For low sorcery.”

Georgia’s lips thin. “Of course.”

Lovelace takes a sip of tea, looking around the room. “Jawahar informed us that you had some very interesting intentions for this place. What are they, if I might ask?”

(Chris: “Cat cafe!”)

As if on fourth-wall command, MewMew walks in just then and meows hungrily. Everyone in the room turns to look at it.

(Me: “Has the space whale been vomiting since it came to Earth?”
Jason: “You don’t know, have you been checking the Chantry for vomit?”
Chris: “It’s possible the werewolf cub has been eating it.”
Jason: “Ew. Also, yeah.”)

“A familiar of yours?” Lovelace asks. MewMew wanders up to Rabenholz’s chair and rubs against his legs. Face still carefully neutral, he stoops to stroke it.

“Yes, recently acquired. My plans for the Chantry include changing its reputation, for one thing. For another, doing some examination into…the….” Georgia glances at Rabenholz again, debating how much to reveal. “…Into conducting some investigations regarding some…events that have taken place in San Francisco over the last several decades, and pursuing actions necessary once those investigations are complete.”
“You understand it’s rather easy to interpret that in uncouth manner,” Lovelace says. “And these gentlemen are looking for excuses to kill you.”

“Members of my clan have been doing things that the Camarilla determines to be illegal. For many reasons, one in that they violate the Masquerade, but also in that they are harmful to other kindred and humans.”

“And what actions might these be?”

Georgia looks at Rabenholz again, then sighs. “Creating armies of gargoyles, unsanctioned.”

Rabenholz stops mid-stroke. The warmages gazes become a lot more pointed. Georgia plunges on. “But, mind, this is not only against the Tremere’s public protocol, but also Camarilla protocol.”

“Yes, but the Tremere’s public and internal protocols are not the same thing. Which is the difficulty,” Lovelace says, sipping her tea. “You say this gargoyle production has been going on for some time? Then surely it’s been going on with the sanction of rather serious vampires.”

“Yes, I assume so. I do not know yet which ones. I intend to find out, if I can. Before I am killed.”

“And you will be.” Lovelace sets her empty cup delicately on a side table. “So why persist?”

“The pursuit of making the clan as wonderful as it has made me. I feel that I owe it to clan Tremere to bring it some honor, after it has given me so much.”

Lovelace eyes her. “So your plan is to destroy a major proportion of your own Clan because they endeavour in behaviors that they publicly deride but privately practice?”

“Yes.”

Lovelace exchanges a glance with Mwange. “Interesting. Under normal circumstances I would assume you were telling us what we wish to hear–”

“Madam, if the Camarilla were to find out about this, they would eliminate the entire clan. The only way to preserve the clan is to eliminate this issue.”

“Hmm.” Lovelace taps a finger on the rim of the cup. “Well, anything that would generate a pile of dead Tremere would certainly brighten the day, but it’s not a great concern of ours whether the rest of your clan is annihilated by the Camarilla. There are other events going on that are of concern. I have not been following too closely, neither have my compatriots here, but this city has been watched. We’ve heard rumors that one of your kind has been making inroads in the werewolf community?”

Georgia smiles, back on familiar ground. “Ah, yes, you must be referring to Mr. Lytton.”

Lovelace tilts her head. “Mr. Lytton…no, I’m afraid I don’t know that name. When I say inroads, I mean in a rather literal sense, as in cutting through them.”

“Yes, that is also Mr. Lytton, isn’t it?”

Lovelace frowns. “Can you describe this Mr. Lytton to me?”

“Relatively young, active, Gangrel I think–”

(Me: “WHAT!!??!!!”)

“–Yeah, Gangrel. Seems to be around trouble often, and if not, he starts some.”

Lovelace shakes her head. “Forgive me, but I was assuming we were referring to someone far older and of considerable potency.”

Georgia nods in sudden understanding. “Ah. You must mean the instigator, the one destroying everything. In general I try not to speak his name so I will only do so once: Gnaeus Perpenna…Venti.”

“Ah, yes, that is the name. My understanding is he was searching for something. Possibly a great many things.”

“Yes, his children. He wishes to eat them all.”

“No, I was referring to another matter entirely.” Lovelace meets her eyes. “A werewolf. A particular werewolf. One that I was hoping you might have some understanding of, not to put too fine a point on it.”

