Jason: “Chris, what are you up to?”
Chris: “Um, well the last thing Rabenholz did was talk to vonNatsi. But right now he kinda needs a hook to do something.”
Jason: “Well don’t worry about that. The way you guys ignore hooks I always have plenty to spare.” *glares at Kara*
Kara: “I don’t ignore them! I just don’t have time to get to any of them because you keep giving me new ones! I can’t get to the ones you’ve already given me!! I have pages of notes of things I’m supposed to be doing!!!”
Chris: “Yeah, you and I need to go to Humboldt.”
Kara: *flips through her notebook* “I need to go to Humboldt, I need a human bone that’s been soaked in vitae, I need to look into this archaic symbol, I need to go looking for somebody named Reinhardt Heydrich, I need to give Bell a tour of the Chantry, I need to get a master key made for Marcus…this is just in the last four pages!!! My quest log is totally full!!!!”
Anstis and Noah arrive at the Pyramid to meet Marcus. Noah is visibly nervous, staring up at the building towering above them with wide eyes. Anstis sees this, then stops to kneel down next to him. “I’ll be introducing ye to a lad your age, or at least he looks it. He be a vampire more powerful than ye could imagine, so keep yer wits about ye. Ye can learn a thing or two.”
Noah nods again, and his wide eyes take on an eager look.
Anstis takes them up to the 40th floor. The place looks much nicer than how he left it, new carpet on the floor and replacement furniture, but the smell of fresh paint isn’t quite enough to cover the lingering scent of blood.
The bathroom, however, is still cordoned off with caution tape. He pauses as they pass and sticks his head in to scans it with necromantic sight. Swirling mists obscure the room, but no spectral ship or one-eyed captain appears. Still, though, something nags at him; a half-seen flicker of movement, perhaps, or the sense that someone is watching. He scowls and returns to the hall.
They enter Marcus’s office. Marcus is at the window, staring out with his back to them. “Captain,” he greets without turning. “What news from the high seas?”
“Nothing new. What did ye need me for?”
“Business. Always business. I may need your assistance with a matter.”
Anstis drops himself into one of the chairs. Noah remains standing but lingers near his arm. “I’m listening,” Anstis says with a grin.
Marcus peers down through the window, as if scanning the streets below. “What do you know of the Settites?”
“A fair amount, but I suspect not as much as you.”
Marcus takes a slow breath. “There are very few non-Settites who know as much as I do, but that’s not the point. Have you encountered them before?”
“Only the other night, in Helgi’s domain.”
“Yes, that was an interesting event.” Marcus sighs again. “Captain, I have been attempting to locate the main nest of the Settites for a few nights now, but the Settites I have managed to locate have been less than forthcoming. But since a great many Settites attacked you and the others in Oakland, I know there must be more.”
Anstis strokes his beard. “Do they normally work with outsiders?”
“No, they do not. Except on the occasions in which they decide to corrupt someone past the breaking point and then they use them as you might use a…” he gestures vaguely. “…A mop. An object to be employed for a purpose until discarded. I’ve seen it before. Why?” He turns then. “Have you–” Marcus meets eyes with Noah, still standing next to the chair, and freezes.
Icy silence falls on the room, but Anstis watches calmly with his usual insufferable smile. “I thought I might introduce you two. Marcus, this is Noah.”
There’s another long moment before Marcus speaks, and when he does, it’s in a whisper. “What have you done….”
Anstis waves dismissively. “He’s not my childe. Though I have appointed myself his guardian and he has joined me crew.”
In an instant Marcus is in front of the chair, gladius drawn and levelled at Anstis’s throat. “You had best make sense very quickly….”
Noah shifts nervously, looking up at Anstis for reassurance, but Anstis meets Marcus’s gaze calmly. “I found him the other night, scavenging. Taking undue risks. He’s new.”
The leather of the sword handle creaks under Marcus’s grip. “Who did this?”
“That I don’t know. A woman, Malkavian. Sometime in the last year.”
“How much do you know beyond that?” Marcus leans in, conveniently eye-level with the pirate. “Every. Detail,” he hisses.
Anstis sighs. “The childe was asleep in a house toward the north of the city. I think the neighborhood is called the Marina.” Marcus tenses, but Anstis continues. “Family was murdered, he was sired–”
Suddenly Marcus lets out of burst of Latin profanity. He storms across the room and slams his sword into Bell’s desk, up to the hilt. The shadows lining the room pulse in time with every syllable he utters.
“–He’s been alone ever since,” Anstis finishes calmly.
Marcus whirls. “Where did you find him!?”
“Near a club, the Independent.”
Marcus curses more, this time not all of it in Latin. “Of all the things I do not need now,” he blurts in the middle of it before lapsing back into profanity.
Noah sidles closer to the chair. Anstis rests a hand on his shoulder. “Marcus won’t hurt you, he’s not upset with you,” he mutters.
After a few minutes Marcus regains his composure and the shadows calm. The gaze he levels on Anstis, though, is still as sharp as his sword. “There is a possibility I have already dealt with this, but if by some chance I haven’t, I expect you to find every detail you can.”
Anstis nods seriously, hand still on Noah. “I’ll do what I can.”
Marcus eyes him, then glowers and turns away to pull the sword out of the desk. “Why did you even bring him here?”
“I thought it might be prudent for him to meet you. He doesn’t know many his age. Any his age. I thought he might learn a thing or two.”
“There aren’t many, and none his age.” Marcus casts a significant look. “It’s illegal to make us, in every sect there is.”
“I’ve been teaching him our ways, raising him as best I can.
“Oh you have, have you?” He turns and braces the sword in front of him. “Your ways or ours?”
“I’ve been making him feel useful, doing small tasks aboard me ship. It’s the most important thing at this stage. I’ve dealt with orphans before.” He pats Noah’s head, rustling his small pirate hat. “I didn’t know you felt this strongly.”
Marcus gapes a moment. “How could you possibly think otherwise!?” he blurts.
“I don’t know your full history–”
The shadows flicker again. “Captain there is exactly one means of producing vampires that resemble him or me!” Marcus snarls.
“I meant I don’t know your personal thoughts about being a child.”
Marcus glares a long moment. “My personal thoughts about being…” he gestures to himself, “…this, are not particularly relevant. What’s relevant is what happened when I was embraced and for the circumstances in the years that followed.” Shadows pour from under the desk to collect at his feet, licking up his legs in waves. “I am not a child. It is merely an annoyance now, because I am Marcus Sertorius, and I am a two thousand year old Sabbat elder, and anyone who wishes to make fun receives this driven through their throat.” He levels the sword again. “But it was not always just an annoyance. It was once something much worse. and I’m afraid he’s about to find out just what that was.”
Anstis eyes Marcus coolly, but Noah presses close to the chair again, whimpering at the shadows crawling their way across the floor. At this, some of the rage leaves Marcus’s eyes and he banishes the shadows with a gesture and a sigh. He reaches up to resheathe the gladius. “Hopefully his sire is dead. I think I killed her. In Marin, some time ago. Before your time.”
(Jason: “Yeah, whoever came up with that character must have been a real jerk.
Jim: “Are there any rituals I know of that will trace bloodlines?”
Jason: “You know of some, specifically thaumaturgical ones, but you do not yourself know them.”)
