Chris: “Uh, the Anarchs like Paul. He’s bad-ass.”
Jason: “Some of the Anarchs like Paul.”
Chris: “The ones with taste like Paul.”
“This is Max’s secret bolt-hole.”
Jawahar and Sophia stare at Georgia as she hurries to the desk. A heavy leather tome sits on the blotter, a pen in a well of ink next to it. Ornate red robes are draped over the chair. Georgia sits down on top of them.
“Max is the old Regent you spoke of?” Jawahar asks, looking around. “How in the world would this have belonged to Max?”
“I don’t know, but these are his robes, and this looks exactly like his office.” She runs her hands slowly over the carved wood desktop. “I think I inherited this….”
Sophia frowns, gun still held ready. “What is his office doing on the island of Thera?”
“Well, certainly not keeping him busy.” Georgia opens the book, smiling wider as she recognizes Max’s handwriting. Jawahar sighs and wanders over to look at the bookshelf. Sophia takes up guard near the entry wall.
A few pages in and Georgia begins to make sense of the thing. It’s a project journal, filled with chronologically dated entries. The first entry is from almost a hundred years ago and the last entry is dated the night before the night he died.
(Kara: “Can I eat his journal?”
Jason: “…I mean, I guess, but I don’t see how that will help.”
Kara: “I meant can I diablerize it, so I will instantly have all of the informatio–”
Jason: “No, but you could read it!”)
Georgia flips quickly through a couple pages, then closes the journal and continues searching the room. Besides books, the shelves are loaded with various bits of equipment salvaged from the rest of the island. She opens a cabinet near the desk and instantly the scent of blood beckons alluringly over the tang of tarnished brass. She moves an arm salvaged from a HIT Mark and uncovers a brandy bottle filled with blood. Almost shaking with hunger by this point, she carefully pulls it out and takes a tentative sip.
It’s not blood, it’s vitae, and surprisingly potent. Ignoring the tumblers next to the bottle, she tilts it back and starts chugging.
Jawahar and Sophia stare, unsettled. After a minute, Georgia pulls the bottle from her lips and points to it. “This isn’t from a person, by the way.”
Jawahar and Sophia exchange a glance. Jawahar turns back to his books and Sophia turns anywhere but in Georgia’s direction.
Georgia finishes the bottle with a contented sigh, then keeps searching. Deeper in the cabinet she finds a large rolled parchment. She pulls it out and spreads it on the desk. It’s a map, hand-drawn, and apparently showing the entire island facility, labelled in Max’s meticulous handwriting. She peers through excitedly, but her eye is drawn to the upper corner of the map. A large space is labelled “Workshop,” but just beyond that is another room with no details noted. Despite this, though, the blank room is circled with a smear of dried blood. Max’s handwriting next to it is also in blood, and rapidly scrawled, listing only one word: “Avatarium?”
(Kara: “Wow. Well, okay. You are certainly applying the motivators, aren’t you?”
Jason: *glares, leans forward* “You have no idea.”)
Georgia stares at the map, then at the journal next to it on the desk. Finally, with a sigh, she sits down to read it.
(Jason: “Here’s the thing. The project journal was written by Max, for Max, which means it does not contain full info on what’s going on. There’s no ‘as you know’ bullshit going on. But this much you can figure out: Whatever Max was doing here, it’s something he’s been looking for for a very, very long time. Since before he came to the SF Chantry. Or, rather, arranged for its establishment.
“Max believes, at least, that this is the laboratory and workshop of Daedelus. Max believes Daedalus was an incredibly powerful ancient mage, which jives with everything you know. But Max also believes that Daedelus uncovered a very, very dangerous, very powerful secret and that he died because he uncovered that secret. There are references to the eruption of Thera being the aftermath of the conflict that sprang up when he recovered this secret. Of course, Max is maddeningly vague as to what the fucking secret is. But it has something to do with the area he circled on the map, behind the workshop. What was the term he used?”
Jason: “Yes. That term keeps popping up but he doesn’t explain what it is. There are references, however, to something he calls–and he made up a long German word for this–’The Mistake of Tremere.’ And he references this in terms of not wanting to repeat it. What the hell he’s talking about you don’t know. It’s also clear from the diary that as far as he knows, he’s the only one who’s been here. No workmen, no ghouls, no associates. There’s also a fair amount about you in the later entries. Initially he describes how you were sent by the Seattle Chantry to annoy him, then he talks about all sorts of shit going wrong, then he talks about how he’s going to throw you at problems until you disappear and if you do not disappear, then he plans to eat you.”
Kara: *writes in her notebook* “My notes for that say, ‘Stuff about me…as expected.’”
Jason: “The last entry references the fact that you’ve been dragged off to Orlando’s lair and that should be that. End of journal.”
Kara: “That…did resolve our relationship, yes. Neither of us got to commit diablerie. Such a waste.”)
After skimming the majority of the journal, Georgia looks up. Jawahar has collected his own stack of books to flip through, while Sophia paces nervously next to the wall, occasionally checking her tablet for reception. Jawahar looks up to meet Georgia’s gaze. “Have you found anything?” he asks.
“Oh yes, many things.”
“Anything of use?”
“Oh yes, many things.”
The silence stretches. Jawahar glares. “Have you discovered why this Max of yours set up this place?”
“Well, he was definitely interested in the avatarium.” Georgia shoves the journal aside and spreads the map again.
Jawahar frowns and walks over. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“We could go check it out, but it’s behind the workshop.”
“Which means there are a few dozen hitmarks between us and it.” He folds his arms. “How do you propose we go through them?”
Georgia shrugs. “We could kill them all.”
“And how do you propose we do that?”
“Ah. That I don’t know.” Georgia stares at the map a moment. “Perhaps we could tunnel around them.”
“Through solid rock!? How do you propose we do that!?”
“Could you summon an earth elemental?”
Jawahar laughs. “Do I look like a master? They don’t let you begin to learn how to summon an earth elemental until you’ve at least reached third-rank!”
Georgia shakes her head sadly. “They’re always trying to hold us back, aren’t they?”
Jawahar sighs. “Perhaps. But I think it’s more a question of making sure you don’t kill yourself.”
“Okay. Then we’ll try something else.”
“Alright, what would you suggest?”
Georgia cocks her head, considering. “…How about a water elemental?”
Jawahar closes his eyes very slowly. “There is something seriously wrong with you, and I am beginning to suspect it has nothing to do with undeath,” he mutters.
Sophia leaves her post by the wall to come see the map. “Why do we need to go to this place?” she asks nervously.
“Well, if Max was obsessed with it, then it probably has information we need,” Georgia says.
“Max is dead. The Devourer tore him apart, remember?” Sophia says, shuddering.
Georgia peers around the room, smiling. “Yeah, that means I get all his stuff.”
“And you want to get this stuff to use it to kill other vampires?” Jawahar asks.