Georgia goes still. “I am familiar with the existence of this werewolf, yes,” she says carefully.

“And what do you know of it?”

“It’s…a sort of rumored powerful werewolf mixture of some sort?”

Lovelace sighs, then gets to her feet. The chair disappears instantly. “I was rather hoping to avoid this, I’m terribly sorry. It’s all very crass. I suspect you might know a great deal more than that. It truly would pain me to be so uncouth as to suggest that there may be consequences of not telling us.”

Georgia eyes her suspiciously. “And what would you do with this information?”

“Well, find the werewolf, of course.”

“And then what?”

“Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but destroy it.”

Georgia sighs. “Yes, that is the part I have a problem with. One of the things I do know about this werewolf is that it’s young and it’s scared.”

“I do understand, but have you seen what a frightened werewolf is capable of?”

Georgia thinks carefully. “…Actually no, no I don’t think I have.”

“If I were to assure you they are capable of a magnitude of violent, indiscriminate destruction, would you believe me?”

“Yes.”

Lovelace clasps her hands. “Then I return to my previous question.”

Georgia stands. Her chair disappears instantly as well. “It should have a chance to be what it is, and it should do so in a safe environment. It should be raised by people who care for it and its power.”

“Are you aware of what you are talking of? Why would you, a vampire, regard that as such an important matter for a werewolf?”

“Because I met it, and I felt bad for it.”

Lovelace frowns, puzzled. She glances at Mwange but the warmage is still staring evenly at Georgia. “Where is it now?” he rumbles.

Georgia turns toward him, drawing herself up. “I’m afraid I do not yet feel comfortable giving that information. Perhaps if you reassure me you do not intend to rush out and destroy it instantly.”

In response, Mwange removes the scepter from his belt and takes a step toward her. Jawahar, though, reaches out to catch his sleeve, pulling him into a tense whispered conversation that somehow neither Georgia nor Rabenholz can hear, even with Auspex.

Finally Mwange turns away, irritated. Jawahar comes over to Georgia. “May we have a word in private?” She nods and follows him down the hall, toward her office.

The warmages turn their gazes on Rabenholz. He ignores them, turning to Lovelace. “I have enjoyed your company this evening, but if I am no longer needed, would you mind if I take my leave?”

Lovelace is watching Mwange carefully but Rabenholz’s question seems to shake her out of a reverie. “Oh, of course. If you have other engagements please feel free, as long as none of them involve burning the city down.”

“Indeed not.” Rabenholz gets up, bows respectfully to her and Mwange, then leaves the Chantry.

(Kara: “So…you leave the prisoner in the interrogation room?”
Chris: “I leave the prisoner in the interrogation room. He’s not that interesting.”)

#

Jawahar leads Georgia into her office, closing the door behind them. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?” he hisses. “Do you have the first conception of what it took for me to convince them to do anything but walk in here and incinerate everything in it?”

She sits on the edge of her desk, smoothing her skirts. “Yes.”

“Then why would you complicate this further by deciding not to tell them about things they know you know?” He paces the room. “Do you know who those men are? They are members of House Flambeau. Do you know what that is?”
She frowns thoughtfully. “Flame…mages?”

(Chris: “Flages.”)

“They’re warmages. Frontliners. They are the sword arm of the Hermetic order. That man down there in charge of them is a warmaster.”

She lifts her chin. “Yes, and none of this changes my principles.”

“So, you’re going to tell them you’re not going to tell them what they want to know? They can force you to, do you wish them to?”

“I wish for them to assure me that they’re not going to instantly destroy the werewolf cub.”

“They’re senior mages, they are not in the habit of explaining themselves or giving assurances!”

“Yes, well, many people have to learn new habits in this city when they arrive here,” she says with a hint of chastisement.

He glares at her. “The stories around Warmaster Mwange are not small. I understand if you are upset with me, but this man is my superior; I had to call them.”

“I’m not upset! I simply think it would be wrong to turn over the werewolf cub.”

Jawahar stops pacing. “…’Turn over’? Then you have it?”

Georgia’s face actually falls.

He stalks closer, grabbing her shoulders when she doesn’t respond. “You have the werewolf cub? Here!?” He blinks. “Is that what you’ve been feeding in your room!?”