Anstis eyes the young Malkavian thoughtfully. “If you wish to be sure, the Tremere might know some rituals to determine his sire.”
“Might they.” Marcus says flatly. “Hold on a moment.” He reaches up to grab his phone off the desk. He dials, staring at Anstis as the call connects. “Ms. Johnson, this is Marcus Sertorius. How is your evening going?”
Her voice comes through clear enough in the silent room for Anstis to hear even without Auspex. “Quite well, thank you.”
“Then I’m very sorry because I have an unfortunate duty to ask. I need a blood ritual. A fairly simple one, one that can trace the lineage of a given kindred.”
(Kara: “Do I know this?”
Chris: “Paul hands you a book called Vampire: The Masquerade, 20th Anniversary Edition.”)
“…Yes, I know of such rituals. I am happy to help. I am in Portola Valley at the moment, where shall I meet you?”
As he waits Marcus, Anstis suddenly gets the creeping sensation that someone is watching him, someone besides Marcus or Noah. He glances around. No one else is in the room, not even a ghoul. He concentrates and slides into his necromantic sight.
A wraith is there, half hidden in the otherworld mists filling the room. Anstis peers closer, trying to see if it’s the bathroom wraith, but it shimmers, obscuring its shape, and withdraws. Anstis drums his fingers on the leather arms of the chair. This wraith is surprisingly good at what it does. If it is his old boatswain Tuke, then it’s had a couple hundred years to amass power. Old wraiths are rare, and very dangerous, but they’re also very, very useful to have under your thrall. Anstis slides his vision back into reality and smiles.
“Come to the Pyramid immediately,” Marcus is saying to Georgia, “Matters have come up.” He glances at Noah, then hangs up the phone.
(Kara: “I head into the city.”
Kara: *turns to Chris* “Can I borrow a car?”
Jason: “Oh good, Georgia driving your cars, cause you haven’t gone through enough of them.”
Jim: “She actually has the highest Drive of any of us right now.”
Chris: “True, but I don’t know that we know the numbers of dots of Drive she has.”
Kara: “You’ve seen me drive before, I drove away from a voshdt to save you!”
Chris: “That’s true, but that’s a different type of driving.”
Kara: “You seriously don’t trust me to drive?”
Chris: “I don’t want you to get pulled over and wind up in a Tom-situation.”
Kara: “…That is the most hurtful thing you have ever said to me.”)
The line goes dead. I’m left standing in the silence of the shop, but Sophia’s final words ring in my ear.
They’re coming for you. Run.
I bolt to the back of the store.
(Me: “This is so bad.”
Jason: “It is so bad.”
Me: “Would you like to know my status?”
Jason: “I would!”
Me: “I have a blood pool of three, I’ve got three boxes of agg, and two boxes of lethal.”
Jason: “Hmm. Should be fun.”)
The back room, Doc’s storeroom and card-parlor, is lined with racks and shelves, but no door. The few windows are high, small, and seem to be painted shut. I circle the room. There must be a backdoor, maybe hidden behind one of the racks of shelves–
Something catches my eye, propped against the table in the middle of the room, half-hidden in shadow. It’s Glitch. I grab it like it’s the last hope of a dying man and keep searching the room, now tearing items off the shelves for a better view.
Bells jingle on the store’s front door. I freeze. I hear footsteps, then muffled voices, at least two. Shit. I am way, way too beaten up to take out even one attacker, let alone multiple. Just then, behind the shelving unit in front of me, I finally see the outline of a door. I shove Glitch through my belt and slowly, quietly, try to lift and move the shelves aside.
Someone walks into the room, a greasy-looking guy in denim and a motorcycle vest, carrying a shotgun. He stops as he sees me. I stop, shelves still in hand. We stare at each other.
“Shit…He’s in here!!” He lifts the gun and fires. I drop. Dragonsbreath shatters the shelves above my head and rocks the door. It creaks open slightly, spilling in orange streetlight from outside. I scramble up and pull the remains of the shelves, tipping them onto the asshole, then shove my way out to freedom.
I stumble out into an alley cutting through the heart of town, sleepy cottages lining both sides. Dogs bark from behind white fences as I pound my way downhill, toward the base of the hillside town and my only way out. I hear noise behind, then another shotgun blast burns out an arbor of wisteria just inches from my head. I turn off onto another street, taking any direction that leads down.
Tires squeal in the night, then a primer-colored sedan appears at the end of the street, more shotgun waving dudes perched in the windows. I jog right, taking the next available alley out of their line of sight.
It’s a dead end.
Shit shit shit. Voices echo up the street behind me, getting louder. I duck into the shadows behind a dumpster. I’m itching to sink into them further, pulling them over me, but I’m way, way too hungry, and there’s residential houses all around.
Footsteps. I hear the men milling around the entrance to the alley.
“You sure you saw?” One rumbles.
“Yeah, it was here.”
“Alright.” There’s a strange sound of heavy metallic gear. “Light it up.”
I smell the gasoline moments before the alley erupts in fire, gouting past and over the dumpster.
Panic takes me, then darkness.
Paul calls a car for Georgia to return to the city, and of course it’s Adam. Georgia sits quietly in the back of his car, trying to ignore his perpetual wry grin in the rearview mirror.
After about half an hour of awkward silence, her phone rings. She answers hurriedly. “This is Georgia.”
“Ms. Johnson,” It’s Jawahar, sounding more exhausted than usual. “Are you alright?”
“Uh, for the moment yes.”
Jawahar sighs. He doesn’t acknowledge whether this is a good thing, or a bad one. “This is not how I envisioned this going.”
“Oh, I agree completely. I had not anticipated disappearing from the Chantry like that.”
“I don’t know how it is you did that, I won’t ask, but, well…Mwange is not pleased.”
“I’m shocked.” She doesn’t sound it.
There’s a brief silence. “You understand, I had to call him, I have responsibilities, as do you,” Jawahar says firmly.
“I suppose,” she says with a sigh. “I understand how rules work, but I did rescue you.”
“I asked them to send someone, to have a more detailed conversation with you. I did not think a war party would show up!”
Georgia considers this a moment, then nods. “Okay, fair enough.”
(Kara: “Remember, Georgia believes that all vampires are trying to kill all other vampires and that pretty much extends to mages and werewolves as well. She seriously does not take it personally.”)
“Ah…well, then….” Since an apparently-anticipated argument isn’t breaking out, Jawahar takes a moment to regroup, “I was speaking with Professor Lovelace, she said she’s met you before?”
“Oh yes, weve met a couple times. She’s a lovely person.”
“She suggested, and I think it might be reasonable, that if Warmaster Mwange might have some reason not to pursue you and rip your atoms apart on a subatomic level, then possibly we could settle this in a more civilized fashion. Assuming that that is your intention.”
“To…not be ripped apart atom by atom?”
“To settle things in a civilized fashion. Though I have heard rumors of what the Tremere consider civilized.”
“I think by now you should know me well enough to know that my concepts of civilized are…probably much more in tune with yours.”
If Jawahar notices her pause, he does not indicate it. “I know this, but I also know how far the Tremere are from us and that you decided to bring a hundred homeless people into the Chantry and exsanguinate them.”
Georgia slumps against the seat and sighs. “I did not exsanguinate them, I took a small amount of blood from them, fed them, and was planning on releasing them.”