“No, I want to get the stuff so I can learn more about magic and do more magic.”
Jawahar sighs, lifting up his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “Look. This is probably a bad time to bring this up, but what…you are doing is not magic. Not in the strict sense of the word.”
Georgia stares. “What do you mean?”
“Your blood magic. Thaumaturgy is a low sorcery. It’s distinct from True Magic. A rote of some sort.” He sees her slowly crumbling face and lifts a hand. “Look, I don’t mean offense. But whatever is in that…avatarium place has something to do with Daedelus, which means it’s True Magic, and you can’t do true magic if you’re dead.”
Georgia looks down at the map. “…Why not?”
Jawahar throws up his hands. “You simply cannot!”
Georgia is silent a long moment, one finger tracing the smear of blood on the map. “Well…maybe I can if I have what’s in this avatarium. Maybe that’s why Max wanted it.”
“That’s impossible. Tremere himself wanted True Magic–or wanted it back, rather–but he was never able to get it.”
Georgia frowns suddenly and glances at the journal, still open to the entry where Max referred to the “mistake of Tremere.” She’s thoughtful a moment, then shrugs. “Ambition is a good trait. It keeps the world going.”
Jawahar watches her a moment, then trades a glance with Sophia. Finally he sighs. “Alright, if you can get us past the HIT Marks I will see what I can do to assist you in getting whatever is there. Because you will definitely need a true mage to do it.”
Instantly, Georgia brightens. “Excellent!” She hefts the journal and hands it to him. “So figure out how to get us past the HIT Marks.”
On her way out of the hotel, Anstis calls Scout and asks to meet. She agrees, telling him to meet her in the middle of Union Square. She goes to wait in the very middle, where she can see clearly in all directions. The crowds have thinned as the night wears on, but there is no sign of the person following her earlier.
Suddenly a parrot drops out of night sky, landing on the granite step next to her and waddling closer.
(Me: *holds arm in front of Jim* “Step up! Step up!”
Jim: *clutches onto her arm*
Me: “Good bird!!!” *shoves an imaginary peanut in his face*)
The bright bird situates himself and Scout stands. A few tourists nearby coo, and gesture for a picture. Scout and Anstis pose politely a moment, then she takes him out of the square and ducks into a nearby alley. Anstis hops off her arm and instantly turns back into a person.
Scout nods. “Captain.”
Anstis smooths at his coat and nods back. “Scout. It’s come to my attention recently that the curse of my clan has become rather conspicuous.”
Scout stares at his brocaded coat, coiffed wig, and tentacled-face. “I’m not sure what you mean,” she says flatly.
“I find myself in the market for a tutor.” Anstis leans close and grins. “Ye have great skill in remaining hidden,” he growls. “I wonder if ye’d be willing to teach me.”
She lifts an eyebrow. “What do you have to offer me?”
“Money, knowledge, skills.”
She folds her arms. “What skills?”
“Strength, stamina, a keen eye.” His grin widens. “Other things.”
“What other things?”
“Necromantic arts. Animal arts.”
(Jason: *snorts* “Yeah, animal arts, riiight.”)
Scout watches him a long moment, face unreadable, then nods. “I will consider this. But, so long as we are discussing partnerships….” She glances up and down the alley. “…Our would-be prince has asked me to locate some people for him. I was wondering if you might have any information to help?”
Anstis strokes his beard. “Depends, who are they?”
“The first is Dr. Everton, whom I believe I met when we investigated the Costco some nights ago.”
Anstis nods, then pulls a rock out of his pocket, already scribed with blood. Clutching it, he mutters to himself to cast the ritual: Everton is in the house of horrors, on hill of telegraphs
He relays this to Scout and she nods, unsurprised. “The second name is one…Oliver Thrace?”
Anstis shrugs. “Haven’t heard of him.” He puts the Everton rock away but doesn’t bring out a fresh one.
Scout hesitates a moment, then continues. “The last name I am looking for is someone by the name of Cantor.”
Anstis freezes, then growls, a real growl that echoes primally through the shadows of the alley. “St. Ignatius Church, but don’t go alone. I engaged in battle with him awhile ago. It went…poorly.”
Scout eyes him a moment. “Why were you engaged in battle with him?”
(Chris: “For the lulz.”)
“I was investigating the disappearance of another Kindred,” Anstis replies.
Scout hesitates. “…Another Kindred?”
“Aye. Assamite. The trail lead me to him.” Anstis gestures dismissively. “Cantor is a member of the Black Hand, an immensely powerful Kindred. I recommend you not engage him alone. But if ye seek Everton, he at least can be reasoned with. I haven’t yet found a way to reason with Cantor.”
Scout is silent a long moment, as if waiting for him to continue, then bows and turns to leave.
“Think on my offer, Ms. Scout,” Anstis calls after her. “Think on what I have to offer.”
She stops to glance at him. His eye glows ferally in the dark. She nods once, then disappears from sight.
Rabenholz arrives at the Chantry to check on Tom in his mirror-prison and make sure the staked body is presentable for display. He knows Georgia is missing, but assumes Bob has been cowed enough by him to let him in anyway. Rabenholz goes to the vicinity of the hidden front door and waits.
A few minutes later, a heavy oak door appears and swings open, and a man he doesn’t recognize steps out.
Rabenholz stares. “Who are you?”
The man looks Rabenholz up and down slowly. “I’m sorry, do you have business here?”
Rabenholz smooths his cape around him. “I do, to whom am I speaking?”
“I don’t see how that’s important at the moment, sir. Do you have some arrangements I should know about?”
(Kara: *grumbles* “My wards did not invite him in.”
Jason: “Your wards only protect against external aggressors, not people teleporting in from another Chantry.”)
Rabenholz eyes the man a long moment. “…No, my mistake.” Without another word, he returns to his car, ordering the driver to take him to the Pyramid.
Not long later, Rabenholz arrives at the Pyramid and sweeps into Bell’s office. “Mr. Bell, some matters have come up I need to–”
He stops. Bell is sitting at his desk, but there is an unfamiliar older man sitting across from him, who smiles and stands as Rabenholz enters the room. He appears to be in his late 60’s, with white hair and a grandfatherly smile, and is dressed in an expensive business suit with a red carnation in the front pocket.
“Pfalzgraf,” Bell grumbles, still seated. “Good of you to show up. I’d like to you meet our new arrival, sent by our friends in Vienna.” He nods toward the man. “Augustus von Rabenholz, this is Regent Vannevar Hughes.
Rabenholz eyes the man, then bows. “A replacement for Ms. Johnson, then?”
Hughes laughs with a warmth that is almost believable. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Reinforcement, maybe. The Chantry in this city has been through a bad period. We lost a great many acolytes and the previous regent, and while Ms. Johnson has, I’m sure, been doing an exemplary job in the absence of more senior officials, we finally managed to send out the cavalry, as it were.”