Finally, her face cracks in a sheepish smile. He groans, releases her, and resumes pacing. “You must have it exceptionally well hidden, because they haven’t found it.”

“Like I said, it’s small and it’s afraid,” Georgia says.

“We didn’t fail to find it because it was hiding under a table!”

She shrugs. “It might be under the bed.”

He shoots her a Look. “What do you expect to convince them of?”

“That it bears investigating before they destroy it. That they determine for themselves whether they think it’s necessary to destroy it.”

“And if they determine that they should simply destroy you and then it?”

She shrugs. “Well, I can’t help that.”

“You may be able to help the first thing. What principles are these of the Tremere that you are clinging to so firmly? Where in the Tremere clan does it say you should lie to mages that are going to kill you?”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s on the first page.”

He stops in front of her, arms folded. “This is an odd organization to belong to and that’s saying quite a bit, considering what I belong to.” When she doesn’t respond, he shakes his head and groans. “Very well, be it on your head.”

Jawahar wrenches the door open and storms out, back to the atrium. Georgia follows and addresses the mages politely. “I am absolutely willing to tell you where the werewolf is at this moment, assuming that you reassure me that you will not instantly destroy it. I would like you to investigate it first, to determine if that is even necessary.”

Lovelace eyes her. “You understand you have no capacity to compel us to abide by these regulations, so why would you insist upon us making them?”

Georgia stands tall, Tremere-red robes swept around her. “Principles.”

Lovelace glances at Mwange. He rumbles an indistinct noise. She nods. “Very well, if that’s what it’ll take to avoid an unpleasant scene. You have my assurances.”

“Thank you.” Georgia turns to MewMew, washing himself in a corner. “MewMew, if you would be so kind, I know this is very much out of your way, but could you lead me to wherever the werewolf is hiding?”

The space whale meows once, then turns and trots off, tail high. Georgia follows. Mwange and Lovelace exchange a surprised look and lead the mages behind her.

The space whale leads them up to one of the observatory towers, up the winding stairs, then sits down in front of the door to the observatory room. Georgia enters, Lovelace and Mwange close behind.

The room is filled with science-y equipment befitting a Chantry, but, for once, no meat hooks or signs of blood. Georgia ducks around the large telescope in the middle of the room, peering under the tables along the walls. “Cub? Cub, are you in here? We’re not going to hurt you. It’s okay, you can come out.”

There’s a rustle, then the cub pokes his face around a crate. She squats down, reaching a hand out. The cub scoots back. Georgia glances back at the mages. They’re scanning the room, but neither seem to be looking at the cub, even though it’s clearly visible before them.

“It’s ok,” Georgia says soothingly. The cub sniffs at her and creeps forward, slowly reaching a paw to touch her outstretched hand.

BAM! There’s a crack like a rip in reality, then suddenly she’s not in the Chantry anymore.

#

BERKELEY HILLS

Anstis quickly leaves the sound of battle behind. About half a mile down, he comes across an empty utility vehicle, painted matte military black, with the same strange A-logo painted on the side. Anstis pulls the scrap of fabric from his pocket to examine it. The symbol is familiar to him, and not because he knows Greek or anything. Something about it seems recently-familiar, and it takes him a few moments to place it.

It’s the same symbol he saw on Van Lowe’s men during the battle with Himmler at Fort Funston. It’s the logo of Myrmidon.

He shoves the scrap away and pulls out his phone to call Marcus.

“Captain!” Marcus greets him.

“We need to talk,” Anstis rumbles darkly, scanning the trees around him.

“Well that was direct, talk about what?”

“About why your men are following a Hunter. Fighting by his side.”

“What? My men?” Marcus makes a dismissive noise. “Captain I don’t keep abreast of what every single person in Myrmidon is engaged in. I’m sure they have some business to attend to. Why do you care and what are you calling me for?”

“There was an incident.”

Marcus sighs. “Was Lytton involved?”

“Very much so. He kidnapped a Nosferatu–”

“He what!?”

“–At the behest of the werewolves, and brought the entire Camarilla down on top of him.”

There’s a pause. “Define the entire Camarilla?”

“Bell and most of the ones in the city.”

“Bell–?” Marcus cuts off in indignant sputtering and curses in Latin. “–Captain I will call you back!” With that, he hangs up.