“Of course you were,” Jawahar says dryly, “But you will not convince Warmaster Mwange that you are a ‘nice Tremere.’ He is a member of House Flambeau, they are dedicated entirely to the extermination of your clan and those who resemble it.” Jawahar lets that thought hang in the air a moment, then sighs. “However, there is a solution here. His goals toward your clan, and your own, are not that different. So perhaps if you were to speak to him in the context of being a Tremere who has amassed a great many dead Tremere at her feet, that may go a long way to pacifying him.”
Georgia considers this. “So you want me to have the same conversation with him I had with you?”
“In a sense,” Jawahar says carefully, “But it will be much more difficult, as he will simply kill you if he finds out where you are.”
“Ah. In that case, do you have his phone number?”
Jawahar pauses. “…He can trace your connection and cause your telephone to become a fragment of the sun.”
Silence in the car. “Ah,” Georgia says finally. “In that case, perhaps I should send him a telegram.” More silence. “Or perhaps you can ask him if we can parlay?”
“I am an acolyte, I have very little standing to even address him!”
Georgia groans. “Fine, I’ll try Victoria.”
Jawahar sighs again, this time in apparent relief. “Good luck. Let me know if I can assist. But whatever you do, do not let Warmaster Mwange know where you are. He will be there in the next five seconds and you will be dead in the next ten.”
“Well, if that happens, he will not find out where the werewolf cub is,” Georgia says brightly.
“…Then it’s not with you?”
Georgia double checks her purse to be sure. “Not at this time.”
Jawahar is silent another long moment. “…I am required to ask you where it is.”
“And it’s been a lovely time chatting with you and I hope to speak with you again shortly!” With that, Georgia hangs up.
Rabenholz shows up at Pyramid, of a mind to talk to Van Nuys, whom he has heard is finally recovered but still in seclusion as the city cycles through its regimes of martial law. He gets a ghoul to take him to Van Nuys’ private quarters, two floors down from
the Prince’s Bell’s Marcus’s office.
The ghoul leads Rabenholz into a sitting room and bows herself out. Van Nuys walks in not long after. The Prince-in-house-arrest-exile looks wan, but better than expected for someone who was last seen torn into pieces and shoved into the trunk of his own limousine.
Rabenholz bows politely. Van Nuys just stares back. “Pfalzgraf, isn’t it? Rabenholz? What can I do for you?” Van Nuys asks curtly, stalking across the room to grab a decanter of blood on a side table. He sniffs it very carefully before he pours.
Rabenholz ignores the Prince’s rudeness with well-bred aplomb, sweeping his cloak back and bowing again. “I apologize. I’ve been here nearly two weeks and have not been able to present myself to you.”
Van Nuys snorts. “Present yourself to me, I thought you had to present yourself to the prince of the city. I’m just some asshole cooped up in a pyramid,” he mutters as he pours a glass.
“Indeed. I can’t imagine that is what you would like to be.”
“Not tremendously, but what can one do. I’ve got Justicars and Priscii all over my city, to say nothing of everything else.” He tosses the blood back and pours some more. “I’m sorry, it’s been a long couple of weeks. Or months.” He glowers at the crystal tumbler. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been gone awhile. A stay of execution.”
“Yes, there was an unpleasantness in Cologne, as I understand, but what are you doing here?” Van Nuys stalks over to an armchair and drops into it. “You picked a fine moment. You looking to set up permanent shop?”
Without a direct invitation to sit, Rabenholz remains standing, cane gripped loosely in front of him. “Yes, in fact.”
Van Nuys laughs meanly. “If there’s even a city around in a month… Have you seen what’s upstairs? Let alone what’s outside?”
“Some of it. I can’t imagine many loyal to you are left in this city.”
“No, most of them who owed me loyalty cut and run. My Sherrif’s gone, my ghouls have been repurposed, my muscle is all dead. This city’s gone to hell so quickly it makes your head spin.” He takes a long drink. “It wasn’t always this way, you know. It was peaceful here for a very long time. I kept the peace, between the Anarchs and the Werewolves in the park and the Sabbat down in San Jose.” His grip on his glass tightens. “And then that damned Englishman showed up and everything went to hell.”
“Yes, I don’t suppose you could tell me any more about him.”
“Everton?” Van Nuys sneers. “He’s a menace; he should be on the Red List!”
“I was very surprised to discover he was allowed to move about the city so easily.”
Van Nuys sits up. “Allowed to move about the city?! If it were up to me, he’d be stapled to the east-facing roof! He started all this! Murdered a Primogen in broad nightfall, then attacked Elysium! And for no reason whatsoever!”
“Better men have hanged for lesser crimes,” Rabenholz says smoothly.
Van Nuys stills, then nods slowly. “Exactly my thought. Why, are you suggesting you can do something about it? Things have gone far beyond even him now.”
Rabenholz slowly starts to pace, cloak rustling behind him. “I am an admirer of stability. Everton has already proved himself wanting in those regards. If I have the opportunity to dispatch him I will send him your regards as well.”
“Do.” Van Nuys points around the tumbler in his hand. “John Edmonton was an associate of mine for a very long time, and I don’t appreciate being assaulted. I may have to put up with the Justicar and I can’t do anything about the Priscus, but if you can rid me of the Englishman I will make it worth your while. Just don’t take him lightly.”
Rabenholz nods, still slowly pacing. “I don’t question the sincerity of your words, but I do question your ability to make good on that promise.”
“I have money. Lots of money. And I have influence in this city, even still.”
Rabenholz eyes him. “Do you have enough to hold it once the Justicar leaves?”
“Depends on what’s left.” A look crosses Van Nuys face, partly paranoia, partly greed. “…Why, are you offering something?”
Rabenholz shrugs and continues pacing. “Just trying to figure out my own plans. Do you intend to stay around?”
“Where the hell else am I going to go? Hob-nob with Houghton down in Los Angeles? I hate Los Angeles.”
“And where do you want to be?”
“Upstairs, running my city.” Van Nuys finishes the drink and sets the glass down heavily. “But I’m not upstairs.”
“No, you’re not.” Rabenholz stops in front of him. “Your power base is fractured, there are as many people here enemies of you as you have friends, likely more. I sympathize with your position. I think of everyone here I am uniquely qualified to understand it.”
Van Nuys eyes him. “You were a Prince in Cologne, weren’t you?”
“What happened to the one that threw you out?”
Rabenholz shrugs and looks to the window. “Out there, somewhere.”
“Well, at least I know where mine are. Sitting in my chair and drinking my blood.”
Rabenholz notices the covetous glare Van Nuys casts at the decanter on the other side of the room. He moves to retrieve it, then carefully pours the Prince another glass. “It’s good to know where your enemies are,” he rumbles smoothly.
Van Nuys reclaims the glass and takes a sip, slowly this time. “You can maybe rid me of the Englishman, but that’s a small pleasure. What I need is to get rid of everyone that’s been burning this damn city down.” He glares at the blood. “And that means that Priscus and his lackeys.”
“Why is he here?” Rabenholz asks carefully.
“People been saying things about his sire, some shadowy monster devouring everything he lays his eyes on, but that’s not it. He’s here because he wants to make my life hell and he wants to ruin the Camarilla while he’s at it.” Van Nuys jerks his thumb toward the ceiling. “Ask him yourself if you want. Have you met him yet?”