Rabenholz nods once. “That is splendid to hear. In these troubling times, it is always comforting to have the full strength of the Camarilla at hand.”
Vannevar’s grin widens. “Absolutely. After all, we all feel safer in the presence of a Justicar in these troubled times.”
(Jason: “He comes damned close to making that sound genuine.”
Chris: “Did I pull it off?”
Jason: “As well as he did, probably.”
Kara: “…Oh no. They’re becoming friends. This is exactly the sort of person Rabenholz would like.”
Chris: “Yeah, also now that I got all my stuff in his Chantry I want to make sure he gives it back to me.”)
Ignoring Bell’s glare, Vannevar approaches Rabenholz. “So, I understand…Pfalzgraf, was it?”
“Lord will do,” Rabenholz says evenly. “My ancestral titles are very last-century.”
Vannevar chuckles. “I’m sorry, I’m not accustomed to calling anyone ‘lord’ outside of Vienna. Anyway, I don’t mean to pry, but what brings you all the way here?”
Rabenholz paces toward the window, gesturing vaguely out over the city. “The opportunity of the American frontier. Freedom, land…something about ranching if I recall.”
Vannevar waggles a finger. “I know just what you mean. It’s what drew me out to Florida in the first place.” He chuckles again. “What better place to spend immortality than the fabled land of the Fountain of Youth?”
Rabenholz smiles and joins in his amiable chuckle.
(Kara: “Fuck you both.”)
Vannevar joins Rabenholz at the window. “I’m from New Hampshire, originally, but I’ve been managing the Chantry in St. Augustine for some time.”
“Ah, then this is a step up, I hope?” Rabenholz asks.
“Possibly. The Pyramid–the Vienna Pyramid, you understand–asked for someone senior with experience to head up the Chantry here. Things have gotten unclear.” Vannevar sighs, peering out into the foggy night. “The Oberchantry in Seattle has been worried. As has Meerlinda.”
Next to him, Rabenholz tenses.
Still staring out the window, Vannevar tsks and shakes his head. “She asked me personally to take a hand in resolving the matter here. And of course to see what aid I could lend the appropriate civic officials in the meanwhile. I hadn’t thought a Justicar would make his appearance, but all the better.” He turns to smile at Bell, still glowering behind his desk, then turns to Rabenholz. “And you, Pfalzgraf, what do you find is the opportunity you’re looking for out here?
Rabenholz turns from the window and paces into the room. “The chance to participate in the civic duty of restoring order to this fair city.”
Vannevar grins and hurries after him. “Now, that is exactly what I told Meerlinda! I’m very glad we’re not the only ones responding to this sort of crisis. Everything works better when all the clans are marching to the same drum-beat, don’t you think?”
Rabenholz avoids Bell’s gaze as he paces by his desk. “Oh absolutely. It’s good to see things shaping up around here.”
“Indeed, it’s all too often that drum is being beaten by one of your clan.” Vannevar holds up his hands in mock-surrender. “Not that I’m complaining! We all have our role to play in maintaining order.”
Vannevar leans to sit on the edge of the desk, ignoring as Bell’s glare climbs to DEFCON 2. “So, I was here to make obeisances to the Prince, and of course the Justicar, and now to yourself…but I have heard some disquieting stories about a Sabbat presence in the city? I understand they skulk about in San Jose, but there might be some that have ventured up here?” Vannevar looks around the room as if expecting them to step from the shadows.
Rabenholz stops at the other end of Bell’s desk. “That is perhaps a long conversation for another time,” he says smoothly. “And the Justicar has heard it all before, of course. But I would be thrilled to catch up and bring you into the loop here.”
“Oh absolutely. Why don’t you come by the Chantry one of these nights? I can have my man waiting for you.”
Rabenholz nods. “Splendid. I do wonder if I already met him. You see, Ms. Johnson was holding some items for me that I had hoped to reclaim this evening. Nothing important, but I had actually stopped by on my way here and he met me at the door.”
Vannevar frowns. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t think to instruct Callahan to expect visitors.”
Rabenholz gestures with his cane. “Not at all, it’s quite alright. I am so very relieved to understand the situation. Thrilled even, now that I’ve met you.”
“Of course.” Vannevar grins again. “But since we’re on the topic, seeing as you’ve made yourself known to the Chantry officials prior to this, I was wondering if you might help me locate the whereabouts of Ms. Johnson? Or, Acolyte Johnson, if we’re standing on titles here.”
“I have been interested in finding her myself. Strangely, her telephone does not seem to be operating this evening.”
Vannevar sighs. “Yes I was disquieted to hear that. Unfortunately, one of the few remaining house ghouls was not very forthcoming as to where she had gone.”
“Was it the skulking fellow?” Rabenholz asks.
Vannevar chuckles. “Well, you know ghouls. They do tend to skulk. But if it’s the one I think, then yes. He will be…retrained.”
“Honestly, for the best.” Rabenholz turns to Bell. “Mr. Bell, I am sorry to impose, I had hoped you would have some suggestions in locating Acolyte Johnson.”
Bell is silent a long, glaring moment before answering. “At the moment, all I know is her phone number,” he grumbles.
Vannevar stands up. “Well, I didn’t mean to keep anyone any longer, I just wanted to make my official introductions. And I look forward to seeing you at the Chantry, Mr. Rabenholz.” He bows. “Lord Rabenholz, I mean. forgive me.”
Rabenholz nods. “I shall give you a few nights to settle in before calling.”
Vannevar sighs. “Yes, there have been some interesting activities around the place lately. I assure you, I will be conducting a full investigation into this issue of gargoyle production and putting an end to whatever remains. Gargoyle production is a serious matter and the Chantry takes it very, very seriously.” He nods to Bell. “If you would please do me the favor, both of you, of taking my assurances on that subject to the Nosferatu directly. Let them know the guilty will soon be discovered and punished.”
“I’m sure they’ll be comforted to hear that,” Bell grumbles.
(Kara: *muttering* “Also I’m sure they’ll completely believe it….”)
With that, and another parting grin, Vannevar leaves the room.
Bell remains quiet until the ghoul closes the door behind him. “…Well that was a hell of a show.”
Rabenholz fusses with the clasp of his cloak. “I’m not sure what you mean. It was simply two distinguished gentlemen having a conversation.”
“Yeah? And I’m the Queen of England.” Bell leans forward in a slow creak of leather and levels a finger at Rabenholz. “Do not. Engage. In open war. With the Tremere. I don’t know if Vienna actually sent him out here or not, but if you kill him, they’ll pretend they did just for the excuse to roll through here and kick your ass.”
Rabenholz finishes with his cloak and stares at the office door, slowly twisting his cane in his hand. “It’s a very…colorful idea, but no. It will be far more efficient to convince him to see eye to eye.”
Bell glares over his sunglasses. “Here’s to hoping.”