Anstis shrugs, puts the phone away, and stares at the car.

(Me: “Yet another situation where Jim himself can drive the vehicle but his character cannot.”)

#

Paul, meanwhile, is riding through the winding back roads of the East Bay hills, making his way toward the reservoir, when his phone rings through his bluetooth headset. He hits a button to answer. “Yes?”

“Paul!” Marcus barks. “Do you have the first idea where Tom Lytton is!?”

Paul leans gracefully into a turn, dust clouding behind him. “Last I heard Tom was with Sophia at San Pablo reservoir and she had been killed. Doc Holliday was on the way; I’m following on my bike, but I’m still a little ways out.”

More Latin curses. “Jupiter’s cock, what’s going on here. I can’t reach Tom, he’s not answering his phone. How did you talk to him?”

“He called me from Sophia’s phone.”

“That’s wonderful, but I don’t have your werewolf’s phone number!”

“I can give it to you, hold on….” Paul pulls over to a smooth stop under an oak tree and gropes for his actual phone in his satchel. He finds it, digs it out, looks up.

Doc is standing right in front of his bike.

Paul yells and jerks back. Doc watches him calmly, face hidden by his hat and the deep shadows under the tree, and gestures for him to hang up.

Paul!?” Marcus shouts in his headset. “What’s going on?”

“Uh, nothing, just saw a squirrel….” Paul quickly rattles off Sophia’s phone number, then hangs up.

Before Paul can speak, Doc strides forward from the shadows. “Mr. Stewart. A great many things are happening. I have sent Lytton onward. This werewolf, I believe you’ve made her acquaintance as well, Are you concerned to keep her among the living?”

Paul gropes to remove his helmet.“Generally, yes. What’s happened? What do you mean?”

Doc stares into the darkness a moment. “I do not know entirely what has happened except that somebody has attempted to kill the vast majority of people that you know. All at once.”

Paul’s phone buzzes in his hand. He glances down to see the last-will-and-testament text message from Georgia. “…Apparently yes,” he mutters.

“The werewolf is dead, Mr. Stewart. Werewolves take a great deal to kill, and they can recover more readily than most anyone you will encounter, but she is very dead. I have sent him on to the only people in range who may be some assistance in this matter. But those other people are werewolves and they are werewolves who have not made his acquaintance before. Now, you know Mr. Lytton a great deal better than I do, I believe. How good is he at first impressions?”

Crickets chirp in the silence. “Not. Great,” Paul says finally.

“That’s what I imagined. Here’s the difficulty. Mr. Lytton seems to have taken an attachment to that werewolf of yours and he’s taking her to those other wolves come hell or high water, but the issue is that hell and high water both are about to descend upon him.”

(Me: “Good, we need more water.”)

“I don’t wish to put you in harm’s way unnecessarily,” Doc continues, “But you are in the midst of a journey of sorts. And even were you not, you are a shade better at first impressions than Mr. Lytton is.”

Paul sighs. “I should hope so. Where is he going?”

“Mt. Diablo. I believe you’re familiar with the werewolf concept of a cairn?”

Paul nods grimly. “Sophia mentioned it once or twice.”

“It is a gathering point, a nexus point of spiritual energy. The werewolves use them as…dwelling points, points they can commune with their spirits. Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park is one such place, but there is another in the bay area. A small one, almost unused, more or less forgotten about, on the summit of Mt. Diablo.”

Paul looks to the east. “Yes. The place where you and Sophia told me not to go.”

Doc nods slowly. “Indeed, but these are strange circumstances. If I am correct, there should be two werewolves there right now, and either one of them should be capable of tearing Mr. Lytton into small pieces. Perhaps that is nothing to you, but I have had a premonition that it will be something to the rest of us.”

Doc follows his gaze. Miles of open space hillsides stretch into the darkness before them. “The cairn itself is located at the summit, beneath the firewatch tower, but the werewolves in question make their home in a small cabin on the eastern flank. The rangers don’t bother them there. These aren’t like the werewolves you met before, not even the Spiral Dancer. These are a different breed, but they are not likely to take kindly to you, I, or any other who might not live. But I would estimate they have a better chance of not killing you than Mr. Lytton. I would go myself, but I’m afraid I already made their acquaintance, and it did not go well.”