“Not yet.” Rabenholz waits till the Prince meets his gaze. “I myself have been deposed, and I have no desire to inflict the same fate on you, so I will give you this advice,” he says seriously. “There is freedom in starting over. San Francisco has been tainted for you.”
Van Nuys smirks meanly. “And you wouldn’t be giving me that advice because that would leave you as the only major Camarilla Ventrue in the city, would you?”
Rabenholz continues to hold his gaze. “If I seek to claim this city, it is simpler for me if I don’t fight you.” He lets that thought linger a moment, watching the smirk fade from Van Nuy’s face. “I haven’t chosen that yet, to make that clear. But my advice I give to you freely and sincerely all the same.”
Van Nuys glares at him, then sets his glass down, unfinished. “I’ll think about it,” he grumbles.
“You’ve done it once, I have no doubt you could do it again.”
Van Nuys chuckles darkly and stares out the window. “Blood and fire, making deals with Sebastian. At least I wont miss him….”
Rabenholz frowns briefly. “Sebastian?”
“The Malkavian primogen for about sixty years, till the old one came back and chopped his head off with the assistance of some others.”
“That being the very loud gentleman with the cane?”
Van Nuys snorts. “Norton. Local color. Norton’s usually harmless. Usually.” He shrugs. “Malkavians, what can you do. Sebastian was a more stable element, if a less reputable one. But Sebastian is dead and he’s not coming back.”
“I wish that could be said for more Malkavians,” Rabenholz grumbles.
“You can try to take Norton on if you want, but the man has the devil’s own luck. Sebastian waged war on him for sixty years, tried to kill him eight times. Thought he had. I thought he had.” He shrugs again. “Cat came back.”
Van Nuys starts to drift off into a hunched glower, but Rabenholz brings him back to attention with a sharp tap of his cane against the floor. “Some have mentioned you were an associate of John Edmonton’s? I’ve had various employees digging into business of his left drifting in his wake. I don’t suppose you would know anyone with more information on the subject?”
Van Nuys waves a hand vaguely. “Edmonton had an associate, a ghoul I think. Chandon. Randall Chandon. I have no idea where he’s gone to. Edmonton has been dead over six months, Chandon would have had to find someone new to be ghouled to or he’d be dead himself. But I can have one of my people dig up his last known location and send it to you.”
Rabenholz nods. “In the meantime, let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I know having a former prince on your territory is not particularly comforting.” He bows once and sweeps towards the door, not waiting for a dismissal.
Van Nuys glares after him. “It’s low down the list of things I dislike of my situation right now. Just get rid of the damned Englishman if you can. And if you can’t, get rid of anything else that’s making trouble in this city.”
SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN
I wake up on fog-swept hillside. It takes me a moment to place it. San Bruno Mountain, again. Alone, again. Slowly, I crawl to my feet and check for damage. I’m still beat to shit, but at least there doesn’t seem to be any new damage beyond some burns to my leather.
But goddamn, I’m hungry. Reaaaaaally hungry. I stare around me into the night. Low grass and shrubs cover the rolling hills, dark fog boils wet and cold around me, half-obscuring the lights of the cities below.
There’s a sharp stick-crack behind me and I whirl. A deer steps out of the brush, freezing as it sees me.
The next thing I know, I’m hunched over a steaming carcass, torn half-open. Blood is streaked down my front and I gag at its gamey, oily taste, but at least my hunger is somewhat abated, for now.
I wipe my face with the back of my hand and stare at the dark smear. The photo of Isabella comes suddenly to mind, crouched similarly over a humanoid corpse, blood down her face and splattered onto her blonde hair. I shove the thought away as I shove myself to my feet.
Something heavy thumps at my hip. Glitch, thank god. I finger it as I run back over everything that happened in the store. I have no idea who the fuck those assholes were, but Marcus said people might be coming. I probably could have taken out the one, but multiple men will be harder to handle in my current situation. Good thing I had a heads u–
Suddenly I release the sword and grope for my phone, summoning up a notepad app and typing with shaking fingers: GIRL? YOU THERE?
Minutes go by. There’s no response.
The empty hillside suddenly feels a lot emptier. I stare at the screen, a dim light clutched in the darkness. Things are shit for me right now, but wherever the hell Sophia is right now, it sounds like she’s in it way, way worse. I gotta figure out some way to help, but I need to avoid getting shot by joyriding assholes first.
I pace a moment in the clearing of grass left by the death-throes of the butchered deer. Marcus more or less said that I’m on my own, and Paul has already done enough and can’t risk being seen with me now. In the entire Bay, there’s really only one person left who could possibly help. I pull up my contacts list and dial.
“…Yeah?” Slayer answers after a couple rings.
I stare into the night. “Where are you?”
“I’m in the fucking truck, like you said!”
“Good, cause I just got jumped by some guys–”
“Yeah? What else is fucking new?!”
“Not in the fun way, asshole, they had flamethrowers and shit! I’m gonna need some of the hardware, come meet me at….” I turn to face north. Through patches of fog I see the street-lit line of a boulevard road crossing the grassy hillside like an LED necklace, empty of cars. “…At Guadalupe Canyon Parkway.”
“Fine, man.” I realize then there’s noise in the background, some sort of clattering, and voices.
“…What the hell is that?”
Shit, there’s music too… “Doesn’t sound like nothing,” I say suspiciously.
Slayer groans. “Alright. I’m fucking selling, man.”
“I’m in a damn taco truck!! What the hell do you THINK I’m selling, fucking cars!?”
Suddenly the noises resolve into a clear shape. The clattering is tongs, or some other kitchen utensils, and the voices like like generic twentysomething drunk revelers. Slayer shouts away from the phone that he’s closing up shop. The voices start to boo.
For a brief moment, I forget I’m lost on a mountain. Slayer, dark-horse success of Off the Grid. Who woulda thought… “…Alright, well get here soon, and be careful.”
“Man, I’m always careful.” He hangs up.
I continue to stare into the night. “That’s why you hang around with me,” I mutter darkly, then step over the carcass and start making my way toward the road.
Marcus and Anstis are still talking in his office, must more civilly now. Marcus discusses his hunt for the Settite nest, pointing out that that many Settites in the attack on Helgi, with that much hardware, weren’t just conjured in from Egypt. They obviously have an established base somewhere, but for all his digging he has had a devil of a time rooting it out.
Marcus eyes him. “And you are a man who finds things that others have trouble finding. And I think we both know how you do it.”
Anstis smiles and nods once.
Now that the necromantic cat is out of the rotting bag, Anstis says if he’s going to help Marcus he’ll need some things. Names, for one, or items belonging to the people he’s searching for. The only name Marcus has to give, though, is one heard before: Nitrocris, the shaven-headed sorcerer who led the attack on Helgi and the Anarchs at the docks. The past few nights, her name was apparently the only one on the lips of all the settites Marcus hunted and killed.
“What do you know of her?” Anstis asks.
“She’s a Settite warrior. The Settites have castes, like the Assamites do.” He watches as Anstis pulls a rock from his pocket and bites a bead of blood out of his finger. “That might not be enough. Nitocris has Necromancy of her own. Or at least that’s the rumor.”
Anstis frowns and puts the rock away.