While Sophia fiddles with her tablet and phone, trying to hack a connection, and Jawahar begrudgingly searches through the books for information on HIT Marks, Georgia returns to searching the office. In the back of the cabinet where she found the map, she digs out a leather-wrapped toolkit, filled with tiny screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches. All of which look just about the right size for the mechanics on the dragon.
Eagerly, Georgia unrolls the toolkit on the desk and takes the dragon back out. Using small pliers, the unscrews the valve at the back of the neck. A small tube leads down into the device. Carefully, she turns it over, but nothing pours out.
She hesitates a moment, then pulls out the six vials of liquid. Using a tiny dropper from the toolkit, she carefully drips a few drops of the green fluid into the tube. She replaces the valve and sets the dragon on the table.
After a few moments, the dragon’s eyes glow green. Tiny wisps of steam rise from the nostrils. Gears whir. The dragon slowly shifts its legs and twists its neck around to survey the room. Its gaze settles on her and it turns to face her. Georgia smiles and waves.
The dragon stares a moment, then launches across the desk and latches onto her arm.
(Kara: “It’s a cat?”
Jason: “Well no, and I’ll tell you why. See, it’s not very effective. It begins to gnaw on your arm toothlessly.”)
Clockwork whirs as it noms uselessly against her sleeve. She watches a few moments. “Please stop chewing on me.”
The dragon stops, peers up at her, gears whir…then goes back back to chewing.
(Jason: “If it does this for another hour or so you might have to soak some damage.”)
Georgia carefully pries the jaws off and pats the tiny machine on the head. The dragon stares, then starts gnawing at her fingers. She sighs. “Well, I have a new pet!”
Sophia looks up from her tablet, scowls skeptically at the analog machine, then turns back to her work. Jawahar, though, puts down his book and walks over. “What in the world is this? How did you activate it?”
“I put some of the fluid in.”
Jawahar picks up the set of canisters and carefully peers inside. His eyes widen. “Do you know what this is!?”
“Dragon oil?” Georgia says, reaching out to take them back.
Jawahar jerks them out of her reach. “It’s quintessence!! Be extremely careful with that!”
She stares between him and the nomming dragon. “What’s quintessence?”
Jawahar stares. “The fifth element!”
(Me: *opens her mouth*
Jason: “SHUT UP!”
Me: *closes mouth, mumbles* “…Aziz….”
Kara: “So what is it?”
Jason: “‘Quintessence,’ from the Latin ‘quint’ meaning five. Quint-essence. Literally the fifth element. A mythical notion of sort of a perfect element above the four classical Greek ones. Mages refer to quintessence as a sort of primal energy that is the ‘stuff’ of magic. Mana is not a bad analogue. Quintessence, though, is supposed to be sort of an ephemeral thing, not an actual physical object. However, you have heard of a type of physical object called tass. Tass is effectively quintessence forged into an object of some form. A potion, a brick, whatever. If what Jawahar is saying is true, you are holding potions of incredible volatility that are somehow involved in powering True Magic. Quintessence is vitally important for avatar power and true magic but it’s unfortunately not very useful for Thaumaturgy because, contrary to how much Georgia protests, she is not wielding true magic. ”)
Jawahar finally hands the canisters back, carefully. Georgia eyes them. “If it’s the fifth element, why are there six colors? And smells?”
“I don’t know enough to tell you what this stuff is, I just know quintessence when I see it. It’s one of the first things they teach you.” He looks down at the desk. “You poured quintessence into that dragon?”
The dragon has now moved from her fingers and is nomming on her robes. Georgia sighs and reaches down to unscrew the valve. The dragon stops and looks up. For a moment, it’s glowing eyes look plaintively wider.
Georgia hesitates, then screws the valve back on. The dragon stares up at her, then immediately returns to chewing her shirt.
“It’s very odd,” Jawahar says. “Do you know what it’s doing?”
“I think it’s trying to eat me,” Georgia says.
“It’s not doing a very good job.”
“That’s correct.” She shrugs. “Maybe it will be fiercer when it grows up.”
“It’s mechanical, I don’t know that it will.”
She waves a hand dismissively. “Oh Jawahar, you’re just not dreaming big.”
He glares and folds his arms. “I’m dreaming of getting out of this place and I don’t see how it is helping.”
Georgia sighs and reaches down again to unscrew the valve, avoiding the dragon’s sad eyes as she carefully picks up up and drips the green quintessence back into the tube. Instantly, the eyes dim and the dragon droops back into immobility.
(Me: “Kara, you killed your dragon!?”
Kara: “No, he’s just sleeping!”
Me: “But if you don’t put more quintessence in, he’ll sleep forever!”
Jason: “Roll me a conscience check!”
Kara: “Dammit…one success.”
Jason: “’You feel sad, staring at the limp dragon in your hand….”
Me: “…The wings drooping off your palm….”
Kara: “Dammit!! I put the orange fluid in!”)
She pops the lid off the orange tube and carefully drips some in. Immediately the dragon’s eyes grow a deep amber orange and it lifts its head. It twists out of her grip to leap onto the desk, strides rapidly across toward Jawahar…and starts nomming him too.
Jawahar stares. “And how is this an improvement?”
“Well, it’s an improvement because it was chewing on me, which was adorable, but–”
Suddenly a heavy CHUNK echoes from its jaws. The chewing stops the same moment Jawahar’s eyes go wide. The dragon lets go and sits back proudly as Jawahar falls stiffly to the floor.
Sophia leaps to her feet. “What the hell was that!?”
Georgia scrambles forward and kneels beside him. “Jawahar! Are you ok!?” She grabs his arm to inspect it. His pulse is fine and there’s no damage, but his eyes stare sightlessly at the ceiling. He doesn’t react as she shakes him.
She turns to the dragon, sitting on the desk with its tail curled around it. “Wake him up now please.”
The amber eyes dim and brighten in a slow blink. The dragon tilts its head.
“Do you need a different color?” She reaches over to the canisters, but the moment her hand comes into range, the dragon leans forward and grabs her hand in its mouth.
A firecracker goes off in her head, racing energy down her limbs and along her spine. She stiffens like she’s being electrocuted–
The dragon lets go and it stops. She sways, blinking herself back to her senses.
Sophia raises her gun shakily at the dragon, once again curled proudly on the desk. “What the hell was that!?”
Carefully, using the desk for support, Georgia walks back to the chair and sinks into it. The dragon peers at her expectantly. Slowly, she picks it up, then unscrews the valve to pour the orange quintessence back into its bottle.
Sophia, meanwhile, is checking on Jawahar. Eventually he blinks, then groans. “What…happened….?”
“You fell!” Georgia says brightly. “After the dragon bit you. Did it feel like grabbing a magic battery?”
“No, it felt like someone clobbering me in the head.” He sits up carefully with Sophia’s help. “Why, did it bite you too?”
“Yes! It felt like a burst of energy! Like, a lot.”
“What the hell was it!?”