In response, Paul puts his helmet back on and revs up bike.

Doc swaggers forward and meets his eye seriously. “If it makes you feel any better, they’re unlikely to try to do anything but try to help that werewolf of yours. The question is whether either of you will be alive to see the result.”

“Well, I was getting tired of sitting around the office anyway.” Paul glances up and down the dusty fire road. “Do you need me to drop you off anywhere? I didn’t see you come up the road.”

Doc smiles and tips his hat knowingly. “I know a trick or two of my own, Mr. Stewart.”

Paul nods and pulls away, dialing Georgia on his headset on the way to make sure she’s ok and tell her where he’s going.

#

GEORGIA’S UNKNOWN LOCATION

(Jason: “Georgia, you’re on the top of a very large hill. Where the hell you are you don’t know.
Chris: “Is it a really large hill? Are there cities and towns nearby? Can she see the bay from the top of the hill?” *pause* “Is the hill Mount Diablo?”
Jason: “…”)

MOUNT DIABLO

Georgia finds herself outside, perched on a slope covered with rugged, scrub wilderness, cold and windswept, most of the plants dry and brown from drought. Above her, she sees a stone tower, like a ranger’s lookout. Below, half-hidden in the brush and stunted oaks, is the roof of a cabin.

The cub is next to her, huddled against her robes. She squats down. “This is not what I intended,” she murmurs. “See, now they’ll think I’ve teleported away, and they’ll want to kill me. Is there a chance you could take us back?” The cub just stares, wide-eyed.

Georgia sighs and digs through her satchel till she finds Lovelace’s card. She then finds her phone and calls her.

The mage’s voice answers before it even rings. “This is Victoria Lovelace.”

“Hi, this is Georgia Johnson,” Georgia chirps.

“…Of course,” Lovelace says delicately after a moment.

“I am endeavouring to return to the Chantry as quickly as possible.”

“…May I ask how it is precisely that you left it?”

“You may, and I have not the slightest idea.”

There’s a longer pause. “……Of course.”

Georgia scans the mountainside. “I also do not know exactly where I am, but as soon as I’ve determined it, I will let you know. But I wanted to let you know that I am not attempting to thwart your authority, nor did I attempt to pull one over on you.”
Lovelace sighs. “I am afraid that it’s not my authority you need to be concerned of.”

“Indeed, but I did not have Mr. Mwange’s phone number, so perhaps you could pass the message along.”

“I would, but he does not have a phone, and he already left. Rather hurriedly.”

“Ah, lovely.” Georgia stares into the dark. “This night has been…quite fun.”

“Yes, quite. Um…there are a number of things I think I need to investigate, so if you don’t mind, I think I’ll speak to you in a bit. I think I need to confer with…my esteemed colleague.”

“Very well. Goodbye.”

Georgia puts the phone away and looks around again. The tower looks deserted, but there seems to be light leaking from the cabin windows below. She scoops up the werewolf cub, tucks it in her satchel, and heads down to investigate.

#

Meanwhile, the horse and I have been moving across the East Bay countryside at ludicrous speed, keeping to the parks and open spaces of the hills as we move toward the mountain, looming in the distance and growing larger by the minute.

(Me: “Look at my horse.”
Jason and Jim: “Your horse is amazing.”)

When we reach the mountain, the horse takes to the roads and flies even faster, ascending so quickly I can practically feel my ears pop. I close my eyes and do my best to just hang on, to the horse and Sophia. After some time, the horse slows to a mere gallop, then a canter, and trots to a stop. I look up.

We are high on the side of the mountain, the lights of the far East Bay spread below us, a surprisingly cold wind blasting up the slope. We’ve stopped in a dirt turnaround at the end of a road, and up ahead through the scrub I see the shape of a cabin. I urge the horse closer but he stands firm. This must be the place.

I slide out of the saddle, carefully, then gather Sophia in my arms. Her limbs move a little more stiffly than they did an hour ago. My stomach flips as I stagger forward toward the structure.

The cabin is small and weathered, huddled down in the dry mesquite brush. I’m about halfway the clearing in front when the door suddenly flies open, revealing a figure silhouetted against the light inside. I wince and peer into the glare.

It’s an old man, at least seventy if he’s a day, with wild white hair and an even wilder beard. He blinks into the darkness. “Who are you!?!” he roars.