“Nitocris is something they call a ‘King-snake,’ going after Settites who have left the fold. What she’s doing here I can’t possibly tell you. I haven’t seen any Serpents of Light around recently, and I’d be stunned if there was an Ossirian.”
Anstis rubs at his beard thoughtfully. The thought of tracking another vampire with Necromantic abilities of her own reminds him of something. “There are others in the city who know more of Necromancy than I do. I can get their assistance on the matter if you help me with a small matter of my own.”
Marcus’s eyes narrow. “What matter is that?”
“Destruction of a Kindred of the East. “
Marcus stares a moment, then exhales slowly. “Why in the world would you want to add to your problems with one of them?”
Anstis smiles grimly. “The problem has already been added.”
Marcus shakes his head. “I am not an expert in the Kindred of the East, but I believe the good Justicar has had some deal of experience with them in the past, as has our noble Prince.”
“Could either of them be motivated to join me?”
“The Prince? Not likely. He doesn’t want to leave his suite, he’s afraid I’m going to eat him.” Marcus smirks. “I haven’t decided if he’s right.”
A normal person at this point would probably shudder at the sight of a nine-year-old calmly discussing devouring someone, but Anstis merely smiles and nods. “Did you find Helgi during your hunting?”
Marcus’s grin fades. “No. But I haven’t found proof he’s dead either.”
Anstis pulls out a rock and calmly twirls it between his fingers. “Well, I am good at finding the nearly impossible to find.”
“Yes, but I imagine you’re better at finding the almost nearly impossible to find. Do what you can, Captain. We have so much else going on. And as to your protege here…” Marcus glances at Noah and scowls, “Just know that the last time I took on a client of that apparent age, one who was one of us, it ended in fire and bloodshed.” His eyes snap back to Anstis. “And Settites.”
Anstis nods and rests a hand on Noah’s shoulders again. The boy looks up nervously but doesn’t flinch at the touch. “Do you have any advice for him?” Anstis asks.
“Well unless you plan on locking him in a dungeon and abusing him every night for twenty years, then I’m afraid my experience isn’t going to be very useful.” Marcus stares, as if waiting for a comeback. None is forthcoming.
After a few moments, Marcus shakes his head and stalks back toward the window. “Just, bear in mind that although one day he will be no longer, he is presently what he looks to be. And when that day comes, be careful. It can be…frustrating.”
The shadows quiver, licking the edges of the room.
Georgia arrives at Pyramid finally, takes elevator up to the Camarilla floors, then steps out to find Rabenholz in the antechamber outside Marcus’s office. They head in to find Marcus turning to face them from the window, glaring as usual, Anstis sprawled in a chair, coiffed as usual, and a five year old kid staring at them wide-eyed from underneath a pirate hat of his own.
(Chris: “Okay, so to me it looks like…a rodeo clown, two children, and a Hogwarts professor are all gathered around a desk.”)
Georgia introduces Rabenholz to everyone, but before she can ask about Noah, Anstis steps forward to ask her once again about recovering his possessions from the Chantry. Rabenholz, meanwhile, peers intently at the auras of both children.
(Jason: “Noah is a vampire, but Marcus is awfully calm for the human child that he is.”
Jim: “Did Chris botch?”
Jason: “No he got a good number of successes, so he knows everything he needs to about this perfectly calm, rational, sword-wielding child that is totally human.”
Jim: “But…you know that ‘Marcus’ is a child and a vampire.”
Jason: “No, what he sees is Marcus as–”
Kara: “No, Jim’s saying he’s heard of Marcus, and knows he’s a child vampire.”
Jim: “And he knows that one person in this room is a child, and a vampire.”
Jason: “…Oh shit, I didn’t think of that.”
Chris: “And just before we forget it, I still have my onions on me.”
Jason: “Yes, which means…what does he see?”
Chris: “He sees a human aura, of whatever emotional state that person has.”
Jason: “Jesus, you’re both doing this shit!?”)
Marcus returns Rabenholz’s cool stare with a seriousness beyond his apparent age, then turns to Georgia. “You have a new ghoul?”
She blinks. “Ah, no, Rabenholz is a…colleague of mine.”
“Ah. Of course.” With that, Marcus’s aura fades to vampire pale and he stands straighter.
Rabenholz steps forward and bows. “Lord Augustus von Rabenholz.”
“Yes, the Pfalzgraf.” Marcus approaches from around the desk. “My name is Marcus Sertorius Posthumus. Priscus, of the Sabbat.”
Rabenholz nods politely. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“I am glad to hear that, I would hate to have to give you the usual routine. What brings a Ventrue of the Palatinate to our fair city?”
Rabenholz paces calmly through the room, ignoring the pirate and his mini-me staring up at him from the low chairs. “Opportunity. The liberty of starting over on the bold frontier of America.”
Marcus snorts. “Well you’ve certainly found a bold frontier. You are a member in good standing, I think, of the Camarilla. Need I be concerned?” The shadows in the room start to slowly bleed up the wall, like ink.
Rabenholz doesn’t even glance at them. “I doubt there’s very much I could do to you at the moment.”
Marcus cocks an eyebrow. “Well you’re twice my size; it’s always worth being prudent.”
“Only the Americans assume size means everything.”
There’s a long moment of silence, then Marcus bursts out laughing. The shadows climbing the walls evaporate.
Georgia stares between Marcus and Rabenholz, settling on Marcus. “So…there was something you wanted my help with?”
“Yes, do you see this child?” He gestures at Noah. “I need to know the bloodline of him, in as much detail as I can acquire. I assume I do not need to tell you why.”
Georgia nods thoughtfully, regarding the kid. “Are you alright with bringing him to the Chantry so I can get some supplies?”
Marcus glares. The shadows flicker again. “And what vast horrors will be the Chantry waiting for him?”
She shrugs. “Probably just Bob. And the space whale. I’m sure the warmages have left by now.”
Silence settles on the room. “You don’t know…if warmages aren’t there right now?” Marcus repeats.
Georgia nods.“Correct. But on the bright side, if they are there, and I turn up with all of you, it is highly unlikely they would kill me on the spot.”
Marcus gapes at her. “Because they would be too busy killing the rest of us!”
She waves dismissively. “They wouldn’t kill you. You haven’t done anything to violate whatever it is they’re off about.”
“I am two thousand years old, I don’t know what I might have done to piss off the Order of Hermes!”
“Well they seem willing to talk about it first.”
“Which is why you’re on the run from them?” Marcus snaps.
She wobbles her head. “Technically, I’m not on the run from them, I was kidnapped from them.”
Marcus glances at Rabenholz as if seeking confirmation. The Ventrue just stares back. Marcus turns back to Georgia.. “What did you do?”
Anstis raises a hand. “What’s a space whale?”
Georgia stares between them, then waves her hands. “Look, the story gets a little more complicated from this point, but if you don’t want me to take the child back there to do the blood ritual I’d still have to go there to get the reagents–”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Marcus throws a gesture and turns away. “Take the child.”
“Do you want to come?” she asks brightly. He turns sharply to glare at her, but her smile doesn’t falter. “You’re the one who wanted more regular access to the Chantry and its doings,” she says reasonably.
Suddenly Georgia and Anstis’s phones ring at the same time. They dig them out. It’s Bell, on both lines.