Georgia scans the bookshelves and cabinets lining the room. “I don’t know, but I bet the answer is in here somewhere.” Strength returned, she gets up and continues searching.
Scout approaches the weathered house at the edge of Telegraph Hill. The cul-de-sac is quiet, the only movement breeze blowing through the trees, but the closer she gets the slower she walks. Something about the house itches at the back of her mind, as if something was watching her. Something malicious, and old. She reaches the foot of the front steps and hesitates a moment. A faint scent drifts on the breeze, and the longer she sniffs it, the more it smells like blood.
After a few moments, she takes a breath, ascends the stairs, and knocks. There’s a shuffling behind the door, then a small peephole opens and an eye peers through.
Scout nods. “Dr Everton, I presume?”
The peephole closes. There’s a cascade of locks unlocking, then the door creaks open, revealing the Toreador scholar, dressed in a smoking jacket and smiling amiably. “Why, Ms. Scout, wasn’t it? How may I be of assistance for you tonight?”
She nods again in a half-bow. “When we met, I mentioned I was new in the city. I’ve heard word you are a good person to connect with in terms of finding out more of the local happenings.”
“Well, I’m flattered you should think so. I’m something of an itinerant scholar, these aren’t my normal domains, but I’ve taken an interest in the going-ons of this city recently. Why do you ask?”
“I am simply trying to understand the local situation better so I might avoid stepping on any toes.”
“Aren’t we all, Ms. Scout, aren’t we all. Please come in.” He steps aside and gestures her in.
The cloying scent of blood intensifies the moment she crosses the threshold. Inside, the house is soaked in gloom, the only lights at the moment in the front parlor. Even in the dim light, gashes and bullet holes are visible all along the lower hall. “Your place seems a little…worn,” she says carefully.
Everton guides her toward the parlor. “Yes, there was an unfortunate set of incidents that transpired in this location. Something to do with the minions of a certain Gnaius Perpenna. Or such is my understanding.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that name tossed around the city since I’ve been here.”
“And is it Perpenna you wish to know more of?”
He gestures toward a dusty armchair. She sits, poising herself stiffly on the edge of the seat. “I wish to know of any of these figures who may be a threat.”
“That’s a rather large list at the moment, this city crawls with a vast number of dangerous Kindred. Some quite obviously so, some perhaps not.” Everton retrieves a silver tea set from a side table and brings it over. He sets it on the coffee table and takes a seat across from her. “Tell me, what are you doing in this city, Ms. Scout?”
“Well, I’ve found in my time, information is something that can always be banked upon.”
“You regard yourself as an information broker, then?” He takes a cup from the tray and sets it in front of her.
She raises a hand in polite refusal. “Not as good as some, but it is a discipline I am branching into.”
“Well then you’ll forgive me for the impertinence of this question, but if you intend to sell information, why would you ask me to give it to you for nothing?”
She hesitates. “Perhaps if I can offer something in exchange.”
“There’s a possibility.” He carefully lifts the pot and pours himself a cup. Dark, steaming liquid pours out with the consistency of tea, but the smell of blood in the room suddenly intensifies. “See, there’s been a great many unsavory characters about. Some of which you know and some you perhaps do not, but there was one group I was rather particularly hoping not to see. The Followers of Set.” He glances up at her. “If you’ve heard of them, I assure you all the worst stories are true. If you haven’t, picture some form of lesser demons from a Hollywood film of the 1930s and you should get some conception. Their practices are foul, and they have made themselves quite a nuisance across the Eastern Bay.”
He finishes pouring and sets the pot down. “All of that is normal, actually, but I don’t understand why they have decided to make themselves quite so well known. Settites normally operate from the shadows, yet not only have they attacked rather powerful vampires, including a thousand-year-old Viking Gangrel, but they’ve continued and compounded their notoriety by launching assaults on various Anarch positions. And they’ve done surprisingly well in that regard, it’s not easy to unseat an unruly Brujah.” He smirks a moment, as if recalling from experience. “If you could lay your hands on certain information as to what exactly the Settites are up to, that would be of great interest to me. Some of us have had dealings with them in the past. And some of us know them quite well.”
Scout nods slowly. “Don’t…Settites have some sort of connection to Assamites?” she asks carefully.
“Connection, yes, in the same way that matter and antimatter do. Settites and Assamites have an active feud dating back thousands of years, back before the pyramids were even built.” He sips his drink.
She nods again and looks down at her hands, folded in her lap. “One of the names I’ve heard tossed around lately that seems to be connected to an Assamite–”
Everton looks up. “If you have a contact amongst the Assamites they may be of some use in this matter.”
She pauses, then waves a hand dismissively. “This isn’t a name connected to myself, it’s someone else I’m investigating.”
Everton blows gently on the steaming liquid. “You’re investigating Cantor, then.”
She looks up to regard Everton evenly. “Is he the only Assamite around?”
“No, but he’s the only Assamite of record. He’s a member of the Black Hand, and the less you deal with the Black Hand, the longer your life will be. I’ve dealt with them in the past and I don’t relish the prospect of doing so again.” He takes a sip and frowns distastefully. “Whatever Cantor wants, I don’t want to know. I have destroyed worse things than Cantor in my time, but not many.”
She’s quiet a moment. “Have you met him before?” she asks.
“No, but I have met his victims.” He eyes her. “They were not in condition to speak too terribly well of him. Cantor has some black hole where his soul is intended to go. I recommend not prying around in it.” Everton sets his cup down. “There is another Assamite in this city. A standard Assamite, perhaps from Alamut itself. I don’t know her goals either. Only heard rumors of her.”
Scout hesitates, frowning. “…Is she associated with this Cantor?”
“I doubt it. Cantor is Black Hand, the Assamites are independent. They don’t look kindly on turncoats. But if she has intentions of bringing Cantor to heel, she’d best take up another line of work. Something less dangerous. Perhaps werewolf hunting.” He smirks. “After all, there is an opening.”
Scout nods vacantly, staring at her hands again. “So…Settites are fighting Anarchs, and Assamites are chasing Assamites?”
“Yes, it’s a rather mad combination around here.”
Scout glances down the ruined hallway. “I’ve found that the best way to understanding the current situation is understanding what got it there….” She turns back. “When we met at Costco, you mentioned a battle that had taken place there recently?”
“Yes, there was a rather impertinent figure of a Brujah named Thomas Lytton. He came to a sticky end. I don’t know where he wound up. Most likely in someone else’s fangs. He made a series of terminally poor decisions, including associating himself with werewolves and engaging in the casual murder of a Primogen of the city.”
(Me: *snort* “Pot, kettle.”)
Everton sees the suspicion flickering on her face. “He may not be the only one,” he says firmly, “But I didn’t engage in it casually. I never engage in murder casually. It’s not a casual matter.” He leans forward and smiles. “You look like someone who knows that.”
Scout meets his gaze flatly.