I clear my throat carefully. “Um, my name is Tom, my friend is–”

“EH!?!” He cups a hand against his ear. “Speak up!”

“Uhh,” I clear my throat again. “My name is TOM, my friend is HURT!”

“Your friend’s…?” He squints into the darkness, then cups a hand behind his other ear. “EH???

(Me: “…Oh my god.”
Jason: “Nope! Too bad!”)

I take a step closer to try again, but as I do, he tenses, sniffing. His head snaps toward me and his eyes turn crazed. “I knew it…I knew they’d be back…. You think you can get the drop on me, sonny!?!”

I take a breath and pour all the charm into my words I can. “I’m not here to hurt anybody, my friend needs help. I was told I could get help here.”

He sniffs again, then growls, deeper than a human should be able to. “Ahh, ye smell like leech….” He shuffles out of the cabin toward me. I tense but hold my ground. A few feet from me he stops, sniffing again, then turns back in the direction of the cabin. “WOMAN!!!” No one answers. “WOMAN! Bring me my HAMMER!!”

I stare at him. “Uh, sir she’s been out for over an hour now, we don’t have a lot of ti–”

“WOMAN!! WHERE’S ME HAMMER!!??!

I see shadows of movement through the cabin windows. “Get your own hammer, you old coot!” a female voice shouts back.

“DAMMIT woman, get me HAMMER!!!” With that, he suddenly explodes into werewolf-form. I take a step back. He is without a doubt the largest werewolf I have ever seen. Fully a head taller than Stormwalker, with long grey fur like a sasquatch and arms the girth of small redwoods. He turns toward me, curls his lip back from long yellowed teeth, and growls.

(Me: “…Is my Awe still working?”
Jim: “Was it ever?”
Jason: “You have an amazing tendency to use Awe only on things that you really shouldn’t be using Awe on.”
Me: “Why?”
Jason: “Cause not everything reacts to Awe the way everything else does.”
Me: “Well I don’t fucking know that!”
Jason: “Yeah, well, here you are.”)

The werewolf stalks forward, clearing two yards in one step. “Come with others, leech?”

“No, I came alone.” Despite the horror in front of me, I’m suddenly keenly aware of Sophia’s cold skin in my arms. I grip her tighter. “Please, my friend needs help.”

He snarls and lunges at me. I try to leap away but he catches me, knocking Sophia out of my arms and throwing me to the ground. Six-inch talons pierce my skin, pinning me to the dirt. “Well…look at the leech. Call your friends, leech!

Pain flashes through me but I slowly tear an arm away, pointing feebly toward Sophia’s body. He turns to her, sniffs, then growls again. “Oooh, you caught one, did ya, leech? What was this one, dinner? Slave?” With another snarl he throws his head back, opens his jaws, then roars, “WOOOOMAN!!! Where’s me HAMMER???

#

(Jason: “Kara, as you make your way down the hill you hear someone yelling their head off about a hammer.”
Me: “God, I hope the hammer isn’t something else….”
Kara: “The cub and I continue down the hill.”
Jason: “Wow, so, somehow we have ended with a situation where multiple people walk into the remote cabin of the werewolves whilst carrying werewolves.”)

Georgia spots the old werewolf crouching over me from afar, with another body nearby. By now, she knows Paul is on his way and calls him to make sure he’s not the body. He says no, he’s still coming, and she apprises him of the situation. He tells her to be careful. She agrees, hangs up, then strides right into the werewolf camp.

#

The werewolf’s head suddenly snaps toward the brush. I roll my head to see a figure stumbling out of it. It’s Georgia, walking toward us, brushing leaves off her robes and adjusting her bag over her shoulder.
“The fuc–?” I mutter, before the werewolf shoves his paw over my entire head.

“Eh?? Who are you!?” he barks at Georgia.

“Hi!” She waves. “I’m Georgia, Georgia Johnson.”

“Eh? You’re from Georgia?”

“No, that’s my name!” she says as she picks her way across the rocky dirt of the clearing.

His nostrils flare like bellows. “What do you want?”

“What’s that?” She points at me.

The werewolf looks down at me like he forgot I was there. “It’s a leech!” he says after a moment.

“What’s he want?”

The werewolf stares, then leans down, removing his paw from my face. “…WHAT DO YOU WANT, LEECH??” he roars.