“Where are you two?” he asks after they’ve both answered, his voice slightly echoed to anyone with Auspex in the room.
“At the Pyramid,” Anstis responds first.
“I need to speak with the both of you,” Bell says.
“Oh good, you are speaking with us,” Georgia says brightly.
There’s a pause. “I need to speak with you…somewhere where we won’t be overheard.”
As one, she and Anstis turn to Marcus, watching them over crossed arms, shadows rippling in irritation around him. “Well, we’re about to head to the Chantry if you want to meet us there,” Georgia says to Bell.
“I don’t even think there are any warmages in it,” she adds helpfully.
There’s another long silence, but Bell, perhaps wisely, decides to let that comment pass. “Bring that Ventrue too.” He hangs up.
GUADALUPE CANYON, SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN
I find a spot in the grass to crouch, on the hill overlooking the road. The fog has lifted somewhat and I can see almost half a mile along the empty boulevard. Anything comes along–the taco truck, those assholes in the redneck chariot–I’ll see it easily. I turn to scan the hillside. There’s a few distant shrubs, but mostly it’s empty grass as far as I can see, so it’ll also be hard for anyone to sneak up from behi–
I stop, and slowly scan back. There’s a strange lump at the top of one of the nearest shrubs. As I watch it shifts. It’s a bird. But it’s not Aquilifer.
I stand, glaring. “Motherfucker, what!?”
The bird–clearly a raven, clearly that asshole Corax–tilts its head at me, then hops off the bush. Its shape twists and unfolds to reveal the spindly Gus, grinning at me as he bobs his way through the grass, eyes blinking far too often for anything I’ve seen, man or animal. I fold my arms and let him approach.
He stops a few yards away. “Shiny sword.”
I rest a hand on Glitch’s hilt. “Yeah, your buddy took an interest in it.”
“Maybe I should tell him where it is.”
My eyes flick to the sky, imagining a pale reptilian shape descending from the darkness. “Maybe he should just wait, ‘cause apparently everyone else in town is coming for me anyway.”
Gus tilts his head the other way, still blinking. “Maybe…someone gets a nice shiny sword, then someone doesn’t need to say anything about where he is.”
My grip on the sword tightens. “This is the only thing keeping me alive, so that’s a zero-sum trade.”
Gus reaches into his long black overcoat, pulls out a phone, then dangles it jauntily. “Is it?”
I watch the thing, a shitty old flip phone, swing back and forth. “Yeah, I got one of those too, what about it?”
Gus smirks and makes an elaborate show of opening the phone, like he’s opening hidden treasure. He dials manually, holds the phone to his ear, clears his throat, then speaks.
But the voice that comes out isn’t his own, it’s MINE: “Yeah, this is Tom Lytton. You want me, you assholes? Come and get me. Guadalupe Canyon. Five minutes.” Gus hangs up, grinning.
I gape. “What the fuck was that? Who’d the fuck you talk to? Didn’t sound like Claude!”
He tucks the phone back into his coat, patting the pocket protectively. “Oh it wasn’t. Why don’t you go and find out.” He suddenly tenses, and his face falls into deadly seriousness. “…Oh, that’s right, you don’t have to go anywhere. You’re about to.” With that, he folds back into raven form, then explodes up into the air and away into the darkness.
I stare after him, but a noise brings my attention back to the road. The taco truck is pulling up on the shoulder of the road below, blaring “La Cucaracha” tinnily across the canyon. I cast one last glare after the feather-headed motherfucker.Whatever the fuck he’s on about, I’ll deal with it when it comes. I double-check that Glitch is secure in my belt and hike down to meet Slayer.
Slayer climbs out of the cab, groaning. As usual, he’s in one of his brightly-colored embroidered shirts, like a salsa-club gangbanger, but unusually, it’s covered by a generic white restaurant apron stained with hot sauce and taco meat. He stops as he sees me staring at his outfit, then tears the apron off, shoving it back into the truck and rolling his sleeves back down.
“So…what do you got?” I say awkwardly, going to open the back.
He follows me, rubbing at his neck. “Man I grabbed what you said. The last of the rockets, most of the guns, and the boxes of ammo.”
I dig through the gear, tucked between coolers of carnitas. “Even Vera’s?” So help me, I will get my gun back from that fucking dragon.
“Good.” I climb out and hand him a Panzerfaust.
He stares at it. “The fuck am I going to do with this!?”
“You’re going to fucking fire it, at the assholes who are coming for us in about five minutes, so get ready.” I thrust it into his chest till he takes it, grab more rockets, shove a shotgun through my belt next to Glitch, shoulder a band of shells, then pick up the fucking SAW.
Slayer gapes at me as I pile the gear on. “What the fuck is going on!? Who the fuck is coming!?”
“I don’t fucking KNOW, that’s why I’m bringing everything!”
“What the fuck did you do!?!”
I slam the door closed and turn to look at him seriously. “What didn’t I do?”
He stares back, lip quivering, then glances around us, panicked. I can tell he wants to say something more incendiary, perhaps storm off into the night, but I suspect the Entrancement I dropped on him the other night–as well as the triple-level blood bond–holds him back. After a long moment, he takes the rocket with a shaking hand. “Man…fuck you….” he mumbles.
“No time, get up the hill.” I shove him toward the grass. We disappear into the darkness beyond the streetlight, leaving the taco truck parked conspicuously on the side of the road, interior lights on and mariachi music playing merrily from inside.
On their way out of Marcus’s office to head to the Chantry, Anstis leans into the doorway of the hallway bathroom. “Enjoy your stay, Tuke,” he growls, then chuckles and rejoins the rest of the group with a new swagger. Rabenholz eyes him oddly as he calls for an elevator but doesn’t say anything. They pile in and it starts to head down.
Three floors down, it suddenly shudders to a halt.
(Me: “And then the lights go out?”
Jason: “And then the lights go out.”
Noah clings to Anstis’s leg but the rest stare around the darkness, more bemused than worried. Georgia actually reacts the strongest of any of them, sighing in frustration and squatting down to start drafting a teleport circle to take them to the Chantry directly.
About halfway through her preparation, the elevator ceiling starts vomiting blood.
Torrents of sticky ichor shower them in the darkness. Georgia yells in surprise and tries to save the circle from washing away. Anstis sweeps his hat off his head and tries to protect his new coat. Rabenholz’s eyes merely narrow imperceptibly. “Curious,” he mutters as blood cascades off his beard.
Resigning yet another set of tailored clothes as a total loss, Anstis swipes some off the wall and tastes it. The blood is old, not old like from an elder but old and dead, rancid yet somehow not coagulated. Anstis looks around. Some sort of presence, malevolent and dark, is lurking at the edges of perception. He slips into othersight, but the spirit world is clear.
A bang and a mild jerk of the car bring him back to reality. Rabenholz has shoved his cane into the seam of the door and is prying it open, revealing a hallway opening about halfway up. “Anyone want to climb out and see if that starts the elevator moving again?” he says dryly, eying the distance to the gap.
(Jason: “Someone has seen a horror movie before.”)
Georgia volunteers to go first, climbing out without problem. Rabenholz hands her Noah, then lifts himself out as well. The moment Rabenholz clears the doorway, Anstis dives for it too.
The moment he does, the elevator goes into free-fall.