Everton chuckles and picks up his cup again. “Tom Lytton made himself enough of a nuisance that the Justicar declared a Blood Hunt on him. Once that was done, the conclusion was more or less forgone. The pirate, the Regent of the Tremere Chantry, and Mr. Rabenholz himself tracked him down to that very Costco and disabled him. If he’s still alive, they dragged him back to the Chantry for purposes unknown. Rabenholz is calling an Elysium in a few days, I expect we’ll all be told then. Or more likely shown.” He looks up and smirks. “But I didn’t receive an invitation….”
He trails off with a slow, coy sip, then sets the cup down again. “If you want to know more about the pre-Blood Hunt actions of Mr. Lytton, you may wish to consult the Regent of the Tremere. They had been known to associate together in recent nights.”
Scout nods stiffly. “I’ve met her briefly.”
“Yes, interesting woman. Completely mad, of course, but she has an interesting agenda in this city that I don’t think anybody has properly appreciated yet. Still, just a thought. She is Tremere so just as likely to eat you as help you. But this city is filled with strange and wondrous creatures, both familiar and esoteric.” He gazes a moment toward the windows–shrouded in heavy lace curtains–then turns back. “And then there’s Rabenholz. Interesting one, that one. Ventrue are all after the same thing, you see. It’s a wonder two can coexist within the same city.” He eyes her and smiles. “I wonder, will he see you as an impediment to his goals, or a necessary assistance?”
She smiles back thinly. “I do try to make myself useful.”
“Do you.” Suddenly Everton leans forward. “Then perhaps you can be of use to me in the immediate moment, what clan is it you claim?”
Scout tenses again. “…I believe…it’s not so much the clan you claim as the one that claims you. And none of them claim me.”
“Hmm. I wonder if they would say the same if I were to ask. You wouldn’t be the first runaway to head west.” He peers closer, stroking his chin. “Not Nosferatu, nor anything more esoteric… I wonder….” He grins and nods toward his blood-soaked tea. “The blood will tell, Ms. Scout. The blood will always tell. I myself am a Toreador, perhaps you’ve heard. But I don’t think you are.”
His gaze bores through her but she doesn’t look away. “I do enjoy art,” she says softly.
“One doesn’t have to be a Toreador to enjoy art, just as one doesn’t have to be a Ventrue to seek power. But I don’t see a Ventrue in you either.” He tilts his head. “Not sure what I see, to be honest.”
She shifts stiffly in her seat. “I don’t see how that’s relevant at the moment.”
His expression cools. “You seem a very private person for someone who comes in here and asks me for information given various subjects.”
“Only what you are willing to give.”
“And you’re not willing to explain to me what your clan is?”
She’s silent a long moment. “I’ve found it hasn’t done well for me in the past.”
Everton blinks and sits back. “A Sabbat clan, then? You wouldn’t be the first. Tzmitsce, Lasombra, some esoteric form of Gangrel? As I said, the city is host to quite a few strange creatures.” Silence lingers. “You may hold a somewhat enlightened notion of whether or not your clan matters,” he continues, “but if the Justicar, or that would-be prince, or the actual one, should demand your clan, you will have to tell them something or you will greet the sun the next morning.”
She stares back. After another long silence, he chuckles. “Well, you don’t have to tell me anything, I don’t claim praxis over this territory. But it is interesting I’ve never heard of you.” He picks up the pot and pours more. “But I’ve never heard of most vampires, I suppose.” The pour finishes and he picks up the cup. “Was there anything else you wanted to inquire about?” he asks, gesturing with it.
“No,” Scout says softly.
He smiles. “Well, then it has been so nice of you to stop by.”
Taking that for a dismissal, Scout stands. Everton nods to her but doesn’t move to get up. She leaves the parlor and lets herself out of the house.
As she reaches the sidewalk, she hesitates and looks back. Everton’s shadow moves behind the thin curtains of the parlor, but every other window in the house is dark. Still, the sense that something is watching her–something besides Everton–lingers.
She turns and hurries down the street.
SAN FRANCISCO SEWERS
Having crawled his way in through a storm drain, Anstis is sauntering through the sewers, alone in the dripping cold–
Until the sound of a cocking gun makes him stop.
“Well, fancy meeting you here,” a voice drawls. Anstis turns to see the twisted face of Abelard staring down the length of a shotgun, his rat perched on his shoulder above the stock. “Captain. Last time I saw you, I sent six men with you and Rocko to the East Bay. Only one came back. What the hell happened?”
“That’s something I’d like to know myself,” Anstis says cooly.
Abelard’s gun doesn’t waver. “Karl Sutro is dead, that puts me in charge. What do you want?”
“To be honest, I came to give you a gift.” Anstis reaches slowly into a pocket, pulls out something small and white, and holds it out.
Abelard stares suspiciously. “Now, what is this?”
“Tom Lytton’s fangs.”
Slowly, the gun lowers. “Really? Where’s the rest of him?”
Anstis grins. “In Rabenholz’s care.
Abelard sneers. “The new Ventrue. What’s he got to do with all this?”
“Aims to make himself the new prince.”
Abelard laughs, the wheezing sound echoing down the tunnel. “Good luck to him. You take down Tom Lytton during the drama in Colma a few nights ago?”
“Aye, at the Cost-Co.”
“Not at the cemetery?”
Anstis blinks. “Nay. What cemetary?”
Abelard glowers. “The largest one in Colma, on the slopes of the mountain. Same time your dust-up was happening, something took half of it apart. And it weren’t with no bulldozer.”
Anstis frowns. “What happened?”
“Not sure. Gunfire, explosions, blunt force trauma.” He eyes him. “And a whole lot of balefire.”
Anstis’s face darkens. “There’s only one in the area I know that can summon that. Sertorius’s sire.”
Abelard tsks. “Bad, bad man. Not someone I’m in a hurry to meet.” He reaches out to take the fangs. “I won’t turn you down for these, but I gotta ask what the asking price is?”
“Have you found any information on what I asked about last time? Flowers, and Cantor.”
Abelard puts the fangs in a pocket, tucks the gun under his arm, and leans against the wall. “Got some about Flowers. You know he’s embraced, right?”
“Aye. Ravnos, I heard.”
“They say he’s withdrawing from his position in India, heading east. They also say he’s got agents out here.” Abelard reaches up to stroke his rat and smirks. “They also say he doesn’t seem to like you very much captain.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Anstis growls.
“Oh, I don’t think it’s mutual as you think it is. He’s got some baaad blood. Wants you for something. Something happened, something personal.” He pulls a scrap of sandwich from his pocket and hands it up to the rat. “Hear some other interesting talk too. About spirits, ghosts. Know much about those things?”
Anstis shifts his weight. “I dabble.”
“Really. Hear you’ve been communing, making deals with the Giovanni. I’d be careful around them, but I think you know that much.” The rat accepts the soggy bread and he pulls his hand away to wipe against his trenchcoat. “As to this Cantor, baaaaaad news.”