Wincing from pain and now ringing eardrums, I point a shaky hand toward Sophia again. “Please…help…my friend….”

His head swings back toward Georgia. “Do you have my hammer?”

“What hammer?

He balls his massive fist and whams it against the ground, inches from my head. “MY hammer, WOMAN!” Georgia stares a moment, then starts digging hopefully through her purse.

(Jim: “Wait, you’re in range, and he hasn’t accused you of being a leech?”
Kara: “I’m holding a werewolf cub.”
Me: “I was holding a werewolf too!”
Jason: “Not this werewolf, and yours was dead.”
Me: “Well…dammit!”)

Finding no hammer in her bag, Georgia turns back to the werewolf. “Are you a healer?”

He stares at her, chest heaving. “…Am I a Hebrew?”

“A doctor.

“Who’s a doctor?”

“You!”

“…What?!”

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GEORGIA, CAN YOU PLEASE CHECK ON SOPHIA?!!!” I shout to the sky.

“Uh, sure….” Georgia shifts the bag on her hip and bends over to look at her. “…She’s dead!”

I bang my head against the ground a few times. It feels slightly better than any other thing happening to me at the moment. Georgia examines Sophia a moment longer then turns to the werewolf. “Can you do anything? She’s…in a bad way.”

The werewolf turns toward her, sniffing. “Who’s in a bad way? Did the leech do it?”

“NO!” I shout, but I’m cut off as he grabs me by the throat and lifts me up.

“You done made a mistake, leech….” he growls, holding me close. From here, I see his eyes are milky with cataracts, the pupils silvered as his fur.

“Georgia…I think he’s blind,” I choke out, grabbing at the paw around my neck.

(Jim: “And almost deaf!”
Me: “Looks like we got ourselves a…Helen Killer.”)

Georgia sighs and leans over to lift up Sophia’s body. She presses her against the werewolf’s side. “She needs help!”

Suddenly a blade appears under Georgia’s chin, pressed against her throat. “That’s far enough,” a woman’s voice says. “Put down the wolf.”

Georgia carefully sets Sophia back down and turns, slowly. The woman behind her is as old as her partner, long white hair pulled back in a tight braid. She has an eyepatch over one eye, but the other is clear and sharp as the curved dagger held at Georgia’s throat. Strapped to her back is a rune-carved sledgehammer larger than she is, but she seems unbowed by the weight.

The woman flicks the dagger toward her bag. “Drop that too.”

Georgia glances down. The cub is peeking out from under the flap and looks up at her with wide eyes. Georgia carefully sets the bag down and angles it so the woman can’t see it. “I was under the impression we could get medical attention here.”

The woman barks a rasping laugh. “Medical attention only works on the living.”

“Not for me, for her.” Georgia nods to Sophia.

The woman’s eye darts down briefly. “What did you do to her?”

“Nothing.”

“What did he do to her?” She flicks her knife at me.

“He says nothing.”

She turns to glare at me. I gurgle against the fist at my throat. She rolls her eyes. “Drop him, you idiot.”

Crash, I hit the ground, coughing air back into my lungs. She strides over and flips me onto my back, holding me down easily with one bony hand. “What happened? Speak up!”

I finally gasp in enough volume. “I was with her, Sophia, and her pack…there was an attack, a missile–”

Her foot comes down on my throat, leaving just enough pressure for me to speak. I grab at the shoe, and a dispassionate part of me notes it’s a combat boot. “Make…some…sense….” she hisses, pulsing her toe down with each syllable.

“The…the girl’s name is Sophia. I was with her and her pack, interrogating a guy, when someone got the jump on us.”

She growls down at me, sillhouetted against the stars in the cold sky. “Interrogating who, some werewolves?”

“No! This asshole Primogen from San Francisco!”

“WHAT?” Georgia leans into view. “You’re the one who kidnapped Karl!?

I freeze. Word got around fast, didn’t it. “Oh…yeah, it was…well, it was mostly for the lulz–”

Georgia stares at me with the most shock I’ve ever seen on her face. “You started a war because it was funny?

“We were gonna bring him back!”

The woman ignores Georgia and leans close, pressing her toe harder. “This is your unlucky day, leech.”

“…Y-you mean night?” I gasp.