Anstis scrambles out far enough to avoid being chopped in half, but a sheared cable clips him as he clings precariously to the edge of the doorway. He tumbles back out into the shaft, down into the darkness–
(Jim: “Okay, I heal my level of bashing damage and turn into a bird as I fall.”
Jason: “…Would you believe I forgot you could do that?”)
Rather than going back up, Anstis spirals down, gracefully descending to the ground floor to wait for the rest of them.
(Jason: “You could take the stairs. Or another elevator.”
Kara: “…No thank you. I will spend three points of blood, to make a circle right here, so we can finally go to my goddamn Chantry.”)
GUADALUPE CANYON, SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN
Slayer and I sit on the hill above the truck, rockets at the ready, waiting for those assholes or anything to show up in our trap. But nothing does. Minutes pass, then almost an hour. There’s no sign of any cars in either direction that we can see. I start to wonder if they’re gathering for an assault on the far side of the ridge. I crane my ears to listen, wishing I had even a touch of Auspex–
“Wait a minute,” I turn to Slayer, “You’re Gangrel.”
He blinks at me. “Uh, yeah?”
“One of your forms is a wolf?”
“What’s your other form?”
“Fucking bat, man.”
I roll my eyes. “Right.” Real creative, this guy. “Go up and take a look, see if there’s anyone on the other side of the ridge.”
He stares around. “What the fuck am I looking for, man?”
“You’re looking for a shitload of guys in a POS, waving guns and flamethrowers out the windows like they’re dildos at Pride Parade.”
“Alright, alright.” He puts down his rocket, drops into bat-form, then flits into the air, quickly disappearing into the darkness.
I settle back to watch the road, half-hidden once again under the waxing fog. For the first time all night, I actually relax a bit, feeling safe in my nest of grass under shroud of night. Even if I can’t see, I’m sure I’ll hear anything approaching long before I see it.
Like the click of a pistol hammer being drawn just then, inches from my head, followed by the cold press of steel on my neck.
Georgia, Rabenholz, Noah, and the reclaimed Anstis appears in the circle in the corner of Georgia’s office. MewMew is perched on the desk. It purrs at Georgia, then arches and hisses at Anstis.
(Jim: “I’m the one with Animalism!”
Me: “Yeah, shitty Animalism.”)
Georgia goes immediately to the bookshelves, digging around for a book to explain the rituals for tracing bloodlines. She stops, though, as she sees Anstis start to prowl around, eyeing the books and cabinets of arcane curiosities. She changes course and occupies herself with hiding things from his view.
Rabenholz looks around the room. “Where is your assistant?”
“Uh, around. Doing assitant-y things. Possibly checking on the prisoner in the basement.”
Rabenholz blinks. “…Oh. Right.” He leaves to go check on him too.
Sometime later, as Georgia and Anstis play their game of library-cat-and-mouse, Georgia’s phone dings with a text. It’s Bell, outside.
(Kara: “Um…I buzz him in.”)
Minutes later the Justicar strides into her office, eyes scanning the room efficiently, his shotguns holstered but close at hand. He glares at her and Anstis, but ignores Noah. Neither does he comment on the bloodstained status of their clothes. “Is the Ventrue here?” he barks.
“He is, he just stepped out. Are you looking for him?” Georgia says.
“I’m looking for all of you,” Bell grumbles.
(Chris: “Do I find Bob and the prisoner?”
Chris: “Okay, then I’m going to go through the Chantry’s supply rooms. I’m looking specifically for a gift for the Prince.”
Jason: “…From the Chantry?”
Chris: “Sort of. What I’m looking for is a metal rack of some sort, which I assume they have several of.”
Jason: “When you say ‘rack’ do you mean a wine rack or a torture rack? Cause the answer is yes in either case.”
Chris: “Let me describe what I want to do with this. It needs to be made of a very strong metal, and I want it to have attachment points on it, so I can surgically attach one’s skeleton to this rack.”
Jason: “…Kinky. Why the fuck are you doing this?”
Chris: “Because I want to stake Everton and mount him on that and hand him to the Prince.”
*Everyone is quiet a moment*
Jason: “…Okay, so you want a full-size torture rack type thing.”
Me: “Well, there’s the rack Aquilifer was bolted to.”
Chris: “That may not be strong enough.” *Chris hesitates a moment* “Assume I assume Everton has Potence.”
Jason: “Well…there is a torture rack down there made out of some kind of face-hardened ultra carbonite steel. Cause they have to have that sort of thing around. It wouldn’t stand up to Marcus, but it would stand up to most vampires.”
Chris: “I’ll make a note of that.”)
Rabenholz returns to the office then to find it has gained one glowering Brujah. He nods. “Mr. Bell.”
Bell doesn’t nod back. “Something has happened, in the East Bay. I think you’ve heard the rumors.”
“We were there,” Anstis says. “We thought you were going to be there too.”
Bell stops and stares at him curiously. “Me? Why would you assume that?”
“Everyone was going there,” Anstis says.
Bell stalks up to the desk separating him from the pirate. “Yeah, so it seems. No one invited me.”
(Me: “…Wait, I thought he….”
Jim: “Yeah, he knew about it.”
Chris: “We spoke to him before–”)
Bell braces his hands on the wood and leans forward, the leather of his long coat creeking. “No one. Invited. Me.”
(*Silence in the room*
Jason: “I offer no other explanations.”)
Rabenholz steps forward in the silence. “Mr. Bell, one night ago you called Ms. Johnson, I overheard your voice on the phone. You said you would meet us in the East Bay. Now if you don’t want us to recall that, I’m fine with it. But if someone has been tampering with your memory, that is worth investigating.”
Bell turns his glare to him. “I spent the entirety of last night in Gilroy and I didn’t talk to any of you. And I don’t think it was a matter of memory cause I would have loved to forget what I was doing down there.”
Georgia pulls up the call log on her phone and hurries forward to show Bell the call from him, timestamped to the night before. Bell stares at it a long moment before handing it back. Slowly he takes off his sunglasses, tucking them in a pocket. “You know, back when I was an Archon, before I was a Justicar, a friend of mine told me something.” His gaze snaps up to take in the three of them. “Never assume that someone’s stupid when they could just as easily be trying to fuck you.”
“Oh, I’ve heard that the other way around,” Georgia says.
“Works better my way,” Bell growls. “You know what happened last night in the East Bay when I was supposed to be there?”
“Yes, Tom Lytton has started killing Primogens,” Georgia says brightly.
“Yes. He has.” Bell’s eyes meet each of theirs in turn. “I’m glad we’re on the same page. And I’m gonna be wanting to know more about what went down out there, but before I do, the reason I brought the three of ya’ll together here….” His hands on the desk clench into fists. “I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but this city is suffering from a slight lack of competence right this instant. We got plenty of guys with big balls and big guns running around thinking they’re the baddest motherfuckers in the world and they can do anything they want cause the Camarilla is out of town and it’s time to party. Well…party’s over. It’s ending right now and it’s ending with those that wanna break these rules and laugh in the face of the ones that make em.”
Bell waits, perhaps expecting a comeback, but the room is deathly quiet. Even the space whale has stopped purring. “Masquerade exists for a reason,” Bell growls. “Laws exist for a reason. They protect all of us, and they aint doing a great job of that right now cause nobody’s been holding to them. Not even the ones in this room.” He glares at Anstis in particular. “And I’m not taking this anymore. I brought the three of you here cause I want you three to be the first ones to know and the first ones to respond.”