Anstis smirks. “Aye.”
“No, not like you think.” Abelard eyes him seriously. “Man joins the Black Hand because he has no soul. Man leaves the Black Hand because he has no brain. Man survives leaving the Black Hand because he’s got something noone else has.” He shakes his head slowly. “He hasn’t been paying dues in fifty years, but it’s only a matter of time before the Hand shows up to have a little chat with their wayward son. But he doesn’t seem to care.”
Anstis nods slowly. “I fought him, in St. Ignatius Church. It did not go well.”
Abelard barks a laugh. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
“Then it went better than most. If you’re going after Cantor, you’re on your own. I’m not challenging that. And I’m not getting between the Black Hand and one of their targets. They tend to take that sort of thing personally. Almost as personal as the Assamites do. And Cantor is both.” He runs a hand along the stock of his shotgun, smirking. “Interesting times you picked here captain. If I were you, I’d get on your boat and sail away.”
“I’ve considered it, but I have ties here yet.”
Abelard’s smirk turns grim, and he nods. The rat finishes gnawing at the sandwich, dropping the rest to the muddy sewer floor. Abelard picks it up and puts it back in his pocket. “Well, then good luck dealing with your old friend.”
Instantly, he winks from sight.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
After Scout leaves, Rabenholz takes time dealing with some other business, then finally calls Rhona in from the office side of the suite. “Ms. Tyler,” he asks, “Has anyone done any experiments with cloud seeding lately?”
She stares, a stack of papers in her hands suddenly forgotten. “Cloud seeding? Like for rain? That’s been pseudoscience for two generations.”
“It has, but nonetheless people seem to cling to bad ideas.” He strides to the balcony window, peering up at the sky. “I’m wondering what will be involved to innocuously do this in Berkeley.”
“Cloud seed in Berkeley? Innocuously?” She laughs. “A miracle.”
“Find it,” Rabenholz says firmly.
Rhona’s smile vanishes. She stares at his back a long moment, then nods. “…Okay. I’ll make some calls.” She turns to leave the room, then hesitates and turns back. “Sir, who is that woman you met before?”
Rabenholz twists his cane in his hand. “She presents herself as an up-and-comer looking for work to curry favor.”
Rhona takes a breath, gripping the papers tightly. “She’s lying.”
Slowly, Rabenholz turns to face her. “…Indeed?”
“I don’t know what she’s lying about, but something about her….” Rhona shudders and shakes her head. “She’s lying. I could kinda…feel it. She’s a vampire right?
Rhona glances toward the front door. “I don’t like it. Something she’s not telling you.”
“Indeed, but there are very few vampires who don’t keep secrets.” Rabenholz eyes her a long assessing moment, then paces into the room. “For the moment I have her running various frivolous reconnaissance operations. Things that will tell me what I already know. But it’ll be interesting to see how she presents that information to me. Mostly I’m trying to determine to what degree I can trust her and to what degree she can be useful. And I do not necessarily need to trust her for her to be useful.” He smiles thinly. “But thank you for sharing your observations with me. Please continue to do so in the future.”
Rhona nods and bows herself out.
Georgia has almost completed searching Max’s office when she notices something. One of the heavy tapestries draped along the walls is very gently undulating in a subtle breeze. She pulls it aside to reveal a hidden alcove.
With a teleportation circle inscribed into the floor.
Grinning, she’s about to call out to Jawahar and Sophia, but stops as she realizes something. The base sigils of the circle are familiar, but something else has been worked into the magic. Extra sigils made of some sort of solid pale material, grafted into the floor. She crouches down to examine them.
They’re made of werewolf bone, soldered into the floor with silver settings.
(Jason: “This is an attempt to tap into werewolf magic. An attempt to graft werewolf magic into Thaumaurgy somehow.”)
She glances back to the room. Jawahar and Sophia are both buried in books or their tablet, respectively. Georgia stands and clears her throat. “Jawahar, Sophia…would you like to go home for now?”
They both look up, then hurry over. Jawahar’s shoulders sag in relief as he sees the circle. “Immensely.”
Sophia stares curiously at the pale sigils in the floor, but Georgia shifts to block her view. “How do you know it leads home?” Sophia asks.
“I don’t,” Georgia replies.
Jawahar frowns. “Is it not possible that whatever you’re planning to do will take us to a room filled with unspeakable abominations?”
“Yes that’s possible.”
His frown deepens. “So then why would we engage such a circle?”
“Because, assuming this is the only teleportation circle in this room, this is likely the way Max got home.” Georgia shifts under their suspicious stares. “Look, if you want me to go through it first, I will.”
“If you go through it and can’t get back, then how will I follow?” Jawahar asks carefully.
Georgia grins. “Exactly.”
Jawahar groans, rubs his eyes under his glasses, then steps into the circle. Sophia steps in after him. Before she can get a good look at the floor, Georgia joins them and activates it.
The sigils thrum with energy, but instead of instantly teleporting them away, the alcove fills with the same blinding light from the moonbridge-portal that brought them here. The light swallows them up, and they’re gone.
Not long after leaving the sewers, Anstis arrives on the far side of the bay to deal with the next item on his agenda: talking to the Anarchs about security for the Not-Elysium. He soars low over the docks and inland toward the West Oakland slums.
The streets are empty, the small weathered houses locked up firmly behind barred doors and windows. Many streetlights are out and the piles of trash scattered in the streets lurk ominously in the gloom. After a few minutes of circling, he finally spots movement: a young Latino man, openly armed, moving through the shadows near a hedge, softly-glowing eyes scanning the neighborhood.
Anstis wheels, then drops down nearby in a rustle of feathers. The guy glances over, does a double take, then curses and reaches for his gun.
“Not to fight!”Anstis squawks before popping up into human form.
The guy stares, then lowers his gun. “Aw, shit, it’s you. Thought you were dead!”
Anstis straightens his coat. “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” he says with a grin.
The Anarch sneers and shoves his gun away, glancing around. “Well you can piss the fuck off, I’m here on business.”
“You one of Helgi’s men?”
The guy laughs. “Do I look like some kind of Swedish butt-buddy? Fuck no, I’m here hunting snakes.”
(Me: “…Oh…my god….”
Me: “…Norton was right….”
Jason: “About what?”
Me: “Snakes. Everywhere snakes.”
Jason: *slow grin*)
Anstis looks around. “Have you seen more of them since the incident at the docks?”
“Yeah, everytime I open my eyes, douchebag! Don’t know what the fuck they’re after but they’ve been running us off our turf up and down the bay. Heard some were up here hunting the rest of Helgi’s guys. Thought I might get lucky.” He shrugs, then glares. “What you want?”
“Here on business of my own. New Ventrue back in the city, name of Rabenholz, is looking to hire some security for his new Elysium.”
The guy stares. “Some Cammy Ventrue is looking to hire Anarchs?”