She tenses, then in one motion, reaches down, grabs my hand gripping her boot, and snaps my arm in three places. I shriek and jerk uselessly against her. Georgia just watches, folding her arms judgmentally.

Rage follows the pain but I choke it down, gritting my teeth and bringing my focus back to the woman above me. “Can you please…just look at her….” I gasp, jerking my chin toward Sophia next to me.

The woman sneers. “A trick. Think you can just walk in to fool us?”

“Well I’m obviously doing a great job of it,” I sputter, my arm throbbing uselessly.

“Someone walked you in, then.” She glares into the darkness. “Who else is out there?”

No-one!

Just then, the buzzing drone of a sport motorcycle roars up the road. Everyone turns as Paul pulls up in the clearing, the headlamp on his bike scything across Georgia and the two standing werewolves. They stare as he parks, climbs off his bike, and removes the helmet. He stops and stares back at the strange scene before him.

(Me: “Oh lord help me, I never thought I’d be happy to see Paul.”)

Paul shakes off his surprise and strides forward with entrepreneurial confidence, angling toward the woman. “Ma’am, I’m sorry to interrupt, are you the healer? Or is…he the healer?” He peers up at the massive werewolf behind her.

She eyes him skeptically. “Who are you?”

“I’m Paul Stewart, hi!” He thrusts out a hand.

(Jason: “Chris, when you created Rabenholz I sat down and made myself a promise that I would never get in a situation where you were playing both your characters at once, and look where we are.”
Chris: “If Rabenholz summons Carlos imagine what fun that will be.”
Jason: “Ah, that’s a different matter entirely.”
Me: “Because Jason can’t control Carlos now?”
Jason: “No, because Carlos will be fun.”)

She looks from him, to Georgia, to me, then back to him. She shifts her weight on my throat. “What is this?”

“I think that we have been informed that you or both of you are the only people capable of helping our friend here.” Paul gestures at Sophia, pausing momentarily as he gets a clear look of her bruised, pale skin for the first time.

“You’re leeches….” the woman says slowly, almost disbelievingly. “You’re all leeches.”

“Yes. Or, well she’s not a leech.” He points to Sophia again.

“She’s dead.” The woman takes her boot off my throat. “What the hell is she to you?”

“She’s a young girl, she didn’t have this coming,” Paul says.
“She was a Glasswalker,” I gasp, scraping together some of the last of my reserves to heal my neck and arm.

“Yes, and hopefully she’ll continue to be a Glasswalker,” Paul says firmly. “I don’t know what’s going on, all I know is you’re this young woman–this girl’s–only chance to continue life.”

The woman stares at Paul a long silent moment, the only movement the cold mountain breeze stirring her hair. Finally she looks down at me. “You brought this werewolf? Why?”

I lever up to my elbows. “We were told you could help us–”

“WHY!?” She falls to her knees, dagger instantly at my throat.

Because she needs to be saved!” I roar back, staring into her cool blue eye. It narrows skeptically.

“We’re her friends,” Georgia adds cheerfully. “…Or, well, them more than me, but I like her, too.”

The woman’s breath heaves. Her knife doesn’t waver. The werewolf behind her peers sightlessly around us, sniffing and muttering about his hammer, and the cub peeks quietly out of Georgia’s bag. Another breeze blows across the clearing, rustling dead leaves against skeletal branches.

Finally the woman stands, flicking her knife between Paul and Sophia’s body. “You, take her inside.” She points at Georgia, then me. “You two as well.”

Slowly, bruised, I climb to my feet as Paul scoops Sophia up. Georgia carefully picks up her bag. The woman strides away with a jerk of her chin and we follow, toward the cabin and straight into the werewolf’s den.

END OF NIGHT

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2 Responses to 6/4/2015

  1. Seth says:

    You know, I generally read Marcus’ voice in a deep, Cumberbatchian tone given the force of his personality.

    Then I remember his apparent age and him shouting “Jupiter’s cock!” is at least 5 times as funny.

    • Corvidae says:

      Yeah, I have the same problem, because in my head hes Jason’s voice, obviously, which doesnt really click with the physical reality. Wihch is why Ive started trying to call attention to it more in exposition. Jason has been threatening to have his actually 9-year-old cousin record a few sets of lines, though, which is fucking terrifying 😛

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