Bell stands, his presence in the room overshadowing even Rabenholz’s towering form. I’m invoking Blood Hunt. On Tom Lytton. For the murder of Karl Sutro.” More silence. “Am I hearing objections?”
(Kara: “What are the rules and customs of a Blood Hunt?”
Jason: “Well you would know this, but it means that the affected target of the Blood Hunt is an outlaw living under a writ of outlawry, in the old-school sense of the word. It means they are to be killed. Anybody who sees them is to kill them, or arrange to have them killed. And if you do kill them, you get the prize. Now, it tends to vary on the situation, but customarily, if you execute a Blood Hunt, especially a senior hunt like this one, the prohibition against diablerie is lifted. You can eat the subject. Consequence-free. Which means you can also publically explain-away any aura signs of diablerie for the next year.”
Chris: “Is it safe to assume that’s the case here?”
Jason: “Well, you may want to ask Bell.”)
“What are the limits?” Anstis asks carefully.
Bell’s gazes snaps to him. “I’d be most inclined if you’d not blow the rest of what’s left of this city apart in finding him and killing him. But otherwise, when I say worldwide, I mean it. I have the writ, and I am invoking it. I report directly to the Inner Council and I have had converse with them on this subject.”
“And what are the stakes?” Anstis prompts.
“The stakes are if that man don’t die, we’re gonna lose more Primogens, and there ain’t many left, in case you ain’t noticed.”
Anstis opens his mouth again, but Rabenholz lays a hand lightly on his arm. “If I read the gleam in the pirate’s eye right, I think he means Mr. Lytton’s heart blood.”
Bell’s gaze darkens. “If you can take it, take it. I won’t say a word against,” he murmurs, then turns back to Anstis, raising his voice again. “Besides, it won’t be your first, will it?”
Anstis grins back smoothly. “Whatever do you mean?”
Bell’s hand snaps up fast as a snakebite, finger leveled inches from Anstis’s face. “Don’t lie to me, don’t ever lie to me.”
(Kara: “Georgia…quietly pets the space whale, not thinking about the Nazi’s she’s eaten in the last week.”)
“I’ve looked away, Captain,” Bell growls, “I’ve looked away from a lot, cause I had to, ‘cause I got a Sabbat warlord sitting in that Pyramid that I gotta bend knee to. And it ain’t just him.” He glances at Georgia. She looks back calmly, but the petting intensifies. “By rights I can drop you both right here. But we’re gonna leave it, cause I know the difference between somebody who bends the law and somebody who shatters it.” He stares at them all again. “I want this made very clear. I want Lytton’s head, I want proof he is dead. The Masquerade in this city is hanging on by a thread. I have employed more Camarilla resources to cover this place up than I have used in my entire lifespan and it is mostly thanks to him.” Bell spreads his hands in a washing-clean gesture. “Hardestadt himself sanctioned this, it’s done.”
Bell pivots from the desk and paces the room. “I got the Nosferatu going crazy. They made a public accusation before the Camarilla high council. They’re gonna bring charges against half the Tremere in this country, openly accusing your clan of gargoyle creation.” He sees the shocked expression on Georgia’s face. “Oh you think this is bad, just wait. I need heads on my desk and Lytton’s would be a very good place to start.”
“Very well,” Anstis growls. There’s a predatory edge to the sound.
“We shall form a posse,” Rabenholz says, bracing his cane in front of him smartly. “Do you have any leads on his whereabouts?”
Anstis smirks, fiddling with something in his pocket.. “Leave that to me.”
Bell glowers at them as he pulls out his sunglasses. “I got inquiries to make. I’ll leave you all to it.” With that, he stalks out of the room.
Rabenholz and Georgia lean in to discuss this development in a tense murmur. Anstis turns away, pulling the broken piece of chert with my name on it from his pocket.
(Jim: “Alright, that would be…nine successes. On eight dice.”
Jason: “Holy—well, a moment….)
The gun barrel presses into my neck. I sigh and raise my hands slowly. Whoever it is, if they wanted to just kill me, they would have done it already. “Yeah?” I mutter.
“Drop the piece,” an unfamiliar male voice says.
I glance down at my walking armory. “We may be here awhile.”
The gun clicks again. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
Slowly, I put down all the guns, but I hesitate on Glitch. “Sword too,” the man says. His accent is odd. It sounds German, but it’s a lot more refined than anything I hear babbled by Dr. vonNatsi. I untuck Glitch and slowly place it on the ground, then glance at the sky. There’s no way to tell if that thieving bird is still hanging around in the darkness, but I keep my foot firmly on the hilt just in case.
“Good,” the man says. “Turn around, slowly.”
I turn, keeping my hands clearly visible. It’s a youngish man, in his late thirties or so, with an angular face and pale blonde hair. He’s dressed lightly for the cold night, in a simple black shirt and pants, but he’s breathing as he eyes me silently.
(Jason: “Let me think, have you seen this man before…Paul has, but I don’t think you have.”
Chris: “I have?”
Jason: “It’s the other guy who was on the island. On the Farallones. With the ice-blue eyes, and the iron heart.”
Me: “…Oooooh no, ohhh god–”)
“Mr. Lytton.” The pale man smiles evenly at me, gun still levelled. I don’t respond. After a few breaths, his eyes flick thoughtfully to the side. “…A moment please.” He closes his eyes, raises his other hand and twitches it once in the air.
Anstis clutches the rock in his hand, muttering the words of the incantation, waiting for the whispered secret of my location.
Then the rock in his hand catches fire.
Anstis screams. He drops the rock to the blood-red carpet and bolts from the room, crashing out the doorway and disappearing down the hall, echoing yells drifting in his wake.
After a moment, the man opens his eyes and smiles again. “My apologies. I wanted to make sure we were alone. You see, you and I have so much to talk about.” He holsters the gun. I suddenly realize it’s a Luger.
“Do…I know you?” I ask carefully. Cold fog air still rolls across the hillside but it’s nothing compared to the chill that slides down me the longer I stare into his eyes.
“Perhaps, though we have not met.” He takes a deep breath, taking obvious pleasure in the sensation. “I have been watching you for some time, Mr. Lytton. My name is Reinhard Heydrich.”
Rabenholz, Georgia, and Noah stare after the panicked pirate. Georgia reacts first, practically vaulting her desk and rushing toward the door. “Keep an eye on the boy!” she shouts back as she leaves.
(Kara: “I follow him down the hall because I do not trust him alone in my Chantry.”)
Rabenholz continues to stare at the door, then slowly looks down at Noah. Noah looks up at him, eyes wide underneath his child-sized pirate hat.
(Chris: “So I’m alone with him now?”
Chris: “Okay, I finally perform the goddamn blood ritual to determine Noah’s sire.”
Kara: “Thank you! I was getting to that.”
Chris: *Rolls for the ritual* “Oh, umm….”
Jason: “What did you–Did you double botch!?”
Chris: “Wait wait, hang on, it’s…yes. Double botch.”
Jason: *Is silent a long moment, then lifts a hand to point at Jim* “…He did it.”)
END OF NIGHT
END OF NIGHT