He stares another moment…then bursts out laughing. “Well…maybe I know some people.” He shifts cagily. “Maybe he comes out here and we make some kind of deal.”
“A hundred-thousand a head,” Anstis says firmly. “For the night.”
The man nods slowly, scratching at his chin–
(Jason: “Perception + Empathy.”
The man looks Anstis up and down, then smiles a genuine-looking smile. “Well, I might know some people who’d be interested. We’d have to negotiate some, hundred-G’s don’t go as far as they used to.”
“For a single night of work,” Anstis stresses.
The man spreads his arms apologetically, gesturing at the decaying ghetto around them. “Rents in this city, man! But you tell him to head out here tomorrow night, maybe I’ll round up some people. Meet us at the old movie theater a couple blocks off Jackson Square. Tell him not to bring those other douchebags from the city. Especially not the Justicar.” He glowers. “Or that Toreador.”
(Chris: “Uh, the Anarchs like Paul. He’s bad-ass.”
Jason: “Some of the Anarchs like Paul.”
Chris: “The ones with taste like Paul.”)
With that the Anarch drops into wolf form and bolts off into the night.
The light fades from their eyes and Georgia, Jawahar, and Sophia find themselves standing in
Max’s van Brugge’s Georgia’s the dragon’s Georgia’s Vannevar’s? Georgia’s office in the Chantry. Jawahar blinks, Georgia grins, but Sophia stares at her, her face white. “How did you do that?”
Georgia stares back. “Uh, well you saw me–”
“Was it you or the circle?”
“I assume it was the circle. You saw the extra enhancements on the floor–”
Sophia paces the room, gripping her gun close. “We have to go back. We have to go back right now and get rid of that circle.”
Georgia and Jawahar watch her, perplexed. “Why?” Georgia asks.
“Because you didn’t teleport us here, you opened a moonbridge!”
“Oh….” Georgia hesitates, but this news doesn’t seem to distress her as much as it does Sophia. In fact, she looks pleased. “…And why do we have to destroy it?”
Sophia whirls toward her. “Because you’re not supposed to be able to do that!”
“Well then we really shouldn’t do it again, should we?” Georgia says reasonably. “Also, if we went back there and destroyed it, we’d be trapped there. And you wanted to get off the island, and we are!”
A gentle knock raps at the door and Bob’s voice drifts through, “…Regent??”
Georgia smiles. “Yes! Come in Bob!”
Bob slips in, his face paler than usual. “Regent, I-I’m sorry….”
Georgia’s grin fades. “What’s wrong?”
“I c-couldn’t stop them….”
Bob’s mouth works wordlessly a moment. “…Them….”
Before Georgia can ask for clarification, the door creaks open behind him. An older gentlemen with white hair, expensive suit, and a pleasant smile steps in.
Georgia hesitates, then smiles back. “Ahh, you must be Mr. Hughes.”
Vannevar nods. “Georgia Johnson. Acolyte Johnson, I believe. And who might these people be?”
Jawahar frowns at Vannevar. Sophia steps slowly back, raising her gun. Georgia steps forward. “These are just some acquaintances. I can show them out if you’d like me to give you a tour of the Chantry.”
Vannevar looks the group over slowly, still smiling. “Acquaintances, yes I’ve heard so many wonderful stories of your acquaintances.”
Georgia hesitates, then turns to them. “Okay, well, I will see the two of you later, Bob will show you out.”
“No, no, he really won’t,” Vannevar says smoothly, raising a hand. There’s a flash of light. When her vision returns, Bob, Jawahar, and Sophia are collapsed unconscious on the floor.
“Ah, much better.” Vannevar brushes past Georgia and sits at the desk, picking up a sheaf of papers. “Don’t mind the tingle in your mouth, I’ve changed the atmosphere in the room to pure nitrogen.”
Georgia gapes down at the group. All three are still breathing, but shallowly. “Will that hurt them?”
Vannevar flips through the documents. “Eventually.”
Georgia stares. “I’d really have been fine showing them out if you wanted them to–”
“Yes, but then I wouldn’t have them.” He glances at the bodies scattered across the rug. “Let’s see, we have a werewolf, and a mage. Interesting. I’m going to find plenty of uses for them, I assure you, but the question is, what can I do with you?”
Georgia sighs. “I suppose that depends on what you want done.”
Vannevar’s smile evaporates as quickly as the oxygen in the room. “Well the first thing I want done is for you to explain to me where in the hell the previous regent is.”
(Me: “Yeah, he dead.”)
Georgia laughs nervously. “Max? My goodness, he’s been dead for ages. He was slain at the Voivoide’s house.”
“Really? He was, was he? Cause I find a combination of factors very interesting here.” He leans forward. “You came here to this Chantry and Max sent back some pretty unflattering reports on what you were here to do–”
“Max and I were…not best friends,” Georgia says.
“Yeah, I figured as much. So then I come here and I find out that Max is dead, that he’s died in ways that you seem to be the only witness to, and interestingly enough I can see the signs of diablerie all over your aura.”
Georgia flutters a hand dismissively. “Oh good grief, I didn’t eat Max.”
“Really? And how are you going to prove that?”
“I will find you a witness.”
“You will Dominate me a witness, you mean,” Vannevar says.
“No, I will find you a witness more powerful than I am so I could not possibly have Dominated them,” she says brightly.
Slowly, Vannevar stands. “I have a better idea. You’re going to tell me what Max was up to here, you’re going to explain to me all your various tricks and plans, you’re going to give me the details on this gargoyle nonsense, you’re going to tell me absolutely every little thing I want to know, and in return, you get to spend the time it takes for you to tell me those things alive. Does that seem fair?”
Georgia stares at him a long moment, then slowly sinks into one of the chairs facing the desk. “…Okay. So I don’t know what Max has been up to; I was attempting to figure that out, but it is definitely proven that he was involved somehow in the production of the gargoyles. Now, here’s what I know about the gargoyle production….”
(Kara: “She tells him everything she knows about Alcatraz, and the Farallones, and Max, and Sebastian, and the gargoyles….”
Jason: “Now, I have to ask out of game. Why is she telling him absolutely everything?”
Kara: “Everything about the gargoyles. She assumes he already knows all those details.”
Jason: “Probably a fair assumption.”
Kara: “She’s also buying time.
Jason: “For what?”
Kara: “Well, for one thing she’s hoping the honesty will buy her some favor. Enough to allow her to, like, leave the room, or, you know, save her friends. She had plans to avoid this sort of thing, but spending time on Thera unfortunately precluded getting the Chantry ready for visitors.”
Jason: “Well, unfortunately Vannevar showed up faster than expected. Sucks when that happens.”
Kara: “Yep. Which is why Georgia is winging it.”
Jason: “Well I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you think about how best to wing it for the next week.”)
END OF NIGHT
Funny how most tremere are more off-putting than most setites.